The Patristic and Byzantine Review

Globalization in Byzantine - Orthodox World*

By Prof. Dr. Constantine N. Tsirpanlis Founder"\President, "The American Institute For Patristic And Byzantine Studies INC"; Founder Editor, The Patristic And Byzantine Review


I. CLARIFICATION OF TERMINOLOGY

FIRST, in order to fully grasp the Byzantine-Orthodox concept of GLOBALIZATION, we must explain what is the Byzantine ­Orthodox understanding of the terms
politics, society, theocracy, caesaropapism, papocaesarism, ecumenical (church and state) authority(?), EUCHARISTIC ecclesiology, symporefsis, symbiosis, and the meaning of politike arete and Art the in Eastern Orthodox experience.

The word politics in the Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox experience means not only. the "art of governing a city or polis" (the politike techne of Aristotle), but also the art (politike arete) of developing right personal, social, and existential relations based on the Trinitarian interpersonal life and relations. Thus, politics is not just a useful compromise in social life, but a Problem of truth, a problem that determines the meaning of human life and existence, the spiritual and cultural goals that transform time and matter and make perfect man's humanity as God's creation.

Accordingly, the Orthodox do not divide this world into "two kingdoms" or "two cities," in the fashion of Saint Augustine, since this world is also God's creation and as such cannot be separated into sacred and profane. This truth does not, however, ignore the fact that this ontological unity of God's creation was broken with man's fall, with his alienation and separation from his creator. Hence, restoration of personal and cosmic unity, harmony and peace, constitutes the main objective of a genuinely humanitarian political system. The antidote to the political pessimism of Augustine and Tertullian was of course Eusebius's theocratic "harmony" of the two authorities, divine and human, church and state. Thanks to a political system that stresses organic unity comparable to that of the soul and the body, and the close cooperation but not identity between church and state, with common spiritual values and goals, the famous Byzantine Empire prospered and survived for more than a thousand years, a unique event in world history. Certainly, the Byzantine pattern of' church-state relations cannot be applied to our contemporary political systems in all aspects. However, our politicians and church leaders must be willing to learn important lessons from Byzantine political philosophy and Orthodox Church history.

* * This paper was written for and presented to the Orthodox Theological Conference (Bucarest, Rumania, Dec 1, 2004).

II. CHURCH - STATE: A "THEOCRATIC DYARCHY" THE BYZANTINE-EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW OF CHURCH ­STATE RELATIONS


Byzantium was pre-eminently the kingdom of Religion, to become Christ's Kingdom on earth, an extended Monastic Family, a "theocratic dyarchy a " symphonia", a harmonious and creative symbiosis that is, a special system of relations between the Church and the State, with an Orthodox Emperor, anointed of God, at Its head. Byzantine legislation was especially forcible and expressive on the question of the religious element in the origin and function of imperial authority.

The Emperor's Orthodoxy and piety, (episemotatos en orthodoxia kai efsevia ofeilei eine o Basileus: Epanagoge, II, e, p. 66, Lipsiae 1852 ), must be thoroughly tried and proven; he must confess the true doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity and the incarnation of the Divine Logos. The ultimate function of imperial authority was to do good ( Philanthropia; therefore the title of benefactor, Evereghetis was given to the Emperor.

As early as the fifth century, a religious coronation - ceremony became indispensable for the establishment of his authority.

The crowning took place in the Cathedral of Santa Sophia, with great magnificence and court ceremonial, the Patriarch of Constantinople officiating in person. But before the beginning of the ceremony the future Emperor had to hand to the Patriarch a confession of the Orthodox Faith, written in his own hand, which was followed by a promise always to remain a faithful son of the Holy Church, to protect and promote the Church. (as "episkopos ton ektos") and to follow Her true teaching. Interestingly, the variety of race and language in the Byzantine society, and the motley ethnographical mixture of the Byzantine populace was made one by the unity of its Orthodox faith, its Orthodox Monarch with the Church - Head or the Patriarch, which stood above all national subdivisions.

Hence, already by the sixth century the Patriarch of Constantinople, 'Saint John the Faster accepted the title ecumenical -­Oikoumenikos Patriarches or universal pastor of God or the chief father of all children of God on earth. That is, universal Orthodoxy (as the original Christian faith in its original purity) was, as it were, the super-nationality of Byzantium, being the basic element of the life of the State and people. And that precisely was the Byzantine - Orthodox understanding of GLOBALIZATION and INTERNATIONAL appeal of Byzantine commonwealth.

