Weekly Bulletin

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Orthodox Church

www.stcyril.us  (281) 298-3232

May 6, 2018

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

St. Photini, the Samaritan Woman

Righteous Job the Long-suffering

 

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

 

THIS WEEK – Part 10 of a 14-Part Class on the Faith,Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. at 9016 Hwy 242, just east of the Woodlands. This week we will continue studying  the Church. All are welcome.

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Honor the Lord with Your First-Fruits

Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the first-fruits of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9).

In ancient Israel, the Church of the Old Testament, the Law of Moses instituted the “tithe,” also called the offering of the first-fruits. “Tithe” is merely the Old English word for “tenth”. Israel’s tithe was an assessment of one-tenth of all produce for the maintenance of the Temple, the support of the priesthood, and the sustenance of the poor (Num. 18:24; Deut. 12:11 and 26:12). Usually this portion was rendered from the first harvested of the crop, hence the title “first-fruits”.

These activities are still necessary parts of Church life. Parishes need suitable places for worship, education, and fellowship; we are still responsible for our priests’ livelihood; and the Lord continually reminds us of our obligation to the needy. Therefore, the practice of good stewardship, represented by the tithe, retains its importance.

The motive behind the Old Testament tithe, however, was not purely pragmatic. For the ancient Hebrews tithing was never merely an efficient way to raise money. Rather, they understood that their relationship with God required them to dedicate a substantial portion of the fruit of their labor to His purposes.

Our basic understanding as Orthodox Christians, derived from the Old Testament, is that everything comes from God. All that we have or hope to possess, beginning with life itself, is His gift. We acknowledge this fact in our spiritual life through prayer and fasting and through our struggle to follow His commandments. With regard to our material blessings, we confess that He is their true source by returning a portion to Him, to be used for His purposes in this world.These works include the maintenance of worship, the support of those called to His special service, and aid for the poor. By thus giving a portion of our wealth for His purposes, we sanctify the remainder. Through offering a part, we bring the whole of our lives into harmony with God’s will.

Tithing is not a purely Old Testament observance revived by Protestants and, therefore, a thing we Orthodox Christians need not worry about. It is true that many Old Testament practices are now understood in a spiritual way fulfilled, transformed by Christ’s coming, death, and Resurrection. It is also true that, in recent times, some Protestant groups have stressed tithing as the norm of giving. But in reality, neither of these objections applies to the tithe or denies its validity.

Our Lord criticized the way in which his opponents tithed, but in so doing, He confirmed the tithe itself: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe your mint, dill, and cumin, but have omitted the weightier matters of the law judgment, mercy, and faith. These you ought to have done, without omitting the others” (Matthew 23:23).

Likewise, one of the earliest witnesses to Holy Tradition, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, applies the first-fruits to the Church. “Every first-fruit of the produce of the wine-vat and of the threshing-floor, of cattle and flocks, you will take and give as the first-fruit to your prophets; for they are your chief priests . . . . if you prepare food, take and give the first-fruit according to the commandment. Likewise, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take and give the first-fruit to the prophets. Take also the first-fruit of money and clothing and every possession, as it may seem right to you, and give according to the commandment.”

St Irenaeus, writing toward the end of the second century, notes that Christ Himself “gave directions to His disciples to offer the first-fruits of His own created things not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful.”

St John Chrysostom contends that the tithe is more binding on us than on the Jews. In one of his sermons, he notes that under the Old Testament tithing was the norm. Among Christians, however, it has become a cause for amazement; we exclaim in wonder, “Why, so-and-so tithes!” St John finds this a sad reflection on our piety and ends with the warning, “if it was a danger to neglect the tithe then, imagine how serious it must be now!”

As we said, the Old Testament saints did not see the tithe merely as a way for organizing fund-raising for the Temple and clergy, but as part of their relationship with God. Similarly, we cannot regard our giving merely as providing for our parish’s material needs. We make a return to the Lord of a portion of His blessings, by which we sanctify the remainder for our own use. Thus we acknowledge the Lord’s claim upon the whole of our life and affirm that the focus of our existence is not this world but the Kingdom to come.

The tithe, one-tenth, is the ideal of stewardship. At first, for those not used to the idea of tithing, this amount may seem staggering. The best way to begin is to adopt a lower percentage and then increase it over time. First, we should accept the underlying principle behind tithing: that we should not give an arbitrary amount, but that our contributions should represent a proportion, a percentage, of our income. Once we establish a certain percentage (for example 3%-5%) as our starting point, we can then increase it by one percent a year until we reach the tithe. From the beginning, however, we must adopt the idea that we give a percentage of our treasure; we cannot base it on impulse, giving “a little something” from what we “have left over”. Instead, our offering should represent “the first-fruits of our produce” offered because we need to “honor the Lord with our substance”, because we want show our gratitude to Him for His blessings and do our part in His work of redeeming the world.

Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonica–

Remembered on May 5

The holy Great Martyr Irene was born in the city of Magedon in Persia during the fourth century. She was the daughter of the pagan king Licinius, and her parents named her Penelope.

