The Agony of the Church (1917) by Nikolai Velimirović
If the official churches have had no other merit but that they have
preserved Christ as the treasury of the world, yet they are justified
thereby. Even if they have solely repeated through all the past
centuries "Lord! Lord!" still they stand above the secular world. For
they know at least who the Lord is, whereas the world does not know.
Churches may disappear, but The Church never will. For not churches are
the work of Christ, but the Church. Moreover, if the Church disappears,
as an institution, the essence of the Church cannot disappear. It is
like rivers, sea and water: when rivers disappear into the sea, the sea
remains, and if the sea disappears into steam, water still remains.
If Christ ever meant to form the Church as an institution He meant to
form it not as the end but as the means, like a boat to bring its
inmates safely over the stormy ocean of life into the quiet harbour of
Like the body in a bath, so the soul disrobes in the Church to wash. But
as soon as we get out, we clothe our soul in order to conceal it from
the curious eye. Is it not illogical that we dare to show our
imperfections to the Most Perfect, while we are ashamed to show them to
those who are just as imperfect, ugly and unclean as ourselves? The
Church, like a bath, reveals most uncleanness.
The initial and most obvious idea of the Church is collectiveness of sin
and salvation. To pray alone and for one's self is like eating alone
without regard to other people's hunger.
When the sun sees a man of science, wealth or politics, kneeling at
prayer with the poor and humble, it goes smiling to its rest.
Full of beauty and wonders are all the Christian churches, but not
because of their pretended perfections: they are beautiful and wonderful
because of Him whose shadow they are.
You are a Christian? Then do not be afraid to enter any Christian church
with prayerful respect. All the Churches have sworn allegiance to the
same Sovereign. How can you respect a cottage, in which once abided His
Majesty King Alfred, or Charles, while you would not go into a building
dedicated to His Majesty the Invisible King of kings?
The real value of any Christian community is not to be found in its own
prosperity but in its care for the prosperity of other Christian
communities. So, for example, the value of the Protestants is to be
found in their loving care for the Roman Catholics, and vice versa.
Taking the above standard, we find that all the Christian communities
are almost quite valueless as to the spirit, i.e. as to their unusual
loving care. Their actual value is more physical than spiritual, being
as they are limited to the care for themselves. Exceptions are as
refreshing as an oasis in the desert.
Church and State are like fire and water. How to connect them? For if
connected, fire always dies down under water.
There are three ages in the history of the Church: the Golden Age, when
the Church was opposed to political governments; the Iron Age, when she
was politically directing Europe's kingdoms; and the Stone Age, when she
has been subdued to the service of political governments. What a
humiliation for the present generation to live in the Stone Age of
Trying to unite Church and State we are trying to unite what God
separated from the beginning of our era.
To separate the Church from the State does not mean, as many think, to
separate soul from body; it means to separate two quite opposed spirits
unakin and hostile to each other, like Cross and Capitol.
The worm of comfort and human inertia has reconciled Christianity with
secular, pagan governments, and so paralysed the most divine movement in
human history. Go to the bottom of all those clever advocacies for unity
of Church and State, and you will meet, as their primus motor, the worm
of comfort and human inertia.
All Churches and Christian institutions of the present time, however
wonderful they may be, are only a dim prophecy of the coming Christian
worship in truth and spirit. Through them we look now to the future as
through a glass.
Christianity is neither monarchical nor republican. It does not care
about institutions but about the spirit living in them. That institution
is the best which is fullest of the Christian spirit. From this point of
view, an autocracy may be better than a republic, and vice versa.
The true Christianity has been hidden from us as iron and coal were
hidden from the men of the Stone Age. They walked over iron and coal but
they used stone and wood only. So we are walking over and around Christ,
still using in our daily life the pagan gods of old.
If there is to be a new geological epoch, with a new type of man, it
will be the Christian epoch. All the existing types have been made by
revolutions and influences of earth and water, or of air and fire. Now
only the Christian revolution--I mean literally and not
allegorically--can produce a higher type of the human animal.
