Stewards of Time – Making the Most of Holy Week

 

By Fr. Robert Holet, Director – Consistory Office of Stewardship

 

We all know how Father has been ‘encouraging’ us to attend services and activities in Church during Holy Week.  It’s one of the best examples of the challenge we face in the stewardship of time.  Parishioners will tell me that Holy Week is the ONE week when the boss decides the extra project needs to be done now, the taxes need to be sent in, the prom has been scheduled for months (Great Friday of course) or your co-worker has decided to have her baby.  Or maybe the Lord decided for her.

 

It’s a conspiracy.

 

So maybe it’s appropriate that the Church reads from the Book of Job in Church this week, because it reminds us that the Devil will work overtime, over lots of time, to upset our Holy Week apple cart in any and every imaginable way.  I can feel the angst in my chest today remembering the moment when I blew out a tire on the Interstate on Great Friday, heading at high speed to one of the most important services of the year. But the Lord took care of things then – and may He protect us this year!

 

Take a Look Ahead

 

Although it’s a little late this year, it’s always a good reminder to set your Holy Week schedule during the first week of January.  This way you open up at least as much time as possible by taking vacation days (at least for Great Friday!) and setting your electronic calendar to ‘Busy’ as much as possible – so that no one schedules you to that critical meeting at the wrong time – like Holy Thursday evening.  In addition to taking off Great Friday (and Saturday), I strongly recommend taking off Bright Monday – as it allows us to celebrate with the Church the second day of Pascha and drink in the spirit of that special time called Bright Week, when the joy of Pascha resonates its beauty, light and joy.  And don’t forget, it shortens the work week by a day too!

 

In terms of Orthodox Stewardship – setting aside your time is a sacred offering, of yourself, to Christ.  Your time is where you are and what you’re doing – so when that’s in Church, it can be a way of spiritually committing yourself to your Orthodox Faith.  But it will be a sacred offering only if you do it willingly, and intentionally.  Sometimes I wonder if we Orthodox Christians have ever graduated from junior high school.  What do I mean by that?  Remember that in junior high or middle school, your parents could still control where you were at any point in time; and so they took you to Church during Holy Week.  You may have disliked it, even hated it and wanted to it to end as quickly as possible – perhaps because you couldn’t understand a word in some foreign language the priest was mumbling?  But you survived.  And here we are, some 20-40 years later, perhaps still going to Holy Week services not because we want to participate, but rather that if we don’t, we’ll feel guilty, break tradition and perhaps disappoint people who are “counting on us”!

 

Sacred Moments

 

Here’s the truth. Your time is God’s gift to you.  When you offer it back to Him, attending the services of Holy Week, you give Him an opportunity to bless you in unusual ways.  Over the years, I’ve sensed countless people ‘get it’ regarding the meaning of their Orthodox Faith – the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, by participating in the services.  God communicates the truth in all of this – in His own ineffable way.  How about trying something different this year?  Attend the services of Holy Week with an open heart –  try to listen to the words being chanted, the meaning of the Gospel, and experience the solemn atmosphere of the Great Friday services reminding us that this Jesus, who we proclaim as Lord, was ‘truly the Son of God’. (Mt. 27: 54). The Holy Week services are perhaps the most powerful moments – intervals of time – where we truly learn what it means to worship God – in venerating the shroud in silence, processing around the Church at Resurrection Matins in hope, seeing the brilliance of Christianity in joy at the Paschal Liturgy, enjoying the bounty of God’s blessings in the feast that pours out of our Pascha basket.

 

Stewards of Precious Time

 

Of course, there are a few hours left in the week outside of the services!  First, it’s good stewardship of time to get rest during Holy Week, especially if your lifestyle involves family life and laborious work responsibilities.  Throw in the extra time needed for special activities involving Holy Week – like special housekeeping, preparing foods for your basket, writing pysanky, preparing for Confession – all can be very time intensive.  No, today we don’t have the kind of lifestyle that allowed Baba to spend hours braiding her Pascha perfectly.  For many, the pressure of trying to keep up with ‘tradition’ can become extremely disruptive.  In one family I know, the mother never made it to the Paschal Services – she was so busy trying to keep up with everything else that the stress lowered her resistance; and she always succumbed to a debilitating sickness late in Holy Week.

 

Finally, part of wise stewardship is recognizing special opportunities in life.  Holy Week comes only once a year, and then only after a buildup of many weeks of spiritual effort in the Church.  This time is special – take advantage of it!  And yes, we never know if this will be our last opportunity to participate in these services – to ponder in silence the mystery of God’s redemption of our souls, or to see in the flickering candlelight the faces of children who have much, much more pure faith in Jesus than do we adults.  As adults, we can choose to attend the services in a way that we are fully present in our minds and hearts to Christ – as stewards of our time in this most sacred and life giving way.  So we can take that well-formed habit  from our youth, the witness and memory of Baba and our forebears,  and our respect for all the traditions – and schedule a personal appointment with Christ in  His Church.

