St Gregory the Illuminator – Labor and Charity

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we celebrate the feast day of a great saint and father among the saints today, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, Catholicos of Great Armenia and its patron saint, or as our Armenian brethren would address as “Sourp Krikor Lusavorich”.

The saint converted the king and nation of Armenia to Christianity in 301 AD, making Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its state faith. The saint lived for 74 years, laboring for the work of Christ for the salvation of His people.

The many illustrious and inspirational stories of fathers among the saints, and many other saints who labored and martyred for their faith in Christ and their love for all people, show us not only the turning of cold hearts to Christ, but also the Spirit-filled hard work of such saints.

As we reflect on Ecclesiastes 10:1-10, we find that Holy Scripture has taught us that hard work refines us, just as a blunt knife can be sharpened against hard stone and use. The Lord has made us to be creatures of labor, and that we are gifted with the intelligence to do many tasks. With time, we are also to find wisdom through consistent labor and sustained effort. There is truly, no wisdom or fruition without labor.

As we labor through life, one of the many events that we would encounter is that we would either lead, or follow. Again, the Holy Scripture has given us much to reflect and especially to live by. In Ephesians 5:33-6:9, we see that the underlying principle is that if we are to lead others in labor, we would offer respect to those who labor for us, as only God is our Master and we are not masters to others, but parents. And if we labor for others, we are to respect our superiors. We read from Ephesians that we are not to simply sugar coat words when laboring for others, or be insincere. We are to offer sincere service to our superiors, and put on the mantle of a servant of Christ, with our labor as our ministry, with fear and trembling as we labor for the honor and joy of God, for God is our arbiter and our judge, and God rewards us who labor with love.

While we are reminded in Holy Scripture that we are to labor with joy, and labor with gusto, while keeping our faith and our prayer unto God, we must also not forget those who suffer. Deuteronomy 24:18-22 is especially meaningful in the contemporary world we live in today. With the widespread poverty due to various economic conditions and natural disasters, there is much suffering, and more communities have sunken to new lows.

Our God commanded us in Deuteronomy 24:18-22 that when we harvest our fields, we shall not return to take the leftover crops we forgot to harvest; or to return to our olive plantation to remove the leftover fruits on our trees after we gathered most of the fruits. Likewise, we are to leave behind the little leftover grape clusters after we have harvested our vineyard. Why?

Our God intended that we enjoy our full harvest after our hard labor, but also commanded us to be charitable to the impoverished. Our God has blessed us abundantly after our labors, and that those who do not have any food on the table, can also at least survive. After all, God is impartial to His creation, and rewards those who lives and walks the path of Christ.

While we labor, let us never lose sight of God either. As we reflect on St Luke 6:12-19, Christ healed many in His journey, and yet, He specifically showed us that prayer is key. He would also go to the mountain and pray, for the entire night. We would labor in our daily work with love for the sake of others and the blessings God gifted us, and we would also labor in our daily prayer with love unto God.

Let us keep the Holy Name of Christ our Lord everyday, as we labor. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Deuteronomy 24:18-22
Ecclesiastes 10:1-10
St Luke 6:12-19
Ephesians 5:33-6:9