My friend, you are dissatisfied with the existing Churches, and you are
anxious to form a new church, or sect, or some kind of religious
organisation! How childish of you! The existing Churches are the most
wonderful vessels--some in gold, others in silver or pottery--made by
thousands of years and generations. I know your dissatisfaction comes
because of the emptiness of those vessels and not because of their
ugliness. Well then, pour the divine wine into them and they will please
you just as the vessels in Cana of Galilee pleased the thirsty people
around the table. No one of those people, being thirsty, ever thought of
making new vessels for the wine, but to get wine as soon as possible
into the vessels. To pour wine into existing vessels, that is really the
needed miracle, my dear grumbler!
People say: Read the Bible! Almost would I say: Do not touch it for five
years--read other literature during this period--and then read it again,
and you will see its real greatness, power and sweetness.
The Christ's wounds have wrought more blessings in the world than the
health of all the Roman Caears.
The Eucharist does not mean a memory only but also a prophecy. The
prophecy of it is, that the whole earth will become Christ's body,
Christ's flesh and blood, so that whatever we eat or drink we eat and
He ought to be our daily food. Regarding all our food through Christ it
will not seem to be a prey from nature but rather nature's sacrifice for
us, reminding us of Christ's sacrifice, and through it of our own
calling to sacrifice.
You have to choose either to be proud or poor in spirit. The first will
mean a noisy destruction, the second a quiet construction.
There exists no sublime and no mean thing in the whole world of which I
could not find a representation in myself, and none in which I were
The beauty, glory and greatness of a field of golden wheat consists of
an association of innumerable blades of wheat, with their insignificant
beauty, glory and greatness. If you have seen that, then do not repeat
to me the old story of the beauty, glory and greatness of the human
blade called Pythagoras, Caear or Napoleon.
The wealthiest and most powerful people, that we are wont to admire and
imitate, were most pitied by Christ. To-day, as always, the most
difficult Christian mission is that among the rich.
Our real value we never reveal through the using of our rights but
through our capacity for service and sacrifice.
Easier is it for a man to get his own rights than to lose his pride.
Sacrifice without murmuring makes of our stormy life a calm holy day. We
fill all our days with the talk of the people who are loth to sacrifice
and of those who dare to sacrifice. Disgust and admiration are two baths
in which our hearts bathe from sunrise to sunset. By nothing is the
disgust towards a man more excited than by hearing: "He is incapable of
sacrifice." When this sentence is directed to ourselves, we feel as if
we had lost the whole battle of life.
The value of metaphysical systems is more for the scientific than for
the moral progress of mankind. Upon Hegel you could build a new science,
but upon St Paul only could you build a new social life and a new world
politics. Did you ever think that St Paul is the greatest prophet of a
new and desirable statesmanship?
All the Empires founded upon rights have perished and must perish. The
future belongs to the Empire of St Paul, an Empire founded upon loving
It is better in humbleness to belong to the worst of the Churches than
proudly to separate one's self from the best of the Churches.
Aristocratic origin is as inscrutable as the darkness of the past night.
A mighty aristocrat of to-day may be of the meanest soul-stuff, and the
beggar at his door of the noblest. But respect both of them equally,
knowing that both of them are of the same royal origin. The Most High
names both of them His children. For the same reason respect asses and
sheep and trees and stones.
The real crucifiers of Christ in our time are those who think Christ's
Gospel could not be taken as a base for world politics. Were not His
last words to the disciples: go to all nations? The last and supreme
expression of Christianity will be in the relations of nation to nation,
as its starting expression has been the relations of man to man.
Inter-individualism has been the elementary school of Christianity.
Inter-nationalism ought to be its university.
Christian ethics, i.e. cheerful service and sacrifice, is the noblest
consequence of real belief in God. Never a shorter line can bind our
planet with the centre of the Universe than the line going through
Christ. It is the shortest way, as a straight line is the shortest
distance between two geometrical points.
Slavery means obligatory service; freedom ought to mean willing service.
