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Author Topic: Should the Church reflect the poverty of Christ?  (Read 1819 times) Average Rating: 0
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Mother Anastasia
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« on: May 10, 2006, 04:08:09 AM »


I would like to know what traditional Orthodox views are on this subject.

How did the Church go from hidden liturgies in the catacombs and private homes, to elaborate events with rich appointments? 

Was this a carry over from the temple practice of the Jews? 

Was it something that entered with the Divine Liturgy of St. James in Jerusalem?

Or was it after Constantine when it became fashionable to be a Christian?

And how has it impacted the Church of our day?

Thank you.
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2006, 11:00:30 PM »

I wished I could citeÂÂ  specific readings but I am at work at present.ÂÂ  The Church even before the Edict of Constantine had churches, not all were house churches and not all were in the catacombs.ÂÂ  If the wall paintings in the catacombs and the mosaics of the house Churches and early church ruins in the Middle East are any indication Christians have always sought to beautify their houses of worship, hidden or not.

If you look under theÂÂ  splendid robes of the Bishops, Priests, and alterservers in an Orthodox church you would find often a very ragged and patched daily robe worn by those who serve God in His Holy temples.ÂÂ  Our Bishops as monastics have vows ofÂÂ  poverty, I have not ever seen a wealthy priest , although I am sure some on this Forum can cite some examples.

In the Orthdox East, MonasticsÂÂ  ran hospitals, schools, orphanges, fed to poor with spiritual and physical food, some monastic saints provided poor parents with child care while the poor went to workÂÂ  able to trust that their children werwe safe. In my opinion and reading of history, when the most beautiful Orthodox Houses of worship, temples, and Cathedrals were being built, at the same timeÂÂ  wonderous Monasteries serving the spiritual and physical well being of the people were also beingÂÂ  built. Many older peopleÂÂ  having raised their families gave of their wealth to the poor and entered monasteries to serve God and man in prayer and works of mercy.ÂÂ  This continues today in the former Soviet Union, it is the church that has stepped up to help run the orphanges, the hospitals, the social services.

In The US there are many local Orthodox ministries serving the poor, in Wichita Kansas there is the Tree House providing needed postpartum services to unwed mothers and women in poeverty to includeÂÂ  child care classes, inexpensive baby supplies and clothing, and education support. Father Thomas a ROCOR monk recently deceased who ran a mobile Soup kitchen taking soup to the homelesÂÂ  in San Francisco, cooking the soup in a Parish kitchen, and living in poverty in a 8X8 foot cell dressed in a black patched robe. Orthodox monasteriesÂÂ  here feed the poor and even provide shelter or rent for some poor unable to do so.

The Church believe it or not still embraces poverty and often run their parishes on shoestrings.ÂÂ  My own parish lives on a shoestring and yet still supports an African Mission priest and his 10 children as well as our own priest and his family. Yet those very parishesÂÂ  are living representations of The Court of God in Heaven when those in poverty serve before God in resplendent robes shining with His glory.

In Christ,
Thomas
« Last Edit: May 10, 2006, 11:03:31 PM by Thomas » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2006, 12:04:49 AM »

My landlord, an Orthodox man, is actively involved together with his wife in work for the Raphael House in San Francisco.  The Raphael House was started by the Christ the Savior Brotherhood, much of which is now canonically Orthodox, to minister to battered women, and has many locations at least on the U.S. West Coast.
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 02:21:13 AM »

Or was it after Constantine when it became fashionable to be a Christian?

This is one of the strangest interpretations of that period of history I've heard Huh

John
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2006, 02:41:46 AM »

These are wonderful examples of selfless service. 

I am sure it is much easier to put on the poverty of Christ in a country such as Russia, from what I have seen, some of the needs are indeed pressing.  (Especially in the orphanages)

Coming from Evangelical Protestantism,  it took a great deal of work and grace, for God to convict me of my avarice because it just wasn't being taught.  I remember one Wednesday night in Phoenix, in the non-denominational church where I was Baptized,  I was sitting on the far right (almost out of sight of the speaker),  who just happened to be Richard Wurmbrandt (Voice of the Martyrs).

He was seated on a stool because of the damage done to his feet in Romanian prisons.  The Lord was speaking to my heart about the materialism I had fallen into since my Christian conversion.  I was resisting. 

He was talking about our price,  that is,  what would we be willing to give up, where would we draw the line,  "This much I will give up,  but no more than this."

Here I was sitting almost out of his line of sight and he turned his head and looked right at me, into my eyes and said,  "What is your price?"  That cut me so deeply to the heart I wept and begged the Lord to deliver me from my avarice that I might be willing to give Him everything.  Little did I know He would have to draw me to St. Francis,  the RCC, before I could learn these lessons.

