As college students, we have a lot to be thankful for. We are thankful for our family, our friends, our home. A lot of times, we are thankful for simple things like the free food on campus or the email from our professor canceling our 8 a.m. class. I don’t know about everyone else, but every time one of those small things occur to me, I think to myself, “Thank God” and then continue on eating my free pizza or roll back into bed.
But let me tell you something I never do.
I don’t wake up for my 8 a.m. classes and say, “Thank God.” I also don’t utter those words when I use the money that I have to pay for my meal. I usually don’t remember to thank Him at all. Why is that?
Well, as a society, we have a small problem. We love to express our thankfulness to God when things are going well in our lives. But, when everything is just average or going poorly, we forget about God and even question his intentions. Instead of thanking God constantly for what He has given us, we question why He has given us struggles in our lives.
As the Thanksgiving season has come and gone, we have to ask ourselves, how can we work towards being thankful to God every day, no matter what is occurring in our lives? Even if we do not realize it, we do give thanks to God in many ways throughout our daily and spiritual lives.
Did you know that we can give thanks to God by receiving Holy Communion? The word “thanksgiving” translates to Eucharistia in Greek. In turn, the word Eucharist is used in the Orthodox Church to describe the act of the Orthodox faithful receiving the consecrated body and blood of Christ, otherwise known as the sacrament of Holy Communion.
St. John Chrysostom teaches us that one way to be thankful to God is to participate in the Eucharist consistently. He states that “the dread Mysteries, full of such great salvation, which are celebrated at every Liturgy, are also called a Thanksgiving [Eucharistia] because they are the remembrance of many benefits…and in every way cause us to be thankful to Him.” By receiving Holy Communion, we are not only bringing Christ into our lives, we are thanking Christ for giving us life and the hope for the resurrection by remembering what He sacrificed for us all.
St. John Chrysostom also states:
Whenever we are either in poverty, or in sickness, or are being insulted, then let us intensify our thanksgiving; thanksgiving, I mean, not in words, nor with the tongue, but in deeds and works, in mind and in heart; let us give thanks to Him with all our souls.
Here, he gives us new meaning to how we as Orthodox Christians can practice thanksgiving in our lives. He encourages all of us to give thanks to God with our entire soul. According to him, to achieve this we must focus on not only offering our thanksgiving to God with our prayers, but with our acts towards others.
One of my favorite verses from the Bible comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I never really thought about how I could incorporate the message of this verse in my everyday life until about a year ago.
In the summer of 2017, I was given an opportunity to travel to Rosarito, Mexico and spend a week working on building a home for the Ramirez family with Project Mexico. While building the home for the Ramirez family, we all saw how much they rejoiced with us every minute of the day with their radiant smiles and loving hospitality towards us.
We saw their love for Christ when they welcomed us into their home and made a group of thirty missionaries homemade meals every day, even though they barely had money to make ends meet. They were thankful for everything that they had, even though they had very little.
My greatest takeaway from this trip was not that I built a home for a family in need, but that I was able to learn from the Ramirez family what it means to rejoice always and give thanks for everything every single day.
This is why, I believe, St. John Chrysostom states that by helping others, we can and will be able to open our hearts and be able to learn how to be thankful to God with all our souls. Christ gives us many opportunities to give thanks to Him daily in different forms, either through Holy Communion or through good acts towards others. We just have to work on acting on those opportunities given to us by Christ so we can remember to give thanks to him daily and not just one month of the year.
Hi everyone! My name is Joanna Psyhogios. I am from Wilmette, Illinois and I am a member at St. John the Baptist Church in Des Plaines Illinois. My first experience with OCF was during College Conference East and I have been active in participating in College Conference and OCF Retreats ever since. In my free time, I love to play and watch every sport, coach basketball to youth teams, watch movies and TV Shows, and play Jungle Speed (Shoutout to CC Midwest!). I am really excited to share what I have learned about the Orthodox faith through the OCF blogs!
With #GivingTuesday just around the corner, we thought we’d help you learn more about some of the great Orthodox ministries that need our support as a Church to keep doing the great things they’re doing! Consider making a donation to one or more of them this year! Click on the logos to go directly to their online giving sites.
Ancient Faith Ministries
Ancient Faith Ministries started as an online radio program streaming Orthodox music and has grown to include a plethora of audio and video podcasts, blogs, a publishing house, a store, and a film production division. Ancient Faith provides a constantly growing and updated library of Orthodox resources on topics ranging from dogmatic theology, spiritual growth, marriage and family life, philosophy, ecumenical dialogue, fasting, saints lives, daily readings, and more. OCF is proud to host our own campus ministry podcast through AFR, and we are so appreciative of the support and guidance they have provided us in our own media outreach.
Many of you, I’m sure, are very familiar with Antiochian Village and its camping ministries. OCF houses our College Conference East there every year! We’re also proud to say that many of our OCF leaders give back to AV as counselors every year. Donations to AV help maintain its facilities as well as provide scholarships to campers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.