Only a man or a nation educated for willing service to their neighbours
is a really free man or free nation. All other theories of freedom are
illusions. Freedom asking for rights and not for willing service means
an endless quarrel crowning with unhappiness all its champions. Neither
Pericles' republic nor Octavian's monarchy were the States of happiness,
but St Paul's pan-human state, with a single Magna Charta of willing
service, will be a State of Universal Happiness.
Every man is a battlefield of many unclean spirits, very bold in the
absence of Christ and very shy in His Presence. O how many of these
spirits that find an easy habitation in us would make even the swine to
rage and run down the steep place--into the sea!
The conception that the mentality of Machiavelli and Metternich,
Bismarck and Beaconsfield could be taken as a basis of politics, whereas
Christ's mentality could not, is the conception even of many
theologians. Yet Christ survives all these politicians as an undying
power, just because He is the fittest of all of them.
What an obscure philosophy it is which teaches that Moses and Mohamed
had some thing to do with politics and Christ has not!
Carlyle and Emerson were over-anxious to recommend every great man as a
leader of mankind more than Christ. It is the same as to say: men! take
candles and lamps to light your way in darkness, but be aware of the
sun. How quite different are Dostoievsky and Tolstoi!
I looked at men in prayer and I thought: Behold, the fallen angels! I
looked again at them in hateful quarrel and I thought: Behold, the risen
Animals are cruel but not vulgar. Yet both in cruelty and vulgarity man
is on record. If forced to chose one of two evils, we should prefer to
look at cruelty rather than vulgarity.
All our to-days are spoiled by reminiscences about yesterday and sorrows
about tomorrow. Thus we are disindividualising and emptying all our
"to-days" and degrading them to a misty meeting-place of yesterday and
From the physical point of view the greatest thing in this life is its
mystery. From the moral point of view the greatest thing in man is the
optimistic interpretation of that mystery. There is no reasonable
optimism outside of Christianity.
No man could be a tyrant unless he were a slave of some moral defects.
No nation could tyrannise over another nation unless it were tyrannised
over itself by some illusions.
Nobody in the world is free but he who feels himself to be a prisoner of
Christ. The greatest champion of freedom in human history called
himself: "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ."
THE WISDOM OF THE CHURCH SOPHIA
The most magnificent sanctuary of the Eastern Churches is called St
Sophia (Holy Wisdom), whereas the most magnificent sanctuaries of the
Western Churches are called St Peter's, St Paul's, or St John's, etc. As
every hair on our head and every line on the palm of our hand has a
certain significance, so these dedications of the Church have doubtless
certain significance. And this significance is typical of the religion
of the East and the West. Western Christianity, grown upon the soil of a
youthful individualism, preferred this or that apostle's personality and
dedicated their best temples to him. The aged East, tired of
individualistic ambitions, tired of great men, flagellated by the
phantom of human greatness, was thirsty for something higher and more
solid than any human personality. Adoration of great personalities being
the very wisdom of this world, the East stretched its hands to a
superhuman ideal, to the Holy Wisdom. It is a psychological fact that
youth sees his ideal in personal greatness, progressed age in holiness.
The East asked for something more eternal than Peter, Paul or John.
There is wisdom, and there is holy wisdom. Philosophical or personal
wisdom existed from the beginning of mankind, but Holy Wisdom entered
the world with Jesus Christ. Christ was the embodiment of God's wisdom,
the very incarnation of Holy Wisdom. This Wisdom stands above all human
wisdom and revives and illuminates it. Holy Wisdom includes the
essential wisdom of Peter, Paul, John, and any other apostle or seer, or
any other thing or creature, as the ocean includes the water of many
rivers. In the darkest times of dissension, uncertainty or suffering,
the Christian East did not rely so much upon the great apostles, either
Peter, or Paul, or John, but looked beyond time and space to the Eternal
Christ, The Logos of God, and asked for Light. And it looked to Eternity
through this church in Constantinople, St Sophia, as the all-embracing
and all-reconciling, holy symbol. Whenever Peter, or Paul, or John, or
any other apostle, or prophet, became the ground upon which the
believers quarrelled, it was in the Holy Wisdom that they sought refuge
and healing from their intellectual one-sidedness and ill-will.
