My family and I are Orthodox Christians. We go to Church, we confess, we take the Holy Communion, gladly participating to the Divine Liturgy as well as in other religious services, we have a spiritual father, we read about God, we talk about God, but I don’t believe it’s enough. I believe that all of these are only the beginning, they are only the basis on which a foundation, namely salvation, should be built together with God.
Last evening, at eleven o’clock, I was leaving work and passing by some apartment buildings under construction, I thought about those living in the streets. I know they are usually living in unfinished buildings because they are sheltered there, nobody really chases them away here.
And I was thinking how it would be for me to live in a building like that. It looked really depressing, it was dark, damp, cold, the wind was blowing, and I would have had to sleep on the floor, or lay on cartons as I know some of them do, or on old clothes.
I quickly came back to my senses and I realized I was going home, where it felt warm, the place was lit up, and Iulia and Sofia were waiting for me. Good food, a soft bed, a warm bath were waiting…
And I wondered how I can be a true Christian, if I’m sleeping in luxury and deep comfort and they are sleeping on the cement, in cold, having nothing, all by themselves. I have all kinds of things and they have nothing. What is Christianity after all? Why did God come on this earth and become human? Just so that we can go to Church and to be christians in appearance by having some sort of a moral attitude towards others?
Could being a Christian mean solely not swearing, being a non-smoker, talking nicely about God and reading about Him? Being a Christian doesn’t mean being “better” or humblier.
If I’m a true Christian how come I am not taking a poor person off the streets, away from cold, bringing him home so that he can sleep where it’s warm, at least for one night? If I am a Christian how come I’m not inviting some of those afflicted living in the streets, to have supper at my house, and give them food? How can I stand having absolutely everything I need and enjoying them all, while that homeless person is suffering from filth, loneliness, cold, forgotten by all?
Frankly, I’m telling you, I am not a Christian, I am almost nothing, null. How can I say I love God whom I’m not seeing, yet I don’t love the poor person I can see beside me, and my heart doesn’t ache for them? If my heart ached, I would have taken him in, and offered him a warm meal and a glass of water. This is why saints say that the love for a stranger is the greatest deed.
We must remember that among the criteria claimed by God at the universal trial are the following:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Mt.25,35)
But one day it crossed my mind that maybe those people needed something more – a smile, a kind word! So I began asking them: “How are you?”, “Are you okay?”, “Have you eaten something today?”, “Is it cold/warm here?”… It is beneficial to them to know that there are people who care about them. In this way I found that those poor people enjoy listening, talking to them from our soul, and it’s then we realize how priceless is a sincere smile. It may seem strange to some, but that’s what I do: I talk to beggars!
If we listen to them without judging them, we may help them even a little bit. However, we can learn things we have never thought; they are also people as we are. This way, maybe, we will start cherishimg things we have. Many times we believe that we deserve everything, all we have or what we are given, sometimes without any effort.
Most of those who beg have sad stories. The fact that the people passing by don’t say and do not give them anything do not upset them, but there are people who make them feel sadder because the talk ugly, judging them. And this is as sad as it can be.
One day, a poor beggar (who has a sick child) told me how he took part into a scandal, in front of the Church. The poor man told me that he is not upset when someone has no money to offer him, he is happy and glad even if that person tells him a kind word, a “Lord help us!”, a little pray to God. But the fact that they talk badly to him, troubles him more. I advice him to forgive that person and to confess. I also reminded what Saint Augustine said : “Do you suffer from a bad man? Forgive him, so it may not be two bad men.” At the end of the conversation, he thanked me for talking to him. I didn’t do something impressive, I’ve only listened to him; but this set at rest his soul. People need to be heard; it’s better to sacrifice a bit of our time. A word of encouragement is always good.
Another time, on a hot summer day, I met an old woman who is expecting a penny without being insistent. I thought it will be best to give her the bottle of water I had in my bag. I marveled how much she enjoyed this little gesture! She thanked me, saying frankly that “More charity than this you could not do!”.
