Selected Theological Works Of Blessed Metropolitan
СодержаниеThe Moral Significance of the Dogma about the Holy Spirit. The Moral Idea of the Dogma about the Church. The Meaning of the Dogma about the Church. The Main Thought in the Dogma about the Church. Absence of this Thought in Contemporary Philosophy. The Church and Personality Other definitions of the Church The Militant Church The Theses The Church as the Keeper of Divine Revelation. The Saving Power of the Word of God. Life beyond the Grave and Eternal Sufferings. The Parable about the Unjust House Stewart. Lazarus of the Parable and Four-Day Lazarus. The Kiss of Judas. Concordance of the Evangelical Records about the Resurrection of Christ. About the Impossibility of Moral Life without Religion Introduction The moral principles of pantheism Moral principles promoted by Kant Conclusion Metropolitan Anthony by Bishop Gregory Grabbe Speech pronounced in 1985 at the day of the 50-year anniversary of his repose. The Significance of Believing in Jesus Christ. Why Did Not Jesus Christ Call Himself God? The “Son of Man” – An Attempt of Interpretation. In What the Orthodox Faith Differs from Western Confessions
The Moral Significance of the Dogma about the Holy Spirit.
Enlightened Christians know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity, the source of the blessed enlightenment of prophets and apostles, and as well of any gracious gift, given to Christians in the holy sacraments, especially in the sacrament of anointment and priesthood. But one must admit that the very character of blessed gifts is not very well understood by us.
The teaching about the third Person of the Holy Trinity was represented in the Farewell conversation of the Lord with His disciples. No prejudice can destruct the clear truth that under the Comforter the Lord meant not any impersonal Divine power, but the living Person, different from Him and God the Father, precisely «other Comforter.» The characteristics of the Holy Spirit, as of the living personality, is expressed in the fact that though the word «spirit» is of neutral gender in Greek, the substituting it pronoun is used in the masculine: (John 16and other extracts). What meaning does this name of the Comforter, which helps in understanding the dogma, possess?
At a first glance it can seem that the Holy Spirit will console the apostles in their separation with Jesus Christ. Though a similar interpretation is refuted by the very words of His: «It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment» (16:7–10). The consolation in a loss, obviously, cannot have greater importance than the lost object itself; therefore the explanation concerning this name should be searched for in the following words: the Holy Spirit will comfort the followers of the Lord in their struggle against the world and in hatred of the world towards them. Really, the further speech of the Lord reveals the meaning of the Heavenly Comforter with all clarity. In the time when the world will despise the preachers of the Gospel, will hate and persecute them (15:17–21), and even think that killing them is doing God a good service (16:2); this time the Comforter, abiding in the holy Apostles, will strengthen the spirit in their weak-believing hearts, setting them in the way of virtue, reminding and explaining them the prior thoughts of their Teacher, which were till that time beyond their understanding, – revealing them the future lot of the world, and accusing this proud world of the sin of disbelief (16:9–14) through them. That is why, to replace the former fear of the mundane power and arms, the feeling of grief over the humiliation of their Teacher, the Teacher introduced into the hearts of the Apostles that element of moral satisfaction, which would teach them to triumph in the time of persecutions.
All this came true after the Pentecost, when defeated and dishonored by the imprisonment, the apostles appealed to God in prayer, «and when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness» (Acts 4:31).
We shall get convinced in such an understanding of the word «Comforter» – meaning the consoler of those preaching the truth of Christ, or the giver of moral satisfaction in our outward sufferings, when we find the exact place where the Lord borrowed this name from, among the religious-moral concepts, known to old times’ Hebrews, and then trace the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the life of the Apostles and upon the arrangement of the Church of Christ. With this, we shall only pause at the circumstance that the endowment of joyful patience is possible only through the "other Comforter,» but not through Jesus Christ Himself.
The state of humiliation, in which the activity of Christ and its fulfillers always abide on earth, will constantly tempt the latter with that despondent doubt, which had His disciples, who did not wish to believe, hearing the news about His resurrection and were saying about Him: «But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel» (Luke 24:21). Though the disciples did not dare to call Jesus a deceiver, but they were ready to treat Him as a self-deluded man, how contemporary Jews treat him now. Therefore, there was necessary another witness, following Christ, like the Forerunner, who had come ahead of Jesus, testifying of Him (John 15:26) saying that He went to the Father, and the Prince of this world was judged (16:11). Having such a Comforter, in the time of their sermon the apostles felt themselves better, than even being with Jesus Christ Himself, for being enlightened by their Teacher’s heavenly teaching and testimony about Him, they drew closer to Him afterwards, more than while Jesus was with them, for previously they could not understand His words, which the Holy Spirit «shews unto them» further on (16:12–13), in order for them not to be afraid of the cross but glory in it (Gal. 6:14). «Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate, – calls in the conclusion one of the apostles, – let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach» (Hebr. 13:12–13), i.e. let us step out of the laws of the community, protected by the world, and convert into those persecuted and outcast, without being afraid of the latter state, for Christ Himself had gone through it.
How can we understand such an action of «other Comforter»? – I think that many have experienced something similar in their sufferings for the truth. When one of us has to tolerate humiliation and hatred for an absolutely right and holy matter, sometimes from the hands of the respected and dear to us people, then our soul falls into a dark and hopeless state. Full of care God, Who had permitted it to be so, seems to us the Fulfiller of Punition, not the Protector; this state is very close to despondency. But then we suddenly meet a simple person, someone pure and convinced, filled with joyful inspiration, he becomes a comforter to us. Then as if fire starts burning in our heart, and all of a sudden those circumstances, which led us into the state of grief, start to inspire us with heroic enthusiasm: such is the power of a comforter! Such phenomena happened very often in the history of sufferings of holy martyrs. To their strength must have served other comforters, when the decision to carry the cross of Christ was subjected to the tempting trial within the exhausted soul: there was a need of an outer witness and comforter, like that Angel, Who strengthened Jesus Christ in the Gethsemane. Such comforters are people and angels, and more powerful is the Comforter – the Holy Spirit – for those suffering for Christ. Obviously, the faith of Christ, acting in the sufferers, cannot be such a comforter, but it is that special, equal to Christ, other Comforter, not less in worth than Christ Himself; Divine, not identical to the trying Father and as if tried Son; the comforter, which shows its very presence in the hours of sufferings. Here is the important significance of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Who is crowning the exploits of saints, similarly to God, and is giving extraordinary joy to those professing the truth of Christ in the moments of sufferings and inner spiritual victory over the outwardly triumphing untruth of the world, and therefore It is called in no other way than the Holy Spirit.
Now we shall prove this point with the help of the Old and New Testaments and the life of the Holy Church. The Lord calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter in the meaning of the source of moral satisfaction for sufferers. Such a notion can be found in the books of the Old and New Testaments, according to which the moral ideas of Their readers were arranged and from which all the theological definitions of the Gospel of John were taken, for instance: word, life, way, truth, grace, light and the others.
Can the notion «comfort, a comforter» be found in the Old Testament, meaning moral satisfaction? – Yes, it can, for instance, in the Farewell sermon of the Savior . "So I returned, says the Ecclesiast, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive» (4:1–2). On the word of the Ecclesiast, not the sufferings themselves are so awful, but the lack of consolation, comprehension of them. The word «comforter» is denoted in the Greek Bible by the same expression as the comforter of the New Testament, «paraclit», in Hebrew «menachem», proceeding from the verb «naham.» This verb means «satisfaction,» for example, in the words of the Lord, given by prophet Isaiah: «Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies» (1:24). From this verb comes the name of Noah, this utmost carrier of grace and righteousness (Gen. 6:8) of the pre-flood time and the denouncer of the sinful world. When he was born, his father «called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed» (Gen. 5:29). As well as in the other places of the Old Testament this word means the decision to tolerate sufferings, inner satisfaction: the soothing of the good and the exposure of the evil ones. Therefore Nathan the Denouncer is called «menachem» by the Jews. Such a comforter of the suffering was expected by the Ecclesiast, and, having not met him, he admitted any good venture of man to be powerless and fruitless, for «that which is crooked cannot be made straight» (1:15), and «every right work is envied,» and «there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean» (9:2).
But if the lot of the righteous and sinful is the same, and the righteous are more predisposed to bear the cross and persecutions, than those violating the law, then what can keep them from falling into despondency? – They will be protected exactly by that Comforter, Who was not yet revealed to the Ecclesiast, but was sent forth from the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the victory-bearing joy in sufferings and firmness in spreading the faith of Christ could continue to be called by Christians as the comfort of the Holy Spirit, as it is said in the Acts: «the churches… in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied» (9:31). The very word «comfort,» «to be comforted» used in the New Testament meant exactly inner satisfaction (for example, Math.5:4, Luke 6:24; 16:25), and, together with that, comforting in sorrows, tolerated for the sake of the Divine matters in the struggle with the world or with oneself (Acts 20:1–2; Rom. 15:4; 1Cor. 4:13; 2Cor. 1and 7:7–13; 1 Sol. 3and 2 Sol. 2:16).
This holy, understandable only for Christians mood, was, is and will be the gift of the Comforter-Holy Spirit. These gifts are various, according to the Holy Scripture, but they all have spiritual perfection as a goal. First of all, the acceptance of the Holy Spirit by the believers converts them into new men: «I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance – said St. Forerunner, – but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Math. 3:11). This second baptism happened in the day of the Pentecost after the Ascension of Christ, Who said to the apostles: «For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence» (Acts 1:5). Anyone knows how much the apostles changed after that magnificent spiritual enlightenment.
In the epistle to Corinthians are mentioned those spiritual perfections, which are received through the acceptance of the Holy Spirit: the gift of wisdom, faith, curing, prophesy, etc. (1Cor. 12:8–11). In other utterances of the New Testament these gifts are mentioned separately. Thus, first of all, the Holy Spirit cleanses the conscience of man, endows it with highest and indisputable assuredness in its testimonies: «I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost»– writes Ap. Paul. That is why, on the word of Ap. Peter, the Holy Spirit moves unto those, who for the sake of the obedience to conscience tolerate sufferings: «If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified» (1Pet. 4:14). If someone is brought into interrogation for the sake of truth of Christ, then the Holy Spirit is responsible for such a righteous in the court: «For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you,» warns the Lord his apostles (Math.10:20), and really, when the members of several synagogues started an argument with Stephan, they «were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake» (Acts. 6:10). On the contrary, the sin against the Holy Spirit is that conscious rejection of the testimony of conscience, which cannot be forgiven to man because he is in the state of voluntary bitterness. As the enlightener of our conscience, reporting to us the indifference towards dangers, the Holy Spirit is the constant Witness of truthfulness of the way of Christ, the Witness of His Divinity for us and for the outer world, as the Lord promised in His Farewell conversation. This promise came true very soon, for in several weeks the apostles testified in the court: "And we are his (Christ’s) witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him» (Acts 5:32). This Holy Spirit assures us of the fact that Christ abides in us (1 John 3:24) and that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16). Therefore He not only reports to us patience, but hope with love (Rom.5:5), and this love gives us constant joy in the Holy Ghost (Ro. 14:17). But such joy is not at all some fruitless poetic delight, but love for all, that is why the communication of Christians, on the word of the Apostle, was the communication of the Holy Ghost (2Cor. 13:13). As Apostle Paul says, the overseers of the flock of Christ are appointed exactly by the Holy Spirit to feed the Church of God (Acts 20:28). Christ the Savior meant this gift of teaching to be the gift of delight and love in the following words: «He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.» Apostle John explains that: «This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified» (John 7:38–39).
Have the Church preserved such an elevated teaching about the action of the Holy Spirit, about Its gifts? – It could not but keep it only because the divine service prayers are composed like a mosaic from the words of the Scripture. Have a look at the service on the day of the Holy Trinity, take as an example the third Sunday antiphons of eight verses, and you will find in them exactly those thoughts about the Holy Spirit, which we were talking about. Or have a look at the church prayers of the rites, through which the grace of the Holy Spirit is mostly reported, i.e. in the fulfillment of sacraments; or analyze the content of the prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly King, with which a good son of the church begins every deed, and you will see that the thoughts about moral purity, clarity of conscience, unity with God and Jesus Christ, communicating with everybody in love are everywhere here.
The false, alien to moral purification teaching about grace, which is typical of the heresy of Khlysts and other sectarians, force them to deviate from the church and hate it, as darkness hates the light. To some extent external, mechanical understanding of the process of endowing man with grace is typical of the Protestant and catholic theologians, but, thanks God, it cannot be introduced into the religious practice of the Orthodox, though it tries to influence the teaching aids. The Orthodox divine service is so powerfully connected with the teaching about faith, the feeling of purity of the heart, sincerity and resignation, which are treated as the main conditions of our closeness to God, that no external influence can bring distortion into the enlightened by these feelings conscience of Orthodox Christians.
But they would say: our Orthodox faith is sacred in its doctrine, but what is it like in the understanding of the contemporary believers? If we once again resort to practice, then we shall see that the Orthodox people never part with the idea, that God requires from them first of all holiness, and that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the endowments of inner sanctification. This strife for spiritual purity, this constant regret about own sinfulness is not only the basic mood of our faith, but of our believing community and nation. It understands piety as the combined with self-resignation and sufferings exploit for the sake of Christ’s truth, the exploit, in which the Holy Spirit supports Christians. Let it be glory to Him, with the Father and Son to the ages of ages.
The Moral Idea of the Dogma about the Church.
When the readers are suggested a more or less new explanation of Christian dogmas, the believing Orthodox author does not suppose to introduce into the Church mentality any new truth. On the contrary, he is convinced that the fullness of truth is the property of the church mentality of all times. If, for example, till the 5th century the notions of nature and personality remained untouched, or if till the 7th Ecumenical council the dogma about the revering of icons was not distinctly formulated, then this does not mean that earlier the Church had not known the correct doctrine about the Trinity, or was torn between idolatry and the struggle against icons. In the mentioned cases it was not that the content of faith was enriched, but there happened the enrichment of human thought, because some notions were substantiated and became more profound. Even before the 4th century the church knew from the Gospel and Tradition that the Father and the Son are One, that we are saved by the belief in the Holy Trinity, but how to coordinate these truths with human philosophical notions of personality and nature, or in the other way- what kind of place receive these notions in respect of the Divine creature, – these things people learnt only from the fathers of the First and the following councils.
The same way, if now any simple, resigned Christian, like, for example, Homyakov, starts discussing the truths of faith (in contemporary terms), but without building an opposition to the church tradition, then such an author, remaining in the accord with Orthodox theology, does not discover any new mysteries of faith, but from the point of view of faith satisfies the new demands of contemporary human thought. A modern reader, seeing in his words a long-waited-for answer for the doubts, concerning his beliefs, is ready to proclaim such an interpretation to be «a new revelation», and another reader, without such demands, being an admirer of school authorities, full of distrust and ill-will, does not hurry to agree with the author and is persistently trying to find the presence of heresy, rejecting the fact that the subject is explained much better than in the existing teaching aids. By the way, same Homyakov did not say anything against the teaching aids, so the attitude to the comparative worth of his interpretations and teaching aids in general mostly depends not on how the eternal content of faith, identical for both the variants, is analyzed, but on the substantiation of changing demands of the contemporary thought.
One of the most persistent, most definite demands of contemporary life in respect of our faith has to do with the moral content of its dogmatic truths. The church consciousness always possessed this content. The Creed is always an enthusiastic hymn for the obedient and enlightened sons of the Church. Almost every prayer of the Church ends with the recollection of the Holy Trinity, especially as of the source of all moral treasures. But modern theology, as a science, lacks the clear definition of the moral notions of the truths of faith and the explication how the first are defined by the second ones. Therefore, it is natural enough, that those researchers, who are acquainted with Christianity only from its educational side, but do not have any practical view upon the church truth, these, so to say, external contemplators of Christianity, are bewildered about the fact, why our faith, which made its Founder pronounce the words: if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments – demands from its followers the acceptance of multiple, and as it seems, purely theoretical, dogmas with such persistence. We have said «are bewildered,» but, unfortunately, our haughty contemporaries least of all agree to be bewildered, but prefer, like the rooster from the parable of Krylov, the sure and persistent denial and defaming of what they do not understand. This mood is especially strongly manifested in the works of Leo Tolstoy, who, unfortunately, in this case is only one more daring representative of the mood of the great number of educated Europeans and Russians. We are trying to respond to this bewilderment, both in the present article about the Church, and in the former ones: about the Holy Trinity, the atonement and the Holy Spirit.
The Meaning of the Dogma about the Church.
From all dogmas, the dogma about the Church is subjected to the strongest attacks of sectarianism and pseudo-rationalism. Our liberals with special diligence spread the translated publications about inquisition, the fight of culture with the Papacy, within the reading circles, hoping that the quick-witted Russian reader will be able to shift the ill-intended statements, concerning the Papacy, onto the Russian church. Together with that, Russians in the West will underline that circumstance that the attractive grandeur, arrangement and convictions of the Papacy system – with one word, all that the Papacy can boast with – are not typical of our church management, with which similar people meet via secular executives, who usually cause various limitations, (i.e. censorious, disciplinary, ritual, etc.) And if the church management in the face of its hierarchic representatives creates obstacles for our liberals, then in this case it is usually treated like passive, ineffective, ineloquent, and therefore it is not strange that the renegades see it as the old boring grumbler.
So miserable seems to our contemporaneity that greatest sacred part of Christian teaching, without which the latter would really remain abstract, lifeless dogmatism, without which there would be no essential change in life performed by our faith in the universe. And if nowadays the false liberals think the teaching of the Church to be an obstacle in the path of their faith, then why do not they want, at least, to think over that phenomenon, that precisely this truth about the Church was the main power for attracting people and nations to Christ? Though, even without this dogma of the Church, Christianity is rich in elevated ideas, touching images, but all these ideas and images, including the events of the Evangelical history, would have remained powerless in the aspect of moral rebirth of people, if they would not have been fulfilled in the present life of Christians again and again, if the latter would not be the constant manifestation of that spiritual unity, that tender mutual love and mutual care, which could be instilled on Christians neither by belief in future life, nor by love for the Savior, and the recollection about His sufferings, but only by the words of His and His apostles about the Church, – about the fact that Christ gave His truth and grace not to each believing person separately, but to their unity in the Church, which as if forms the body, that is revived by the Spirit of God, gathering its members into one living unity of love, who live in this unity and die spiritually, as soon as they leave it.
Ancient Christians understood this condition to be the most important for their spiritual life and in it they found the force for fulfilling this most difficult task of life – to love each other. Our contemporaries have lost this understanding and need theoretical explanations, concerning the question about the significance of this dogma of the Church for spiritual perfection of the personality. We would like to offer such an explanation.
The given theological point of view about the interpretation of the dogma of the Church is not accidental and has place only in the contemporary conditions of thinking. The most authoritative dogmatist of Orthodoxy, venerable John Damascene, says that from His features and His providential destinies God, having revealed to us everything necessary for our salvation, hid that, what does not have a direct connection with this goal. In particular, not only the truth about the Church is revealed to us, as far as this goal is concerned, but the very Church is established only for that. Who does not know the words of the apostle that from Christ "the whole body [of the Church] fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love» (Eph. 4:16).
So, the designation of the Church is defined clearly and concretely: it is in the spiritual perfection of Christians. Meanwhile, as a consequence of some sad misunderstanding exactly this aspect is omitted in the definition of the Church, made by the contemporary dogmatists, who do not note at all, as it seems, that the given by them definitions suffer from logical incompleteness, which is obvious to a conscious reader.
The majority of the educational definitions of the Church start like this: the Church is a society, established, united, etc. But the main definition of a society is in its designation, its goal, and about this almost nothing is said in the educational formulation of the dogma. Recently in literature appeared another definition of the Church, as of the body of Christ, which caused great polemics, but the arguing said almost the same, though they fiery rebuked each other. The main basis for such a definition was in the given above words of the apostle, but on some reason no one considered it necessary to read the phrase up to the end, and the holy utterance was discussed, being harped on the same string, without going over to its main thought.
If to look at the truth of the Church from the mentioned by us point of view, then we would need to make the following thesis main in our reasoning: for salvation, or, which is the same, for spiritual perfection of man the three conditions are needed: very man, God and the Church. Usually, the third condition is not thought to be the basic for our salvation, because this subject was mostly highlighted by the Protestants in European theology; but we know that the Divine Kingdom, Which our Savior had brought to earth, is reached not only through the sanctification of personal life of man through the direct influence of the Divine Creature, but through the establishment on earth of new existence, new element, only through which the Lord comes into communication with human personality. This existence, this element is the Church. It is great that in that exceptional case, when after establishing the Church the Lord called persecutor Saul to Him directly from His Heavenly Throne, He did not leave him without the most direct guidance of the Church, did not show His will directly to him, as once He had done to Elijah and other prophets, but sent him to Ananias for to be taught, sanctified in the sacrament and healed from blindness.
But even before the time when He was only explaining the principles of His doctrine, in the majority of His parables He showed new spiritual life as the opposite not only to that sinful, split into two, personal life of a single man, but as well to the isolated way of life in human society. In His new Kingdom people gather not only to create a friendly brotherhood, but they arrange some new council existence, which has to grow as the leavened bread, as that tree that hides all in its shadow, as the grape vine, where the stem is Christ and the branches are the Apostles.
The Main Thought in the Dogma about the Church.
Preparing Himself for leaving this world, the Lord Jesus Christ looked at the skies and appealed to His Father in a prayer about the fulfillment of that act, for the sake of which He had come to earth. This prayer was about nothing but the arrangement of new, council existence – the Church on earth – the existence, which till that time parted by sin mankind did not possess. This existence is typical not of earth, where there is no unity, but pure partition, but of heaven, where the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit gathers the three Persons into One Creature, so that there are no more three, but one God, living council life. Alike, the council new existence, new man is brought forth by Christ onto earth, into the hostile society of Jews and pagans (Eph. 2:14–15). Surely the goal of this new existence on earth lies not in itself, as in a process, but in the relations between its compound parts, i.e. human personalities. "Father, I will, -says the Lord, – that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me…that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24–26). This is the final goal of the established by Christ Church, in respect to its members; and the first task, without which it is impossible to reach the final goal of our existence, is in unceasing spiritual perfection of the personality in the Church.
Therefore the Church is absolutely new, special and unique existence on earth, which cannot be defined with precision by any notion, taken from mundane life. And if in the mentioned by us theological argument those thinkers, who told about the superiority of their definition of the Church, as of the society (comparing it with the definition of the Church, as of the body of Christ), were sure that they were giving the correct definition of the Church, while their opponents only proposed a comparison, – then let us note that the claims of the first were absolutely unfounded. Any terrestrial society has so many aspects, absolutely different from the life of the Church, and so few common with it traits, that one could prefer the comparison, which is authorized by the Holy Scripture to the visibly formal definition, if only, as we have said above, the referring to this matter words of apostle Paul were analyzed in all their fullness, without shortening its main thought. And this main thought (unto the edifying of itself in love) already stands in the opposition to the image of the body, knowing no love, and through that again this thought leads us to the understanding that the definition of the Church is about the exclusive, opposite to everything terrestrial existence.
Now let us focus on the description of this existence in detail, and then again we shall point at its real displays and by that shall try solving the more difficult question of the mutual argument of European confessions: where should be the real Church searched for?
From the quoted words of Christ the Savior we saw that the Church is the similarity of the Trinitarian existence, in which many personalities become one creature. Why is this existence (as the existence of the Holy Trinity) new and unperceivable for the Old Testament man? – It happens on the reason that in its natural self-consciousness a personality is a limited in itself type of existence, drastically opposite to the others. Let us set aside the language of abstract definitions, necessarily dry and compressed, and discuss the practical influence of this law upon our will. First of all, we see that this law of our natural existence, which can be found in our direct self-consciousness, radically differs from the moral law of the Gospel, which demands from its followers self-denying love for the neighbor. Though, this law of love can be found within human nature, which is disposed to love, but at the same time it is inclined to defend its «ego,» and bears the feeling of self-love and vengeance. And till the time man sympathizes with the Christian law only being led by his natural inclinations, he will never accept the fullness of Christian love, will not become a true Christian: he will love some, and maybe ardently, and will hate the others: love and self-love will still remain in him, as two irreconcilable enemies.
"But this will be a constant contradiction in the soul of man!» -an objector will state triumphantly. Sure, we shall reply. Natural man is the incarnated contradiction, and this inner contradiction of his nature is hardly revealed with such force elsewhere than in the feeling of natural love. Like that, for example, in the sexual sphere love and hatred are combined in one strange, ugly process, where sometimes reproduction is followed by a murder. Or take the highest manifestation of natural life – the love of a mother among the animals or simple people: here the affects of tenderness towards children are constantly changed by the affects of anger against their supposed enemies, and against children themselves, if they do not understand the wishes of the mother. A hen, when her chickens are born, not for a minute stops to threaten everyone around, and a usually meek cow is more terrifying than any predator, while the newly born calf is near her. From the constant observations of life, and from the artistic image of the latter in literature we know about the fact, how this inner contradiction of love and hatred is intensified within people (for example, «The Egyptian Nights» of Pushkin, «The Meek» of Dostoyevsky, «The Mother» of Nekrasov and many others).
Human thought did not bring together these two points, but rather intensified the contradiction. When people used the notion of a free personality, this unique notion, upon which the elevated demands of strict morals can be based, then together with the teaching about justice, chastity, honesty, they preached the proudly cold, legal and formal attitude towards the neighbors. Such is the teaching of the stoics and Kant, who totally denied the importance of virtue and suggested to substitute it with the principle of respect for the neighbors. The morals of the scholastic theologians were based on the notions of formal duty and, having no opportunity to deny love for the neighbors, which was preached in the Scripture, were limited by them with the invented doctrine about love for oneself, and with many legal, but artificially created norms, which were taken from the Roman and feudal law and were introduced not only into the teaching about the relations between people, but into the doctrine about God the Redeemer.
Absence of this Thought in Contemporary Philosophy.
The latest humanistic moral, and with it the Protestant moral of the rationalistic direction came to mutual agreement that for the strengthening of the principle of love it is necessary to renounce «the scholastic» notions about the personality, free will, retribution, and instead of these notions, protecting egoism, to establish the opposite view onto existence, as onto council Divine life, which is distributed between creatures, who long to be the parts of one gracious unity. Here, spiritualism is changed into pantheism, the main leading principle of the modern philosophy and rationalistic theology. Let us add that not mainly humanism, but the Protestant predestination, (which denies the significance of the exploits of will) and the common drop of morals that was concealed behind the shield of humanism serve as the main basis for the development of such a world-view.
But let us discuss only the positive aspect of the latter, without penetrating into its concealed meaning. The connection between personalities is destroyed here, the opposition between «I» and «not me» is exterminated; there is no place for haughty self-praise of nonentity, which bears the name of a human. But everyone knows that with the extermination of the freedom of will the difference between the good and the evil and any moral responsibility of man fades, and the same happens to the moral attraction of the exploit of love and its moral necessity.
