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THE SOCIAL DIMENSION OF CHRISTIANITY

THE SOCIAL DIMENSION OF CHRISTIANITY

Lambros Skontzos
23 May, 2024

Theological commentary on Palm Sunday

 

     On the third Sunday after Easter, our Holy Church honors the gathering of of Saint Myroforos, men and women and together the gathering of of Saint Seven Deacons. The memory of the latter brings to mind the sanctified climate of the early Christian Church, the most important obviously historical period of human history, since then an antiquated and completely bankrupt world was setting and a new, robust, hopeful and humane one was rising.  

     The Saints Seven Deacons embody the social message of our Christian faith, and the ministerial dimension of our Church, which serves the whole psychosomatic man, in all aspects of his life, continuing the supreme ministerial work of our Savior Christ, Who "He did not come to be served, but serve, and see his soul a ransom for many" (Mark 10,45).

      The holy Apostles, foreseeing an existing problem in the young Church, gathered the early Christian community of Jerusalem, telling them: "It is not our pleasure to serve the word of God. visit, brothers, men among you who were martyred seven, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, let us become on the same need; and we with the prayer and the ministry of the word we will prepare. and the word was well received before the whole multitude; and having chosen Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Prochorus and Nicanor and Timon and Parmenan and Nicholas the convert of Antioch, they set them before the apostles, and they laid hands on them as they added. (Acts 6,2-7). The multitude of the young Church chose, without any limitation or distinction, the holy seven men to minister to them. Not only "you serve a bank", but to be the perceivers of the community for every need. Thus was born a new, unprecedented, in the ancient inhumane world, society of love, the beginning of humanism arose, which was the basis for subsequent societies, until today!

     God created the world out of infinite love and together with man as His own image (Gen. 1,26:XNUMX), to experience divine bliss. But the fall, not only suspended the possibility of his participation in divine bliss, but twisted the course of the world in the opposite direction. Evil and sin prevailed throughout the earth, "The wickedness of men has multiplied on the earth, and every one ponders them in his heart diligently for the wickedness of all days" (Gen. 6,5). The whole earth was filled with wickedness, human society became a veritable hell. Hatred, envy, exploitation, wars, murders, injustice dominated humanity. The value of man was relegated to the category of animals. Human society was no different from herds of animals. Slavery was the constant horror of all pre-Christian societies. Even in "advanced" ancient societies, such as that of Greece, slaves made up the vast majority of society, with absolutely barbaric attitudes on the part of "free" their mistresses, calling them rs (things). The Romans characterized human relations as those of wild beasts (homus homini lupus = man is a wolf to another man!). Especially in the last pre-Christian years the situation had reached a critical point, so that, according to the French philosopher and humanist Satovriando (1768-1848), if o

Savior of the world Christ was coming a few years later, he would find the corpse of humanity!

      The Incarnation of God's word brought her to earth "new construction" (5.17 Cor. XNUMX), the new world, the one renovated by Christ. He came to recreate the crumbling and utterly decadent old world, to renovate it and give it the meaning of its creation again. The apostle Paul wrote that Christ came: "All things are recapitulated in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth, in him" (Eph. 1,3-10). He came to remove the evil spirit of the sinful world and to bring peace and fellowship among men, guided by love, a concept completely unknown in the ancient world. And of course, to free man from the captivity of Satan, the slavery of sin, decay and death and to reunite him with his Creator.     

      Early Christian society bears witness to the great revolution that Christ brought to earth. For the first time man is reduced to value and enjoys respect, without any distinction of gender, race, economic and social status, as the image of God. The despised and completely marginalized woman becomes equal to the man and the "foreign" becomes familiar. He stopped being a fellow human being "wolf» and becomes a brother. No factor can place each human person in a higher or lower position in the Christian community, which was dominated by absolute equality, since, "I am neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but all things and in all Christ"(Colossians 3,10:XNUMX). Everything was judged by unfailing, practical and sacrificial love. Each Christian lived for others and at the same time took life from them for himself.

       The apostle Paul considered this amazing society as "one body", the Body of Christ, in which the faithful are united with Holy Baptism and become His organic cells. "You are the body of Christ and members from member to member" (12,27 Cor.XNUMX) and "for the body is one and has many members, and the members of the body are always many beings in one body, so is Christ" (12,12 Cor. XNUMX). And just as in the human body all members are necessary and worthy of care in order to be strong, so in the church body everyone has a place, value and need of care. On this unprecedented principle, Christian socialism and real humanism rested and functioned, in contrast to "elective" of the so-called Greco-Roman world, which had no substantial effect on the vast majority of people, the numerous slaves, foreigners, "barbarian", of women, children, the worthless, the poor, the despised, the afflicted and all those marginalized by "elite" of the privileged!