Another old lady told me that she is begging because she has not enough money for food, because she has to pay the rent and the other bills. It is difficult for her considering that she has a heart illness.
But young people need help too! Many of them remain without a job, without being able to support their families. They come to beg with all their children. I entered into a conversation with a young woman who was sitting on the concrete, with a child in her arms (and there are more like her); she started to tell me how she remained homeless. Neither she, not her husband have no where to work and have six children. She comes only in the afternoon to beg, protecting in this way her boy from the sunlight.
As I said, money it’s not enough , give them also something to eat (even sweets for children), clothes, toys, notebooks or anything else – all given from the heart! There are many beggars who ask only for food, clothes – things absolutely necessary.
So always try to reach your neighbor! If we have the opportunity to do a good deed, do not postpone! Postponing, we lose that opportunity. Also, we mustn’t just wait for special occasions or celebrations for doing good, but to seek opportunities, to create them! A simple example – school will start soon. There are children whose parents are unable to buy them all necessary things…Also, from time to time, we can prepare them a small snack (an apple, a packet of biscuits) to offer to a hungry person.
As much as possible, we must not do charity for reward (although the reward will come from the Lord) but for love. Even though we do not have the perfect love (and we can pray to gain it!) at least for knowing that we owe to God everything, it is better than none at all, since our neighbor receives our help. I hope that God will appreciate the will and the effort.
A Father told me to imagine that when I meet a beggar, that Christ asks for something through that person. And how can you deny Christ? How can you not offer straight from the heart all your best to the One who loves you so much, the One who gave you everything you have?
Nativity Fast is a period of preparation before the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. A friend of mine told me yesterday: “I am so happy because the Christmas Fast will begin soon – time for my teeths and my stomach to get a rest”. And I told him: “It’s time for your soul to get a rest as well”.Before heading on this road it is very important to know the reason of doing this and the significance of Nativity Fast. Everything that happened regarding the Nativity of Jesus was miraculous and hard to believe, but true.Moreover, I will list all the uncommon things related to this great event in human history:
1.Virgin Mary became pregnant through God’s direct intervention, without union with a man, a thing that never happened before in this world nor will it happen again.
2.The child embodied in her was not a common child, but the Son of God, the Second person of the Holy Trinity, True God from True God: “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 )
The presence of an embryo in a woman’s womb marks the coming of a new and unique person, that slowly begins to grow both physically and mentally.What is special about the presence of the embryo in Virgin Mary’s womb isthat the Person of the Child already existed. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity decided to embody and become man.Through the embodiment He has two natures – the divine nature and the human nature and two wills – the divine will and the human will, but he remains one person, the same from all eternity.
Although hard to believe, Virgin Mary’s child was truly God. Virgin Mary was to give birth to the Unborn One, to the One without age, to the One that gave life to her.
3.When Joseph, Mary’s fiance, found out she was pregnant and took the decision to leave her believing she has been unfaithful, God sent His angel to Joseph assuring him that what happened to Mary is beyond human understanding:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:19-21)
4.From the statements above it is to be understood the Child’s special mission: to save the world from its sins. A mission that is important and hard at the same time. How can you convince people to give up their bad habits, their attraction towards selfish pleasure, how to change their will? It is easier to win a war or to break free from a regime of tyranny than to change people’s conscience.
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ, the awaited Messiah promised by God to Adam and Eve, came to earth to save the wolrd, to overcome death, to liberate us from sin and to unite us all within Him and through Him.
5.The Saints tell us that Virgin Mary was always a virgin – before the birth of Jesus, during the birth and after His birth. This proves that Virgin Marygave birth in a way that we cannot understand. In this respect, the Saints recommend us to avoid trying to solve the mistery. Virgin Mary gave birth without pain as the child she bore in her womb wasn’t the result of a union with a man (a union tarnished by the original sin), but a consequence of the Holy Spirit’s direct intervention upon her.
