Charitable Works Abolish Death

JOHNCHRY

[The power of charitable works] is so great that they not only cleanse sins but even do away with death itself. Let me explain how.

And who, someone might claim, has become greater than death through charity? Don’t worry, my beloved. Learn, from looking at things as they actually are, that the power of charity has destroyed even the tyranny of death.

There was once a woman called Tabitha, which translates as Gazelle (Acts, 9, 36-43). It was her daily task to earn spiritual riches for herself through charitable works. She clothed the widows and gave them all her possessions. It happened, however, that she fell ill and died.

But see how these women who’d been helped by her were able to repay their benefactress at the right time. They went to Saint Peter, say the Scriptures, and showed him the clothes and other things Tabitha had made and done when she was with them. They missed their mother-figure, probably shed tears, and gave the apostle cause to feel sad on their behalf.

So what did the blessed Peter do? He “got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up’. She opened her eyes, and, seeing Peter, sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive” (Acts  9, 40-1). Read More →

The Legacy of Orthodox Action Continues

In 2007, a group of Orthodox Christians serving regularly at a soup kitchen in Buffalo, New York, were encouraged by the proistamenos of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Fr. Christos Christakis, to explore using the church facilities to serve those in need in the church’s neighborhood on Buffalo’s west side. After some meetings and information gathering, the group held its first event on Thanksgiving Day, feeding and offering hospitality to nearly 200 guests.

The group at Annunciation chose the name Orthodox Action in honor of Mother Maria Skobtsova and her work with those who were poor, sick, and homeless in Paris in the 1930s and 40s. Mother Maria firmly believed that the Church must take on the responsibility of social service and vowed to personally “share the life of paupers and tramps.” The organization co-founded by Mother Maria was called Orthodox Action and at first cared mainly for the many Russian immigrants in Paris fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. When Germany occupied France during World War II, Orthodox Action began to serve Jews as well, offering food, shelter, and even false baptismal certificates to save them from deportation to concentration camps. For this work Mother Maria was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck, where she died a martyr’s death in 1945. In 2004, Mother Maria was canonized by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and glorified as a saint of the Orthodox Church.

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11th Sunday of Luke

The Gospel of Luke 14:16-24

18_lukewritingThe Lord said this parable: “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.'”

Commentary from The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke:

The man who bought a piece of ground and the man who bought the five yoke of oxen signify those who love wealth, while the man who married a wife signifies those who love pleasure. …The man who bought five yoke of oxen, and tested them, also represents a man who loves the material world. He has yoked the five senses of the soul to the five senses of the body and has made the soul into flesh. For this reason he is concerned only with the earth and does not desire to commune of the rational Supper, for as Wisdom says, How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough? Read More →

A Meditation on Almsgiving

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Christ commanded his disciples to give alms. To “give alms” means literally “to do” or “to make merciful deeds” or “acts of mercy.” According to the Scriptures, the Lord is compassionate and merciful, long suffering, full of mercy, faithful and true. He is the one who does merciful deeds (see Psalm 103). Acts of mercy are an “imitation of God” who ceaselessly executes mercy for all, without exception, condition or qualification. He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Mercy is a sign of love. God is Love. A deed of merciful love is the most God-like act a human being can do. “Being perfect” in Matthew’s Gospel corresponds to “being merciful” in Luke’s Gospel. “Perfection” and “being merciful” are the same thing. Read More →

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Dec. 6

There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom St. Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desperation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man’s poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honorable marriage for his daughter. St. Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, St. Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.

Excerpted from the Lives of Saints at oca.org.

Testimonial: A Change of Heart

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Many years ago, I dug into the concept of tithing to prove a Protestant friend wrong. She tithed, as most in her church seemed to do. Arguing that Old Testament rules didn’t apply to modern-day Christians, I researched tithing from an Orthodox Christian perspective to bolster my side of our pending debate.

A little-known passage in Genesis 14 was one of the things I came upon. In short, the story goes that after Abram returns victorious from battle, the king and priest Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram. After receiving the blessing, the passage ends with these words: “And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20). Read More →

St. Philaret the Merciful, December 1

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Philaret was a rich and illustrious dignitary, but he did not hoard his wealth. Knowing that many people suffered from poverty, he remembered the words of the Savior about the dread Last Judgment and about “these least ones” (Mt. 25:40); the the Apostle Paul’s reminder that we will take nothing with us from this world (1 Tim 6:7); and the assertion of King David that the righteous would not be forsaken (Ps 36/37:25). Philaret, whose name means “lover of virtue,” was famed for his love for the poor.

One day Ishmaelites attacked Paphlagonia, devastating the land and plundering the estate of Philaret. There remained only two oxen, a donkey, a cow with her calf, some beehives, and the house. But he also shared them with the poor. His wife reproached him for being heartless and unconcerned for his own family. Mildly, yet firmly he endured the reproaches of his wife and the jeers of his children. “I have hidden away riches and treasure,” he told his family, “so much that it would be enough for you to feed and clothe yourselves, even if you lived a hundred years without working.”

Excerpted from the Lives of Saints at oca.org.

Mission Impossible

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Situated within blocks of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church has always had a special ministry to the clinic’s patients. Annually over 1,000 Orthodox visitors from throughout the U.S. and the world find a spiritual “home away from home” during what can be intensely difficult times. Parishioners have always reached out to their visitors proactively: cooking meals, driving to appointments, and hosting in their homes. Christ’s call to show love to the stranger, philoxenia, is a way of life at Holy Anargyroi.

Contact with patients over the years made it clear that long-term lodging was one of the greatest challenges for patients and their families. Costs associated with an extended stay during treatment—sometimes spanning many months—can be financially devastating. While some free or low-cost guest housing does exist, such as the Ronald McDonald House, demand for it far exceeds availability. Read More →

9th Sunday of Luke

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The Gospel of Luke 12:16-21

The Lord said this parable: “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As he said these things, he cried out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

For daily scripture readings, visit the Online Chapel at goarch.org.

 

The Entrance into the Temple of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos

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The icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple offers powerful reflections on God’s gifts to us. St. Gregory Palamas says that “they led this truly sanctified child of God…into the Temple of God. And she, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, … she, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In her manner she showed that she was not so much presented into the Temple, but that she herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love.”

Posters of the 12 major feasts are available on the Parish Development webpage at goarch.org.