Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast: The Parable of the Rich man and Lazaros

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast: The Parable of the Rich man
and Lazarus.

There are certain parts of the sea which reem with huge beasts like sea monsters. Those who sail there hang bells from their ships so that the creatures panic and flee at the sound. Many wild things far more horrible breed in the sea of our life: THE EVIL PASSIONS and the even more EVIL DEMONS who supervise them. God’s Church sails upon this sea like a ship, and instead of bells, IT HAS SPIRITUAL TEACHERS to ward off the invisible beasts by the holy sound of their teaching. Prefiguring this, Aaron’s robe had sweet-sounding bells fastened to its edge, and it was decreed that when Aaron ministered their sound should be heard [Exodus 27:21-35].

Turning the literal into the spiritual good effect,, let our words ring out to you now spiritually, especially in this time of fasting when VISIBLE and INVISIBLE BEASTS MAKE TERRIBLE ATTACKS. The visible ones ARE GLUTTONY, DRUNKENNESS, and the like. The ones that lie INVISIBLY IN WAIT ARE VAINGLORY, PRIDE, SELF-CONCEIT, AND HYPOCRISY. The same sound puts such beasts to flight and safeguards those who practice fasting.

If we practice true fasting we shall trample here and now on the fire in our flesh and quench it, and in the time to come, we shall pass unharmed through the furnace when each one’s work will be tried by fire (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). As for the Lord of the Prophets, what can we say about Him? When He took flesh and became man for our sake, He taught us THE WAY TO DEFEAT THE DEVIL by the fact that, while fasting, He was completely victorious over him when he stirred up every kind of temptation against Him. He also told His Disciples, with reference to the deaf and dumb spirit, that "This demon comes forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:21).

Let us show you, brethren, what sort of fasting is true and pleasing to God. You should be aware that we do not commend physical fasting FOR ITS OWN SAKE, but because IT BRINGS ABOUT OTHER, GREATER BENEFITS FOR THE SOUL. Fasting is beneficial when it is undertaken for quelling desire, humbling the soul, transforming hatred, extinguishing anger, erasing remembrance of wrongs, and for the purity of the understanding and the practice of prayer. If you are well off, let your surplus food be a consolation for the needy. When you fast like this you not only suffer with Christ and are dead with Him but you are risen with Him and reign with Him forever and ever. If through such a fast you have been planted together in the LIKENESS of His Death, you shall also share in His RESURRECTION and inherit life in Him (cf. Romans 6:5). Should the faster be tempted, he overcomes his tempter. Should he not be, he preserves the peace of his soul and body by bruising his body, according to Saint Paul, and bringing it into subjection, for fear of being rejected (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27).

The holy Gospel reading on this Sunday is Luke 16:19-31. "And there was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen., and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain poor man named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the poor man died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried…"

Saint Theoopylact in his commentary writes: "These words follow closely upon what was said before. Because the Lord taught how we are to be good stewards of wealth, and He appropriately adds this Parable which teaches that through the example of the rich man. The Lord fashioned this story to teach those who show no mercy and give no alms (charity) what punishments await them, and to teach those who are suffering what good things they will enjoy on account of the sufferings they patiently endure in this life. The Lord gave no name to the rich man in this Parable because such a man is not worthy to be remembered by God by name. But the Lord mentions the poor man by name, for the names of the righteous, are inscribed in the Book of Life…The rich man was awash in wealth, so much so that he clothed himself in purple and costly linen. Not only this, but he also luxuriated in every other kind of luxury…But Lazarus was destitute and grievously diseased, for it says that he was "full of sores." Lazarus also had the added torment of seeing others feasting to excess while he himself starved. He desired to be fed, not with their costly foods, but with the crumbs of these foods, the same crumbs which the dogs ate. Did he revile the luxury of the rich man? Did he condemn his callousness? Did he accuse the Divine Providence? He did none of these things, even in thought; rather, he bravely and wisely endured all. How do we know this? From the fact that the Angels took him when he died. For if he had been a grumbler and a blasphemer, he would not have been deemed worthy of such an honor, to be escorted by the Angels. "The rich man also died, and was buried." In truth, while he still lived HIS SOUL HAD BEEN BURIED ALIVE, ENTOMBED WITHIN HIS FLESH. Therefore, when he died, his soul was NOT led away by the Angels but instead was borne downwards into hades. He who has never had a single lofty or heavenly thought deserves the lowest place. Thus by saying that he was "buried" the Lord implies that the rich man’s soul received its portion in the lowest and darkest place.

vs. 23-26. "And in hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

"When the Lord cast Adam out of Paradise He settled him in a place just opposite, so THAT THE CONTINUOUS SIGHT OF PARADISE BEFORE HIS EYES WOULD KEEP FRESH IN HIS MIND THE CALAMITY THAT HAD BEFALLEN HIM AND WOULD AROUSE IN HIM A SHARPER SENSE OF HIS FALL FROM GOOD THINGS. In like manner, the Lord condemned the rich man to a place just opposite Lazarus, so that the sight of him in such a blessed state might awaken in the rich man the realization of the good things he lost because OF HIS CRUELTY. Why was it that he saw Lazarus in the bosom "of Abraham," and not of any other of the righteous? Because Abraham showed HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS. The rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham AS A REPROOF OF HIS OWN INHOSPITALITY.

"The chasm indicates the separation and the difference that exists between the RIGHTEOUS and the SINNERS. Just as their choices were far different in this life, so too their dwelling places in the next life are separated by a great distance, each one receiving as his due the reward appropriate to his choices in this life…Therefore it is impossible for anyone to go from the place apportioned to the righteous to the place of the sinners, and likewise. Abraham teaches us, it is impossible to go from the place of punishment to the place of the righteous. What is hades? Some say that it is a place of darkness beneath the earth; others have said that hades is the departure of the soul from that which is seen to that which is unseen and invisible. While the soul is in the body, it is manifested through ITS OWN ENERGIES [WHICH ANIMATE THE BODY], BUT WHEN THE SOUL HAS DEPARTED FROM THE BODY IT BECOMES INVISIBLE. This is hades, they say. "The bosom of Abraham" is the ENCLOSURE WITHIN WHICH ARE STORED UP THE GOOD THINGS THAT AWAIT THE RIGHTEOUS, who after the storm have found the heavenly haven.

vs. 27-31. "Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brothers; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment…"

"The miserable rich man, having failed in his request for himself, now makes supplication on behalf of others. How then does Abraham reply? "They have Moses." …Let them hear Abraham who says that if we do not give heed to the Scriptures, we will not believe even those who come from hades. For the devil by trickery has appeared to raise the dead and by this means has deceived the foolish, and concerning those in hades he spreads doctrines worthy of his own wickedness. But no such trickery can prevail against those who make wise study of the Scriptures. For the Scriptures are a lamp and a light, and when light shines, the thief appears and is discovered. Therefore, let us believe the Holy Scripture let it lie idle, and let us not seek out resurrections from the dead.

"Do not be rich in wickedness and overlook your mind which is starved and cast down, although it was created to be borne aloft. Do not let it wander outside, nor let it lie idly on the ground, but lead it within and let it act. Then there will be in you the working of the mind and the spirit, and not merely the feasting of the flesh. Likewise, there are other elements of this Parable that may easily be understood for your moral benefit." [Source: Saint Gregory Palamas.  The HOMILIES; The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke]

"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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