Yet if Holy Wisdom has only in the East a magnificent visible symbol,
Holy Wisdom is none the less the very foundation, substance and aim of
the Western Church as well as of the Eastern, yea of the one, holy
Catholic Church. For Christianity had been destined neither for the East
alone nor for the West alone, but for the whole globe. And what means
the so-much abused word Catholic if not inclusiveness? Even such is,
too, the meaning of the Divine wisdom as revealed in Christianity from
I will try to show this inclusive wisdom of the Church, revealed from
the beginning, Firstly in the Church's Founder, Secondly in the Church's
organisation, and Thirdly in the Church's destination.
THE INCLUSIVE WISDOM OF THE CHURCH'S FOUNDER
By His birth He included and bound together the lowest and the highest,
the natural and the supernatural: stable, manger, straw, sheep and
shepherds on the one hand; stars, angels, magi and Davidic royal origin
on the other.
By His life He included the austerity of the Indian monks, of John the
Baptist and the Nazarenes on the one hand; and on the other the
Confucian moderate feasting, in the houses of friends, at the marriage
feast and on other solemn occasions.
His life-drama was interwoven into the lives of all classes of people:
men, women and children, Judaists and heathen, King Herod and the
proconsul Pilate, priests and soldiers, merchants and beggars, learned
sophists and ignorant fools, the sick and the healthy, the righteous and
the sinful, Jews and Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and all others who
could be met in Palestine, the very market of races and creeds.
He was by no means a party man like the Pharisees and the doctors of
law. He called both the Pharisees and their enemies to follow Him. He
went to the temple to pray, but He also prayed alone in the desert. He
kept the Sabbath and He broke the Sabbath by healing the sick and doing
good on this sacred day. He came not to destroy the Law, but He brought
something which was higher than the Law and even included the law
itself, i.e. love and mercy.
He rebuked people who used to pray and say. "Lord, Lord!" And yet He
prayed very often Himself. He rebuked those who were fasting, and yet He
used to fast Himself. What He really looked for was neither prayer nor
fasting, but the spirit in which one prayed or fasted.
He commanded the people to give to Caesar things which were Caesar's,
and to God that which was God's. He did not criticise this or that form
of government, nor did He accentuate Monarchism, Republicanism, or
Socialism as one form preferable to another. Under His scheme all forms
of government were included as equally good or evil according to what
place they reserved for God, what gifts they duly gave to God, and by
what spirit they were inspired.
He followed the customs of His nation, and did not break them or evade
them purposely. He took food according to the Law, and washed hands
according to the Law, and went to the Holy City and took part in worship
in the temple (though He was "greater than the temple"), according to
the Law. It seems that He excluded no form of worship or social life,
though He despised the unclean and petty spirit with which the
hypocrites filled these forms. And when it came to a dispute He, the
Messenger of a new spirit, naturally tried to save rather the pure
spirit even without a form than a form filled with an impure spirit.
Therefore He felt bound to say: "Not that which goeth into the mouth
defileth a man," or "to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man," or
"thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet," etc.
Even so, too, He embraced all nationalities and races. Nothing was for
Him unclean that God had created, nothing but unclean spirits. When the
Roman centurion asked help from Him, He gave it. And when the people
beyond the Israelitish boundaries, from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon,
cried after Him, He did not listen to the exclusivistic warnings of His
disciples, but He distributed even there His divine mercy. He was
mindful even of the people of Nineveh. And when He sent His disciples,
He sent them to "all nations."
Finally, He included the natural and the supernatural. He talked with
spirits. He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. He stood amongst
Peter, John and James on one side, and Moses and Elias on the other. All
the people saw lilies in the field and sparrows upon the roof, but He
saw more, He saw how, His Father clothed the lilies and how He fed the
sparrows. He united the natural and the supernatural in His teaching.
"Love those who love thee" was a natural teaching. But He added: "and
those who hate and persecute thee," which was supernatural.
