It is true that a person’s life is not from one’s possessions or because of having an overabundance. He who is rich toward God is very blessed and has glorious hope. Who is he? Evidently, one who does not love wealth but rather loves virtue, and to whom few things are sufficient. It is one whose hand is open to the needs of the poor, comforting the sorrows of those in poverty according to his means and the utmost of his power. He gathers in the storehouses that are above and lays up treasures in heaven. Such a one shall find the interest of his virtue and the reward of his right and blameless life. (St. Cyril of Alexandria)
With these words, St. Cyril of Alexandria paints a wonderful icon of what this Advent Fast can be like in the family life of Orthodox Christians. St. Cyril gives us the following guidance:
- To love virtue rather than wealth
Parents and children, make every effort this Advent to keep your prayer rule, keep the fast, and seek to study the Scriptures. Make your aim the desire to acquire, by grace, the fruits of the Spirit: patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, and joy, to name a few. These are even more important in this time of the pandemic.
- Be content with only a few things, what you need, not what you want
When we fast from certain foods, social apps, screen time on the TV and a computer, what can it teach us? First and foremost, it can teach gratitude and thankfulness to God for what has been given to us. When we partake of things by demand, without a time of self-denial, we become greedy. We become ungrateful, thinking the world owes us more, and we become enslaved. We come to love the gift more than the giver.
- Open your hands up to the needs of the poor
This is the ultimate fruit of our ascetical efforts during the Advent Fast. It is to value others’ well being ahead of our own. By so doing, what we give to others inevitably comes back to us in some form of a blessing. We come to be loved when we first love others.
- Lay up treasure in heaven by a virtuous, right and blameless life
We look ahead to what lies before us. The wealth and possessions we acquire in this world will not bring us any happiness. When we live only for material wealth and focus only on how to keep it:
- We will only become miserable, like grasping to hold onto sand that slips away even more as we seek to tighten our hold.
- We will become bitter and hateful towards others.
By living a righteous and virtuous life:
- We will become known for our character and our ability to live in peace and contentment, no matter how difficult our circumstances.
- We will be known by our love for another.
- We will become by grace an icon of Christ, the Good Samaritan. We will use what we have to care for those who have been wounded by the pains and misfortunes of life and bring healing to those wounds.
Dear Lord bless this time as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a right mind and spirit; let us be mindful not to do harm but to do good.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,