Monday, December 10, 2012

Women of Faith - The Philoptochos Society



Eighty-one years ago in 1931, the Philoptochos was founded in the Greek Orthodox Church as a philanthropic organization to benefit the poor and disadvantaged. and is now comprised of 27,500 members in 485 Chapters nationwide. Through this massive effort the women in our parishes are in part fulfilling our purpose as a Orthodox Christian. 

What is our purpose as a Christian? Why do we do all that we do?
As an Orthodox Christian we do it to become united with Christ out of our love for God. We do it to become one with Him, to unite our will with His, so we can do His will to live like Christ. This we call Theosis. 
As it says in the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven... Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". 

If we are able to do this, what do we have? 
   The promise of eternal life in His kingdom. 
But wait, salvation is not something we earn through our own efforts. 
It only comes by the grace of God. Isn't it necessary to do more than just good works? After all, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, one of the richest men on this earth, gives lots of money to do good and he is an atheist, he does not believe there is a God. 

The Philoptochos mission says in addition to serving the poor and disadvantaged: "Perpetuate Orthodox Christian concepts & promote the Orthodox Faith." 
Why is this included in the mission? Why is in not enough to do good things, to help the poor? 
 Because, even a non believer like Bill Gates can do good things. Good works is not sufficient,
As a Christian, our motivation behind our work is important. Everything we do must be done because we love God and desire to glorify Him through out work. It must be done out of our faith in Jesus Christ. Our love for Him. 

We must not confuse our good works with our personal wants and desires. We don't want to do it only to be accepted in the group, to fulfill an obligation to all the other ladies. We don't want to do it for any kind of recognition. Those who are proud of their work carry the same sin as Adam and Eve. 

So why does the Philoptochos mission include the promotion of faith? 
What is true faith? 
Based on faith we were Baptized and Chrismated in the Orthodox Church, what did this bring? 
We were given the Holy Spirit. Why? To receive God's grace and dedicate your life to do His will. 

Guess what, this Spirit we received must be continually nurtured, allowing it to grow in our heart. As it grows we gain in our faith. As we gain in faith God's presence becomes stronger. As it becomes stronger our actions become less self centered. Our actions become aligned with God's.

Think about the faith of St Barbara the patron Saint of the Saint George parish's society chapter. She had a faith that had no fear of death.  She knew her father persecuted Christians. Yet, what did she do? She had no fear in changing the widows on his bath house under construction to make a public statement of her faith, knowing she would be punished by him because of this.  She proclaimed her faith without any fear of death or punishment that she knew was sure to come. Work in Philoptochos should nurture this kind of faith in each of us. 

What is faith? Lets explore this a bit.
Our Church Fathers emphasize that it is not simply a belief, but a way of life.
Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits....every good tree bears fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. therefore by your fruits you will know them.” (Matt 7:16-20)

Faith is beyond the level  of our senses. It does not contradict our senses but is beyond them. It involves a higher power. Our senses are limited to physical things. As Paul put it, Faith is not what is seen by the human eye (2 Cor 5:7).

Faith is also beyond the level of the intellect, our mind. It does not contradict the intellect but leads us to a higher level of understanding that mind cannot reach.

Don't we often we feel what the mind cannot understand is unattainable. I know this is true for me.  The reality is, our mind is limited and can only understand in limited ways. Our mind must accept some things it cannot understand. Like the virgin birth of Christ, the Incarnation of God which we are about to celebrate, the foundation of our faith, God became man so we could be renewed and become reunited with Him. 
There are also  things in the physical world where experts know things we cannot understand. One that always baffles my mind is TV. How can picture appear from so far away. Its physical and there are people who understand it but its something I will probably never really understand.

Our Mind accepts death but cannot understand it. It does not understand miracles. We must respect the mind but also appreciate its limits. What we need for faith is a humble mind. We cannot allow our mind to limit our faith in God.

Even though we cannot see God, With faith we have confidence that He is always before us and we can act knowing He will see and hear us.
With faith, we know that He is with us in the midst of our work,  just as He promised when He said, “I am in the midst of them" (Matt 18:20).  We do not see him physically but we believe in Him without seeing.

With faith we live in confidence that He is indeed in front of us always.  This is what differentiates a believer and a non-believer. This is what we have that a person like Bill Gates lacks. This is the attitude we must have as an Orthodox Christian in all our work. This involves much more than the memorization of a creed.

Life in faith is a life in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
His Spirit is working in the Church which is the body of Christ on earth. We don’t see it but believe it.

There is more. Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” (1Cor 6:19)
When one dies we say that His Spirit has left his body.
Faith concerns the destiny of our Spirit, does it go to heaven or hell. faith concerns our return to the spiritual body in the resurrection and our destiny after resurrection for eternal life after the last judgment. To speak of eternal life demands faith.

Faith is that you seek God in all matters. Jesus said, “For without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) St. Paul says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Our work is to participate with God in His work for us. This is our participation with the Godly nature, with the Holy Spirit participating with God at work. St Paul says, “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor 3:9) Any work in which God does not participate is not a holy or blessed work. We are tools in His hands doing His will.

A believer is one who depends on God and yields everything to Him. 
He says, “My life is the work of your hands and it is now between Your hands, do with it what You want.” I will go wherever you want. You are the doer of benevolence. As Paul says, You are the wisdom (1  Cor 1:24) You are “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:3)

How do we test our faith? we can it by the extent we care about our life in eternity:
Is this your primary orientation or is it one that focuses on this world and how successful you are, how you are seen by others,  and how you enjoy its pleasures? Or, can you say, I am most interested in preparing myself for eternity and destiny in the other world?

But what must we do to nurture this? This is the greatest gift we have received from Christ. He showed us the way and established His Church so we could nurture our faith.
We must participate regularly in the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Confession. We must pray daily in morning and evening and strive to, pray all day long. We must fast. The weekly fast as well as the period fasting periods given to by the Wisdom of the Church. These are the gifts Christ gave to us out of His love. He showed us how to become like Himself, how to be united with Him in eternity. This is why He established the Church with all its liturgies and its practices, so we could nurture our faith, to deepen it day by day, to allow the Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism to work through us.  We are His instruments in this world. Though us His grace works on things of this world.

Philanthropy is a tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church that dates back to the Byzantine Empire. It is identified with love and active feelings of benevolence toward any person, independent of the person’s identity. This caring and love comes with faith. 

The Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, has held fast to this tradition of philanthropy, and has fervently strengthened the sense of love and compassion for all individuals that are in need. Thus, being participant of  Philoptochos really means actively living and practicing our Orthodox faith.  There can be no better response to the question of why participate in  Philoptochos than to say membership is the manifestation and witness of faith as an Orthodox Christian. As our Society evolves, our members experience the satisfaction of participating, giving and sharing in our most worthy philanthropic endeavors, as friendships are made and a connectedness between individuals is nurtured.

Let's not be satisfied with our current efforts. Let us encourage all of our friends, especially the younger members of our parish, to become a part of this enriching and fulfilling experience. This will fulfill the full mission of Philoptochos to "Perpetuate Orthodox Christian concepts & promote the Orthodox Faith."

2 comments:

  1. A believer is one who depends on God and yields everything to Him. 
He says, “My life is the work of your hands and it is now between Your hands, do with it what You want.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Our chapter of Philoptochos is very wealthy. Go figure.

    ReplyDelete