Now, side by side with the Byzantine State stood the Church, as a supportive but independent organization, whose purpose was the building up of the Kingdom of God and the eternal salvation of all their members, in close cooperation with the State and in converting to Orthodoxy and communion with the Church all those who were not connected with her, and to draw unbelievers into the midst of the followers of Christ and His true faith. Thanks to this missionary spirit and wonderful activity of the Byzantine Church, Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Balkans were Christianized - civilized already in the ninth and tenth centuries (saint Photius the Great, Cyril and Methodius).

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was and still today is thought to be all peoples's spiritual father, appointed of God, the initiator of all good, the guide to all perfection, the chief pastor of God, the universal teacher in all matters of faith and morality, the guardian of divine laws and canons ( of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, 325 - 787 ), who daringly raised his voice in defence of the Church's dogmas and the truth, even against the Emperor.

Furthermore, the Patriarch must explain to the Emperor the needs and conditions of the Church, representing her autonomous government. He had the right to intercede before the Emperor for the destitute, the persecuted and the unjustly accused, and thus he was the medium through whom love of one's neighbour, charity and justice, were widely introduced into the society of Byzantium. The Patriarch even had the right to judge assassins and other criminals, subjecting them to church punishments alone, which made them immune from secular justice.

Thus, the Byzantine Weltanschauung or World-outlook was and still is, today, the Faith of the Apostles, the faith of. the Church ­Fathers, as the only ORTHODOX FAITH that maintains the world: the faith in the true doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity. and the Incarnation of the DIVINE LOGOS - CHRIST THE UNIVERAL THEANTHROPOS AND PHILANTHROPOS! In other words, this universal orthodoxy is life in Christian grace, mysterious communion and union with God in Christ (THEOSIS), renovation and rebirth in grace through the Holy Spirit in company with other believers (koinonCa, sobornost), the ECCLESIA OF THE THEANTHROPOS, where and when by making their faith one with the Son of God, they also become in Him children of their Father in Heaven and brothers among themselves. That is why philanthropia and social Christianity was and still is the highest virtue of both state and church leaders in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Hence the Byzantines and the Eastern Orthodox Church were the first to develop the most influential hospitals' orphanages, old aged­houses, travellers's hostels and "rehabilitation centres" whose roots can be traced in the fifthc. B.C. Father of Medical Science, the Great Coan HIPPOCRATES! Actually, the Byzantine Laws strictly forbade trials by tortures, philetism or racism, woman's exploitation, etc. providing with even the Ernperor' s personal loving care for and frequent visits to the prisoners!

III. BYZANTINE "THEOCRACY" versus "CAESAROPAPISM" AND "P APOCAESARISM"


The recent book by Gilbert Dagron (Emperor and Priest: The Imperial Office in Byzantium, New York, N.Y. : Cambridge University Press, 2004), is a most welcome addition to the Byzantine historical bibliography, which could tremendously help modern preoccupied scholarship and Europe to rightly understand the political and cultural history of medieval Byzantium. Dagron, certainly is right to point out that, because of "its history, geography and culture Europe could not understand medieval Byzantium" (p. 295). Dagron himself, however, seems to suffer from a similar weakness and disadvantage: he could not grasp the full (esoteric or ecclesiological) meaning of "Byzantine theocracy" but not "Caesaropapism". Also, Dagron's short treatment of "Byzantine Ecclesiology" is wanting and rather superficial (pp.306-312). Nevertheless, he rightly points out that "it was not the role of the emperor that was ill defined in Byzantine ecclesiology, it was that of the patriarch. It is an error, therefore, to speak of caesaropapism with regard to election to the patriarchal throne and the relations between the emperor and the patriarch which were by their very nature equivocal. It was not here that the problem lay". (pp. 310-311) Now, whether Dagron is right or wrong in his statement that "in the structures specific to the East, the emperor of Constantinople occupied almost the same place as the pope of Rome" (p.311), this is still an open question. Unfortunately, Dagron failed to understand and explain "Byzantine theocracy" vis-a-vis "Byzantine Ecclesiology". The reason of his failure, I think, was his preoccupation with and the influence of political Augustianism and of the Gelasian theory of "two swords" or "two separate powers".

