Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. II Corinthians 4: 15
Good morning Prayer Team!
It is amazing how interconnected things can be. Yesterday, we were introduced to three words—Thanksgiving, joy and grace. Each of these words comes from the same root in the Greek language, which is “har-“. In Greek, the word joy is “hara”. The Greek word for grace is “haris”. And the Greek word for thanksgiving is “efharistia.” So we see that all three are connected. You can have one without the others. You can’t experience one without experiencing the others. You can’t avoid one and expect to still have the others.
All three words are important in the life of the Christian. Thanksgiving is foundational for our relationship with Christ. Going back to the creation of the world, it was a lack of thanksgiving that caused the fall of mankind. In Genesis 2:15-16, we read:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it, you shall die.”
The response of mankind should have been “Thank you very much,” and staying away from the tree. The response instead was one of greed. In essence, mankind said to God “We want the tree also.” After partaking of the tree, man was cast out from the Garden of Eden (Paradise).
At the Nativity, the angels brought “good news of a great joy” (Luke 2:10) that our Savior, Christ the Lord, has come into the world. Thus the curse of Adam was about to be reversed in the person of Jesus Christ.
In the hymns of the Paschal (or Easter) season, we hear the words “through the cross, joy has come to all the world.” Indeed, there is a reason for joy in the world, because through the cross, Christ opened a path back to Paradise.
We are sustained in our journey back to Paradise and ultimately granted Paradise by the Grace of God and that alone. No one can demand entry into Paradise. It is not a right. It is not an entitlement. It is a gift, which receive only by the grace and mercy of God. Grace is a God-given quality that heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in each person. Grace flows from the Lord through things like prayer, Holy Communion, Holy Unction, confession, and the other sacraments of the church.
Thanksgiving is a gift we offer to God. Joy and grace are gifts He offers to us. A combination of these gifts is what is needed to attain salvation. We can’t receive joy and grace without our gift of thanksgiving. We cannot attain salvation only through thanksgiving and joy, without God’s grace. Without grace, we cannot have true joy. And without joy, we will not feel thankful or receive grace. However, any of these can inspire the other two. This is why it is important on a DAILY basis to focus on at least one of these, so that the others may follow.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Help me to be thankful for Your gifts today and every day. May I focus on the joys of my life and the joy of Your saving message. Please grant grace to me so that I may be healed from my spiritual infirmities and strengthened in the things I am spiritually lacking. May I cultivate thanksgiving in my life. Please cultivate joy in me. So that with thanksgiving, joy and grace, I may ever grow closer to You. Amen.
Work on thanksgiving and joy, so that God can give you grace!
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