Now Available on Ancient Faith

Stewardship and Time – an Interview with Dr. Nicole Roccas on the Ancient Faith Podcast: First Fruits of Christian Living – Orthodox Christian Stewardship Today:

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/firstfruits/stewardship_of_time_with_dr._nicole_roccas

See also the Interview on the Stewardship of Time on Nicole’s podcast – Time Eternal:

https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/timeeternal/making_time_with_fr._robert_holet

Comments welcome!!

 

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The Feast of the Encounter in the Temple – The Offering of Christ Made Visible

By Fr. Robert Holet

The Feast of the Encounter (Presentation) of our Lord in the Temple (Feb. 2/15) presents a vivid image of sacred stewardship to us.  The very act of Mary and Joseph coming to the Temple on the fortieth day, to consecrate their first born Son, who is the Son of God, back to God the Father, is filled with deep spiritual meaning.  It shows, for the first time, how creation (literally embodied in Christ in the flesh), now is re-consecrated to God in a total way.

The icon of the feast is instructive to us about the nature of the Feast as an offering.   Mary is the central actor – making the offering of her Son to Simeon the High Priest.  It was through Mary that God the Son took flesh.  The Father entrusted His divine Son to her, and now she offers in both a symbolic, but physical way, he Son back to the Father.  It is the offering of Christ to the Father – made by the Mother of the Church, that shows us how everything precious is to be treated in this world.  We must see it as coming from God, we must receive it from Him and offer back to Him.

The Fulfillment of the Covenant 

In doing so, Mary is guided by the Law of the Lord, fulfilling the template of the Old Covenant and in so doing, initiating the New Covenant, by acting in obedience to the Law, ‘every first born male shall be consecrated to the Lord’ (Lk. 2:23, Ex. 13.2)   The prescribed offering is made of the first-born son, but what accompanies the central offering is the accompanying offering of the two turtledoves.  Joseph carries the two doves, also in fulfillment of the Exodus mandate – the turtledoves being a testimony to their poverty.  But even though poor they still make the offering.  And even if they were wealthy, it would not have been appropriate to offer a lamb, for it is Christ, the Lamb of God, that is being offered as the central action of this sacred event.

There is so much to behold and contemplate here!

Mary (and Joseph, who brings the doves) show us how our reception of God’s gifts are only sanctifying for us when they are seen as coming from God, and offered back to Him, at least in a symbolic way.  This moment is filled with divine glory – the glory of God filling the Temple with the fulfillment of the Law, and the Beginning of the New Covenant.  There is an interesting sense here of the completion and fulfillment of time here as well.  So, it was nine months and forty days (almost a full year) earlier that the Annunciation took place, when Mary submitted to the revelation of the angel and the will of God and received Christ within her womb.  With the fullness of time and the birth of the Lord, we see Christ as a child and now, consecrated to the Father by human hearts and hands.  Is this not the very essence of the ministry of the Church – to lift up Christ in the flesh, in our human hands, in thanksgiving to the Father?  This is indeed repeated – not only on the occasion of the Divine Liturgy of the Feast when the priest lifts up the Consecrated Lamb (on the discos), and His blood in the Chalice, and consecrates them to the Father, saying, “Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”.  The Church is perfectly the Church in this moment – there is nothing else of greater importance or significance at this moment.  God fills the temple with His presence and grace when the offering is so made according to His will.

A Practical View

So this is a little of the theology of the Feast in relation to stewardship.  But can we look for other aspects that are a bit more practical?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • First, we see in Mary our personal model of stewardship of our life. She truly fulfilled everything that God asked of her, completely and perfectly – the definition of a ‘good and faithful servant’ (Mt. 25:23).  She received God’s Gift (beyond all gifts) and oriented her life completely toward this because she had oriented her heart and mind to the Lord.   This is the great challenge that we face as well – to orient our hearts, minds and lives to the Lord.  Doing so, we will receive our gifts from Him – which will be distinctly different from the Gift she received – yet we can fulfill His will perfectly and well.
  • For parents, we see a practical, but spiritual activity by Mary – offering her Son to the Father. Parents are in a unique place to receive the precious lives of their children from God, and re-dedicate them to the Him.  The Church’s liturgy has very powerful prayers and actions that affirm this action – with the ritual of churching of newborn children and ultimately, Holy Baptism, which is a prime guideline for every Orthodox parent to observe, initiating the child into the full life in Christ.  What a great blessing and opportunity it is to so imitate Mary – doing the ‘best’ for their children by doing what our faith reveals!  And yes, every time you carry your child in your arms into church, or drag them in kicking and screaming, you are duplicating this sacred action!
  • Joseph’s offering of the turtle doves should not be ignored. I don’t know what the price of turtledoves was at the temple that day, but there was a price to be paid monetarily in the purchase of the doves, to literally go ‘up in smoke’. But this became a sweet-smelling offering to God, because it was done in faithfulness.  If we were to begin to see how our monetary gifts can be transformed into something pleasing to God, we might go a long way toward restoring a right relationship with money and material things, when we use it in a manner that is pleasing to God.  And yes, offering our money for spiritual purposes can be a way of drawing near to God.

