Saturday, December 16, 2006


[Excerpted from the book "LIVING IN THE EIGHTH DAY" by Fr. John-Brian
Paprock, page 125-126]

The three wise men that came to Bethlehem and saw the newborn Savior of the
world brought gifts symbolic of the noblest of our possessions. The
scripture is clear that these gifts came from their treasure, from their
security, their savings. But if that was the only place from which they
were offered they would not have been worthy. These wise men fell down and
worshipped him and offered their gifts out of the love that was expressed in
their actions. This love is the common source of all genuine giving and
receiving. Armenian Catholicos Karekin II wrote in his book "In Search of
Spiritual Life" (NY 1994):

"Had their gifts not been proceeded and motivated by the act of love
expressed in kneeling, adoration and worship, their value would not have
been as great and as authentic as their material wealth would suggest. St.
Gregory of Narek, the greatest mystical poet of our Church, says: "I look
not upon the gift but upon the giver." It is the spirit of the gift that
makes the real gift, gives color and quality, meaning and value to what is
given. A gift in which there is no self-giving is no gift; a gift in which
love, care, sacrifice are not wrapped, is a show of gift but is not a gift
in Christ-like spirit and form, a genuinely true Christmas gift."

Yes, indeed the gifts of the wise men were graciously received.

A lot of giving and receiving seems to happen at this time of year. However,
much if it is merely buying and selling. Often it is only trading capital
investment in material objects for emotional security of the affection from
others. There is in this culture too much of the buying and selling
mentality. The gift lists are usually related to who is likely to expect a
gift, likely to give one back, likely to appreciate our giving. Of course,
I participate in this annual giving tradition, but I keep in mind the
lessons I have learned about giving and receiving.

Kochamma and our family gave to a soldier without family, to a family in
poverty and to the long-term success of a village in poverty. As a small
mission, we give of our resources to the poor, the oppressed, the suffering.
Many of us volunteer or work to the soothing of human suffering. We give
our hands to the service of our fellow human beings. Yes, we also gave
presents to individuals and to each other. But none is more important than
the loving gift that blesses both the giver and the receiver - that doesn't
wait for Christmas or tragedy to give (although these are not bad reasons to

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet, wrote: "You give little when you give of
your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

May all our gifts so bless others and may we be gracious receivers so that
others may also be blessed. Sometimes the gift of humane presence is of
greater value - the bowing in adoring service to Christ-light of everyone
born (John 1:9).



By Fr. John-Brian Paprock

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Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Parish

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