Yesterday I posted this message on our parish website, saint-irene.com
Come, ye faithful, and let us serve the Master eagerly, for He gives riches to His servants. Each of us according to the measure that we have received – let us increase the talent of grace. Let one gain wisdom through good deeds; let another celebrate the Liturgy with beauty; let another share his faith by preaching to the uninstructed; let another give his wealth to the poor. So shall we increase what is entrusted to us, and as faithful stewards of His grace we shall be counted worthy of the Master’s joy. Bestow this joy upon us, Christ our God, in Thy love for mankind. –Matins Hymn for Holy Tuesday
The most beloved, much desired, and most holy days of the Christian year approach, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and each of us must ask, “What can I do for the Lord?” Our Lord, of course, does not need our prayers and good deeds, but He requires them of us for our sake, for our salvation. The beautiful thing is that each of us is given a “talent” from God, or many talents, perhaps. We all have the ability to contribute to the life of the Church through the various actions that express our Faith, including our presence at Divine Services, our prayers at home, helping with work around the church, visiting the sick and shut-ins, helping someone in need, our financial support to our parish, bringing a new person to Church, and in general re-ordering our priorities to make our daily lives more Church-centered.
Of course, we can and should be doing these things all year round. But Great Lent, and its goal, Great and Holy Week, are a special time to make the greatest effort to show our loyalty to Christ, Who was loyal to us even unto death on the Cross.
Ultimately, it is this loyalty that gains us entry to Paradise. We must hold fast until the very end of our lives on earth, and, despite our many failings and limitations, never turn away from Christ. As society goes farther and farther away from Christ and from Orthodoxy, this will naturally grow harder, but God will give abundant grace to those who remain steadfast. For those who have faith and place their hope in God, their inner joy actually grows and abounds precisely when their outward life grows more difficult.
This kind of joy is the paradoxical paschal joy,the bright sorrow which in this life was the spiritual state of the martyrs, confessors, and strugglers for the Faith, whose amazing lives fill the pages of our Synaxarion, the Prologue, and the service books. They were not made of a different flesh and blood than ours, but they made the good decision to remain steadfast and loyal to Christ even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, sorrows, and sufferings, and ultimately it was this which made them inheritors of His Kingdom.
May the remainder of this Great and Holy Fast of 2019 and the Great Holy Week of Christ’s Passion, be a productive training period for us in the practice of this loyalty, and may the Day of the Resurrection be a foretaste of our eternal joy.
Καλή Ανάσταση! A blessed Resurrection!
Living for the True God
This All-Holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship. He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we alone that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-Holy Trinity. Again, out of love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with self-mastery and chastity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever.
What does Christ tell us to do? To think of our sins, of death, of Hell, of Paradise, of our soul, which is more precious than the whole world, to eat and drink as much as is sufficient for us, similarly to have clothes that suffice, while the rest of our time we should spend for our soul, to render it a bride of Christ. Then we should be called men, and angels on earth. If, however, we concern ourselves with eating and drinking and sinning…we should not be called men but beasts. Therefore make your body a servant of the soul; then you may be called men.
– from the Teachings of S. Cosmas Aitolos