26th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 1. Sunday of the Forefathers. The Sunday that falls between December 11-17 is known as the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. These are the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh. Ven. Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople (489-490).
Tone 1 Troparion (Resurrection)
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, while the soldiers were guarding Your most pure body, You rose on the third day, O Savior, granting life to the world. The powers of heaven therefore cried to You, O Giver of Life: “Glory to Your Resurrection, O Christ! Glory to Your Kingdom!// Glory to Your dispensation, O Lover of mankind!”
Tone 2 Troparion (Forefathers)
Through faith You justified the Forefathers, betrothing through them the Church of the gentiles. These saints exult in glory, for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: she who bore You without seed.// So by their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us!
Tone 6 Kontakion (Forefathers)
You did not worship the graven image, O thrice-blessed ones, but armed with the immaterial Essence of God, you were glorified in a trial by fire. From the midst of unbearable flames you called on God, crying: “Hasten, O compassionate One! Speedily come to our aid,// for You are merciful and able to do as You will!”
Tone 4 Prokeimenon (Forefathers)
Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, / and praised and glorified is Your Name forever! (Song of the Three Holy Children, v. 3)
V. For You are just in all that You have done for us! (v. 4)
Colossians 3:4-11 (Epistle)
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. Moses and Aaron were among His priests; Samuel also was among those who called on His Name. (Ps. 98:6)
V. They called to the Lord and He answered them. (Ps. 98:6)
Luke 14:16-24 (Gospel)
Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. ’For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (Cyprus)
How greatly almsgiving contributes to prayer! If you want to pray you have to become a generous person. Generous in the whole meaning of the word. If people say a kind word to someone else, or offer them something or give alms, this condition moves their soul to prayer. It’s well established that, when the generous stand in prayer, their prayer flies to God, who accepts it. Abba Isaac says: ‘an uncharitable ascetic is a barren tree’. People who are not disposed to almsgiving are like trees that bear no fruit. In other words, no matter what spiritual exercises you undertake, however many prostrations, fasts and vigils, if your heart isn’t compassionate, if it isn’t motivated by love towards others, if it doesn’t have empathy, as God does for everyone, then you’re like a barren tree. The Fathers say that almsgiving alone is enough to save people. Compassionate people are like God. God is compassionate. As we say in the Liturgy ‘For you are a compassionate God and you love humankind’. God’s compassionate. Those people who are themselves compassionate resemble God and God can’t deny them his grace.
Indeed, people who have this inclination to almsgiving and stand before God with boldness, in a way defending the unfortunate, really do resemble God. The heart of compassionate people is like an altar, a sacrifice to our compassionate God. This is why the Fathers stress that, at the judgement, God won’t ask whether we’ve fasted, whether we’ve remained pure, neither this nor that. What did God say? ‘I was poor and a stranger and you attended me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me’ and all the other things, in order to demonstrate that the fruit of the spiritual struggle is the acquisition of a compassionate heart. Our heart is to become like that of God. If it doesn’t, this means that something’s not right. If you fast, keep vigils, pray, study, strive and observe all of God’s commandments and your heart’s not compassionate, not charitable towards other people, then you’re callous, you aren’t moved and you have work to do. It means that you have to understand that there’s something that’s hardening your heart. And you have to learn to strike this heart, to break it. ‘Shatter my hardened heart’, make it broken so that it’s compassionate towards the whole of creation.
Saints were often of such a charitable disposition that their heart burned for the whole of creation, the whole of the world, for the reptiles, the plants, the trees, people and even the demons. So that’s the compassionate heart, which has to be like that of God our Father. This generous heart is what people work for spiritually. This is what Christ himself said: ‘Be merciful, as your Father is merciful’. Merciful and compassionate.
In order to acquire a compassionate heart we have to strive in all the virtues. Almsgiving, the practice of giving from what little or much we have to other people who are in need, is a necessary step. Saint James says that if your brother or sister comes to you and says they’re hungry, you can’t tell them to go and pray to God and he’ll feed them. You have to give them something to eat.
You can’t talk to other people about the Kingdom of God if you don’t feel compassion for them. Of course they’ll listen to what you’re saying about spiritual matters, but they’ll still be hungry, thirsty, burning hot or whatever else. Saint Serapion even sold his Gospel and said he was selling that which had taught him to give everything.
We don’t have such self-denial but we do have some lesser amount, as much as we can. But let’s act in a way that goes beyond that measure.
Saint John Chrysostom talked about almsgiving continuously and said that this virtue alone was enough to save us. Those of us who live in the secular world can’t do much by way of ascetic practices; we can’t make great efforts, we can’t fast, we can’t keep vigils. We have a level of comfort, we lack the strictness that perhaps we ought to feel.
So what’s left? Almsgiving, that’s our only sacrifice. And, in any case, what are you giving? Only what God gave you in the first place. If he wanted he could take it all away in two minutes. What God gave you out of his providence, you give to your brothers and sisters. It’s not yours; it was given to you by God. And you can’t take it with you. You simply manage it, you won’t have it with you in eternity. So invest it wisely. You should know that you’ll find all these things in the kingdom of God. You really should know that, according to the Fathers, almsgiving helps our soul pass directly into the kingdom of God. Why? Because it makes our heart like that of our compassionate God.
On St. Nicholas
Saint Nikolai Velimirovic. The Prologue of Ohrid
He who surrenders himself completely to God is guided by God to salvation, and is used by Him for the benefit of many others. St. Nicholas, devoted to the will of God, fled from the glory of men, from his city of Patara, and came to the city of Myra in Lycia, where he knew no one and was known by no one. Without any means—for, although he had been wealthy by virtue of his family, he had abandoned everything—without acquaintances and without plans, he walked as an unknown one throughout the city, waiting for God to direct his steps. At that time John the Archbishop of Myra died, and the Synod gathered for the election of a new archbishop, but could not agree on any person who had been nominated. Finally, the members of the Synod decided to fast and pray to God that He would designate the one who was most worthy of this calling. God heeded the prayers of His servants and revealed to them the one most worthy. When the presiding bishop stood for prayer, a man appeared to him in light and told him to go out early, stand in front of the church, and await the first one who would enter for morning prayer. “Appoint him as archbishop; his name is Nicholas,” he said. Seeing and hearing this, the bishop informed all of his companions. Early the next day, he went in front of the church and waited. At that moment St. Nicholas, who had the habit of rising early for prayer, appeared. Seeing him, the bishop asked him: “What is your name, son?” Nicholas remained silent. The bishop again asked him, and he replied: “I am called Nicholas, O Bishop, the servant of your holiness.” Then the bishop took him by the hand, brought him before the Synod, and said: “Receive, brethren, your shepherd, who was anointed by the Holy Spirit and was elected not by the Synod of men but rather by the providence of God.”
St. Spyridon the Wonderworker
On December 12 we celebrate St. Spyridon the Wonderworker. Read about his life.