Penelope was very beautiful, and her father kept her isolated in a high tower from the time she was six so that she would not be exposed to Christianity. He also placed thirteen young maidens in the tower with her. An old tutor by the name of Apellian was assigned to give her the best possible education. Apellian was a Christian, and during her lessons, he told the girl about Christ the Savior and taught her the Christian Faith and the Christian virtues.

When Penelope reached adolescence, her parents began to think about her marriage. One day, a dove flew through the window carrying an olive branch in its beak, depositing it upon a table. Then an eagle swooped in with a wreath of flowers in its beak, and also placed it upon the table. Finally, a raven flew in carrying a snake, which it dropped on the table. Penelope was puzzled by these events and wondered what they meant.

Apellian explained that the dove signified her education, and the olive branch stood for the grace of God which is received in Baptism. The eagle with the wreath of flowers represented success in her future life. The raven and the snake foretold her future suffering and sorrow.

At the end of the conversation Apellian said that the Lord wished to betroth her to Himself and that Penelope would undergo much suffering for her heavenly Bridegroom. After this Penelope refused marriage, was baptized by the priest Timothy, and she was named Irene (peace). She even urged her own parents to become Christians. Shortly after this, she destroyed all her father’s idols.

Since Irene had dedicated herself to Christ, she refused to marry any of the pagan suitors her father had chosen for her. When Licinius learned that his daughter refused to worship the pagan gods, he was furious. He attempted to turn her from Christ by having her tortured. She was tied up and thrown beneath the hooves of wild horses so that they might trample her to death, but he horses remained motionless. Instead of harming the saint, one of the horses charged Licinius, seized his right hand and tore it from his arm. Then it knocked Licinius down and began to trample him. They untied the holy virgin, and through her prayers Licinius rose unharmed in the presence of eyewitnesses with his hand intact.

Seeing such a miracle, Licinius and his wife, and many of the people believed in Christ and turned from the pagan gods. Resigning his administrative duties, Licinius devoted himself to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Irene lived in the house of her teacher Apellian, and she began to preach Christ among the pagans, converting them to the path of salvation.

When Sedecius, the new prefect of the city, heard of this miracle he summoned Apellian and questioned him about Irene’s manner of life. Apellian replied that Irene, like other Christians, lived in strict temperance, devoting herself to constant prayer and reading holy books. Sedecius summoned the saint to him and urged her to stop preaching about Christ. He also attempted to force her to sacrifice to the idols. Saint Irene staunchly confessed her faith before the prefect, not fearing his wrath, and prepared to undergo suffering for Christ. By order of Sedecius she was thrown into a pit filled with serpents. The saint spent ten days in the pit and remained unharmed, for an angel of the Lord protected her and brought her food. Sedecius ascribed this miracle to sorcery, and he subjected Saint Irene to many other tortures, but she remained unharmed. Under the influence of her preaching and miracles even more people were converted to Christ, and turned away from the worship of inanimate idols.

Sedecius was deposed by his son Savorus, who persecuted Christians with an even greater zeal than his father had done. St. Irene went to her home town of Magedon in Persia to meet him and his army, and ask him to end the persecution. When he refused, St. Irene prayed and his entire army was blinded. She prayed again and they received their sight once more. In spite of this, Savorus refused to recognize the power of God. Because of his insolence, he was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning.

After this, Saint Irene walked into the city and performed many miracles. She returned to the tower built by her father, accompanied by the priest Timothy. Through her teaching, she converted five thousand people to Christ.

Later Christ’s holy martyr traveled to the city of Constantina, forty miles northeast of Edessa. By 330, the Persian king Sapor II (309-379) had heard of Saint Irene’s great miracles. To prevent her from winning more people to Christ, she was arrested, beheaded, and then buried. However, God sent an angel to raise her up again, and she went into the city of Mesembria. After seeing her alive and hearing her preach, the local king was baptized with many of his subjects.

Wishing to convert even more pagans to Christianity, Saint Irene went to Ephesus, where she taught the people and performed many miracles. The Lord revealed to her that the end of her life was approaching. Then Saint Irene left the city accompanied by six people, including her former teacher Apellian. On the outskirts of the town, she found a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. After making the Sign of the Cross, she went inside, directing her companions to close the entrance to the cave with a large stone, which they did. When Christians visited the cave four days later, they did not find the body of the saint.

Apellian returned after only two days, and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Thus did God glorify Saint Irene, who loved Him and devoted her life to serving Him. Although many of these miracles may seem improbable to those who are skeptical, nothing is impossible with God.

Saint Irene led thousands of people to Christ through her preaching, and by her example. The Church continues to honor her memory and to seek her heavenly intercession. The holy, glorious Great Martyr Irene is invoked by those wishing to effect a swift and happy marriage. In Greece, she is also the patron saint of policemen. Saint Irene is also one of the twelve Virgin Martyrs who appeared to Saint Seraphim of Sarov on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1831. By her holy prayers, may the Lord have mercy upon us and save us.