6.After Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, three wiseman, who were foreigners to Israel, who couldn’t have known the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came and knelt before Him as to an emperor.
7.Herod, after finding about Jesus birth started looking for Him thinking his throne was endangered. Therefore, he decided to kill all the newborn baby boys under 2 years old. There was no coincidence that Jesus was born in a period when thousands of babies were killed at Herod’s command.
Everything that happened at Jesus birth was miraculous and influences all mankind.It is not easy to grasp the depth and the greatness of God’s incarnation and His coming to earth.Jesus’ birth, 2011 years ago is strongely connected to my present and my future life.
The Nativity Fast is a period of preparation that helps us understand clearly what happened then. Jesus birth concerns me and my family and we have to understand what happened then and the consequences of that upon our lives nowadays.
A man gorged with food and drinks is more prone towards the material side of life neglecting the divine and spiritual aspects.A person like that will never understand the birth of God from a virgin and he will always hold on things like: Christmas tree, presents or a rich dinner ignoring the fact that all these things will not cure their frustrations and dissatisfactions.
A person that fasts (abstains from eating, drinking, partying and cursing), a person that shares, forgives and loves will more easily understand Nativity’s meaning and the change brought by God through His incarnation in our world.
A person that always prays and communicates with God will get into the warm Christmas atmosphere even earlier, during the Nativity Fast.
Why do we fast?
To find solutions to our life’s problems.
It happened to me many times to meet some child from the orphanage or a poor person on the street – both whom I knew, and in the same time, an acquaintance to appear as well. My first instinct in that moment was to “get rid” of the poor person, either by sending him off or leaving his side, ashamed to be seen in his presence. I wonder why that was.
That child from the orphanage, as poor as he is, doesn’t he have the same dignity as we have? More beautiful clothes or some more classes – can we put that in comparison with the value of that child as a being in front of God and in front of the whole mankind?
Another thing that I realized was that I myself like to be noticed by a important person – be it a professor or someone else that is well seen by society. There were many times when I tried to “butter up” to somebody more important or better seen than me, not necessarily to show others in what company I am, but to be, myself, acknowledged by someone “big”, to be considered, even for a short time, on the same level with them.
In the same manner the orphan child wanted to talk with me and to treat him as a person on the same level, I like the ones that are more important than me to acknowledge me, to greet me, to talk with me, to take me into account.
If I run from the poor persons side, from those “smaller” than me, then why do I wonder that I do not get the acknowledgement of those that are “bigger” than me? It is indeed the work of God, who teaches me to act proper with everybody, regardless of clothes and social position. If I pay attention to the poor, then God will arrange things so I am myself be taken into account by those greater than me.
A father much beloved by said once that we pass on the streets many times and we see a beggar, we give
him some money and then we run quickly from his side, forgetting to give him some word of encouragement. When we throw money to a poor, is a way of covering up some of our remorse – having all that we want and they leaving in misery, but we don’t try to treat the beggar as a fellow human being. The father said that instead of giving money, it’s more important sometimes to stop and talk with him, to ask him how he feels, what does he need; it’s more important to treat him as a person, lowering yourself to his condition. A smile and some good words can make happy that poor person for the whole day and encourage him that one day we will all go to God’s Kingdom, where there is neither pain nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life without death.
With what am I above those who sleep on the street? How am I more important or better than themm? By no means whatsoever.
This is how God arranged things in world, so that some of us are rich and some of us are poor. The poor ones need the benefaction of the rich to be able to live decently and the rich ones need the poor to gain clemency in front of God and to enter His beautiful and mighty Kingdom. Without the rich, the poor die from cold and starving, without the poor the rich will end up in Hell, in eternal torments, because of their selfishness.
How is it best to be: rich or poor? It is good to be as God left you in this world and to treat the others like same level fellows.
