Saturday, November 5, 2016


In today's Gospel, our Lord relates a parable concerning "a certain rich man" (no name given), and "a certain beggar named lazarus."  Now it comes to pass that "the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom,"   while  "the rich man  also died, and was buried." 

As Orthodox Christians, when we are baptized, receive Holy Communion, or partake of any other sacramental rite of the Church, we are called by name.  Likewise, when the particles are taken from the prosphora during the proskomide in order to commemorate the living and the dead, a name must be pronounced.  And not just any name, but rather the name of that saint with whom we share a sacred bond.  Thus, it is improper for a convert to use a secular name in the world, while reserving their "church name" for "religious" occasions. 

As individuals striving to achieve personhood in and through Christ, we are known to God by name.  This name signifies our inner essence and our personal connection to God.  The rich man--being totally absorbed by the "good things" of this life rather than the love of God--essentially has no name, and therefore he has set himself apart from those eternal, heavenly good things God has in store for those who love Him and abide by His commandments. 

Thus Lazarus--having patiently endured the trials and tribulations of this earthly life--finds himself worthy to ascend to a place of eternal rest, while the rich man--having been simply buried in the earth like an irrational beast--has placed himself outside the sphere of God's grace, where he experiences the fiery torment of a hell of his own making.

Yet it is neither the case that God rewards the righteous by allowing him to go to heaven, nor does He punish the  sinner by "sending" him to a place of eternal torment.  That impassible gulf that separates the one from the other is a natural consequence of those choices we have freely made in this life: either we strive by the grace of God to become partakers of the divine nature, or we choose instead to live a self-centered, worldly, and passionate life.  May we all, therefore, choose wisely while there is still time, lest we find ourselves in the end trapped eternally in a place of eternal darkness--where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

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