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Saturday, April 04, 2009

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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RW said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I have not heard this book.

I like your banner photo.

Tabatha said...

I know I am sounding repetitive but FABULOUS!