Gladsome Light Dialogues – An Orthodox Blog

A journey through our Orthodox faith as we live it every day

Gladsome Light Dialogues – An Orthodox Blog header image 2

Giving Thanks to God for All Things

November 10th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Holy 40 martyrsEvery year on Thanksgiving Day we give thanks to God for our wonderful life. We rejoice in the fruits of the earth (with or without feathers) gathered around a table of abundance. A good thing indeed! Saint Basil the Great advised us to do this as early as the 4th century:

”When you sit down to eat pray. When you eat bread do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly when the sun goes down and when it rises when you are asleep or awake give thanks to God who created and arranged all things for your benefit to have you know love and praise their Creator.”

To give thanks for all the abundance of God’s gifts is a wonderful thing but the Holy Apostle Paul announces that even more than this is necessary. He calls us to give thanks to God at all times for all things! (Ephesians 5:20). It is easy to understand what “at all times” means but what are these “all things” that we should be thankful for?

In our Church Library we have a very nice collection of big red books called the Menaia. It is a God inspired compendium containing the services for all the Saints from the Church Calendar for every day of the year. One part of these services read during the morning service or Matins is called the Synaxarion. The Synaxarion includes the lives of the saints celebrated in any particular calendar date. Most of the times however this part of the service is read quite fast and falls a little under noticed in the midst of the chanting that usually happens during Matins. Not really paying attention to what we read (after all we celebrate so many saints every day!) we read mechanically the lives of the saints that sometimes are concentrated in short phrases like these:

“On this day Saint Chariton was thrown into a pit of lime and met his end. On the same day Saint Vasilissa having fought with the wild beasts and remained unharmed met her end. The holy Martyr Archontion met his end by starvation. The holy new martyr Poledoros who bore his witness in New Ephesus in 1794 met his end by hanging.“

This is only part of the Synaxarion for September the 3rd. In just one day we see a saint being dissolved in lime another one fighting with wild beasts another starved to death and another hanged; all for the simple thing of being Christians. Shall we continue? If we would actually pay attention to what we read in the Synaxaria we would cry at every word. Why we don’t do it then? Aren’t the lives of the saints worth more than a simple and unaffected glance-over? Are these trivial things? Is it simple to die by the sword to be burned alive to be eaten by lions? But our hearts have grown cold because we live lives of comfort and plenty and the sufferings of the saints diluted by time and lack of interest are foreign to us.

So let us ask again the question what are the “all things”? Are we supposed to give thanks only for those that give us pleasure and comfort which make our life easier what we generally consider to be positive? How about the trials that God allowed these martyrs to go through? Were they to give thanks even for those? Rather than us answering let us hear the saints speak. Here is how the New Martyrs Joseph and Isaac from Georgia prayed before they were beheaded by the emir of Theodosiopolis:

“O Holy King and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ look down upon Thy servants with mercy and receive us as a holy sacrifice. Number us among Thy martyrs and make us worthy of the crown of righteousness for every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from Thee the Father of lights (c.f. James 1:17)!”

They actually considered their death “a perfect gift from above”! What else if not this is truly giving thanks for all things?

Around Thanksgiving Day my kids always come from school with a nice list of things their class is thankful for. It is an exercise meant to teach them to be thankful to appreciate what they have. Time and again what they come up with are the obvious things: their parents their food their clothing their house family friends schools teachers turkey gravy pumpkin pie and the rest of the fixings. Despite the good intent of this exercise I think it is not complete because it gives them a false impression of what truly our relationship of thanksgiving to God should be. Concentrating only on the positive May render God in a Great Provider of things we need and nothing else; a Great Benefactor that is there to respond to our wishes when and how we need them. This is deeply rooted in our consumerist society. I heard an interview on the radio a few years back in which a writer of fortune cookies messages was saying that they had to reinvent the fortune cookies for the American population because we do not like to hear that bad things could happen to us even if most understand that this type of fortune telling is no real! We just don’t like to hear it.

God however is not an entrepreneur fortune teller and He provides us with what we actually need not with what the marketing says that we need. We might have a limited material perspective anchored in our short earthly lives but He has a heavenly view rooted in the eternity of the human existence. He knows what we need and He gives it abundantly although it might not fit our plans. Growing in this understanding is the only thing that will move us closer to rightly giving thanks for all things.

This is why I choose this year to be thankful for the Holy Martyrs and Confessors of the Faith that teach us an important lesson on properly giving thanks to God. So I am thankful for the Holy Martyr Paraskevi because by her loosing the eyes under torture I am able to see more clearly now the crowns of martyrdom prepared for all those that take the heavy yoke of the true faith. I am thankful to The Holy Martyr Lawrence the Archdeacon for by having his body burnt on a hot iron grill he taught me that by working the virtues and keeping the fast in our bodies they become a whole burnt sacrifice to Christ. I am thankful to St. Maximus the Confessor because by loosing his tongue he showed us that our mouths should never stop praising the Lord and confessing the Incarnate Truth. I am thankful to the Holy Martyrs Adrian and Natalie of Nicomedia for by having their legs broken on an anvil they showed me the way I should walk to God. I am thankful to St. John of Damascus for by loosing and then regaining his right hand he directed us to always do what’s right for the glory of God! I thank the Holy Unmercenary Doctors and Martyrs Cosmas Damianos and Panteleimonos for they have healed our souls from the scourge of selfishness and showed us the way of love thorough our neighbor.

I thank you All Holy Martyrs for being at the foundation of our Church feeding Her roots from the bountiful ground fertilized with your precious relics. Intercede to God abundantly we pray to you that His will be done in our lives every day and that we learn to properly give thanks for all things He so generously provides for us unceasingly!

Fr. Vasile

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)

Tags:   · · · · · · · No Comments.

