Features

Teaching by Example

Girl_Lighting_a_CandleWhen her children were grade school age, Alexandra’s church asked Sunday School students to pledge a weekly stewardship amount. Each student was given a box of 52 envelopes for bringing their weekly offering to church.

Her career in finance helped her appreciate this structure. Together, each Saturday evening, Alexandra and her children would take the boxes of envelopes out of their cabinet and fill one for each child with the amount they committed for the week.  Read More →

A Meditation on Almsgiving

Picture2

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. Maria’s Table

St. Maria of Paris Outreach Ministry of Annunciation Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia, recently celebrated its second anniversary. Given the ministry’s name, it should come as no surprise that St. Maria of Paris and especially the book about her life, Pearl of Great Price, were the catalyst for its founding.

For many years, faithful stewards of Annunciation recognized they had a facility that was ideal for providing meals to those in need in the larger Norfolk community. But even though there were many discussions about getting something started, it took the spark of a few individuals who were personally touched by the life of St. Maria (Skobtsova) to finally light the fire. As the book Pearl of Great Price was passed from person to person, each one became committed to making an outreach ministry at Annunciation a reality. As one member of the group noted, “St. Maria was amazing, but she was like us—very contemporary. She struggled with her faith, her calling, and the poverty around her. Her example was the driving force behind finally getting this ministry off the ground. After reading her life, we decided we can do this!”stmariaoutreachcollage

Read More →

A Little Leaven

One church’s recipe for meeting a need in their local community

Starting a new outreach ministry in a parish can be as simple as responding to a need in the local community with a few dedicated volunteers and a vision for service. Christ the Savior, a small Greek Orthodox church in Tennessee, had all the ingredients to start such a ministry. They knew that their northeastern region of Tennessee had been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis of the last several years. The local food bank reported that one in four people in the region live in poverty; nearly one in five adults and two out of five children in the area have food insecurity. This means many households have to choose between food and other basic necessities. The local food pantries and shelters saw a marked increase in clients over the past few years, some an increase of as high as twenty-five percent.

Little-Leaven

One of the needs of the food pantries in the area is for bread. Pantries rely on day-old bread donations from local grocery stores or must purchase bread when donations do not meet the need. Christ the Savior had many of the resources to match this need: two volunteers with certification and experience in baking large quantities of bread, a professional kitchen, and the commitment of parish leadership to meeting the needs of the local community. Only one thing was missing, a large capacity mixer. Read More →

Take the Almsgiving Challenge

This Great Lent, we invite you to an intentional practice of the connection between fasting and almsgiving.

In the day on which you fast you will taste nothing but bread and water; and having reckoned up the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want, and thus you will exhibit humility of mind, so that he who has received benefit from your humility may fill his own soul, and pray for you to the Lord. If you observe fasting, as I have commanded you, your sacrifice will be acceptable to God, and this fasting will be written down; and the service thus performed is noble, and sacred, and acceptable to the Lord. These things, therefore, shall you thus observe with your children, and all your house, and in observing them you will be blessed; and as many as hear these words and observe them shall be blessed; and whatsoever they ask of the Lord they shall receive.

From the Shepherd of Hermas, Book III, a second century early Christian text, considered scriptural by many of the Church Fathers of the time

For the second year, EveryGoodandPerfectGift.org is challenging our readers to consume less + give more this Great Lent. We will be sharing feedback from our readers each week with concrete, practical suggestions for making the connection between fasting + almsgiving. Email us at info@everygoodandperfectgift.org with details about how you plan to put the Almsgiving Challenge into practice (we’ll share your experience anonymously with our readers.)

almsgiving challenge

Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

garden_of_eden03

The inner significance of fasting is best summed up in the triad: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Divorced from prayer and from the reception of the holy sacraments, unaccompanied by acts of compassion, our fasting becomes pharisaical or even demonic. It leads, not to contrition and joyfulness, but to pride, inward tension and irritability. The link between prayer and fasting is rightly indicated by Father Alexander Elchaninov. A critic of fasting says to him: ‘Our work suffers and we become irritable. . . . I have never seen servants [in pre-revolutionary Russia] so bad tempered as during the last days of Holy Week. Clearly, fasting has a very bad effect on the nerves.’ To this Father Alexander replies: ‘You are quite right. . . . If it is not accompanied by prayer and an increased spiritual life, it merely leads to a heightened state of irritability. It is natural that servants who took their fasting seriously and who were forced to work hard during Lent, while not being allowed to go to church, were angry and irritable.’

