Word study: gazophylácium

gazophylacium,i: an offertory box.

This word appears in the non-sanctoral second reading for Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Office of Readings, from St. Ireneus’ Against Heresies. Although he wrote in Greek, he is translated into Latin for the breviary.

He writes: “vídua illa et páupere hic totum victum suum mitténte in gazophylácium Dei.” This is not a sentence but a fragment. Vidua threw me off at first, as did paupere, until I combined the two of them with mittente: Vidua paupere mittente = The poor widow placing, which is an ablative absolute. Victum, from victus,us, is defined in Whitaker as living, way of life; that which sustains life; nourishment; provisions; diet. The Clampett’s frequent reference to vittels (food) can be traced back to victus via victual (food, provisions).

Translation: That poor widow here placing all her livelihood into God’s offertory box.

Christ praises the widow’s mite in Luke 21: Respiciens autem, vidit eos qui mittebant munera sua in gazophylacium, divites. Vidit autem et quamdam viduam pauperculam mittentem æra minuta duo. Et dixit : Vere dico vobis, quia vidua hæc pauper plus quam omnes misit. Nam omnes hi ex abundanti sibi miserunt in munera Dei : hæc autem ex eo quod deest illi, omnem victum suum quem habuit, misit. 

Why does God command a tithe? In part it is to support the Church and aid the poor. However, if we stop there we lose our bearings. God requires no help to make His Church flourish, and is capable of looking after the poor without us. So why put money in the gazophylacium? Because it benefits the giver. Do we believe in God’s providential care for us, for the Church, for the world? Do we believe we are utterly dependent on Him? The answer can be found, in part, in how we spend our money. Withholding the tithe might demonstrate one’s lack of faith, and reveal a belief in self-sufficiency. “Show me your check register and I’ll show you your priorities.” Somewhere the scripture speaks of purging one’s house of the tithe to make room for God’s blessings.

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