Просим Ваших молитв! О здравии: Святейшего Патриарха Кирилла, митрополитов Пантелеимона, Исидора, Игнатия, Кирилла, Викентия, Даниила, Георгия, Иосифа, Филарета, Александра, Феодосия, архиепископов Евгения, Зосимы, Марка, епископов Максима, Тихона, Сергия, Германа, Феогноста, схиархимандрита Илия архимандрита Олега, игумена Стефания, протоиереев Александра, Александра, Димитрия и Георгия, иеромонахов Иоанна Михаила и Диомида, иереев Вячеслава, Андрея, Андрея, рабов Божиих Тамары, Андрея, Александра, Александры, Ксении, Костаса, Елизаветы, Антония, Георгия, Елены, Валерия, Екатерины, Георгия, Екатерины, Наталии, Людмилы, Константина, Юрия, Валентины, Василия, Екатерины, Татианы, Василия, Екатерины, Димитрия, Татианы, Елены, Ольги, Николая, Никиты, Анны, Надежды, Елизаветы, Алексея, Наталии, Андрея, Николая, Михаила, Николая, Лидии, Георгия, Александра, Николая, Николая, Михаила, Андрея, Пантелеимона, Павла, Елизаветы, Марии, Никиты, Илии, Татианы, Петра, Георгия, Бориса, Сергия, Сергия, Александра, Николая, Николая со братией. Об упокоении душ рабов Божиих: Юрия, Галины, Александра, Татьяны, Валентины, Димитрия, Евдокии, Леонида, Анны, Александры, Анны, Татьяны, Василия, Иоанна, Димитрия, Татьяны, Леонида, Димитрия, Веры, Ларисы, Ксении, Якова, Василия, Пелагии, Варвары, Димитрия, Григория, Иоанна, Параскевы, Георгия, Андрея, Надежды, Иоанна, Владимира, Георгия, Елены, Екатерины, Елисея, Матвея, Татьяны, Иоанна, Тараса, Степана, Михаила, Герасима, Григория, Емельяна, Поликарпа, Филиппа, Панфила, Андрея, Анны, Николая, Агапа, Евстрата, Сергия, Аскольда, Марии, Надежды, Константина, Олимпиады, Анны, Марии, Клавдии, Петра, Леонида, Димитрия, Николая, Александра, Андриана, Димитрия, Марии, Тимофея, Григория, Ефросиньи, Иоанна, Ирины, Михаила, новопреставленных Германа и Александра и всех их прародителей и усопших сродников до праотца Ноя.
About the Foundation
The Foundation’s Programs
The Foundation’s Library
Медиатека Фонда
Charity in Russia
Russian (CIS)English (United Kingdom)Deutsch (DE-CH-AT)Italian - ItalyGreek

On Charity

"Provide yourselves bags which wax not old,

a treasure in the heavens that faileth not,

where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth".

The Gospel according to St. Luke (12: 33).

Charity as a property of human soul and philanthropy as an aspect of a person's behavior are settled on the religious, primarily, Christian foundation. In the times of theomachism these things were by all means kept close from the Russians, the very idea of philanthropy, in fact, was under a secret ban. Thus, in the four-volume "Russian Explanatory Dictionary", published in 1935-40 under the editorship of the USSR Academy of Sciences corresponding member, D. N. Oushakov, the Charity notion was interpreted as 'rendering material aid to the poor', with the bashful note in brackets - 'archaic'.


The official ideology did not allow to recognize the very fact of existence of the poor, wanted for charitable aid in the country of the “victorious” and then “developed” Socialism. That was why the very idea of the charity was proclaimed humiliating and outdated, while all forms of giving alms, and, in wider scale, the societal services, including the philanthropic ones, of the Orthodox communities and our Church in general, conceded illegal and were severely checked.

It was just after the collapse of the Communist regime, the philanthropean idea of charity has again gotten the right to exist in our country. The current Federal Law of the Russian Federation "On Charitable Activities and Charity Organizations" of July 7th, 1995, interprets charitable activities as the "citizens’ and legal bodies’ voluntary activities to disinterestedly (non-repayable or on favorable terms) transfer the property to citizens or legal bodies, including money, disinterested performance of works, granting services, rendering other aid”.

To religious people, the charity is perceived as the immediate implementation of our Lord Jesus Christ commandment, ‘do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest… Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful’ (Luke, 6:35, 36). To give good and to give thanks are the identical terms. The Lord Jesus says, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts, 20: 35).

Through all Jesus Christ’s teaching, through all His commandments, as well as His own example of serving people, runs the idea to love one’s neighbors and brotherly care for them. The Christianity has set before itself “the merciful glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘[who] for your sakes became poor’ (2 Cor., 8:9), descended into this flesh and vale of life and for our sakes suffered sorrows and diseases to let us be enriched with God’s heritage", says Saint Gregory the Divine.

