Several of the hymns from the services for Great and Holy Tuesday call to mind Christ’s parable of the Master who before going on a journey entrusts to his servants some of his money. When the master returns from his journey he demands an accounting from his servants as to what they did with the differing great sums of money he had entrusted to each of them. Here is the parable that Jesus tells according to St. Matthew (25:14-30) :
“”For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'”
That the hymns mention this particular parable of Christ makes me think that at some point in the past, the Gospel was read as part of Holy Week, though it no longer is. The theme is one of judgement and giving account. So as we come to the end of Lent we are reminded that we will have to give account of what we did with the time and the spiritual gifts Christ bestowed on us through the weeks of Lent.
You have heard the condemnation, my soul of the man who his his talent. Do not hide the Word of God. Proclaim His wonders, that increasing the gift of grace, you may enter into the joy of the Lord.
The hymn above again reminds us that these weeks of lenten abstinence are connected to a bigger picture of what it means to be a Christian. Fasting was not the goal of Lent, but a tool to help us focus on what is important to our our life as Christ’s disciples. The hymn says we each are like those in the Gospel Lesson who have been personally given a precious gift from God. In the above hymn the priceless gift is the Word of God. What have we done with the Word of God in our lives for these weeks of Great Lent? We might protest, but all the emphasis was on fasting, not on the Word of God, why is this only brought up at this point? Note in the hymn that the Word of God is a person, not a book. The Word of God is Jesus Christ. We were supposed to be making room in our hearts, souls and minds for Christ, the Word of God. To borrow some computer imager, abstinence from food or sin was supposed to be freeing up space and memory in order that our spiritual lives might run better and that we would have spiritual room in our lives for Christ the Word.
Come, Faithful, let us work zealously for the Master, for he distributes wealth to His servants. Let each of us according to his ability increase his talent of grace: Let one be adorned in wisdom through good works; let another celebrate a service in splendor. The one distributes his wealth to the poor; the other communicates the Word to those untaught. Thus we shall increase what has been entrusted to us, and, as faithful stewards of grace, we shall be accounted worthy of the Master’s joy. Make us worthy of this, Christ our God, in Your love for mankind.
Once again in the hymn we are reminded that Christ our Lord has distributed spiritual gifts to each of us and we are supposed to be using them to increase the wealth of grace given to us and to the Church as a whole. Good deeds such as being charitable to the poor, as well as worshiping God in the church services, and proclaiming the Word to those who do not yet know the Lord Jesus are all ways in which we increase the blessings God bestows on us. And like the Master in the parable, God will demand an accounting from us of what we have done with the gifts He gave us, with the time we have on earth, with the blessings he bestows on us. Lenten abstinence was meant to turn us away from ways in which we while away our time, or waste the blessings in selfish pursuit of pleasure. We were supposed to use the time of Lent in service of God and others!
Behold, the Master has entrusted you with the talent, my soul. Receive the gift with fear. Repay the One who gave by giving to the poor, and gain the Lord as your friend, so that when He comes in glory, you may stand at His right hand and hear His blessed voice: Enter, My servant, into the joy of your Lord! Even though I have gone astray, make me worthy of this savior, through Your great mercy.
Our works of charity and mercy are our ways of “repaying” God for the gift of existence and of eternal life. Many of the saints used the imagery that we indebt God to ourselves when we show charity to the needy. The hymn above reminds us of the Gospel Parable of the Last Judgment in which we are commanded to show mercy and charity to the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters. The real fast according to Isaiah 58 (a text we read in the last week of Great Lent) involved being merciful and charitable. God will accept that type of fasting and will bless us in eternity. All that we have including our time is a gift from God to be used to love and serve God’s children. Such is the spiritual fasting we were supposed to be doing through Lent – not wasting God’s gifts on our selfish self interests, but using them to extend God’s mercies and message to more people. If all we did during Lent was change our diet or inflict suffering on ourselves, we fell short of the goal – to open our hearts and lives to Christ so that we might be more Christ-like in our love for neighbor and our faithfulness to our Father in heaven.