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At Church on Christmas morning

Joy is not something impersonal, it does not simply appear or disappear on its own, joy goes always from one person to the next. There is no joy in itself, everything is personal. There is no “Christmas joy” that we all automatically feel in December, but the joy that comes from the relationship between you and me, between God and us.

 The truth can never be entirely captured in words, but the truth is always an action. Thus, this great and holy atmosphere of Christmas comes from the gesture of each of us to the other.

First of all, this joy of Christmas is God’s love directed to us all, through the forgiveness of sins and the power that He gives us by becoming Himself a human being. And then this joy is the answer that we give to God, by loving the people in our family, our friends and those afflicted or miserable.

We are able to be good because God is good to us, we are able to give to the others because God has given to us first, we love each other as He loves each of us. All the good in the world is from God and not vice versa. Thus “the joy of Christmas” is personal, because it is from the Lord to us.

Christmas joy comes from God towards us, comes from the church, his home, to us.

God invites us to His house on Christmas morning, to “lunch” with Him and enjoy each other. There’s no better or more beautiful place on earth than the Church, no greater joy than Holy Eucharist! This joy extends to our homes and our hearts.

Where could we find a better place to be on Christmas morning than the Church?

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Charity work in Christian law

Jesus Christ showed us the need of charity work for our salvation, and now He  teaches us how to be merciful; He warns us against a great danger that can lead to pride and the loss of any spiritual fruit.

We can be merciful because of love or because of pride, and we can do charity donations in order to be seen by the others.

One can feed the hunger  because of  love but also of pride. Love gives all for the glory of God and pride does everything for its own glory, for vainglory. That is why God warns us:  “Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)

This does not mean that charity can`t be done in the presence of people; it can be done in the presence of  people, but not with the intention to be seen and to be praised by the others for what we do. If we do charity in order to be praised, than wherever we do it, it`s not for God and for the others, but for our own vainglory. But God looks into our hearts and He rewards us not for our deeds, but for the intention  which we have done the charity – this is the true essence of what we do.

If we accomplish a good thing, it exists, but if we are boastful, then we  change its  meaning and it disappears imperceptibly the spiritual benefit  from our hearts; where there is pride and all that comes from it, is no longer true goodness.  A good deed accomplished for pride, it is not considered an act of kindness:  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others….”, continued Jesus: “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full..” So, they are rewarded as they wish: the  people praise them, but their act of charity is useless because they are filled with haughtiness.

God rewards only the honest and unselfish acts of charity. How to do charity? “But when you give alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: …”, and if we want to show our goodwill to someone, we first need to show our intention to our Father, for He has the priority to reward us. But if we   want to have people  as witnesses, God will not deprive us of  this joy , if it is in behalf of all: “Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. ” So, our charity work is not individual but on God’s behalf, it was given to us to carry it out and make it of our own in order to acquire some of God’s features.

Nowaday,  right in front of our eyes, this moving story is repeated daily:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores….”(Luke 16: 19-21). We must be aware that for the poor is very hard to accept and bear the humiliating condition of the survival with the others’ charity  and to be fed with crumbs. Therefore, we should be merciful with the poor and give our love that they shoud not be ashamed to receive it; in this way, we lighten their cross and we also  get rid  of our pride. Doing so, Lord will bless us  through the poor’s prayer because  we had brought them joy. This good deed unseen by the people will bring us joy  and we will feel the fulfillment brought by Christian love. Thus, our lives should be led by Jesus’s words:

“But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. so that your giving may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

 (Ana Copelnic)

(Ana Colopelnic, a medicine student from Baia-Mare)

Taking Holy Communion is fashionable

Since it’s cool to be trendy, passing as a faithful person makes you look good in front of your friends too…

Eeeh…I went to the church, and it was given to me the Holy Communion. The fact that I don’t fast or that I went to the disco last night, I drank and I slept around, doesn’t matter. How could the father know what I was doing? He’s just asking me if I’m smoking, or drinking and then he gives me the Holy Communion. The same applies before the wedding as well…little does it matter that I’m living in adultery, it’s fashionable, if I don’t do it, it means I’m not like the others…Lust is leading the way for all of your friends, if you don’t do the same, you will excluded…the more lustful, the cooler you are among them.

What’s the big deal if I took Holy Communion being unworthy of it and then I spat, I went home, lit a cigarette, and I’m still doing the same sins?

Unfortunately this is the sad truth. A father told me the other day that he tried to bring one woman’s soul closer to the church, he heard her confession, but he couldn’t give her the Holy Communion so he assigned her a small penance, and was preparing to give her holy Epiphany water. He had to hand her the water in a small room, so that neighbours not to see and mock her; till then she has never come back.

Unfortunately this is what happens in current modern cities. Did the father refuse to give me Holy Communion? I won’t go to that church anymore or I’d better go to another father or stop going altogether, what sins do I have after all (without being aware of Satan’s deceit)? So what, if the father called my attention to the fact that I showed up with make-up, primmed and trendy, I went to take Holy Communion and others should see it, right?

