Practicing Giving Self by Giving Alms

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

In his sixth and final Lenten guest article, Rev. Lou Kavar takes us through the history and theology of Holy Week (or Great Week) from the perspective of Eastern Christianity.

If you wish to continue following Rev. Lou, you may find plenty of his work, including his

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

In his sixth and final Lenten guest article, Rev. Lou Kavar takes us through the history and theology of Holy Week (or Great Week) from the perspective of Eastern Christianity.

If you wish to continue following Rev. Lou, you may find plenty of his work, including his seven published books, at www.loukavar.com

____________________________________

 

We find ourselves entering Holy Week.  Over this week, we engage in a kind of sacred theater by observing the final days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The observance of this week we now call “holy” developed slowly over church history.  Early Christian communities, mostly comprised of devout Jews who continued to observe the Sabbath on the last day of the week, would gather early on the morning for the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection with the breaking of the bread.  This practice, which evolved into what we know today as Sunday worship, was a weekly observance of the Resurrection.

In time, somewhere in the late third century, the church in Jerusalem began to reenact the procession of palms one Sunday followed by a larger celebration of the Resurrection on the next Sunday.   By the end of the fourth century, Palm Sunday and Holy Week began to be observed in other parts of Europe and the Middle East where Christianity was established.  In these observances, different regional traditions emerged.

In Eastern Christianity, while both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are observed, so were the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of what became known in the East as the Great Week.

On Wednesday, a special service commemorates the unnamed women who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair.  Then taking a jar of ointment, she broke it and poured it over him.  The gospels recount that what she did would be told wherever the good news was preached.  At the Wednesday service, oil is blessed and people are anointed for strength, healing, and wholeness while the story of this woman is re-told.

Thursday is the observance of the Lord’s Supper.  In most Eastern churches, there is not a washing of feet.  Where that custom is observed, it is a bishop who washes the feet of others.  The focus of this day is the meal.

Friday is a memorial of death of Jesus.  Special emphasis is placed on his burial, which merits its own evening service.  Until the celebration of the Resurrection, Eastern Christians will keep vigil at tombs containing an icon of the dead body of Jesus.  It is a vigil in anticipation of new life.

While the events memorialized are familiar to us, the theology that surrounds them is somewhat different from what is familiar to most of us.  In Eastern Christianity, these three events are understood to be something of parallels to each other.  It’s because that in these three events, there is a kenosis, a self-emptying, that takes place.  The woman empties herself with her tears and shatters a jar of a costly perfume.  Her  tears can never be taken back just as the ointment can not be put back in the bottle.  Similarly, in communion, Jesus gave a lasting memorial of his presence to his followers.  Again, a giving of self that couldn’t be taken back.  Finally, the death of Jesus drained him of all life.  Having fully given self, all we can do is hold silent vigil in awe of this self-emptying and wait with reverence and hope.

These three events remembered during Great Week invite us to empty our very selves, to give what is most precious away.  Just as we witness our teacher giving self so generously, so we are called to do the same.

It’s in this perspective that the third traditional Lenten practice, alms-giving, takes on its importance for Eastern Christians.  Giving money to those in need is a symbolic gesture of emptying self as did the Christ.  Ultimately, we are called to give all of ourselves as followers of Christ.  The events remembered during Great Week demonstrate various ways that can occur.  While growing into that ultimate goal, Eastern Christians practice alms-giving as a way to  practice how to give of one’s very self.

During this Great and Holy Week, consider how it is that you can learn to give of yourself, or to give from your heart, as one who follows the path of Jesus through Jerusalem to new life.

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/04/02/practicing-giving-self-by-giving-alms/

Recent Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now, but you can send us an email and we'll be in touch soon.

Not readable? Change text.