The highest expression of Lord’s mercy and doing good was His holy praying for the enemies on the cross (Luke, 23:34). Of various miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ and imprinted by the saint apostles-evangelists, specially noted are the miracles ingenuously related to the subject of charity. The such were, undoubtedly, all healings made by the Christ, the miraculous feeding people with breads, and the first miracle at the marriage in Caen of Galilee.

The kind, attentive attitude towards people, desire for giving them good is perceptible in all the rest miracles by the Christ. He restored the sight of the blind and fed magnitude of peoples. He taught the alive and raised the diseased from the dead, and every His deed was prompted by His deep love and sympathy. How much love and care for people are there in the miracle of feeding with breads performed by the Lord. The story of feeding five thousand men with five loaves was told by all the four evangelists (Mat., 14:15-21; Mark, 6:34-44; Luke, 9:12-17; John, 6:15-14). This great miracle revealed by itself that the Savior’s prime care for people was His anxiety to give them the most needed, His expressed concern of their natural necessities. Though, as was understood later, His true care was for their state of spirit.

Miraculous feeding five thousand men.
The Gospel according to St. John, 6:3-14

From the very beginning, in the Christ's Church, as we read in the Book of Acts, the pray and alms were inseparable from each other. Good was the advice, given by Paul the Apostle, “let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1 Сor., 16:2), to make, when need be, charity offering.

In the Jerusalem temple, there was a poor widow who threw two mites, the smallest coins, in the treasury. And our Lord called unto him his disciples and said, ‘This poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury’.

«Jesus took bread, and, blessed it, and brake it, and give it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for remission of sins ».
(Mat., 26: 26-28)

The Lord appraises it more dear, than that was cast in by all of them together, than that the rich put in. ‘For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living’ (Mark, 12:44).

The rich who came to the temple cast in huge money, but their donation was small, prudent. They risked nothing. Throwing gold coins into the treasury, they were mindful to carefully count up how much was left to support their living with, the good living. But the Lord says, ’Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s the same shall save it’ (Mark, 8:35).

Was not that the way the other poor widow from Sarepta, a city of Sidon, did while saying, "I have but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” and later on donating all she had to the prophet? That was the donation fraught with death, donation of everything one possessed, notably, the donation of oneself. That is what the story was about. The two widows, risking their lives, have dared to entrust themselves to God entirely. The former was miraculously rewarded: Her barrel of meat wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail. The latter was rewarded no less miraculously: She deserved the praise of the Christ Himself. Knowing of these two widows, how dare we not to think of what our Lord is doing? He, too, is willingly donating everything He has, all His life. ‘No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself’, says He (John, 10:18). In the Gospel according to St. Mark, that meeting the poor widow at the treasury was last event in the Temple before the Lord's road of passion, road of sorrows and sufferings. The two poor widows’ donations are the prophecy of Son’s of God donation to come.

What is the excess for us? What are the necessities of ours for living? That is the question, for before God’s face the quality of our life is measured by the quality of the things we donated. To give excessive is, maybe, to give nothing. Such a donation does not impress the God. But a most humble donation becomes considerable, when we give away what is a necessity for us, what we might not survive without, when we give away a part of ourselves and all of us. In the divine liturgy we hear the Christ saying, This is My Body (Мat., 26:26). The Lord gives Himself to us, commends His life for our sake. We make our communion with the Christ's Body and Blood – the highest donation on earth. But are we ready to give our lives to Him? Are we ready to give Him in response not just the excess of our life, but our life itself?

What offering God accepts? We can find this question answered by Abba Dorotheus of Gaza, whose works were mostly popular in Ancient Russia, being the favorite reading to the Orthodox populace. Among numerous sermons, epistles and questions answered by Abba Dorotheus, special attention is to be paid to his Direction the Fourteenth ‘On Construction and Accomplishment of Spiritual House of Virtues’. Making fulfillment of such a house similar to a skilful and patient builder’s labor, the Reverend Dorotheus warns against the danger of destructing the thoroughly erected house with one’s own hands.

He speaks of destructive influence of vanity and lack of meekness while accomplishing good deeds. “For instance, here came one brother to tell you a word insulting or distressing you; if you remain silent and bow to him, then you put one stone. Then you go and tell another brother, “such-and-such annoyed me and told me that-and-that, and I not only remained silent, but also bowed to him”. Here you put one stone, and two stones took off. Another will bow again, wishing to be praised, and (inside him) there is meekness mixed with vanity: the meaning of this is to put a stone and to take it off.”

