As you have seen, I did not manage to complete the last few weeks Matin’s Gospels, so hopefully the next time around I’ll get them finished. For now, here is the current reading.
By Initiative of the Syktyvkar Eparchy in the Republic of Komi Will be Celebrated the Day of Orthodox Grandmothers
The press secretary of the Syktyvkar and Vorkuta Eparchy, Igumen Philip (Filatov) announced that on July 24, believers of the eparchy will for the first time celebrate the day of Orthodox grandmothers. According to him, it will be celebrated on the day of Holy Equal to the Apostles Princess Olga (in baptism Elena) the grandmother of the Holy Prince Vladimir, the baptiser of Rus’. Princess Olga has a particular place in the assembly of saints of the Orthodox Church. The uniting of Rus’ to the family of Christian nations and peoples was in many ways a result of the upbringing that she gave to her grandson. Fr. Philip remarked, “Presently Mother’s Day, the Day of Love, Family, and Fidelity, and Father’s Day are celebrated in Komi. It will be just to also remember about the older generation, i.e., grandmothers. Specifically our grandmothers carried the Holy Orthodox Faith through the difficult time for the Church of the Soviet period. Moreso, our Church also now in many ways stands upon their prayers. Upon the older generation partially lies the responsibility for the moral and spiritual upbringing of grandchildren. We hope that the celebration of grandmothers will become annual and have already appealed with a request to support our initiative to the minister of education of the Republic of Komi”.
“On the morning of July 24, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Syktyvkara the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated. On the square in front of the cathedral will be served a moleben, after which believers will proceed into the White Hall of the house of the bishop. Students of the city’s orphanages, summer workshops, and Orthodox children’s camps and Orthodox grandmothers with their grandchildren are invited to the celebration. At the bishop’s house will be tea and a musical concert,” recounted Fr. Philip. (Source)
In your last letter you asked me how I, without an alphabet [the basics?], want to make a grammatical, historical exegesis in order to penetrate into the meaning of Scripture. Academic exegesis is, all the same, an invention of the mind, and the mind did not come from exegesis, therefore, even though it helps many, it is not such an urgent necessity. By the way, if there will be the possibility, I will try to acquire exegesis. Many have the correct understanding even without exegesis, and many others are mistaken in their exegesis as a few Swiss pastors, who consider it unnecessary to believe in the Holy Trinity, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Name in which they were baptized. By the way, if you re-read my last letter you would see that I only asked what can be done without exegesis. I openly admit to you that in your letter I did not find any answer to my questions. So, for example, I asked you to explain the Apostolic words (Jude 1:19) that people, having separated themselves from the unity of faith, are natural [1 Cor. 2:14] and do not have the Spirit. You pass over that place in silence and say only that a Christian must strive for unity. Why does not the Apostle not say that about those who do not strive for unity, but only about those who separate themselves from it? You have not explained this. In place of this you object to opinions which I never said and against trends which our Church never had. For example, you speak about those who say that they already perfectly attained to the truth of everything holy and about those who want to cover up human errors in the Church with divine rules. What gave you cause for this I do not know. About the first, I never spoke and never even thought. The second has a bit of truth in relationship to the Roman church, against which you justly object to in many things, but that does not concern our Church, which you very often do not separate from the Roman Church. That which concerns the Church itself, I find contradictions in you. At first you, as it were, agree that it is from God, but then, as it were, reject its divine beginning and relate it to an institution. Well, no. The Church is the pillar and ground of truth [I Tim. 3:15], and the Lord said, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [Matt. 16:18]. What kind of comparison can be made here with an institution? I don’t understand.
Well, I wrote to you what came to mind and what was passed to the pen.
January 25, 1864
I just have to say that I think Patriarch Kirill is a much better spontaneous speaker. (note: If you turn it up loud enough you can probably hear the simultaneous English translation. Also look out for the patriarchs few replies in English.)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Just completed the Gospel reading for today’s (meaning Sunday’s) Matins.
In my last letter I asked you the question: do you think that the Gospel or something else is the foundation and characteristic of Christian truth? You answered that from this you see how far we still stand apart from one another, and say that I am lacking much before we come to general agreement concerning divine things. I asked you that question particularly because I know that I lack much and wanted to bring into clarity that interesting subject. But as you explain that it is better to leave it and find a different subject for discussion I searched and, it seems to me, found such a subject about which I would like to know your opinion, particularly:
The apostle says, One Lord, one faith. Endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in a bond of peace (Eph. 4:5, 3). And in another place, you are of one spirit, have the same love, be of one accord, of one mind (Phil. 2:2), that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God (Rom. 15:6), and so forth. How then now, besides the Eastern Church, there is the Roman Church and, yet more, Protestant, which in England has split into more than seventy sects, and in Germany are so many theological parties? And among all those societies there is not a bond of peace, nor unity of spirit, and they are not of one spirit and not of one thought. How can that be conformed to the above-mentioned words of the New Testament? And the Apostle Jude says that people, having separated themselves from the unity of faith [Jude 1:19] (Luther translates it: who spread sects; the Slavonic translation is more understandable and closer to the original), and so people, which have separated themselves from the unity of faith, do not have the Spirit. I very much would like to know your opinion about that.
