Almsgiving: The Queen of the Virtues

by St. John Chrysostom

Almsgiving is the queen of virtues--she quickly raises humans to heavenly vaults and she is the most excellent counselor: almsgiving is a great act! That is the reason why Solomon exclaimed, "He that has a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he gives of his bread to the poor" (Proverbs 22:9). Almsgiving soars over everything--it journeys through the air, across the moon, over the sun, reaches to Heaven itself; but it does not stop there--it stretches over Heaven too--soaring over the Angels and Archangels, over all Heavenly Powers and presents herself before the very Throne of the King of kings! 

Believe this and learn from Scripture itself which tells us, "Cornelius, thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God" (Acts, 10:4).  The words "before God" mean: even though you have many sins, if your almsgiving is in your defense, no heavenly power can stop her--she carries your defense in her hands. Hear the voice of the Lord Himself on this subject: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew, 25:40).

Therefore, regardless of how many sins are hidden in your soul, almsgiving can be their ransom and thus save your soul.  Do you not know the parable of the ten virgins in the Gospel?  Even though they excelled in their virginity, they were left outside of the bridal chamber, because five of them did not give alms! I am ashamed, I blush, and I weep when I begin to speak of the foolish virgins;  I blush when I hear they were called unwise even after achieving such great virtue, even after toiling in the act of virginity, even after ascending with their flesh to Heaven, even after their earthly lives rivaled in achievement the heavenly powers, even after bearing the fire and overcoming the flames of the bodily passions! They defeated the body but forgot the spirit! Walked through the fire-but abandoned the myrrh! They did not have a tiny bit of almsgiving in their lives!

Let us not be counted among the unwise virgins and thus be denied the rejoicing in the Lord on the Day of Judgment! Let us not have to look then for oil for the lamp and for alms for ransom! Let us now acquire the myrrh of life and salvation. From where? There are plenty of sellers: they sit in front of the Churches on every feast day and knock every day on our doors. How much should we buy? As much as you can--and for whatever price you want! There is no fixed price, so that you do not excuse yourselves with you poverty: you have a penny--buy for a penny; you do not even have a penny--then, give to the thirsty traveler a glass of cold water!

However ... give and provide from the heart and in due time for someone who is need! Heaven is not cheap--but the Master is a lover of men: give bread and take Paradise, give a little and take a lot, give that which is of the flesh and acquire that which is of the spirit, give that which is mortal and take that which is immortal, with the earthly acquire the heavenly!