Abba Dorotheus made very important reasoning by which he distinguishes the charitable activities depending on their conformity to the will of God described by St. Paul the Apostle as ‘good, and acceptable, and perfect’ (Rom., 12:2). “To love each other, be compassionate, to give alms and so forth” means, according to his words, to conform to the good will of God. Only he “who gives alms not following some human incentive, but doing good for the good’s sake, out of compassion only”, will conform to the acceptable will of God. Only he “who gives alms with no avarice, nor laziness, nor compulsion, but with all his strength and all his purpose, giving out the way he would receive himself, and doing good the way he would accept the good himself, will conform to the perfect will of God”.

Abba Dorotheus’es important instructions on the true purposes and motives of doing good deeds are followed with no less valuable thought, that charity, at large, does not depend on one’s means; he made an extensive scale of possible displays of mercy. “Nobody can tell, I am a pauper and I have nothing to give alms with, for if you cannot give as much as those rich men casted their donations into the treasury, then throw two mites, like that poor widow, and God will accept that from you better, than the donations of those rich. If you have no even these to give, then you do have strength to mercifully serve your ailing brother. You have no ability even that to do? You can console your brother with a word; so, give him mercy with a word and hear the said, the word of good is more than a donation” (Syr. 18, 17). If even with a word you cannot help him, then, when your brother distresses you, you can give him mercy to endure his embarrassment, seeing him tempted by the common enemy, and instead of telling him one word and embarrass him even more (you can) to remain silent; by that you will give him mercy and relieve his soul of the enemy. Also, when your brother becomes sinful before you, you can pardon him and forgive him his sin, and you also will be forgiven by God; for it is said, ‘forgive, and ye shall be forgiven’ (Luke, 6:37)".

The New Testament Scripture reveals to us, that our Lord not only Himself displayed the miracles of love and mercy to people, but also emphasized in every possible way the necessity to care for one’s neighbor and be merciful to him, to do him good being meek towards your donation, feeling no shade of vanity and ambition. He who is doing good must be guided by one thing only - love to God and love to his neighbor, free of any narcissism because of good deeds done.

This principle is expressed by Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, imprinted by the evangelist St. Matthew the Apostle, ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doeth thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly’ (Mat., 6:1-4). Hence, the alms should be kept secret not just from people, but also, in some sense, from the philanthropist himself not to be a cause for self-glorifying. It goes without saying, that God accepts only a lawful offering. Just by ‘rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's’, having paid taxes and fees in full, it is possible to start carrying out God’s affair.

Significantly, that throughout all the ages of the Christianity the Christ's Church true zealots strived rigorously to fulfill the Savior’s Covenant to complement the lavish charity with keeping it in secrecy from both those favored with it, and all people about in general. The characteristic sample to this effect is given to us by the life of one of the world saints the mostly revered by all Christians, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Archbishop of Myra of Lycia, whom the grateful memory of the Orthodox people named the Apostle of Charity. When St. Nicholas became a bishop, he was doing a lot of good to his flock with ample charity. By then, his parents died, leaving him the rich inheritance which he all spent to help the poor.

Another case gives evidence of his extreme meekness. In Patarah, there lived a poor man who had three daughters of beauty. He was so poor, that had nothing to get his daughters to be married. To what extremity the indigence can bring the man who is not firm enough in his Christian consciousness! The indigence led the unfortunate father to horrible thought of sacrificing his daughters’ chastity and using their beauty to get money needed for their dowries.

The icon of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker with hagiography.

For as long as many centuries, Saint Nicholas has been nowhere as revered as in the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the Holy Russia, there was no city without the temple of his, there was and there is no believing family without his icon.

But, luckily, in their city there lived a good pastor, St. Nicholas, who was vigilant against the needs of his congregation. Having got the revelation of God of the father’s criminal intention, he decided to relieve him of corporal poverty and thereby to save his family of spiritual downfall. He decided to do good in such a way that nobody had any knowledge of him being the benefactor, not even the one who the good was to be done for.

At midnight, when everybody slept and could not see him, he took a small bag of gold, came to the unfortunate father’s hut and threw the gold inside through the window, then came back home quickly. In the morning, the father found gold, but could not guess, who his secret benefactor was. Having decided, that the Divine Providence was the source of this aid, he prayed thanks to God and soon married his eldest daughter off.

When St. Nicholas saw that his benefaction proved to be fruitful, he made up his mind to have it completed. And in one of the following nights he, as secretly as before, threw into the window of the poor man’s hut another small bag of gold.

Saving the three maidens.

Soon, the father married his second daughter off, too, firmly hoping, that God in the same way would give His mercy to his third daughter as well. But he became determined to learn by all means who his secret benefactor had been and to appropriately thank him. To this end, he did not sleep at nights, waiting for the man to come.

