It is the custom in the Orthodox Church on August 6th‚ the day of the Transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor‚ to bring the first fruits of the fall harvest into church‚ as a first offering to God from the gifts that He so richly bestows upon us. Of course He personally does not need any material goods from us‚ as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe‚ but He so desires to see us displaying a giving and loving heart “a humble and lowly heart‚ God will not despise” (Ps. 50).
What God hopes is to see that we stop for a minute and reflect on the relationship the exists between us and our Maker‚ that we respond back to His generous acts of love through a similar gesture‚ by making a small sacrifice from the plenty He has already offered. He only desires for us to transcend our fallen nature that strays away from God‚ deepening itself into a lack of thanksgiving‚ and turn to Him with grateful hearts ‚ drawing close to Him to enter into a new state of being and share into eternal life. True life is an exchange of Gifts‚ with God making always the first offering‚ expecting us to respond back‚ as proof of our love and communion with Him.
Why am I bringing this up before Pascha?
First because this change of heart from ungratefulness to thanksgiving‚ from separation to Communion‚ is only accomplished in the sacrifice of the First and Only Son of God‚ Who‚ on the Great and Holy Friday gives Himself up as an offering for all and unto all. Only through His death and His glorious Resurrection and Ascension into heavens we can change. Only by following in His footsteps we are able to transfigure this mortal flesh into life everlasting.
Second because this is our first year in this beautiful New Church that through the grace of God we were able to build as a stronghold of Orthodoxy in these lands of plenty. It is for us a year of firsts: first Liturgy‚ first Marriage‚ first Baptism‚ first Funeral‚ all culminating in the first Great Resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ that we are about to celebrate together.
God has again made the first step; He has already offered us in abundance. What I want to challenge each and every one of us‚ as we are about to follow Him onto the road to Resurrection‚ is what are we going to offer as first fruits in return for the great gifts already bestowed upon us? How are we going to show our love for Him‚ how are we going to show commitment to our salvation in Him‚ to our personal resurrection?
Someone said that hell is a room that is locked from the inside‚ but I say we also hold the key to heavens! Christ has open for us the doors of paradise with a sinner‚ not with a righteous. Aren’t we all sinners? Aren’t we all awaiting the mercy of God? All we have to do is welcome Him in our lives through true repentance‚ answer to the knock in which He patiently persists and dine with Him at the Holy Table of the Kingdom.
The first fruits that God truly wants are our redeemed souls. Christ first harvest was in Hades when He lifted up Adam from corruption into life. Adam’s restoration could be ours‚ if‚ in this very moment‚ we commit to Christ and start our journey towards the Kingdom. It is never too late to start; the workers of the eleventh hour will receive just as much pay as the ones that started from the first.
This journey however goes through the hill of Golgotha. It is not an easy road just as it was not easy to Christ to carry up His cross‚ but He did‚ for all of us; we only need to carry it for ourselves. From the outside‚ walking up that hill seems hard and pointless because at the end is the crucifixion‚ and we are afraid of suffering and death. But Golgotha is not the end‚ Golgotha is only the beginning. The cross is not death‚ the cross is life.
Lifting up our crosses by committing first to Christ and giving up so many things other seem to enjoy‚ is not to die‚ as it May so easily appear‚ but is to gain real life‚ life that is anchored not in perishable matter‚ but in the Incorruptible God. Golgotha is the place on high where we can spread our wings and fly from this fallen world unto the Kingdom.
Christ is risen from this place of death and with His Resurrection starts our journey to Him. He is risen indeed and life abounds‚ heaven is open and we can enter paradise. He has done all these first; the response is up to us.