In line with our Pope’s passion for calling the Church to face poverty with the ferocity of the self-emptying God of mercy, in preparation for tomorrow’s feast of that lover of the poor St. Nicholas, and in concert with Advent’s special focus on joy-bearing alms, I thought I would share a collage of relevant quotes from our sacred Tradition.
When someone strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not — should he not be given the same name? The bread in your board belongs to the hungry: the cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked, the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.
– St. Basil
It is not with your own wealth that you give alms to the poor, but with a fraction of their own which you give back; for you are usurping for yourself something meant for the common good of all. The earth is for everyone, not only for the rich.
– St. Ambrose
Do you think that kindness toward your neighbor is not something essential but voluntary; not law but a recommendation? I would wish and think that it were so, were I not frightened by the possibility of being numbered among the goats on the left hand of the Sovereign Judge who will hurl his condemnations; and this not because they have robbed or committed sacrileges or adulteries, nor because they have done something forbidden. Nothing of the sort attracts condemnation on them except their having failed to care for Christ himself in the person of the poor.
– St. Gregory Nazianzen
Do not make your longing for prayer a pretext for turning away from anyone who asks for your help, for love is greater than prayer.
– St. Symeon the New Theologian
Human beings have accumulated in their coffers gold and silver, clothes more sumptuous than useful, diamonds and other objects that are evidence of war and tyranny; then a foolish arrogance hardens their hearts; for their brothers in distress, no pity. What utter blindness!… Attend not to the law of the strong but to the law of the Creator. Help nature to the best of your ability, honor the freedom of creation, protect your species from dishonor, come to its aids in sickness, rescue it from poverty… Seek to distinguish yourself from others only in your generosity. Be like gods to the poor, imitating God’s mercy. Humanity has nothing so much in common with God as the ability to do good.
– St. Gregory Nazianzen
Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.
– St. John Chrysostom
You just need to look at what the gospel asks and what war does. The Gospel asks that we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the homeless, visit the prisoner, and perform acts of mercy. War does all the opposite. It makes my neighbor hungry, thirsty, homeless, a prisoner and sick. The Gospel asks us to take up our cross. War asks us to lay the cross on others.
– Servant of God Dorothy Day
While fasting physically, brethren, let us also fast spiritually. Let us loose every knot of iniquity. Let us tear up every unrighteous bond. Let us distribute bread to the hungry and welcome into our homes those who have no roof over their heads so that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God!
– First week of Lent, Wednesday Vespers