Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church
Phoenix, Arizona
Bishop Daniel’s Message for November

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On November 15, we will enter into a special period of preparation for next month’s festive celebration of the Nativity of Christ.  This time of preparation, known as the “Nativity” or “Christmas Fast,” provides us with the opportunity to fast from food as well as from other distractions of life (e.g. social media, internet, television, etc.) as a means of allowing us to focus more directly on the meaning of the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God Who, taking on our human flesh and our human nature, was born of the Virgin Mary in the cave of Bethlehem.  However, shortly after we begin the Nativity Fast, we also celebrate our most religious of national and civic holidays- Thanksgiving Day (This year on November 22).  We should ask ourselves, then, how does Thanksgiving Day fit into our preparation for Christmas Day?  What should be the focus of Orthodox Christians on Thanksgiving Day, especially as it is part of our annual preparation for the Feast of the Nativity? A little background on the holiday may be helpful for us in answering the question of what Thanksgiving Day should mean for us. 

The original thanksgiving celebration was held by the Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts during their second winter in America in December, 1621. The first winter had killed forty-four of the original one hundred and two colonists. At one point, their daily food ration was down to five kernels of corn apiece, but then an unexpected trading vessel arrived, swapping them beaver pelts for grain, providing for their severe need. The next summer’s crop brought hope, and Governor William Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621, be set aside as a day of feasting and prayer to show the gratitude of the colonists that they were still alive.

These Pilgrims, seeking new opportunities in America, gave thanks to God for His provision for them in helping them find twenty acres of cleared land, for the fact that there were no hostile natives in that area, and for their newfound opportunities. Along with the feasting and games involving the colonists and more than eighty friendly Indians (who added to the feast by bringing wild turkeys and venison, as the story goes), prayers, sermons, and songs of praise were important in the celebration. Three days were spent in feasting and prayer.

From that time forward, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a day to give thanks to God for His gracious and sufficient provision. President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November, in 1863, “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” In 1941, Congress ruled that after 1941, the fourth Thursday of November be observed as Thanksgiving Day and be a legal holiday.

In the Scriptures, we find sources related to the issue of thanksgiving nearly on every page. In the Book of Genesis, we observe that individuals offered up sacrifices out of gratitude. The Israelites sang a song of thanksgiving as they were delivered from Pharaoh's army after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15). Later, the Law of Moses, given on Mount Sinai, set aside three times each year when the Israelites were to gather together. All three of these times, 1) the Feast of the Passover, (Exodus 12:15-20), 2) Harvest or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21), and 3) the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36) all involved remembering God’s abundant blessings and grace. The two feasts, Harvest and Tabernacles, took place specifically in relation to God’s provision in the harvest of various fruit trees and crops.

In the New Testament, there are also repeated admonitions to give thanks to God. Thanksgiving is to always be a part of our prayers. Some of the most remembered passages on the giving of thanks are the following: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1).

Of all of God’s gifts, the greatest one He has given us is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, this Greatest of Gifts, the gift of salvation and regeneration in Christ, is at the center of our greatest Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Divine Liturgy.  For this gift of His Son, the gift which meets our greatest need, the Apostle Paul says, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

We, like the Pilgrims we remember on Thanksgiving, have a choice. In life there will always be those things that we can complain about (the Pilgrims had lost many loved ones), but there will also be much to be thankful for. As our society becomes increasingly secular, the actual “giving of thanks to God” during our annual Thanksgiving holiday is being overlooked, leaving only the feasting. May God grant that He may find us grateful every day for all of His gifts, spiritual and material. God is good, and every good gift comes from Him (James 1:17). For those who know Christ, God also works everything together for good, even events we would not necessarily consider good (Romans 8:28-30). May He find us to be His grateful children.

Prayerful best wishes for a blessed Nativity Fast and for a Thanksgiving Day which provides blessings for which to be thankful.

With love in Christ,

+Bishop Daniel

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NOVEMBER ANNOUNCEMENTS

Tuesday, November 20, Vespers, 6:00 pm

Wednesday, November 21, Divine Liturgy, 9:00 a.m. Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever (Psalm 118:1).  As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day and look ahead to the Feast of the Lord’s Nativity, let’s make sure we direct our thanks to the Lord.  May the Lord grant each and every one of us a blessed holiday, safe travels to those who are traveling, and joy in welcoming friends and family to our tables!

Reinvigorating our Food Pantry Collections

We glorify Christ when we assist those who are less fortunate. The Epistle of James tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Those who are less fortunate are a gift from above since donating to them without a begrudging spirit contributes to the deification of our souls. In order to glorify Christ the church community is collecting boxes and canned food for the less fortunate. Please feel free to speak with Bishop Daniel or Jacob Sieckman about contributing non-perishables items.  Please bring your donations and place them in the boxes which are available in the church hall.  Collected food items will be shared with Saint Mary’s Food Bank, Phoenix.

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Upcoming Calendar
  • 17

    Nov

    Saturday
    5:00 Great Vespers
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 18

    Nov

    Sunday
    9:00 Divine Liturgy
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 24

    Nov

    Saturday
    5:00 Great Vespers
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 25

    Nov

    Sunday
    9:00 Divine Liturgy
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 1

    Dec

    Saturday
    5:00 Great Vespers
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 2

    Dec

    Sunday
    9:00 Divine Liturgy
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 8

    Dec

    Saturday
    5:00 Great Vespers
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 9

    Dec

    Sunday
    9:00 Divine Liturgy
    Fast: wine & oil
  • 15

    Dec

    Saturday
    5:00 Great Vespers
    Fast: wine & oil
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Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church
1614 E Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85006