"Give to them who give to thee" was a natural teaching. But He added:
"and to them who do not give to the", which was supernatural.
"Bless those who bless thee." But He added: "and those who curse thee,"
which was supernatural.
And He united the natural and supernatural in His death. He suffered and
died in agony. He rose from the dead, descended to Hell and ascended to
Heaven. For Him there was as little boundary between heaven and earth,
between nature and supernature, as between Israel and Canaan, or as
between man and man, or form and form.
His wisdom was inclusive from the beginning to the end. What did He ever
exclude--save unclean spirits? His disciples were as exclusive as
anybody could be, exclusive when judging and acting according to natural
wisdom. But when they looked at Him, they were reconciled. He was the
Holy Wisdom, in which everyone could find a mansion for himself, every
disciple, every nation, every form of worship, everything--but the
THE INCLUSIVE WISDOM IN THE CHURCH'S ORGANISATION
Let us look now to the Christian Church in the early time of her
Jesus Christ gave the largest possible scheme on which to work and the
largest foundation to build upon. There is no other name in history upon
which more has been constructed than upon His name. The primitive Church
realised it from the beginning, and declared it. She was inclusive from
the first, inclusive in her teaching and worship.
(a) Inclusive in Teaching.--Christ was put in the centre of the world's
history. He represented what was the best and highest in Eastern and
Western thought. The dream of Messias was the best and highest in the
Jewish conception. Well, Jesus was the Messias.
The expectation of a second Adam, the redeemer of the first, sinful
Adam, was common among the peoples in Palestine and Mesopotamia. Well,
Jesus was the second Adam, the expected Redeemer, God's Messenger.
Egypt had an intuition into the mystery of the Divinity as a Trinity.
However rough may have been that idea, the Trinity being thought of as a
human family of Father, Mother, and Son, still it existed very vividly
in Egypt. And the people expected the coming of God's only Son, the
third person of their Trinity, not an imaginary being like Horus, but
the real son of Osiris in flesh and blood who would bring happiness to
men. Well, Jesus of Nazareth was this Son of God, and He as Christ was
the eternal sharer of the Divine Trinity.
India was the cradle of the teaching of the Incarnation. The supreme
God, Brahma, had already been incarnated in many persons since the dawn
of history. But the highest incarnation of Him was still to come. Well,
Jesus Christ was this highest incarnation of Brahma in human shape.
The cultivated polytheists did not like the idea of a monotonous
theology of one solitary God. They liked rather a divine company upon
Olympus. Well, Christianity with its Trinity-teaching presented to them
a limited polytheism. God was not physically one, as in Judaism, nor
many, as in Hellenism. He was a Trinitarian Plurality in Unity. He was
not a grim hermit, but He had the riches of an eternal life.
The intellectual Greeks and Hellenists climbed to the idea of one God
and of Logos, the Mediator between God and the world, through whom God
created whatever He created, and who may be incarnated for the salvation
of the fallen, suffering creation. Well, Jesus Christ could include in
His person this wonderful doctrine of Neoplatonism.
The mountainous Asia under Caucasus and Ararat, plunged into the mystery
of Mithras, which was born out of the Zoroastrian dualistic religion of
light and darkness, of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Well now, Christ, the friend
of humanity, revealed Himself as the God of light struggling against
Satan, the enemy of humanity.
Rome, politically ruling the world, was longing for a sacred King, for a
Prince of Peace, who should come from the East and bring to the people
some higher and truer happiness than that deceiving chimera of political
bigness. Well, Christ should be this universal, sacred King, this Prince
of Peace, and Messenger of a durable happiness. It is not true that
Christ had His prophets among the people of Israel only. His prophets
existed in every race and every religion and philosophy of old. That is
the reason why the whole world could claim Christ, and how He can be
preached to everybody and accepted by everybody. Behold, He was at home
(b) Inclusive in Worship.--Inclusive in doctrine, the primitive Church
was wisely inclusive in worship too. It would be nonsense to speak of
Christian worship as of something quite new and surprising. There was
very little new and very little surprising in it indeed; almost nothing.