December 24, 1863
Just letting the four of you who downloaded the communion prayers file know that, after noticing and correcting a few minor errors, I have uploaded a new file. You can download it here.
For those of you on the other side of the globe I have, just in time, finished a Church Slavonic interlinear text of the third Gospel reading for Matins (to be read today at vigil or in the morning). You can download the pdf here.
At long last I have finally completed to completion the first text to be added to a new section of this weblog dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge of Church Slavonic. The first text is a collection (in parallel) of prayers in preparation for Holy Communion according to a booklet published by Jordanville. I will be adding more texts as they are completed and will announce their publication on this forum. Some texts will be in parallel, as this first, and some will be in interlinear edition. As I have stated on the new page, I am no expert in Church Slavonic and compiling these texts is also a learning experience for me, so any mistakes should be brought to my attention. If you had not guessed already, click Church Slavonic Resources at the top of the page to be transported.
An Iconostasis for Blind and Poor-sighted Children to be Unveiled in Lipetsk
A house-church with a special, three-dimensional wood iconostasis will be opened for the next school year in the Lipetsk specialized (correctional) general education boarding-school of the III-IV type for blind and poor-sighted children reports Blagovest-info with reference to the information agency Lipetsk Regional News. “The uniqueness of the iconostasis is in the fact that the icons will be adapted for the students of the school-they will be crafted in 3-D so that the students can by touch distinguish the images of the saints and the inscriptions in Braille, understandible to poor-sighted and blind people,” said Vice-Principal Elena Demekhova. Bishop Nikon of the Lipetsk and Eletsk Diocese gave a blessing for the church to be named in honor of Great-Martyr Panteleimon (patron of health services). “Work on the erecting of the church will be carried out through the course of the year on the schools funds, and woodwork will be done by teachers of the school Nikolai Neklyaev and Alexander Belyaev. The priciple material for the iconostasis is linden,” explained the vice-principal.
Demekhova remarked that this is not the first time that the school has worked with the diocese, as, by the children’s request are meetings with clerics and a choir for church singing has been formed. “Currently the correctional school has 333 students,” she added. The director of the school, Igor Batishchev, has been named a National Teacher of the Russian Federation. A few years ago the department for religious education and catechism of the Nizhny Novgorod Diocese organized a program for the spiritual nourishment of the blind. Icon carver Roman Baturin became the director of the program.
At one time Roman Baturin was the only craftsman in Russia producing icons for the blind. These icons differ from typical icons in that they are created in the form of a bas-relief. The blind can “see” such icons with their hands. In order to give the effect of ancientness, he soaks the wood in tea, coffee, and iodine. About two years ago [sic] the successful artist rejected earthly goods and began to lead an ascetic type of life. Having left his prestigious work, he returned to Nizhny Novgorod and began to carve 3D icons on wood for the blind. His acquaintanceship with Irina Sumarokova, chairman of the Nizhny Novgorod society for the blind and author of the international project for the blind The World on the Tips of the Fingers. In 2000, the work of Roman Baturin was blessed by Nikolai (Kutepov, +2002), metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas. At the begginning of 2006, a icon workshop was opened in Nizhny Novgorod for the creation of relief icons for blind people. (Russkaya Liniya)
…maybe, if we began to measure our progress and awarded belts in the Church, things would change… (Source)
You think, dearest father, that I should in my letters, and in the exchange of our thoughts, not only to work to please you but to look for my own benefit and to check my one-sided view. It seems to me that I am not holding to a one-sided but to a general view. Besides, I am ready to accept truth not only from you but from anyone, because, according to the teaching of God-inspired men, the one who accepts truth accepts God Himself. But if in your letters something is not clear to me or not convincing, then I tell you directly. For example, you write that it is subject to investigation whether a man, according to faith, can go through fire and water without harm. I won’t begin to point out examples from Church history-maybe they will not convince you. It is better for us to take them from scripture: do we not see that the three youths thrown into the furnace (Dan. 3:25), according to their faith, remained unharmed? The fire did not have any power over their bodies and even their hair remained unharmed. Until the time that the Holy Apostle Peter had firm faith, he walked on water; but as soon as faith became weak he began to sink. You write that by that fact we do not gain anything. With this we have already gained that this example, taken from the Gospel (which is for you, of course, quite convincing) demonstrates how much higher faith is than reason, because reason does not give people such power and certitude, which would preserve them unharmed in fire and water.
