Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


One fine girl who lived in a Judean city then called Joppa (today's Jaffa), a harbor of the Hebrew nation, had the name Dorcas or Tabitha in Hebrew which means gazelle. Dorcas, the young girl of Joppa, was a much loved person in her community. She was not the daughter of some rich or prominent family; no, she was a poor girl, a seamstress who lived by her needle. But this poor girl was a noble human being who held a spiritual treasure in her heart. That spiritual treasure, which has nothing to do with worldly treasures, was her virtues. From the moment she believed in Christ, was baptized and become a Christian, Dorcas proved that she didn't simply want to be called a Christian but wanted to live according to the commandments of the Bible. The most important commandment the Christ brought to the world is the commandment of love: "Love one another." In her life, Dorcas applied this commandment to an absolute degree.

Dorcas wasn't rich; she didn't have money enough to give alms to the poor. Many think that only the rich can give alms. "What can we give?" they say. "We need to be helped, not help others." However, Dorcas, this fine girl from Joppa, teaches us all that those who have love in their hearts can do a lot for others, even if they don't have money. Dorcas, as today's Epistle reading tells us, offered her professional abilities as a seamstress to the poor. She sewed clothes for orphans and widows for nothing. She performed many other kindnesses as well, which the Acts of the Apostles does not specifically mention but only says: "This woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did." Dorcas wasn't, as they say, an empty glass but a glass full of the refreshing water of love. With it she watered and refreshed people who were thirsty for love, for help, and for benevolence. Dorcas was full of works of love and charity. What a blessed girl! While rich women and girls who lived in Joppa spent their time in vain amusement, paying absolutely no attention to the poor, the orphans, and the widows, Dorcas became a fountain of love - a fountain that flowed and gave charity to the world in spite of her poverty. When she became sick and died, all the poor, all the orphans, and all the widows who had found consolation and protection near her mourned. She had been an affectionate mother to this suffering world.

The Christians of Joppa, the orphans and widows that Dorcas cared for, believed that whatever God does is done for the best. They were only expressing with tears the pain they felt at her death. They didn't want Dorcas to die but to live many more years and to be with them. That is why, as soon as Dorcas fell sick and they saw that day by day the illness was becoming worse and she was in danger of dying, they sent for the Apostle Peter, who was at a nearby city. But by the time Peter arrived, Dorcas had died. Seeing the sorrow Dorcas's death brought on, Peter kneeled, prayed, and then said to the dead girl, "Tabitha, arise," and the miracle happened. The dead girl opened her eyes, sat up, and started speaking! The miracle became known throughout the whole district immediately, and the people believed in Christ.

Dorcas, this exemplary girl from Joppa, teaches us a lot. But pay close attention to a detail - the name of this fine girl. She was called Dorcas, and she proved herself to be a Dorcas. That is to say, just as the gazelle is an agile animal that runs everywhere and traverses great distances until it finds pure water, in the same way this daughter of Joppa ran and did not rest until she drank the water and was refreshed, or, to put it another way, until she could do good to other people. Doing good to others was like being refreshed herself. And just as the gazelle looks to the left and to the right so as not to fall into the trap of the hunters, this daughter of Joppa did the same thing. She was a very careful disciple of Christ. Spreading good works both to the left and to the right, she was careful not to fall into the traps of the Devil; she kept her body clean and freed from the sins of pride and vanity. Thus she lived up to the name that had been given to her. She was Dorcas not only in name, but also in deed.

We, beloved, have names greater than the name that this noble young woman of Joppa had. We have Christian names, names that the saints had, these great heroes of our Orthodox faith. These names were given to us at the time we were baptized to remind us always that we must live as the saints did. What a shame to live contrary to the lives of those saints whose names we have. IT is like insulting them and dishonoring their sacred memories. Even worse is to blaspheme and dishonor another name, which is above all other names - the name Christian. Our names call to us: O Orthodox Christians, either change your name or change your behavior.

May all of us who have Christian names realize our responsibility and live a perfect Christian life in accordance with the Bible so that there may be harmony between our names and our lives. Sermon on the epistle for the Sunday of the Paralytic from Sparks from the Apostles by Bishop Augoustinos of Florina

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