Transforming Greed into Gratitude
“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has, this requires transforming greed into gratitude.” -St John Chrysostom
As November arrives our minds naturally turn toward Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the year’s end. I know many of you are thankful this year in particular has almost come to an end. To say it has been, and continues to be a struggle, is an understatement. But even in times of struggle, it is even more necessary to be thankful for the gifts God has given us and to offer them up to Him.
The fundamental purpose of our worship as Orthodox Christians is giving thanks. Translated from Greek, the Eucharist literally means thanksgiving. Each time we participate in the Divine Liturgy, we offer up what God has given us so that He may transform it and offer it back to us for our nourishment and sanctification. The priest does this as he presents the offering to be consecrated from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. But is he the sole offerer in the Divine Liturgy? Most certainly not.
The people play a significant role in the Divine Liturgy. This is evidenced, not only by the fact that a priest can never celebrate it without at least one other person, but by the text of the Liturgy itself, which necessitates the response of‘Laos’ – the people. The priest has much to say during the Liturgy, but the people have a response. The chanters and the choir guide that response, but your voice is also important.
Furthermore, our participation is not limited to our responses in Liturgy, but extends to our individual prayers – for successes, struggles, for others, or whatever they may be – together with our brothers and sisters in Christ so that He may take those and transform us. Do we think of this deep aspect of our worship? Are we passive observers looking to take away something simply for ourselves? If we find ourselves answering that we are passive observers, this really can be a form of greed.
When we hear the word greed, we usually think of it in terms of getting more of some material good than we need – money, clothes, cars, houses, etc. But we are spiritual beings and greed applies to it as well. Christ came not to save individuals, but all nations. So if our goal is simply to receive something for ourselves then we are missing the point of our communal worship because no one is saved alone. The entire purpose of coming together is to be united to Christ AND one another.
We all know greed is a never ending downward spiral and the more we feed it the worse it gets. So if we come to Church with the heart and mind simply to take something away for ourselves and not engage with our community, then for what are we really training ourselves when it comes to the rest of our lives?
As we begin this festive season, let’s think more intently on St. John Chrysostom’s words. Our material successes may give us happiness from moment to moment, but those things can easily be destroyed if we are focused only on ourselves. True joy does not come from such things. It comes from a gratitude in knowing God has reunited us to Him through His son Jesus Christ, and that in every moment of this life we have an opportunity of offer Him thanks for this. Together let’s find ways to make this a reality in our Holy Trinity community.