Fr. Kyrillos’ Comments and Confessions
First of all, I have to ask your forgiveness for my absence in February’s number of LIGHT OF CHRIST. I found myself with problems in my computer which age had began to request a retirement. Now, also you have to forgive my delay in thanking the Revd Fr. Oik. Vasilios, the Proedros, the organizers of the celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the foundation of Greek Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist & St. Anthony, for inviting me to take part in such event. And I have to tell you what great impression has left on me that great event. This Divine Liturgy, presided by the Rt. Reverend Bishop of Nazianzus, was for me the most beautiful Greek Liturgy I have ever attended in England. The Psalters sung magnificently; the Celebrants kept tone and pace with the singers; the people joined with fervour and simplicity in prayer; the singing of the Apostolos in Byzantine English sounded beautiful, and all rounded with the singing of the Gospel in English also (I never could understand why, in other occasions I have attended, it was not allowed the singing of the Gospel but obliged by the presiding Hierarch to be it read only). Then, your hosting to lunch was superb. Thank you very much indeed.
Also I could appreciate the very good conditions of your church building and other facilities. So I understand now better the desire of your young people and Epitropoi to ask more positive involvement of all the Christian people who attend usually your Church. It should be not just the place which is attended from time to time or, even, frequently, but your Christian faithfulness home. Which you care for, not only with your labour and finances, but with your spiritual care of coming to pray, of making a centre of Christian learning and meeting place of friends who have in common the Orthodox Faith and love of God. To this I am very pleased and honoured to contribute with these modest articles of Fr. Kyrillos Comments and Confessions in this your monthly Church’s magazine, which also is improving from month to month. So you all, I am sure, will join me in thanking the youthful organizers for their dedication and love.
When I am writing these lines, still in my ears the words I had sung today at the end of the perikope of the Gospel of the 16th Sunday of St. Mathew, in the Church’s Lectionary for the Gospel readings:
“He who has ears to hear let him hear!”
Those are the words that end several perikopes in the Gospels: Mt. 1:15, 13:9, and 13:43; Mk. 4:9, 4:23, and 7:16; and Lk. 8.8 and 14.35. The 16th Sunday of St. Mathew speaks to us of the Parable of the ‘talents; a lord or master is going to leave for a foreign tour of countries and before he leaves distributes sums of money (talents) to his servants for them to traffic doing commercial deals; and, of course, when he returns calls his servants to give account of their deals. Two of the servants had traffic with the five or two talents to produced another five or two extra talents, receiving consequently the praises and thanks from the master. The third servant, who only had received one talent only, did not take the effort to traffic and simply returns the received money to the master, washing his hands of any responsibility. Therefore, he incurs in the wrath of his master who ‘cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness’ (Mt.25:30).
In this perikope’s text of the Gospel of St. Mathew is not witten the sentence ‘he who has ears to hear let him hear.’ However, the Holy Mother Church has ended the passage in the Lectionary adding this sentence, which, on the other hand, has been used repetitively in the texts of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke, as I have shown earlier. Consequently, we should ask the question: Why does the Church add the sentence in the Lectionary?
The answer to this question, it seems to me, is a very clear one: The Church intends to wake up in us attention to the Words of the Lord and with the purpose that we, at this time of the year, enter into serious meditation and analysis of our lives. We must not sleep living comfortable following the manners or spirit of the world. In this time of the year we are approaching the 2002 Lent-sarakosti- therefore, very sharply the Church gives this warning: He who has ears to hear let him hear! We are reminded that our eternal salvation is at stake since the unprofitable servant will be cast away ‘into the outer darkness and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Mt. 25:30).
The Church, as a very good mother, is very solicitous in the care of its children, us, the Christians, so again and again encourages us with the words of the Lord and explains to us the depth of their value. So we as good and solicitous servants of Christ should listen the Parable of the Talents which telling us: he who understands what I am saying, let him to put it into practice.
Christian life is action: action of prayer, action of learning what is the will of God, that is His commandments, and action of fulfilling these commandments of God.
With very few exceptions, if any, those who will be reading these comments will be Orthodox Christians. Therefore, being so, you have received Holy Baptism, the Seal of the Holy Spirit (or Confirmation), and the Body and Blood of Christ have nourished you in the past. Most probably you grew in a Christian family; you may attend Church some times, possibly even every week. You may pray in the silence of your room, in your heart. During your every day life a thought or a mental question, as the voice of your conscience, directed and modified for the better your words to a friend or a colleague or, even modified your actions at work or at home. That is, you could have acted for your own profit or for your pleasure, however, you modified your action to fit the good of your neighbour first. You remembered the teaching of the Lord: love your neighbour.
As Christians we are endowed with a commandment to love our neighbour, we know that if we do this it pleases God. To know this means to have received a talent from God. To act in accordance with it is to negotiate with the talent and increase its value.
In the mercy of God we have been endowed with the Talents of Faith, Hope and Love. They are capital for us to negotiate, for us to do business and acquire glory ‘in the joy of our Lord’ (Mt. 25:21 & 23).
What are we able to do with the Faith? First, we have to know it; therefore we have to take the trouble of learning it. If we want to do business with British Pound we have to be aware of its value and also the currency areas where it is accepted. Our Faith is a knowledge imparted by Jesus Christ; in it we have descriptions of the Truth: the Creed (or Pistevo), the Sacraments or Mysteries, the Sacred Writ (or Scripture), the Cycles of the Christian Year-that is the feasts, the organization of readings for each day, the writings of the Fathers and Saints, to holy relics, the holy icons, etc.
The Faith requires care, attention and systematic approach. For this reason the Holy Mother Church commands us to meet in the synaxis-or coming together- every week, on Sundays, and on the days of great feast for the Divine Liturgy. Step by step the Church instructs us. With this systematic instruction, we become familiar with the truth and knowledge which guide us to the Eternal Life.
With the Parable of the Talents, (Mt. 25:14-30) the Holy Mother Church calls us to avoid being wicked and slothful, like the third servant, but be like the first and second good and faithful servants, that is, to be diligent Christians and think a head.
On Monday 18 March 2002 begins Sacred Lent. Lent is the period of the Year dedicated by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church for fasting.
Sadly, Lent has become a nuisance for many Christians: they do not understand that of changing the quality and quantity of food during this period of fifty days. However, later on, hearing the reading of the suffering and death of the Lord, during the Holy and Great Friday ceremonies, they feel full of sensuous emotion and sorrow. Then they fast all day and shear tears and, even, go to Communion on Holy and Great Saturday- but without confession, of course, and without repentance, that is without change in their lives. This is the way of the third servant who hid his talent in the ground.
The way of the diligent servant is to look at the weeks before Monday 18 March 2002, as weeks for hard work: for examination of oneself and for change in our lives to conform to the Teaching of Christ, even to visit a spiritual father and make confession of our sins.
To facilitate this hard work the Church has smoothed down the food fasting, even eliminated it during the week after the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee; and the following one-that of the Prodigal Son-takes away only the flesh of animals. Then it is put for our meditation passages of all the four Gospels and of all the Epistles of the Apostles, crowning all with the Sufferings of the Passion of our Saviour.
Fixing our attention in this way we shall move to repentance, to mortification of our heart to the world and to change our earthly carnal thoughts and feelings into spiritual ones, surrendering our will to that of the Father, our God. Then our heart will rest fully in God, who ever cares for our Salvation and will give us the happiness that Christ has promised.
The Holy Church, with St. James, the Brother of the Lord, tells us: “Be does of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jm. 1:22). Lent, then, will be a time of VISION.
I’ll see you next month… God willing!
© Fr. Kyrillos LERET-ALDIR
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