St Basil the Great (d. 379) gave a sermon that is a wonderful meditation for those of us celebrating Thanksgiving Day today.
“In more fortunate circumstances will we speak the words of David, What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
He has called us into being out of nothing; he has endowed us with reason, bestowed on us skills to help us preserve life; he has caused food to grow from the ground and has made beasts subject to us.
For our sake it rains, the sun shines, there are mountains and plains, and he has prepared for us places of shelter in the mountains even up to the highest peak.
The rivers flow for our use, springs bubble up, the sea is open to us for trade, the mines for treasure. All that we enjoy, bestowed on us in all creation, we have around us through the rich and marvelous good of the creator.
But why limit examples to these small things? It was for our sake that God himself came to walk among humankind. For the sake of the corruptible flesh the Word became flesh and lived among us. The creator tarried for the sake of the ingrates; the sun of righteousness to those who sit in the shadows; the impassible went to the cross, life in death, light in the underworld, resurrection for the sake of those who had died, the adoption of the Holy Spirit, the promised allotment of God’s grace, the promises of crowns.
In short: everything beyond number, upon which fits the Prophet’s utterance: What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
And these are not things our great Benefactor has simply given, but rather given back, as part of a grand cycle of giving. The thanks we render to him, he regards as so many good deeds, and holds us accountable. These assets that are given to you, advance them to the Benefactor by your alms through the hands of the poor, and although he has received his own property, so it is a perfect thanks, as if you have given from your own goods.
What shall I return to the Lord, for all his bounty to me?
I cannot let go of this saying of the Prophet, which sums up so well our present circumstances, as he sees his poverty and the deserving countergift of the Lord. Yet such magnanimous charity is nothing compared to the greater promises: the delights of paradise, the grandeur of heaven, angelic honor, the vision of God, the greatest good of all, honor, whatever each reasonable being desires, which portion we shall share after we put off the desires of the flesh.” (On Fasting and Feasts, pp 118-119)
I wish everyone a Blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
. . . . .
Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised;
He is also to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and gladness are in His place.
Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.
Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it.
Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the LORD,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
And say, “Save us, O God of our salvation;
Gather us together, and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
To triumph in Your praise.”
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel
From everlasting to everlasting!
And all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD.
(1 Chronicles 16:8-36)