We went from a three story townhouse in Annapolis, Md, with our four children, to a tar paper cabin on the side of a Pennsylvania mountain.  And I was happier with my life than I ever imagined I could be.  The hardest thing was not the poverty and lack,   but the loss of social standing, the scorn and contempt, even from the parish.

I understand the principle about the Divine Liturgy and the Mass,  being an experience of Heaven, but it seems that it has escalated into something excessive.  Something that predisposes men to pride and avarice.  I'm not speaking of monastics here at all,  although I have been in some very well done (by worldly standards) religious houses.

When I think of the Bishop of Rome,  as a reflection of Jesus,  I see the poverty of the first Apostles as the standard.  I have a very hard time with  galleries filled with antiquities and treasures,  it seems more proper that a worldly institution should be responsible for such things.

The Lord could have come into wealth, like a king in His castle, instead He chose the poverty of a carpenter, and with a towel around His waist, he served. 

It seems this kind of wealth (I'm not picking on the RCC, it is in other churches as well) predisposes the religious leaders who are entrusted with the safekeeping of our souls,  to become preoccupied with distractions and luxuries that lead to a dissolute and worldly lifestyle.

What are your thoughts?










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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2006, 02:50:14 AM »

This is one of the strangest interpretations of that period of history I've heard Huh
John

I am not a historian John, if I have said something incorrect, please help me to a better understanding.

What I was trying to convey in just a few short words, was that before Constantine made the Faith an approved religion, Christians were being hunted down and fed to the lions.  After his conversion, everyone in his court suddenly wanted to become  a Christian.

I realize this may be an over simplification, but I'm referring to a basic trend.

Am I misinformed?




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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2006, 09:03:29 AM »

I am not a historian John, if I have said something incorrect, please help me to a better understanding.

What I was trying to convey in just a few short words, was that before Constantine made the Faith an approved religion, Christians were being hunted down and fed to the lions.ÂÂ  After his conversion, everyone in his court suddenly wanted to becomeÂÂ  a Christian.

I realize this may be an over simplification, but I'm referring to a basic trend.

Am I misinformed?

It may indeed be a basic trend, in so far as the COURT itself became more Christian, but we should also remember two things:

1) Christianity was already a very large minority by the time of Constantine's conversion.
2) Many pagans, both rural and wealthly noblemen, continued to persist in their pagan ways until at least the time of Justinian.

So, there were already many who were Christians for reasons other than political connections and there were still many who spurned advantage in favor of the mos maiorum.

(Gotta run...more later)
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2006, 09:24:05 AM »

I'd have to agree that perhaps the church does need to return to some measure of poverty, as difficult as this may be; for like the young rich man how difficult it would be, for a person once they have tasted the pleasures of the world, to forsake riches and to carry a cross of voluntary poverty.

The question itself is reminiscent of Anthony Quinn's classic movie The Shoes of the Fisherman. A fictional scenario where the Vatican offers to sells all its property all over the world in order to avert an imminent war which could cost thousands of lives; and also to provide for the poor of the world.

I think this is the treasure of discretion where one is able to set up limits and boundaries to the measure of self-enrichment. Man is a bottomless pit which cannot be filled and he is ever in search of greater acquisition.

I've seen this often in churches were financial committees authorise the spending of huge amounts of money to lavishly adorn the church, almost always referring to the temple of Solomon as a defence, while many other aspects of the service suffer from lack of attention.

I suppose it is somewhat man's superficial and vain way of living.

Christ was poor and His bride is rich.

His bride is rich while her children are poor.

How great an example and a boon to the Christian faith the church would be if it lived with only its most basic necessities, lived in a form of voluntary poverty, and gave all it received to those who were in need...then it would truly teach by example much in the same way that Christ did.
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2006, 09:55:06 AM »

What do we mean when we say: "Christ was poor"?
I wouldn't mind being visited by three Magi who bring me tribute of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh...(Matt 2:11)
I wouldn't mind being able to pay my taxes as well as my friend's taxes with money I that find in a fish's mouth.....(Matt 17:27)
I wouldn't mind being anointed with expensive fragrant oils on various occassions (John 12:3, Matt 26:7)
That's the kind of poverty I would love to embrace!
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2006, 11:04:57 AM »

Numerous passages give evidence to the life of poverty lead by Christ:

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor 8:9)

He was born in a stable; I'm sure enough money would've gotten Him a place in the inn.

The gifts that were given to Him were metaphors of His office rather than gifts to enrich.