He had to wait not for long: soon the good Christ's pastor came in the third time. On hearing the sound of the gold fell, the father rushed out of the house and caught up with the secret benefactor. Once he saw him to be St. Nicholas, the farther kneeled before him, kissed his feet, thanking him as the savior from the spiritual downfall.

For as long as many centuries, Saint Nicholas has been nowhere as revered as in the Russian Orthodox Church. In the Holy Russia, there was no city without the temple of his, there was and there is no believing family without his icon. What our people, more than any other peoples, have loved St. Nicholas for? Not just for his love to the temple, to the shrine. Not just for his holy zeal of truth and God’s truth, for his childish trustfulness towards the Disposition of God. Our Lord knew what sorrows Russia had to await - and Nikola the Merciful would have to perform ‘the inexhaustible sea of miracles’ there, where the prompt aid is the mostly needed. The Russian people were to be overcome with the greatest temptation, were to be seduced with the earthly blessings, having forgotten of the heavenly ones, and, in the end, were to lose both the heavenly, and the earthly good. So that, there would be no hope to be saved by themselves.

The name of Nicholas in the Greek means "he who wins people". What strength one is to obtain to be victorious over people, to have the power not just over the man’s body and his outer actions, but over his innermost thoughts and desires, too! We know, that the Antichrist’s forerunners, prior to get people into the physical captivity, tried to seize their souls, and there were times when they managed to gain a seeming victory over millions minds and hearts.

The Christ, also, speaking of the mankind’s false pastors that come to steal, kill and destroy, reminds of the voice the sheep recognize and the voice the sheep obey, even if they are not of this homestead, not with the Church yet. We have our victory, only when we will come victorious over ourselves, over our sinfulness, our selfishness, when the Christ wins a victory over us with His love, and thereafter we shall learn the saints and all the Christians are the very NICHOLASES who win the people with the true good. Deep in their souls our people disdain benefit and design, which are being imposed as standards today, and the people give the highest value to the good, generosity and mercy, responding them wholeheartedly.

“Be ye merciful”, this is the appeal that goes throughout all the Christ's annunciation, and this mercy is to reach everything, from the greatest to the smallest and insignificant, from the innermost hopes in one’s soul to the external and outside, even the cup of cold water (Mat., 10:42) has not been forgotten. It was not without the good reason, that any sermon by the Christ's disciples always was, the first and foremost, the sermon of love and doing good. ‘If we love one other, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us’ (1 John, 4:12).

The icon of Jesus Christ.

By doing merciful things to our neighbor, we do them to God Himself. ‘I was a hungred’, admonishes our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘and you have given to Me eat; thirsted, and you have given to drink Me; was the wanderer, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brothren, ye have done it unto me’ (Mat., 25:35-36, 40).

‘Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy’, - the Lord proclaims in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat., 5:7). The evangelical teaching makes the merciful similar to the sun that rises both on the evil and on the good (Mat., 5:45). The mercy and charity should be applied not just unto friends, but unto enemies, too.





“If everyone left to himself
only what was necessary for the current
needs, and gave away the surplus
to the poor, then there shall be
no wealth, nor poverty …
Why are you rich, while your neighbor
is poor? Was not it purposed
with the only thing - that your kindness
and unselfish keeping the house
be duly awarded, meanwhile
the poor be given good
with the generous gifts promised to him
upon his long patience?”

Saint Basil the Great


The Church, set up by the Apostles, the Christ’s disciples, inspired with the brotherly love, has actively followed His commandments. In the treasury of saint fathers’ writings, there is a magnitude of the amazing dictums revealing the most important role the mercy and charity play in the Christian life. Tertullian writes, “The care for the helpless that we render, our active love for our adversaries has become a kind of sign of ours.” In his second epistle, St. Clement says, “It is good to repent of sins, it is better to fast pray, but the alms excel them all.”

“Let our mercy be the mirror”, says St. Isaac the Syrian, “to see in ourselves the very similarity and true image which there are in God’s nature and God’s essence.” “The Lord”, teaches St. Clement of Alexandria, “allows us not to reduce the poor to the situation when they have to seek and beg for alms from you. No, you are to seek who to do good for.”

St. Basil the Great strengthens the charity by the word and personal example. He donates his fortune to the poor men and spares no efforts to preach in his sermons on limits in possessing property, at that, he denounces not the richness as such, but the unjust, self-interested possessing it, “To have above the need is to deprive the poor, is to steal.”