This ten-day academic institute is designed to help high school juniors and seniors connect Orthodox theology and spirituality to the big decisions they are preparing to face–like going off to college! We’re so proud to say that over the years, many, many of our OCF chapter presidents and Student Leadership Board members have been alumni of CrossRoad. We know they’re doing it right when it comes to preparing young people for the challenges of college and beyond!
FOCUS North America
FOCUS North America is a US-based charity that provides food, occupation, clothing, understanding, and shelter through a number of community-based FOCUS centers as well as programs like Operation: Lace Up which provides shoes to school-age children in need in various cities across the country. They also run a youth program (YES) to help youth and young adults better understand poverty and get involved in serving their communities. OCF partners with FOCUS North America to run Real Break Cleveland where we volunteer at their center there, St. Herman’s House (a men’s homeless shelter).
Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society
Philoptochos is the largest Christian women’s philanthropic organization in the US, providing services to local communities as well as through national initiatives to those in need. Their focus is charity to the poor, preservation of the family, and perpetuating and promoting Orthodoxy, and they support programs as broad as aid to Greece and Cyprus, Hellenic College/Holy Cross, health related organizations, IOCC, and a variety of local social service organizations. OCF has been blessed to receive Philoptochos support, especially in regards to the First Forty Days Initiative and the Summer Leadership Institute.
Hogar Rafael Ayau
Hogar Rafael Ayau (San Miguel del Lago) is an Orthodox orphanage outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala run by the nuns of the Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity. The children are educated and cared for all within the context of the Orthodox life. OCF partners with the Hogar to run Real Break Guatemala where our students play with the children and work on repairs and other projects needed by the monastery.
International Orthodox Christian Charities
IOCC is perhaps the most well-known and respected Orthodox charity, providing communities around the world with immediate disaster relief as well as long-term sustainable, community-oriented solutions to poverty, housing, education, and health. IOCC provides assistance without discrimination in places as diverse as Syria, Greece, USA, Haiti, Camaroon, and Bosnia. OCF partners with IOCC to run Real Break New Orleans where we work with them and with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes.
Ionian Village offers young people an opportunity to not only attend a great summer camp, but to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to encounter the saints, deepen their faith, and experience the life of the Church in a way that is unique among camping programs. We’re so proud to say that many of our OCF leaders are IV alumni and often go back as staff to minister to the next generation of Orthodox young people.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship
Yep, that’s right. Did you know our own ministry is entirely supported by donations and grants? We’re blessed to be able to able to provide you with things like free retreats, the Summer Leadership Institute, all sorts of chapter resources, and College Conference scholarships thanks to the generosity of our supporters. And we’re always trying to come up with new ways to help your chapters grow, connect more college students to the Church, and give back to the student leaders who make OCF the amazing ministry that it is.
Orthodox Christian Mission Center
OCMC is an agency of the Assembly of Bishops that helps send missionaries around the world to share the message of the Gospel to those who have not heard it. They currently have long-term missionaries in Albania, Guatemala, Kenya, Mongolia, Romania, and the United States.
Orthodox Christian Network
OCN provides news, radio, blogs, and other resources for Orthodox Christians of all ages. They even have a live-stream Bible study on Wednesday evenings!
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry
A newer agency of the Assembly of Bishops, OCPM ministers to men and women, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike who are in prison or have been recently released. They provide spiritual guidance and catechism to those who are interested as well as train clergy and lay people on prison ministry. OCPM currently ministers to over 1,000 people in prison including five who have become monks and over 300 catechumens.
Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage
Located in Tijuana Mexico, Project Mexico helps build homes for families in need while St. Innocent Orphanage cares for and educates orphaned boys in a loving, spiritually-rich environment. OCF has partnered with Project Mexico in the past to run Real Break trips where students worked on home builds and served at the orphanage. In addition to giving, you can always sign up for a summer team with your family, friends, or parish to volunteer.
St. Basil’s Academy
Located in upstate New York, St. Basil’s Academy takes in orphaned and at-risk Orthodox children where they can live and be educated in a safe and nurturing environment that addresses all of their needs. In existence since 1944, they take in children from all Orthodox backgrounds and care for them with Christ’s healing love.
St. John the Compassionate Mission
St. John the Compassionate Mission offers a variety of social services to the needed of Toronto, Canada. Their work includes weekly community dinners, kids programs, a thrift store, a community house for those in need of subsidized housing, an organic bakery staffed by those who would otherwise find it difficult to find work, counselling services for individuals and families, an Orthodox mission parish, and a lived theology school. OCF has partnered with St. John the Compassionate in the past to run Real Break Toronto, and we encourage our students to check out the lived theology school.
ZOE for Life!
ZOE for Life! is a pan-Orthodox outreach ministry that provides services such as counseling, housing assistance, medical assistance, prenatal care, adoption assistance, and a variety of other services to women in crisis pregnancies.