Wise stewardship means getting ourselves to a place where we can enter into the festal Banquet. (Lk. 14:16ff)  At Divine Liturgy on Pascha, we proclaim the Prokimenon of the Feast,

 

“This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  (Ps. 118:24)

 

This is God’s gift – of the Day that He has fashioned and entrusted to us.  Our faithful stewardship leads us to rejoicing and gladness on that Day – the Feast of Feasts!  Ω

 

Note – Do check out the following links for some great ideas about managing family time and resources during Holy Week.

Orthodox Holy Week Activities for Children

 

http://www.mostlymarthabarelymary.com/blog/a-parents-guide-to-surviving-holy-week-a-pep-talk

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What Does it Mean to be Stewardship Minded?

by Mark Host

To answer this question, let us first look at what Christ tells the Pharisees.  The Pharisees confront Jesus and ask him if it is lawful to pay taxes,

 “And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’  And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”                             (Mark  12:16-17).

If it is right to give tribute to Caesar because it is his image upon the coin, what then is it that belongs to God that we are supposed to render unto Him?  The answer of course is us.  We who profess to believe in Jesus Christ are His people.  The word translated here as “render” in the original Koine Greek is ἀπόδοτε, which means “return back”. This reminds us that God is the source of everything.  When we render unto God, we are not giving away something that is exclusively ours, we are giving back something that belongs to Him, and that He gave to us as a blessing.

Moreover, just as the coins are imprinted with the image of Caesar, it is we who are imprinted with the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).  It is we who bear His image, and so we must render ourselves unto Him.  When we think of this it becomes easier to be oriented toward stewardship.  Most of us never think about the taxes we pay because it’s automatic: they are taken out of our paychecks, or added onto the cost of an item at the point of sale.  It’s built into the system, and we rarely think about it.  When we build into our systems the idea that we are made in the image of God, and therefore to be rendered unto Him, it becomes easier being stewardship oriented. Yet what we do not want is for our stewardship to be automatic, like taxes.  The key idea to being stewardship minded is that it requires mindfulness.  Stewardship is an act of thanksgiving for the grace and love that God gives us.  If it becomes an automatic response we lose the heartfelt gratitude that is the reason we give back to God.

We often are reminded to see the image of Christ in others, because this helps us to be compassionate towards those with whom we often might not be able to find common ground, or even an agreeable disposition.  Yet we should also remember to see the image of Christ in ourselves and in them.  In this way we can remember that our actions should be reflective of God.

From this orientation, small, everyday interactions become a chance to interact with God.  They are an opportunity to live our stewardship.  Little things can become big things.  Consider something like working a fish fry at your local parish during Lent.  When you do, do you save money because you’re not eating home or out?  It is often tempting to use that money to buy more material things that we probably don’t need.  This is being oriented towards self.  When you are oriented toward stewardship, you might instead see this as an opportunity to give more where it is most needed.  Save the money you would have spent on dinner in a jar.  At the end of Lent, give it to the church, or the seminary, or maybe even give it to your parish priest to give to a family in need.  To give the money away even though you already gave of your time to help at the fish fry is what it means to truly be oriented towards God.

Think about the ways in which little things you do each day can be oriented towards God; think about the ways you can render yourself unto Him.  Does the person behind you at the coffee shop look like a struggling student that could use a free coffee?  Does someone in your Facebook feed sound like they’re calling for help?  Is there something you can do that would save your parish even a couple dollars?  Every day we encounter numerous opportunities to practice our stewardship, and in so doing reflect the image of God in us, so that His Glory shines forth into the world.

 

  • Stewardship Question to Ponder –  What is some simple thing that I routinely do in my life in which I can be more stewardship-minded?  What kinds of fruits or benefits might be forthcoming if I did?

 

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.

Welcome to Stewardship Concepts!!

The Stewardship Concepts blog site is an outreach effort of our Church, Consistory Office of Stewardship of the UOC of USA.  Our goal is to provide a space for thoughtful, sound, engaging and spiritually edifying content and discussion about how we can faithfully live as Orthodox Christians in our rapidly evolving experience in America, and in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in specific.

While I will post blog articles and resources on this site as part of our ongoing effort in UOC Stewardship education, we’ll also welcome submission from others who would like to contribute their thoughts on this essential discussion for our age.  Lisa Ryan and Mark Host are already lining up contributions for our conversation.

Please note that the focus of our approach here emerges from a basis of Orthodox understanding of Stewardship as Sacred Offering – which embodies the insights of Orthodox thought based in the Scriptures, Holy Tradition, the liturgical tradition, and Church praxis.  For more information on this approach, you can read more in the book, The First and Finest, Orthodox Christian Stewardship as Sacred Offering (Authorhouse 2013 – From Amazon)  or from my personal website on the topic – where additional articles on Orthodox Stewardship are made available as well as other helpful links:  www.orthodoxstewardship.com.

There are exciting things happening in the Orthodox stewardship world – and especially in our Church. Please feel free to join in the conversation – and be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you in your life and in your heart.

Yours in His service,

(V.Rev.) Fr. Robert Holet, Director
Consistory Office of Stewardship – Ukrainian. Orthodox Church of the USA
stewardship@uocusa.net