You find that in the book of St. Dorotheus little is said about the striving for union with the Lord. But what would you say about a sick person, who, laying on his bed, with all his heart desired to be healthy, but did not take any of the prescribed medicines because they seemed to him insufficient? If a man takes medicine at the appointed time then he, without any substantial, visible striving, will recover. And by the very fact that he takes medicine, he proves his desire to be healthy. So also in the book of St. Dorotheus is the practical striving towards the health of the soul. The one who carries out what is written in the book will receive health from the Lord and unites with Him.
This book contains a practical explanation of the evangelical commandments, and the one who desires to make use of the prescribed means by that fact proves his striving for health and in time will receive it. To you many of his instructions seem of little importance, but those trifles prove the greatness and purity of soul. For example, it cannot be said that a dress is clean when it is bespattered and think that it is a trifle. Sometimes it is by those small things that a man feels offended or not. By the way, today, in stead of ordinary pride, they have found a sort of noble pride. (The father of pride is satan. What kind of nobility can there be here?) But pride, whatever kind it may be, is pride nonetheless. In the Gospel it is said, whoever hits you on the cheek, turn to him the other [Matt. 5:39], while, according to the rules of noble pride, a duel is called for such a thing. Therefore, all that gives the soul true direction and leads it to the fulfilling of the evangelical commandments are is not a trifle but, on the contrary, extremely important.
As far as Russian kind-heartedness and Polish baseness, only one thing can be said: where the Gospel of Christ acts there is love and kind-heartedness, but where the nation has been for many centuries under the influence of fanaticism there is hatred and baseness.
August 13, 1863
Another selection from the reminiscences of Archbishop John (Shahovskoy).
My pastorship was dynamic: I loved people and was not afraid of them. Here is a small example to help understand what I mean. I remember a characteristic incident from the beginning of my pastoral path. I noticed also in White Church [Serbia] a habit familiar to me of the Russian intelligentsia and noble (at least in the past) people to be late to church. I am not talking about being a little late but arriving at the Gospel, or even the Symbol of Faith, after which starts the Eucharistic Canon-the most important part of the liturgy. The late ones in my parish were for the most part elderly former governors, vice-governors, generals, and colonels. This tardiness disturbed prayer and drew away attention from it. At the time of “holy things are for the holy” people walked around the church, placed candles, distracted the people praying, and picked out a place… I decided to make use of the forgotten experience of the early Church and stationed two young people in sticharions before the doors of the church, giving them instructions to close the doors after the Creed and not let anyone in the church.
The effect of this measure was quickly shown: beyond the doors of the church accumulated a multitude of former dignitaries having come, as usual, very late and were not allowed into the church. Of course, at first many were quite offended for this but, using this pretext, I explained from the ambon that I was not the one who offended them but they offended the Church and the ones praying there with their extreme lateness to the service; and they offended their own selves. Everything was cleared up to the benefit of all. The congregation understood and accepted my instruction.
I’ve been reading this book, which is a compilation of autobiographical writings of Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco, and came across the following little-known (so I asked two people who should have known and they didn’t…) story.
I particularly closely knew Olga Alexandrovna [Romanova]. Of her remembrances, the biggest impression was made on me by her story of the hard conditions for the royal children in the family of Alexander III. The children of the emperor of all Russia were strictly raised, in a certain domestic asceticism and (strange to say) quite often went hungry. This is how Olga Alexandrovna explained it to me. Sitting at the table at the last places, the children were brought food after everyone, and they did not manage to eat all that they had taken when the plates were removed. Besides that, they were not allowed to eat anything between the common meals. The children suffered from the desire to eat but were not able to eat anything. The grand duchess retold how one day her brother Nicky, the future emperor Nicholas II, ate the contents of his baptismal cross. All the children of the imperial family were given a cross upon baptism, in which was a piece of the Cross of Christ, embedded in mastic (a glue like substance). Well, wanting to appease his hunger, the little boy Nicky, not understanding, of course, what he was doing, opened his cross and ate its contents with the piece of the Life-creating Cross. There is a striking symbol in that story.
Thank you, dearest father, for your kind letter of June 8. You write that since Pascha you have not been in the condition to write anything, and that you must postpone all your speculative problems. If you cannot write anything philosophical, then maybe it would be seemly, according to your circumstances and current mood, to write something in a religious and evangelical spirit. Some people who have this philosophic thinking spread it so far out that it deviates from the Gospel or incorrectly interprets it, which, of course, you disapprove.
I read the 95th number of the Moscow Register, and many others here read it with pleasure and brought it to me. Concerning the current danger to our fatherland, we are not at all indifferent; but we see in it not as much Polish intrigues as [Roman] Catholic hostility to “Eastern heresy,” as they call the Eastern Church.