That is why the contradiction between haughty sensuous egoism and known to our heart element of love cannot be solved within the philosophic thought, till it originates from this or that principle of natural life – the principle of a free personality or of natural humanism: in the first case there rules legal formalism, in the second – pantheism. Obviously, both the thought and real life are based on the initial notion, due to which there will happen the reconciliation between the free self-esteem of personality and the principle of self-denial and life for the sake of others. Here, these others, this «not me,» would not be anything opposite to me, to my «ego,» and the freedom of each personality would be combined with the metaphysical council of their existence, not like it is in pantheism.
This is the initial notion of the Church according to the definitions, which we have given to It before, on the basis of the Divine Word. And really, we see that the personality, developing itself in the Church, combines the fullness of self-denying love and high degree of individual will. The most typical representatives of such a combination are our saints – martyrs, ascetics and holy fathers. In these three types of holiness (martyrs, ascetics and holy fathers), different from one another because of conditions of life, we find the identical harmony of those two opposite qualities, which would be permitted neither in natural life, nor in the Western philosophy. All these three types, the giants of will with the extremely intense realization of their moral responsibility, at the same time do not have any natural every-day egoism, any fine self-praise, any demands, concerning personal rights, – they are the types, among which the two first dedicate their whole life to and die for the church community and glory of God, and the third denies the own will for the sake of God and the representatives of the church authorities, making that the most important goal of life.
So, Christian truth about the Church not only within the thought, but within very life, frees man from the natural contradiction between self-consciousness of the personality and self-denying love, as the principle of life. Why exactly this contradiction should be analyzed? We said that the definition of the Church should be derived not from the concept of the terrestrial way of life, but from the teaching about the trinity-united Divine Creature, as the Lord had taught us in His Farewell prayer. God is one in His essence and life, but triple in Persons: the same way the Church is one in its essence, but multiple in persons, which form It. What is the united creature of the Church and how does it relate to natural mankind?
[By the way, let us say beforehand, that the moral strength of the Orthodox teaching about the Church is not limited by the definition of its common significance: the Church is, moreover, the irreplaceable guide for the Christian in his further exploit of life, who again and again needs to re-substantiate the truth, explained in this teaching, – he needs it both for the strengthening of faith, and for the act of moral perfection. In order to understand this need clearly and indisputably, one needs to remember about one certain quality, typical of any moral and moral-informative activity of man on the whole, and of any Christian in particular. What we mean is the forgotten by the Western theologians law of life, owing to which Christian perfection should be treated not like free, unlimited development of the most complicated phenomena among the less complicated, but as the constant intense struggle, full of sufferings.]
The Church and Personality
In the Holy Scripture and church legend it is said for many times that the Lord came to earth in order to revive man, as he had been before the downfall, and to restore His image, obscured by passions, in man and mankind. This image was the image of the trinity-united Divine Persons and exactly this image is revived by Christ in mankind through the establishment of the Church, i.e. the image of one essence in the multitude of persons, as it is said in the Archpriest prayer.
Let us explain the thought about the church common existence, which is in the restoration of the unity of human nature, with the help of the following reasons. Concerning the Divine Creature, under the notion of the united Divine nature theology means the Divine spiritual nature, those spiritual forces and qualities of Divine life, which are brought into action by the free will of the Divine Persons. The same is meant under the nature of mankind and the nature of each separate personality.
This division of personality and nature in us is not something abstract, but is the truth, directly proved through self-observation and experience. Feeling in oneself the presence of an independent personality, freedom of will and of actions, every man understands perfectly well that this independence, this freedom is only in the specific directing of forces and qualities of his, common to all humans, nature, in the development of some natural inclinations and elimination of others – in choosing between the struggling inclinations. But we all realize well that no man can think differently than according to the laws of thinking; man passes through certain stages replacing one habit by the opposite one, he cannot walk upon the air, stop breathing, etc. With one word, we feel ourselves already endowed by certain physical and psychical nature, partly known psychical content, the change of which is subjected to our will, but on a certain basis and with significant limitations (for instance, is it easy for a mother not to love her children?) This psychical nature of ours, this subconscious common human will, which we all inevitably posses, is our human nature.
Till now we have not said anything new about the accepted in contemporary theology definitions. But if we pause on the said above, then under common human nature we shall understand not the actual (real) essence, but some abstract notion, which can suggest neither any basis for understanding of the problem of the first-born sin (which is inherited by all human personalities), nor redeeming grace, thanks to which exactly human nature (and not each separate human personality) is sanctified. Having lost the notion of human nature, as of the existing essence, the Middle Age theologians had to explain the nature of the first-born sin through the hereditary right or even to transfer the unworthy of people concept of vendetta onto the Creator and make this concept basic for the explanation of the process of our salvation.
Meanwhile, the Middle Age theologians and even Plato in earlier times vaguely felt that there exist such common or general notions, which are not a pure abstract idea about the common features of some objects, but which do exist independently and truly. About that was the argument of the nominalists and realists. To the number of such notions belongs the notion of common human nature. Does it possess any actual and real existence? In God this existence is so real, as the existence of each Divine personality; it is even more real, for we do not speak about the existence of three Gods, but one God, though we profess the existence of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We know that these three Divine persons live common life of Divine character – which is holy, blessed, ever-righteous, though they have Their personal Freedom, as the Lord said: «I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love» (John 15:10).
If the people had not fallen, if they had not been filled with the spirit of opposition and partition, if they had not weakened the unity of their nature through all that, then in their hearts with the same fortitude would have been existing the life of common human nature, which was good enough, for God created it in His image, for immortality (Wisd.2:23). In that case, each single human personality would have been given the option to agree with the existing in him source of love, virtue, reason and joy. Unanimously studying the beautiful Divine Creation and the Very Creator, and being pleased with mutual love and joy, people would have been filled with the idea of their unity more and more. And it would have been hard to talk about the acts and thoughts of Peter, Paul and John, but we would have to talk about the actions of man in totality. But such a merging of all into one unity would seem infinitely strange, compared with that pantheistic nirvana, which is being preached by modern philosophers. In ideal, exactly this unity, this unanimity of human thoughts, feelings and actions would be constantly established and built by the free will of each single personality and by that would protect the moral value of its existence. That would make it different from the synchronic movements of various parts of a well-arranged apparatus, or from the unanimity of speechless ants or bees, led by the blind and having no freedom instinct in their tireless labors.
But such blessed life of mankind was distorted by self-loving disobedience of our forefather, and his descendants were destroying it more and more it with new sins, so that human consciousness almost absolutely lost it, reaching such isolation that the opposition between «I» and «not me» became basic for human reason; and the Divine Trinity, the image of Which is in our nature, became an incomprehensible mystery for natural reason, and for those, having taken root in their self-love philosophers – they see it even as logical absurdity.
But then the Redeemer restores the lost by the forefather council-like character of human nature, similar to that, which all people would have possessed, if they had not fallen. This life is the established by Him Church. It is alike the life of first forefathers, but differs a little from it, for now it is based not on the easily fulfilled free accord of each personality with its uncorrupt nature, but on the agreement, characterized by the struggle with that decrepit nature, which we are to crucify.
First, before to analyze this life, or, what is the same, the dogma of the Church, more profoundly, let us recall the utterance of St. Basil the Great, who tells about the unanimity, resignation, love and obedience of the monastic brotherhood in the 18th chapter of the Ascetic Regulations:
«Those living in community, i.e. monks, efface in themselves the sin of forefather Adam, renew the prehistoric goodness [beauty], for if the sin had not split the nature, the people would have had neither partition, nor discords, nor wars. They are the exact imitators of the Savior and His life in flesh. For, as the Savior, having gathered the disciples, made Himself belong to the apostles, the same way do these ones… They compete with angels in life, similarly preserving the unity, like the latter do. They anticipate the blessings of the promised kingdom through their good-willed community and communication, representing precise similarity to the angelic way of life and state. They have clearly shown to humans, how many blessings brought the incarnation of the Savior, because they bring the split into the thousands of parts human nature into the unity with itself and God again. For it is the main thing in the leading to salvation house-building and way of earthly life – to bring human nature into the unity with itself and the Savior, and exterminating sly division, to restore the pre-historic unity, similar to how the best doctor, using curative means, binds the body, broken in many parts, into one again.»
As you see, in the above mentioned reasoning St Basil the Great says, that at first, human nature was council-like before the downfall; secondly, that it was split by the downfall or sin; thirdly, that the angels, which had not yield into the sin of self-love and disobedience, preserved this unity of their nature unharmed; fourthly, that the Savior came to restore this unity in fallen mankind; fifthly, that this restoration is in freeing people from self-love, discords and stubbornness and in renewing Christian love and obedience in their hearts, and sixthly that the divine atonement is mainly in the restoration of this newly-blessed unity of love and obedience among people and as well between them, God, and the Lord – and it is opposite to how school theological systems see it. Now we shall continue our reasoning.
Other definitions of the Church
We have said that this restored by Christ unity of nature of believing mankind is in the Church. And alike the first given by God unity of nature was not an abstract notion, but a real living power, which was constantly living within the human heart, and as well within the multitude of saints, the same way the Church is not simply the multitude of separate people, but a legal and governmental institution. Though, first of all, it is the established by Christ life, blessed and holy, which unbreakably and stably will exist on earth till the second coming of Christ, protected from without, and manifested, first of all, in the holy and touching feelings of faith, repentance, spiritual joy, purity and love, which any blessed person finds in his heart, not as the fruits, cultivated by the efforts of his will in his personal life, but as the characteristics of another, given to him from without, nature – the nature of that New Man, whom any person becomes after the baptism. His further task will be to protect and to nourish these holy elements of salvation, given to him by God, this life of the restored nature, and the life of the Church, through the exploit of his personal freedom; and to crucify and do away with the opposite to this life human decrepit nature.
Sure, this exploit is more difficult than that what mankind had to face if it had not have fallen, but anyway, due to the above mentioned understanding of the matter, it becomes rather clear to us, why the mentioned by us types of martyrs, venerable and saints were the invincible giants of will, and at the same time constantly suppressed the desire of self-establishment, self-love, or cultivation of the personal «I» within themselves. This lets us understand, why Paul, who had, on his personal statement, more exploit than any of the disciples of Christ, says that he does not live any more, for he had crucified himself, and Christ abides in him; and that not him, but the grace that abides in him, is working for the Church.[ The grace in the Biblical and church language is called sometimes the very essence of the church life, sometimes the fruits of this life in the soul of a Christian, sometimes as the blissful influence, through which this power of new life is reported to the soul of man].
Still, our explanation about the true Church is not yet finished. We have mentioned its characteristics, which make the notion of the Church close to the notion of originally created by God human nature, but we did not explain the difference between these two notions: this difference is in the fact that human nature would have been revealed directly and without obstacles in each man (if there would have been no downfall).
But the life of Christ, which He had given to the Church and which He shares with every single person is not like that: this introduction of new nature (grace) into the soul of each Christian is a more complex phenomenon: it does not happen so directly, like the development of the human personality of innocent Adam on the basis of human nature, but first of all it goes through conscious acceptance of the life of Christ or Christianity, and then through the mysterious introduction of the newly-blessed church nature into our personality.
The Lord and the Apostles point at both the methods of sanctifying Christians, as at the equally necessary. When they say about the revival or about the purification of our nature through the word of teaching, they recognize the conscious penetration of new life, described in the Divine teaching (John 15:3; Pet. 1:23; Hebr. 10:22). And on the other hand, – who does not know the parables of the Lord about the unconscious and mystical growing of the blessed seed of new nature in the soul of a believer? It is similar to that, how a man would sow a seed in the field, and then easily spend his days, and the sun and water without his efforts would grow the plant and make the ear form (Math.13:31); it is like leaven, which raises in a dark stove (Math.13:33). It is subtle, like the place where the wind comes from, on the word of the Lord to Nicodemus (John 3:8).
Therefore the Church is not simply that school of Christian law, not only pure unconscious blissful energy, mystically transmitted by Christ into human hearts, but that very energy, which is kept and spread by the conscious element, i.e. the Church community. Hence, it is possible to fill in the gap in defining the Church as community, or body, – that gap about the designation of the Church, which we have mentioned above. Analyzing any definition of the Church one has to point at the fact that the Church, first, is meant to keep untouched the conscious content of newly-blessed life, i.e. the Divine teaching, and then to pass it over to separate people, preserving both quantity and quality; secondly, what is the same, to spread the Divine teaching among people, and thirdly, to fill the believers with this life and to make them reach spiritual perfection. The given by Apostle Paul comparison of the Church with a living body (Eph. 4:16) fully coincides with this designation of the Church.
The Militant Church
But I see here neither the presence of teaching about the Church as about the organized society, – some reader will say, – nor the reference to the fact, in what sense both the heavenly and terrestrial church is called holy and infallible. If under the Church you mean the reproduced by Christ unanimous nature of newly-blessed mankind, – the objector will continue, – then where is that infallible authority of the terrestrial, militant Church? Do not you indulge the Protestants, who lay their inspirations upon the heavenly Church and are deprived of the terrestrial One?
– We started to discuss these questions in our prior reasoning. But that blessed life, which inspires a zealous Christian, is the life of new Adam; and the more the Christian is worthy of his title, the more clear and joyful is his understanding of constant communication with saints in heaven and the more inspired he becomes by the given to us Creed, by the expectation of the final judgment and the life of the next age, as St. John taught us in the Revelation (chap.21). Here is the first failure of Protestantism, for it omitted the prayers to saints and the commemoration of departed.
But we have said about the fact that the life of the Church is the struggle against this sinful world, and in every generation of people this world acts as a certain, partly conscious and partly subconscious force. Every generation of people is to feel its moral-historic task, bring to God its talent and put its victory into the treasury of the Church. That is why the newly-created, blessed nature of the Church, this new Adam, led by Christ, must have its certain, adequate manifestation in every époque of terrestrial struggle. [In the Holy Scripture and History Christ himself and the Church, led by Him, are called new Adam or New Man, Eph. 2:15; 1Cor. 2:12; St. Gregory the Theologian. The Word on the Theophany of God; venerable Isaac the Syrian. About the Merciful Spirit].
Here, on earth, within the struggle of Christianity and the world, in the new church nature, which is being developed together with the decrepit one, there must live and act, first, the qualitative fullness of the gifts of Christ to the Church, i.e. the untouched content of the Church (or the pure Christian teaching), and secondly, the mysterious blessed energy (the holiness of the Church), which is reported to the Christian soul indirectly, in the form of blissful gifts. And as the life of the Divine Persons is the council life of one Divine Nature, the same way the acting on earth power of blissful life of Christ proceeds from church fullness. Therefore the entire church community on earth, but not its separate branches or some local authorities, as the Roman Catholics explain, turns out to be holy and infallible.
The detailed substantiation of this latter thought, based on Divine revelation, is not included into our task, because school theology describes well the authority of the militant Church, using the revelation. But still let us remind the reader that the majority of the Lord’s parables about the Divine Kingdom relate to the militant Church, -the fullness of blessed gifts is promised to It, and His words, said at the time of His Ascension, are addressed to It as well: «And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.» The same way the Revelation draws the fight of the blissful Kingdom of Christ with the terrestrial world, and depicts Christ as the Leader and Direct Head of the militant Church, both in the first vision, where He is among «seven candlesticks», and in that revelation, which narrates about the future lot of the Church.
So, to believe in the Church means:
First, to believe that Jesus Christ through Himself restored the unity of human nature in the flock of His disciples, which was lost by people through the downfall of Adam and because of the sins, committed by his descendants.
Secondly, that this unity is not an abstract notion, but an active moral force, which gets into the hearts of His disciples and acts in them, like the source of blissful intentions and feelings, especially in their mutual love for God and one another.
Thirdly, this force, this church life, on the word of Christ, will exist on earth forever, and it is the unique means, through which the Lord leads people to salvation, i.e. to holiness and unity.
Fourthly, the people, leading church life, form one spiritual creature together with Christ, Who leads it as the Leader. To the extent of their perfection on earth – and to the utmost extent – in heaven, – they strengthen this unity so that it starts resembling the unity of Divine nature in three Divine Persons and by that fills every human personality with bliss and holiness, and the elements of this state are reported since people first enter the Church.
Fifthly, because the people of each generation start their spiritual perfection on earth in their struggle with the world, then the fullness of Divine gifts on earth is constantly preserved within the struggling for salvation community of people.
Sixthly, this community or the militant Church has a designation, first, to protect the source of Divine life, i.e. the Divine teaching and blissful energy of newly blessed life, and secondly, to report both of them to the own children by the means of teaching and prayer, so that they could reach perfection in their graceful church life, and to those not knowing Christ, so that they could become a part of this life.
The seventh point is in the statement that the task of each man, who wants to be saved, is first of all in the agreement with these truths of faith, reported from without to his personality, as well as with these sacred predispositions of the heart, and with the life of the Church.
The eighth point is in the idea that one’s personal life meets with the Church life not like free of any qualities, but like life, already filled with sin, that is why we call this free agreement with newly-blessed life of the Church as voluntary obedience.
The ninth point is that if it is so, if the life of the Church meets with the life of each personality, being the superior element, and a guide in voluntary inner struggle of man, then the life of the Church needs to have certain conditional outward forms, so that it can give way to manifestation of the church life or church administration and discipline. The common features, which define this external arrangement of the Church, are mentioned by the Savior in the Gospel and by the apostles in the Acts, Epistles and Revelation, and the most detailed explanations are given by Christ to the church pastors and form the subject of Church Tradition, mostly of canons.
The tenth point is that all external conditions, which define the appearance of blissful (church) life on earth, and the Church guidance of Its children, are filled with the same spirit of blissful Divine life, in which is found the meaning of this life, i.e. the spirit of love and holiness, and therefore, if they are called by us external, then it is not in the literal sense, but means that they guide the inner life of our souls with the help of some external means.
This is the content of the dogma of the Church. – Is it necessary to say that such beliefs are the part of irreplaceable moral force, general for the Christians undertaking exploit; that without such beliefs their life is aimless, and exploit has no basis?
The Church as the Keeper of Divine Revelation.
We feel especially glad to talk about the Church in the gathering meeting of our community, which, as far as some aspects of its life are concerned, looks like the bearer of life of ancient Christian communities in heathen towns. Really, let us recall the scene of life of those times and of nowadays. Let us suppose, that in front of us is a big heathen city, for example, Rome, with all its theatres, public baths, circuses, entertainment places, with all nesting there vices, loathsome service to heathen abomination, characterized by cruelty and crimes, which terrified the world. But then in that world of «sin and death» there appears another world of «peace and joy in the Holy Ghost»; and within ancient heathen Rome there is revived another, Christian Rome; different, once hostile people, «Greek… Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, … free» become the parts of one body, the body of Christ. In that time, when heathens with their wild feasts, inhuman depravity and arousing indignation murders, brought the universe into trepidation, in that very time the chant of the holy men of God, glorifying the resurrection of the Crucified, came out of burial caves. In the first case everybody is amazed by the subtleness of mind and will in serving passions, and in the second case the resigned slaves of the Lord of Hosts rise over the laws of nature, curing the sick with a prayer and resurrecting the dead.
Now there are no admirers of heathen gods in front of us, those terrible religious crimes disappeared; now the rulers, troops and nations worship the cross of the Savior. But the difference of the life of Christ and the life of the Church with secular life did not cease existing, and surely will remain forever, both in communities and in every single man. Within Christian communities, according to the predictions of the Gospel, love became so weak that long ago the non-religious ideals started to attract people’s attention in the places with great population. Already John the Chrysostom, the teacher of the Church, who lived 350 years after the Resurrection of Christ, constantly expressed his grief about the fact that Christ stopped being the part of life of the capitals and people were attracted only to theatres, circuses, gossips, fashion, wealth accumulation, but did not search for Divine will. Nowadays these secular interests overwhelmed the society in such measure that religious life, except for divine service, started to become the matter of each one’s personal conscience, and started to be thoroughly hidden from the neighbors. We always had many pious people, but had no pious society, no pious common life.
But the light of the Word of God quite recently shone in this darkness of fussy and becoming totally secularized life. With the powerful hand, which created heaven, God the Word gathered people of different society circles, ages and disposition into one body, put in their hearts thirst for listening to the Evangelic sermon, and into the breasts and mouths – His holy chants. And as in ancient Rome the glorification of resurrected Christ reached the angels of God, suppressing the sounds of frantic orgies and loathsome for God feasts, the same way from new, fussy and dissolute Petersburg appeared newest Petersburg, united by the word of the Gospel and chanting of sacred hymns. In the same hours and minutes, when the majority of inhabitants hurry to serve to the world interests and pleasures, the others – with prayer-books in their hands and with Christ in their hearts gather in the temples of God in the unusual for this forgotten matter hours – for additional divine services, dedicated to the Evangelic revelation. Surely, the majority of these people are simple, which are less in number than those rich and deluded by the charms of this world, on the word of the apostle: «For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence» (1Cor. 1:26–30).
This new life began or was restored not only for the righteous, but for desperate sinners, who now through the sanctification by the word of God became better than the righteous and together with them glorified the resurrection of Christ in those holy days, and not vaguely, as the rest, but being filled with bright light of sincere communication with God, tasting of the joy of Pascha, «when they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha.» Our gladness and joy are exactly in that we, through the assimilation of the word of God due to the Church, «partake of the fruit of the new vine of divine joy on the auspicious Day of the Resurrection and Kingdom of Christ.» Therefore we need to understand, in what is our advantage among the other listeners and readers of the Gospel, who do not partake of the kingdom of Christ, who accept the Gospel not from the Church, but each one does that for himself, for his personal life.
«What is to me the Church, priests and divine service? – The sectarians say, – «My Christ had given me His Gospel and I do not need anything that is not in the Gospel in order to be saved; it is enough to fulfill what I will understand in the Scripture, and I do not know and do not want to know about the teaching of the fathers of the church and the Ecumenical councils. I must not be judged for that, for I try to study the law of Christ and join Him and His Divine Person, and to search for my salvation within It, but not within the church.»
These words are unjust, and do not bear the Evangelical spirit. In reality, it is impossible to understand the teaching of Christ without the Church, and one cannot join Christ outside the Church, so our salvation is not only the reward for the exploits of life, but it is in the process of gradual merging of our life with the life of the Church, which is the body of Christ.
1. The Lord said, that His glory is «the way and the Life» (John 6:63), and by that showed that one cannot understand and perceive His teaching in the way any other reasonable teaching is perceived. Simple human wisdom is perceived through reason, and it is possible to perceive the teaching of Christ – the teaching of the spirit and life -no otherwise than through life. «If any man will do his will, – says the Lord, – he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God» (John 17:7).
About what fulfillment of will of the Heavenly Father and about what unique means to perceive His law is talking the Lord? Is it only about the fulfillment of single good deeds? – No, the whole life, human nature must merge with the life of Christ, in order to master His teaching of life. The Jews are asking Him, if He is the promised by the prophets Messiah, whom they had been waiting for. The Lord answers to them: «I told you, and ye believed not…ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me» (John 10:26).
So, in order to believe truly and assimilate the Divine truth of the teaching of Christ, one needs to merge with the life of Christ, first, through the fulfillment of will of the Heavenly Father and secondly, through joining the Divine flock, that society, that life, which the Lord had established on earth, and this life is the Church.
This cannot be otherwise. It is impossible to understand any life-important teaching without taking into account that society or people, who live according to it. Even in secular matters, in order to understand, for instance, Russian songs or ancient epics, one needs to understand Russian life, Russian lifestyle, and if one would not do that, he will have a very funny concept of them, as the French or Germans have about Russian traditions. Only the very life of the people, the very character of them can clarify the essence of the folk legends and ideals, but it will happen only to the extent this folk life remained faithful to itself, to the extent of not yielding to the external influence, as it happened with the life of the highest walks of Russian society, by which one surely cannot judge about the ancient noble customs and legends.
Consequently, in order to perceive the life of Christ, conveyed in the Bible, one needs not only to plunge into the very life of the contemporary Christian society, but have reasons to believe that this life did not deviate from its original path. Truly, for that we got the indisputable promise of the Lord: «I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,» so that anybody, who «neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.»
Beside that, in the Holy Scripture there are references to the fact that people would perceive the teaching of Christ exactly through the Church, which drawn already by the prophets of the Old Testament as a mountain or a virgin, not knowing a man, but having many children. «And it shall come to pass in the last days, – predicted Isaiah (2:2–4) and Micah (4:1–3), – that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.»
This way, the law and the word cannot be perceived separately, but through the process of ascending onto the Lord’s mountain, Zion, i.e. the Church. The same thought is confirmed in the farewell prayer of the Lord about the Church. «That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me» (John 17:21–24).
The belief of the people in Christ depends on that spiritual unity, in which abide those believing in Christ, the apostles’ followers, the sons of the Church, whom Apostle Paul calls «no more strangers and foreigners,» but as the unity «built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.»
So, the word of God teaches, that without being in the Church and without Christian life man cannot perceive the Evangelic teaching. Therefore those, who assert that only the Bible is necessary for the salvation of each one of them, are mistaken, for the Bible is given not to each one separately, but to the unity of the Disciples of Christ, created by God, i.e. – the Church. That is why, brothers, when the sectarians will talk to you about your confession, ask them: «Did Christ come to give us a book or to give us life? Should we only submit our will to the book, or to that life, which had been established by Christ, and without which the Bible Itself is unclear? And this life, holy and infallible, which rises over my will and mind, is called the Church, which unfailingly bears the truth of Christ, the examples of hope of the apostles and ascetics, the interpretation of the Ecumenical councils, the divine service of great saints and chants’ writers, the grace of the Comforter-Holy Spirit.»
2. A sectarian is bombarding you with his statements about life in Christ, about the personal communication with Him: «My Christ ordered me to do this or that, and He did not ask me to fulfill these things, and I do not want to know about any of your sacraments,» etc. But do we, the Orthodox, state that we do not need communication with Christ? Do not we partake of His sacraments? Do not we call one another in the Great day to see «the radiant Christ who said: rejoice?» Do not we ask him: «Grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the unending Day of Thy Kingdom?» What a difference with our communication with Christ do they have? It is in that they cry: «I… my…to me,» i.e. they put themselves outside of that unity, to which Christ calls His followers. Does such excluding, jealous love please Christ? Will He ask us about this kind of love at His Judgment? -Yes, He will demand love for Himself, but not that kind of exclusively personal love, – He will ask for uniting love.
Those, who in love for Him have forgotten about love for the neighbor, would be amazed with His judgment and «then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me» (Math. 25:44–46). Christ demanded that we should be in Him, live with Him, but does He talk about Himself as about the separate personality? No, these words about abiding in Him are preceded by the Lord’s comparison of Himself with a vine with many branches, i.e. people; therefore there appears not exclusively my personal Christ, but Christ within the Church. Christ is not alone, but with His universal family, with brothers, and sisters and the mother, who are those listening to His word and fulfilling His will.
