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 told 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,
Photos: Interior of my monastic cell. This is where I write most of my blog articles, and where I keep my prayer rule. (And yes, that is a Gandalf hat, gifted to me by an Evangelical minister friend who thinks I look like him).
Sunday January 24, 2021 / January 11, 2021
33rd Sunday after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Sunday after the Baptism of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ
Venerable Theodosius the Great, the Cenobiarch (529).
Venerable Michael of Klops Monastery, fool-for-Christ (Novgorod) (1452).
New Hieromartyrs Nicholas, Theodore and Vladimir priests (1919).
St. Vladimir confessor, priest (1932).
Venerable Theodosius of Antioch (412).
“Chernigov-Eletskaya” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (1060).
Sts. Theodore and Agapius of Apamea in Syria.
St. Stephen of Placidian near Constantinople (Greek).
St. Theodosius of Mt. Athos, metropolitan of Trebizond (14th c.) (Greek).
St. Agapius of Apamea in Syria.
Hieromartyr Hyginus, pope of Rome (142) (Celtic & British).
Venerable Romilos the Hermit of Veddin (1375) (Greek).
Venerable Vitalis of the monastery of Abba Serid (Seridos) at Gaza (609-620) (Greek).
St. Joseph of Cappadocia (Greek).
The Scripture Readings
Jesus Restores Peter
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
The Beloved Disciple and His Book
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
2 Corinthians 4:6-15
6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Cast Down but Unconquered
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”