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This was originally posted on the old website of the OCA congregation Saint John The Wonderworker in Atlanta, Georgia.  When I returned to their website looking for it, it had disappeared.  St. John’s has been under a lot of pressure recently, having lost their beloved founding pastor this January.  Recently, one of the most prominent lay leaders in that congregation has also been called home.  May the memories of Father Jacob Meyers and John Aldrich be eternal and ever-fresh.  That congregation, though, has not wavered in its dedication to the threatened and harassed poor of Atlanta.  They are actually serving more poor now than they were while Fr. Jacob was with them.  I believe this following piece was written by Fr. Jacob.  It certainly breathes of his spirit.  I wanted to rescue it from the Web Archive before it rotates completely away.

Without the poor we have no hope of heaven.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus describes the last judgment when each persons work will be tried by fire. Those that when seeing the poor refused to open their hearts and purses when sent to the left side and dismissed from the presence of God with the words “as you did it not to the least of these you did it not to me.”

Without the poor we have no quick way to lay up treasures in heaven.

He who gives to the poor lends to God. When we put our treasures into the hands of the poor we transfer our goods to heaven. All the gifts given to the poor or those who beg on their behalf are accounted as credit in heaven and since no thieves or moths or rust can diminish the treasure, it is truly secure awaiting our arrival in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Without the poor after we “sell all” that we have, who will we give it to.

Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all he has and give to the poor. The Saints from the beginning in preparation for a life in Christ sell all they have or else entrust the distribution of their wealth to a servant as a gift to the poor. Countless Saints and righteous people have taken this step as the first of a life dedicated to God.

Without the poor there is no way to give directly to Christ.

As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me. The hands of the poor are the hands of Christ just as the Church is the body of Christ.

Without the poor we hopelessly deluded by materialism.

The poor by their lives show the rich that God is the source. The poor show the rich that it is possible to live simple uncluttered lives. The poor show the rich that lives without abundance of this worlds good is possible. Our possessions eventually possess us and grow to rule our lives.

Without the poor we have no vision of a simple lifestyle.

As the accumulation of things invades our lives, we forget that real life is found in Christ. The poor give us a view of how little we need to life a calm and peaceful life in godliness and dignity.

Without the poor we cannot learn to be content with what we have.

The household of faith, living true humility, demonstrates being content is key to a true satisfaction. God knows what we really need to live, to ask for more than God provides presumes that God is unaware of our needs or what is best for us.

Without the poor we cannot lend to God.

He who give to the poor lends to God. Saint Nectarios as well as other saints have demonstrated that God repays many times over that money we lend to him by giving to the poor. Saint Nectarios observed many times a hundred fold return on his loans. And further God supplied to Saint Nectarios the money just at the right time in the amount needed.

Without the poor we have no people to thank God for us.

Just as the rich have a responsibility to provide for the poor. The poor have a responsibility to thank God for the rich who provide for their needs. The poor by our continual gifts make mention of us every day.

Without the poor can not learn to be generous.

Only by giving can we learn to be generous and merciful. When we take those first step of generosity we are fearful but we soon learn the joy that comes from giving. Truly Acts 20:35 rightly says “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Without the poor we cannot receive from God as we have given.

As you give so it will be given to you pressed down and shaken together. But the first step in giving is find people who can receive our gifts or finding some to deliver out in abstaining from food (that is the beginning) but exercising mercy so we can receive mercy. Consider making the Winter Lent a time to begin to follow the example of Saint Nicholas in giving to the poor.

Without the poor our riches become chains that fasten us to this life and condemn us to poverty hereafter.

The Rich man had everything in this life and Lazarus lacked all things but in the life hereafter the rich man, because he forgot the poor, lives as Lazarus in the life hereafter wishing every for a drop of water.

Without the poor moth, rust and thieves ruin all that we count dear to us.