We should love Christ and live only for Him, but not that Christ, that knows you alone, and you know Him, not that One, Who is only your Bridegroom, but Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. We should love incarnated Christ, not only in the glorified flesh, but in that flesh, about which the apostle said: «For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ… And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you» (1Cor. 12:12–22). But still it can only be heard from the sectarians: there is no need in the Church, in good deeds, exploits, but only Christ personally is needed. But as you see, Christ is not self-loving and one cannot please Him with such carnal love and zeal. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.» (Math. 7:22–24). It is easy to imagine ourselves to love that beautiful image of Christ, which we have made up in our mind, but to love Him as a part of the Church – with all His brothers, with His spiritual body, with His bride – this is what we should long for. This Orthodox love for Christ is love of constant self-denial, good will and resignation in life and sectarian love is exceptional, proud, making one blind; not love, but the emotion, which rejects the exploit of struggling with oneself, filled with fantasizing and not contributing to the spiritual growth of man. This is that state of prelest’ or delusion, against which the Fathers of the Church warn us, explaining that real spiritual delight should be preceded by the number of confessionary exercises and cleansing of the heart from self-love and passions through prayer and good deeds. «Your bridal chamber, O my Saviour, I see all adorned, but I have no garment so that I may enter it. Make bright the mantle of my soul, O Giver of light, and save me. » See, in which words our attitude to Christ is expressed.
Is it clear now that without the Church, the communication with It and Its guidance we can neither perceive, nor love Christ? We should be so grateful to God that He gave us the chance to be fed from the source of the Evangelic teaching, preserved by the Church! How we should cherish any recollection of our communication with It, starting with the Holy sacraments, in which we truly obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit, coming over to the sign of the cross and ending with any rite, held by the universal family of our Savior! And at last we should not be embarrassed that only the minority of people, calling themselves Christians, really belong to the body of the Church: «Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!» «Let the dead bury their dead.» Let every year of terrestrial life set new gods for worshipping them: we shall neither be embarrassed by them, nor judge them, as the Lord did not judge them: «And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world» (John 12:47). We, joyful about the Divine salvation, should not judge them, but pity them, as the person that can see pities the blind, as the healthy man pities the sick. We should have mercy for them and help them to be saved through the word, example and prayer. We shall help them and humbly thank God that He made us study His word, and we shall beware of sin, knowing the statement: «That servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.» Let us, at last, subdue ourselves to God and people, thinking that we have fulfilled so little from what we have learnt about the will of God, and ask the Lord to help us in leading the better, God-pleasing life.
The Saving Power of the Word of God.
Any established group has to meet, in order to hold conversations about the matter, which brings the members together. Our circle was gathered for the preaching and listening of the word of God. With the same aim it brought us together today in this room, full of light, making some people leave secular matters, depriving the others of rest after heavy daily work, reporting to all of us the unanimous spirit and filling everybody with thirst for the word of God, as the Psalmist said: «The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver…How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!» (Psalms 118:72,103).
But where exactly can be found this mysterious strength of the word of God, which brings us here? What qualities do turn out to be so powerful and effective? In what is, at last, the influence of the word of God upon the heart and life of man – all this we shall hear today, on the day of annual celebration, dedicated to the word of God. But who will clarify that to us? Can natural reason explain the action of the Divine word? – No, our soul only feels its life-giving power, but by itself will never be able to understand, where it comes from, as the Lord said: «The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.» (John 3:8). But if our mind is not able to define the laws of the word, then we shall be taught by the revelation. Let the very Word, Which had incarnated, reveal to us Its action, and teach us, first, what significance the word of God should have in Christian life, and secondly, what fruits it will bring for a believer in this and future life.
We have to discuss the first matter only because many consider the reading and preaching of the word of God almost unnecessary for salvation, hoping to earn it with good deeds and the fulfillment of the church orders, and the others, on the contrary, are ready to enclose the entire nature of salvation in studying the Bible and do not consider necessary to exercise their will in virtue. Despite these extremes, the Divine Scripture shows the perfect combination of how to perceive the word and strengthen it in Christian life. If we wish to search for the possibility of the sermon of the word of God, both for the beginning of Christian life, and for strengthening it, we shall learn that Christian faith itself, very Christianity is sometimes called the teaching of the word. This way, in the Acts it is said that after the baptism of Cornelius the Centurion, who was heathen, «the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God» (Acts 11:1), i.e. Christian faith. About it Apostle Paul said in Antiochia of Pisidia: «To you is the word of this salvation sent» (13:26). In the same chapter it is said that heathens «glorified the word of the Lord» (13:48). If the acceptance of Christianity is called in the Bible the acceptance of the word of God, then the process of perfection of people, taking place in Christian life, is called there as the development of the word of God, as it is mentioned many times in the Acts: «So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed» (19:20; 12:24, comp. Tim. 2and the like).
Thus, if the goal of divine faith was understood like the assimilation of the word of God, then it is rather understandable that the preachers of this faith – the holy apostles – considered the preaching to be the main matter, called themselves the servants of the word and rejected external regulations, ordering to elect deacons and saying: «But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word» (Acts 2:41; 1Tim. 4:12; 5:17; 2Tim. 4:2; Hebr. 13:7; Rev. 1:2,9; 20:4).
But how much is mistaken the one, who thinks that Christian life is limited by the process of listening to the word of God, that the word of God by itself, without our efforts, can sanctify us. On the contrary, in the parable about the sower the Lord clearly showed that the pure acceptance of the word through faith without a struggle is not more stable than that sprout of the seed on the stony ground, which dries in the heat of the sun; that only those souls can be suitable for the Divine Kingdom, which, having accepted the word, «bring forth fruit with patience,» and only that one who, listening to the teaching of Christ, fulfills it, erects the building of salvation on the good ground (Luke 6:47). The disciple of God will be the one, who continues in His word (John 8:32), who keeps it (8;52), who, having received it in meekness (James 1:21), is the doer of the word (1:22), but not only a hearer (1:23), for the Jews as well heard the word, but it is said about them: «The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it» (Hebr. 4:2). Then among Christians appeared talkative rebels, but the apostle threatened them to come and test «not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power» (1Cor. 4:19). About his sermon the apostle said that «our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance» (1Thes. 1:5)
So, the word of God gets its saving significance only with the firm decision to change own sinful life and with the strife of man to accomplish, what he had decided, what is within his powers. Let the sectarians, who calmed their conscience in pure dead faith, and who are saying that the blissful word of God by Itself creates new life in them without any efforts of theirs, become silent. The very Word teaches us, the faithful, that the Evangelic teaching saves only on the condition that man struggles against his sin.
So, the first influence of the word of God onto our life is reflected in our spiritual revival. This way, Apostle James says that God «begat us with the word of truth» (1:18), and Apostle Peter explains that this birth through the word differs from ephemeral birth, for it leads us into eternal, non-ephemeral life. The people, born in the word, must be absolutely strange to any malice, flattery, hypocrisy, envy and slander, as newly-born babies; love only that verbal milk, which gives us the opportunity to taste «that the Lord is gracious» (1Pet. 2:3).
Have you experienced this new birth through the word? Was there a moment in your life when you felt in yourself the beginning of new life, not the one, with which your body, your secular calculations live, but that gracious life, for which you need nothing, but God and the fulfillment of His commandments, for the sake of what man is about to agree for tortures and death, when he is ready to forget his former life and feels himself, on the word of the apostle, as a newly-born baby, free of any cunningness and envy? Can you say that you are revived by the word? – God gave you all, so that you could reach perfection of this birth within you: He cleansed you with water and the Spirit in the Holy baptism, but remember that this holy sacrament will bring its fruit within you only when you yourself will consciously be revived by the word, because the purification and sanctification of the church happens through baptism, but in no other way, than by the means of the word, as it is said in the Scripture: «Cleanse it with the washing of water by the word» (Eph. 5:26).
So, if in your life you had not experienced such decisiveness to set aside self-love and sin, and live for God, if you have not accepted the words of Christ, that one has to be born from above, if you have not experienced how new life’s spiritual strength comes onto you, and according to the teaching of the Savior, suddenly overwhelms our hearts (John 3:8) as an unexpected blowing of the wind, then pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to be revived by the word, for you received the principal element for revival in the holy baptism.
But if you were in that state, if the sermon of the word of God opened your eyes and you saw life and death, truth and lie and arose in decisiveness to live for God, then be careful and do not lose this life, nourish it and make it bring its fruits, so that it would not remain in you fruitless. How should one nourish it? It happens again through the word of God. This is what the New Testament says about the significance of the word of God for those, who had been revived by water and spirit, for Christians, whom God had already begotten by the word of truth.
For the maintenance of physical life one needs food and drinks: the same way spiritual life cannot be maintained without learning or listening to the word of God. About that the Lord says in the conversation with the Samaritan woman: «But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him…shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life» (John 4:14). Having said about such drinking of His word, the Lord calls the fulfillment of His commandments as food. The way food and drinks maintain and strengthen the body, the same way the word of God and Christian virtues nourish newly revived, spiritual life. This life is begotten in us by God, as some plants, and the servants of the word «plant and water them» (1Cor. 3:5).
The word of God is so necessary for supporting in us that glorious life, that it is even called as the gracious word in the Holy Bible (Luke 4:22; Acts 14:3; 20:35), or as the word of life (Acts 5:20; 7:38), or, finally, as life itself or light (John 1:4; 6:63). The life-giving power of the word of Christ was seen in the fact that the people, listening to it, at once decided that this was the word of God (Luke 5:1), and Christ was the preaching prophet (John 7:49). The Lord Himself called the listening to the word of God blissful and cleansed «through the word which I have spoken unto you» (John15:3). Then apostle Paul even more expressively describes the action of the word, saying: «For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart» (Hebr. 4:12). Why is it so? – It is because it meets with the same demands, with which human heart is filled, like the apostle explains in another epistle: «The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach» (Rom. 10:8).
O Christian! Does the word of God, which you hear or read, satiate you? Does it make you quench spiritual thirst; does it introduce light into your life and make your conscience open for the analysis of all intentions and actions? To fulfill this spiritual feeding by the word, the Lord gives to you His very Body and Blood in the image of bread and wine. Are you truly feeding yourself with the word of life; is it really the Evangelic sermon, which raises you over the world of flesh and passions and fills you with spiritual joy about God? If it is so, then thanks God!
But you should know that for this you will have to suffer from the world, which lies in the evil. We have heard that the word of God leads to the separation of the soul and spirit: it also divides emotional people and those spiritual and arms the first against the second, as righteous Simeon predicted, holding in his arms the incarnated Word (Luke 2:35). Already within the life of the Savior the prophesy about the sufferings on earth for the sake of the word of God started coming true, as He said about Himself to the enemies: «But ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you…even because ye cannot hear my word» (John 8:37–43); and about the apostles in the prayer to the Father: «I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them» (John 17:14). Therefore the Lord said to His disciples that they should «think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household» (Math. 10:34–36). And the observer of the mysteries of the further lot of the Church St. John saw in the Revelation multitudes of the righteous, slain for the word.
This way, the word of God, together with spiritual life, promises us sufferings and even physical death. Shall we be scared of them and confounded by the mundane condemnation for the word of God? Let it not be so, for the Lord said: «Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels» (Mark 8:38). But if it is so, with what should we fight, protecting the word? – The answer is: with the very word, for, on the statement of Apostle Paul, it is «the sword of the Spirit» (Eph. 6:17), it is invincible for «the word of God is not bound» (2Tim. 2:9). It is not afraid of mundane contempt, mockery, mundane judgment, for it is not the world that judges the word of God, but the world is judged itself by this word, as the Lord told us: «And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not…He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day» (John 12:47–48).
But why is the word of God the judge of the universe? – Because the commandments of Christ are not accidental resolutions, but represent the qualities of the heavenly Ruler, as it is said in the Scripture: «In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth» (John 1:1–6, 14).
So, do you understand, why is the world judged by the word of God? Because those, who have accepted the word, accepted the One, Who had brought this word onto earth, received the One Who said: «If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him» (John 14:23). This is why the person having accepted the word of God is not scared of the world: because he lives in the unity with God-the Father, Who is seen only by those believing eyes, as the constant Judge of the world, as John had seen him in the Revelation: «And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords» (Rev. 19:11–17). This is Him, with Whom the assimilation of the word of God connects us: with the pre-eternal and unchangeable Word, ruling the universe since the beginning.
In this unity with God is the fourth point of the Evangelic sermon, and the fifth is in the fact that because this divine life is unchangeable and eternal, as Christ (2Cor. 1:18–21), then exactly through the word of the Gospel, received and fulfilled through faith, we step into eternal life, as the Lord promised: «Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life» (John 5:24; 6:40–74 and 12:25).
Should we continue speaking about the use of the word of God, brothers? Shall we continue neglecting everything most precious on earth and in heaven? Shall we prefer fuss and decay to the word? Let it not be this way! And if we are weak and infirm to do good, then let us pray to the divine Word, so that It could strengthen within us love for listening to and proclaiming, for acceptance and fulfillment of the word here, on earth, and could award us with better understanding of it in heaven after we leave the body. «O great and holiest Pascha, Christ. O Wisdom and Word of God and Power, grant us truly to partake of thee in the day without evening of thy kingdom!»
Life beyond the Grave and Eternal Sufferings.
We are used to imagine the lot of sinners beyond the grave, following the parables about the Rich and Lazarus. Those condemned will be in vain crying over their sins in the infernal fire and appeal to God and the saints for forgiveness, having no response: the repentance of the dead is not accepted, it is late to change! – Why is it so? The fact why the soul, which condemned its falls and changed, is still rejected by the Divine justice remains unclear.
From this originate the natural attempts to invent the stories about some universal reconciliation-apocatharsis. But this teaching is denied by the Church and the Origenists are considered to be heretics. It is all quite consequential: all attempts to interpret the eternity of tortures, as a rather long period of duration, but not infinity, contradict to the word of God and Church tradition. It is enough to point at the words of God in Isaiah: «For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched» (66:24). These words are impossible to re-interpret as the long duration of tortures, for it is said directly that they will have no end. (comp. Rev. 14:11; 20:10).
Though, if neither the Holy Bible, nor the definitely substantiated teaching of the Church revealed to the people the teaching about the eternity of tortures, our mind anyway would not be able to digress from such a sad conclusion about the beyond-the-grave lot of conscious enemies of God or unrepentant sinners. Really, it would be only left to admit that the Lord would force them to be righteous and to join His joy: but, there where violence rules, there are no moral values, there disappears the very difference between the good and evil, and with that – the whole meaning of the Atonement and House-building.
Is it possible to surmise that there are no consciously and completely evil people; that the evil is the fruit of misunderstanding and imperfection, as pantheists, evolutionists and even some theists teach? But such an understanding is incompatible with the concept of free will, and more – with the teaching of the Holy Scripture and the Church about demons, which no sincere reader would be able to interpret, no matter if he is believing or not believing in God. Finally, we have the direct words of Christ about the fact that his enemies hated Him not because they did not understand Him, but precisely because they understood Him and started to hate the very truth and goodness in Him. «If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth» (John 9:41). «If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father» (15:22–24).
So, the teaching about the eternity of tortures comes out not only from clarity of the word of God and the Church tradition, but it is impossible to omit it in solving the problem through reason.
Though these are not the things, which stand in the parable about the Rich and Lazarus, – the reader will object: there the talk is not about the unrepentant and embittered villain, but about the soul, which bitterly cries over its sins, and more than that, is filled with compassion to other sinners, who are still on earth; why then the Lord would find no mercy for such a soul? – The objection, in our opinion, is quite well-founded, and it would be difficult to reject it, if in this parable the final lot of the departed was described. But let us recall what the Lord told to the Jews before His descending to hell: did not it have the saving meaning for that repenting about his sinful life rich man? Certainly it did, for the Apostle testifies that not only the righteous, but the sinners were saved by the Conqueror of hell, «For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah» (1Pet. 3:18–20).
From these words of the apostle we make the conclusion that the words of Abraham in the parable about the Rich and Lazarus, concerning the abyss that was set between the righteous and sinners and that cannot be passed, refer to the state, typical of the times before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the day of His saving death and resurrection the Lord passed over that abyss and led out of hell not only the waiting for Him righteous, but many, «once rebellious,» but still not embittered heathens.
That is why the state of sinful souls, condemned forever, would be not similar to that, through which went the rich man from the parable, humbly begging about bringing to senses his living on earth brothers. Where in the Divine revelation should we find the references to how the perished souls will feel themselves? – «There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,» – this is how the Lord defines the lot of the outcast in His parables. These words are said about the cast out from the wedding feast evil guest, who wanted to cast gloom over the common joy through not wearing the wedding vestment, and about the lazy servant, who did not return the given to him talent and was talking with the returned master angrily. According to these words the Lord will drive away from Him those, who will be knocking at the door from the outside and saying: «We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.» (Math. 24:21–30. Luke 13:28). Finally, by this expression is determined the final lot of sinners (Math. 8:12; 13:42–50; 24:51).
So, this state is compared to that, which will experience the invited evil guest and the rejected embittered servant. "Outer darkness» means that dark night, which is so awful after the beautiful, full of light wedding room, or the royal palace. Here not the inflicted sufferings are terrible, but the state of being deprived of common joy, which became absolutely inaccessible to these miserable only because they themselves neglected it and tried to introduce their malice into it, bring the gloom over it through the feeling of senseless bitterness.
What does it mean: weeping and gnashing of teeth? Are only heavy unbearable sufferings or something else meant by these words? It is not said about the rich man of the parable that he gnashed the teeth, but only that he suffered in that fire. What is the direct meaning of this expression? Are sufferings expressed exactly in the gnashing of teeth? No, the gnashing of teeth is the sign of malice and intense struggle. The same way angry dogs, which are attacking their enemies, are gnashing their teeth, as any predatory animals. In the Bible the gnashing of teeth defines the intensified anger and threat, often powerless rage of sinners, directed to the righteous. «The abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: «With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth» (Ps. 34:16–17). "The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The LORD shall laugh at him» (Ps. 36:12–13; the same meaning in Lamentations 2:16).
But the special character of this phenomenon – the gnashing of teeth – is expressed in the unjust execution of the first martyr of Christ Stephan. When this blissful young man revealed the purity of his faith according to the law and prophets and accused the prophets’ and Christ’s murderers, revealing «the face of an angel,» what did his enemies experience? «When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth» (Acts 7:54).
Was not that experienced by all villains, overwhelmed by rage and conscious of their powerlessness to fight with the truth? And if this powerlessness is such, that they are not only able to confound it, but to cause any physical damage as well, then the gnashing of teeth joins the wail of powerless rage. – This happens to a ferocious man, who, attacking the hateful neighbor, turns out to be caught and bind: then he cries in malice and gnashes the teeth; this can be often seen by the outraged women, when people around have bound them and do not let them fulfill their malignant intentions.
So «weeping and gnashing of teeth» means not only the sufferings but rage and suffering of powerless rage, of the impossibility to pour it out upon the hated Kingdom of God. This is in what is the meaning of beyond-the-grave tortures! These are not simply the twinges of conscience, which should be followed by repentance, and with this repentance forgiveness shall come. It is impossible to imagine the ever-good Lord, Who would not listen to the centuries-long repentance of sinners and would not ease their state.
But is it possible to imagine such bitterness in the state of rage, which would not cease with the revelation of Divine judgment, with shaming of the kingdom of the devil? – Why one has to ask about the possibility of all, what had already happened in reality? – one should always compare our future appearance before the Lord with how people accepted the Lord, Who had come and worked among them: the kind people joyfully accepted Him; those having the fight between the good and evil, accepted Him after inner struggle and tortures, as the possessed, being cured, as the malefactor on the cross, as Nicodemus, one of the Jewish leaders. The evil ones, on the contrary, the more they knew Him, the more they hated Him, and when they saw the resurrection of Lazarus, «then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death» (John 11:53). This was expressed by the Lord in the words of the farewell conversation, which were mentioned at the beginning of this article. And Apostle John based all his Gospel, his epistles and the Revelation exactly on the revealing of that sad law of war between God and the world, which is in the unceasing fight of the latter against Christ and His Kingdom, – the fight that does not stop, but on the contrary, becomes more intense, the more the Divine plans are being revealed. «And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.» This is how sinners will act in the fire of hell and its eternity will depend only on their absence of repentance. But listen to the Revelation further: «And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds» (Rev. 16:8–12; compare 9:20–21).
I am ready to agree with the correctness of such an interpretation and Biblical utterances, and the state of the condemned sinners, – the reader will say: but how is it possible to permit eternal resistance in such insane bitterness against God, the eternal absence of repentance among His enemies? – And what is repentance? – We shall ask in our turn, and shall answer this way. Repentance is the turning point, concerning the will, the change in the human mood, which is caused either by the new way of perceiving oneself, i.e. the awakening of the just found and till that time concealed content of one’s soul, one’ inner life, – or by the assimilation of this new content because of the influence of other people, books, outer world, the very Lord at last, as it happened to Zacchaeus, when he was listening to His holy words and felt His compassionate attitude towards him. – But all these conditions take place only within the gradual process of perceiving oneself and Divine plans, and when it all will be done, when «there should be time no longer» (Rev.10:6) – the plans of God will come true and there will remain nothing to perceive neither in oneself, nor in the outside world; all blessedness and wisdom of God will be revealed before everybody in all its grandeur, and the enemies of God will blaspheme it and curse it and finally turn away from it, without having accepted the accusation neither concerning their terrestrial life, nor the long period between their death and the Dread Judgment (when the prayers of the believers and saints for the souls of the departed raised to God). Then there will be no new chance remaining for the inner change of embittered souls; there will remain only inner necessity for both the righteous and sinners to take root in their mood – in blissful love and thanksgiving, or on the contrary, in powerless rage and painful tortures.
Though, why then these tortures will be so painful, if they are, on the major part, the tortures of powerless rage? – We shall answer this question, recalling one of the Biblical expressions about the weeping and gnashing of teeth. The tortures of powerless rage are very painful. But here, on earth, they are eased by the temporal character and variety of the experienced emotions and states; and as well by the fact that the outraged person hopes to satisfy himself if not in one evil act, then in another, or at last, to find oblivion in wine, earthly entertainments, in some other, accessible to him pleasures and comforts, – and in the other life nothing of this will exist. The complexity and fuss of this life will disappear. «The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up» (2Pet. 3:10). For reasonable creatures there will remain only the chance of taking root in moral position in respect of God and the Divine Kingdom: either love for them, or hatred, powerless rage, which is self-accusatory and therefore infinitely torturing. The wedding palace of the Lamb will shine in front of the outcast, to be precise – that sinner who cast himself out. He would be bound and would not interrupt the course of the celebration, there would be light in front of him, but he would be in darkness; the Divine love would shine in front of him, in readiness to forgive everything, but this love would be hated by him, and the forgiveness – undesired. The same way it is said in the Revelation: «And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb» (14:10). – The words of the Lord at the Dread Judgment «Depart from me, ye cursed,» and other similar to them words of the Catechism, which explain that hell is the place away from God, should be understood in the sense of moral, but not positional deprivation, as well as the words of Christ, said to the unwisely speaking disciple: «Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me» (Math. 16:23).
But what is the fire, making sinners burn? – First of all, it is the same fire, which will enlighten the righteous since the day, «when all deeds, good and evil, will be tried by fire,» as we read in the canon to the Guardian Angel; it is like the Chaldean furnace: «A furnace once in Babylon, by divine decree, divided its action, burning up the Chaldeans but refreshing the faithful». The fire burns the wood, hey and straw, but cleanses gold and silver. The sinners shall be cast «into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father» (Math. 13:42–43). Similarly Apostle Paul tells about one and the same fire – the Divine touch – that influences different souls in a different way. «Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire» (1Cor. 3:13–15).
In this sense the Lord is called as consuming fire in the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah calls him eternal fire, eternal flame, which burns the sinners. «The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions», and further (33:14–15).
Do not you want to say that the lot of the righteous and sinful will be the same if to look at them from aside: it is the state of constant vision of God and the impossibility to hide from Him, – but for one it will be the source of pleasure, and for others – of tortures, forthcoming from their hatred and powerless rage? – Or do you want to say that the eternal fire is nothing but the Divine presence, which is so hard to bear for his enemies? I did not mean «nothing but» but what was meant is «in the first place». To say «nothing but» will be possible only in the case, when someone compares the eternal fire with material fire from the church legend (and the church legend is as well holy for us, as the words of the holy Bible), and only if it is possible to bring this idea together with that indisputable truth about the resurrection of the body, so precious for most ancient Christians and so obviously revealed to us through the Word of God.
But, in the vast course of dogmatics there is no expression of the holy fathers about the material fire in hell. But, certainly, we would not dare to deny the presence of physical tortures there, – it is only easier to talk about the soul in respect of future life, than in respect of the resurrected body, for as well in this life the spiritual aspect is more understandable for us, then that of flesh and matter, as correctly states one Russian philosopher, who passed away long before. No one could yet define what matter is, and it is more difficult to imagine, which qualities of matter will definitely remain in the resurrected flesh.
The Parable about the Unjust House Stewart.
To protect oneself from any misunderstandings, caused by the superfluous reading of this parable, one should first of all correctly understand the words of the Lord: «Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.» Here the Lord means not only that terrestrial wealth, which is accumulated through deceit and stealing, but any material wealth, comparing it with the wealth of virtues and grace: only spiritual wealth is stable and just. This is proved by His further words: «If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?.» That is, if you, possessing miserable (unrighteously gained) material wealth, did not serve with it to God, then how God will entrust you true gracious wealth? Similarly Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: «Charge them that are rich in this world (he compares them to the spiritually rich men, i.e. holy people) that they… nor trust in uncertain (unrighteous) riches…That they do good, that they be rich in good works,» i.e. in just wealth.
They will say: but if the Lord under unjust wealth means that monetary wealth, which was obtained through true labors or as a legacy, then why He puts as an example the unjust house steward, who secretly was handing away the others’ wealth, to be fed further on by the poor, who became rich due to the welfare of the others? The answer is simple: the Lord does not at all want to approve of that act of the unjust steward, and if ««the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely,» then it was not a praise of moral approving, but the ironical praise of his wittiness and smartness. But here, the same way as in other cases, the Savior gives as an example such a shameful physical act, because something similar to that, performed in spiritual life, can be really approved of.
Such meaning have the parables about the unjust house steward, «which feared not God, neither regarded man» and about the woman, who had found the lost drachma (the woman, which is covetous and not clever). Akin to that case, here without any approval of the deed of the unjust steward, the Lord suggest to the listeners using the main thought and applying it to spiritual qualities, which the steward demonstrated in terrestrial life. Whose wealth did he distribute? That of the master. – And whom does the wealth that we possess belong to? – For sure, to God, and we only temporarily own it, till we live on earth, and when the hour of our death and the Divine judgment comes, the Lord will take this wealth away from us.
So, if we are only the temporary owners of this welfare, then why do we need to spare it? Let us hand it out to those, who can be useful to us, when the Lord will deprive us of terrestrial life, and with that of all wealth. Who are these gained through unjust (i.e. material or monetary) wealth friends, and who, when we impoverish (i.e. die), will accept us «into everlasting habitations»? – These are the poor, who with the commemorative prayer for the souls of departed will open the doors of the Heavenly Kingdom to us. These words of the Lord are said against the deniers of prayers for the dead, i.e. against the Protestants of all types.
To these words are similar those of Paul, in which the apostle teaches Timothy to edify the rich «that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life» (1Tim. 6:18–19). On the contrary, in another parable the Lord threatens the rich man, having no love for the poor, by sudden death, asking: «Тhen whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?» «So is he, – concludes His parable the Savior, – that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.»
