Loving our neighbor is the summary of the Christian Law. Sustaining the poor is a primary subject in the entire Bible, and it was the very first thing that Christ spoke of when he started his ministry. Money (economy) is mentioned in the New Testament more than most any topic.
The reason for the above subjects being so prominent within the Holy Scripture is because the Gospel is primarily about community. This is the goal and mission of the Church: to create community. The Christians began doing this as soon as Christ left to be with the Father. We see in The Acts of the Apostles that the Church gathered their goods together, and those that refused and held back their goods were struck dead by God! As time moved on through the first and second centuries, early Christian began underground communities that eventually turned into full on sustainable communities, thanks to St Constantine. This is Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy is what the Church became as it began to grow and expand in to a much larger and more powerful community.
The expansion of the Christian community (Orthodoxy) began with the emperor Constantine freeing the Christians and “legalizing” their religion (their practice). The great emperor soon called the bishops to ecumenical councils, which at that time a canon of Scripture was formed that we now call “the Bible.” Also, temples were built everywhere, and eventually hospitals, rehabs, schools, monasteries, etc. The once persecuted and “underground” community of Christ’s followers now became a literal empire. And the people lived and reigned with Christ for about a thousand years, when the empire split into a very distinctive east and west. But even after that persecution in the 11th century, the Church remained intact and later found refuge in Russia. The community of Christ in Russia began to flourish again, much like it did in St Constantine’s Byzantine Empire, eventually being deemed as “The Third Rome.”
The empire was never heaven on earth, never a perfect community. There were heretical leaders all over the place, spreading harm daily. There were wars that had to be dealt with; famine, etc; but there was the rule of Christ and the proof is still there, archaeologically as well as spiritually speaking. Many temples and ministries were made, and many saints were produced out of this great time, from the 4th century to the early 20th! And this was all done under what we call “the Patriarchate,” the bishops who are “rulers of nations.” A patriarch is not just some sort of top ranking bishop, rather, he is a direct extension of the imperial thrown, given permission to guide a national community.
The gospel is a political movement; Not in the secular sense of course, but in the sense of community. Our faith is designed to build entire communities, with judicial, economical and humanitarian structures. Our saints drew up the very concept of biblical justice and economy! Our faith, the Orthodox faith, is a completely “self-contained” and “sustainable” faith. It is not merely a doctrinal and ceremonial faith.
So why is it that we no longer wish to proclaim this community? this movement of ministry we once had? at least in not in America, anyhow. Why do we insist on refining our ceremonies and financing temples all the while letting the secularists build community all around us? Secularists and other forms of philosophical and spiritual heretical movements are even building ministries such as to care for the widows and the poor. They are building hospitals, rehab centers, etc…ALL IN FRONT OF OUR NOSES! We do not seem to really care. We keep setting our eyes on temples, pretending to be like Holy Russia. But we are not Holy Russia. We have not endured the pains that it takes to build an Orthodox community; rather we are riding on the coat tails of a very secular and even heretical nation (in America), rarely ever to mention what Orthodoxy is really all about, and rarely to ever even glance at Holy Russia for true direction, that is, the direction of the philanthropos, humanity and overall community. What about what Christ said all throughout the Gospel? What about the 1500 years of community that the Church labored for? Do we want to throw it all out so that we can parade ourselves in great vestments and icons, believing that the only externalization of our faith is at our personal convenience?
We say that the Orthodox faith is a “sacramental” faith, and this is correct. What is not correct, however, is that these holy mysteries that we posses are treated as mere symbols and not calls to action, not empowerment for the work that Christ commanded from us. The Eucharist, for instance, represents the very community of Christ, and what is the community of Christ, we might ask? Well, it has been shown to us throughout history! The Eucharist is the very embodiment of Christ’s power to serve our neighbor. And serving our neighbor involves an entire lifestyle, an entire community!