My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
TWO KINDS OF POVERTY: MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though He was rich, yet for your sake He
became poor, that you through His poverty might
become rich” [2 Corinthians 8:9].
What was Christ’s poverty? He emptied Himself (Gk. Kenosis) of His heavenly glory to join our humanity to His Divinity, and to suffer and die on our behalf. He did not owe this to us, but did so by His grace, that we “might become rich” to His salvation. Saint Paul writes, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). In this statement the holy Apostle calls our attention to Christ’s profound humility, a truth necessary for suffering Christians to understand and live out. The passage has been incorporated into many Orthodox hymns. Our Lord and Savior is He Who, being in the “form of God, is also in the “form of a bondservant”, in our likeness, and IS VOLUNTARILY SUBJECT TO DEATH. He Who has died, God has exalted and given the name “Lord”, a name which God the Son shares with God the Father from all Eternity.
“Emptied Himself” deals with the Son’s will, NOT His Nature. He emptied Himself NOT by laying down His Divine Nature or setting it aside, but BY VOLUNTARILY TAKING ON OUR HUMAN NATURE. To human beings He looks just like another human being for being truly INCARNATE. He is FULLY MAN by nature. He took the “form of bondservant”, voluntarily sharing our human condition EXCEPT FOR ONE THING: SIN. In His HUMANITY, He showed THE FULLNESS OF HUMILITY BY HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE DEATH WHICH HAS ENSLAVED HUMANITY. His death on the Cross BRINGS LIFE to all who are joined to Him.
The spiritually poor are those who are bereft of all grace, of God’s love, of salvation, of Christ. The people who resist the Gospel deprive themselves of all hope to enter the Kingdom of God. While the poverty of possessions and worldly wealth is bad, those, however, who are experiencing spiritual poverty suffer a great deal more. To be deprived of God’s Divine Love and Light is unthinkable. The Spiritually wealthy are all those who strive to constantly grow from one state of perfection to another, becoming “the image” of Christ, and throughout eternity remaining the image of “Him who created him.” They are those who believe in Jesus Christ and seek true life in Him awaiting the heavenly and glorious revelation!
Global poverty is one of the most tragic issues facing our world today, affecting millions upon millions of our fellow citizens. But what is poverty? Poverty is a state of deprivation in which people lack access to resources and basic necessities needed to live a healthy and dignified life. Living in poverty means not being able to afford medical care or access to basics such as shelter, food, clean water, clothing and for children to be educated. Not having the ability to work and to support and provide the essentials to one’s family. Only those who have experienced poverty can understand the grief and suffering of those who are now going through it. Children living in poverty often face obstacles to accessing quality education, which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty from one generation to the next. If poverty is to be eradicated from the world it will take the concerted effort of all countries to work together and resolve it once and for all time.
Spiritual poverty is also a state of deprivation in which people lack knowledge of Jesus Christ Who being our Great Benefactor and Creator provides not only nourishment for the body but also for the soul. He is the Life-Giver Whose love for mankind is infinite and unconditional. He is the True Provider and those who believe and follow Him will enjoy an abundance of blessings and “filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phllippians 1:11). The holy Apostle Paul exhorts everyone, “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the power of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7). No one needs to be spiritually hungry or thirsty; for Christ, our Lord, will quench both his/her hunger and thirst if one only asks Him for it.
Both material poverty and spiritual poverty can be rectified if only we are open to God’s will and Divine Teachings. There is absolutely no need for either poverty to exist and thrive in the world. Mankind simply needs to turn to the Creator of the world and of man and supplicate Him with faith and humility. What comes to mind is the feeding of the five thousand. “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples and the disciples to those sitting down and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’ Therefore they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign (miracle) that Jesus did, said; ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 8:11-14). The answer to poverty and to all other world and human problems is one, BELIEF IN JESUS CHRIST. To believe means to trust oneself completely to Him Who He is, what He does, and what He teaches and abides by them.
To prevent the occurrence of spiritual poverty one needs to strengthen one’s commitment to the Lord. Our lifestyle must conform to His commandments and precepts. A Christian life is a life in Christ. The Orthodox Christian ought to live a life of virtue, a moral life, a life of repentance, reconciliation and of obedience. There are no shortcuts to spiritual fulfillment and a life of holiness. The believer is one who is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of Christ, rather than compromise the integrity of his or her faith in Him. Everything that we do must have, as its ultimate goal, glory to our Savior Christ. We are His obedient servants and He is our Lord and Master. Saint Paul says, “And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction” (1 Corinthians 7:35). We, as Orthodox Christians wear our baptismal cross around our neck to remind us of His Cross and through it His Great Sacrifice to save mankind and too, to carry “his cross” to the end, a true disciple must be ready, if absolutely necessary, to sacrifice our very life for the Son of God, just as He did to save us. Jesus says, “He who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38).
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God