ΜΑΘΗΜΑΤΑ ΚΑΤΩΤΕΡΟΥ ΚΑΤΗΧΗΤΙΚΟΥ
Ἀπό τήν σειρά "Μαθαίνω γιά τόν Θεό", τόμ. Β΄
Ὁ Θεός στήν Καινή Διαθήκη
(Ἐκδόσεις "Χριστιανική Ἐλπίς" Ὀρθόδοξη Ἀδελφότητα)
The Parable of the Great Banquet
Do you know what is the biggest celebration in our church? We do not celebrate this just once a year, but every single week! And this celebration is the day of Sunday. But is it a celebration day every Sunday? Yes! This day belongs to God. In Greek the name of Sunday, which is “Kiriaki”, means that it belongs to the Lord. We do know that all days belong to God, because He's the one that gave them to us. But Sunday is a really special day. It is the Lord’s day, that he marked it with His name.
I believe that all of you have written your names on your notebooks, is that right? In this way you make clear that you own them. Even when we travel, we usually write our names on the bag tag, just in case we lose it, people can find the owner. This is the same about Sunday. Our Lord has given his name to this day of the week, so we all know, that this day is dedicated to him.
When did God give his name to this day? A long time ago it used to be called the first day of the week, just like Monday means the second day of the week in Greek and Tuesday means the third one and so on. So, Sunday got its name Kiriaki, right after the resurrection of Jesus, which took place on this very day. That is why every Sunday is like a small Easter, because we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Every Sunday is a feast!
Christ is risen on this day; let us all celebrate!
On this very important day something very sacred and holy takes place. Who knows what is happening every Sunday morning? Yes, the Divine liturgy. During the first years of Christianity the divine liturgy took place every single day. Even when the Christians, old and young, faced many difficulties to participate in the divine liturgy, their enthusiasm and excitement was great. Sometimes they risked even their lives! The government arrested the Christians, threw them in jail and even tortured them. And some of them ended up becoming Martyrs. For the ones imprisoned, though, their Christian brothers and sisters found ways to bring the Holy Communion to them. What about us? Do we have to face such dangerous situations? Do we feel the same excitement every Sunday morning, when we hear the church bells? Do we accept the invitation to the Sunday service?
I'm going to tell you a story now. (Lk 14:16-24) There was a rich man who wanted to invite over for a lovely dinner some important people. So, he did all the preparations for the big night. When everything was ready, he sent out his servants to announce that he was expecting all of them to attend! But the servants were quite surprised, as all of the dinner guests refused to go. Unfortunately, they all pretended to be busy for different reasons. One of them said “I’ve just bought some new land and I need to go there”. The other one said “I do apologise, but I can’t accept the invitation, as I have just bought 5 pairs of oxen and I need to see how they work at the farm”. The last one, also, had an excuse and said that “I have just been married and I can’t come, please, forgive me”.
When the servants returned home, they let the lord know all of the invited guests replies. They did not appreciate and accept the rich landlord’s invitation. Then, the lord got really frustrated because of all the bad excuses of his guests. So, he ordered his servants to go out and look everywhere in town for all the poor and disabled people and invite them over instead. These people may have been embarrassed to allow themselves near the rich man’s house. But how surprising, all of them thought that it was a great honour to receive such an invitation and they all decided to accept it! But the dinner hall was that big, that there was still left space for more guests. So, the lord asked the servants to find more people in need and the homeless to fill the banquet hall. As for the invited ones that didn’t attend, they chose to miss out on their own salvation.
This story is one of the parables that Jesus said when teaching the people. Do you know what a “parable” is? A parable is a story that usually comes from everyday life situations, but behind the human reality there are usually divine messages expressed by holy wisdom. Picture them as handmade pots that are filled with God’s truths.
What do you think about this parable? What is aiming to teach us?
The Landlord that sends out the invitations for the dinner is our God. The dinner that He’s inviting us all to, is the Divine Liturgy. The Church is big enough for everyone to join in! But it’s a pity that some people refuse the invitation. Every Sunday we are all guests to the dinner that God has prepared for us. And it is the richest and most significant dinner in the whole world! Joining this dinner means that we take care of our immortal soul, we feed it with the Holy Communion, which is Jesus’ flesh and blood, for our salvation.
Although, this is such an important moment in Church many people do not appreciate the value of it. They are missing out without realising how much it is worth! And they replace God’s dinner with junk food. In this way they offend God and they cause such damage to themselves.
What kind of excuses did the guests express in the parable? What about these days? What do people pretend to be busy for, so they can skip Sunday’s service? It was not a bad thing for the first guest to attend to his new farm, nor for the other one to work his new animals, or the last one to stay at home with his newly married wife. Why though the rich landlord was disappointed? Because the time they chose to be occupied with personal duties was the same with his dinner. They offended the landlord, by refusing to be there.
That is how some people behave in our days. They ignore the ringing of the church bells, which is God’s invitation, calling them to join in the liturgy. However, our God does not get frustrated with them, but he feels sad for these people. Isn’t He our dearest Father? Aren’t we His children? All the Saints and the Mother of God are there waiting for us. All the Angels are present along with our personal guard Angel during the Divine Liturgy. Christians all over the world attend and join in this big feast, even in the mud huts in Africa, but in the big cities of America, too.
Why miss the Divine Liturgy for trivial reasons? We can overcome the obstacles and temptations that don’t allow us to be in Church on Sunday. There are some children that have become a good example for their parents and friends. When they saw their excitement, willingness, love and determination not to miss out on any Sunday service, they got inspired by them and did the same. These children were so happy and strong to fight for the good, they made others’ hearts to follow and join in with them. Even when they would go on vacation, they would not miss the Sunday service! Do we have children among us that would do that? So, today let’s all decide together:
When the church bell calls us
to God’s home,
we’ll all be there!