Protopresbyter Themistoklis Mourtzanos
One of the most common charges leveled against the faith is that it isn’t interested in people’s material needs. This is why those who speak publicly about the Church urge it to give to the poor, to perform social work and to hand over its remaining wealth to the needy. Others deem that monasteries serve no useful purpose and that, instead of praying, the monks and nuns should return to the outside world and become battalions of social workers and volunteers. Yet others, who are less categorical, think that the Church needs to show understanding to those who are struggling to make ends meet, should be lenient towards those who don’t go to church and shouldn’t burden them with excessive fasts and moral demands, but should let them enjoy life a little.
At the divine liturgy, at the time of the cherubic hymn, we sing: ‘Let us now lay aside every care of this life’. In other words, the Church urges us to leave to one side every care, every concern for our daily life, our survival, and to receive the divine gifts, the bread and wine which become the body and blood of Christ, to welcome the King of all, the God and human being who is our redeemer. The Church doesn’t ask us to deny our daily cares, but to put them aside for a short time. Given that people are psychosomatic and social beings, the Church believes that we have to struggle to survive and that this obviously brings cares. But the Church will continue to set the reception of Christ as the main priority in our life. Trust in his providence, work and care are necessary, as is alms-giving. But we don’t need to become fixated on money, survival, and meeting only our material needs. We must view life through the perspective of love for Christ and other people. The key is spiritual struggle, frugality, and being content with little. Otherwise, no matter how much you get, it won’t be enough.
The late Bishop Dionysios (Psarianos) of Servia and Kozani said something very true: ‘The Church is “Good morning”, “Christ has risen” and the chance to drink a glass of water with someone’. Glorifying God for giving us new day in our life, which we can share with others; faith in the Resurrection, which makes us overcome the fear of death; and a glass of water, which is also a gift from God and is something we can happily share in company. This is the witness of the Church in an era of the triumph of worldly cares, of consumption, of surfeit, of lack of satisfaction no matter how much we have, of refusal to enjoy life, in the certainty that Christ loves us and is with us for all our days.
Parents should teach their children that the joy of encountering God at the divine liturgy, the power of love, and saying ‘Glory to God’ are what prevent our worldly cares from depriving us of the ability to appreciate the value of life. That’s also the meaning of prayer.