The given above utterances, alike the parable about the unjust house steward, bear the same meaning – it is in the thought that to share possessions with the poor is not only how any loving soul should act, but testify to simple prudence; our wealth is not eternal anyway, it is even not ours, but of God; let us change it for eternal possessions through the acts of benevolence.
Lazarus of the Parable and Four-Day Lazarus.
Dear reader, have not you noticed the fact that in all the parables, told by Christ there is only one proper name? And if you have noticed, have you tried to understand why the Lord called Lazarus by the name, while what was left to his rival was the general name of the Rich? Evidently the Divine teacher wanted His followers to remember well both the terrestrial and beyond-the grave-lot of poor Lazarus, though the main idea of the parable is concentrated on the Rich man: Lazarus is silent in the parable, while the Rich talks and begs for himself and his brothers. The desire of the Savior did not remain unfulfilled: Lazarus became the hero of the favorite chant of good Christians: the poor find consolation in it, fighting against covetousness and everybody is taught to remember about death, the judgment of God and mercy towards the poor. But anyway, our question remains unresolved. Still the parable about the prodigal son is the favorite subject, if not of folk, then of church chants, – together with the others, in which mercy and repentance are glorified; but there are no proper names in them, and the songs about Lazarus give the inspiration to those who sing them not because Lazarus’s name is mentioned there, but due to the description of heaven and hell, of hard-heartedness of the rich on earth and his late repentance in hell.
Maybe, we shall find what we are looking for sooner, if we try to analyze the separate thoughts of the parable of the Lord. Is everything in it clear to us? Does our heart agree with the hopeless answer of Abraham to the rich man, who feels pity about his brothers: «If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.» These strict words embarrassed many of the listeners of the Lord probably due to the power of thought, and till now have embarrassed the readers of the Gospel, for they looked like an exaggeration, till they were proved by real events. Not Lazarus of the parable, (the poor), but another Lazarus, known to all Jews as a friend of Christ, evidently resurrected from the dead, in front of a great crowd of people, being a breathless stinking corpse for four days. «Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.» Many but not all. «But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done» (John 11:45–46). And what was about the Pharisees? They gathered and not only did not repent in their persistent disbelief or to be more exact, disobedience to the truth, but on the word of Caiaphas decided to kill the Conqueror of death; and that seemed not enough for them. The high priests planned to kill Lazarus as well, for because of him many of the Jews came and started believing in Jesus (John 12–10,11). Note that in their decision there is neither any negation of a miracle, nor any feeling of being guilty: the predetermined unrighteous execution is the unique means for keeping the people in the state of disbelief, and they agree with it.
Like that the words, put by the Lord into the mouth of Abraham, about the degree of human hard-heartedness, came true in their horrifying exactness: the one, who does not wish to listen to Moses and the prophets, will not believe, even seeing the resurrected dead man. Apostle John does not refer to the parable about the Rich and Lazarus, but quotes the words of Christ, which compare Jewish disbelief, concerning His miracles, with disobedience to Moses and hidden disbelief into his law, which proceeded from moral hard-heartedness and looking for personal glory, but not for the glory of God. «There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? » (5:45–49).
There still remains one more puzzle, which is often suggested to the theologians: why neither that Evangelist, which narrates the parable of the Lord about Lazarus, inheriting heaven, nor the other two Evangelists testify to the resurrection of Lazarus? Metropolitan Philaret posed that question at one academic exam and when no one dared to answer it, gave such an explanation: when the first three Gospels were being written, then Lazarus was still alive. He always found it hard to listen to the questions of the neighbors about what his soul experienced when it parted with the body, and would have found himself very upset and embarrassed, if this event, while he was still alive, would have been discussed in all churches, that was why it was described only in the fourth Gospel, written after the death of Lazarus.
The scientific biographer of Holiest Philaret was surprised with the wisdom and simplicity of the explanation, but did not know that this explanation was taken from the Synacsarion of Lenten Tryodion. The advantage of the late Eminence before his interlocutors was in the fact that the interlocutors followed the way only of negative critics in the Biblical research, trying to defeat them, using their own weapons, and studied the Bible very little beyond the boundaries of this policy, but the Metropolitan tried to understand It and the Church legends, not only being interested in the critics’ opinion, but developing the positive point of view, without depending on the polemics.
The similar point of view will help us clarify the matter better. From the very sequence of speech of the fourth Gospel one can see that the apostle adds some narration to the books, which had been written before, about the same events, known to his readers. Such an additional narration is the description of the miracle, which happened to four-day Lazarus. St. John introduced such details and depicted everything with such clarity, which make his narrations differ from those of the first three Evangelists and absolutely destroy the miserable thought of the German objectors about the falsity of the fourth Gospel, as about the one, compiled in the middle of the second century by the «misty philosophers"- Gnostics.
This way, St.John wants to tell about the resurrection of Lazarus to those readers, who know about the anointment of the Lord at the supper, about His entry to Jerusalem, and the betrayal of Judas, but do not know about the great miracle of the Lord, so that thanks to it people can start believing into common resurrection.
The readers of the first Gospels could be perplexed, why the people, who met the Lord in Jerusalem with suspicious curiosity and arguments before, later came out so unanimously to meet Him, worshipping Him as a king or even God. Though Evangelist Luke says that the people are glorifying Him for all His miracles, but this hint is little understandable for the reader, because the miracles of the Lord were known to the teachers of Jerusalem already at the time of His previous visits of the holy city, so only Evangelist John, establishing connection of this event with the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, makes perplexity of the reader disappear.
Exactly with this thought he ends the narration, saying: «For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle» (12:18).
The detailed explication of the events, known, but unclear for the readers of the first three Gospels, can be found in St. John’s description of the miracle with five breads and the following it walk of the Savior upon water. The fourth Evangelist described that being amazed by the miraculous visit, the people wanted to catch the Wonder-Worker by force and make Him a king. To avoid this insanity of people the Lord hid himself for some time in the wilderness, having let the disciples go into the boat. When people fell asleep, He postponed the fulfillment of their plan for the next day and left, miraculously walking upon the waters of the lake.
The legend of the Church about the fact that the Evangelists hush up about the resurrection of Lazarus, performed by the Lord till the moment of his second-time death, makes one think that the whole 11th chapter, or at least the first 45 verses of it, and equally the half of the first verse and verses 9–11 and 17, 18 in the 12th chapter are written by the Evangelist after he had compiled the Gospel, exactly after Lazarus died for the second time. The second look of the narrator at the day of the resurrection of Lazarus (the extract «the six days before the Passover,» and further) and the triumphant supper, which was held at that day in his house, draw our attention to this thought. Here is mentioned the fact of Mary’s anointment of the feet of the Savior with ointment, and in the 11th chapter, in which we see the first mentioning about Mary and Martha, it is said – «It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair,» – as about the event, already known to the reader (but not from the first two Gospels, for there the talk was about the pouring of Myrrh on the head of the Lord in the house of Simon the Leper).
It is very probable that the Gospel of John was written while Lazarus was still alive, and the narration about his resurrection was added by the Evangelist only after the death of Lazarus the same way as the entire 21st chapter of this Gospel was written by the apostle afterwards, because of those being spread during his elderly years rumors that he would never die; that is why let us add that the Gospel of John has two final footnotes, very similar to each other: one at the end of the 20th, and another at the end of the 21st chapter, where the attempt to conceal the appearance of the Lord on the sea of Tiberias is explained by the words: «And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.»
So the parable about the Rich and Lazarus, which was written down by one of the three Evangelists-forecasters, compared with the event of the resurrection of Lazarus and unbelief of the Jews, which was described by apostle John, represents the explanation of the words, causing bewilderment: ««If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded». But did the Evangelist mean the inner connection of the event and the parable? To that there are no direct references in the Gospel, but despite his will he says about the invincible persistence of the Jews’ unbelief and then, having finished the description of the events of these two great days of terrestrial life of the Savior, he, again despite his tradition, leaves the tone of the objectively impassionate narrator and says: «That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him» (John 12:38–41).
Really, the unbelief of the Jewish leaders and most powerful teachers of Jerusalem, which did not disappear after such a striking, obvious miracle, which was performed in front of the crowd of people, is an amazing phenomenon in the history of mankind; since that time it stopped being unbelief, but became conscious opposition to the obvious truth («but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father,» John, 15:24), which influenced the behavior of the high priests and the multitude of people at the law court of Pilate.
Evangelist John in all his five creations reveals to the readers the main thought that the world, i.e. human persistence and malice, fought both with Christ, though His truth shone to the world, and with His followers, hating their righteous life, as Cain hated Abel (1 John 3:12), and will hate God and His servants till the end of times, in spite of the obvious acts of His power and just retribution (Rev. 9and etc.).
For long we wished to give the interpretation of the creations of John, as of those making the New Testament doctrine of the first Evangelists complete, for the sake of encouragement of Christian martyrs and confounding of those fainthearted (21:8), who waited for the century-long glory of Christ at the time of their generation (2Thes. 2); though the official aims do not let us fulfill this graceful task soon, and we suggest the other admirers of the word of God to fulfill it. If they do it, they would see that all the narratives of the fourth Gospel are bound with the above mentioned thought; and the whole Revelation, as well as the three epistles of the Apostle, is dedicated to it.
The mentioned obstacle does not give us the opportunity to prove our supposition, why the Lord called the blissful poor of His parable by the name, but still we know that the teaching of the Church has an authotoritive explication for that. The service of the whole sixth week of Great Lent for six days glorifies four-day Lazarus and Lazarus of the parable. Appealing not to the rivals of Christ, but to His praying men, who gather in the holy temples for praying exploit, the Church teaches us to see in both Lazaruses the power of mind and conscience, which the sinner neglects, as the Rich neglects Lazarus, and which, being found dead in the soul of man, can be revived (as four-day Lazarus) only by the power of Christ. This union is almost similar to that, mentioned at the beginning of the article, only with the difference, that, firstly, historical (four-day) Lazarus becomes a moral symbol here. It shows that after the struggle of belief and disbelief, in human soul there starts the fight, involving passions and conscience, (the same way as the unbelievers and the praying ones cannot stand each other). And secondly, according to the teaching of Christ, the fight of faith and disbelief happens not in the sphere of abstract thought, but in the sphere of the good and evil in our soul. It is the fight of passions and conscience; so in this statement one can find the explanation of the words of the Lord: ««If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded.» The unbelief of the embittered Jews in the resurrection of Lazarus gave to this utterance such power, that it can be in no way treated like an exaggeration.
The Kiss of Judas.
If you want to analyze the most significant events of the terrestrial life of the Savior and understand the surrounding Him people, and in particular, the events, connected with the law court and taking someone as a prisoner, then you should by all means get acquainted with the 17th chapter of Deuteronomy. From it you will learn the rules, concerning the arrest or punitive punishment of the guilty of those times. The rules are the following: the execution can be processed on the testimony of two or three witnesses (17comp. Numb. 35:30):«The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people» (v. 7). The rule saying that a witness must be the first executor is surely introduced in order to keep people away from slander, for if a slanderer would be an executor, then he will dispose himself to direct vengeance of relatives and friends of the executed. The witnesses, who were proceeding with the accusation, had to put a hand upon the head of the accused; this way the unjust elders were acting with innocent Susanna. «In the midst of the people the two elders rose up and laid their hands on her head» and began to read out their accusation, full of slander, concluding it with the words: «We testify to this» (13:34–41). This way they fulfilled the commandment of God, given to Moses, about blasphemy: «Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him» (Lev. 24:14).
As it seems, one could not be judged without this court ritual, i.e. laying the hands of an accuser on the head of an accused. That is why the words of the Gospel: «And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him» (John 7:44) have such a meaning: they wanted to arrest the Savior, but no one dared to accuse Him and fulfill the necessary for that court rite, which was in laying of hands on His head. One might presume that beside this rite, the witness should never be involved in the sin, he was accusing the criminal of. Such a thought can be found in the same narration of Daniel about Susanna; look, with what an exclamation young at that time Daniel insisted on giving him the possibility to hold the court of arbitration in this case: «And he cried aloud: «I will have no part in the death of this woman» (Dan. 13:49). From this the demand of the Savior to the accusers of the woman, who had committed adultery, becomes clear: «He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her» (John 8:7). By the way, in this case, alike at the interrogation by the high priest and Pilate, the Lord talked and acted in full concordance with the mentioned above decrees of the Old Testament law, because after the ashamed accusers of that woman went away, the Lord did not let her go at once, but asked: «Woman, where are those thine accusers?,» and concluded: «Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.» After the mentioned points of the Law of Moses one can see, how far from truth are those interpreters, who find in this event the example of abolishment of the Old Testament law by Christ.
The same way, far from truth, are the majority of manuals on the holy history in the interpretation of the event, which served as the title of this article. According to that interpretation, the enemies of Christ needed Judas to find the Savior without people, and the kiss of Judas let the servants of the high priest recognize Him among the disciples.
Already in my childhood such interpretations seemed strange to me: could it be that without the help of the disciple-betrayer the guards could not find in the city the man, surrounded by twelve disciples and least of all caring about hiding Himself from anybody? Was it so that to point at one of the twelve, it was necessary to resort to hypocrite kissing, and was not it enough to point at Him from aside? No, all these actions of the enemies of Christ become absolutely understandable for us, when we learn, that without an official report, combined with decisiveness of someone to become an accuser of Christ before the people, the enemies of the Savior had no opportunity to hand Him to trial and execution, and that the process of handling Him to court had to be combined with the applying of the hands of an accuser on Him. Judas did not dare to fulfill this rite in its exactness, but «Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast… And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away» (Luke 22:47; Math. 26:46). The mentioned words of Judas clearly show that he warned his comrades about the change of the legal method, which he was to make because he felt uneasiness and let themselves do it, and they did it, laying their impudent hands on Christ. But, they, as it seems, did not decide to do that at once. I understand the double meaning of the question of the Savior in this case: «Whom seek ye? – I am he». For the fulfillment of the arrest there was a necessity in the preliminary personal interrogation of the accused, which the enemies of Christ did not dare to perform; then the Lord Himself helped them in that, having shown to them his spiritual power. He underlined the nonentity of His enemies, making them fall to the ground in horror.
As far as the common significance of Judas as of the betrayer is concerned, we see that he was meant to be a necessary accuser and witness, from the Gospel of St. Luke: «And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money» (Luke 22:4–5; compare Mark 14:10–11). If the matter was only in finding Christ without people, was it then necessary to spend on that great sums of money (the set price of 600 rubles) and what was there to be happy about? This joy of the enemies of Christ shows, that the statement of Judas led them out of a great predicament, for there was no man, ready to accuse Christ of anything, lay hands on Him and testify against Him in court.
Though, Judas as well, having fulfilled the second part of his obligation not in its exactness, but having substituted the laying of hands on the head of the accused with kissing, did not fulfill the third part of his deal, did not appear in court as an accuser, but «he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.» The unrighteous judges of Christ again found themselves in a predicament; they in vain «sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses» and further. (Math. 26:60). Then the high priest, without paying attention to the words of Christ about that they ask the accused, but not witnesses (John 18:21), and losing his temper because of the failure of the testimony, tried himself to catch Christ in words, making Him answer by adjuring Him: «Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God» – and though the Lord replied to him, using the words of the book of prophet Daniel about the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7:13), the unrighteous judge pretended that he did not understand the utterance, and played the comedy of sacred indignation, tore the vestment, made the present people accuse Christ of blasphemy, which according to the law of Moses subjected the guilty to death (Lev. 24:16).
From all said above it is seen, how important it is to know the Old Testament in order to understand the Gospel. Equally important is this knowledge for the understanding of the book of Acts and the Epistles of Apostles. To make an example, let us mention only one event – the execution of Stephan.
«And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God» and further (Acts 7:53). The readers, who are not aware, think that Saul had to protect those vestments from thieves. In reality the witnesses, who were stoning Stephan themselves, according to the law of chap.17 of Deuteronomy, took the responsibility for that not only before the relatives of the executed, but before the Roman government, without the permission of which they had no right to fulfill the execution (John 18:31). Thus, they put their clothes by the feet of Saul as the material evidence of their murder, to confirm that they accept their act as willful. That is why Saul is referring to the fact that he was keeping an eye on the clothes of those stoning Stephan (i.e. not protecting it from thieves, but from the very owners), as the evidence of his active participation in this event (Acts 22:20).
I hope, that due to this comparison of the New Testament events and the Old Testament laws, and the court laws in particular it will become clear for the readers that «the kiss of Judas» was not the matter of mockery, as many think, but the fulfillment, though inexact, of the Jewish court rite. Besides, this comparison reveals to us, how human violence can commit even the most horrible crimes in the frames of law, even if the law is Divine.
Concordance of the Evangelical Records about the Resurrection of Christ.
We read about various attempts to find the mutual agreement of the Evangelists concerning the phenomenon of appearance of the resurrected Lord to His disciples. Some of these attempts, for example, of doctor Paskovsky («The Christian Reading» of the 90s) almost satisfied us, but the more regrettable it was to note in them the absence of that main postulate, which in a fast way makes the reader acquainted with the concordance of events of the Holy Bible, precisely in the four Gospels; and we wished to tell about this postulate or thesis a long time before, but we did not share our thoughts, concerning this matter, because of the absolute lack of free time.
Though before to share them, let us say that the most unrealistic method of concordance is that most popular variant, according to which it turns out that St. Mary Magdalene after when the Lord met her with other Mary, and let them embrace His feet, – appears again, crying before the sepulcher and does not recognize appearing Christ, taking Him for a gardener, and then, after she recognizes Him, it becomes forbidden to touch Him.
Such a sequence of events cannot be in concordance with anything, and the attempts to show it to the readers lead to miserable interpretations and complex but not at all convincing fabrications.
The appearance of the Lord before the myrrh-bearing women in the four Gospels is not similarly described, i.e. the narrators describe some moments of these repeated events. But the interpreters find it hard to bring together the mentioned above narrations of Mathew and John. It is obvious that the Lord appeared before Mary Magdalene twice, once to her alone, and the other time when she was together with other Mary, but how one event relates to the other – this is what puzzles the interpreters. The statement (postulate), which we promised to be the key in solving this matter, is substantiated, or, as they say in academies, formulated so: Evangelist Mathew says about the coming of two Maries to the sepulcher of the Lord, already aware «that he is risen from the dead.» The events this Evangelist is describing, happened only after the described by St. John appearance of the Lord to Mary Magdalene, who took him for a gardener, and after told about that to the apostles, «that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her». Then she said that to other Mary as well, and then both Maries went over to the sepulcher – what for? – Not for the anointment of the body of the Lord (for they knew that He had resurrected), i.e. without any ointments, but they went to «see the sepulcher,» knowing that it was already empty, – only the burial shroud was still in it. Probably, not they alone, and not only the two apostles and the other myrrh-bearing women went to get convinced in the news, brought by Mary Magdalene, but all the followers of Christ did so, after hearing about the event («the eleven, and all the rest» Luke 24:9, comp. 24:24); the Evangelist tells about two Maries because they were worthy to see the new appearance of the angel, and then of the Lord Himself.
With what else, beside the expression «to see the sepulcher» one can confirm our assuredness in the fact that what Mathew narrates about, happened after the appearance of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene, described by John?
– By the fact that John narrates about what happened «when it was yet dark,» and Mathew about what was «as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.»
Besides let us pay attention to the attitude of the myrrh-bearers to the words of the angel and the Very Savior. According to John, Mary looks so unprepared to the conscious perceiving of the events, that she takes Christ for a gardener, and according to Mark the words of the angel terrify the myrrh-bearers so that they «neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid,» and Luke writes about the same: «And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth.»
On the contrary, the appearance of the angel, described by St. Mathew, happens when the myrrh-bearers are more prepared to the vision, though the heavenly inhabitant cheers them up with the words «Be not afraid,» but they have plenty of self-control, so that He says to them further on: «Come, see the place where the Lord lay,» i.e. he suggests them to fulfill that, for what they had come («to see the sepulcher»). According to Mark, the myrrh-bearers (not these two, but the others), «neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid,» and Mathew tells about two Maries, that they «with fear (for sure, fear is inevitable, when seeing any miraculous vision) and great joy… run to bring his disciples word.» Magdalene, fulfilling this order already for the second time (for the first time she received it from the Very Lord, according to the fourth Gospel), and other Mary, who knew about the appearance of the Resurrected to Magdalene, now are able to consciously perceive the second appearance of the Savior. By what can this be proved?
The answer to such a question gives one more reason for our declaration that both the women went to look at the sepulcher, already knowing about the resurrection of Christ, and equally it serves as the explanation, why the Lord did not allow Mary Magdalene touching Him by the sepulcher, and after allowed that to both Maries.
About the first event the Octoichos says like this: «The woman was still thinking in human terms, that is why she was not allowed the touch Christ» (9th Gospel stichera). What does it mean? – Certainly, here one cannot say about any passionate touch, no! – Simply the absolute unexpectedness to see the mourned over Teacher alive overwhelmed the soul of Mary with such natural joy, that she, even before to think about the mysterious resurrection, about His Divinity, simply gave way to rapturous joy about Him as about the dear person, who escaped from danger, and having forgotten that she was a woman, wanted to embrace the Teacher and kiss Him, – the One, Whom she supposed to be dead and stolen in the preceding moments. The Lord reminded her about the irrelevance of such an expression, even if it was absolutely pure joy, but at the same night suggested to his hesitating male disciples to touch His wounds. – Different was the attitude of the Lord to the worshipping of Mary Magdalene and other Mary, in an hour or two after His first appearance. There both Maries learnt that the Lord appeared to the believers, as the conqueror of death and hell, as the ascending to the Heavenly Father into the Eternal kingdom and powerfully sending the apostles for the sermon and triumphant struggle with the world. Then, both the women, having met Him, when He said to them: «Rejoice,» did not «think in human terms» anymore, but worshipped Him as the Son of God, and therefore He did not prevent them from doing what they did: «And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him» (Math. 28:9).
You have found concordance between the Gospels of Mathew and John, but how will you find it between the narrations of the rest of Evangelists? Where would you place the coming of Magdalene to the sepulcher with ointments, when she was accompanied by other myrrh-bearers, which are mentioned by Mark and Luke?
The main thought of our answer will be the following. Mary Magdalene did not come with ointments to the tomb of the Lord, but the rest of the women did, after the first appearance of Christ to Mary, and maybe, even after the second one, but still they did not yet know about the resurrection of Christ. The narration of John says about what happened «when it was yet dark,» and the narration of Mathew denotes the events, which happened «as it began to dawn» («the dawning sun» – the same way it is in Greek), and of Luke – about what happened «very early in the morning.» – These two expressions are not so definite to place them before or after the time, defined in the first Gospel, but, anyway, here it is said about the women, who came to the tomb absolutely unprepared to the sermon about the resurrection, and there is no need to insist that Mary Magdalene was among them: on the contrary, these two Evangelists give the absolute opportunity to accept the opposite idea, that there was no Magdalene among them. Both the Evangelists separate the three events: a) the buying or preliminary preparing of ointments (Luke); b) the coming of the women to the sepulcher and the conversation with the angel (Mark) and angels (Luke), and c) the announcement of the Resurrection to the apostles.
Let us start with the final moment. One must not think that according to Mark, the scared women did not tell about the appearance of the angel at all and did not fulfill his order, concerning the apostles. Mark only notes that they could not do it at once, and that the apostles knew about that fact first of all from Mary Magdalene, to whom the Lord «appeared first.» See, Mark distinguishes her from the rest of myrrh-bearers, and consequently reminds of the event, which is not connected with bringing ointments. But did Mary Magdalene, according to Mark, participate in this bringing? No. He says only about her participation in buying the myrrh (16:1) and calls by names the participating in this purchase, which took place after the Sabbath (that is in our European time – Saturday evening, the time after 6 o’clock). But Magdalene went to the sepulcher «when it was still dark» without ointments, while the rest of the women brought those ointments «as it began to dawn.» The Lord did not appear to all, but to «Mary Magdalene,» who, according to Mark as well, was not with them (16:9).
If Mark, naming the women, who watched the burial of the Lord and those, who were buying ointments, separately, does not repeat their names, telling about the bringing of ointments to the tomb by myrrh-carriers, then Luke tells neither about the names of those buying ointment, nor of those, who brought them to the tomb, but mentions that the number of the first and the second was not equal («and other women that were with them»). Obviously, some of them were dealing with ointments even on Friday, after the death of the Savior «and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment» (Luke), and the others were buying them after the Sabbath rest (Mark 16:1). So, Luke does not mention the names of the women, who brought the ointments, but expresses it so: «And returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.» Note the addition: «…which told these things unto the apostles». He does not say – which carried the ointment, and saw the angels, but who «told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest» (Luke). In this return took part Maria, to be more exact – she was the one to start it, as John and Mark testify, and further on, none of the Evangelists says about her participation in the process of bringing ointments to the tomb.
It is certain that the words of Evangelist Luke: «Told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest» cannot be understood like a single act, for this multiple society could not always be together, – but in the sense that the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ went from house to house with joyful news: those were two Maries, who had seen the Lord, and the rest of myrrh-bearers, who talked with the angels. To the first testimony must be related the words of the third Gospel: «Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves,» which coincide with the words of John: «Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre.»
From this we see that the Evangelists not as if contradict one another, describing the events of the first day after the resurrection of Christ, but, saying about the different moments of this day, as if on purpose, leave some space for the events, about which narrate the three others.
Combining the four narratives, we receive such sequence of events:
On Friday night one of the Disciples of Christ (Luke), and the others, among whom is Mary Magdalene (Mark), buy ointments, in order to go and anoint the body of the Lord.
Mary Magdalene, leaving her friends and already on Saturday night running alone to the tomb, does not find Christ (John), calls for Peter (Luke and John) and John (John), stands by the cave of the sepulcher, crying, talks to the angel and Lord Jesus, does not recognize Him, and having recognized, rushes to Him, but is not allowed to touch Him, and following His order, goes to the apostles to tell them (John and Mark) and the rest of the disciples (Luke) about His resurrection.
Not knowing about that, the other myrrh-bearers come to the tomb, take the order of the angels (Mark and Luke) and, having returned, first cannot speak because of horror (Mark), and then, following Magdalene, tell about what they had seen (Luke).
Mary Magdalene and other Mary, already assured of the resurrection of Christ, come to look at the tomb and shroud of the Lord, which had been found by Peter (Luke and John) and by John (John), but not by Mary, when the angels first appeared to her (John). Coming to the tomb, both Maries again see the angel, who lets them come inside and look at the place, where the Lord laid (Mathew) and where His burial shroud was left. With that the angel tells them to confirm His resurrection and Ascension to the disciples, – the thing that the Lord already had ordered Magdalene to do (John).
Having accepted the joyful news, both Maries hurry to the apostles; the Lord meets them on their way and does not ban them to worship Him any longer and allows the reverent touch of His feet (Mathew).
By the evening of the same day all this became known not only to the eleven, but to the seventy disciples (Luke). The miserable lie of the Pharisees and guards about the stealing of the body of Christ, while they were sleeping (how the sleeping could know about that?) did not embarrass the disciples of Christ, for He, appearing for several times before them, convinced them in His resurrection, gave to touch Himself, took food from them and finally ascended to heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection in front of all the disciples (Mark, Luke and the Acts)
All this becomes clear, if to base the concordance of the Gospels on the statement that both Maries of the first Gospel went to see the sepulcher, already aware of the Lord’s resurrection.
