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Archive for December 6th, 2013

Intro:  The following quote is from St. Gregory’s Sermon, text, St. Matthew 11: 2-10, for the 2nd  Sunday in Advent.  He shows that in our ‘small ways’ we too can be like John the Baptizer with the Message for a friend. The only stat I cite is that the majority of people who join a congregation do so because a family or friend invited them.  Here is eloquent testimony and encouragement to do so, just as Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46)

You… who live in the Tabernacle of the Lord, that is, in the Holy Church, if you cannot fill up the goblets with the teachings of holy wisdom, as well then as you can, as far as the divine bounty has endowed you, give to your neighbors spoonfuls of the good word!

And when you consider that you have yourself made some little progress, draw others along with you; seek to make comrades on the road to God. Should one among you, Brethren, stroll out towards the forum or the baths, he will invite a friend whom he thinks is not busy to keep him company. This simple action of our ordinary life is pleasant to you, and if it be that you are going towards God, give a thought not to journey alone. Hence it is written: He that heareth, let him say: come (Apoc. xxii. 17); so let him who has heard in his heart the invitation of divine love, pass on to his neighbors around about him, the message of the invitation. And though a man may not have even bread wherewith to give an alms to the hungry;  yet, what is still more precious  is able to give who possess but  tongue. For it is a greater to strengthen with the nourishment of a word that will feed the mind for ever, than to fill with earthly bread a stomach of perishable flesh.

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You bestowed upon Your servant Nicholas of Myra the perpetual gift of charity. Grant Your Church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief. We ask this for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About St. Nicholas:  Of the many saints commemorated by the Christian Church, Nicholas (d. AD 342) is one of the best known. Very little is known historically of him, though there was a church of Saint Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the sixth century. Research has affirmed that there was a bishop by the name of Nicholas in the city of Myra in Lycia (part of modern Turkey) in the fourth century. From that coastal location, legends about Nicholas have traveled throughout time and space. He is associated with charitable giving in many countries around the world and is portrayed as the rescuer of sailors, the protector of children, and the friend of people in distress or need. In commemoration of Sinte Klaas (Dutch for “Saint Nicholas,”in English “Santa Claus”), December 6 is a day for giving and receiving gifts in many parts of Europe.

(from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

 This reflection on St. Nicholas is by Orthodox priest and professor, Rev. Thomas Hopko from his book, The Winter Pascha (St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press) on “good St. Nicholas”.  I think it is “spot-on”:

We use that term “goodness” so lightly in our time. How easily we say of someone, “He is a good man” or “She is a good woman.” How lightly we say, “They are good people.” A teen-age girl takes an overdose of drugs, and the neighbors tell the reporters, “But she was always such a good girl, and her parents are such nice people!” A young man commits some terrible crime, and the same rhetoric flows: “But he was always such a good boy, and his family is so nice.”‘ A man dies on the golf course after a life distinguished by many years of profit-taking and martini-drinking, and the reaction is the same: “He was a good man, yeah, a real nice guy.” What do “good” and “nice” really mean in such cases? What do they describe? What do they express?

In Saint Luke’s gospel it tells us that one day a “ruler” came up to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus answered him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone” (Lk18:18; see also Mk10:18). In Saint Matthew’s version it says that Jesus answered the man by saying, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? One there is who is good” (Mt19:17). However we choose to interpret Christ’s words, at least one point is clear. Jesus reacts to the facile, perhaps even sarcastic, use of the term “good” by referring it to its proper source. There is only One who is good, and that is God Himself. If you want to speak of goodness, then you must realize what—and Whom—you are talking about!

 Like God, and like Jesus, Saint Nicholas was genuinely good. Real goodness is possible. For, to quote the Lord again, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt19:26). A human being, even a rich human being who believes in God, can be genuinely good with God’s own goodness. “For truly I say to you,” says the Lord, “if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed … nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt17:20-21).The Messiah has come so that human beings can live lives which are, strictly speaking, humanly impossible. He has come so that people can really be good. One of the greatest and most beloved examples among believers that this is true is the holy bishop of  Myra about whom almost nothing else is known, or needs to be known, except that he was good. For this reason alone he remains, even in his secularized form, the very spirit of Christmas.

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