Educated Poles, living in Russia, are almost impossible to distinguish from other educated people. They often forget even their language so it is hard to recognize a Pole in them. Catholics, however, with their Roman Catholic particularities, one can recognize anywhere. Their principal distinctive characteristic, as you know, is hatred of everything non-Catholic. If you sent me the book by Gaze[?] written against the Roman Catholic Church, I would read it with pleasure and return it, and, if you like, would inform you of the impressions it made on me.
In your letter of May 14 you write that you cannot agree that faith is higher than reason and that both of them are from God. Without a doubt reason is also from God, but as in faith so in reason there are well-known degrees. Firstly, there is fleshly reason (Rom. 8:5), which concerns itself with the material life and is directed only to the perfection of it. It makes various discoveries and invents, for example, rail roads, etc. It goes no further. Secondly, there is reason of a natural man (1 Cor. 2:14), which concerns itself with a pious, moral life and works itself up to acquire virtues. This degree of reason leads to faith; that is, the one who is reasonable understands what he must believe in and without a doubt accepts the Gospel of Christ.
From faith in God we proceed, as you correctly remarked, to life in God, and that is the true Christian teaching, when we, with firmness and without relaxation, strive towards a Christian life.
So, the one who believes and lives according to the teaching of Christ, by his many efforts, reaches the degree of a spiritual person. Then, as a natural man looks after himself and does not ignore the material life, with its cares and benefits, a spiritual man lives only in faith and according to faith, does not care for his body, places all his sorrows on the Lord, without fear dwells in deserts, and is not afraid of wild animals because he knows that they are creations of the common Creator: Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon (Ps. 90:13) and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them (Mark 16:18). Spiritual reason, that is, reason of a spiritual man, illumined through faith, through the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments, and through the particular grace of those revelations of the Lord, understands and comprehends much of what not only the fleshly but also the natural man cannot understand or comprehend. And as every man, with his ordinary human reason, can comprehend much, much more so can the spiritual man look upon everything correctly, judge, and comprehend all; but he himself cannot be judged or comprehended by anyone (1 Cor. 2:15). Therefore, if reason in its intermediate degree, that is, when it concerns itself with the soul and leads us only to faith, and in its highest degree of growth through faith receives all its strength and illumination, then how can reason be placed higher than faith? This is just as if a public school was placed higher than a gymnasium, or even a university.
“The desire,” you say, “to give yourself an account as to how, what and why is probably from God.” Of course it is so. But the unmistakable way to that lies through faith and through life corresponding to the commandments of Christ. And the one who seeks another way and prematurely wants to learn the how and why is like a man who, not having gone to secondary school and not having studied, wants to comprehend mathematics or metaphysics with all their nuances. Such a man will never learn anything nor will comprehend anything. In exactly the same way that man will never reach his goal who, by his ordinary reason, wants to comprehend all that is comprehended by faith and, not only by faith, but also by the fulfilling of Christ’s commandments and the grace of God. Without a doubt, faith is subtler and more piercing than reason and gives man a higher and subtler understanding. Reason arises doubts and fear; faith gives hope. In the Christian Church there have been examples that, through faith, people did not burn in fire or did not drown in water. With only his own reason man cannot do that. The Lord said that signs will follow them that believe (Mark 16:17).
From all my heart I wish you all the best from God, Who abundantly can send us all that we ask of Him.
June 29, 1863
The final part of the speech, continued from part III.
And now the last thing which I would like to say. As a human civilization we have truly entered into a very difficult period, a period of a crisis existence. It is a big mistake to think that somewhere some kind of mortgage problems are the reason for the failure of the world’s economics. That view of the current crisis is too primitive.
I try to ask about the origin of this crisis when I talk with people who are competent in that, such as politicians and economists. I have yet to been given one clear and convincing answer where this misfortune came from. How did it happen that money disappeared? Where did the falling off of production come from? Well, it would be understandable if the falling off of production were caused by oversaturation, but there is no trace of oversaturation. Classical Marxist economics said that a crisis results from overproduction. Well, maybe, somewhere something extra has been produced but we have not seen or felt such a thing.
There are some hidden, not yet evident to me reasons for the world’s economic crisis. As I always tend to theological introspection, I’ve tried to apply my religious views and my understanding of the world and man to what is happening today. Such an answer is what appears to me: the world today is not only shaken by an economical crisis. We’ve already talked about ecological problems, and the World Russian People’s Council, in the frame of which our gathering today is arranged, is concerned about this problem. It’s completely obvious that we are going through an ecological crisis. We’ve already talked about the culture of post-modernism. For is not everything that is happening in this sphere a cultural crisis? Besides, isn’t there a crisis of national identity? Not long ago at all in this country every, no matter where you looked, there was a crisis, in economy, in culture, in education, and in sports. But if now there is a system crisis, not only here but in the whole world, then, perhaps, there is a common foundation of that crisis? My answer is this. There is a first cause: this is a crisis of the human person, a crisis of moral feeling, and a crisis of a loss of values.