Furthermore, Dagron seems to ignore the fact that, the idea that the church alone was the source of the imperial power in Byzantium (theocracy) never gained currency not even in the later Byzantine Empire. Of course the coronation oath gave to the patriarch the constitutional right to participate in a revolt against an emperor who had failed in his duty, or to exercise a tremendous influence in the official acceptance or election of a new emperor. But to make a generalization from this incident and to characterize the Byzantine constitutional system as "theocracy" causes misunderstanding and confusion. Equally, misleading and unrealistic is the term "caesaropapism" employed by some scholars to characterize Justinian's rule (527-565). It is true that for Diocletian as for the Hellenistic monarchs, the diadem meant that the absolute ruler was deified, but for his Christian successors, the moral justification of their absolute power lay in their claim to be regarded as chosen by God and ruling under his divine guidance and protection. The diadem, consequently, symbolized the power derived from this high source, which marked him out as something more than the mere nominee of barbarian generals, as the later Western Emperors had been, and so deterred insurrection by emphasizing the divine support of the imperial authority.

The Church - State relations, in Byzantium, as illustrated in especially the Coronation Ceremonies of Constantine VII Porphyrogennitus, (which were analyzed and critically studied by the reviewer in his book Studies in Byzantine History and Modern Greek Folklore, New Yark, N. Y. 1980, pp. 89-117), may be defined as a sort of diarchy, i.e. harmonious, parallele symporefsis, cooperation and symbiosis, in the sense that both the emperor and the patriarch shared equally in the direction of the empire. They were the two most important members of society whose concord and cooperation was essential for the peace, unity, welfare and happiness of the empire. I must recall, at this point once again, that in Byzantine political and ecclesiastical mind there was no sharp distinction and separation nor division (as in the West) between the profane or secular and sacred. Hence, both the Church and the State in Byzantium had the same and a common goal, purpose and mission: to keep the empire and society peaceful, happy and united in the pure Christian Orthodox Faith. Only in that sense a Byzantine emperor is also priest and bishop (like Constantine the Great who was called episkopos ton ektos, i.e. bishop of the outsiders), since both, the empire (basileia) and the priesthood (hierosyne) had the same divine origin and mission, and both they worked to establish Christ's Kingdom on earth, for the happiness, unity and salvation of men ". (Justinian the Great, Novels 6 and 7)

Therefore, an endeavour to look to the Coronation Ceremonies and/or to various other sources like Byzantine imperial decrees, letters, addresses and laws, for support of the theory either of "theocracy" or "caesaropapism" is a priori condemned to failure

IV. THE CHURCH AS GOD'S KINGDOM ON EARTH


|Now, the Orthodox Church, considering herself witness of God's kingdom and of a continuous spiritual event of God's incarnation, a continuous
catharsis of man throughout the centuries, rather than a legalistic or hierocratic institution, does not exclude from her loving care sinful kings and politicians, heretics and criminals. She does not have enemies as human persons. Her only enemy is sin per se, not human beings. Eastern Orthodox humanism is rooted in and based on the truth of the human person as a God-centered social and loving being, contrary to Western humanism, which is anthropocentric or self­centered and as such doomed to despair.

The Orthodox Church as the "assembly of sinners" (the expression of Saint Ephrem of Syria) and as Eucharistic koinonia (Christ's society and communion of love) views herself as a community of love, of "saints" who strive to restore themselves from the temptations of fallen nature - narcissism and self-love - within the world, but not according to the world's standards. Nevertheless, the entire world in the eyes and experience of Eastern Orthodoxy is sacrament. The term sacrament is not a didactic reduction of the Word, a verbum visible, as Augustine put it. The Greek word mystery, used by Eastern Christians for the Eucharist, has two connotations: being initiated into the heavenly choir surrounding the presence of God, and an act of love between God and his universe through the mediation of man in Christ. The two are linked. Initiation implies participation, and true participation is love, a mutual perichoresis in which God and the universe embrace and penetrate each other. In a sense, this is why marriage is a sacrament or mystery: not because through it grace is given, but because the marriage relationship at its best is the reflection and sacrament of this mutual self­giving, this mutual embracing and interpenetration of God and the universe of love.

This union with God and with each other in Christ is also the true meaning of the Eucharist. This Eucharistic union, in which we are one with the whole creation in our responsive self-offering to God, is the mystery that fulfils human existence. And this mysterious reality is depicted in our initial offering (of bread and wine) in the Eucharist, an offering not merely of two things, but also of our whole world, our whole life in all its dimensions.