About the Impossibility of Moral Life without Religion
In the past they used to think that atheism is the consequence and the highest expression of immorality: such a point of view is expressed in the Bible. Maybe, it is like that in reality, but modern deniers of religion do not only disagree with it, but they try to prove by all means that they possess not less powerful means for leading pious life, than the deeply religious people.
Unbelief, being born in the mind of a person, through the negation of his moral obligations before God, makes man scared of logical conclusions, and he tries to find some other (than religious beliefs) support in the fight with passions and in analyzing moral life.
Modern European science possesses two main theories of unreligious morals: pantheistic and Kantian, or autonomic. The moralist-pantheist has the most ungrateful task. His world-view limits existence with cosmic life: there is nothing outside of the world process- neither God, as conscious spirit, nor life beyond the grave for personal creatures, or in other words, for independent people.
The moral principles of pantheism
The world is as if one huge, once and forever started apparatus, in which are programmed all the smallest movements of its parts, so that there is left no free space in this apparatus for any free will. The relentless power of evolution ruled inorganic chaos, and then organic animal world, within which appeared more developed types due to the battle for survival, and then appeared people, who possessed the concealed features of matter, which this matter operates. This (matter) is Divinity, to which in vain appeal human generations thinking that they can be heard. The same way vain is the hope of each person to be the master of his acts and even desires: he is the same slave of these laws of his nature and surroundings, as a growing bush of a brittle willow, which cannot influence its single leaf, or change the direction of its branches, and it differs from man only by the fact that the life of man is reflected in his consciousness and gives him the illusion of free will, which is denied by philosophers.
Compulsory evolution causes the appearance of the highest forms of life; our mind and outer cognition are that force, which drive life of all generations towards mental and moral perfection or progress.
It seems: what can be duller than the conclusions concerning common moral fight, which proceed from such a teaching? If all my thoughts and desires are defined by the laws of world-creation, then the only thing left for me is to passively give in to all arising in me desires and vices, not rejecting them even if they convert into the most humiliating profound passions. If I turn out to be some drunkard, thief, then it will be the same inevitable expression of the laws of evolution, as the exceptional character of the talent of Pushkin, holiness of John the Baptist, the immense height of the Siberian cedar or eternal multiplication of most disgusting parasites? Any moral exploit, undertaken by us, any decisiveness about the struggle with oneself necessarily demand from us the belief in freedom of our wishes and decisions, without which the mentioned above sad conclusions would deprive us of any hope.
How do the representatives of pantheistic world-view, which by the way rules contemporary sciences: natural, historic, social and philosophic, deal with them? – They show to their followers that the desires, which are good, turn out to be reasonable, for they are in agreement with the course of general world progress, and that evil desires are unreasonable, for they are the inert element of secular life. That is why man has to strive for the good and fight with the evil, i.e. he has to realize the benefit of such a direction of his will, and this realization will necessarily influence the decisions of the latter. Though a critically disposed follower of such a theory can always object like that: you hope that the concentration of attention on only one aspect will become the source of reasonable convictions, and these convictions will cause the corresponding activity of will. But I can draw my attention to a certain object, no otherwise than refuting your theory, for the very concentration of attention is the act of will, and its fulfillment is impossible without freedom of desires within oneself: any reasonable pantheist must dwell in the state of passive distraction, giving himself to overwhelming him emotions. Besides – if anything in this world is for the better, then why does one need to struggle with something within him and force himself to do something? The law of world evolution is working instead of me; the all-absorbing pantheistic unconscious deity lives for me as well.
We see that pantheists are trying to define the difference between the good and evil, but this difference is often false, and it means nothing for us, if we recall that these preachers of unconditional and general world progress do not at all consider the evil to be an active force. Identifying goodness with deliberation, and being convinced that the latter is the force, being unstoppably developed in the history of man and mankind, they think that the concept of the evil has to do with only those actions and desires of man, which are not the product of sober mind. Such actions and desires of man become less in number, for his consciousness develops with each moment of his life, and therefore the evil or evil will is something that does not exist in reality: this is like a shadow running from a morning-sun ray, which was great at night and which swiftly disappears with the break of dawn, having no power to fight with it. What for would human will, even being free, fight with it (i.e. with the evil inside), if the very evil is the inevitable, but little by little disappearing condition of the starting and middle phases of the development of each separate soul and whole nations? The evil has its lawful place but because of fatal necessity it gives way to the opposite element, as soon as there appears light of reason. Pantheistic optimism, I guess, will agree that the existing evil is inevitable for the world process; it is something like measles or toothache fever, which each child has to go through, and to stop which it would be more than irrational.
This way, there is no substantial difference between the good and evil in the pantheistic world-view: that is why this moral fight with oneself is admitted by pantheism to be senseless. We shall not continue discussing those paradoxical conclusions, to which comes a thinker, who identifies goodness with rationality and is accepting the postulate that the kinder person is the one, who is mostly endowed by the latter quality. When did Chukha, the character drawn by Krestovsky, have more rationality and knowledge: when she was an innocent, kind girl of 12, or when she became the impudent prostitute and thief after many years of splendid aristocratic social life? And so, the consistent pantheist would state that she was morally higher, being in the state of deep downfall than when she was an innocent girl.
All pantheists, making these inevitable conclusions, probably will not deny that their world-view does not bring anything good for ascetic moral, which are the morals of duty – but they hope to create such a frame in mind, due to which people will become kind and even self-denying with no moral effort, and simply for the sake of consistency. Such a frame they hope to create, using their teaching about the metaphysical identity of all people with deity and with one another. Exactly, denying the free will of each personality and their beyond-the-grave existence, they say: «Your idea that your own personality differs from the others and from the universal whole (i.e. deity) is self-delusion and nothing else. All lives have one basis, and each of them is nothing more than a momentary splash of a small wave in a huge water body, for instance, in the sea. Will one drop of water be against another one? No, because this and that drop belong to the same body of water, one and the same sea, into which they flow. The same is your attitude to the neighbor, even to your rival: only understand that you and he are equal in essence, you are the momentary rays of the same sun. So, if for the sake of general good there will be needed your sacrifice for the neighbor, then you will fulfill it equally easily, as easy as you reject the momentary pleasure of eating tasty, but harmful for you food, for the sake of your own health. That is why the exploits of altruism, for which the individualists are expected to fight and to have so much ascetic training, for us, pantheists, are the matter of simple consistency (their teacher, similar to L.Tolstoy, will say)». By the same logics was led the character of host at L. Tolstoy’s novel, protecting the life of the servant and loosing his own life, and his alive dead man’s character, killing himself for the happiness of his wife (which was doubtful, anyway).
Without saying yet about the extreme artificiality and lack of psychology within similar sophisms, let us first of all mention the fact that if someone could possess similar consciousness, if Ivan could die for Peter only realizing that he and Peter are one, and that dying for Peter he dies for himself, – then this act would absolutely lose its moral sense and any good deeds that Ivan would do for Peter would not be the acts of love, would not be filled with this holy feeling, which converts some deeds into moral acts. For, according to the confession of all psychologists and philosophers, the feeling of love is psychologically possible and morally valuable only when it is directed towards another reasonable creature; that is why pantheists themselves admit that it is impossible to love their unconscious deity, and it is only possible to have compassion for it (Hartman, Tolstoy). The utmost rise of highest altruistic feelings within man happens when he clearly realizes that his actions do not depend on any profit, when he frees himself from any self-love, for the sake of love for the others. That is why our Savior in the Sermon on the Mount approves of these deeds of benevolence.
Really, would there be glorified the virtue of that producer of sugar, who helps the surrounding peasants to grow beetroot because it brings great and direct prophet to his sugar producing factory? Even if it was not his personal factory, but that of his children or brothers, for which he feels compassion due to the ties of blood, you would praise him less than another man, who helped less, but gave his hand to absolutely strange people and totally benevolently, and acted according to the words of the Savior: «But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil» (Luke 6:35).
Let us get back to the mentioned by us stimuli for righteous life in pantheists’ teaching. They state that self-denial and mercy contribute to global cultural and moral progress.
It is very strange to hear it from the champions of Darwin evolution, which is mainly built on the laws of «battle for survival.»
Due to these false laws, the existence of species of animal kingdom and conversion of the least developed species into the most developed ones as if was happening during the millions of years of natural history and still continues in the life of nations through the fact that the strongest breeds and species of the animal world and the strongest nations and personalities of the human world exploit, suppress and absolutely eliminate weaker rivals, especially in the sphere of sexual reproduction, and through that bring to life more perfect generations and set the more reasonable arrangement.
The most consistent champion of the Darwinist evolution, whose statements are used by all modern pantheists as the basis for their doctrine (but only with less consistency in conclusions) – the boldest preacher of these postulates, German philosopher Nietzsche, cannot be stopped by the loud appeal of his powerful and courageous readers to start the most merciless battle for survival and to eliminate all weak and miserable creatures, on which, they think, the trying to be knights humanists wasted their time. Moreover, he severely curses that «teaching, which captured the minds of cultural people by this humanism, harmful for progress, during two thousands years and gave a chance for all weak and miserable creatures, which are absolutely useless for progress, to multiply.»
Nietzsche supposes Christianity, in particular Christian altruism, to be the teaching, mostly harmful for universal culture; he sees it as the main brake of human progress and in that supposition he has found the brilliant follower in the person of talented ruler Wilhelm II, who instilled the same idea onto the devoted to him army and triumphantly proclaimed the principle of merciless extermination of the weak for the sake of prosperity of the strong, as the leading principle of the outer policy of Germany, which was falsely thought to be in the head of the world progress.
Is it necessary to say about the fact that this cruel conclusion adds to that basis of the world evolution, proclaimed by the theory of Darwin, on which modern pantheistic cosmogony and theodicy are built? Is it necessary to say that in this theory one can find much more consistency than in the fulsome theory of altruistic pantheism, absolutely opposite to Darwinist evolution, on which it tries to be established?
Anyway, it is impossible to represent the moral exploit of self-denial, free from any inner struggle, as the result of discovering false identity between people. It is incomparably easier to teach people to suppress in themselves the feeling of natural pity for all weak, who are in need of our mercy, and especially for the political enemies, – that is why the stern soldiers from the army of Wilhelm can with more right boast with the spontaneity of their actions, according to their world-view, than the disciples of Hartman – with their absolutely hazily and sophistically built theory of compassion for the world deity and its parts (our neighbors).
Such is the miserable morals of pantheists: it cannot find the theoretical basis for good deeds, it cannot moreover report to them any practical vitality for influencing human will, but on the contrary, remaining faithful to its philosophical and false-historical preconditions, it gives the lessons of cruelty, violence and self-love both to the nation and to single persons.
That is why, pausing in horror in front of such inevitable conclusions, those more humanistic representatives of pantheism try to return to the long forgotten by them dogmas of the New and Old Testaments, changing Their content and allotting it with the suitable for their theory spirit. Though, this attempt causes pantheists’ complete failure, about which we shall speak further on.
Moral principles promoted by Kant
Completely opposite to the pantheistic moral, which denies the freedom of will, is the moral teaching of Kant, which is known under the name of autonomous moral. This moral teaching comes from the acknowledgment of the completeness of freedom of human will and is based not on the religious element, but on the purely formal concept of moral duty, which as if rules the human spirit, without any connection of man and God, the world and history. It preserves its obligatory character for any religious or metaphysical world-view; to be more precise, this concept does not submit to religious and philosophic theories, but the latter should be substantiated from the point of view of the first; or, as V.S. Soloviev has justly said, moral consciousness is that kind of court jury, by which those arguing confessional and philosophical systems must be judged.
For autonomous moral represented by Kant and his allies, Christian teaching about virtue is not complete enough, for the latter, in their opinion, was underestimated by theologians and preachers already because it includes the point of submission to the strange will (the Divine one), and with that is connected with the expectation of rewards and punishment.
There are very few followers of Kant in the contemporary Russian society: they still are, maybe, among the teachers of philosophy, and hardly represent the majority; as far as the broader walks of intelligentsia are concerned, then within them the very title of philosopher is forgotten; they cannot go along with philosophical abstract matter. Though the leitmotiv of his system of independent morals is understandable for our contemporaries, and is even more familiar to their fathers and even grandfathers. The common answer of a Russian intelligent of the Nicholas époque to the accusation of the interlocutor in his falling away from Russian religious life or even that of his own family, – (we mean, surely, the social divine service and prayer in general) was found in the idea, that it is possible to be righteous and religious in the highest sense, without participating in the life of the church and praying to God. «You refrain from the evil and do good, thinking about heaven and hell, but I wish to do good benevolently, out of respect to the very good,» – this way our grandfathers justified themselves in front of their pious wives with certain sincerity, our fathers – with less sincerity, and our contemporaries, who do not care about the good and evil in the majority of cases – without any sincerity at all. As far as our fathers and especially grandfathers are concerned, then like that were saying those of them, who were brought up in the manners of the contemporary to them strict German school, military or civil, and with no doubt, carrying the bright reflection of Kantian ideas of formal duty, concerning both the positive content of the rules of life, and the common order of things, which was reflected in almost all the aspects of life of the Russian society of the Nicolas époque. Certainly, not Kant alone, but the more ancient knightly spirit of the Western Europe, which the Konigsberg philosopher possessed, influenced the convictions of our grandfathers and fathers and was reflected in the puffed up false phrases of our contemporaries.
No matter how it was, but the desire to separate moral life from the church cult, which appeared in the West since the times of Luther, found its place in Russia in the old times as well – first in the court circles at the times of Peter the Great, and of Ekaterina II, then in the nobility, since the times of Alexander I, and finally since the times of the 60s, within the class of intelligentsia. This doctrine was absolutely not religious, and in the sphere of moral principles it bore the elevated spirit, which was at least felt in the talks of its followers and in the accepted in society rules of life. Very few members of our society knew about Kant and his autonomous morals, very few could exactly formulate their personal moral views, but those views in their original principle were exactly Kantian, and therefore the moral of Kant, in spite of almost general denial of those views by the native to the philosopher people, was interesting for the Russian society. In Germany, philosophers-relativists, being ruled by Kantian skepticism in the sphere of theory, start to fearlessly mock at his moral-practical ideas, treating them as some element of the Middle Age mysticism and pietism. On the contrary, Russian people, though characterized by weak moral life, almost do not dare to treat the very concept of the good, the very principle of morality with mockery or scorn, though they constantly omit it in life, but, as we have said, love to talk with respect about the moral law, even not in connection with religion, but as about the autonomic law, like Kant did.
So, it is high time we talked about the Konigsberg philosopher, for this introduction was made in order to draw attention of the readers to another inevitably abstract matter, which Russian readers never liked, and in the final years hardly bore, preferring to be interested in pornography or endless rumors about the changes of ministers, as if the whole value of social and personal life is in them. Kant says: «I too have to do good things out of respect to moral law; the great idea of moral duty by itself does not depend on the fact that it appears within my spirit, it leads me to the same delight, as a beautiful view of the sky, dotted with stars.» «O, duty, great sacred name, – he exclaims, – where is the root of your noble origin? You do not want to acknowledge any power over you and are searching for complete independence for yourself.»
How good and powerful for our activity it would be, if the very author of this eloquent tirade and all his followers could boast with the stability of the expressed in these words mood, and could protect themselves and the rest from such a conclusion: if yesterday I kept to the idea of duty and my kind motives, and it happened only because they aroused in me the feeling of great delight by their beauty, then according to the same logics today I will yield to an absolutely opposite kind of pleasures, when I stand in mute delight in front of a picture of a naked sinner or before the beautiful in his cruelness demon of Byron or Lermontov, or finally together with the Stingy Knight I shall draw in my imagination all those overwhelming pleasures, which I shall go for, when I will be rich, having shut my heart for any pity for the neighbors and for the twinges of conscience.
The conclusion is brief, but to the highest extent devastating, for if the Kantians will start objecting it, pointing to the substantial difference between moral reverence of the idea of pure virtue and sensuous delights, then they would not be able to answer the opponent’s question: why should I prefer the first to the latter? One will have to defend the prevailing significance of moral element, either in human society, or in the Divine law, and both of them will mean the further destruction of moral autonomy of Kant and will cause the conversion of his followers into the admirers of suggested by Kant heteronomy.
By the way, Kant did not notice himself, how he converted into the heteronomy adept, and even to the greater measure, than the followers of denied by him Christian morals. He unwillingly had to go through such conversion for he had to find the guiding rule for the behavior or practical activity of the faithful followers of his principle. This rule says: act so that if everybody does the same, mankind will derive the most profit out of it.
Having established his moral autonomy, Kant demanded that the basic grounds for ethics had to be free from «any empirics,» i.e. would proceed exceptionally from our spirit, not depending on anything, perceived through five outer senses, not even through the inner feeling of sympathy, compassion and alike. On this reason, Kant denies the significance of great Christian dogma of atonement for the activity of true autonomist, even without taking into consideration the question, if Jesus Christ is to be acknowledged the Son of God, or not: any way, atonement is nothing more than a historical fact, consequently, it is something perceived in the empirical way, something outward for the spirit, and as follows, it is violating its autonomy, if to accept the atonement to be the cause or guide for virtuous life.
Let the followers of Kantian morals answer now: where one meets with the conditional, external for our spirit empirical facts: within Christian dogma, accepting which our spirit merges with Christ, – or in the Kantian practical rule, keeping to which demands some preliminary decision concerning the question, in what the general good is, and through what one must exactly contribute to it? What is meant here: the benefit of some single state, or that rarely coinciding with it benefits of mankind, or totally different to it benefit of hostile to our motherland nations? Further on, what kind of benefit should be the subject of our collaboration: economical, political (military, for instance), or moral, or the benefit of education, etc.? Hardly less difficult for us will be the question, in what is the benefit of the surrounding me society: in conservatism, or in reforms, and in what type of reforms exactly? And to what kind of economical theory and school system should it be applied, etc.? Not less difficult and knotty will be the question, how I personally can make contribution to these matters.
Let them give us the answer to all this, ignoring any experience or observation, but from the depth of pure and free human spirit, – and then moral philosophy of Kant will have great weight for us: but because such an answer is impossible to give, then what is left for us is to consider the very system of moral autonomy to be false and unsound even from the logical point of view.
If we add to everything mentioned that this system, being dry and formal, does not possess the main basis of virtue, i.e. humility and love, which are, as it is known, directly rejected by Kant; if we remind that his most consistent disciples belong to that type of proud, dry and hard-hearted Germans, who try to resemble ancient Romans, i.e. heathens, then we shall realize, why the principles of moral autonomy in general, being perceived by the people (especially of prior generations) rather sincerely, little by little loose their positive significance, and serve only as excuses, while some are accused in atheism and in separation from the Church. The real life of ex-pedants little by little gets submitted to growing rough passions, which they, by the way, thoroughly hide, not wishing to resemble their first leader Luther, who, having thrown off monastic vestments, started a relation with a nun, and who liked to repeat openly the German couplet: «Wer liebt nicht Wein, Weib und Gesang, der bleibt Narr ganzes Leben lang.» In English it is: «The one, who does not like wine (it had to be – beer), women and songs, remains the fool for life.»
Russian life experience teaches us to trust more to the good moral of the simple merry people, then that of haughty stretched figures, rarely smiling and saying through the nose the haughty words of somber «kants», who in the majority turn out to be not without a sin.
It is not strange that the followers of Kant could not find in his morals the stable basis for the establishment of his rules in reality. Practical powerlessness of this doctrine will become more understandable for us, if we confirm that Kant denies love for the neighbors not only as the independent virtue, but as the complimentary condition for pious life. Why does he do so? Because of his dryness and false view upon any feeling (and love is a feeling), as upon something connected with the body, and consequently, empirical, but not ideological. Kant accepted such a view upon the most sacred element of love, because he needed to refute the doctrine of Hutchinson, who really thought love, even Christian, to be in the greatest measure sentimental, as the majority of Protestant pietism followers believed, by the way.
Which, if not to say feeling, then mood does our philosopher recommend us, in treating the neighbors, moral law itself, and the ideal of perfection? We answer: the principle of respect. He prefers it because this principle, this attitude, on the opinion of Kant, has purely intellectual, ideological character and includes no empirical sensuous element.
The expressed by us thoughts of Kant are developed by him in the latest works, mostly in the treatise «Religion in the Frames of Human Mind.» This work is little know even to that small part of readers, who like to be philosophically informed, but we think it necessary to analyze this principle of philosophy of Kant because it is as well spread both in the European, and in the Russian society. We shall not judge, if it was actively introduced into the German school and pedagogy by the disciples of Kant, or Kant himself chose it among the existing notions and rules (I would say prejudices), which reigned in the European society of that time, and which have preserved from its antecedents – ancient knights – only their pride and have lost the traits of poetical romanticism. But anyway, Kant is not lonely in substituting moral obligations before the neighbor by the principle of respect. It is a pity, because such a principle, put at the head of mutual human relations, threatens to make the hearts of the contemporaries dry, though even without that are already hard. The most regrettable is the fact that because of some fatal misunderstanding, this heathen rule penetrated into the German studying course of moral theology, and from there around 50 years ago came into our manuals for seminaries, which previously were rewritten from the Catholic books, and since the mentioned time – from the Protestant ones. What kind of idea about people and their relations can make one be satisfied by the principle of mutual respect and not demand anything else?
Surely, the life of mankind is drawn here like this: everyone lives, demonstrating love towards oneself, and appreciates it more than anything – despite the commandment of the Gospel, which is expressed in the first beatitude. The duty of each one is limited by the duty not to disturb the neighbor and the process of his self-worshipping. This is the exact commandment, which is given by Kant and his followers instead of that of love, preached by Christ. Really, this moral is miserable. It not only makes people cold, but legalizes demonic pride, which the Gospel admits to be the source of everything evil in the world.
That is why, in the contemporary and past generations this ridiculous Kantian principle became so popular. That is why in our generation there developed psychopathic sensitivity, concerning love towards oneself, took root the wild custom of duels, and in the lobbies of the State Duma they absolutely seriously started discussing the idiotic question about «the capacity for duels» of this or that member of this organ.
We called the principle of Kant, which penetrated into our manuals (thanks God, it seems to be omitted in the recently published new program on moral theology), as ridiculous. It cannot be called otherwise: this doctrine demands respect for everybody, but one can have respect only either for some outstanding virtuous devotee, or for a talent, or some authoritative position, and finally, it seems, for something sacred, predisposed by the Providence. But tell: can you respect your own children, adolescents or teenagers, your courier-guy, a stupid and drunk cook, a perfumed dandy in the Nevsky prospect and so on?
You can feel no scorn for them, might not pity them or love them, not offend them by mockery or anything else, but to respect them – is psychologically impossible and ridiculous. Surely, none of Kant’s followers ever fulfilled this principle of «respect for everybody,» but still one thought himself having fulfilled it, if one treated everyone politely. So in practice such courtesy substitutes that holy love, which was preached by the Savior, within the modern generation, and shifts the burden of separating hostility onto people’s shoulders, which makes them feel doleful, helpless and inconsolable in the days of grief. For it is impossible, even using all notorious respect of Kant and politeness, inherited from the French court of the 18th century, to comfort the sick, suffering, desperate. And so, among polite and respecting him neighbors, the modern sufferer sees no compassion. Even those soft souls, which would like to get rid of fashionable hard-heartedness of the followers of German pedantry, but absolutely forgot, how to show the feeling of love towards the neighbors, cannot demonstrate such compassion. From here originate endless suicides of people, falling into troubles.
As it seems, Kant himself started feeling absolute dissatisfaction, concerning the proclaimed by him moral rules, which had nothing to do neither with heaven nor with Golgotha, by the end of his life. Without setting aside his skepticism, he still says in the mentioned work about the goal of creating the world and about relieving the sufferings of man in the moral struggle, about Jesus Christ, as about the innocent Sufferer, and even of the Church as of the unity of people, reaching out for perfection. But all this is in contradiction with his dry and free from any feeling moral autonomy and only confirms the sentence to his morals, as to that possessing inward conflict, psychologically impossible to apply and practically harmful system. The similar turn to the dogmas of atonement and the Church can be found by almost all pantheists, ending with Hartman and L. Tolstoy.
Having described the two main attempts of the European thought to explain the meaning of virtue by setting religion aside and having mentioned that they finally had to accept Christian dogmas (though in a distorted way), we can say that church dogmas are not only the unique foundation of true virtue. Being innocent, accused of covetous intentions and heteronomy in general, they represent the highest synthesis of all lawful demands (postulates) of the two opposite philosophical doctrines: fatalistic pantheism, and juridical individualism, while the European thought and morals are powerless to choose one of them, having renounced the life-giving Creed of our faith.
So, we shall discuss this subject, if God pleases, in the further conversations with our readers.
Metropolitan Anthony by Bishop Gregory Grabbe
Speech pronounced in 1985 at the day of the 50-year anniversary of his repose.
The blessed Metropolitan of Kiev and Gallitsa, the founder and leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, peacefully passed away in his cell 50 years ago, being 73 years old. All the Orthodox Churches, even those, which seemed to be distant from him, felt the loss and offered condolences to the successor of the departed, Metropolitan Anastasius, who was to head the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Possessing outstanding personality, the departed hierarch already since the years of childhood drew attention of many pastors, who foresaw that he would grow and become a great church figure.
When in the early childhood he with his mother visited the sacred places of Novgorod, many monks and pastors unwillingly paid attention to his liveliness, faith and passionate interest to the lives of saints and history of sacred places, where his mother brought him. After the move of the family into Petersburg it became notable that the interests of the boy, Alesha Khrapovitsky, began to differ gradually from the interests of his family, which was cultural and educated, believing, but attracted with more secular, than church culture. But pious Alesha Khrapovitsky constantly participated in the services of the cathedral of Isaac, gained more and more church knowledge and aroused interest of archpriests and clergy.
Many of young then archpriests preserved sympathy towards the interesting young man and later made contribution to his further promotion.
Almost without objections of his relatives, young Khrapovitsky entered the St. Petersburg Spiritual Academy, after he graduated from gymnasia. Later he graduated from there, too, having finished his studies brilliantly.
Tanks to his enthusiasm, already in the Academy he started bringing more life into its divine services. Since the early years he started working on the process of strengthening of the Orthodox Church convictions, having a dream to restore the Patriarchate in the Russian Church. Already then he possessed a certain world-view, which due to his love for people and personal attraction, got slowly spread acquiring the character of a movement.
Not everybody liked that. Likewise, the Moscow Metropolitan Sergius (Lyapidevsky), since the very moment of his appointment, did not like the young rector of the Academy, seeing in his activity so-called «elements of doubtful liberalism», far from those of traditional formalism, which seemed to Metropolitan Sergius exaggerated, not coinciding with that good and authentic piety, which at that time was instilled by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow in his eparchy.
The transfer of the young, zealous Rector of the Academy from Moscow to Kazan at that time could seem to his friends and admirers a kind of catastrophe, but now we understand that it was for the better, for he could start working in other directions.