How could the poor soul know that she’s living for the Good Lord and not for other people, and one doesn’t have to be in fashion, but to be acceptable in front of God?

Fasting and prayers drive away dark thoughts and sins, and the confession washes away the dirt of sins, cleansing the soul. How could she know that the moment she’s confessing she’s standing before our Lord Jesus Christ who is there, present, forgiving one’s unworthiness.

The process of washing away sins through penance and holy Epiphany water should be a process of immense joy, receiving forgiveness!

Yet, in cities, general confession from the age of 7 up to present is not customary (could it be due to the lack of time?) and many don’t take it into consideration. They don’t know the importance of cleansing one’s soul. Many people don’t know, it could be a possibility, that’s true.

I had a father confessor in the city, …he asked me questions, I answered and that was all, I wasn’t thinking of saying anything else apart from answering his questions. Until about 6 years ago, when I went to a monastery, to a holy father and I thought I should confess. I read the confession prayers and I was waiting to go in, but I was so ashamed I wanted to leave (how was I supposed to know that Satan was trying to get me out of there?)

Finally, I plucked up courage, I asked the Father to bless me to confess my sins and I started. Honestly, at that moment I felt like two human beings into one, I wondered how could my mouth speak so much?! The Holy Father was in fact a seer in spirit, but because of the piety he had, and still does, he did not let it be known…he was just telling me parables and I remembered all the dirt I had done and confessed everything… even I couldn’t realize how I ended up having so much to confess.

 At the end he told me for next time to write my sins on a piece of paper, all my sins from when I was 7 years old, and that I should use confession guides or the Romanian Pilgrim to remember them. When I went out, I felt I could fly…I was relieved and the holy Epiphany water was (and still is) the most precious thing…I found no words, and words are still lacking when I want to thank the Good Lord for the joy He had bestowed upon me. Since then, I felt change come gradually and if I tried to repeat any of the confessed sins, I could see the father before me, scolding me.

True joy after an honest confession can’t be described in words….

How wonderful would be for us to realize this aspect, which is in fact the most important. This holy father always reminds us that “we know neither the time nor the place when our lives will end, and we shall be taken in the state we are in, therefore, we should be ready at all times.”

Confession and Holy Communion are the most precious gifts the Good Lord has given to us, that kill the roots of sin and sorrow.

May God help us and may you have a blessed and easy fasting time!

(Carmen)

How much do we share with Christ of what we buy for Christmas

This end of the week, will probably be very busy, because many of us will go to buy something for Christmas. Some buy more, others buy less, some buy food, others gifts … everyone according to his will.

Sometimes I’m thinking how the poor people in the streets celebrate Christmas? What joy do they have? How does the children in orphanages or elderly in the nursing homes celebrate Christmas? How about the prison inmates or hospital patients?

I know! We prefer not to think about this right now, it’ll saddens us. But even if we think of it or not, they are still there in their suffering. When i think of them I am starting to have qualms of conscience. In the morning, after I leave the night shift at work, from the heat inside, in the cold outside, I’m starting to shiver within seconds and imediately I remember the people standing in the street. Feeling cold pain in me makes me more sensitive to their suffering and I begin to pray for them, for God to help them, to have something to eat, a place where to live, not to feel cold… But is it enough? Is my prayer enough?

And I reply to that myself: It’s not enough! I must do something, I must help them in some way. I must give them some food, a blanket, a jacket, some socks, gloves or something to cover their head with. And now when Christmas is coming, now is the moment when we should share and help others, the way God has given us many gifts.

We’ll also go and buy something, and we’ll make time to do some small baskets with sweets for those in the street, because they always enjoy when they receive something.

Should we be the only ones feeling the joy of God’s birth, or should the poor and afflicted ones from the margins of society feel it too? If God gave me everything I want, having it all, wouldn’t be nice to give something to others, making other children smile and enjoy?

When I was a student and a member of the Christian Orthodox Students in Asociation in Romania I went to carol children in orphanages and the elderly in asylums. I don’t know if you believe me or not, but those moments were the most beautiful in my life, I felt such joy and peace, I saw the children and the elderly enjoying and how their face brightens up, when they heard us singing and when we gave them sweets.

It is not difficult to give! Today when we are invited to eat and buy to be happy, to accumulate as much as we can, God tells us the opposite, is more blessed to give than to receive!

If we ever forget who or when we give something, God reminds us, telling how the final court will be:

“Then the King will say to those on His right: Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger and you received Me; I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you searched Me; I was prisoned and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying: Lord, when I saw hungry and I fed You? Or thirsty and I gave You drink? Or when I saw you a stranger and took Thee in or naked and clothed You? Or when I saw You sick, or in prison and came to You? And the King, answered, shall say unto them: Verily I say unto you, because you did this to one of these brothers of Mine, smaller, you did unto Me. ”

(Claudiu)