In the first chapters of Genesis, we find a clear statement of this sacramental character of the world. God made the world and then man; and he gave the world to man to eat and drink. The world was God's gift to us, existing not for its own sake, but in order to be transformed, to become life, and so to be offered back as man's gift to God. Hence, in our relation to nature we have to walk the precarious path and live in the difficult rhythm between mystery and mastery. It is not technology and theology or science and theology that need to be reconciled. It is, rather, these two attitudes - mastery of nature and mystery of worship - which have to be held in balance. Our mastery of the universe is like the mastery of our bodies; it is not that we may have it for our own use, but that we may give nature, as our extended body, into the hands of the loving God in the great mystery of the Eucharistic self-offering. This is the mystery of the cross. Christ gave himself, with humanity and nature, to God in self-denying love, and thereby saved humanity and nature. It is in that eternal act of sacrifice and love that we too are called to participate. Technology is a way of humanizing the world of matter in time-space, and thereby of extending the human body to envelop the whole universe. But that humanizing and extension, if it is to be salvific, must find its proper culmination in man's offering of himself and the universe to God in love. A secular technology of mastery of nature for oneself is the "original" sin of refusing our mediatory position between God and the universe, dethroning God, and claiming mastery for the sake of indulging our own cupidity, avarice, and greed.

The Roman Catholics as well as the Orthodox are criticized by the Protestants for laying too much stress on the priest's difference from ordinary men, on the supernatural character of his function. This criticism has much truth in it. But as an Orthodox theologian of Russian descent puts it:

In such matters, we should perhaps understand the "supernatural" as being the natural in an extraordinary degree. Man was created as a priest; the world was created as the matter of a sacrament. But sin came, breaking this unity; this was no mere issue of broken rules alone, but rather the loss of a vision, the abandonment of a sacrament. Fallen man saw the world as one thing, secular and profane, and religion as something entirely separate, private, remote and "spiritual". The sacramental sense of the world was lost. Man forgot the priesthood which was the purpose of meaning of his life. He came to see himself as a dying organism in a cold, alien universe."

Christ as the new Adam, the perfect man, restored that priesthood, the simple original act that man failed to perform, and with it matter and nature were restored in its original unity with humanity.

This point is stressed in the prayers and experience of the Eucharistic liturgy and it is declared by Saint Paul in Romans 8. God includes the whole universe in his creation as well as in redemption in Christ. This does not remove all distinctions between humanity and the rest creation. Humanity has a special vocation as the priest of creation, as a mediator through whom God manifests himself to creation and redeems it. But this does not make humanity totally discontinuous with creation, since a priest has to be an integral part of the people he represents. Christ has become part of creation, and in his created body he lifted up the creation of God; humankind must participate in this eternal priesthood of Christ. The participation becomes possible in the liturgy, which is not only a message of Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection, but is specially a taste of God's kingdom, a participation in his glorified body and blood through the real presence of the Holy spirit, a living reality that belongs both to history and to eschatology. For Orthodox Christians, liturgy does not simply mean a specific cui tic act, but a definite life-style (the work of people), which, while certainly rooted and focused in the Eucharistic liturgy, also embraces the whole life of the person. For the Orthodox faithful, liturgy in this sense means "bringing the heavenly into the earthly, in the way that John Chrysostom suggested when he heard the signing of the heavenly choirs and the harmonies of an eternal song in the very midst of the things of time. But at the same time liturgy is the elevation of the earthly into the heavenly places, the fulfilment of every immanent creaturely telos (goal) and its transfiguration by grace.""

As a representative Greek Orthodox bishop and theologian expressively wrote:

The Liturgy is not an escape from life, but a continuous transformation of life according to the prototype Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit Each of the faithful is called upon to continue a personal "liturgy" on the secret altar of his own heart, to realise a living proclamation of the good news "for the whole world." Without this continuation the Liturgy remains incomplete. Since the Eucharistic event we are incorporated in Him who came to serve the world and to be sacrificed for it, we have to express in concrete diakonia, in community life, our new being in Christ, the Servant of all. The sacrifice of the Eucharist must be extended in personal sacrifices for the people in need, the brothers for whom Christ died. Since the Liturgy is the participation in the great event of liberation from the demonic powers, then the continuation of Liturgy in life means a continuous liberation from the power of the evil that are working inside us, a continual reorientation and openness to insights and efforts aimed at liberating human persons from all demonic structures of injustice, exploitation, agony, loneliness and at creating real communion of persons in love."