Basil the Great, with his shrewd knowledge of the man, was well aware, that the rich might be pious and abstinent, but they are frequently lacking compassion for the hardships of the poor, on the occasion, he notes, “The virtue that becomes to them most of all, and that comes the most difficultly to them, is the virtue of mercy.” Basil the Great, not putting limit to himself with preaching the social justice and striving to practically prove the possibility to overcome the poverty with charity, builds a new city near Caesarea of Cappadocia, which the thankful people named Basiliade. Besides the beautiful temple, there were the victualling-house, asylum for the poor, hospital with a special room for infectious patients, which were complemented with dwellings for workmen and servants later. It was the exemplary labor estate with free feeding.

Saint Isaac the Syrian

In his "The Sixth Sermon Against Money-Grabbing", Basil the Great, calling for the charity, said, “If everyone left to himself only what was necessary for the current needs, and gave away the surplus to the poor, then there shall be no wealth, nor poverty… Why are you rich, while your neighbor is poor? Was not it purposed with the only thing - that your kindness and unselfish keeping the house be duly awarded, meanwhile the poor be given good with the generous gifts promised to him upon his long patience?” “As a bread grain, having fallen into the earth, turns into the profit for the man who threw it,” says St. Basil the Great, “so the bread thrown to those who are hungry for it, subsequently will bring centuple profit. Therefore, let the agriculture goal be the beginning of Heavenly sowing to you.”

In a similar way, the associate and friend of St. Basil’s, St. Gregory the St. Gregory the Theologian, argues, “Imitate God’s loving the man. This is what is the most divine in the man – to do good… lend God with a favor: there has been no one to repent one’s donation to God”.

According to St. Gregory’s the Theologian teaching, ‘nothing makes the man so similar to God as doing good’. “The poor are warriors”, says he. “They, having taken the alms, propitiate God, they destroy the crafty designs not of the barbarians, but the demons; they do not let the wicked spirit to become stronger and attack you continuously, but to weaken its force.”

Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzen)


St. John Chrysostom has been consumed with zeal for his neighbors in exactly the same way. Many times he protected the poor and suffering, helped the starving with hunger and thirst. Filthy lucre of the rich made him sick. To remind of the poor’s human dignity and of property limits he finds the crushing words, “You have mules standing fed, while the Christ is dying of hunger at your threshold". He depicts the Christ as a poor man and speaks through his mouth, “I could live and be fed by myself, but I should rather to wander as a beggar with the stretched hand for handout, so that you would feed me. I am doing this out of love to you.”
“Verily I say, the alms is the Queen who makes people similar to God”, St. John Chrysostom says. “She is light and fast-flying, has golden wings and makes the flight which charms the Angels. She flies like a gold pigeon alive, endowed with gentle look and meek eye. There is nothing more beautiful than this eye.” And in another place, “The alms is a ransom of a soul… at the God’s Judgment the alms shall rise and protect you.”



“Verily I say, the alms is
the Queen who makes people similar
to God. She is light and fast-flying,
has golden wings and makes
the flight which charms the Angels.
She flies like a gold pigeon
alive, endowed with gentle look
and meek eye. There is nothing
more beautiful than this eye.”
And in another place,
“The alms is a ransom
of a soul… at the God’s Judgment the alms
shall rise and protect you.”

Saint John Chrysostom

The charity affairs by the very nature of theirs are the way to the belief, the way to God. Take, say, the convincing case of a heathen, centurion Cornelius, whom the heavenly messenger urged to baptism, ‘thine alms are come up for a memorial before God’ (Acts, 10:4). Or Peter's the Breadgiver hagiography, who was known for his extreme cruelty. He threw a piece of bread in a beggar, and suddenly dreamt of that piece of bread preventing the bowl of scales go down for his final condemnation. He became so amazed with this miracle that began to generously give away all his wealth to the poor, plunging his heart in the charity affairs, as St. Isaac the Syrian said, till it felt the mercy that God felt towards the world, and, in the end, in likeliness to Christ, sold himself as a slave instead of another man.

Here is, also, a story of St. Martin of Tours, a Roman warrior, who, prior to being baptized, met a beggar at the city gate in the cold winter afternoon. Martin had no money, and the beggar shivered from the cold, and Martin took off his frayed warrior's cloak, cut it in half and gave one half to the beggar. That night he saw the Christ, with the angels about Him, who was clothed in a half of Roman warrior’s cloak. An Angel asked Him, “My Lord, why Thee clothed Thyself in this old, frayed rag, who gave it to Thee?” And the Lord, having shined with the unuttered light, said, “My servant, Martin, though he has been just announced, gave it to Me, and therefore I shall clothe him with the Heavenly grace.”

