Compassion is the highest virtue! proclaims Gregory Nazianzen in a homily on illness and poverty. Embrace the sick without fear of contagion—leprosy in his case—and care for the poor, for they are Christ to you. Therefore, “Let us visit Christ, let us heal Christ, let us feed Christ, let us clothe Christ, let us welcome Christ” in the person of the poor and suffering.
He does point out that in caring for the lepers his listeners should “accept the evidence of science as well as of the doctors and nurses who look after these people,” even as he calls them to “extend a helping hand; offer food; give old clothes; provide medicine; bandage wounds; ask after them; counsel fortitude; offer encouragement; keep them company.”
The current crisis presents an extraordinary situation of medical, social, and economic need. Gregory already recognized the link between illness and poverty that is made glaringly obvious in a different way by the current pandemic. While the virus itself may infect rich and poor alike, in fact the repercussions are far greater among poorer people who cannot afford to stay away from jobs, are unable to work from home, and live in close quarters without the option of social distancing.
Melted glaciers. Bleached coral reefs. Slashed forests. Drained wetlands. Burning oil fields. Smog. – Environmental destruction all around us.
Why ought Orthodox Christians advocate for flora and fauna? Why should we care when environmental protections are dismantled, polluting industries reinvigorated, ecological dangers ignored or denied? Why must we speak up for all of creation—two-legged, four-legged, finned, winged, and rooted?
The patristic literature on creation and the genesis of the universe stresses its beauty, harmony, and order. Continue Reading…
Do we still think in our culture today? We are increasingly living in a world where reflection is reduced to superficial slogans and short soundbites, where communication is conducted in a homogeneous echo chamber of my own opinions rather than genuine discourse, where meaning has become the unthinking repetition of platitudes rather than deep engagement with the issues at stake.
This is true both outside the church and, regrettably, within it. Yet, in the current climate we cannot afford simply to parrot spiritual platitudes, to feed our children facile and simplistic versions of the faith, to remain theologically at the level of kindergarten conversation. If Orthodoxy is to be a vibrant tradition today, if its faith is to make sense to and in a postmodern culture, it has to grapple with the contemporary reality in all its complexity. Continue Reading…