Giving Thanks

The act of giving thanks is among the most fundamental acts of love. It lies at the very heart of worship – in which, in the words of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex, there is an exchange. In giving thanks we make an offering which itself is always inferior to what we have received – but which is itself an enlargement of the human heart. To live rightly in the presence and communion of God is to live in a state of constant thanksgiving. For from Him we receive all that we have – our life and existence, all good things, the hope of redemption, and the joy of communion. The offering of thanksgiving is the acknowledgement within our heart that we ourselves are not the author of any of these things, but are rather the recipients – those who receive gifts from God.

The offering of our heart in the giving of thanks is itself an act of joy and of love. It is a moving away from ourselves as the center of our existence and the recognition that our true life is centered elsewhere – in Christ Himself.

We are also the recipients of many things from others around us. No one is self-sufficient. There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. The offering of thanks is a matter of living in our right mind – the failure to give thanks, an act of insanity (unwholeness).

With all of these things in mind, the teaching of Scripture to “give thanks always for all things” becomes yet clearer. We offer thanks not “from time to time,” or “whenever we feel grateful,” but always and for all things. Such an offering is itself an act of communion, a receiving of the love of God through gratefully acknowledging His gifts. To refuse to give thanks is, for the same reason, a rupture in our communion with God.

The Holy Eucharist (eucharist=”thanksgiving”) is thus not simply a sacrament which is celebrated in the Church on an occasional or even regular basis – but a description and revelation of the truth of our life. We were created to live “eucharistically,” always giving thanks to God.

It seems to me no coincidence that St. John Chrysostom, the author of the most common Eucharistic prayer in the Orthodox Church, offered his last words as a Eucharistic offering. Exiled to the very edge of the empire by an ungrateful Emperor, St. John’s last words were, “Glory to God for all things.”


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





6 responses to “Giving Thanks”

  1. Margaret Avatar

    Indeed, Glory to God for All Things! Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  2. Val Avatar

    Thank You Fr Stephen for your Blog! Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving.

  3. Stephen Humlebo Avatar

    To live eucharistically – yes!

    Is there any happiness greater than each morning say: Bless You Lord for all the things you give.

    Lately I’ve been to sick to teach anymore. But how much time the Lord has give me to just be with Him in prayer. Glory to God indeed.

  4. Andrew Avatar

    Who would not want to give thanks — well said indeed Father.

  5. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen, those words about the exchange ignite something from my own thoughts.

    It seems that we often neglect this “exchange” of giving thanks because we realize deep down that it acknowledges our dependence on something beyond ourselves. We seek to be autonomous, to rule our world unchallenged. While speaking this out loud would reveal it to be folly, it nevertheless survives under the surface. But by the same token, we remain small. The 3rd servant who buried his talent comes to mind.

    By fully accepting our dependence on not only God but in fact the world around us, we make the exchange. And in a mystery, we grow larger. As the first two servants who used that system of exchange to grow their worlds and become rulers of larger ones.

    I suspect great healing comes with the shift from giving as debt to one of exchange and flow. But these are still rough thoughts.

    Speaking of giving thanks, thank you for all that you give to me, your readers, and your parish by sharing of the abundance the Lord has given you. A rare and sorely needed light in a dark place.

    in Christ, drew

  6. George Avatar

    Thanks be to God for each person who enters our life because as Dorothy Day said, “they are Christ”.

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