After the days of St Mary's purification she brought two turtledoves or two young pigeons as a sacrifice rather than a lamb, an indication of poverty.

Like you said He had to pay for taxes out of a fish because He didn't have it in His own pocket.

He entered Jerusalem on a loaned donkey.

He celebrated the last supper in a stranger's home.

"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  (Mt 8:20)

He was laid in a tomb that did not belong to his family, assumedly because of poverty, the possessors of whom also provided for His burial.

The rule that Christ lived by and gave to His disciples was one of voluntary poverty:

"Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food." (Mt 10:9, 10; Mk 6:8, 9; Lk 3:11)

Christ asked His followers to renounce the world sell all their possessions, give it to the poor and follow Him. And He warned of how riches could be a hurdle to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

The early church likewise lived on a needs basis (Acts 2:45).

The apostles had no money to give to the beggar (Acts 3:6).

St Paul, although a great missionary, provided for himself, through his profession as a tentmaker.

I think it is quite apparent that both Christ and the early church lived in a simplicity far from that which the church lives in today.
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2006, 11:25:54 AM »

I remember a Jesuit was once telling me about a cathedral being built and I want to say that it was St. John of Divine, the huge Episcopal Church here in NYC, although I'm not totally sure as to the exact place he said.  Anyways, the church stopped building the cathedral and diverted money to poverty eradication programs and shelters.  Believe it or not, the homless and poor objected!  They said that we can always get food and even find shelter, but a cathedral is a place we can come to worship to.  A place where we are equals and can spend our day.  A place where we can see riches that forhint another world.  A place where we can sleep on the steps and find Christian people to help us.  So the church began building again.    The poor are always with us and we have an obligation to nourish them and their souls.  The poverty of Christ is more than material.  Material is a means, not an end. 

Thus, that is my two cents. Take it for what it's worth.
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2006, 04:15:09 PM »

Numerous passages give evidence to the life of poverty lead by Christ:
The rule that Christ lived by and gave to His disciples was one of voluntary poverty:

"Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food." (Mt 10:9, 10; Mk 6:8, 9; Lk 3:11)

Christ asked His followers to renounce the world sell all their possessions, give it to the poor and follow Him. And He warned of how riches could be a hurdle to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

The early church likewise lived on a needs basis (Acts 2:45).

The apostles had no money to give to the beggar (Acts 3:6).

I think it is quite apparent that both Christ and the early church lived in a simplicity far from that which the church lives in today.


My spirit bears witness to what you are saying, and I see a great deal of corruption in Churches and monasteries, both in our day and all the way back to the time of Constantine, that can be traced back to the accumulation of wealth, beautiful appointments, and fine foods.

When we little by little,  begin to seek our consolation in lovely things, filling our hearts, rather than leaving them empty for the Holy One's dwelling place,  we also begin to seek our own advantage and enter into a downward spiral, away from God and neighbor.

Satan is most clever and studied in how to turn our pure intentions.  He begins in tiny "unperceived" ways to seduce us away from the Lord.  He knows some will not take big steps into materialism, so he reasons with us, disguising his arguments under the virtue of prudence,  "Necessity dictates that you kept this."   

The coin in the mouth of the fish is relevant even today, considering that the very words IRS bring with them fear and trembling.

The biggest danger that I see in wealth accumulated by the church is that worldly minded people will be impressed, drawn into the church,  and settling in with large donations,  begin to exert an influence on the spirituality.

When a place is poor and very simple, people will be drawn to it only for the presence of the Lord.  They will come with pure hearts because nothing is offered to feed their flesh.

 






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« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2006, 04:39:38 PM »

In our giving, we give first to God. It is evident in our own need that by giving to God, we find all we need. The poor we have with us always. The beauty of the Church building should come at no sacrificing of the funds for the poor (and it doesn't.) The Orthodox Church ain't a rich one. We do not have gold-covered items or precious stones on icons because we want to have expensive things or because they make us rich. They are dedicated to God, and no matter how many "artifacts" there are, they are not counted among the resources of the Church.
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2006, 11:57:52 PM »

They are dedicated to God, and no matter how many "artifacts" there are, they are not counted among the resources of the Church.

I remember the story of what St. Francis did when a poor woman came to the door of the friary because she didn't have anything to provide for her most basic needs.

At that time, the only thing of value in the house  was the New Testament from which they read their readings each day.

St. Francis had the book brought to the woman and given to her so she could sell it for her needs.

He said, something on the order of,  "The Lord will be more pleased, if we obey the Gospel,
than if we keep the book and read from it."

When we speak of dedicating things to the church, I think we should keep this example in mind.
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