Testimonial: Your own gifts we offer to you

Years ago while a student in seminary, I offered my confession in the school’s chapel and was given a penance. The instruction was to offer a sum of money to the poor or to the church; I would decide how much and to whom.  Immediately after being given this instruction by my father-confessor, I decided in my own mind what that amount would be. It was $100, but I did not tell anyone about it–not even my father-confessor or my spouse. The next day, after parking my car at the foot of the chapel, as I got out of the car I noticed a bill on the ground. I looked closely, and it was $100! I was astounded. I looked around to see if anyone had dropped it, but no one was there. I thought to myself, coincidence? Up to now I have never shared this story. But the donation was made to an Orthodox Christian charity.

Do you have a story about stewardship or almsgiving that might inspire others? Share your story here. Read other testimonials here.

Almsgiving Challenge: What we’ve heard from you

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This Great Lent, we invited our readers to an intentional practice of the connection between fasting and almsgiving. Here we share some of the feedback we’ve received from those who have taken the Almsgiving Challenge.

Here’s how I plan to put the Almsgiving Challenge into practice: As I go through the grocery store during lent, I will add up the cost of the items I am not buying because I am fasting from those foods. When I get home, I will put that money aside to give to the poor. (Note from EveryGoodandPerfectGift.org: An easy way to get that money to the poor is to make a quick online donation of the amount saved. International Orthodox Christian Charities has a giving category called “Lent Almsgiving.” Making the gift takes less than 5 minutes and feeds hungry people around the world.)

In our efforts to connect fasting + almsgiving, we found “The Food Stamp Challenge,” which challenges others to eat on the food budget of those who receive Food Stamps, or roughly $1 per meal per person. Read More →

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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 →

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