In Communion reader,
In the early Church, hospitality to pilgrims and strangers was an integral part of Christian life. Sadly, it is a quality not often remarked on in Orthodox parishes in wealthy countries at present. In the Orthodox Church today, places of welcome to the poor and homeless - like Matthew 25 House, featured in this issue of In Communion - are rare.
Joe May's essay on "downward mobility" reminds me of the writings and deeds of St. Basil the Great. One of the towering figures of the fourth century, St. Basil was so devoted to the works of mercy that he founded the Ptochoptopheion for the care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the training in crafts of the unskilled. It stood outside the gates of the great city of Caesarea, where Basil was bishop. St. Gregory the Theologian lauded it as a "New City, a storehouse of piety, the common treasury of the wealthy." It was regarded as one of the wonders of the ancient world. St. Basil's "city of mercy" became in turn the model for many similar houses of hospitality founded in other dioceses and stood not only as a constant reminder to the rich of their social obligations to share with the poor but also as a summons to each Christian to live more simply so that others could survive. The social obligations of the wealthy (meaning anyone who had more than he needed for survival) were plainly preached by St. Basil. He was a practical lover of Christ-centered voluntary poverty, and even in his exalted position as bishop of a major diocese, he ate and dressed in a way that showed his concern for those who had no food or clothing. The Gospel text, "What you do to the least person, you do to me," shown brightly in St. Basil's life. May we live to see the rebirth of a similar Christian witness.
Once again, we appeal to you to help OPF continue. Because of health problems (I had surgery a few weeks ago and will probably be starting dialysis in the coming half year) I was unable to undertake my usual Fall lecture trip in North America, which in the past has been an important factor in keeping the Orthodox Peace Fellowship afloat financially. We also have to cope with the impact of the weakened dollar. Most of our income is in dollars while the greater part of our expenses is in euros. The euro used to be worth about 80 US cents; now a euro is worth $1.30. These two factors mean we are more dependent than ever on donations received. Thus we urge you to respond to this appeal. If at all possible, send more than you have in the past. Annual subscription payments alone are not nearly enough to pay our bills. Keep in mind that we now we have a staff person on each side of the Atlantic and also a part-time web master helping with the OPF web site. There is already a community of donors who make monthly or quarterly donations. Might you join that core group? Could you manage 10 a month? Or even 20? It would make such an enormous difference in our capacity to serve the Church. If you can manage, either by payment or pledge, the equivalent of 100 or more, you are eligible to receive a gift book.
in Christ's peace,
Jim Forest, OPF co-secretary
PS It has just become easier to make donations to OPF. If you prefer, subscriptions and donations can be sent via the OPF web site -- note the donation button on the right side of the page.