November 23, 2022

On Giving Thanks to God For All Things (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

 By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Job's imitator, divine Chrysostom, always used to say this memorable quote, on every occasion: "Glory be to God for all things. I will not stop repeating it always, for everything that happens to me." The great Gregory Palamas of Thessaloniki used to say the same in every matter, imitating the divine Chrysostom, who added with his eloquent tongue: "So let us give thanks for everything, for whatever happens, this is thanksgiving. For to do this when all is going well is no great thing, because the very nature of things prompts it. But if we give thanks while we are in the depths of misfortune, this is admirable. Indeed, when we give thanks for those things which others blaspheme and are discouraged by, see how much philosophy there is! First, you make God glad. Second, you have shamed the devil. Third, you have proven that what happened was nothing. That is, at the same time that you give thanks, God removes the sorrow and the devil retreats.

There is nothing holier than the tongue, when in the midst of misfortune it gives thanks to God. Indeed, it is not inferior in anything to the tonguee of the martyrs. It is likewise crowned. Because it also has an executioner before it, who forces it to deny God through blasphemy. It has the devil, who tears it with lacerations through impure thoughts, and darkens it with sorrow. Therefore if anyone endures suffering with thanksgiving, he has received a crown of martyrdom.

Basil the Great also says: "It is disgraceful when things are favorable to bless God, but in times of distress and hardship to remain silent. It is then that we should thank Him even more, knowing that 'whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives'."

What am I saying? Not only must one thank God for the sorrows and temptations of this present life, but he must also thank Him for hell in the hereafter. For even hell is profitable and beneficial for the damned. Why? Because hell is an obstacle to sin and evil, that is why it is also called hell, because it punishes, and it prevents evil. If there were no hell, sin and evil would extend into infinite space and never end. That is why the most wise Mark of Ephesus said this which paradoxical to the ear, yet it is a true and certain saying, namely that it is profitable for the damned to be in hell. Hence the faithful Theoktistos the Studite, in a troparion to our Lord Jesus Christ, says literally: "And in hell I give thanks," because hell is not evil in itself, rather it is also good. On the one hand, because it prevents and reduces sin and does not allow it to be active indefinitely, as we said, and on the other hand, because hell is a penalty and punishment for evil, and with it God's justice is fulfilled. Hence, although hell is not God's prior will, it is his subsequent will, according to the sacred theologians. And sin alone is evil in itself, and it does not happen according to the prior will of God, nor according to the subsequent, but according to the malicious will of man.

That is why divine Chrysostom says the following to Christians: "Let this be your work, to give thanks in your prayers for both the visible and the invisible favors, both for those that were in accordance with your will and for those that were not. Let us do likewise for the kingdom of heaven and for the fire of gehenna, and in tribulation and in comfort. This is how the Saints are accustomed to pray, and to give thanks for common blessings. I know a holy man who prays in this way. He said nothing before these words: Thank you Lord for all the favors you have shown to us unworthy ones from the first day until this day. For those that we know and for those that we do not know, for the visible, for the invisible, for those that were done by work, for those that were spoken, for those that were done by our will and for those that were not, for all that has been done in us worthless ones. For sorrows, for comforts, for the fire of gehenna, for hell, for the Kingdom of Heaven."

And Saint Isaac said that whoever gives thanks motivates his benefactor to give him more favors: "The thanks of the recipient stimulates the giver to give gifts greater than the previous ones." And again, the same divine Isaac says: "Whoever does not give thanks for the least, for the greater he is a liar and unjust." And also: "What leads the gifts of God to man is the heart moved to unceasing thanksgiving."

Be therefore, O man, thankful to God for everything, "bless Him at all times, let His praise be always in your mouth." If you are healthy, health is a gift from God. If sick, sickness of the body is salvation of the soul. Therefore never let the glorification of God be absent from your mouth. In everything give thanks to God, to Him be the glory and power unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: From the book The Interpretation of the 14 Epistles of the Apostle Paul (Colossians 4:15). Translation by John Sanidopoulos.