For if moral values are lost, if moral feeling is eclipsed, then why not criminalize economics and not only locally. Why not criminalize it globally? Why not print as many papers of a certain color, which we all know well [meaning dollars], so that it would provoke colossal processes of inflation and, of course, would become one of the reasons of an economic crisis? If morality is taken out of economics then why not do such things and, all the more, if you have a printing press in your own hands? Why not sell those very papers? Money is an equivalent of work and, until recently, only human efforts were called a product, as well as, as the engineers say, the outcome of such efforts, i.e., goods and real valuables. But in the last ten years a majority of the capital was based on a speculative foundation, because money, loans, and all that which the modern financial market is made of began to be sold. People began to get rich quick only playing with currency exchange rates or on the stock market, buying or selling shares. They practically received billions out of thin air; but this is impossible! Money is an equivalent of real labor and real valuables. If there aren’t, however, valuables, how can an economy exist? Only those people and those systems can act such who completely separate economic activity from morality.
It is the very same in the sphere of politics. We lost a lot, including during the 90s, when one thing was declared and something else was done. This is a very painful period in the history of our country. Thank God that this page has been turned and now we should value and preserve that which we have. The Church, being outside of politics and not giving any preference to one or another political power, underlines that today’s policy of the country agrees with our national interests. And God forbid that speculation on economic problems, which currently appeared in our society from outside and not by our own fault, would return us again to the reality of the 90s, when we easily could have lost Russia. We all must be very vigilant, and it’s important to have theological introspection and the voice of conscience also must work well to be able to distinguish truth from lie and good from bad.
I’m deeply convinced, and as patriarch I speak not only about Russia but of historical Rus, of Holy Rus, that if all our people, the people of historical Russia can unite the heavenly and earthly, the Divine and human, faith and knowledge, and morality and the manifestation of the human person in society, we will be very strong, we will be stronger than any crisis. But if we again are seduced by the next “isms,” by other pseudo-phylosophies, which in the informational flow that inundates us as the sign of post-modern reality, then perhaps the country will not withstand that this time.
We live at a responsible time. We have no right for mistakes, and here is why. This morning I served liturgy at Butovo where were killed more than 20 thousand people, many of them priests, monks, nuns, and believers. That is our Russian Golgotha, the Golgotha of our country, because not only were there Russians and Orthodox. It may seem that we can’t learn anything from this tragedy. But, there is something very important: the tragedy of the 20th century gave us unique experience of life without God. Nowhere in the world was undertaken such a radical attempt to construct human happiness without God, and this ended up either at such places as Butovo or with the creation of a superstate, which in an instant collapsed without even a shot being fired. We have experience which no one else has and therefore we don’t have the right for mistakes.
If, setting off with that historical experience, we will act uniting the spiritual and material, then truly we will construct a most prosperous society, which would become an example for many.
Thank you for your attention.
Continued from part II.
Here I would like to proceed to a very important issue, that of values, for, firstly, a norm, upon the foundation of which one can filter incoming information, is a system of values, which are inherent in man. However, the informational flow inundating man also presumes to form certain values according to the design of those who create that flow. This is specifically why there is a battle between values in the informational flow, and for man it is very hard to orientate himself; while modern philosophy, the so-called philosophy of an epoch of post-modernism, if this is accepted, it creates even more difficulties.
Post-modernism is a kind of philosophy of life, which suggests the equality of all ideas and all viewpoints so that each person can choose; truth does not exist, truth is subjective. Of course, scientific truth, objective truth exists: two times two is four; but what I’m talking about is values. In the philosophy of post-modernism there are no value systems, which could claim to be true. This creates a relativistic approach to the perception of information.
Currently, as you know, by order of the president a committee is being formed to combat the falsification of history. Using the Great Patriotic War as an example we see how, truly, such an approach to history is being formed, which completely overturns all of the achievements, including our people’s, in the victory over fascism. This is offered to society as one of the viewpoints. And why not? In a market of ideas that which has the biggest attraction, is better advertised, and better supported by the information machine is the one that wins. How easy to lose truth, how easy to accept a lie in its place when in the social philosophy of the epoch of post-modernism the very conception of truth is absent.
That which is loudly, for the whole world, today said by the Church is said by very few others. We are aware of what risks are connected with that witness, because, in that sense, the Church goes against the flow. We say that objective truth exists in the values system, because God, having created man, instilled in his nature a few qualities determining that objective system of values. God created man, having given him His image, and an integral part of that image is moral feeling.
The moral foundation of man is the criterion of truth. Morality is the ability to distinguish good from evil by the means of an inner signal system. We have such a signal system: the voice of our conscience. Of course you can drown out or drink away the voice of the conscience and the Apostle Paul talks of a seared conscience (I Tim. 4:2) but, nevertheless, there is a striking fact: people, living in different cultures and even in different epochs, have one and the same understanding of good and evil-the fundamental understanding, not in details, but in essence-which is identified by the voice of the human conscience.