The charity, doing the good, is the man’s state of mind. It is the case, when you just cannot perceive yourself the personality of full value without giving aid to people with all your strength and all your joy - to give aid without indemnity, in secrecy, with no advantage for yourself, with no desire of honors and awards. At that, it is absolutely of no importance, how much money is concerned. And what pleasure it gives to spend money for your own recreation and creative hobbies, after you have exerted yourself with all your strength giving aid to the needy, when your conscience is clear. They who have not experienced this sensation yet – do try, and you would never like to give it up. Everyone of us needs it. It is always more blessed and happier to give than to receive. The businessmen practicing the charity know well with what hundredfold the Disposition of God repays all donated wholeheartedly, thus inspiring and encouraging new good deeds.

Saint Martin of Tours

Upon having taken notice of the ideas of mercy and charity in the sacred patristic heritage based on Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Gospel of love, it becomes clear why the origins of the domestic charity go back to that turning point in our country’s history when the Christianity has come to the Ancient Russia.

When the light of the Revealed Truth began to shine over the Holy Russia, the Church had brought into the public consciousness the idea of taking care of the needy. Initially, the Christian love for the neighbor and mercy were being revealed through giving alms to the poor. From the very beginning, the charity took form of donations for building temples. Thus, Grand Prince Saint Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, had erected the temple of Most Holy Mother of God in Kiev. The temple became the place of caring for all the needy: by the Prince’s order, the special sum of money had been allocated from the public funds to feed beggars, widows and orphans. Besides, according to the Initial Russian chronicle, anyone in need could come to the Prince’s court and get all the essentials there.

Grand Prince Yaroslav Vladimirovich, who came to the throne in 1016, put the special sections concerning the charity into the Church and Zemstvo Charters. He used the personal money to set up the school for orphans, in which 300 inmates were trained and lived. Yaroslav's charitable traditions were followed by his sons, Izyaslav and Vsevolod.


Grand Prince Saint Vladimir,

The son of Vsevolod and grandson of Yaroslav, Prince Vladimir Monomakh, always helped the poor and diseased: he generously donated money to the needy, and urged his children and the prince’s armed force to follow his example, “Do feed the wayfaring men and beggars with meal and water, like mother feeds her children, do console the offended, protect the orphan, justify the widow.”

The sister of Vladimir Monomakh, Princess Anna Vsevolodovna, founded and kept on her own the female school for all estates in Kiev, she herself teach the schoolgirls to read and write, and be skilled in handicrafts. Prince Andrey of Bogolyubovo ordered to transport food into the streets and give it away to the poor.

Grand Prince Mikhail Yaroslavich entrusted his son, “Do not despise the wanderers and poor, for God wishes so.” Prince St. Alexander of Neva bought out the Russian people from a captivity with his own money. Prince St. Dimitry of Don helped the homeless victims of fire to build houses, gave alms to the poor.

The charity was considered the requisite condition for personal moral health and salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven. “The paradise is entered with the holy alms”, people used to say, “the beggar is fed by the rich, and the rich is saved by the beggar’s pray.” To repeat the words of the distinguished Russian historian, V. O. Klyuchevsky, ‘the alms were the additional act of the church divine service, the practical requirement of the principle that the belief with no deeds is dead’.

In the course of time, forms of charitable activities changed according to changing historical circumstances – from immediate giving alms to setting up large charitable organizations that devoted their activities to the public care as a major branch of the governance. But, with all that variety of forms, the charity had always been based on striving to obey the second of the two principal Christ's commandments that make up the whole law of God, – the commandment to love one’s neighbor.

Also, the charity played a formidable role in the secular service of the Orthodox Church. Since the ancient times, the cloisters in Russia gave food and alms to beggars, and arranged special beyond-the-enclosure premises to receive the sick and aged people. The Venerable Father Theodosius of the Cave gave his blessing to deduct one tenth of monastic incomes to meet the needs of the poor, and to build the special beyond-the-enclosure courtyard, where beggars and cripples lived.

Venerable Joseph of Volotsk wrote in his book The Tutor, “Be ye pious, wise, the comforter of the sorrowful, the feeder of the poor, receive the wanderers, protect the offended... Be ye generous, merciful, sweet and meek in your answers.” When the famine came, Venerable Joseph opened the monastery granaries and fed the starving, took care of the children abandoned by their parents, set up orphanages for them.


“Be ye pious, wise,
the comforter of the sorrowful,
the feeder of the poor,
receive the wanderers,
protect the offended...
Be ye generous, merciful,
sweet and meek in your answers.”
Venerable Joseph of Volotsk


Generally, the charity in Ancient Russia under the Ryurikoviches was often reduced to giving away food and clothes, allocation of dwelling and medical care. Since the middle of the 16th century, after the decisions adopted by the Stoglav, the Council of the Hundred Chapters of 1551, the charity in our country began to transform from philanthropy based on the private initiatives of the rulers and those of the Church to gradual established system of public care. The Stoglav specified, “The really needy lepers and aged are to be separated from the poor industrialists; they are to be registered in all cities; almshouses, for them, both male and female, are to be arranged, under the authority of good priests and publicans, on private alms account.”