Where our treasure is there is our heart.  If we neglect the poor all that we lay up as treasure will be just a bunch of rot. The Poor do not need our help. We need to help the poor. The poor have God as their Father and GOD supplies all that they need. If you do not cease your thefts from the poor God will provide for them some other way.

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Rather than let this blog die a slow, agonizing death because of my weekly posts on Internet Monk, I have decided to do a read-through of 2666 by the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño.  2666 is a departure for me, as I usually read speculative literature, and Bolaño, although I wouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination call him a “mainstream” writer, is not a writer of speculative fiction.  He also doesn’t fit neatly into the niche that aficionados of Latin American literature like to call ‘magic realism’.  2666 isn’t even considered his best book, although it was his last book, and supposedly, the one that killed him.

The Femicide MachineI cannot make any pontifical judgments about Bolaño because 2666 is the only thing I have read by him, and I have only read the first 125 or so pages of what is close to 1000 pages.   So writing this will be very much le passage du vierge au marié.   In addition, I have not read a lot of “serious” late 20th century literature.  Supposedly, there are a baker’s half-dozen great living American writers; Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, William Vollmann, Sarah Addison Allen.  None of the people whose lists I read include John Crowley, but I would.    So, from all the works of these eight authors, I have read Blood Meridian, Omega Point, Tar Baby, and bits and pieces of The Ice Shirt, Crying Of Lot 49, and Underworld.  That’s it.  Oh yeah, I’ve read Little, Big as well, and I would stack it against any of those others.  I just say this so you’ll know you’re not dealing with a heavyweight literature wonk that eats Derrida and drinks Wittgenstein.  I am just an ordinary book lover interacting with an extraordinary writer.

Bolaño is extraordinary in that I believe he believes that literature matters.  That is an uncommon opinion these days.  DeLillo’s book Omega Point in particular is so nihilistic that it even calls into question the use of language itself, foreseeing a frigid autistic future where all of us will be bound within the isoglosses of our own idiolects.  Communication will not so much be impossible as just not worth the effort.  The endless repetition of ritual motions will be so much more engaging.  So far, although Bolaño seems to be acutely aware of the decline and decay of nearly everything, he refuses to play the Asperger’s card.  From what I have read so far, I think Bolaño had something he wanted to say, and it sounds important enough that he was willing to race against his own mortality to say it.

I am reading 2666 in translation.  Reading in Spanish is still tough sledding for me.  Everything I have read about Roberto Bolaño is that his Spanish is muy picante, very flavorful.   Bolaño travelled widely and his works contain a lot of slang from a lot of different Spanish-speaking countries.   I have a PDF of 2666 in Spanish, and his Spanish doesn’t seem to be insurmountable.  If I run into a part in the translation where it looks like it might merit a glance at the original, I have it at hand.  Vargas Llosa’s La Tia Julia y El Escribidor was a lot harder, and I don’t think I could have finished that book if I hadn’t married a Peruvian and thus was passing familiar with Peruvian idiom.   Bolaño’s Spanish seems much more cosmopolitan to me, more like ‘Spanish as a world language’.   Compare it to the way V. S. Naipaul or Junot Díaz write in “World English” if you like.

As I mentioned before, Bolaño writes as though literature matters.  He says about certain works

“What a sad paradox, thought Amalfitano. Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. Or what amounts to the same thing: they want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.” 

Literature is, or should be, about being human, and being human is not for wussies or cowards.  It is not something you agree to.  It is not something that comes with a thirty day (or even thirty year) satisfaction-guaranteed warranty.   It will certainly break your heart at least once, maybe several times.  I have a suspicion that Bolaño himself had his heart deeply broken by being human.  2666 starts out with a depiction of four friends, professors of German literature in different European universities.  Despite the cruel satire with which Bolaño portrays academic life in second-tier universities, there is never any sense that the four friends are wasting their time, or that they are spending their lives in a fruitless pursuit.

CURRENTLY READING

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams