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How much is enough? How much is necessary? What do we really need? How may we use our money and possessions for ourselves, our families, our children and our churches? These are the hardest questions for Christians to answer.
Fr. Thomas Hopko

Memory eternal, Fr. Thomas! Read an excellent article on almsgiving by Fr. Thomas here: A Meditation on Almsgiving.

almsgiving challengeWill anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings!  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. (Malachi 3:8-10)

Forgiveness and Almsgiving

PRODSONIt is no coincidence that on the very threshold of the Great Fast, at Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness, there is a special ceremony of mutual reconciliation: for without love towards others there can be no genuine fast. And this love for others should not be limited to formal gestures or to sentimental feelings, but should issue in specific acts of almsgiving. Such was the firm conviction of the early Church. The second-century Shepherd of Hermas insists that the money saved through fasting is to be given to the widow, the orphan and the poor. But almsgiving means more than this. It is to give not only our money but our time, not only what we have but what we are; it is to give a part of ourselves. When we hear the Triodion speak of almsgiving, the word should almost always be taken in this deeper sense. For the mere giving of money can often be a substitute and an evasion, a way of protecting ourselves from closer personal involvement with those in distress. On the other hand, to do nothing more than offer reassuring words of advice to someone crushed by urgent material anxieties is equally an evasion of our responsibilities (see Jas. 2: 16). Bearing in mind the unity already emphasized between man’s body and his soul, we seek to offer help on both the material and the spiritual levels at once.

‘When thou seest the naked, cover him; and hide not thyself from thine own flesh.’ The Eastern liturgical tradition, in common with that of the West, treats Isaiah 58: 3-8 as a basic Lenten text. So we read in the Triodion:

While fasting with the body, brethren, let us also fast in spirit.
Let us loose every bond of iniquity ;
Let us undo the knots of every contract made by violence;
Let us tear up all unjust agreements;
Let us give bread to the hungry
And welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them,
That we may receive great mercy from Christ our God.

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.

At EveryGoodandPerfectGift.org, we mine the feasts, lives of saints, and hymnology in the Church year for connections to giving. Use the Church Year in Giving category to search the blog to use for your personal growth or for your parish.

 

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You will never overcome God’s generosity, even if you give away all that you have… And however much you bring to him, always more remains. Nor will you give anything that is your own; for all things flow from God. +Saint Gregory the Theologian

On Thanksgiving and the Anaphora

chaliceThe Divine Liturgy, and especially the Anaphora (the offering) are filled with hymns and prayers that speak directly to thanksgiving and gratitude, from which spring our tithes and offerings.

… [T]hanksgiving (Greek eucharistia) reveals the essence of Christian faith. As Fr. Alexander Schmemann said in his final sermon, “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy,” for Christians find their fundamental calling in thanksgiving… [A]ny life not built upon the foundation of gratitude to God is not authentic Christian life. Thanksgiving to God proves that we are truly alive: “The dead do not praise the Lord, / Nor any who go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17). We rightly call the Divine Liturgy “the Eucharist” (thanksgiving), for thanksgiving is the sign of the spiritual life, and the Eucharist keeps us alive.

From Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, by Fr. Lawrence Farley, Chapter 13, The Anaphora (the offering).

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Whereas we receive benefactions from God every minute, we ourselves don’t benefactor even once our neighbor. +Saint Basil the Great

Holy Theophany

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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 →

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