Since then, the charity has found its place in the systems of state policy. . Special state charitable institutions have been set up (for instance, the almshouses in cities). And, certainly, the Orthodox Church went on to visibly prove, that the mercy and charity were the Orthodoxy’s chief and continual values: both the cloisters and some church parishes gave funds to maintain clinics, orphanages and schools, set up libraries, fed with free lunches.




Catherine the Great

Tzar Aleksey Mikhailovich

The state system of public care has been even more developed under the tzars of the Romanovs dynasty. Early in the morning, on the eve of great festive occasions, the Russian tzars, in secrecy, visited hospitals and asylums for the poor, where with their own hands gave alms to prisoners and supported by charity. As the legend goes, Tzar Aleksey Mikhailovich by himself, simply clothed, visited houses of poor men, paid interest to their needs, gave the help needed. On Sundays, he visited the prisoners in dungeons. Under him, the beggars were given the annual salary of 4 roubles and 50 copecks per each.

Empress Catherine the Great paid especially great attention to the charity, she set up Russia’s first charitable society, the Educational Society for Noble Maidens, and founded special institutions for social protection, Offices of Public Care. Empress Maria Fyodorovna, the wife of Emperor Paul I, headed the whole network of charitable institutions, known as "Empress Maria Fyodorovna’s Institutions" purposed to give care for children, invalids, widows and the aged.

Maria Fyodorovna

In Russia, the charitable activities had further impact for development in the 19th century. In 1802, Emperor Alexander I set up the Beneficial Society to do the charity affairs, which in 1816, under Empress Elizaveta Alekseyevna’s insistence, was transformed into the Imperial Philanthropic Society. Its first trustee was the Sacred Governing Synod’s Attorney-General, prince A. N. Golitsyn. Later on, the special title of The Honorable Trustee was established which had been granted to most generous donators for charitable ends. Many charitable deeds of that epoch have lived to our days. Thus, well-known the Sklifosovsky Institute of Initial Care in Moscow occupies the building that The Honorable Trustee count N. P. Sheremetev built up as the hospital for the needy.

Under Emperor Nikolay I, the Society for Visiting the Poor was founded, which was originated by prince V. F. Odoevsky, a bright figure in the Russian culture of that epoch. The 1860s social reforms, prompted by Alexander II, provided favorable conditions for development of the charity in Russia.

The private initiative had remain the most important basis for charity. Surface is to mention the Demidovs, the famous manufacturers. As early as in the days of Catherine the Great, Pavel Grigorievich Demidov was proactive to support the development of the Russian education. He donated 100,000 roubles in money to the then founded Moscow University, and also gave it as a gift his personal library and collection of various art rarities. His cousin, N. N. Demidov, gave over the mansion he owned it the Voznesenskaya Street in Moscow to set up the House of Diligence. Later, these premises were occupied by the Elizavetinsky Institute of Noble Maidens. P. A. Demidov provided funds to establish the Commercial School at the Foundling Hospital in Moscow and the Boarding school at the Moscow University.



Emperor Alexander I


Pavel Grigorievich Demydov

In the second half of the 19th century, the private charity activities were especially proactive; 95 percent of all the philanthropic societies were founded then. With the trade and industry having developed, increasing number of merchants and businessmen were engaged in the charity. The charitable institutions, in most cases, were named after their founders - the Morozov and the Bakhrushin hospitals, the Alekseev eye and psychiatric clinics, the Rukavishnikov and the Mazurin asylums, the Tretyakov gallery.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Church charity were also on a new rise. A new form, the sisterly charity, came into existence and developed. As early as in 1844, the Holy Trinity sisterhood – the first of the kind in Europe – was set up in St.-Petersburg to train nurses to take care of the wounded. The practice of the sisterly charity during the Crimean War had led to establishing the Russian Society of Caring For Wounded and Diseased Soldiers, in May 1867, which in twelve years was transformed into the Russian Red Cross Society.

By the beginning of the First World War, there were over a hundred of similar sisterhoods registered in Russia, and by the mid-1917, there were about 30,000 sisters of charity worked as nurses in infirmaries and hospitals, of which 20,000 had been trained in eparchy communities. The sisterhoods of charity became some kind of secular nunneries, where taking the veil was not obligatory.


Count Nikolay Petrovich Sheremetev

One cannot help paying attention to the ministerial activity of the Righteous Saint John of Kronstadt, who founded the House of Diligence in Kronstadt, in 1882, where, by the beginning of the 20th century, over 7,000 people worked. There, the free medical aid was provided, the poor were given lunches and allowances.

