We must consider almsgiving as an opportunity to share the hardships of others and to share with them our resources. Self-sacrifice is not a punishment for success: it is God’s way of helping us to realize our interdependence with others.
Reflection from a parishioner
As a child, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s… our focus during Great Lent was always on meals that did not include meat or dairy products. What could you cook that did not include either and would actually taste good? As a result, the default was always food that was very simple. Now that I am older, I have learned a little more about the Orthodox faith and what the Great Fast entails. We fast from animal products to show us that we are dependent upon God. In today’s society, we have so many more options available that make Lenten meals even better. Many grocery stores carry vegan products, bakeries can create dairy free cakes, restaurants have vegan pulled pork sandwiches. What I remembered through this menu planning process is what a monk told me a few years ago… don’t focus so much on the food but on your actions and what you do. I don’t think I have ever received better advice. As I sat down and thought about my Lenten preparations, I also reflected on helping others…whether it is your brother, a homeless person, a baba who can’t find a shopping cart in the grocery store or simply just a kind word in a time of need. Helping others is what Christ did, the Saints did and we are called to do. Let us remember that during this time of Great Lent, the Stewardship that we give to our Church is also used for the many ministries that provide this opportunity to help others.
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Next Sunday’s Gospel reflects on Forgiveness and our preparation for Great Lent. God tells us that we must forgive men for their trespasses, if we expect our Heavenly Father to forgive us for our trespasses. Jesus also reflects upon our treasures, how we use them and prepare for Salvation through Stewardship. The key is to focus on the Heavenly in your daily life so that when you come before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ, you will be placed on the right hand and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you. We must lay up our treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume. Every aspect of how we use our Time, Talents and Treasures will determine where God places us on Judgment Day. “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”
During Great Lent, pray and ask God to guide you so that your focus will be on the Heavenly and not the earthly… determine how you can help your Church. Whether it is volunteering to prepare the Church for Pascha, hosting a coffee fellowship after the Divine Liturgy or feeding the homeless – God asks us to do all that we can as good and faithful Stewards.
Turn not away Thy face from Thy servant for I am afflicted!
Hear me speedily. Attend to my soul and deliver it!
Forgiveness Sunday Vespers
Archimandrite Justin Popovic
For to be a member of the Church means to become incarnated with the God-man, to share His body, to become an organic part of His divine-human body. In other words, to become divine-human in the entire reality of one’s human personality.
Theosis is our opportunity to become like Christ, to live like Christ and to create a lifestyle that treats the Church as our primary focus. Consider the following in your Lenten efforts:
- Holy Mysteries and Prayer
Next Sunday is known as Meatfare Sunday, also referred to as the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The Gospel reading
provides us with many examples where Christ has illustrated that when our brothers and sisters are in need and we fail or refuse to help them, we are failing and refusing to help Christ. “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”
St. John Chrysostom in his Homily LXXIX on Matthew 25 says… “And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more.”
God asks us to provide for our Church through the Stewardship of Time, Talents and Treasures but God also reminds us that to be gracious “requires only what is within our power” – we must give freely from our heart, unconditionally and in any way that we can to help our Church, those in need and the many ministries that our parish provides.
Our virtue therefore must not be contaminated with fault, but must be single-minded and blameless, and free from all that can bring reproach. For what profit is there in fasting twice in the week, if your so doing serve only as a pretext for ignorance and vanity, and make you supercilious and haughty, and selfish? You tithe your possessions, and make a boast thereof: but you in another way provoke God’s anger, by condemning men generally on this account, and accusing others; and you are yourself puffed up, though not crowned by the divine decree for righteousness, but heap, on the contrary, praises upon yourself. “For I am not, he says, as the rest of mankind.” Moderate yourself, O Pharisee: “put a door to your tongue, and a lock.” You speak to God Who knows all things. Await the decree of the Judge. None of those skilled in the practice of wrestling ever crowns himself: nor does any man receive the crown of himself, but awaits the summons of the arbiter. Lower your pride: for arrogance is both accursed and hated by God. Although therefore you fast with puffed up mind, your so doing will not avail you: your labour will be unrewarded; for you have mingled dung with your perfume. Even according to the law of Moses a sacrifice that had a blemish was not capable of being offered to God: for it was said unto him, “Of sheep, and ox, that is offered for sacrifice, there must be no blemish therein.” Since therefore your fasting is accompanied by pride, you must expect to hear God saying, “This is not the fast that I have chosen, says the Lord.” You offer tithes: but you wrong in another way Him Who is honoured by you, in that you condemn men generally. This is an act foreign to the mind that fears God: for Christ even said, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.” And one also of His disciples said, “There is one Lawgiver, and Judge: why then do you judge your neighbour?” No man because he is in health ridicules one who is sick for being laid up and bedridden: rather he is afraid, lest perchance he become himself the victim of similar sufferings. Nor does any man in battle, because another has fallen, praise himself for having escaped from misfortune. For the infirmity of others is not a fit subject for praise for those who are in health: nay, even if any one be found of more than usually vigorous health, even then scarcely does he gain glory thereby. Such then was the state of the self-loving Pharisee.