Tag Archive for: Charity

Charity: changing the greater-than sign

Day 4: Giving and placement of the greater-than sign

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 4: Spinach Salad with Passionfruit Dressing and Maple-Glazed Almonds

As we are coming to understand, Lent gives us an opportunity to slow down and strip life to its essentials. We are finding what is really essential and necessary for our life.
Today we discover that the act of giving, that is charity, is an essential element of life, that is, it is necessary for healthy living. In real terms, giving is one act that you can’t “give-up” for Lent. Giving to others enhances our spiritual life.
Let us take at the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus instructs us on the proper manner of giving. Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them. For then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward. When you give alms do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6)
Giving, or acting on charity, is an outward expression of our faith. By giving to others we are expressing the inner desires of our heart. Those expressions tell a lot about us. In the giving process we develop patterns and slowly we find that we are juggling our giving along with the receiving and taking processes.  We seek to find a balance between our giving and receiving. For instance, we give to those from whom it is possible to receive and we take from those who are giving.
When Jesus says, “It is better to give then it is to receive,” he is disrupting the balance. He is placing a greater-than sign in place of the equal sign and we’re called to do the same. He says when you give, keep it pure. If you give to others make sure that is a true giving without expectation of anything in return.  In fact throughout the Gospels Jesus instructs us to help the poor, to aid those in need. Why? Well, the first answer is obvious: because they need it. But what is not so apparent is that even more, weneed to give! When we aid others and help them we understand that life is more than the accumulation of wealth. We realize that life is not made up of the stuff and things that we call possession. Those thing, in fact, possess us!
When Jesus cautions us not to sound a trumpet when giving, he is instructing us to keep it pure. Give with no expectation. Even the applause and the praise of others is something we receive in return, so avoid it by giving in secret. In so doing, our giving is unidirectional, and that type of giving is egoless, selfless. On this fourth day of Lent, we are beginning to understand the importance of losing the self. When ego doesn’t matter, the desires of the heart are truly pure. Giving becomes an expression of love, unconditionally, without expectation of anything in return.
During the Lenten period we are called to really examine ourselves, with fasting, with prayer and with giving. Giving is the easiest of the three to examine, because we notice ourselves giving. There is a record of our actions. Take advantage of this time.  Try this small and simple exercise. Examine your past and your present for people who have touched you in a unique manner. You may be surprised to find that the ones who have influenced you the most were not the superstars. They were not the athletes, the recording stars and the mega-rich. In fact, they were the very simple people who gave something to you without expectation for their personal rewards. Perhaps it was a mother, a father,  perhaps a grandfather or grandmother. Perhaps a friend who shared some time with you or some advice. And the fact that you remember these people is proof that giving never dies because it is an expression of love.
One-way giving is the kind of giving God expects because it is the type of giving He demonstrates in His love for us. One-way giving is a definition of Love. God gives us the most precious gift of all, that life that we have. He gives us salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and it is given unconditionally, in other words despite ourselves. So in the same manner give to others. In fact throughout the gospels Jesus instructs us to give to others who have absolutely no way to pay us back. Why? Because in so doing we become God-like. God did the same thing. He gave to people who had absolutely no way to repay Him. How can you payback life and salvation? And God answers by saying, do the same to others. Love and care for others with no expectation and no conditions.
So give freely. And remember, the object of your giving is not only tangible goods. More important that what is in your pocket is what is in your heart. Give your time. Give your attention. Give your love. Find an elderly person who needs a few moments of your time. Find a child who needs you to read a book. Find a person who needs food. Find another who is in need of shelter. Or simply, find someone who needs a smile and for you to hold his or her hand. Give and express your love.
Let us pray one of the prayers of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
Bestower of mercy grant that I may come to you with true faith, with good works and by the communion of the Holy body and blood. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. (From St. Nersess Shnorhali’s “I confess with Faith,” 19/24)

The Secret Journey – Lent Day 1

Day 1: The  Lenten Journey

 “From the east to the west and throughout the entire Christian world, wherever people call on the name of the Lord in holiness, by their prayers and intercession, may the Lord have mercy upon us.”

Lenten Recipe

These are the first words of the Prayer of Sunrise from the service of the same name, Arevakal, in the Armenian Orthodox Church.  We are reminded today that just as the Sun rises from the East and travels to the West, shining its light, radiating its heat, so too we find God everywhere.  We find the presence of God everywhere and anywhere where there is life, where there is love.

On this first day of Lent, our Church Fathers direct us to the Gospel of St. Matthew asking us to keep in mind our three main obligations during the Lenten journey: Giving, prayer and fasting.  While fasting is more formulated, in other words, keeping away from meat with dietary restrictions, and while prayer gives us an opportunity for conversation, giving is the action element to the Lenten cycle. 
We will be looking at all three of these elements – giving, prayer and fasting – in  detail in the next few days. For today, as a primer, we will look at all three of them in the context we find in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, specifically from the Sermon on the Mount. 
Matthew Chapter 6: And Jesus says Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  For whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward.  For when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your alms may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
Secondly, Jesus talks about prayer: And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by others.  Truly I tell you,  they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door.  And pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
And regarding fasting, Jesus says, And whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.  Truly I tell you they have received their reward.  For when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
The first day of Lent is a time for a fresh start. Do not approach Lent as an obligation but approach it as an opportunity to grow. This 40 day period is an opportunity not a responsibility. In the Scriptural passages above we see that giving, prayer and fasting are private opportunities to build on your relationship with God. The Lenten Journey is between you and God. It is a time for reflection and introspection.
During the next 40 days you will see what is really important in your life. Remember, after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness he was tempted to change the stones into bread to feed his physical hunger. His answer, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God” is the cornerstone to the Lenten Journey. We are reminded that there is so much more to life than our physical existence. There is a soul which has spiritual hunger. These next 40 days will give you the opportunity to see what is necessary in your life. You will find that prayer, fasting and giving, will connect you to a higher reality.  Remember, it is between you and God, and God is “From the East to the West…”, that is, He is everywhere, within and without you. St. Nectarous says, “Seek God within your heart and not outside of it.”  It is just between you and God. Lent is between you and all of life.  Take advantage!  Here’s an opportunity like no other.
Let us now pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali (the Graceful): 
Oh Christ, Guardian of All, let your right hand guard and shelter me by day and by night; while home and while away; while sleeping and while awake that I may never fall.  Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner.
Cover Photo: Gregory Beylerian, 2014

Sharing Forgiveness

Next Step #561: Getting to know someone beyond meeting personally – a reflection of love is the key. Sharing: Is there a word? What does that say about us? Pope Francis on Love. Elements of Lent: Charity, Prayer and Fasting – a challenge to do the hardest of these (and hint: it’s not the one you’re thinking.)
Hovhaness Badalyan: Karekin Njteh
Lenten Journey by Fr. Vazken
Pope Francis on Forgiveness and the Family
Dn. Hrayr Nalbandian’s Passing
Cover: Exchange/Split, Fr. Vazken 2014
Technical Director: Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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