      For the first time in the history of mankind, everyone was equal, as members of Christ. For the first time they sat down on "loves", at the common Christian tables, the famous with the unknown, the former master with his former slave, the poor with the rich, men with women, the "barbarian" with the civilized, the philosopher with the illiterate, the robust with the sick, the strong with the weak. For the first time, the valiant donation of the rich and the meager contribution of the poor and the widow were combined in the common fund of the community, for the relief of the poor. For the first time in the history of mankind, the voluntary common ownership of material goods was applied, so that, according to the holy author of the Book of Acts, the evangelist Luke "But the heart and soul of the multitude of believers was one, and not one thing

They said it was the same, but they had everything in common. For as many as the builders of villages or houses there were, selling, they brought the prices of those who were sold and fell at the feet of the apostles. that "For there was no knowledge of them among them» (Acts 4,32-34). As the culmination of this amazing celebrity love affair "loves", was celebrated Lord's Table, where everyone shared the Body of the Lord, which united them organically with Christ and with each other.

     According to authoritative historical sources, the institution, both of "loving", as well as the common property survived until the end of the persecutions (principles 4th century). The saint Justin the Philosopher and Martyr (+165) informs us that the institution was also operating on the 2ndο century AD and Tertullian (+215) until the 3rdο century.      

       Jews and Gentiles could not understand this outpouring of Christian love, and in addition to admiration, in many cases it led to misunderstanding and slander. With too much joy they said: "This is how Christians are loved!». Seeing the love of the Christians and their new way of life, many embraced the new faith and joined the Church. Let us mention here the unprecedented ministerial offering of Christians during the terrible plague of 250 AD on Deciou (249-251), who, with unprecedented heroism and self-sacrifice, cared for the sick and buried the dead, without distinction between Christians and Gentiles, who were abandoned by their own people for fear of contagion of the disease. Then a great number of Christian volunteers died, "taking upon themselves the disease of their sick fellow-men and dying in their stead", according to the expression of the saint Dionysios of Alexandria!    

     But even after the persecutions, the social ministry of the Church continued undiminished. In Byzantium, the Church provided an amazing social contribution, operating thousands of institutions, such as hospitals, poorhouses, orphanages, nursing homes, etc., when in the pre-Christian world they were unknown!

      The social ministry of the Church in the years of the Turkish occupation, in the occupation and in the modern times of the memorials, where millions of people live from it, is also known. We should also point out the fact that the early Christian social life and ministry was never abandoned by our Orthodox Church, which continues in our Orthodox communal monasteries.

      Unfortunately, there is also the negative side of corrupt Christianity, where its ministerial dimension has been distorted. Western Christianity, removed from the authentic Christian teaching, submitted to the antichrist Frankish feudal system, which is at the opposite end of the Christian tradition (Papacism) and the inhumane economic liberalism (Protestantism), with the well-known tragic results for the subsequent course of humanity, for which we do not have the opportunity to analyze here. All we have to say is that (and) this corruption gives strong "arms" to the perennial Christian fighters to fight the Church and accuse it of slander that it is allegedly an anti-social and misanthropic system!

     And there is also the counterfeiting of the Church's socialism. In recent centuries, philosophical, social and political systems, distant and hostile to it, such as e.g. atheistic humanism and materialist Marxism, influenced by the atheist "European humanism",

they attempted to copy the successful social system of the Church and implement it. But they failed miserably, because they used violence for the purpose of their own perverted social system, without the inner change of man. Their tragic mistake was that they could not understand that genuine social contribution is a product of love and freedom.

     Only our Orthodox Church, the unique One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, lives precisely the biblical and paternal tradition and continues to minister to man, as Christ commands, Who tells us, through his mouth Saint Chrysostom: "I am father, I am brother, I am bridegroom, I am home, I am food, I am clothing, I am root, I am foundation, I am everything you want; be in need of nothing. And I will serve you; for I came to serve, not to be served. I am both a friend, and a member of the body, and a head, and a brother, and a sister, and a mother, all me; it is enough that you be friendly to me. I became poor for you; I also became a beggar for you; I went up on the Cross for you; I was buried for you. In heaven above I beg the Father for you; below on earth I have been sent for you by the Father as a mediator. Everything to me you are; and brother and co-heir and friend and member of the body. What more do you want?» (76th Speech 24,16-31. EPE, 12, p. 34). 

      The feast of the Seven Holy Deacons comes to remind us that, if we want to be true and genuine believers of Christ, we must feel and be constant ministers in the church body. To realize that any recognition we have, passes through our ministry to our brothers, according to the word of our Lord: "Whoever wants to be great among you, let him be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you, let him be your servant.» (Mark. 10,43-45). We must follow our Savior Christ (and) in the ministry of our brothers, thus defining our authenticity as His disciples: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that he would lay down his soul for his friends. you are my friends, if you do what I command you" (John 15,12).

    Finally, let us not forget that our loving, ministerial and sacrificial attitude towards our fellow men will determine our position in the Kingdom of God. Our Great Judge, our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, will tell us: "Inasmuch as you have done to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done to me" (Matthew 25,40:XNUMX) and may we deserve to be at His right hand and hear His threefold invitation: "Behold, you who are blessed by my Father, you have inherited the kingdom prepared for you...(Matthew 25,34:XNUMX)!   

 

 

 

photo Buecherwurm_65 / https://pixabay.com 

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