Those philosophers, who do not agree with such an approach, who adhere exclusively to a materialistic viewpoint, including the origin of the conscience, would convince us that the conscience is a product of societal development, that the formation of the conscience is influenced by culture, education, climate, geography, and social status. Well known is the Marxist approach to this issue: the conscience is formed under the influence of class affiliation, and, therefore, there is nothing, they say, mystical here at all.
If we look into all those approaches then they turn out not only to be mistaken but also very dangerous for human life. If the conscience depends upon external circumstances, if the understanding of good and evil in Russia are not the same as in America, if the voice of the conscience is determined by external factors, then morality truly doesn’t exist. But at that point something very dangerous happens in human relationships. Let us remember, “That is good which is good for the working class,” and how many millions of people were killed! “That is good which is good for greater Germany,” and how many millions of people were wasted!
There where there is moral relativism there is no morality. And if we are taught today that the conscience in Papua New Guinea is different from that in Vladivostok it is not just a mistake but a dangerous doctrine, which suggests the relativity of moral feeling.
The filter, necessary in order to critically perceive the flow of information inundating us, is, first of all, our moral voice. We need to, according to our conscience, distinguish what is good and what is bad. But to do this is quite difficult; besides moral feeling there also needs to be a certain world view, a certain set of ideas. Where, then, do we get this set of ideas? Where does this system of values, which we could apply to the informational flow of the modern informational society, come from? There is a concept of tradition. I imagine how many people react to this word, “Tradition, what’s that? Some sort of pluperfect, and what do I have to do with it, and why do I need some old truths?” In fact, tradition is important not because it preserves the past, for in the past there were a lot of both good things and bad things. Tradition is not called to preserve everything from the past. We throw out the trash from our house, and that trash is also the past; true tradition does not preserve trash, it preserves only values.
Sometimes the preserving of those values receives a certain cultural form, which, in some cases, helps modern people to accept these values, and, in other cases, it hinders. When we speak about the tradition of the Church, about Christian tradition, which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, we speak about eternal and unchangeable values, which are preserved in the tradition and are passed consecutively to the next generation. These are not archaisms or old philosophy but are values originating from, among other things, the moral nature of man and that which have been enriched by human experience. If we deny tradition as the bearer of that criterion of the truth of values, then we become completely disarmed before a huge flow of information and it is difficult to sift the truth from a lie or to understand what is happening. Therefore, to be a Christian today, in the first case, means to have a criterion, through the use of which, we can enrich ourselves with the information flow and protect ourselves at the same time from negative and destructive trends and influences.
But how can we get a hold of this criterion? Simply by reading the Gospel? Our highly intellectual age demands from people constant labor of the mind. If that work stops, man becomes easily controlled from outside. We should perceive tradition creatively, for tradition is passed over, among other ways, by the Church. We should not just read texts but must think, must create a system of intercourse, in which we would have the opportunity, by talking, to mutually enrich each other, to exchange our understanding of the huge spiritual and intellectual experience, which is passed to us through tradition.
This, perhaps, is what is lacking in the Church today. Of course, in the churches we give homilies, in which we try to help people to accept that criterion of truth. But we still have hardly any other opportunities; maybe because such work is yet poorly organized: we don’t have discussion groups, we don’t have youth gatherings or other sorts of gatherings where people could actively discuss their faith in the light of modern problems.
It is impossible to have living faith and, more so, understand the use of it when that faith is associated with some kind of book standing on a shelf. But if faith becomes a part of constant reflection, of a person’s creative efforts, if faith is used as the motivation of one’s personal, familial, societal, professional, and governmental actions, if faith is united with real problems of modern life, it becomes living and effective and everyone sees its use.
I would like to take an example from my own life. I was a believer from birth as I grew up in such a family, but sometime at 14 or 15 I became very interested in the exact sciences and especially because they came easily for me. I read a lot of popular scientific literature, and, at that time, such literature was very ideologically biased towards atheism. Of course, I started to have doubts. So, in order to deal with those doubts and to solve many questions I began to read. Fortunately, my father had a wonderful library with outstanding books, which for our people became accessible only in current times. That helped me to reappraise and rethink much of what I had been taught by my parents and this taught me a certain theological introspection, with which I’ve lived up to now. Theological introspection is the capability to respond to the surrounding world not through emotions and feelings but through one’s own convictions. It is the ability to subject the information, which is aimed at you and which devours you, to a critical analysis, which is founded on your own convictions.