The transfer of archimandrite Anthony after his studies and service in the Petersburg Spiritual Academy, and his position of the rector in the Moscow Academy to Kazan, seemed to be great demotion. But, on the other hand, having obtained the stable circle of admirers and friends in both the Academies, he could use their support in the Kazan Academy. There he soon found consolation in the new circle of followers. Certain despondency was caused by the transfer of Bishop Anthony in 1901 into the Eparchy of Ufa, which was comparatively provincial, and more than that, had the minority of orthodox Russians on its territory.
Still, there he restored everything and got attached to his flock so, that when in 1902 he was transferred into the great and important eparchy of Volyn, he went not without regrets.
Starting to rule over the eparchy of Volyn, Bishop Anthony left the eparchy of Ufa much more revived than it had been before he started ruling it. The new for him eparchy of Volyn was at once changed thanks to his influence from dull into active in all its spheres. In Volyn since the first church life became very energetic, especially because of making use of the Laura of Pochaev as of the spiritual center. There his devoted helper was the close to the simple people leader, Archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko), who further on became the Archbishop of Eastern America.
Volyn remembered his outstanding Archpriest till his blissful repose abroad. It is known that when there was spread a rumor that Metropolitan Anthony would come from Yugoslavia into Volyn, the inhabitants of Volyn said to tell him that he needed only to reach the border and then they would carry him on their arms till Pochaev. Often elderly priests rejected the change of their old antiminces only because they were signed by Archbishop Anthony.
Rather soon the field for activity of Archbishop Anthony became wider because of his appointment as the Synod member. This gave him an opportunity to spread his life-giving Orthodox ideas widely. In particular, he could set the project of restoring the Patriarchate as the principle task.
This project never came to life, but it was set before the Russian Church with such power that after the revolt of 1917 nothing could stop its fulfillment, despite the opposition of the left «Renewal» circles and the Provisional Government.
Concerning the same, pre-revolutionary period one must mention the held by Archbishop Anthony revision of the Kiev Spiritual Academy, which stopped the decomposition of our spiritual educational institutions, that started under the influence of the revolution of 1905.
Archbishop Anthony was the brightest representative of the people, faithful to the elements of Orthodox Russia. It is not strange that the new government hurried to get rid of such people in any administration. One of the first decrees of the new authority was the dismissal of the number of Archpriests, starting with three Metropolitans. Simultaneously Archbishop Anthony was deprived of his leading post at the chair. He did not start the struggle for preserving it, but without complaints went to the Monastery of Valaam, which attracted him with its monastic life. But if the dismissal of other bishops happened unimpeded, like other revolutionary changes, then the plans to dismiss Archbishop Anthony did not come true. Having accepted the new law about elections of eparchial bishops by people, the Kharkov eparchy elected Archbishop Anthony as their new Archpriest by the majority of votes. The revolutionary authorities could do nothing to stop his return to the ruling position in the eparchy.
Meanwhile, he came to the Russian council, not as the eparchial archpriest, but as a representative of scientific monasticism. His return to Kharkov was triumphant and there were so many people that the government had to tolerate the fact that archbishop Anthony naturally became the most authoritative member of the Council, so to say, its leader, first of all guiding it in the restoration of the Patriarchate. As it is known, Metropolitan Anthony got many voices at the election of the Patriarch, but less that 2/3, and so he could not be considered to be elected without casting the lot, and after that the Moscow Metropolitan Tikhon received the lot of the Patriarch.
Soon after that the Council members went for vacations. With that, there began the days of discord at the South of Russia. There the power was taken first by the Communists, and then by Petlura followers; in Kiev the power was given to the hetman, who ruled more or less without troubles at the time of German occupation.
In Kiev already in the fall of 1917 there was formed the Ukrainian Church Rada, led by supernumerary bishop Alexis Dorodnitsin. But the faithful to Orthodoxy representatives opposed It. The situation got worse when Kiev was occupied by the Bolsheviks. At once there started sacrilege and violence. On January, 25, old style, close to the Laura there was arrested and killed Metropolitan Vladimir. Metropolitan Anthony in those days was in Zhitomir, and came to Kiev after his murder. The opened Ukrainian Council stopped functioning and the Metropolitan came back to Moscow to participate in the Council. He could return to Kharkov by Pascha when the South of Russia was freed from the Bolsheviks and was occupied by the Germans.
Soon in Kiev there was gathered the regional Council, which elected Archpriest Anthony as the Metropolitan. The election results were immediately approved by the Patriarch, and the Metropolitan started to rule the Metropolis, in spite of the attempts of the Ukrainian chauvinists to create obstacles.
In December of 1918 Petlura held power in Kiev. On the 4/17 of December Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Eulogius were arrested. Before the very arrest the Metropolitan managed to gather all the bishops of the just held Council and to sign with them the obligation of faithfulness to the Russian Church.
The arrested archpriests were kept under very grave and humiliating conditions and sent over to Galicia, where they left them in the small cells of the Uniate monastery in Buchacha, where soon came the messengers of the Kiev-Pechora Laura. The attitude of the Basilian monks to the prisoners was not bad. Metropolitan Anthony did not waste time and wrote various articles and books, in particular «The Experience of the Orthodox Catechism.»
In some months Petlura was defeated and the Metropolitan with Archbishop Eulogius found themselves in the hands of the Polish, who were no better. The state did not improve, when they were brought into Lvov to the Uniate Metropolitan Sheptizky.
By that time they started to worry about Metropolitan Anthony in Paris, and on the pressing demand of the French the Polish freed him. Through Romania, Archbishop Eulogius and the Metropolitan were brought to Constantinople, where they visited the Patriarchate positional manager Archbishop Dorotheus, and then returned to Russia into Novorossiysk. In September of 1919 Metropolitan Anthony was gladly met in Kiev.
Still, the position of the Volunteers’ Army at that place could not be called stable, and at the time of one of the Bolsheviks’ attacks the Metropolitan was nearly caught by them. In October Metropolitan Anthony went to Novocherkassk and Stavropol, where the Council, in which participated the Highest church Authority of the South of Russia, took place. By that time the Volunteers’ Army started facing defeats and with its retreat Metropolitan Anthony moved to the South. He stayed for a while in Ekaterinodar, then in Novorossiysk, and from there during the time of general evacuation was brought to Constantinople on a Greek torpedo-boat. The Metropolitan did not want to leave Russia, but the trying to save his life cell assistant, having an accord with the Greek captain, told him that the Greek were celebrating the liberation of Constantinople from the Turkish and they asked the Metropolitan to hold a molieben for them.
After the short stay in Constantinople, the Metropolitan went to Athos, where he stayed till the army of Wrangell based in Crimea, and then went there and headed the Highest Church Administration till his evacuation to Constantinople with the refugees on the ship «Great Prince Alexander Michailovich.»
First Metropolitan Anthony thought that having arrived abroad, he would be able to shift his responsibilities, concerning the refugees, onto the local churches; but when they discussed the connected with that subject questions, both he and the members of the Highest Church Administration saw, that it was practically impossible, and the Universal patriarchate agreed with that. The assuredness that Metropolitan Anthony would allow nothing non-canonical greatly influenced the final decision concerning this case. Further on, almost all Orthodox local churches gave him the autonomous authority over the Russian refugees on their territory, and the Serbian Patriarch Demetrius, the King and the government accepted the Highest Church Administration, headed by Metropolitan Anthony, to whom they hospitably gave the quarters in the Patriarch residence in Carlovzy of Srem. This gave way to the opportunity of building the stable foundation of the Russian Church abroad, but soon there appeared strong inner and outer enemies. On the one hand, the patriarch had lots of denunciations onto the Highest Church Administration, which involved him with foreign Russian affairs, and on the other, Metropolitans Eulogius and Plato gave way to local schisms. The governments of those frontier and newly formed after the Second World War countries also created obstacles for Russian eparchies in their communication with the other parts of the Russian Church on their territory. The personal tragedy of Metropolitan Anthony was in the necessity of struggle with his former disciples – Metropolitan Sergius in Moscow and Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris.
Till the end of his life Metropolitan Anthony was depressed by that struggle, which was so contrary to his peace-loving character. In the last years of his life he still participated in the attempts to restore the unity of the Church abroad, always defending the conviction that this unity should rest upon the stable elements of canonical style.
He had a deep conviction that abroad there should exist the strong in its unity Russian church, which would expose the anti-Christ essence of the Communism and preach Orthodoxy for those deviating from it under the influence of modernism and ecumenism. Rejecting any compromises, Metropolitan Anthony raised high the banner of Holy Russia and of the principle elements of the Orthodox realm.
When in the last years of his life the Metropolitan felt weak, and that prevented him from fulfilling the functions of the head of the Church Abroad the same way as before, he offered to the Synod to elect his plenipotentiary in the person of Metropolitan Anastasius. Before that he used to recommend him as his successor, when he was transferred from the Kharkov chair into Kiev.
The death of Metropolitan Anthony came after several days of an exhausting disease. Patriarch Barnabas, Metropolitan Anastasius, who was reading the final prayer, the Manager of the Synodal Office U.P. Grabbe, the cell assistant Archimandrite Theodosius, N.P. Rklizky (further on, archbishop Nikon) and others were beside his death-bed.
The whole Orthodox world responded to this event, noting the significance of the bright personality of the departed hierarch for the Universal church. One wishes to believe that the Russian Church Abroad, which commemorates him in Its prayers, will be faithful to his commandments.
The Significance of Believing in Jesus Christ.
We needed to discuss this subject because of the statement of L. Tolstoy that the dogmas of the Creed have no significance for moral life and even more, on the contrary, contradict to the commandments of the Sermon on the Mount, which represents the doctrine about Christian virtue.
However, any educated Christian except Tolstoy should realize how much good is in the fact that he professes Jesus Christ to be true God, and counts such belief to be one of the conditions for his salvation. Salvation is given to those fulfilling commandments (Math. 19:17), and therefore, if one cannot be saved without believing in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and Holy Trinity, then it means that one cannot fulfill the commandments without such beliefs, cannot build the Evangelic perfection within himself and defeat sinful passions.
1. So, do Russian people feel tight connection, which exists between the dogmas and virtue? – Unfortunately, very vaguely. One can hear such light-minded statements: «I think Jesus Christ to be my ideal and I respect His doctrine as well, but shall never be able to accept him as God». Let such people be consistent, let them openly reject that teaching, through which Christ announced Himself to be the Son of God, but they do not want to do it sincerely, and if you start asking them concerning separate commandments, then the majority of the commandments will be rejected by these people: do you accept humility? – No; do you accept repentance – no; do you think meekness to be obligatory? – Not always; do you take care of your soul so that it could thirst for truth? – Never, etc. Some of these commandments of the Lord are even principally denied by the modern European society, for example, the commandments of humility, chastity; almost the same lot is assigned to those words of Christ, which teach us to have personal relations with God and Jesus Himself. What a conclusion, in reality, can be drawn out of the parable about the prodigal son, about the Publican and the Pharisee, the sower, the Rich and Lazarus by any contemporary denier of Christ’s Divinity? What profit for his soul will he derive from the talk of the Lord with Nicodemus about the final resurrection and belief in Him, and the similar conversation about the resurrection of the dead (John, chap.7), about the good shepherd, about the Dread Judgment and about the personal attitude of believers to Him and the constant stay of the Savior with us, to which is devoted the farewell conversation with the disciples? What is left are only the narratives about the miracles of Christ, but even these are not taken into account by the disbelieving into His Divine Worthiness, or are unbelievably falsely interpreted in the sense of physical curing of the sick, so that Christ’s frequent use of His wonder-working power is understood by them like a deceit.
So, the significant part of the Gospel is directly rejected by the disbelieving in the Son of God, and the rest of His commandments, though they are treated with compassion and respect, are thought to be something impossible, expressing the unreachable ideal, or something very attractive for artistic contemplation, but not at all necessary to fulfill. Only the words and acts of forgiveness and mercy of the Lord to the repentant sinners are thought to be real and together with that the very condition of being forgiven, i.e. repentance, is forgotten and there exists only the light-minded attitude towards sins. The Gospel, with one word, signifies for such people nothing more that a sentimental poem or an edifying parable.
2. Anyway, the unbelievers are trying to hide from the others, and sometimes from themselves that any denier of Christ’s divinity can think the Savior to be an untruthful deceiver, idle dreamer, like Mohamed. The unbelievers by all means try to preserve their idea of Christ as of a perfect, holy man. For example, L. Tolstoy, though he is trying to convince the readers that the majority of the miracles of Christ were made up later, and that those events, which the apostles treated like miracles, were natural phenomena, still does not want to present Christ like a deluder. With all that, the born blind, according to Tolstoy, was not at all blind, but an illiterate, stupid man, whom Christ made smart; the paralyzed, according to his idea, was an idle man, lying in Bethesda; the Savior only woke his conscience and convinced him to work. It is unseen from the Gospel according to Tolstoy that Jesus Christ did not approve of the false understanding of His cures, or that he tried not to focus on the idea of His Divinity. At last, the author forgot about his desire to represent Christ as a perfect man, and could not but accuse Him of fear of the Pharisees’ guards and blamed Him for the desire to be protected from them with arms. Still, our undemanding readers are ready to accept gladly that the Gospel can be respected without believing in the Divinity of Christ, and consequently they think that they have the right to choose only the ideas of the Gospel, which they like. The fact that the negative writers do not ban to call Jesus Christ the Savior, the Atoner, seeing in Him the living example for imitation, makes it even more attractive. The same way acts our Tolstoy, but the one, who especially successfully could delude the public with the similar words, was Ernest Renan. Who of us had not heard the statements of the Russian ladies: «No one other than Renan made me love Jesus Christ due to his book». And men add – «Although Renan did not recognize Jesus Christ as God, still he served to Christianity better than all theologians, having presented the Savior as the perfect man and that way having forced everyone to respect Jesus».
When these awful words will be read by the sons of Christian (not European) culture, who are acquainted with Renan’ s work, then they will come to the conclusion that in the 19th century much was written and published in the state of delirium tremens. Really, no one other than this very Renan convinces us, in respect of the above mentioned dilemma, that the Savior can be recognized as God, and if not, than as a miserable deceiver. Renan does not want to choose at all: he directly accuses the Savior of approving of the legends of people about His miracles, searching for people’s sympathies and finally dares to spout the blasphemy that the Savior resurrected not the four-day dead man, but his alive but hidden in the cave friend, to influence the supposititious crowd.
We have said that the unbelieving but worshipping Christ only in words people take from the Gospel only that, what, being falsely interpreted, can support their passions. With much clarity it was reflected in the book of Renan. He paid attention to the two points in the sermon of Christ – first, to the mercy for the repenting and the threatening warnings to those used to iniquities sinners, coming from the teaching about joyful reconciliation with God and own conscience, – and secondly, to the teaching about the cross, self-sacrifice, about the toleration of the hatred of the world, and the acceptance of both causing sadness and comforting aspects of the Evangelic teaching. He dared to get rid of the first aspect and preserve only the second, as the true teaching of Christ – It happened very easily: he decided that everything edifying, sad, demanding exploits, came from the mouth of the Savior not like His conviction, but as the fruit of irritation towards cruel listeners, who did not want to accept Him as the messenger of God, – as the fruit of his unsatisfied self-love. Christ’s true convictions, according to Renan, were full of pure pink sentimentality, which was nourished by the picturesque landscapes of the Galilean nature, and therefore, only those words of the Gospel, which say about the reconciliation with God, about the significance of truth, about the pardoning of fornicators and publicans have meaning for Christians; and on the contrary, everything that is said about the martyrdom for the sake of truth, retribution and revival can be omitted like the words, said in the state of temporary irritation.
For such dirty statements Renan is worshipped like the great interpreter of the words of Jesus Christ, and Jesus, being dressed in the humiliating attire of a self-loving deceiver has more attraction than that holiest Image of purity, love, resignation and Divine majesty, drawn on the pages of our church Gospel. It becomes clear that the deniers of the Divinity of Christ cannot preserve the idea about His Holiness and that is the reason why this dogma of the Church is so zealously protected by Its fathers and teachers.
But, let us admit that even without accepting the truth about the Divinity of Jesus Christ I can imagine Him to be the most perfect man: what kind of moral force will I derive from Him then? What kind of right will I have to call Him my Savior? The German thinkers-pantheists answer this question with dull and hazy reasoning about the fact that Christ assured people of their unity with God and through that freed them from the fear of death, teaching that this freedom leads us to the unity with God, and brings into the state of Nirvana. The same way teaches Tolstoy, drawing the Savior as one of the most popular pantheists. Nevertheless, our Russian writer could not resemble the German leaders in such distortion of Christianity. He tried, despite his personal logics, to preserve the teaching about life, as about inner struggle, and added the new thought that Jesus Christ, as a truly holy man, is the best example for each one to imitate in different doubtful cases of life, and that it would give us chance to lead holy life; so, in this sense, Christ is the Savior of people, according to Tolstoy.
But then the other moral heroes, who can serve as the examples of pious life, the leaders, for instance, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, apostles and saints, can be called the Saviors. Tolstoy does not hesitate to assign the first three to the number of saints: he only asserts that Jesus Christ deserves such a title most. But then it is possible that in the times of such manifestations of modern mentality, there will come other people, even more perfect that Jesus Christ, who will have more right to be given the title of the saviors of mankind, and it will not be possible for Tolstoy to argue with that.
Out of this comes the conclusion that Jesus Christ can be our unique Savior only in case we believe in Him as in authentic God. Without this faith His moral significance for us is very little superior to the significance of any moral hero and even can be not as good as of some other heroes, for example those, who have much in common with the resent-day people in their state, disposition, conditions of life, and therefore are the more convenient model for imitation.
3. So, the moral significance of our dogma in its negative aspect is clearly revealed, but it is not so important like the positive aspect, which is in the analysis of conditions of our moral development, struggle or perfection, which is always inseparable from the living belief in Jesus Christ, as in true God.
But in order that it would not seem to any one that we shall analyze moral life not from the point of view of its essence, but concerning the influence of this faith upon life, we shall show the main conditions for that with the help of the words of the thinker, who denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the importance of this dogma for virtue; we mean famous Kant, the most impassionate from all philosophers. This very Kant hoped to show that the Gospel can bring not less profit for the deniers of miracles and revelations, than for the believers. Certainly, he did not manage to prove that, but anyway he reasons incomparably more convincingly than any modern deniers. Let us note that his religious views, with the significant diminishment of their moral value, became the basis doctrine of the Tubingen rationalistic school, from which graduated both Renan and Tolstoy. This school, in the person of Straus Bauer, Hartman and the like, could not keep the Kantian views untouched, for among them only Kant tried to preserve the elevated character and purity of the Evangelic commandments. More than that, having incomparably higher morals that all his modern followers, to which almost all European philosophers assign themselves, only Kant kept untouched the thought about the unconditional opposition of the good and evil, about the struggle of these elements within us, about the freedom of will and moral responsibility. Analyzing his doctrine about the atonement and salvation, we shall not touch upon his reasoning about moral autonomy, but we shall analyze his idea about what, in his opinion, happens within man, when he decides to reach moral perfection. Then we shall easily note that it is possible, only if one possesses the living belief in Jesus Christ, as in the unconditionally saint, sinless, having suffered for us Atoner, and true God.
This is what our philosopher says about the changing of life. «Change for the good, – says Kant, – cannot happen within man without pain. The feeling of inner discord and revival causes suffering, which is the more painful, the more those being exterminated evil inclinations of will had taken root in the nature of man and converted into a habit… Colliding one with another, different feelings (horror because of previous sinning and joy of renovation) cause that most profound suffering, which one can only imagine. This is the pain, which cannot be compared with any other. Both the facts that the acceptance of good will as of a life norm causes suffering, and that this suffering proceeds from spiritual revival and the process of conquering the evil, are just. Suffering is the result of the both mentioned simultaneous acts» (the renouncement of the evil and connection with the good and God).
For sure, these thoughts are the truisms for the Orthodox Christian, but for the West, which had made the notion about Christian exploit obscure, this is the highest point, which was reached by its philosophy; it is so high that the great majority of the forthcoming moralists could not perceive this truth and some have not even heard about it. Only in the latest years it penetrated into the refined literature of France, and it happened only because it was conveyed in a more simple way by the Russian belletrists, but in no way by Kant. So, the latter asserted that the change for the good is inevitably in «the dying» of the decrepit man, his «crucifixion» with all passions and physical desires: it, like the most painful of all sufferings, is in the absolute renovation of the heart and the acceptance of the mood of the Son of God as of the personal constant guide and rule».
Where should we find the constant impulse not only to work on our perfection, but to tolerate those sufferings, which are connected with it? Suffering is the object of disgust for natural man; almost all his life is in the multiplication of desires, in order to avoid sufferings. And then the apostles tell man to rejoice in grieves and boast with them. The Gospel makes graceful the outcast, shamed and slain, it calls everyone to step onto the narrow path, by which walk few, demands to forget oneself and hate very life, proclaims grieves for the rich, satiated, laughing and those, about whom all people say good things. To follow this teaching is to contradict one’s own nature: by what can we be stimulated?
«In order to get inspired by the idea of original moral perfection, says Kant, we have to imagine the latter coming true, and then, without any effort, we shall be inspired by this beautiful image, which will be our true savior for each one of us, and consequently for the whole unity». See, how easy it is to be saved in the fantasies of the German philosopher: it is enough to find an inspiring example for that. It is left only to be amazed, why there are so few of those saved, when the example of life of The Savior is known to the hundreds of millions».
4. It is just that the moral image of Him elevates and touches my spirit, but one thing is to admire, and the other is to imitate. When for the sake of imitation I have to oppose my nature, society and accept the cross, then holiness of Jesus Christ for the disbelieving in His Divinity at once starts losing its brightness, seems like something conditional, maybe acceptable for Jesus of Nazareth Himself, but absolutely inapplicable to contemporary life. Jesus could be saint. But how He, the owner of such genial and moral nature, will convince me, a sinner, that the path for moral purity is opened for me as well? Orpheus could tame beasts, Socrates amazed gods with his intellect, Alexander with courage, Achilles with swiftness, but if I, an ordinary man, desire to copy all geniuses, then would not I be ridiculous, as the frog, trying to inflate itself to look like an ox? Not accidentally wise Nicodemus says to Jesus that it is impossible to resurrect, equally as it is impossible to come back to the mother’s womb; not by chance Hebrews repeated that he was deluding the people. Maybe, He was a saint, but to think that I can reach the similar state of holiness means to be deluded, as it happened with Simon the Magician, who wished to fly in the air, being carnal. Let Christ call me to fight against the world, but the world attracts me with its pleasures, I’m bound with it, too, and as it seems, more than with the Gospel.
Really, despite his inner struggle, the Christian is daily forced to choose between Christ and the world, which is hostile to perfection. The world does not like the absolute vice and malice, but more it hates absolute virtue and slays its followers. That is why the Greek, who created their gods through the observation of the life of nature, man and society, drew the heavenly inhabitants not so kind and not so angry, but allotted them with all those good and evil forces, which rule the life of people. The world is filled with sin, starting with the very basic laws of organic life, which represents by itself self-loving battle for survival, – in the nowadays arrangement of our lusty body and revengeful proud soul, in the history of human societies and even in the family arrangement: everywhere is self-love, lust and pride.
A devotee, reaching for perfection, not yet free from being attracted by the evil, opposes to this great giant, having before him only the example of Jesus Christ and comparatively few followers (though believing in His Divinity). Is not it obvious that he, torn between the world and Christ, will go against the world only incase he will «judge the world», if he will believe that Christ is higher than the world, on the word of the Apostle: «Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?» (1 John 5:5). Another utterance can be added here: «Because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world» (1 John 4:4). Christ must be higher not only than the visible and perceptible world, but than any conditional existence. For that His existence must have neither conditions, nor origin; for if He had the place of origin, than maybe there exists and will later appear another ancient power, which will occupy its place, and cast out everything hostile to it. Christ must be equal in everything to the Creator, and possess common nature with Him. For otherwise no one will convince me that Divine holiness, preached by Christ, is the unique thing, which is going to convert me into the martyr and the enemy of the world.
So, in order to be our true Savior, Christ has to be true God, standing higher than nature and the world. This is necessary to forget the world for His sake, to contradict the world. In order to combine that opposition to the world with the highest spiritual unity with Him, and to love the renewed by Him world, one needs to believe that the world in its modern form is not the true, created by God temple, but the temple, desecrated and distorted by the ill will of people; and that «all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made» (John, chap.1).
5. So taking into account the conditions, necessary for our inner perfection, we must admit that the effective significance of the example and word of Christ spreads over only those followers, who profess Him as God; but such efficacy is far from being enough to raise the people onto the cross of life, to give them strength to carry this cross patiently. To fulfill that, one needs to accept and follow the teaching about Christ-the Atoner.
Probably, seeing the sufferings, sanctified by the fact of participation of the Son of God in them, I shall love them and decide to tolerate them, but would there be any use in bearing them?
Kant reasons in a correct way, saying that the process of moral perfection is in leaving behind the decrepit nature and gaining new one; but from whom will man receive this new nature? «Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?» (Rom. 7:24). Is not the word of the Gospel correct, saying: «Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?» (Math.7:16). The examples of such devotion, which tries to become the source of gracious feelings and deeds, convince us that this path is disastrous, for it is all about suppressing of one passion by another one, – this way those Buddhists, which had conquered sensuality, fall into pride, those having conquered rage – into indifference, they cannot obtain impassivity and love. Alike are the classical and modern European morals, based on vainglory – dry and dead; such are the morals of Mohammedans, which are manifested in the regular pleasures through sensuous things, and the expectation of the same pleasures in life after death. But this is not enough: even those, absolutely Orthodox and self-denying devotees, who, being attracted to the idea of the personal spirit and interested only in themselves, but not in grace, hoped for further perfection, but soon perished in the state of haughty or sensual blindness. That is why the teachers of asceticism always reminded their disciples that the source of spiritual perfection is not within them, but in the blissful outer sphere, as the Apostle says: «I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase» (1Cor.3:7). Or in another extract: «But I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me» (15:10); «striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily» (Col. 1:29).
6. Though, if the word of God and the observations of the devotees of faith seem to our consciousness to be something far away and abstract, then let us analyze the phenomena of every-day, surrounding us life. Have you met a person, who essentially changed his life and became virtuous after former vices? What are the reasons of similar conversions? Almost always they are religious, but with that mostly connected with going through a grave shock, which made the decrepit nature of the sinner die or weaken. If these, accompanying conditions were not of such negative character, but were positive, then they, naturally, were in the fact that some pure, loving and smart friend became spiritually close to the vicious man. Such good radical changes happen, for instance, after marriage, or returning home, to the loving parents. In the friendship of a vicious man with a virtuous we see not simple imitation, but direct perception, inoculation of moral forces from one to the other. Living one life with a loving friend, a vicious man finds within himself the unknown till that time force to conquer bad habits, which before seemed insuperable. Now it seems to him, and not accidentally, that his soul fights against the evil not alone, but in the union with the soul of his friend; instead of one good force he has two.
