April 7, 2015

The Fourth Path of Repentance (Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria)

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

"On Holy and Great Tuesday, we commemorate the Parable of the Ten Virgins in the Holy Gospel."

In this wonderful parable which we hear every Holy Tuesday, we are guided with the moving words of the rhetor of Bishops, Saint John Chrysostom.

What is our relationship with this great figure of the Church? It is something very difficult for someone to answer. But his words remain immortal and relevant for our time and for us all.

A) What did five of the ten virgins not have?

They had the fire of virginity while lacking the oil of almsgiving. "And just as fire without oil has nothing to feed off, so is virginity when it lacks almsgiving - it extinguishes."

Who are the traders that sell the oil, according to the parable? "It is the poor, those who sit in front of the church waiting for our alms.

Buy as much as you can.

Do you have money to donate? Then buy heaven.

Not because heaven is cheap, but because the Lord is philanthropic.

Do you not have money to donate? Give a cup of cold water.

Give bread and take Paradise.

Give small things and receive big things.

Give what is perishable and receive what is imperishable.

Almsgiving is the redemption of the soul. Wash the hands of your soul with almsgiving. This is why the poor are sitting outside the church, so you can wash the hands of your soul."

B) What is almsgiving?

It is the fourth path of repentance.

"It is the queen of virtues, which brings people to the heavenly arches. It is the best advocate" before the throne of the Divine Majesty.

It is the technician and builder that is building for us a luxury apartment in the Jerusalem Above. It is that which will speak for us to God and will give us the ability to see His face.

"The wings of almsgiving are great," stresses the golden nightingale of the Church. "It crosses the air, goes beyond the moon, it is above the rays of the sun...it surpasses the multitudes and choirs of angels and stands near the royal throne of God Himself. 'Cornelius, yours prayers and alms ascended before God'" (Acts 10:4).

C) Today when the stranger, our neighbor, is the great unknown, when love is fleeting, when hospitality is missing, when the apostolic exhortation "rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry" is not kept, the divine Chrysostom moves us once again with examples borrowed from the Old Testament.

"You ask to give hospitality to Elijah? I present to you the Lord of Elijah and you do not feed Him. If you could find Elijah, how would you give him hospitality? The judgement of Christ is that whosoever does it to the least, does it to Him" (Matt. 25:40).

"Think of Christ how on that day He will call before Him the angels and all the heavenly powers and will say:

He gave Me hospitality on earth.

He benefitted Me a myriad of times.

He salvaged Me when I was a stranger.

Think of the boldness in front of the angels and the boast in front of the heavenly powers."

Holy Tuesday. The hymnographers with their experience in the Holy Spirit remind us:

"Come, you faithful, let us eagerly work for the Master, for He distributes His wealth to His servants; accordingly then, let us increase the talent of grace. Let one be graced with wisdom through good works; let another celebrate a service of splendor; let another faithful to the word communicate this to the uninstructed; and yet another distribute wealth to the poor; for thus we shall increase what is entrusted to us, and as faithful stewards of His Grace, we may be worthy of the Master's joy. Of this, deem us worthy, O loving Christ our God" (Apostichon).

And one more thing. It is the most important. Do we want to have Christ as a friend? Saint Kosmas the Poet advises: "Give what you have been given, distribute it to the poor, and make the Lord your friend."

Good Holy Week!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.