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Organization and Blessing

In our community, some believe that organization in ecclesiastical matters leads to loss of blessings. When a person is asked to organize a project, one of the answers commonly given is, "Don’t worry, leave it and it will be blessed." Usually, when a project is proposed, it is required to lay out a plan and estimate the cost. Yet some respond by saying, "God will bless it without the need to think and plan"; it is their belief that this is a manifestation of faith.

Some people might question whether organizing a project will oppose the concept of blessing, and planning for a project and estimating the expenses will in fact deprive it of God’s blessing? These people may categorize those responsible for organizing the project among those having little faith. The question then is this: does organization oppose the freedom of the spirit?

To answer this question, let us look at one of our Lord Jesus Christ’s miracles, one that has the element of blessing evident. It is the miracle of feeding the multitudes from five loaves and two fish, which clearly exemplifies God’s blessing. As a matter of fact, the portion of the Gospel which illustrates this blessing is referred to as "the Gospel of Blessing." This Gospel has a special place; it is read on the fifth Sunday of a Coptic month, if a fifth Sunday occurs, since it is regarded that God has blessed the month with an extra Sunday. Also this same Gospel is read at the prayer of the ninth hour, which is prayed before ending abstinence during fasting, so the Lord may bless the food like He blessed the five loaves and two fish.

When we read profoundly "the Gospel of Blessing", we will find that the Divine Inspiration mentions to us in detail the organized way in which Our Lord Jesus Christ performed the miracle. According to modern day business administration, the miracle was carried out on three levels of organization, i.e. planning, performance, and evaluation.

First, the disciples presented to our Lord Jesus Christ the problem along with this request: "This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat" (Mark 6:35-36). In order to reach the best solution of how to feed the multitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ held a dialogue with the disciples. First, He told them, "you give them something to eat" (Mark 6:37). The disciples asked Him, "shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?" (Mark 6:37). Also in Saint John’s Gospel, it is mentioned that Philip said, "two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may have a little" (John 6:7). When our Lord asked them to find out how much food they have, the answer was, "We have here only five loaves and two fish" (Matt. 14:17). In Saint Luke’s gospel, it is mentioned that they said, "we have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people" (Luke 9:13). As for the Gospel of Saint John, it is mentioned, that Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother said, "there is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9). According to Saint John’s Gospel, Christ knew what He was about to do (John 6:6). Yet, He still held the dialogue with His disciples, encouraging them to present all the possibilities, as well as the available resources to solve the problem of feeding the multitudes. Although the disciples did not present any viable solutions, and the available resources consisted of five loaves and two fish, which was a meager amount in comparison to the magnitude of the need of feeding the multitudes, yet our Lord Jesus Christ did not consider the dialogue and the search for resources a waste of time.

Then our Lord Jesus Christ asked His disciples to seat the multitudes in groups on the green grass, "So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties" (Mark 6:40). Consequently, the disciples were able to estimate the number of people present.

In this miracle, we learn from our Lord Jesus Christ that in planning for any project, it is imperative to estimate the magnitude of the need, the available resources, and the possible solutions. At the level of performance, our Lord Jesus Christ was like a leader of a team, leading them in a clear and definite course of action, without hesitation or argument. The time for research was over and the time of performance had arrived, "and when he had taken the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish he divided among them all. So they ate and were filled" (Mark 6:41-42). Our Lord had the disciples participate in the act; He first blessed and broke the bread, then the disciples distributed to the multitudes.

Let us imagine together the precision in the order of performing the miracle. All this great and hungry multitude sat quietly and in order, awaiting the food, which was distributed to them while they remained in their places without crowding each other, without chaos, and without trying to snatch the food before it was all consumed.

Our Lord Jesus Christ not only performed the miracle, but also asked for its evaluation in order to make sure that the people were really satisfied. He asked the disciples to gather the left over pieces, "so when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’ Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten" (John 6:12-13). We learn from this that when God blesses us abundantly, we must be careful not to waste these blessings, using the excuse that God will always provide us with more blessings.

We should notice that in performing the miracle in an organized manner, our Lord Jesus Christ revealed the magnificence of the miracle and the effect of blessing. At first, the dialogue showed that there weren’t any possible human solutions, especially that the only available food with the people consisted of the five loaves and two fish. Furthermore, when the multitudes were seated in an organized way and it was possible to count them, the magnitude of the need became even more evident. Feeding this large number was possible only through Divine intervention, which had the element of creation. How else could this meager amount of food feed this large multitude and end up with twelve baskets of left over pieces? We notice that in gathering the pieces, the miracle was emphasized and the disciples were given tangible evidence to take with them and always be reminded of the miracle.

We learn from this that in organizing ecclesiastical work, we are able to feel the Hand of God intervening; His blessings become more obvious than when the work is done haphazardly and in a disorganized fashion. In fact, disorganization diminishes the blessings and leads to the waste of God’s gifts to us whether in terms of time, abilities, or human resources. When man organizes his time, he is able to benefit from every minute for God’s glory. When we estimate our material resources, and utilize them properly, we reduce the waste. Within the Church, when we organize the human resources available, we are able to be more fruitful and productive. How many people wasted their capabilities and resources doing useless things because they did not find someone to organize them and direct them to the proper way? How often did selfishness and individualism in action cause the Church to lose many abilities and a lot of energy?

In Her true, original spirit, our Coptic Orthodox Church is a Church of organization. She is a ritual Church and ritual means "a strictly ordered method." The Church has a pyramidal hierarchy of priestly orders. Every order has its own role and duties. When the roles are mixed and everyone doesn’t limit himself to his specific role, chaos occurs and the energies are wasted. Also, our Church has an orderly traditional method for prayer and fasting, as well as canons to manage the life of the faithful. It is in following the rites of prayers and fasts that the believer can feel and experience the spirit of fasting and prayer. The person who does not follow these rites, ends up neither praying nor fasting. Adhering to the spirit of the Church’s canons gives the Church livelihood and energy. When many exceptions to these canons are given, failure in the ministry occurs. Every time we tried to achieve something through exceptions in the Church’s canons, we ended up with more difficulties and sometimes even failure altogether. The true revival of the Church is in her commitment to her rites, organization, traditions, and canons. Organization does not hinder the work of the Spirit. If you want proof, then, please, read the fourteenth chapter of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he places an order for those whom the Holy Spirit gave the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and translation. Saint Paul rejects chaos and refuses the concept that organization limits the freedom of the Spirit by saying, "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (I Cor.14:32-33).

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009