… giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ … (Ephesians 5:20)
Thankfulness- gratitude – is to be a normal virtue in the hearts and minds of all Christians. So much so that we are to be full of thanks and gratitude, no matter what else may be happening in our lives. See for example Acts 5, especially verse :41, in which the apostles rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer on account of Christ. Thankfulness, however, must be cultivated and intentionally practiced in our lives for it does not seem to occur automatically in us (as parents know, constantly reminding their children to say ‘thank you’). As Orthodox we have the Divine Liturgy to cultivate and promote a thankful attitude, for the Liturgy is Eucharistic, and eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving. Every time we assemble for the Liturgy, we are assembling to give thanks to the Lord. Probably all Orthodox would benefit from reminding themselves each Sunday morning they are going to give thanks to the Lord, rather than just thinking about going to church.
“The fathers teach without variation: through partaking of the eucharistic gifts, we become what we are. A modern proverb says, ‘You are what you eat.’ This is nowhere more true than in the Divine Liturgy, where we become the Body of Christ because we eat the Body of Christ. St Augustine said so in the fourth century: ‘The Lord will impart His Body and His blood which was shed for the remission of sins. If you have received well, you are that which you have received’ (Sermon 227). ‘It is your mystery which is laid on the table of the Lord’ (Sermon 272). There is an unbreakable sacramental connection between the gifts we offer and ourselves as the offerers of the gifts. For when Christians receive the transformed gifts in Holy Communion, they receive Christ, the King of all. He enters them, transforming them, incorporating them into Himself, so that they assembled multitude becomes again His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (1 Cor 10:17; Eph 1:23) (Lawrence Farley, LET US ATTEND, p 56)
We become the Body of Christ through the Eucharist, but we should also become thankful for the entire Liturgy is our thanksgiving to God. And in this thanksgiving, we don’t celebrate our blessings and ignore the problems of others, for we pray for the poor and needy, and are taught to be as generous in giving blessings to them as God is to us.
“’How can one celebrate the Eucharist on the altar, with precious ornaments and golden chalices, and neglect the Body of Christ at the church door: the poor one?’ (St John Chrysostom).” (Boris Bobrinskoy, THE COMPASSION OF THE FATHER, p 28)
The thankful and gracious attitude cultivated through our spiritual lives should overflow in charity towards those in need. Thus, the Liturgy is not our escape from the problems of the world, but training in how to live our lives in the world – with thanksgiving and charity for all.