I don’t see any other way for the spiritual rebirth of our people besides bringing the religious factor from exclusively the realm of folklore and culture into the realm of real reflection and real creation, so that religious truths would help man to deal, among other things, with phenomena of crisis, which exist in modern civilization and which most likely will not disappear from this civilization with the end of the current economic crisis. In other words, today, in order to preserve oneself, one’s country, one’s cultural identity, so that one were not crushed by the information flow, we should learn to unite our convictions with reality.
Continued from part I.
Now I would like to talk about a few concrete things. Talking about the issues of human life, I’m not going to especially separate the youth. Separating the younger generation, we reveal a certain paternalistic approach. Even when we talk about how wonderful our youth is, one can feel that it is as if we are looking down on them from above. After all, the youth doesn’t say, “How wonderful our old people are.” At least I’ve never heard this. But elderly people, have a desire to look down from above and say, “How nice you are, what kind eyes you have, how clever you all are.”
It seems to me that we have to just seriously speak about life; what difference is it if you are young or old? Both young and old endure pain and suffer from wounds inflicted. The youth is a mature part of our society. I think that the mistake of our pedagogics is reduced to its constant paternalism. We look down from above, love to constantly criticize, very much love to correct and demand that the youth must live as we lived previously or as we live now.
In actuality, youth is an organic part of the whole society, and one must use the very same language to talk with youth about problems as with people of older generations. There shouldn’t be any baby talk or patronizing. I remember how I first took part in a large youth conference. It was long ago in 1968 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. It was the first time I was at a large, inter-Christian assembly; I was sent there as a representative of Orthodox youth of the Soviet Union. That was a significant year; those who don’t remember it know of it from books: in August, Soviet troops entered Prague. It was a very difficult time in the history of our country and of Eastern Europe.
The congress in which I participated was in March, a few months before those events. And I remember the feelings which I went through: various people, social and political, spoke before a huge auditorium of young people, and the thought crossed my mind that each one of them wanted to appeal to the young people-for that purpose they tried to use young people’s jargon and fashion. Out comes an old man and he tries to act like a young guy and look comical and caricatural.
We should speak with young people absolutely the same way that we talk with others: firstly, with great respect and love, for young people are the future potential, but, at the same time, using the completely serious language of adults.
I would like to, not separating, in this case, young people as a separate caste of society, speak about our problems, the problems of our lives. There is a grave danger in the way that informational society affects man. We truly live in a new reality, in a different world; this differentness has been mostly made by new images of social life, shaped by the colossal flow of information. Young people, of course, have become used to that, because many of them were born in the confines of an information society. Older people, however, have seen everything that has happened over the last 20 to 30 years with the country, with people and they are able to compare.
An informational society have a lot of advantages over those societies which were not so called and were not informational in fact. In the first place, this is a change to receive information and to grow intellectually. Today, only if a person is very lazy will he not grow intellectually. If one, however, controls their laziness then there are unlimited opportunities for intellectual growth: computer technology, which can provide us with any sources of knowledge, research work, which becomes more and more interesting to the point of captivation, for when one remains at home, such possibilities open up to them about which previously the thought of which was impossible. All that, by all means, pushes scientific and technological progress, but, on the other hand, there are all sorts of things in that informational flow!
This mighty flow of information has a colossal effect on people’s minds and on the state of their souls. Here a question arises: What should be our attitude towards this flow, for it can really sweep a man away, destroy his uniqueness, something of his originality and identity-spiritual, cultural, or ethnic. This is just how it happens in many cases.
This is exactly why it is so important to construct a system to sift through the information, to create a certain filter for oneself, which would help man, not only, to disregard the unnecessary, but to critically perceive whatever inundates them. Absolutely necessary for this is an internal criterion, with which a man would be able to actively perceive the incoming information and to use it for good, sifting out everything that could destroy the human person.
But, in order to have such a criterion, one should have a certain norm inside themselves. The concept of a norm is extremely important, but a norm is, again, formed somehow, and by something else.
On Saturday, May 23, the 3rd annual Orthodox Student’s Forum Faith and Works was held at the Izmailovsky Kremlin in Moscow. Following the discussion forums, a meeting with Patriarch Kirill took place at which were approximately 4500 people from various Orthodox youth organizations and university clubs. The patriarch spoke on a wide variety of topics and then answered some questions from those in the audience. (In my opinion, this question and answer session did not last long enough, but maybe it was for the better as most of the questions were rather irrelevant.) Follows the first part of my translation of the patriarch’s speech. You can watch the whole speech and questions here and see pictures of the event here.
Dear friends, I would first of all like to thank you for the fact that you have gathered for this meeting. For me as patriarch and as bishop of Moscow it is very important to see your faces and hear your voices. The Church can successfully carry out its testimony to the world, win the hearts of people, and materially help people only when its servants understand the needs and expectations, joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments of its contemporaries.
