19 June 2006

All of Us are Beggars

A friend of mine, who is a Serbian Orthodox priest in Montana, once gave me The Prologue of Ohrid. It is a handsomely bound, two-volume work intended for personal devotion for Eastern Orthodox laity and clergy. It is arranged according to the Byzantine rite liturgical year, and for each day of the year contains hagiagraphies of the saints for that day, a "Hymn of Praise" composed often by saints, a reflection, an aid to contemplating particular Scriptures, and a brief homily.

I really don't look at it that often. As I wrote, it follows the Byzantine calendar and so the feasts of major saints are on different days than what is customary in the West; the many minor saints are unknown to me; and the hymns are not metrical (as I'm used to), but poetic meditations.

However, today I happened to pick it up just to see what was listed for June 19. On the opposite side was the homily for June 18 which, coincidentally, touches on the themes from yesterday's Gospel. Here is that homily.

The poor man who begs and the rich man who gives--both make the Lord their debtor, but only under the condition that the poor man begs in the name of the Lord and with humility and that the rich man gives in the name of the Lord and with compassion. Everyone who receives should know that he receives that which belongs to God, and everyone who gives should know that he gives that which belongs to God. Such giving has a price and such receiving has a price. All of us enter this world naked, and naked we shall leave this world.

All of us are beggars before the Lord, for we possess nothing that we have not received from the Lord. Therefore, give to the poor man as God has given to you. You take what is another's and you give to your own when you give alms. The poor man is closer to you than all of your goods, just as to God, the Creator of all men, every man is incomparably more precious than all of his goods.

If you have been given riches, they have been given to you for temptation: that your heart be tempted! That God and all the heavenly hosts might see whether you have understood whence are all your riches and why they were given to you. Blessed are you if you know that your goods are from God and belong to God! Blessed are you if you consider the poor as your companions, as members of your family, and share with them that which God has entrusted to you!

Oh, how immeasurable is God's love for mankind! Behold, all that you have belongs to God, and yet God considers Himself your debtor if you take from Him and give to the poor, and He will repay you for your good. What kind of mercy can be compared to this?

O man-loving Lord, open our minds to understand the mystery of Thy mercy, and soften our hearts like wax, that as wax they may burn and shine with the reflection of Thine inexpressible mercy!

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen. (Source)

NOTE: The Prologue of Ohrid is online.

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