January 3, 2014

Holy Prophet Malachi as a Model for our Lives

Prophet Malachi (Feast Day - January 3)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Malachi descended from the tribe of Levi and lived in the 5th century BC. He was born after the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity. His name means "my messenger" or "my angel". The Prophet Malachi worked in Jerusalem after the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah, which is concluded from the fact that the work to rebuild the Temple had been completed and the offering of sacrifices had begun.

His book was written probably between 433-400 BC and consists of four chapters and six distinct discourses. He speaks about the love of God towards His people, rebukes unbelief, reproaches the impious conduct of the priesthood of his time, and he opposes mixed marriages and divorces. The appearance of the Honorable Forerunner is heralded, who will prepare the way of Christ and prepare the people to receive Him. The coming judgement is also mentioned. He reposed in peace and was buried in the field of his ancestors.

His life and deeds gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, when someone wants to offer God a gift, it should be the best, because this manifests their love and respect. Of course, God does not need our gifts, but if we want to dedicate something to Him, it should be the finest, and it would be good if it was made by our hands with effort and tastefulness. However, what God asks of us is first and foremost ourselves, of which it is said: "For I do not seek yours, but you" (2 Cor. 12:14). In other words, we are asked to offer our hearts, to make it His dwelling place and throne, which is why we must strive to purify it of the passions.

The priests of the time of the Prophet Malachi desecrated the altar of God, because they offered polluted bread as well as damaged and sick animals, which is why the Prophet conveyed to them the message of God, which is simultaneously a complaint and a call to repentance. He stresses the following remarkably: "For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction" (Mal. 2:7-8). He calls them to correct themselves, for this life is a time for repentance and a return to the path of God's commandments.

"Take heed to the purity of your spirit." "Repent and return to Me and I will be a protector to you, says the Lord of hosts." Of course, anyone who places their hope in God and remains under His protection has nothing to fear, neither crisis nor temptation, because they receive Grace and strength from God, and so they remain calm, serene, peaceful and joyful.

Today, as is well known, the gifts offered by the faithful for the realization of the bloodless sacrifice is mainly the prosphoron bread and the wine. The prosphoron should be fermented at home carefully and with prayer, and the wine should be genuine and unadulterated. Even the candles in churches should be genuine, namely, beeswax.

Second, God is the protector of orphans and widows, and generally all those who are weak in the world, and those who are unjust to them will answer to God Himself. This is emphasized many times in the Old Testament by God through the mouths of the Prophets. Through the Prophet Malachi, God warns all those who show cruelty and ruthlessness to widows and orphans, as well as employers who unfairly treat their workers, those who swear falsely in His name, and also magicians and adulterers: "And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against magicians, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away a foreigner — because they do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 3:5).

At this point it must be said that in the New Testament, Christ not only loved the "least" of this world, namely the poor and weak, but He identified Himself with them. Indeed, He associated the attitudes shown towards them with the attitudes shown towards Himself. As is known from the Gospel passage, which refers to the coming judgment, Christ praised the righteous for the love they showed for Him, when they asked Him: "When did we see You hungry and give You food? When did we see You thirsty and give You drink? When did we show You hospitality and visit You in prison?" etc., and Christ responded to them: "In as much as you did it to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me." And then he rebuked the sinners for their lack of love towards Him, and they complained that they never saw Him hungry to give Him food, or failed to give Him hospitality, etc., and Christ tells them: "In as much as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to Me." And as it becomes apparent from the Gospel passage, the first will rejoice in eternity, while the second will be tormented and suffer eternally.

Love, respect and obedience to God means love, respect and obedience to the Church and her institutions. Nobody can fool around with their eternal future and especially with the divine, because God cannot be "sneered at", for it is "fearful to fall into the hands of the living God".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Μαλαχίας", December 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.