We live at a complicated time. On the one hand, there is quite a high standard of living. For is it possible to compare today’s standard of living and the consumption standard to those of 50 or more years past? On the other hand, so many new problems are arising that the avalanche of those problems often eclipses, in our consciousness, the satisfaction of those achievements which exist. Everyone knows that a lot of interest it attracted by the appearance of new types of technology, including cars, planes, and household appliances. It seems that with the appearance of new types of technology and the creation of modern infrastructure people’s lives will also improve. Some people have a rather over-positive view of human progress: if automobiles and planes improve and if the roads are wider and better quality it means that life will be better. I would like to share with you my own thoughts concerning this.
I began to work in Moscow 20 years ago. At first I drove myself and them I had a driver who drove a Volga GAZ-24. People of the older generation know this car well; it’s not very comfortable. But when I was brought here today in a luxurious Mercedes, I had a chance to ask myself, “When was I happier? When it took me 20 minutes to get to work in a Volga, or when most people are in good cars and it takes 45 minutes, an hour, or an hour and a half to get to work?” Yesterday one priest called me and said that it had taken him four hours in a decent car to get home. There is a concept of the quality of life. This concept is, undoubtedly, connected to material and technological progress, but it would be a great mistake to think that it is this material and technological progress, the growth of material prosperity which ensures the normal quality of people’s lives.
Other examples can also be made. For instance, everyone knows that in order for the economy to develop, industry must develop. But industry demands resources, including non-renewable resources. Every industry is connected with the pollution of the environment. And although great efforts are made in order to reduce the burden on nature from man’s activity, there is a phenomenon of the degredation of the environment, and everyone can feel it from experience, especially in big cities. Let’s ask ourselves, “Are we prepared to choose new cars, televisions, refrigerators, infrastructure, and houses but, at the same time, a polluted environment and the absence of clean water and fresh air?”
Of course, all of that can be solved by technology, but I have brought all of these examples only in order to show that when we are climbing a mountain we think that when we get to that height we will have the fullness of life, but when we get there we see that on the horizon there are other mountains, many times higher, steeper, and more dangerous which will also need to be climbed. But human life is limited by a certain time frame, as it says in God’s word, in their span they be threescore years and ten. And if we be in strength, mayhap fourscore years (Ps. 89:10). At the same time, every human person is unique and valuable, and during those 70 or, God-willing, 80 years the most important and essential things for the sake of which we live should be realized. The theory of progress, which also fed the atheistic world view, simply chokes in those conflicting systems: developing one thing we are killing another. Hoping that one thing will help us become happier and putting too much at stake for the sake of that thing (in this case for the sake of the material aspect of our lives) we realize that the happiness of man doesn’t fully depend on all material things, for the sake of which we often live and expend all our energy.
I would like to speak about another aspect of this theme, and I consider it very important. Usually it happens that a man, whose prospects and outlook of life are limited to the earthly sphere, when he reaches his elderly years, he realizes there are many things that he hasn’t done. If this person has rather developed ability to think critically, then he understands that he hasn’t managed to do something, and for many this is a catastrophe. Not very long ago I spoke with one outwardly prosperous man who shared his thoughts with me saying, “You know, I haven’t managed to do anything in my life!” “But how is that? You have a decent position, you have a good salary and a family.” “Yes, but in fact I haven’t managed to do anything.” Many people can say the same things as that man. I am not talking only about great achievements; when someone says that they haven’t managed to do anything, they don’t necessarily mean that they haven’t made a great discovery or become an Olympic champion. Many people understand that they haven’t had enough time or enough energy; that circumstances have been such that they feel unlucky.
What, then, does all of this mean? Previously, when there were no religious arguments, we were persuaded that man lives for the sake of future generations; that immortality is not ontological, that is, it doesn’t exist for every person, but is, so to say, a relative immortality, just an image which is realized in the passing of certain values to the next generation. And, therefore, the idea arised that we live for the sake of future generations.
This idea is sometimes present also in modern discourse, that is, we live for the sake of children, for the sake of the future generation. In a way this is correct, and in a way it is completely wrong. For is every next generation more valuable than the previous one? What about the generation of those who defended our fatherland during the time of the Great Patriotic War [WWII]? Does it have less value than the current generation? Of course, by sacrificing oneself for other people man grows and, perhaps, becomes happier through that, but it is wrong to reduce human life to the fact that man must do everything for the future generations and, in that way, as it were, provide for his immortality.
If we restrict our perspective of life by the threshold of death, if we don’t believe in the eternal existence of the human person, then many things which we do become pointless. Therefore, the question of whether God exists or not, whether to believe or not believe, is not a question that could be left until the end, that is, I’ll decide everything else, and then, when I’m retired, I’ll think about that and go to church. For how we decide this question determines our world outlook, our philosophy of life, and, ultimately, our happiness. If the Lord said, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), then I believe every one of these words; I believe that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and if this is so, then we need to walk in that way in order to obtain the truth and have the fullness of life.