Dear Parish Faithful,
When we enter Great Lent, we may understandably concentrate on renewing our prayer life and then on putting some real effort into fasting according to the discipline of the Church. This is "meet and right" and expected of all Orthodox Christians. However, we always want to make sure that we embrace the three basic practices that Christ assumes His disciples will follow, which are almsgiving/charity, prayer and fasting. In fact, in MATT. 6 where Christ makes this teaching explicit, almsgiving is mentioned before prayer and fasting (MATT. 6:2-4) With this in mind, I offer the following observations together with a parish project that we will take on over the next few weeks:
To me, personally, there is nothing in the world right now that is more poignant, heart-breaking and horrific than the massive suffering of children in Syria. Four years of brutal and bitter civil war has resulted in the death of over 100,000 children. That is a staggering and depressing figure. One would have to have a stone-cold or frankly "dead" heart not to be moved to tears when watching the brief images of this innocent suffering on nightly news reports. Homelessness; the lack of basic food and water and hospital supplies combined with unsanitary conditions; and the fear of further attack has led to appalling conditions that have robbed children of their childhoods and the security of home and family. I am not even sure how many orphans have been created over the last four years. I think we can make our own modest contribution as a Christian community to help alleviate these appalling conditions.
With our comfortable life-styles and sources of income there is no reason that we cannot raise a minimum of $2,000 during this Great Lent that we could then send to the IOCC for care and distribution. IOCC is an outstanding Orthodox charitable institution that has far-reaching projects on a world-wide basis. (Please click on the link below to trace this and read more about IOCC at your convenience). They are obviously quite engaged in Syria. As you may recall a passage that I sent out before Lent began by Vassilios Papavasiliou; the money that we save on food and entertainment during Great Lent could be donated to those in need so that we expand our Lenten efforts beyond our immediate concerns - pious and well-meaning that they may be.
We will have a basket by the Cross this Sunday to begin collecting everyone's donation.