Finally, returning for a moment to the ‘divine timing’ of this feast, we realize that with the arrival of this Feast in February, it takes place just as the Lenten season begins to unfold. Of course, the destination of the Lenten journey is Jerusalem, and what takes place there is the True and Total Offering of Christ on the Cross, for our salvation.  As we celebrate this feast, we also catch a glimpse of Him Who is Offered, the High Priest and Savior of our souls.

Blessed Feast to you and yours!

 

Fr. Robert Holet

Fr. Robert is the Director of the Consistory Office of Stewardship of the UOC of USA and
Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Charlottesville, Virginia

Icon – By Michael Kapeluck, Archangel Icons.

 

Is Stewardship Ukrainian?

By Mark Host

It might silly to even ask such a question.  Stewardship has no ethnicity.  It is a Biblical principle, and the Bible transcends nationality.  We all love our culture, and give it a place of importance in our lives, but it is important to remember that we did not start Orthodoxy, we were brought to it.

In the year 863, the Orthodox evangelists, Saints Cyril and Methodius developed the Glagolitic alphabet, which they used to translate the Bible into Old Church Slavonic.  The Cyrillic alphabet used by the Ukrainian language today is a descendant of that work.  They did this to bring the gospel to the Slavic peoples.  We often refer to the Gospel in terms such as, “the Ukrainian Gospel” or, “the English Gospel”.  In these cases these terms are adjectives, describing the language in which the Gospel is presented, but all too often we treat them as possessive terms.  Such a view stems from a logical error.  The Gospel is not Ukrainian.  Ukrainian and its related languages were codified into a written system in order to bring the Gospel to us.  The language upon which so much of our cultural identity rests has its root an effort of evangelization and stewardship.

If this were not in itself enough, we have the example of our very revered St. Vladimir (Volodymyr).  He set up a tithe of his income and property to establish a church that is commonly referred to as The Church of the All-Holy Tithe.  We revere the actions of his baptism of Ukraine, but often ignore the stewardship example he set for us all. The founders of many of our UOC parishes also gave deeply to set up and support their beloved parishes.  In a time when they primarily worked in blue collar, industrial jobs, they sacrificed much to establish the churches we attend today.  Truly they learned from the example set by St. Vladimir.

What is perhaps Ukrainian (though not exclusively) is the reason why we don’t have good stewardship practices.  In the old country the Church long benefitted from state support.  For this reason, our ancestors did not need to give, and so the practice of stewardship was not adequately taught as a blessed way of offering our lives to God.  In the process, so too did we lose the connection with sacrificial offering in the Divine Liturgy.  In a related way, this too is a reason too that stewardship seems to us to be a “Protestant” idea.  Many of the Protestant churches that exist today (though of course not all) began here in the United States, where separation of church and state meant that they didn’t receive the benefit of state support, and needed to be supported by their parishioners from the start.  Even some of the Protestant churches that started in Europe were persecuted churches, and did not receive this support.  So stewardship practices were an organic part of many of these churches from the start.

It is clear that stewardship is Biblical.  We have the examples of the saints.  We have the precedent set by the founders of our parishes.  So it is silly to think that stewardship is not Ukrainian.  Stewardship is necessity of all Christians who seek give thanks to God.

A couple of questions to ponder – feel free to post your comments on this site and strike up a conversation:

  • Do you think of stewardship as a practice that is “not Ukrainian”?
  • How can this change my attitude about stewardship and how it applies to all Christians?

Mark Host is a member of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH.  He works in IT, teaches college English on the side, and is planning to return to school in 2017 to pursue his PhD.