Gregory of Nazianzus was a contemporary and friend of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. He served as the Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th Century and delivered a powerful oration entitled “On Love of the Poor” around 369-371. This oration was intended to rally support around those who were destitute, homeless, and suffering with leprosy. We have taken excerpts of this oration and formed them into a prayer for our community.
Oh God of Mercy and Justice,
God of the Oppressed and Broken,
We recognize that we are all beggars and needy of divine grace,
even if one of us may seem to have more than others.
We recognize that love is the first and greatest commandment,
the crowning point of the law and the prophets,
and that love of the poor,
and compassion and sympathy for our own flesh and blood,
is its most excellent form.
Help us, then, to open our hearts to all the poor,
to those suffering from evil for any reason at all.
Help us to recognize the source of our being,
our power of thought,
and (greatest of all), our power to know God
and to hope for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Help us to not overlook our brother, to not pass our sister by,
to not turn them away as something polluting or unclean,
as some alien thing, to be avoided or crushed.
Help us to recognize that they are a part of our body,
even though they are bowed down by misfortune.
Help each of us to care no less for our neighbors’ bodies than our own,
“for we are all one in the Lord, whether rich or poor,
whether slave or free,” whether in good health of the body or bad.
We recognize that while we live in splendid houses,
many live their lives under the open sky.
While we feast, while we corrupt ourselves with soft and flowing robes,
and while our clothes are stored away for us in chests,
many lie before our doors, faint, naked, and starving.
Why do we suffer from this spiritual sickness—
a sickness much more serious than that of the body?
Let it not be so with us—
let us not be rich while they are destitute,
nor be in good health if we do not tend to their wounds,
nor have enough food or covering,
nor rest under a roof, if we do not offer bread to them,
and give them something to wear and a shelter to stay in,
as far as we are able!
Let us seek our rest in the world to come,
and cast away our surplus possessions in this world.
Let us come to possess our souls in acts of mercy,
let us share what we have with the poor,
in order that we may be rich in the things of the world to come.
Let us not admire every form of health or reject all illness;
let us not allow our hearts to become attached to the wealth that passes away,
or be devoted to unstable things more than is good for us,
and so allow some part of our soul to be consumed along with them.
Let us not struggle against poverty as if it were wholly to be detested and condemned,
wholly on the side of things we should hate.
Let us rather learn also to despise health without understanding, for its fruit is sin,
and to honor the illness that is holy;
let us admire those who are victorious through their suffering,
recognizing that a Job may be hidden among the sick,
far more worthy of our reverence than the healthy.
Let us take care of Christ while there is still time;
let us minister to Christ’s needs,
let us give Christ nourishment,
let us clothe Christ, let us gather Christ in,
let us show Christ honor.
Let us give this gift to him through the needy,
who today are cast on the ground.
Have mercy on us, oh God,
and help us to follow in the steps of Christ our Lord
who comes to us in the guise of the poor
and implores us also to be merciful.
(Posted by Lindsey)