A Union for the Kingdom

June 26th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Greek-Orthodox-WeddingIn case you haven’t been following the news, the Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of the recognition of same-sex unions throughout United States. Does this come as a surprise? Absolutely not! We knew it was just a matter of time. But how did we get here? How come that we need a court of law to decide what marriage is?

Before we start pointing fingers at the state for changing our understanding of marriage, we have to admit first that even in Christianity, there are different views of what actually marriage is. Most Christians would agree that marriage is a union between a man and a woman that mutually agree to spend their lives together, but looking deeper… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · No Comments.

Equal to the Apostles

May 21st, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Constantine-signBlessed be the providence of God that makes all things evolve towards the order that best suits our progression in the Kingdom of heavens. All that God chooses to happen is for our edification in Him and for our development into His divine mold. This year for instance we celebrate the Holy Ascension (a moving feast) in the same day with the celebration of the Sts. Constantine and Helen (a fixed feast). One may say it is just random, at the end of the day even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

Let me explain my train of thoughts in this particular instance. The Ascension of our Lord commemorates the… Continue reading


Tags: 1 Comment

From Hearsay to Social media – a Tale of Rumor Spreading

May 19th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

pillow“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” – Socrates

There is a story that circulates in Christian and Jewish circles about gossip. I was not able to track its origins but the story goes like this.

“There was a woman that liked to talk about other people’s affairs and spread unkind words around. One day however she felt remorseful and went to the priest to confess her sin. The priest listened to her confession and asked her if she truly understood the consequences of such hearsay activities. She uttered a rather unconvincing yes. Reading between the lines, the experienced priest offered her a penance, a small feat, he said, that will… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · No Comments.

The Icon of the Kingdom

March 5th, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

St. John the Baptist GOC, Euless, TX - AltarEvery year, in the first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate our Orthodox heritage. It is a wonderful festivity involving a touching procession with icons, lifted up high, around the church and ending in the declamatory proclamation of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy.  Since we do it every year, it became so engrained in our fiber that we rarely stop to ponder about what does it really mean to us. It is important to know, after all, what we celebrate; otherwise it makes no sense to go on with a party that we know nothing about.

So let me start by asking you a simple question. What is Orthodoxy to you? A place called… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · · No Comments.

Blessed is the Way – On Suffering Death and Resurrection in the Orthodox Church

February 3rd, 2015 by Fr. Vasile

Judgement 001This is a talk I gave on January 31st at the NTOM conference “Falling Asleep in the Lord: An Orthodox Perspective on Dying, Death and Grief” at St. Demetrios Greek orthodox Church in Fort Worth.

Blessed is the way in which thou shalt walk today, O soul, for a place of rest is prepared for thee (Prokeimenon of the Apostle, Funeral Service)

Reverend Brothers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When confronted with the reality of death most people reveal a deep-seated fear of such an event beyond any human control. This is especially acute nowadays when the science of medicine has made great strides in curing diseases that only a century… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · · · · No Comments.

The Sunday of the Romanian Saints – a universal celebration of all the Saints

June 23rd, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

An icon of all Romanian Saints

An icon of all Romanian Saints

By Prof. Dr. Rev. Dumitru Staniloae

Romanian Christianity has given fruit to many and wonderful saints, even though, the humility characteristic to our nation, or other unfavorable historical circumstances in which they lived in, have not allowed our Church to canonize but a very few of them and only in 1955.

The Romanian saints were real and they have been recognized by popular piety, even though the Church has not formally canonized them and has not dedicated them certain calendar days; this is why their deeds have not been praised through special church hymns.

Actually, for the longest time, the saints have been… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · · · No Comments.

Free time and information overload

May 9th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

5558879546_7f028b3207_bMost probably the inventors of the internet, which modestly started as a small information sharing network, did not hope, even in their wildest dreams, that in less than 50 years their invention will evolve into what is today the greatest information exchange that ever existed. The library of Alexandria? Child play! Think about all that goes through the internet today: websites, e-mail, news, TV, social networks, entertainment, financials, do-it-yourself, phone calls, video calls, encyclopedias, e-books, maps and we’re just scratching the surface. All you want is there waiting to be found at the literal touch of a finger. Nobody asks anyone anything before they “google” the information.

With an internet connection at hand one feels like a kid in a… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · 2 Comments

Are we religious or are we faithful?

April 2nd, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

Pascha_multitudesI read a very interesting article a few weeks ago that caught my undivided attention. The title was very daring to begin with: “Religious people are dangerous” and, on top of that, it was written by an Orthodox Bishop, so that made it even more thought-provoking.  The following passage summarizes it best: “You who go to church, how has the Church benefitted you? As we said yesterday, we went to the shrines, you saw the fathers, you saw the holy relics, you saw Mount Athos, you saw the Panagia in Tinos, you saw everything, and now we have returned. Ultimately of what benefit will all these things be? Have our hearts transformed? Have we become more humble people? Are we… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · No Comments.

We remember and we honor because it matters

March 8th, 2014 by Fr. Vasile

20140308-235337.jpgSunday of Orthodoxy 2014

We all take Orthodoxy for granted and we forget all about Synods, Saints and Holy Fathers. We are mostly ignorant that torture, prison, exile, even death were things experienced by previous generations, even close to us, just to keep the faith. Persians, Turks, Communists, even modern secularists all tried to break the faith but all failed.

However the greatest danger comes always from within: heresies. The most dangerous are things that seem right, are apparently well intended but are actually not. In the First ecumenical council one iota (the letter i in Greek alphabet) made the difference between Orthodoxy and heterodoxy (homoousios vs homiousios).

The last ecumenical council argued over what a kiss represents. What do I believe when I venerate an… Continue reading


Tags:   · · · · · · 1 Comment