Under what a condition on the part of the good friend does this mysterious merging happen? Under the condition of compassion. Really, everyone can be convinced, through the daily experience that neither intellect, nor eloquence, not even a good example of a teacher cannot by themselves change the evil will of man, but that compassionate love, with which is filled the blissful apostle, exclaiming: «My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you» (Gal. 4:19): this is the deep feeling of the heart, caused by the falls of a loved one, especially known to solemn mothers, – in this is the mystery of spiritual influence upon the sinful soul. The ones, who have it, «are labourers together with God» (1Cor. 3:9). And if it is so, then consequently, the true Doer, true shepherd is God, Christ, having compassion for every man, stretching his arms to all and saying: «How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings» (Math. 23:37). That is Him, Who promised to be among His disciples forever, Him, saying to those observing the Mystery: «Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me» (Rev. 3:20). The highest degree of compassion for the sins of all men was shown by the Lord in the Gethsemane garden, when He started to suffer because of them to such an extent that He asked the Heavenly Father to free Him from such moral burden, «and was heard in that he feared», as the Apostle says (Hebr. 5:7).
7. Under what a condition can I make use of this grief of the Savior about human sins, akin to how a vicious man fills his soul with compassionate love of his friend? – Certainly, under the condition of this assuredness that I, me personally, was as well in the thought and heart of grieving about my sins Christ. Only in the case that I am convinced that He sees me, invisibly stretches his supporting hand to me, embraces me with His compassionate love, only under this condition He is really my Savior, filling me with new moral forces, teaching my hands to war (Ps. 17:35) with the evil, and is not someone strange, not the historical example of virtue, but the part of my being, or to be more precise – I am the part of His being, the partaker of the Divine nature, as the Apostle says (2Pet. 1:4).
It is clear that only all-knowing and ever-good God could similarly remember of all existing persons. So, we see that only God could be the Savior of people, the One, Who had the similarity with our nature, i.e. Human God and with that the Sufferer, sympathizing with us. If my conversion from the evil to the good was not a suffering, then Christ would have had no need to suffer. But in that case, i.e. if the man could convert himself from a villain into a saint with one momentary desire, the Divine truth, which separated the good from the evil through sufferings, would have been left unsatisfied; and our conscience would have remained unsatisfied as well. It depended on the Lord to arrange such laws of existence and spiritual life, that the transfer from the evil to the good is possible only through the sufferings of a sinner; but these sufferings remain unbearable and fruitless, if they are not combined with the compassion of the holiest Son of God, Who accepts our grieves not for the sake of Him, but for us; He suffered for us, and therefore became the victim of reconciliation, our Atoner, participating in His sufferings (1Pet. 4:13). He had no need to fight, like we do, against the decrepit nature, for He was free of it, but those were our sins, our decrepit nature, which were defeated and crucified by Him (Rom. 6and 1Pet. 2:24). These sufferings of His because of my sins are my atonement; and His long-lasting patience – my salvation (2Pet. 3:15); not only in the meaning of the encouraging example. It is in the sense that I know Jesus Christ, Who had mourned over my sinful state because of his love for me, and I make Him the part of my being through my desire to go along the path of His holiness, live with Him, revive my new man thanks to Him, tolerate my, so painful before, sufferings and my deviation from the virtuous path because of them, for now I think them to be a sacred bridge towards the best unity with the Lord, because the Apostles taught me to participate in His sufferings. The same way did the martyrs, who felt neither fire, nor iron, sticks, nor their bodies, being cut in parts, in the state of spiritual delight.
8. The Divine revelation clearly convinces us in the fact that the main condition for spiritual perfection, which teaches man to neglect all temptations of life and go for any kind of sufferings, which gives him the opportunity to do spiritual good not only for his soul but for the neighbors, is nothing else but the constant unity with Christ, the unity of faith and love, merging with Him, which is more essential than the union of the souls of friends or spouses. This way the Lord Himself calls the believers to the unity with him; and His apostles, especially John and Paul, profess the real establishment of this gracious union among them. Let us cite here some utterances and end our article with them. Here are the words of the Lord: «Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love» (John 15:1–9). «He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water» (John 6:38). «My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand» (John 10:28).
And here are the words of the Apostles, who fulfilled the commandments of Christ: «Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin» (1 John 1–3:7). «And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him» (1 John 2:28–29).
Apostle Paul says about the point, which this state of being with Christ can reach: «I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me» (Gal. 2:19–20). «For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you» (Phil.1:21–24).
Finally, here are more utterances, showing the significance of the personality of Christ for the Christian community: «I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ» (2Cor. 11:2). "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ». Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1Cor. 12:27), so that «speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love» (Eph. 4:15–16).
So, the Evangelic and in general the New Testament teaching about our personal attitude to Christ, Who said: «I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen» (Rev. 1:18) not only brings its each sincere follower to the state of holiness, reconciling him with Heaven, but shows him social life in different light, light of love and hope. «But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ», says the Apostle. You are the part of the body of Christ. Those, for whom your soul will suffer, will repent and join this saving unity, the Church. In It there is no impersonal merging, as by pantheists and Tolstoy-followers, no rough division, which is usually felt by natural man. Faith and compassion with love unite everybody in Christ. «For he is our peace, who hath made both (i.e. Jews and heathens) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us… for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby» (Eph. 2:14–16).
Why Did Not Jesus Christ Call Himself God?
We, the sons of little believing contemporaneity, have to settle this matter because of the arguments against the Divinity of Christ, based on the supposition that Christ Himself never called Himself God. These objections are especially skillfully spread by the Muslims, who, to our shame, often turn out to be the better connoisseurs of our Bible, than we are.
Those of us, who read the Gospel, hurry to quote the utterances, which show that the Lord demanded to believe in Him, approved of professing Him as the Son of God, called Himself like that and spoke about His equal to the Father nature. Still, the objectors are little convinced by these utterances of the Gospel: the Muslims find in them only the reference to the more than human worthiness of Jesus Christ, but not to the Divine character; and rationalists understand them in the pantheistic sense, in which, in their opinion, these utterances can be applied to any man. It is easier to refute the opinion of the latter, than that of Muslims; it is enough to read to them those words of Christ, in which He reveals His exclusive relation to the Father, untypical of other people, and then to show them the absolute difference of the pantheistic views and the Biblical teachings of faith – those of Old Testament and Christian ones, in which are shown the personal relations between God and man.
It is much more difficult to satisfy the demands of Mohammedans, whom the Semite culture taught to perceive some Evangelic truths very well, but at the same time introduced into the latter very consistent distortion. The Muslim religion teaches that Jesus, miraculously conceived by the righteous woman, bearing the Divine spirit, even Himself being the Divine Spirit and the holiest man, brought the heavenly doctrine to earth; but after His ascension to heaven (in which Muslims believe, together with that denying both the resurrection of Christ, and the crucifixion, and death) His disciples, especially hated by them Apostle Paul, distorted the teaching of Jesus, and the story of His life, narrated in the holy book – so the Gospel, after Its gradual distortion, as they think, is being presented to the people in its misinterpreted form.
By the similar representation the sly leaders of Muslims kill two birds with one stone. They do not stop their followers in approving of the fascinating truths of the Evangelical teaching and by that do not force them to go against the obvious truth, but on the other hand, block the path of following the truth, which could lead to joining the Christian community, and proclaim the true teaching of Jesus-the Prophet to be lost by Christians, but restored and improved by God through Mohamed.
Because Christians, arguing with Muslims about the advantage of their teacher before Mohamed, resort to the Divine worthiness of Christ, Muslims try to repulse us decisively in this truth, stating that Jesus never called Himself God, and that this dogma is invented by His disciples. It is of some interest to refute this objection not only for those, who have to do with Muslims, but for all Christians, because, unfortunately, the unrighteous words of those circumcised are often repeated by the baptized, but little believing sons of European culture. These latter, without a reason, love to distinguish the Gospel from the whole integrity of the New Testament, though the whole New Testament is written by the same Apostles. Certainly, another reason for this division is ignorance.
The tempting character of this question gains more power within the contemporary mentality due to the influence of Western doctrines upon our school method of the teaching of faith. And so, the settling of the mentioned perplexing matter about the Divinity of Christ should be started with the refutation of these Western views upon Christianity. Certainly this truth is, undoubtedly, one of the most precious and holiest truths of Christianity, which would have stopped being Christianity, if it would have lost the saving belief in this truth.
But, on the other hand, the Protestant teaching about the saving belief into the Divinity of Jesus Christ, with careless attitude towards His commandments, elucidates the Gospel history only in one aspect. If salvation, given to us by Jesus Christ, is seen only in the necessity to believe in His Divinity, then, surely, this truth must be the main object of His sermon.
And suddenly they tell us that the Lord never called Himself God directly and clearly. Once He said that His Father is more than Him, and another time He called the Father His God and the Lord of His followers. If the teaching about the Divinity of Christ is the unique goal of His sermon, then with what can one explain that He did not directly say, in what the essence of his mission on earth was? We understand the importance of this bewilderment and the necessity of settling this matter.
Is it typical only of the Orthodox teachers to have such a view upon the Evangelic teaching, as upon only one dogma about the Divinity of Christ? – For sure, the holy Fathers did not miss a chance to prove this truth, using the utterances of Christ, in which it was contained. But, despite the Protestant interpretations, our church exegetics testifies not to that the Lord tried to instill the faith in His Divinity on the listeners of His sermon, but on the contrary says that He concealed His Divinity. So, in several stycheras of the Feast Mineas and Paschal Tryodion Christ is called unseen, i.e. concealed God. The Lord concealed His Divine origin, according to the interpretation of the holy fathers, till His resurrection not as much from the people, but mainly from the devil, who only because of the disability to foresee that He will destroy the kingdom of hell with His Divinity, led the Jews till the point of bringing Him to death.
Does such a view of the Fathers correspond to the Evangelic history? – It does, and we shall prove that now. And when we prove that Jesus Christ, being true God, had an intention to conceal His Divinity from the unprepared to the acceptance of this truth people, if we understand those motives, by which our Lord and Teacher was guided, then, I hope, we shall understand why He did not call Himself God literally and directly, though He was God and taught His apostles to believe in Him, as in God.
Let us say several words about this belief, before resorting to the Gospel history. The Savior revealed it to the Jews, asking Him: Who art thou? –«Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning» – the Lord answered. «Before Abraham was, I am» (John 8:58); «I and my Father are one» (John 10:30). In those utterances the Lord said about His pre-eternal existence and one-essentiality with the Father. When the Pharisees doubted the teaching powers of the Savior, He directly announced His Divine right to forgive sins. «But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins» (Mark 2:10). The Lord possessed this power and glory «before the world was» (John 17:5). He professed Himself as all-knowing and ubiquitous: «As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father» (John 10:15); «no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son» (Math.11:27); «no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven» (John 3:13).
Is it necessary to prove that the Savior said it about Himself personally, but not about that incarnation of some abstract impersonal world spirit, that is worshipped by pantheists? – Not the evolution of the world spirit, but His personal life is what He tells about in the ultimate conversation with the disciples: «I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father» (John 16:28).
In the Gospel one can find many words of Christ, from which it is seen that He professed Himself as God, though He did not say that directly – «I am God». It is obvious that in the given above phrases the Lord made those asking Him believe that He was the eternal Creature, Who was personally and consciously living before His physical birth and was predestined to return to the former glory, equal to that of God. From those utterances it is seen that though the Lord Jesus Christ did not call Himself God even once, this truth is implied in His speech with definitiveness and clarity.
Though, it is impossible not to notice the fact that He was forced to say that after the persistent questions of Jews. This way, the thought of the church teaching that the Lord hid His Divinity as long as possible, preserves its force.
Now let us turn to the Gospel history, in order to check the verity of this thought, as promised.
The interpreters, inclined to see in all the events and words of the Gospel the sermon of Christ about His Divinity, first of all point to His miracles, as to the acts, performed for the sake of such a sermon. No doubt, the miracles of Christ were one of the most important stimuli for His disciples to believe in His worthiness, which was more than human. Though, note, if it was always that the Lord instilled such kind of faith. The Savior often prohibited to spread the news about the miracles of curing of lepers (Mark 1), possessed (Mark 3; Luke 4:41); concealed His miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2); did not allow the apostles to say about His miraculous Transfiguration; showed the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter only to the five of them. But in the other cases the Savior Himself ordered to preach about His miracles, for example, to the Gadarenes’ possessed, to the disciples of John, who doubted His messianic mission; finally, a great number of miracles was performed by Him in front of a many-thousand crowd of people, as, for instance, the feeding by five and then seven breads, the resurrection of the son of the Nain widow, the resurrection of Lazarus, etc.
This comparison is absolutely just, and it will help us to answer the question: what made the Lord conceal His miraculous power?
I think, it is easier to answer this with the help of an opposite question: what could be, if the Lord started His sermon, revealing His Divinity, if performing miraculous cures, He would conclude them with the sermon that He was God, Who had incarnated, but had not ceased to be God, equal to the Father? It would make people die of horror (Ex. 33:20). Our soul cannot bear the undisguised appearance of the infinite Divine Creature. Let no one think that there is some exaggeration in these words. In those few cases when the Savior revealed the glory of His Divinity a little, people fainted because of fear: the same happened to all: His friends and enemies. «Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord,» – said Peter after the miraculous fishing, and at the time of the Transfiguration of Christ on the mount His disciples got overwhelmed by such fear that they fell to the ground and remained in that state, till the vision of the glory of the Lord was over, and He, having approached them in His resigned looks, said «It is I; be not afraid!» And the next time He said powerfully «I am he» to the crowd of the enemies, who came to arrest Him, and that aroused in them such fear that they «they went backward, and fell to the ground».
This way, when it occurred to the Jews that there was some possibility that teacher Jesus was not a simple prophet, but the One, Who had ascended from God to earth, they became astonished and could not come close to Him (Luke 4:30; John 7:30; 8:59; 10:39; Luke 11:19). Think now, if they could really bear the definite and proved by the miracles truth that the staying with them teacher was God? Not only simple sinners, but God-enlightened prophets became like dead because of fear, when only an angel appeared before them. And even angels, archangels, cherubims and seraphims cannot tolerate seeing God; in fear they cover their faces, seeing His glory and cannot stop reverent glorification, making one tremble, which once was revealed to prophet Isaiah (chap.6).
The Lord taught people the truth of His Divinity, but He expressed this truth partially, so that they could get convinced in it little by little. It is not so typical of human mind to admit that the appealing to it person was the inhabitant of heaven and moreover God, so that, on the testimony of the Evangelists, even the apostles perceived the similar words as something absolutely mysterious, and consciously accepted them only after the resurrection of Christ (John 2:22).
The very prediction of the Lord about His resurrection was not assimilated by them (Mark 9:10), and in the time of His arrest they finally forgot that prediction, though it was said by Christ one hour before His arrest (Math. 26:32), – and forgot in such a way, that they did not even believe the Myrrh-bearers, when they announced that they saw the resurrected Lord (Mark 16:13). They could not believe their eyes, when He appeared before them – until they touched Him with their hands and saw him eating food. Only then, when doubting Thomas touched His wounds, the mouth of man first directly preached Christ to be true God: «My Lord and my God!» – And Christ approved of such preaching.
The Lord had another motive of not revealing His Divinity to the people, even believing ones. Let us analyze this motive, using the Gospel.
Whom did the Lord call as believers, while He was alive? – Those, who believed that He came from God and that His words were Divine (John 7:16–18). He did not wish to make people see His Divinity, or even His prophetic worthiness, using external means, so that submitted human mind would accept His commandments slavishly, as it happens by Mohamed followers, but He wished to see the free agreement of mind with the teaching about virtue.
Many abuse of this expression: «the free agreement of mind» and understand very faith, as something dissimilar to the usual reasonable proof. This is absolutely incorrect. Our faith has no blind freedom. Free acceptance of believing in truth and holiness of the commandments of Christ, and consequently in His Divinity, is the same way compulsory for an attentive and unbiased observer, as the arithmetic rules; but attentiveness and impartiality are such qualities of the soul, which cannot be obtained by force: «Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life» (John 5:39–40). If contemporary people would understand the simple truth that mind, free from any passion, leads to faith, and as well would understand the fact that it is rather difficult, and even impossible for disbelievers to reach impartiality through examining the subjects of faith without blissful help, then outstanding literature about knowledge and faith, science and religion would lose its significance, and the wise could get occupied with more useful questions, concerning the spirit.
But let us turn back to the Gospel. So, first of all the Lord wished people to love the preached by Him new virtue. This way it was with those Pharisees’ servants, who did not want to arrest Him, listening to His heavenly teaching with delight, and said to their masters for personal justification: «Never man spake like this man». Yes, the Savior wished people, on the testimony of their own hearts, to come to the conviction that the Preacher of this teaching is not a simple man, but the Messenger of God, so that, finally being convinced in that, they with absolute trust would accept those extraordinary words of the Savior about Himself, the sense of which was not so clear for them, till the Lord was among them, but which, after His resurrection from the dead, became logic and clear to them, as the truth about the Divine, equal to the Father worthiness of the Atoner, «Light of Light: true God of true God».
We have said: logic and clear, because the logics of the mentioned above utterances of Jesus Christ, concerning Himself, is unique, and it is conveyed in the Creed, but meek human souls did not dare to understand the meaning of those miraculous words while the Savior was alive, and were content with the conviction that their Teacher was the highest Messenger of God, Who only recently incarnated and took the appearance of a resigned and humiliated simple man.
Due to such a supposition, concerning the aims of the teaching of Christ, it will become clear to us, when He concealed His Divine qualities, and when He revealed them. He hid them at the beginning of His sermon, to avoid mental enslavement of His listeners.
After all the attempts of the Lord to make people, who become close to Him, remember that the closeness of the Lord to their hearts depends on their personal freedom from passions and any evil, He still sometimes met with the incomprehension of that truth, even among His best disciples.
What did disappoint our Savior most? Was it disbelieve, or belief, with no Christian spirit? We think that both did to the equal extent, and this will be proved by the analysis of the miracle of feeding of the great number of people by five breads. As a result of this miracle, people decided to proclaim Him their king and go against the Romans.
The Lord performed that miracle, not to amaze people with His extraordinary power. The people, having forgotten about their physical needs, followed the Lord into a far away wilderness, and the Lord not once taught that one should not care about what to eat, drink and in what to be dressed, but to search for the Kingdom of God and its truth, and then «all these thing shall be added unto us». That day the people acted according to that commandment: was not it necessary to prove it in action? So, compassion to the people and the desire to support the believers in their carefree attitude to everyday needs became the motive for performing the miracle with breads. But the Lord did not become glad about that ardent, but senseless believing in His messianic mission, with which the fed people were filled, and even escaped from them. When the people found Him on the other side of the sea the next day, after the first impression faded a little, then the Lord started exposing them, and revealed the absolute instability of their external faith, for those who the day before shouted: «This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world» – the next day were saying: «This is an hard saying; who can hear it?» – and complained, so that «from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him» (John 6:14, 60–66).
Here is the explication of the words of the Evangelist about faith, based on the external proofs: «Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men» (John 2:23–24). The Lord knew that the Jews would lose that external faith as soon as they would learn, how His teaching contradicted their passions: «But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, [probably, Antichrist] him ye will receive» (John 5:42–44).
To free the Jewish people from the prejudices, based upon Pharisees’ distortions of the Biblical truth, the Lord directly declares His heavenly rights, which people correctly understood as the sermon of His equality with the Father: «My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God » (John 5:17–19). In another similar case the Savior says: therefore «the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day» (Math. 12:8). Those evil ones among the Jews persistently objected to the words of the Lord, and there He mentioned again that neither miracles or prophesies were the reason for believing in His teaching, but on the contrary, the disgust of the Jews towards His commandments was the reason of disbelieving in His miracles: Ye have not his word abiding in you? – Because my word hath no place in you» (John 8:33–37; 5:38–44). According to the same sequence the Lord expected faith to be expressed by those, who were waiting for miraculous cures, therefore He rejected to perform a miracle before the unbelieving in His teaching enemies, promising to them only the miracle of Jonas the Prophet and telling the sufferers, who were begging for cures: «If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth; According to your faith be it unto you» and so forth.
So the Lord did not force anyone to believe in Him, though he could achieve that through wonder-working, but when the unbelievers were asking Him: «Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven» (Mark 14:61–62).
Surely, no pantheistic sense can be assigned to such definite utterances by Tolstoy movement; for pantheists these utterances are of some personal character.
In conclusion, let us free Mohammedans and Arians of the state of perplexity, caused by some utterances of the Lord. The first especially like to quote the words of Christ: «Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?» (John 10:34) and state that the Lord called Himself the son of God in a general human sense. But such an unfounded statement is refuted by the following words of the Savior, from which one can see that He called Himself the son of God in the very special sense, and Hebrews did not have to consider that name to be a blasphemy even incase He was a simple man. «If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?» (v. 35:36).
Arians, to support their heresy, referred to the words of Christ: «My Father is greater than I» (John 14:28). The Orthodox representatives answer them very justly that the Lord said it about His human nature. And if somebody has doubts about such an interpretation, then they will disappear after reading the sermon of Christ further on. This part of the farewell conversation, since the beginning till the fifteenth chapter, presents the comforting of the disciples about the forthcoming separation and their preparation to bear the expected humiliation of Christ. The Lord instills onto them that His forthcoming betrayal is not an execution of a defenseless man by the powerful government, but the voluntary return of the heavenly messenger from the valley of terrestrial humiliation to the glory of the heavenly Father: «Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid – said the Lord, – ye believe in God, believe also in me... I go to prepare a place for you... I will come again, and receive you unto myself... I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you».
Though His disciples cannot agree with it: Thomas, Philip and Judas ask Him questions, from which we see their infinite grief about the forthcoming separation and humiliation of the Teacher. He again comforts them with the words of love: «Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me», – continues the Lord, i.e. if you understand the fact that all what will happen is to my glory, then you would understand that no humiliation waits for me in my death for mankind, for, dying for mankind, I come back to the Father, Who is greater than I am in the terms of this human nature, – «If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I» (28). Could the Lord say here about His Divinity, Which does not die, comforting His disciples about the forthcoming crucifixion and death of His human nature? For He had just revealed His divinity and one-essentiality with the Father to them: «If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him» (23 v.), and a little earlier: he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? (v. 9). Here is the reference to the absolute equality of the Father and the Son.
The same words about the abode of the Father and the Son in the heart of the believer, and as well the further predictions of the Lord that the believers will join the unity of the Father and Son, will help us in eliminating another question of Mohammedans, concerning the words: «I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God» (20:17). There is no reference here to the inequality of the Father and Son, but the notification about the participation of the believers in the glory of the Father and Son, and that they are no more the slaves of Christ, but His friends (15:15).
This is the glory, which the Lord gains after His Ascension and He testifies in His words to Mary Magdalene to that His friends since that time become so close to His Father, as He had promised to them; that their newly-blessed relation with God is very similar to that relation, which is between the essential human nature and God; that they are already His brothers in His human spirit: «Go to my brethren, and say unto them"» (20:17). Further on, in the same chapter of the Gospel the Lord accepts the professing of one of His human brothers: «My LORD and my God» and, approving of it, answers: «Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed» (20:28–29). By these words He pleases those believing in that He is true God, and condemns the hesitating.
The same is the final answer of ours to the main question, proved by the Gospel and the whole history of the terrestrial life of Jesus Christ, which refutes all false contradictions. The Lord professed Himself as True God, but wished the disciples to percieve this truth gradually, first of all, loving the holiness of His commandments, then worshipping His humiliation and sufferings, and finally, seeing His resurrection.
The “Son of Man” – An Attempt of Interpretation.
In what sense did the Lord call Himself the Son of Man? The theologians discussed this question much, wrote many books, concerning it, but the very matter was left unresolved till the present day. Some interpreted this expression in the sense opposite to the Monophysites, seeing in it the reference to the human nature of Christ. There were made many other attempts to find in this expression the reference to the main aim of the coming of the Lord, and from this point of view the expression «the Son of Man» was interpreted either in the sense of the Atoner, or in the sense of the Pastor or Teacher, or the Messiah in general.
But all the interpretations turned out to be so unconvincing that the known professor of the Petersburg Spiritual Academy V. V. Bolotov wrote an essay, in which, having refuted all the interpretations, he came to the conclusion that in science there is no satisfactory interpretation of the name of Christ, and therefore one needs to consider this name to be deprived of any definite significance. One should simply treat it as the conditional name, which substitutes the pronoun of the first person.
But to think that the lack of some idea in science proves its absence in reality is rather erroneous. Neither the admirers of contemporary science, for scientific progress is denied by such a statement, nor the deniers of contemporary school theology, for the multiple attempts are the product of the school, but not of the holy fathers’ doctrine, can agree with that. And really, the statement of Bolotov is definitely refuted by the Gospel, from which we shall quote some utterances, testifying that the Lord-Savior not only allotted the discussed name with some definite meaning, but made the latter known to the people, at least to some of them. «Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?» (Math. 16:13). It is clear that He wanted to make the people come to some new conclusion, which they could find within the facts they already knew: «That I am the son of Man, is known to everybody, but whom the men say the Son of Man is?» the answer is: «That thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias…» This makes us understand that not only the Lord and the apostles, but all Jews assigned certain features to the name of «the Son of Man», but differed in opinion, who exactly from the righteous or messengers could be the bearer of those features. That was the question, which the hostile Jews, being greatly puzzled, asked Jesus at the end of His terrestrial life, when it was already clear to everybody that He professed Himself to be the promised Messiah or Christ. All of a sudden He told them about the forthcoming crucifixion. They could not understand that at all. «We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?» (John 12:34)? If You are the Son of Man- Christ, then You cannot die; if You say that You will be killed and show Yourself to us as the Son of Man, then who are you? We know that Christ will turn out to be the Son of Man, and now we see the Son of Man in You, but we cannot recognize Christ in you, on the condition that you will be killed».
The given below utterance of the Lord contains the most direct reference to the fact that by the words «The Son of Man» the Lord not simply substituted the pronoun of the first person, but used that name in some definite sense. «For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man» (John 5:26–27).
This utterance finally demands Biblical theology to give an answer to the question: what did the Lord mean under the expression «the Son of Man»?
The difficult to understand words and expressions of the New Testament should be analyzed with the help of the Old Testament, like it was done by Chrysostom and other church interpreters, – in such analysis was the reason, why Protestants almost absolutely rejected science. Contemporary science makes the usual mistake while analyzing the multiple Old Testament utterances with the words «the Son of Man». It by all means tries to find one and the same thought in all of them, and in order to find that it appeals to the numerical majority of utterances with the certain sense. Meanwhile, no doubt, this expression has several meanings in the Bible, – simple and derivative, as other expressions, for instance the Kingdom of God, Heavenly Reign, faith, salvation, the law and others, what is rarely noticed by scholastic science.
So, we should be little interested in the numerical majority of the Old Testament utterances, in which «the Son of Man» means a human being in general or has the meaning of a simple man, the antonym of a great noble or king. But it is necessary to pay attention to the circumstance that the expression, concerning some notion or quality, expressed with the words «a son or daughter (the children of the kingdom – Math. 8:12; 13:38; the child of hell – 23:15; the sons of thunder – Mark 3:17; the son of peace – Luke 10:6; the children of the resurrection – 20:36; the children of light – John 12:36; the son of perdition – 17:12; the children of disobedience – Eph. 2:2; 5:6. Col. 3and others, the daughter of Sion, the daughter of Israel – Math. 21:5. John 12:15) mean the profoundness of some certain quality, as if the state of someone, who possesses this quality in abundance. In particular, the expression «the Son of Man» in the majority of cases chiefly means humanity.
