Christian Orthodox Stewardship is a practice that is often misunderstood and misused in the Church. Many think of Stewardship solely from a monetary perspective, as a means to financially support the sacred work of the Church. This is, of course, important, but Stewardship should not be limited to this - it is much more!
Christian Orthodox stewards are taught to give their Time, Talents, and Treasure to the glory of God. There are many opportunities in parish life that enable us to support the Lord’s work. It is a sacred privilege for each of us to participate in the life of the Church. We pledge ourselves to the Lord so that our offerings may be faithful and obedient to His teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our Christian Orthodox Faith.
Among the many ways we can participate in our parish ministries is as a chanter, a reader, or member of the choir. We emulate the angelic choirs in heaven when we sing to the glory of God. There are also a number of saints whose example we follow by managing our Time and using our musical Talent to sing to the Lord. Among them are: St. Romanos the Melodist, St. John of Damascus, St. Andrew of Crete, Joseph the Hymnographer, and St. Kassiane. There is also another saint who is known for his love for the music of our Church, a pious man who possessed a marvelous voice, and a steward of the Faith who gave his Time and Talent to the glory of God. Who was this person? St. John Koukouzelis!
As a young man, St. John Koukouzelis was recognized for his musical talent. He was sent to the Conservatory of Music in Constantinople, where he became a popular singer for the Imperial Court. The success he enjoyed as an entertainer for the Emperor and his court should have given him every satisfaction, but John was not content with his life. He was concerned about the flattery and praise brought upon him for his musical talent and felt that his voice was not being used for its real purpose. John knew that the Emperor would never allow him to leave his position, so he fled to the Holy Mountain to search his soul and to pray to God for guidance. The Emperor became concerned about the disappearance of his favorite singer and offered a reward to anyone who could give him information about him.
At the Great Lavra Monastery, John did not reveal who he was or what position he had held in the Imperial Court. He simply wanted to be a shepherd and monk. While taking care of the flock, John would sing hymns to the Lord and to the Theotokos. One day, a couple of monks heard him singing with a voice so sweet and melodic that they thought that it was that of an angel. They moved quietly, hoping to see the vision of an angel but instead they saw John with his flock. The monks rushed back to the monastery and told the abbot what they had heard and seen. When John returned, he was summoned by the abbot who asked him why he was not willing to use his voice during the divine services. John explained his story to him, but the abbot assured him that the Emperor would understand and accept his desire to pursue the monastic life. The abbot instructed him to never hide the Talent that God had given him, but to use it to praise and glorify the His Almighty Name. From that moment on, John served as the lead chanter in the monastery. As the Akathist Hymn was being sung during Great Lent one year, John was exhausted and sat down and fell asleep near the icon of the Holy Mother of God and soon fell asleep. The Theotokos appeared to him and said: "Greetings, John! Sing, and don’t stop singing; and for this, I will never leave you." She then placed a gold coin into his hand and disappeared. John woke up immediately, and in his hand was the gold coin.
The life of St. John Koukouzelis is an example of how important it is to manage our Time so that we may use our Talents properly. We have all been entrusted with blessings from God, and He desires that we put them to good use. Take a moment from your busy schedule and ask yourself: "Am I managing God’s blessings as a good and faithful steward" May St. John Koukouzelis intercede on your behalf and be an inspiration so that you use your Talents for the glory of God.
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.