Tuesday, September 07, 2004

In the beginning...

At the Last Judgment
I shall not be asked
How many prostrations I made
Or how faithful I was
In my ascetic exercises.

I shall be asked
Did I feed the hungry
Did I clothe the naked
Did I visit the sick and the prisoner?
That is all I shall be asked.

--Mother Maria of Paris

This weblog is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Orthodox Action, the radical Orthodox Christian association founded by St. Maria of Paris. The members of Orthodox Action dedicated themselves to the task of caring for "the least of these": alcoholics and drug addicts, people who had been purged out of mental institutions, pregnant unwed mothers, tuberculosis patients, the poor and homeless. And when the Nazis came, they expanded their ministry of hospitality to hiding Jews, becoming part of the "underground railroad" of the French Resistance that was getting people of Jewish descent out of Paris and into the Unoccupied Territory. For this, Mother Maria was eventually sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she died on Good Friday, 1945 (for more on the life of St. Maria, see http://www.incommunion.org/skobtsova.htm).

Yet Orthodox Action was also a learning community, where the intelligentsia of the Orthodox Church in Paris came together to learn from one another. People like the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev and the speculative theologian Fr. Sergei Bulgakov, along with Mother Maria, who was a philosopher and theologian in her own right, discussed how they might create a more just, more compassionate social order. It is my hope that this weblog, through comments and running dialogue, can somehow recapture some of this sense of community.

We in the Orthodox Church pride ourselves on having kept "the mind of the Fathers." But have we kept the heart of the Fathers, their radical commitment to justice and mercy? Or are we stuffing our cassocks into our ears and muttering the Jesus Prayer to drown out the screams of the dying? We have a long history of organized social endeavor: St. John Chrysostom, who was feeding and housing 3,000 people each day as the parish priest of the poorest slum in Antioch; St. Basil the Great, who founded the first hospital system in the Byzantine Empire; St. John the Merciful, working for radical social change among the refugee population of Alexandria; and St. Sampson the Hospitable, who founded a clinic that not only offered free medical care, but ensured that his patients were fed and clothed as well (see my profile). But how is this aspect of our tradition reflected in our everyday practice? Where are our hospitals, and shelters, and soup kitchens?

Possible topics for future discussion: liberation theology, socialism, the peace movement, living in intentional community.

We'll see where this goes...


Dawn said...

I just finished reading Pearl of Great Price this week. WOW.

Stacy said...

Sampson... I think I have a lot to learn. For the first time the life of my own patron saint, Saint Anastasia, makes a connection. I've always felt a bit estranged from her before now.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for creating this blog. I have an affinity for St. Maria Skobtsova and what her ministry achieved in Paris. I just found this site tonight so I don't have much else to offer but my thanks and interest. I'm going to link your blog to mine.