In the Old Testament there is the extract, where the Son of Man is directly called the future Messiah, not a simple man, but someone Divine, and there is left no doubt, that exactly this extract, the vision of Prophet Daniel, was quoted by the Savior. This is the key extract for the question, which interests us. It is well known to those, who have been studying the Holy Scripture.
Prophet Daniel saw five different terrible beasts, which reigned over the earth and «the holy nation» and haughtily talked against God. Though, their power did not last for long.
«I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool... the judgment was set, and the books were opened». The beasts were given to the burning flame and their dominion taken away; who would gain the eternal power instead of their short-time rule? «I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days [God the Father], and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.» (Dan. 7).
The readers of the New Testament can hardly doubt that it was exactly that vision, to which referred the Lord, calling Himself the Son of Man in several extracts. The Hebrews unanimously saw in the words of Daniel the reference to the Messiah, Whom they imagined as the judge of all nations that will restore the Kingdom of Israel and submit all nations to Him. John addresses Him with this question: «Art thou he that should come?»
The Lord does not deny that, but refers to the fact that He is not simply a glorified man, as the Hebrews understood from the prophesy of Daniel, but that He is God, Who had belittled Himself. Only with such speechless reference to the prophesy, the sequence of the conversation becomes clear: Yes, I am the One, Who will reach the Ancient of days but be aware that « no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven... For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world» (John 3).
More clear is the connection of the words of Christ with the vision of Daniel: «When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel» (Math. 19:28); to this relate the words of Ap. Paul: «Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?» (1Cor. 6:2).
But the fact that He is the One, about Whom it was told in the prophesy of Daniel, becomes clear from the answer of the Lord to Caiaphas’s question: «Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven » (Mark 14:62; Math. 26:64). By quoting the prophesy, the Lord turned down the accusation in blasphemy – that He, being a man, made Himself God (John 10:23). This becomes especially clear from the Gospel of St. Luke. «And led him into their council, saying, «Art thou the Christ? Tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.» Obviously, the Lord wanted to ask them about the vision of Daniel (as he asked about Psalm 109 before), about who that Son of Man, who was equal to the Ancient of days, was in their understanding – because in His speech He resorted to that vision: «Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power.» That was the quotation, but in order to accuse Christ of blaspheming, they needed to know if He applied that quotation to Himself. «Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am» (Luke 22:70).
The Apostles lived by the promise to see the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy on the example of Christ with their own eyes, and those, who received that chance, were Stephan, His first preacher, and John, who lived longer than all the rest of them. «Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God» (Acts 7:56).
Moreover, in the Revelation there are two extracts, where the Lord is called the son of Man, – with one more reference to the vision of Daniel: «And behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man» (Rev.14:14). The vision of Daniel was so obviously recalled in the history of the New Testament, that the Lord, to show His one-essentiality with the Father, showed Himself in visions, possessing the same qualities, which God the Father revealed to the prophet, i.e. being in a white, as snow, garment, as at the day of Transfiguration, or with white, as wool, hair, with «the fiery feet», as in the first vision of the Revelation (1:13), and though He is not called as the Ancient of days directly, but the names of the same meaning are used in the text: «Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending» (Rev. 1:8). «I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen» (1:18).
So, we sorted out that calling Himself as the Son of Man the Lord bases that upon the vision of Daniel, and He refers to that vision in the most triumphant, pre-mortal sermon about Himself as about the Messiah and the Son of God, because of which He was sentenced to death.
But by giving such an explication we only prepared the way for answering the question of our article, but have not answered it yet. Now we have to realize, what the meaning of the vision of Daniel was and to which qualities of the Messiah the prophet referred, calling Him the Son of man.
The theologians see in this vision the reference to the Divine worthiness of the Messiah, and they are right. The explication will not end with it, for even its main thought is not yet revealed. To understand the Bible, one should never be satisfied by the definition of metaphysical and historical qualities of persons and phenomena, for these qualities are the main from Aristotle’s and scholastic points of view, but not those of the Bible. They are found in the Bible as well, but do not play the main role, which chiefly belongs to the theological point of view.
It will not be hard for any reader of the book of Daniel to interpret this vision, for it had been interpreted by the very prophet. The kingdoms of the beasts are heathen kingdoms, and the kingdom of the Son of God is the kingdom of Saints, the Church of Christ. With this end the contemporary interpretations of the vision, but this is only an introduction, but not the interpretation itself. One should give an answer, why the heathen kingdoms are represented as beasts, and the Kingdom of God as the Son of man. It should be clarified in the connection with the narration about what God told to the chosen nation concerning its calling, and how the elects of God understood that.
The Biblicists analyze the meaning of this calling from the messianic point of view, and it is surely correct but not complete. The Messianic doctrine was taught in its concealed form, and the moral designation of Jewish people among the lawless heathens was more clearly revealed to the Patriarch and the legislator. «The LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee» and further (Gen. 17:1). The goal of this covenant was defined by the Lord more clearly in another vision, when He told about the forthcoming execution of Sodom for its depravity and cruelty. «Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment» (18:18–19).
Having established the union with the people of Israel so that it could bring forth truth and justice, the Lord prohibits them to be friendly with lawless nations, so that those would not lead His legacy into sin (Ex. 23:32–33), so that they would not teach it their whoring (Ex. 34:13–16); and gives to His people the commandment of chastity, adding: «Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you. And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants» (Lev. 18:24–30).
But Israel did not preserve the covenant with God, and the Divine land forgot it, according to the formidable warning of the Lord, and then, being captured by lawless heathens, Israel changed its mind and again got inspired by hope that the Lord would fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Living among heathens, being the holy nation, it more and more recognized its infinite supremacy over those servants of abominable passions, but at the same time could not but see that its position was not in being ahead of historical life, but in lagging behind, as it was predicted by the Lord. Huge states, having no morals and Divine wisdom, got strong and then destroyed one another, and so, if small Israel got freed by Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus or Darius, then what had it to expect further? If the struggling kingdoms, those superceding one another heterogeneous cultures, would toss it about, as a ball, then there would be no hope for the recovery of its grandeur: in what would the global mission be expressed and how will come true the words of God about the fact that all living nations will be blessed through it? Those doubts disappeared after the vision of Daniel, and the later prophesies of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 3 Ezra and the latest apocrypha of eschatological content were devoted to it. Daniel and other prophets convince Israel that its designation is not politic, mundane, but moral. Brilliant and formidable kingdoms frighten it, like horrible disgusting beasts, but their power is not long-lasting, and their glory is vain: the Lord sees their unrighteousness and soon will destroy them. On the contrary, the modest and unnoticeable activity of Israel has global and eternal designation. Those monstrous kingdoms are crowned with power and wealth and talk haughtily. Israel, the holy nation, can boast only with that it brings up the true man, the son of man. To the extent man is weaker than a bear, panther or any beast, dreadful and terrible (Dan. 7. 7), to the same extent he is more wonderful than them. The same is the relation of the holy nation to the nations that make it inferior. And the Lord of Hosts knows that. He prepares the soon execution for the terrible kingdoms of heathens, while the son of Man, Who represented by His example the designation of those people, who fulfill the true law, will reach the Ancient of days and reign over the universe.
Having seen that extraordinary rise of the Son of Man over the terrifying beasts, the prophet asked about its meaning and received the answer: «These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever» (7:17–27).
So, the Son of Man, having received honor, equal to that of God, represents that state of sanctity, which makes the holy nation differ from haughty and similar to beasts heathen nations.
When the Lord came to earth, then the general mood of the people was the same, as in the times of Daniel. Highly appreciating their spiritual superiority over unrighteous heathens, constantly remembering their exclusive eligibility, the Hebrews could not agree with the heathen yoke. Their impatient expectance of deliverance got concentrated on the definite image of the Savior-Messiah, Who would conquer the Romans, and starting to reign in Sion will judge the nations, how it was predicted by Daniel. About this judgment the Lord talks with Nicodemus, but people want to make Him rule after the miracle of feeding by five breads.
Is it necessary to say that the Lord least than anything wished that His mission and the visions of Daniel would be understood like that? The Son of Man, about Whom is talking the prophet, is authentically the One, coming from Heaven, but He came not for the physical conquering of nations, not for the punitive judgment over kings and kingdoms, but for leading the holy nation into the promised eternal, heavenly kingdom (not in the way like Moses and Abraham, who passed away), for the fulfillment of spiritual judgment – exposure, but not punition; and His followers do not have to wait for terrestrial glory, – because the «Son of man hath not where to lay his head». In its time there will come the visible glory of the Son of Man, but already not in this life, but in the future one, describing which the Lord constantly calls Himself the Son of Man (Math. 10:23; 13:41; 16:27; 19:28; 24:30, 37:39; 24:44; 25:13).
So the Son of Man will come into His glory in the forthcoming life, and in this life He is not the one of those conquerors-kings, whom Daniel had seen as the monstrous beasts, but exactly the son of man, true Man, Whose example must be followed by the entire holy nation. As the founder of the exploit of the holy nation, He, calling Himself the Son of man, Who was seen by Daniel, admonishes all Israelites to forget about the typical of heathens desire of terrestrial glory, and follow Him in God’s covenant with Abraham: in bringing forth truth and justice. So, instead of promising the expected terrestrial glory, the Lord says to Israel: «Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake» (Luke 6:22).
Having brought everything said together, we assert that the Lord calls Himself the Son of Man, as the expresser and preacher of true humanity, i.e. personal holiness, contrasting it with conditional political expectations of the contemporaries. For that goal, He chose the name of the Son of Man because exactly in that sense it was mentioned in the vision of Daniel. The Son of Man, revealing in Him the true, holy Man, is the head of the spiritual kingdom of saints, which will be, according to the prophet, eternal in the coming life, but which is absolutely opposite to any heathen kingdom in the present-day life and totally different to how the Jews expected to see it.
In What the Orthodox Faith Differs from Western Confessions
The West borrows from Christianity certain things, only if they are compatible with the conditions of modern cultural life.
Many of the educated Russian people would answer the above question – in the rites’ procedure. The ridiculous character of this answer is so obvious that it does not deserve any attention. Though, another conviction, which is typical of theologically enlightened people, is in no greater proximity to the truth. They would tell you about filiоque, about the primacy of the Pope and other dogmas, which are rejected by Orthodoxy, and about those dogmas, common for Orthodoxy and Latinism, which are denied by the Protestants. It turns out that Orthodoxy is deprived of the content, which is exceptional, and untypical of the European confessions. Meanwhile, the historic origin of these confession, which originated one from another, makes us think that they are equally deprived of some treasures of the truth of Christ, because it is doubtful to admit that out of a heresy there could appear another one, free of the certain traits of the first, or more than that, some heresy that could turn back to the true Church.
The Slavonic speaking theologians, in the person of Homyakov, for the first time tried to define the difference of the true Church and Western confessions not on the principle of these or those dogmatic peculiarities, but according to the fact of superiority of the inward ideal of the true Church over those of the Churches of other confessions. In this is the great contribution of Homyakov for theology and the Church, and for the educated West, which highly esteemed it together with the Russian literary men, interested in religions. This appreciation is in the fact that the European theologians, which sympathize with Orthodoxy, talk about it, using exactly Homyakov’s interpretation of confessionary passions. In particular, the Old Catholics, which are drawn to the Orthodox Church and started the long-time official correspondence concerning the possible union, share Homyakov’s views upon the main problems of separation of our Church and the Old Catholic one. We think the thought about filioque, as about the innovation, to be, first of all, opposite to the Church discipline, which orders «to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace», and the idea of transformation in the Eucharist, as a notion, to be incompatible with the church tradition (which teaches about transposition) and to be borrowed from Western theologians.
Among all theological works, written by the Russians, a small work of Homyakov is the most popular both among our educated society and abroad. Therefore we shall not reproduce his statements in detail. We shall only remind that he analyzes the difference of confessions, concerning the teaching about the 9th member of the Creed – the teaching about the Church. Analyzing the Orthodox teaching about truth, absolutely distorted and almost lost by the other confessions of the West, Homyakov clearly shows the moral value of our spiritual ideal, the superiority of our faith over other confessions, which lost one of the holiest Christian truths, elevating the soul. Under the notion of the Church Homyakov understands not exactly the power, but the mutual union of souls, which make one another complete through the mysterious communication with Christ, Who reveals Himself not to the separate believers but in the union of mutual love, in their unity (according to the ecumenical council). He brings forth the joyful spirit, alien to enslavement, into all demands of the church discipline, and into the very perception of the Divine truth (what is stipulated by the authority of the Church tradition), – the spirit, which brings us to the boundless communication with the world of believers and eternity.
Let us say without hints that the Orthodox teaching about the Church is correctly analyzed by Homyakov, and that he very well revealed the superiority of Orthodoxy over Western confessions, which had lost the concept of moral unity of believers both in their religious life and religious cognition, and had brought the idea of Divine Kingdom down to the stage of either personal exploit, or the outward legal organization. Admitting this and admiring the theological and missionary contribution of Homyakov, we still state that his definition of Orthodoxy or what is the same, of true God-revealed Christianity, compared with Western confessions, is not full and we wish to add some points to it.
In reality the difference between our faith and other confessions is more profound.
The church dogma is for sure one of the most important; our communication within the Church should be constant. But beside that, there is the great difference between the Europeans of other confession and Orthodox Christians in the definition of the direct relation of each personality to God and his own life. Even the small details bear that difference. Let us examine the guides on spiritual life. Some of them, on which we study at school and which contain the subject of our theological science, both dogmatic and moral, are borrowed from Catholics and Protestants; and only the known to everybody and condemned by the church authorities errors of other confessions are eliminated by us. The other manuals, concerning our spiritual life, common for the educated circles and simple people (for both the contemporaries, and our antecedents in faith till the 19th century and further) contain the divine service prayers, hymns and holy fathers’ morals.
But what is interesting, between the both types of these manuals there is almost no inner connection. Those theologians with scientific degrees do not know our prologs, our dogmatic hymns (stychiras and canons), our Mineas, and even if they sometimes do, then not as the religious thinkers, but like simple people, used to pray, or the admirers of spiritual chants. Meanwhile, this Slavonic literature in thick, awkward books, is the main and almost unique creator and supporter of real, living Russian faith, and not only of simple people, but of the educated circles. Anyway, theological science cannot come close to it, even from the psychological point of view.
Let us recall now the most perfect Christians, those who lead Christian life among us: hieromonk in schema Ambrose, father John, bishop Theophanous. They are not the narrow-minded fanatics, they are the noble graduates of seminaries and academies, but can you find any borrowings from or references to our school and scientific theology in their edifications? You will not find any, except for accidental mentioning.
If you offer them piles of scientific books to help in their edifications, they will treat that with respect, but believe, will find nothing to borrow from them. A simple Christian, who wished to think over this or that phenomenon of his spiritual life, experiences the same. – It is obvious that our created according to the Western principles theology, though possessing no Western misconceptions, is so far from the real spiritual life of Orthodox Christians, so different from it, that it can neither guide it, nor even be similar to it.
It would not have happened, if only the teaching about the Church would have mentioned the difference of Orthodox theology and the Western one; but it happened because the Western religions changed the whole concept of Christian life, concerning its goals and conditions.
Being the Rector of the Academy, I gave the task to one smart student: to compare the Christian moral teaching of Theophanous and Martensen. Martensen is a famous Protestant preacher, who is thought to be the best moralist-theologian; with that he is mostly freed from any confessional misconceptions. Bishop Theophanous is an educated Russian theologian, the former rector of the Petersburg academy. And what happened? It turned out that Christian morals were described by these two authors in the absolutely different, even opposite way. The result of that analysis was formulated like that:
Bishop Theophanous teaches, how to build life according to the demand of moral perfection, and the western bishop (sin vena verbo) borrows from Christianity those things and to the extent, to which they are compatible with the conditions of contemporary life. It means that the first one looks at Christianity as at the eternal order of true life and does not force a person to change himself and his life, till the time it will come to the norm, and the second one looks at the basis of contemporary cultural life as at the stable fact, and among the range of existing variants of this life choses those, which can be approved of from the Christian point of view. The first demands moral heroism, exploit, and the second thinks, what parts of Christianity could fit us in the contemporary life arrangement. For the first, who is the man, called to beyond-the-grave eternity, where real life will start, the historically developed mechanism of modern life seems to be a miserable ghost, and for the second the teaching about future life is the elevated, ennobling idea, which helps us perceiving real life better.
The difference between the views of these two teachers of virtue was caused by the difference of Western-European religions and Orthodox faith. The latter comes out of the concept of Christian perfection or holiness and from this point of view esteems the present-day activity, and the West is resting upon the status quo of life and tries to find that minimum of religious exploits, which will help in salvation, if eternity really exists.
«These are not the false beliefs, but low morality of the West!» – They will tell us.
Yes! We shall answer; till this moment we were talking about the state of decay of Western religious life and thought; now we shall discuss the high principle, which was lost by them.
Christianity is the exploit of virtue; it is the pearl, to buy which the righteous merchant of the Gospel had to sell all that he had. Historically, this self-denial, and the acceptance of the cross lead to various exploits: in the time of the terrestrial life of the Savior- the exploit of the union with the disciples, following Him; further on, the preaching of faith and martyrdom; then, since the 4th century and till the 20th – reclusion and monasticism. In reality these various kinds of exploit were only the conditions of one idea, one goal – gradual sanctification on earth, i.e. freedom from passions, or impassivity, and accumulation of virtues, – the things the believers beg for in the prayer of Ephraim the Syrian, repeated at the time of Great Lent and combined with multiple bows. «For this is the will of God, even your sanctification», says the apostle, and it can be reached only by making it the most important, unique goal in life – if to live in order to become sanctified. In this is true Christianity; this is the essence of Orthodoxy in comparison with Western confessions. The Eastern heresies in this respect and by their essence are much closer to Orthodoxy, than the Western ones (we mean the most powerful Eastern heresy of monophysites, to which the Armenians are very close). The spiritual perfection of personality remains for them the goal of Christian life, and the difference appears only in the teaching about how to reach this goal.
But do Western Christians say that there is no need in reaching moral perfection? Is it that they will deny that Christianity gives the commandment to improve?
They will not say that but it is not in what they see the essence of Christianity, moreover they will object each word of ours, concerning the understanding of perfection; they will not even understand and will not agree with us about the fact that exactly moral perfection of the personality is the goal of Christian life, but not the simple perceiving of God (as the Protestants think) or the decorative arrangement of the Church (as the Papists presume), for what, in their opinion, Very God endows man with moral perfection, as a reward.
Moral perfection is reached through personal exploit, hard work, inner struggle, deprivations, and especially through humiliation. The Orthodox Christian, sincerely and diligently carrying out this discipline, by that fulfills the part of this exploit, for our discipline is arranged in the way, so that it helps in gradual deactivation of passions and acquisition of blissful perfection. To this contribute our divine service prayers, the exploits of fasting and that almost monastic way of Orthodox life, which is prescribed by our regulations and which was so strictly followed by our antecedents before Peter the Great and till now is still followed by the people, living by the basics of culture.
With one word, the Orthodox faith is the ascetic faith; the Orthodox theological way of thinking is what does not remain as the dead property of the school, but influences life and is spread among the people, – this is the investigation, concerning the ways of spiritual perfection. Exactly because of that both dogmatic definitions and events of the holy history, as well as the commandments and the expectation of the Dread Judgment are reflected in our stychiras and canons.
Surely, all this belongs to the Western confessions as well, but there salvation is understood as the outward reward for a certain number of good deeds (the same way, outward ones), or for the indisputable belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ (Protestantism). There they do not reason and cannot reason about the fact, how the soul should gradually get freed from its submission to passions, how we ascend to impassiveness and fullness of virtues. There exist ascetics as well, but their life is that somber unconscious fulfillment of the long ago established disciplinary rules, for which they are promised to receive eternal life and the forgiving of sins. And the fact that this eternal life had already come, as St. Ap. John says, that this blissful communication with God is received through the steadfast exploit already in this life, as venerable Macarius the Great said, is not understood by the West.
The misunderstanding becomes more profound and gains hopeless character. Contemporary Western theologians lost the idea that the goal of Christianity, the goal of the coming of Christ to earth is exactly in moral perfection of the personality. They as if became insane because of the invention that Christ the Savior came to earth to bring happiness to some mankind of some future centuries, while He with all clarity said that His followers have to bear the cross of sufferings, and that their persecutions by the world, by their brothers, children and even parents will be constant, and by the end of ages will multiply greatly. That wellbeing, which is expected on earth by the admirers of «the supposition of progress» (on the apt expression of A.S. Rachinsky), is promised by the Savior in future life, but neither the Latinists, nor the Protestants wish to agree with it on that simple reason that (honestly speaking) they believe in the resurrection in a bad way and strongly believe in the well-being of present life, which, on the contrary, the apostles call «a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away» (Jam. 4:14). That is why pseudo-Christian West cannot and does not wish to understand the denial of this life by Christianity, which orders us to go for exploits, «seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him» (Col. III, 9).
«Christianity is love for the neighbor, and love is compassion in sufferings», will modern Christians, especially women, note: «and the asceticism is invented by monks».
I will not say anything against the first statement, as Leontyev did; I would rather say: if there was an opportunity of loving without spiritual asceticism, without inner fight and outward exploits, then the first and the latter would be unnecessary. But love faded among people at the time, when they started talking with the mouth of Luther. The words: «And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold» came true. There, where there is no exploit, no struggle, will reign passions and iniquities, and where the sin rules, love waxes cold and people start hating one another (Math. 24:10). I come over to the second statement. Truly, love is expressed first of all through compassion, but not as much directed towards the physical troubles of the neighbors, but to their state of sinfulness, and such compassion is possible only for someone, crying about his own sins, i.e. the undertaking exploit man.
«The asceticism is invented by monks"… One lady from Moscow made a more decisive statement: «Your religion was invented by priests; I recognize only the Iverskaya Mother of God and martyr Triphon (l'Iverskaya et Triphon le martyr), and the rest is nonsense» But these phrases show, first of all, that our educated people do not understand the word «asceticism».
The arrangement of our life is not at all predisposed by this concept, and it includes neither the notion of chastity, nor of fasts or reclusion. The asceticism, or spiritual exploit, is life, full of work on oneself, such life, the goal of which is the extermination of one’s passions: fornication, self-love, malice, envy, gluttony, laziness, etc. and filling the soul by the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love, which never turn out to be single virtues, but only those accompanying and helping in the development of the mentioned qualities of the soul.
For sure, the Christian, wishing to go his own way, will see by himself that he has to deviate from mundane scattered life, to control his body, to pray to God a lot – but these exploits have no value in the eyes of God, but gain the value only for ourselves as the condition for obtaining spiritual gifts. The greater value possess spiritual exploits, which are performed in the consciousness of man: self-reproaching, self-humiliation, self-compulsion, inner contemplation, thinking about the beyond-the-grave world, the analyses of feelings, struggle with sly thoughts, repentance and confession, anger towards sin and temptation and other exercises- all that is little known to the contemporary educated people and so familiar and known to any church member of the past and modern times. This is that spiritual alphabet, about which says St. Tikhon: «There are two types of scientists and wise men: first study at school with the help of books, and many of them are more ignorant than those simple and illiterate, for they do not know Christian alphabet; they make their mind sharp, they change the words and make them sound better, but do not wish to change their hearts. The second learn in prayers with humility and diligence and are enlightened by the Holy Spirit and are wiser than the philosophers of this age; they are pious and holy, and pleasant to God; these, though they do not know the alphabet, think everything to be good; talk in a simple, rough way, but live righteously and correctly. Let the latter be an example to you, Christian» (III, 193). In this is the essentiality of true Christianity as of the exploit of life, the content, which is forgotten by Western confessions, but which forms the center of the Orthodox theological literature, which is the key for the analysis of Divine revelation and all the events and utterances of the Bible in respect of the stages of spiritual perfection. The incarnated, resigned and grieving about our sin Savior in His person and through His communication brought the possibility of this spiritual exploit, and in this is our salvation. But some do it voluntary and consciously (Phil.2:12), living spiritual life, the others live it almost compulsorily, being changed by those sent by God sufferings and fulfilling the church discipline, the third ones only before death part with their scattered state through repentance and get enlightened beyond the grave. The essence of the Christian exploit is in asceticism, in work on one’s soul; in this is the essence of Christian theology.
If to trace all the misconceptions of the West, both that penetrated into its confessional teaching, and those typical of its ways, which were accepte through the «window to Europe», then we shall see that they all root in the lack of understanding of Christianity, as of the exploit of gradual self-perfection of man.
Like that is the Latinist-Protestant doctrine about redemption, as about making Jesus Christ suffer for the insulted by Adam Divine grandeur, – the doctrine, which came out of the feudal notions, – about knightly honor, which is restored by shedding the blood of the insulter; the same is the material doctrine about the sacraments; the same is the teaching about the new organ of Divine Revelation in the person of the Roman Pope, no matter what he is like in life; alike is the teaching about the duties and over-duties. The same is, finally, the teaching of the Protestants about the saving faith, combined with the rejection of the whole church arrangement.
These misconceptions show the attitude to Christianity as something that has nothing to do with consciousness and conscience, something conditional, as to the agreement with the Divine Creature, That no one knows why demands from us the understanding of some incomprehensible formulas and rewards us for that with eternal salvation. To protect oneself from naturally arousing objections, the Western theologians strengthened the teaching about the absolute (as it seems to them) impossibility to reach the Divine Creature and to understand the Divine law and demanded, in the person of scholastics, Luther and even modern Richly, to recognize reason as the enemy of faith and struggle against it, while the Fathers of the Church, in the person of Basil the Great and even Isaac the Syrian, see the enemy of faith not in reason, but in human stupidity, absent-mindedness, lack of understanding, and obstinacy. If we come from the analysis of false religious beliefs over to the moral convictions of Western representatives, then by some of them we shall find simple distortion of Christian commandments, and these distortions have taken root in the arrangement of Western life, social and private, in such a way that no cultural perturbations, which destroyed Christian altars and royal thrones, could eliminate those wild and immoral prejudices.
So, the Lord preaches the forgiveness of all, and Western morals in its turn – revenge and the shedding of blood; the Lord commands to be subdued and think oneself to be the most sinful of all, and the West puts «the feeling of dignity» higher than anything ; the Lord says to «rejoice and be exceeding glad, when men shall revile and persecute» us, and the West demands «the restoration of honor»; the Lord and the apostles call pride «demonic», and the West – as nobleness. The last Russian beggar, even sometimes a semi-believing person, a representative of other confession, who worships the pagan evil spirit Keremet’, better feels the good and evil than the similar moralists of the thousand-year old Western culture, which so sadly mixed the remains of Christianity with the lies of classicism.
In the basis of all those misconceptions lies the misunderstanding of the simple truth that Christianity is an ascetic religion, that it is the teaching about gradual expelling of passions, about the means and conditions for gradual assimilation of virtues; and that these conditions are internal, (which we find in exploits), and external, (which are in our dogmatic beliefs and blessed divine service), that both have unique designation: to cure human sinfulness and bring us to perfection.