Extensive were the charity activities by the Grand Princess Saint Elizaveta Fyodorovna, who, as early as in 1893, founded the Elizavetinskoye Charitable Society to give aid to the children of poor parents. In 1907, she set up the sisterhood of charity (since February 10th, 1909, was known as the Marfo-Maryinskaya Abode) with the hospital, ambulance station, drugstore, orphanage, the Sunday school for 75 girls and women, canteen for the poor. The Abode was engaged in finding jobs for people, baby sitting, nursing patients in-home, material support.

Grand Princess
Saint Elizaveta Fyodorovna

Righteous Saint John
of Kronstadt

Throughout all the Soviet period, the private charity was under ban, because the state tried to monopolize the whole societal sphere of life. Just quite recently, the traditions of the Russian charity began to be restored. In the world of today, to revive the charity is difficult, but a blessed task. “Hurry ye up, while there is time for mercy and caresses”, St. Philaret of Moscow said, “while the time of incorruptible judgment has not come yet; be ye merciful, do deeds of love for your fellow-men which you are able of: ye shall be both pardoned, and blessed.”

The modern Russian legislation, principally, welcome charitable activities. The Federal Law "On Charitable Activities and Charity Organizations" establishes the basics of legal regulation of charitable activities, defines possible forms of supporting them by the state authorities and local governments, the specifics of setting up the charitable organizations and their activities in Russia

Overseas, the legislatures are active in encouraging the charity, making it legal to spend 3 to 10 percent of company’s gross-profit before taxes for aiding the officially registered charitable organizations. The state thereby is reasonable enough to shift a considerable part of public concerns onto the socially responsible business. The domestic enterprises, much to our regret, are not allowed to put just a copeck of their charitable donations into the production cost yet: Our state still allows the business to be engaged in the charity only after it had all the taxes paid.

Nevertheless, the charity is gaining strength. There are hundreds of prominent personalities among the Russian businessmen who are proactive and systematic in going this way. Some names of the Demidovs of our days have already become a part of Russia’s modern history. Igor Aleksandrovich Neivahlt, the head of the Baltic Construction Company, had over 50 Orthodox temples to be restored and built. Andrey Anatolievich Kozitsin, the head of the Urals Mining and Metallurgica Company, has funded his personal money to construct so many cloisters, temples and children protectories, that we advise everybody to look up at the UMMC website to get acquainted with this aspect of the company’s activities. This enumeration can go on and on.

These outstanding people, the elite of the Russian business, are following good Orthodox tradition in their activities – not to boast in the media of one’s good deeds,  but, at that, not to hesitate to give all necessary information, experience and the assistance to those who wish to step on the road of charity. It was that way the conciliar community of Orthodox patrons of arts was being gradually set up in Russia. ‘He that giveth good is of God’ (3 John, 1:11).

Igor Alexandrovich

Andrey Anatolievich

In July 2000, the Athos elders gave their blessing to the Russian businessmen, Andrey Yurievich Bykov and Mikhail Ivanovich Chepel, to establish the Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker Charitable Foundation. The Foundation is registered in Moscow and has its branch in the city of Bari, Italy, where St. Nicolas’s holy relics rest.

The Foundation is a private secular noncommercial organization. By working out and implementing charitable programs, we follow the blessings given by our spiritual principals, the Athos elders. The Foundation is not engaged in politics: Our policy is the charity. We are the Orthodox laymen, God’s humble servants, who serve Russia, Mother’s of God principality. We do entrepreneur work of penance, hiding nothing that comes out of it, as this book reveals.

ИGood deeds are not welcomed to be blared of, but, for this instance, the special blessing was given to publish the book, because, as the elders say, Russia is on the rise, its heart blazing to give the good, and it should be seen what is possible to be done. For ten years, the Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker Charitable Foundation worked out 880 agreements on charitable aid by means of 615 projects in 50 Russian Federation entities, and 37 projects abroad; 41 project is being implemented on the long-term basis. The Foundation took part in construction and restoration of more than 100 cloisters and temples, installation of 26 monuments to Russia’s saint patrons and to prominent public figures; it distributed free of charge over a million pieces of printed matter, organized tens of pilgrim trips across Russia and abroad; staged numerous charitable performances casted with the performers well-known all over the country. The aid is being given to kindergartens, secondary and chess schools, the children's creativity centers, to the Orthodox theological seminaries and missionary centers. The Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker Charitable Foundation gives the charitable aid to military pilots, seamen, boarder guards and commandoes.

«The desire of a man is his kindness» (Proverbs. 19:22)