The Poor

The saints serve as our guides in serving the poor

In many parts of the American countryside one can find the remnants of poorhouses (sometimes called workhouses), institutions run by local county or state governments as a means of dealing with the issue of the unemployed poor and homeless. These poorhouses were often located in rural farming communities, and could resemble rather bleak mental hospitals or prisons. Those residing in these poorhouses were seen as dishonorable, lacking moral character, and devoid of any industriousness. They were poor because they were lazy.

These poorhouses resembled reformatories precisely because poverty was seen as the result of a total lack of initiative on the part of the poor. Those who were forced to live in these institutions, either alone, or as families, were subjected to a penal labor regime of manual labor, sometimes even subjected to physical punishment. More often than not, poorhouses shared space with prison farms, and other penal or charitable public institutions, housing paupers (mainly elderly and disabled people) at public expense. These institutions were common in the United States beginning in the middle of the 19th century and declined in use after the introduction of Social Security in 1935.

Most poorhouses operated working farms that produced at least some of the produce, grain, and livestock they consumed. Residents were expected to provide labor to the extent that their health would allow, both in the fields and in providing housekeeping and care for other residents. Rules were strict and accommodations minimal. Hardly the place one would want their elderly relatives to be forced to reside, or a place for our nation’s children to be raised. Yet, given the bleak statistics of our nations homeless, these poorhouses were at least warm shelters for desperate families, and homeless elderly.

The Church’s Witness to Poverty

Our Orthodox Church is very clear in her teaching regarding the poor. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us by His example as the great philanthropos, and we can do nothing less than follow His example. Christ commanded us to love and serve the poor and the hungry. He told us we must care for the sick and suffering, and that we must visit those in prisons, and cloth the naked.

The Church’s liturgical hymns and seasons are filled with the commemoration of saints who were known for their love of the poor. Saint Basil the Great of the third century established Church sponsored hospitals and mental institutions. Saint Nicholas of Myra of Lycia distributed money to those in need. Saint John the Almsgiver was one of the most charitable Patriarchs of the Byzantine Empire. Saint Joseph of Volokhlamsk  emphasized the ancient monastic tradition of hospitality and care for the poor, and Saint  Elizabeth the Grand Duchess established hospitals for the poor and destitute in Russia. The newly canonized saint, Mother Maria Skobtsova, served soup kitchens and established houses of hospitality in World War II France.

These holy saints provided unique examples to the rest of us of what it means to be Christians. They showed forth the Light of Christ by following His example of love for the poor, by giving of their talents, time and money to those in need. Orthodox Christians hold up the saints as exemplary people whose lives are worthy of emulating. The show us the way to live out the Gospels, and point, by their lives, the Way of Christ.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photo: I just received payment for copies of my book, The Morning Offering, which are being sold in the Local Author’s Booth at our Farmers Market.

Sunday September 3, 2017 / August 21, 2017
Synaxis of all saints of Moscow (movable holiday on the Sunday before August 26th, Russian Orthodox Church – the Moscow Patriarchate).
Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy (44).
Martyr Bassa of Edessa and her sons Theogonius, Agapius, and Pistus (4th c.).
Venerable Abramius, archimandrite, wonderworker of Smolensk (1220).
St. Martha, schemanun of Diveyevo (1829).
New Hieromartyr Alexander priest (1918).
New Hieromartyr Paul priest (1937).
New Martyr Ignatius (1942).
Venerable Abramius the Lover-of-Labor of the Kiev Caves (14th c.).
Venerable Theocleta the Wonderworker of Asia Minor (840).
Venerable Cornelius, abbot of Palei Island (Valaam) (1420), and his disciple St. Abramius.
Venerable Ephraim (1238) of Smolensk disiciple of St. Abramius.
St. Avitus, bishop of Clermont (594) (Gaul).
Martyrs Donatus the deacon, Romul the priest, Silvan the deacon, and Venust (Romania).
Venerable Isaiah of Mt. Athos (Greek).
St. Sarmean, Catholicos of Kartli, Georgia (779) (Georgia).
Hieromartyr Raphael of Sisatovac, Serbia (1941) (Serbia).
New Martyr Symeon of Samokovo (1737).
Translation of the relicts (1953) of St. Nectarius (Kephalus), metropolitan of Pentapolis (1920).
St. Hardulph of Breedon.

The Scripture Readings

Mark 16:1-8

He Is Risen

16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

1 Corinthians 16:13-24

Final Exhortations

13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.

15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us.

17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.

Greetings and a Solemn Farewell

19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you.

Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 The salutation with my own hand—Paul’s.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!

23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Matthew 21:33-42

The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers

33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. My first response to this is to ask, “What was the Church doing about all this poverty”? But then I asked myself, “What are we doing about the poverty of today?” I recently had the good fortune of traveling around much of the United States and visiting Orthodox churches, and parish families. What I found was that those helping at places like the local soup kitchen or shelter were reporting as being quite blessed by their activities. If they were giving funds, so much the better, but it seemed that the giving of one’s time and talents was more spiritually beneficial even than the giving of alms. Perhaps it is because we give so little, often times less perhaps than our allotment for coffee each day. I believe that giving must be sacrificial if it is to be of benefit to the giver.

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