As Lent fasting begins once more and we settle in to that lovely atmosphere that comes with it, I am reminded by the traditional threefold focus of Lent in the Coptic Church: Fasting, Prayer and Charity. In Arabic, this triad is a delightful alliteration – “Soam, Salla, Sadaka”, but all my efforts to come up with an English version have failed. The best I could do was Abstinence, Adoration, Almsgiving, which of course is a terribly inaccurate translation.
This triad actually comes from the Gospel for the preparatory Sunday of Lent (which we read last Sunday)…
Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men…
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites…
Matthew 6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites…
The emphasis, as is clear from the snippets above, is to practice these three things sincerely. If you wish your gift to God to be acceptable to Him, then it must come from the heart. How I yearn that we could banish ‘routine’ spiritual practices from our lives!
No doubt the dear reader will find a wealth of appropriate spiritual guidance regarding their prayers and fasting from their confession fathers. Our charitable deeds of course includes donating our tithes on a regular basis, but that does not mean we shouldn’t give over and above that where we see a need.
People sometimes ask for advice on where to pay one’s tithes and charitable donations. I always encourage them to make their basic charity their own parish, for a parish is a community shared by many, and what you put in is what you will get out of it. Another way to put it might be that a congregation will always get the parish it deserves. If no one cares, the parish will offer little, but if people enthusiastically support their parish it can grow and develop and meet more of the needs of its congregation.
But there also many other worthy causes in this world, and it is perhaps sensible to set aside a portion of one’s tithes for a cause one believes in passionately. The world is full of poverty, and we surely have a responsibility to share at least some of our wealth with those less fortunate than us. Sponsoring a child or funding a clean water well can be done through a variety of charity organisations such as Worldvision, Oxfam or our own Coptic Orphans, COPT or Lagnet El Berr.
But here are three other very worthy organisations who desperately need financial support in order to continue their extremely valuable missions. I hope you will consider them when it comes time to practice a little charity.
How do we reach youth who have left Church and lost their faith? How can we help youth who have fallen prey to addiction or temptation? Exodus Youthworx has been operating for years now to reach out to the lost sheep of our community and reconnect them with the love and compassion of Christ. It provides a centre for these youth to gather where they can be gently reintroduced to their faith and their Church, as well as a shelter for youth in crisis. Supporting the full time youth worker essential for the success of this desperately needed service is an expensive business, but every dollar donated to this charity goes a long, long way.
COCOS has been doing tremendous work with the homeless of Sydney for many years now. They have an open door policy and reject no one. Their Food Van service provides not only nourishment and basic physical needs for dozens every week, it also provides something far more valuable: human companionship – unjudging acceptance and love to people who are desperately trying to live out shattered lives.
Fr Peter Farrington of our daughter British Orthodox Church is an active missionary priest striving to bring more of the Britons to Orthodox Christianity. He fields hundreds of enquiries but is severely limited in his ability to respond because he must support himself with a full time job. If he gets enough regular contributors, he can devote himself to mission work full time.