June 15, 2015

Holy Prophet Amos as a Model for our Lives

Holy Prophet Amos (Feast Day - June 15)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Prophet Amos is one of the so-called Twelve Minor Prophets. He was born in the village of Tekoa in the land of Judah. A shepherd by occupation, God's Grace made him a prophet. He prophesied 800 years before Christ when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam (786–746 BC) was king of Israel. His prophetic book consists of four chapters and is classified among the Prophetic Books of the Old Testament. It holds a similar position in the Hebrew Bible. In it the Prophet strongly rebukes the people of Israel, but he does it to wake them up from the lethargy of sin and lead them to repentance. It should be noted that his activity coincided with a period during which there prevailed great social inequality in the country. There was high taxation, which resulted in the concentration of ownership in few hands who were a powerful landowning class, while the majority of the population suffered from poverty and the oppression of the rich.

The Prophet Amos, speaking in the name of God, raised his voice against social injustice and oppression, which meant, as he stressed, a rejection of the Covenant made by God with His people, and is equated with idolatry, without the offering of sacrifice. He warns against upcoming oppression and the forthcoming end of the kingdom of Israel, which God revealed to him through a series of visions, which will occur as a consequence of the indifference of the people for what the law of God says in favor of the poor and oppressed.

His Dismissal Hymn briefly contains his entire life:

A faithful prophet, and a a seer of things above, has the Word revealed you to be to your flock, Amos, accepting your life with friendly goodness, for you did bravely rebuke the ungodly and die as a martyr. Wherefore you were found worthy of eternal life and we beseech you to intercede for us all.

He had a martyric end.

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

First, "a faithful prophet, and a a seer of things above, has the Word revealed you to be to your flock, Amos."

In a few words the sacred hymnographer encompasses great theological truths. 1) That He Who revealed Amos to be a Prophet from a shepherd, was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God, Who appeared to and spoke to the prophets and righteous of the Old Testament, pre-incarnate at the time, and "when the fullness of time" came He was incarnate "for our salvation." 2) The Prophet Amos spoke with the Word of God, he was initiated into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and became a "seer of things above," namely the mysteries of God, in so much as what he was revealed and disclosed to the people what God said to him. 3) The origin of this man, his grammatical knowledge and profession were important in the evolution of his human office. However, for his knowledge of God, what was important was the purity of his heart, in which God reveals Himself. Ones profession and ones office only has value in this world. They are not at all useful to ones eternal future, if their way of life is not in line with God's will. Also, one is not judged based on their office, as stressed by Saint Silouan the Athonite, since all are able to be saved "regardless of the degree or office one has."

Second, "you did bravely rebuke the ungodly."

Social injustice stems from selfishness, which is the result of irreverence and apostasy from God, and it is the mother of avarice, sensuality, vanity and all the other passions. For one to dare rebuke the ungodly, they would have to be in conflict with the social mainstream and defend the rights of the poor, and they must possess bravery, valor and a spirit of sacrifice, and their way of life must be in accord with whatever they say. It is not possible to cauterize social inequality and injustice, and at the same time live in prosperity and opulence. The actions and words of the Prophet Amos were in harmony, which is why he could rebuke with courage and boldness ungodliness and take on the social mainstream. Eventually he paid with his life, but his martryric death led to eternal divine life.

Third, "and die as a martyr, wherefore you were found worthy of eternal life."

We observe here words about death and life. Life and death are two important events that intertwine. Man comes to life, going from non-existence to existence, and after some years - more or less - he dies, but he does not return to non-existence. After the separation of the soul from the body, after what we call death, a person does not cease to exist, but their manner of existence changes. His soul which is immortal not of its own nature, but by the will of God, continues to live and has self-awareness. And he will live without his body until the Second Coming of Christ, at which time the bodies of those who have reposed will rise again, and each will once again be united with its soul, after first changing and becoming spiritual and incorruptible, as stressed by the Apostle Paul, and "the body born in corruption is raised in incorruption."

When the heart is purified, then a person is visited by uncreated divine Grace, they see the glory of God, and then they speak and convey to people the will of God. And this is done because it is impossible to not speak, as the Prophet Amos says: "A lion shall roar, who shall not dread? The Lord God spake, who shall not prophesy?" (Amos 3:8). Speaking, therefore, he prophesies, and he transmits the words of God to the people in order to benefit them, to comfort them, and lead them to repentance and salvation.

Whoever wants to correct society must first of all begin with themselves. Social injustice is cured when the people who make up society are cured, and from lovers of themselves they become lovers of God and lovers of people.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Προφήτης Ἀμώς", May 2015. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.