The Orthodox Emphasis on Eucharistic Ecclesiology


It is not accidental that in recent years Orthodox theologians have placed strong emphasis in Orthodox ecclesiology on the Eucharistic understanding of the church. There are two main reasons. First, there is a strong trend today toward changing the church into a mere socio­political institution or into an ally of the established government. Therefore, many Orthodox theologians, laymen as well as clergymen, constantly urge the churches to persevere trustingly in their appointed role as "bond-servants to God", for only by so doing can they maintain their freedom over against ideologies and political systems, which the church cannot under any circumstances or for any considerations of expediency enter into coalition or even identify herself with, but of which she must always remain the prophetic "crisis". Second, there is the modern misunderstanding of the nature and mission of the church, which was originally understood and experienced as Christian diakonia, witness and promotion of God's kingdom on earth, and as a contribution to the creation of a fellowship of solidarity, in the sense of a metamorphosis of "natural" orders and the outlook of a society composed of individuals into a koinonia of persons. Of course, this remains a constant task of the church, but one that is supremely urgent today when the modern conceptions and conditions of life are forcing appalling paramorphoses (deformations) on human society, paramorphoses that aim at obliterating the very fact that man has been created in the image of God (moral and intellectual freedom). Precisely this fact lays upon us an inescapable obligation to defend the human dignity of the person in all its aspects. Consequently, cultura agri (living conditions), cultura animi (sanctification, theosis), and cultura Dei (Eucharist, doxology) are inseparably connected. The Orthodox emphasis is placed on the individual and his spiritual powers to act in a morally right way. The state cannot be venerated or respected except as an agency representing the will and interests of the people, and hence individuals are obligated to give to society what it needs to perform its mission so that human beings can live in an atmosphere that guarantees the free exercise of man's spiritual powers. The primary witness of the church as a Eucharistic community living the Trinitarian life on earth is to generate and sustain the specificity and uniqueness of persons to the end that persons-in-relation do not sunder the community, nor does the community suppress or destroy the specificity and uniqueness of each member. Such a relationship of mutuality in love and freedom eliminates the need to compete with each other or to affirm oneself by suppressing the other. It excludes domination, repression, or exploitation and seeks to conserve the dignity and freedom of all persons. It also means that we must respect and foster cultural, racial, political, economic, or other group identities, making sure, however, that no group identity becomes closed or absolutized.

The Christian attitude, according to the Orthodox experience, is never that of the abstract idea of the good, is not defined through a system of impersonal relations; it is always an interiority, a conversion, a call for the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ, an obedience that renews us, so that God may reveal himself through us to our neighbour as the lover. Even Orthodox monasticism, in its genuine spirit, is a strong witness - martyria and martyrion (martyrdom) - for the kingdom of God on earth, since the kingdom has been promised to the poor. Making oneself actually poor for the love of and as a sign of that kingdom, which is our only wealth, becomes an undisputed critecrion of perfection and of evangelical authenticity. Further, this means that the church should totally identify herself with the outcasts, with those who suffer and are persecuted because of their devotion to God's justice and love. This is also the reason an effective lack of an assumed or a voluntary poverty among Christians will make them lose the consciousness of their pilgrimage on earth. The gospel will then lose its savor. This martyria, or witness, recalls the remark of the Epistle to Diognetos of the second century: "they spend their lives on earth, but they are citizens of heaven." And that is possibly the special gift of Orthodoxy. "Let the dead bury their dead" is spoken to the living to remind them of the resurrection of the dead and to orient history beyond its boundaries. In the words of Paul Evdokimov:

The traditional Priesthood contemplates in Christ the perfect bishop and the perfect layman and knows that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither man nor woman, neither bishop nor layman, for each finds there his fullness and his overflow (Col. 3:9-11). The body is well organised, hierarchically without any confusion about equality. No layman exceeds a bishop, but the bishop can exceed himself in his sanctity: "we are not the masters of your faith, we are the servants of your joy" (the joy of final liberation). The only real power of a bishop is that he presides in love, with the gift of tenderness and of enlightened charity. His only power persuasion is martyrdom.

One also notes that in Dostoyevski's eyes, the czar in his sacred vocation of noble revolutionary exceeds himself, and that Russian socialism is fulfilled in the universal church on earth.


V. What Socio-political System Does the Orthodox Church Support?

It is true the Orthodox Church as a whole has not presented the world with the sight of a limitless wealth. Orthodoxy has remained the church of the poor, of peasants, of artisans, of a large number of poor bishops and badly paid priests. However, since the church of the West has sided with the rich, the whole of Christendom has become the object of social criticism. This is a striking example of the solidarity of the Christian churches in evil as well as in good.