Prayer and fasting should in their turn be accompanied by almsgiving – by love for others expressed in practical form, by works of compassion and forgiveness. Eight days before the opening of the Lenten fast, on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, the appointed Gospel is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25′: 31-46), reminding us that the criterion in the coming judgment will not be the strictness of our fasting but the amount of help that we have given to those in need. In the words of the Triodion:

Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life:
Let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink,
Let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers,
Let us visit those in prison and the sick.
Then the Judge of all the earth will say even to us:
‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.’

Excerpted from The True Nature of Fasting by Mother Maria and Bishop Kallistos – See more at: Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha on goarch.org.

Testimonial: A Leap of Faith

leap of faith_blog_2016

Several decades ago, when I was raising my children and growing in involvement at my church, disaster struck the parish budget. Our annual Greek festival, without which our parish could not survive, only broke even because of a weekend of torrential rains and high winds. That’s the year we started talking about making the change—the leap of faith, really—to total stewardship. Eventually we decided to go ahead and do it, no longer holding a festival and asking parishioners for stewardship to cover the operating budget.

I was a part of the fledgling stewardship committee, and the discussions we had in the Board room inevitably led to discussions at our kitchen table. When I suggested that our own family take the same leap of faith the church was taking—that is, that we work toward tithing—my spouse resisted, at first. We were people of modest means, raising a large family, how could we possibly afford to tithe? Read More →

judgmentsunday_sign-3

The Publican and the Pharisee

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee: Triodion Begins

PUBLPHAR

As we enter the three weeks of preparation for Great and Holy Lent, the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee are particularly pertinent to the themes of EveryGoodandPerfectGift.org. In this blog, we strive to bring together resources that will inspire Orthodox Christians to greater giving back, especially of their treasure. However, we would do well to remember the Pharisee who gave tithes of all he had, and yet he was not justified. As Christ said in the Gospel of Matthew concerning almsgiving, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

As we practice the spiritual discipline of giving tithes and offerings, let us learn from the mistake of the Pharisee, who “… in his pride, … has falsified the meaning of true religion and faith. He has reduced these to external observations, measuring his piety by the amount of money he gives.” And, like the Publican, let us humble ourselves before God. “He humbles himself, and his humility justifies him before God. He becomes, in the words of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3), ‘poor in spirit.’ Our preparation for Lent thus begins with a prayer for humility, the beginning of true repentance.”

Quotes taken from the Great Lent resources page, The First Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of The Publican and Pharisee, at goarch.org.

The Gospel of Luke 18:10-14

The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Testimonial: Leftovers

leftovers_crumbs

One year my family was given a special collection box to take home, fill with donations, and return to our church a few months later for a worthy Orthodox Christian cause. I loved the idea! My mind immediately focused on all the spare change we had accumulated—in the cup holder of the car, the bedside table, the couch cushions. If I would place this change in the box, I would not only be giving to a worthy cause, but I would be getting rid of the nuisance of having to figure out what to do with this change. I could solve two problems at once!

Little did I know, this box was about to transform the way I think about giving. Along with the box, we were given one last instruction, to please approach our collection as giving something up for Christ. We were challenged to consider giving in a spirit of sacrifice, rather than simply giving our leftovers. I realized then and there that I could–and should–give much more that I had initially thought to give. In fact, I realized this was true not just for the special collection box, but in all aspects of my giving to Christ and the Church.

After that day, we tried to treat the collection box almost like lighting a candle in church. Rather than only putting in spare change, we consciously tried to put in bills on a regular basis and say a prayer as we did so. The little lesson of the collection box stays with me to this day and stops me as I reach into my pocket to give: am I willing to sacrifice or just offer what I don’t need, my leftovers?

We are grateful to our readers who have offered to share their giving story with us, so that their testimony may inspire others. Read more on our Testimonials tab. We invite you to share your story, as well! Email us at info@everygoodandperfectgift.org or visit Share Your Story.

 

 

 

Newsletter Powered By : XYZScripts.com