An Essay on Orthodox Christian Philanthropy

From Round Table: Education for Change and Diaconia http://www.rondtb.msk.ru/info/en/Constantelos_en.htm

Origins of Christian Orthodox diakonia: Christian Orthodox philanthropy in Church history (informing our present service)

(An excerpt: )

Perhaps no better person exemplified in theory and in practice the philanthropic spirit of the Church than Saint Basil of Caesarea. In a profound and moving prayer, incorporated in the liturgy that bears his name, Basil called upon God to remember all officials and authorities; to nurture the infants and educate the youth; to support the elderly and comfort the fainthearted;

… liberate those who are troubled by illnesses; sail with those at sea; accompany the wayfarers; plead for the widow; defend the orphans, free the captives; heal the afflicted. О God, look after those who are on trial, or condemned to the mines, or to exile and bitter slavery, or in any way hard pressed, in want, in extremity and all who plead for your boundless compassion. Remember О Lord those who love us as well as those who hate us … for you, О Lord, are the help of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, rescuer of the tempest-tossed, safe haven for sailors, healer of the sick. Be all things to all people, for you know each of us and what we would ask, our homes, our needs.

 

The Church, in the Byzantine era, including its monastic communities often provided the essentials of social security for a large segment of the population of the Empire throughout its existence. As already indicated, it took under its aegis orphans, widows, the old and the disabled, the stranger and the unemployed; it saw to the release of prisoners of war and of those unjustly detained. In time of pestilences, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes the Church played a major role looking after the needs of all. In addition to Basil, the father of institutionalized philanthropy, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Attikos of Constantinople, John the Eleemosynary of Alexandria, Theolyptos of Philadelphia, Athanasios of Constantinople are brilliant examples of the Church’s social teachings and service.
for a picture of the Rev. Dr. Demetrios Constantelos, click on: http://intraweb.stockton.edu/eyos/arhu/content/images/faculty/djc.jpg

Reprinted from August 2008

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