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Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Gift of Atheism

As promised above/below, Fr Alexander Men again. Amazing.

As a result of difficult trials, the Church received a great gift from heaven -- and don't grin, now -- this gift is atheism, wretched atheism and the whole anti-Christian movement.

Only worse things would have befallen the Church if these movements had not occurred, if there had been no atheism. I fear then that the Christian world would indeed have been suffocated, by atheists in the guise of Christians. . .[atheism] is not at all a defeat for Christians. It is a great healing and strengthening force. . .

Of course, it is bad that the churches are closed. Who would say this is good? It is bad from the standpoint of the faithful as well as from the standpoint of the law. But I am convinced that not a single temple was closed without the will of God. Good things were always taken from the unworthy. The history of the Church is that of the Bible, where the covenant prevailed. "I give you life or death" says the book of Deuteronomy, "choose your path." "And don't say 'We have the temple', reminds Jeremiah, " I will destroy the temple, and its ark will not be remembered." It would seem that the temple is the very place of God's dwelling. He chooses it for his own mystical presence, and yet He makes it a place where jackals roam.

Does this apply only to the Temple of Solomon, or to the Temple of Herod II, as well? No, this applies to any place of worship of the God of revelation. It applies to all temples. Of course, without argument, we feel sorrow over the destruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. On the other hand, we must admit there was some deficiency in our Christian life which allowed this to happen. . .

Many have fought against atheism. . .what we need more is to do battle with the false Christianity inside each of us, it is much more important because atheism appears as a result of our own unworthiness. Today the Church must hear the call addressed to itself "Physician, heal thyself." I am aware that it's easier to say "We are good, we are the bearers of truth, while they are the bearers of lies; they are the oppressors, while we are the oppressed," and so on -- much easier. In addition, it's enjoyable. Do you understand? Enjoyable! The narcissistic complex is common to all, particularly to the immature. And it's enjoyable to talk about oneself, about one's group, one's community, one's church, one's people, it's enjoyable to talk about what pleases us. But all this applies to the level of immature thought, of immature spirituality. This is easily verified.

Notice what pleasure we derive in criticizing our opponent, even an ideological one.: "How we bashed him!" we say to ourselves. My wish, my sense, is that we need to solve our own internal problems first in order to be able to witness to the world. . .

I think that the Lord God in His pity for us simply doesn't allow us to surface, because we are like nobles who do not know how to use their own wealth, we resemble that miserly ruler who was dying from poverty and hunger, while he had everything.

Fr Alexander Men
About Christ and the Church

Death by Death

I'm reading the amazing Fr Alexander Men right now -- a small book generically titled "About Christ and the Church", translated by Mark Weiner.

I gather that this book is actually a sort of transcript of secret and highly illegal meetings of Fr Alexander with Orthodox Christians in Soviet Russia. So, filled with the spontenaiety of a modern, brilliant, and utterly courageous mind, the book is in fact anything but generic. Here is an excerpt, and I'll post another one soon (in which Fr Alexander argues that atheism is a gift of God to the Church! Cliffhanger. . .)

No matter where pagan concepts originated, they always had elements adaptable to Christianity, not in a spirit of compromise or expediency, but because of their innate worthiness. If some of our hymns contain echoes of the hymns to Osiris, that only makes me happy, knowing that we have received that eternal intuition of the resurrection which the ancient Egyptian experienced on the shores of his native river. Within the surrounding lifeless desert, he suddenly saw from this clay, this earth, this silt, the rising of first shoots. He saw the sun pulling them upwards and he sang, "Osiris has conquered death by death." And we repeat those marvelous words, the Church adopts them. In the Church there were poets enough to invent something original. But this early Christian sensitivity was an act of reverence, if you will, of love and affection toward the whole non-Biblical world, which we inaccurately call "pagan."

But this is not enough. There is a neutral symbolism -- for example, our painted Easter eggs, our festal foods, all sorts of customs. . .rooted in paganism. They are neutral, yet they are wonderful. Why are they wonderful? Because they are connected with matter, with the world, with nature. Christmas trees, coloured eggs lying in baskets of growing grass -- these things which enter one's soul from childhood are a kind of hymn of nature, related to our understanding of God's presence in the world.

Father Alexander Men

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