However, it is equally true that, first, the church must not identify herself with any of the structures of temporal existence, even if they are structures of liberation. She vigilantly maintains her freedom to enter into freely chosen relationships with any structure, in faithfulness to her own true identity. In the very interest of identification with the poor and the oppressed, she cannot as a church tie herself completely to any given structure. Second, the churches' highest priority is the renewal of their own Trinitarian-Eucharistic life, in order that the church may truly fulfil her vocation as sign and sacrament of the kingdom. This means setting her own house in order, eliminating counter- Trinitarian elements in her own structures, and renewing the teaching and sacramental ministry. Third, in the very process of such renewal of her own life, she will be renewing and freeing her own members to become creative agents of transformation in society through their own God­given vocations. If members of the church, individually or as group, felt called to engage in liberation struggles or fights against tyranny, it will be the churches' task to extend her special and discerning pastoral care to such people. The church witness in necessarily political since it is made within the city and thus disturbs some authority. An absolutely apolitical church is completely inconceivable; it necessarily is in patria. Did the Lord not render an eminently political judgement when he called Herod "fox"?1J The church must always carry on the prophetic function of Christ, otherwise she ceases to be the people of God. Furthermore, social and political revolts in the history of Eastern Orthodoxy are not few, and they were supported by the church as long as they were motivated and controlled by the spirit of love of freedom, recovery, of human dignity and rights, and the purpose of God's providence, which is "to unify by faith and spiritual charity those whom vice has sundered in various ways."" It should be pointed out also that the Orthodox Church has consistently opposed all forms of racism. Typical of this opposition is an encyclical of the ecumenical patriarch Metrophanes III to the Orthodox Christians of Crete in 1568. At that time, Crete was still under the Venetian rule. A quarrel between the Cretan Jews and Venice over the payment of certain debts provoked the Venetians to adopt anti­Semitic measures. The wave of anti-Semitism seems to have been initiated by the Latin patriarch of Venice, Laurentius Justinian. The Jews had appealed to the ecumenical patriarchate, complaining that even the Orthodox Christians had taken part in hostilities toward the Jews. Whereupon the patriarch wrote that those who unjustly treat the Jews in any way are excommunicated and condemned, since injustice and defamation were wrong whoever the victim was, and on one who committed such wrong could possibly regard himself as innocent on the pretext that he had only wronged someone of another faith and not one of the faithful. For even our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the gospel not to bully or blackmail anyone, "making no distinction and not permitting Christians to deal unjustly with people of other faiths.'t15 At the very time Cobineau and Chamberlin were stirring up Europe with racist heresies, the Synod of Constantinople (1872) officially condemned contemporary racism with its nationalistic overtones (ethnophyletismos). This was, if not the first, certainly one of the first official pronouncements of the Christian church on this subject.

But let me go back to earlier centuries, to the Greek Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries - Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. Their message is the message of the power of their experience of God: "For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" In their experience, the Christian world becomes an actually lived social reality. The Basiliad of the great Cappadocian saint and doctor, which was the first Christian hospital for the sick, a social work of a certain breadth, is called a "new city" by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. Saint John Chrysostom considered just sharing of goods in the city of Antioch, which would abolish misery; the church sought to influence Byzantine legislation; monasteries freed all Christian slaves; judges periodically visited prisons to inspect personally the improvement of the prisoners condemned by them. The universal doctrine of the church in the East as well as in the West is that "the rich withhold the goods of the poor, even if this wealth is honestly acquired or legally inherited. The church Fathers did not glorify poverty as such, nor did they condemn riches. Nor did they cherish any illusions. Saint Neilos writes, "the religious person is not the person who distributes alms to many, but one who treats no one unjustly. Likewise Saint Augustine says, "you give bread to the hungry, but it would have been better that no one be hungry and that you do not give to anybody." This is not only the yeast of a social revolution, but the hope that a day will come in which the church will cease speaking of Christ, and show him forth, reveal him, become herself Christ by sharing his love for the whole of humankind.20 Staretz Zossimus (in notes for The Brothers Karamazov) makes every daring remark: "love men in their sin, love even their sins, for this is the love of God." "The love" in this case means to understand and have compassion.


Prof. Dr. Constantin N. Tsirpanlis Bio Click here


(Posting date 21 June 2006)

HCSencourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/contents.html.



2000 Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.HellenicComServe.com