“When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Throughout their lives, human beings find themselves in continuous relish and never-ending feast; with or without realizing it, they enter a realm of amusement and temporary, worldly and fading joy. A vicious circle in which plausibility is born in the unexplored depths of our being through one single word: “probably.” When facing questions regarding God, many of us try to easily get away by using “probably” as a reply.
Is Christ the son of God? “Probably, possibly.” We refuse, more and more, to talk about faith, about saints lives, not to mention the Eucharist. Of all the people I know, there are only two or three persons with whom I can talk about the Truth. And yet, why? I believe that if we talked about the Truth, we would be able, God willing, to think in Truth, to feel in Truth, to believe in Truth, taking away from our hearts everything that is impure and soiled. And what is the Truth? This is a question we cannot answer by “probably.” There is no probability within Truth, only reality, authenticity. What is the first thing crossing your mind when you say “truth”? Could we not discover the truth in the very sense of our existence? Isn’t it by communion with Christ that we share in the true Light, the true Body and the true Blood of the Lord?
We are all summoned at the feast of faith and not of disbelief. We are all invited at the feast of true and everlasting joy, we are invited to Supper, where Truth is reveled. Yet not revealed through food and drink, but through the Holy Sacrament of Communion. This is the true Supper, the true “Sacrament of Christianity” to which we are called by the Savior; at this Supper, the soul is “cleansed” from the multitude of sins and injustices. It is during this Supper that we dress ourselves with the new clothes of the divine, taking off and throwing away the dirty clothes of sins: the stained clothes of the ancient man. Yet, no matter how much we talked or wrote about them we still find ourselves in the difficulty of seeing, and understanding spiritual matters. Have you ever felt how hard it is when you talk to a person and they don’t understand?
The same applies here too, as in order to understand the spiritual, to get an insight on Truth, to understand even more the purpose of our lives on this Earth, firstly we have to understand that our end will not be here, and it is not here, in death, that everything ends. Our true abode is not here. As you may have seen on TV, an increasing number of young people kill themselves; but the real suicide begins the moment that sins are uncovered; the spiritual suicide takes place here. Impurity and inner darkness put more and more pressure on us. Because they don’t know what to do, some people turn to suicide. Yet this is the reason why the Savior came into this world: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
This is the comfort brought by the Savior to all sinners! To me as well as to you. Again He calls us: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” How can you, as a human being, kill yourself knowing that He came into the world for you? Knowing that “He alone has the power to forgive sins,” as you read in the prayers preceding the Communion? Knowing that He alone has the power to heal your ill soul and your corrupted heart? When we commune in Christ, death has no power over us, this is why the Savior tells us: “Whoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Let us tremble at these words filled with truth, let us believe in them with our whole being.
It is not sad what happens outside, but inside ourselves. All these vices are born inside us, inside us takes place the refusal towards faith, confession, joy and eternal Life.
We have a taste of and we feast on the worldly, yet nothing compares to the living and imperishable sweetness of our Savior Jesus Christ. He, Himself makes us worthy of tasting this sweetness through breaking His body and spilling His own Blood. If a person is sad, neither the most delightful food in the world, nor the best chocolate can change their inner state. Yet the Lord changes this state through His life-creating nurture, through everlasting nurture, through infinite sweetness. How wonderful is the Savior’s Sacrifice, as He who was Crucified for us, is inviting us today into His Home, the abode of Light and Truth, inviting us at His table. Let us take the first step towards entering this Kingdom of eternal Joy, acknowledging that He is the only one who makes our existence meaningful in this “journey,” this “pilgrimage,” as the Saint Apostle Paul calls it.
Let us say today: “O Lord, how wonderful are your works, in wisdom have you made them all.” (Ps. 103, 24) Let us rejoice and praise God’s things! Just as a father tightly holds his child in his fatherly arms, so the Lord rejoices, revels and receives into his arms the one who rushes towards Him.
May God help us!