The first Church met for prayer in the Jewish temple. Wherever the
apostles came to preach the new Gospel they went to the old places of
prayer, to the temples of Jehovah. Their Christian spirit did not revolt
against the old forms of worship. Later on the naked Christian spirit
needed to be clothed, and it was clothed. But when Israel looked to
Christian worship they recognised much--forms, signs, vestments and
administration--to be like their own. And not only Israel, but even
Egypt, India, Babylon and Persia, Greece and Rome, yea, the Pagans of
North and South. If Nature could speak, it could say how much it lent of
its own to Christian worship.
A student of ancient history one day asked me: "How can I recognise the
Christian religion as the best of all, when I know how much it borrowed
from the ancient religious forms of worship? How poor it looks without
I said: "Just this wonderful power of embracing and assimilating gives
evidence of the vitality and universality of Christianity. It is too
large in spirit to be clothed by one nation or one race only. It is too
rich in spirit and destination to be expressed by one tongue, by one
sign, or one symbol, or one form. In the same sense as Christian
doctrine was prepared and prophesied by the religions and the
philosophies before Christ, in the same sense Christian worship was
prepared and prophesied as well. Whenever the Christian spirit is strong
the Church is not afraid of worship being strange, and ample, and even
grotesque. The weaker the Christian spirit, the greater exclusiveness in
worship. Some people say: It is wicked to use pagan architecture for the
Church, and incense and fire, and music, or dance, or bowing, or
kneeling, or signs and symbols, in Christian worship, because it is
pagan." Yes, all this is pagan indeed, but it is Christian too if we
wish it to be. The Latin language was pagan, but now it is Christian
too. The English language was a vehicle of Paganism as well, now it is a
vehicle of Christianity. The human body was itself pagan too, but the
Eternal Christ, God's Holy Wisdom, entered it and filled it with a new
spirit, and it ceased to be pagan. We in the East sometimes use for our
sacerdotal vestments Chinese silk made by pagan hands in China, or
chalices and spoons and little bells and chains made by the Moslems, or
precious stones gathered and scents prepared by the fire or
stone-worshippers of Africa, and no one of us should be afraid to use
them when worshipping Christ, as Christ Himself was not afraid to touch
the most wretched human bodies or souls with His pure hands.
Christianity cannot be defiled, using for its worship the works of pagan
hands, but pagan people are hereby taking a share in Christian worship,
physically and unconsciously, waiting for the moment when they will
share in it spiritually and consciously as well. Every piece of Chinese
silk in our vestments is a prophecy of the great Christian China. But
this belongs to the following paragraph.
THE INCLUSIVE WISDOM IN THE CHURCH'S DESTINATION
Judaism was destined for the people of Israel only. The Christian Church
was destined for the people of Israel too, but not for them only. She
included Greeks as well.
The Greek polytheism of Olympus was destined for the Hellenic race only.
The Christian Church was destined for the Hellenic race too, but not for
it only. She included Indians as well.
Buddha's wisdom was offered to the monks and vegetarians. Monks and
vegetarians the Christian Church included in her lap, but also married
and social people too.
Pythagoras founded a religious society of intellectual aristocrats. The
Christian Church from the beginning included intellectual aristocrats
side by side with the ignorant and unlettered.
The Persian prophet, Zoroaster, recruited soldiers of the god of light
among the best men to fight against the god of darkness. His religious
institution was like a military barracks. The Christian Church included
both the best and the worst, the righteous and the sinners, the healthy
and the sick. It was a barracks and a hospital at the same time. It was
an institution both for spiritual fighting and spiritual healing.
The Chinese sage, Confucius, preached a wonderful ethical pragmatism,
and the profound thinker, Lao-Tse, preached an all-embracing
spiritualism. Christian wisdom included both of them, opening Heaven for
the first and showing the dramatic importance of the physical world for
the second. Islam--yes, Islam had in some sense a Christian ambition: to
win the whole world. The difference was: Islam wished world-conquest;
the Church, the world's salvation. Islam intended to subdue all men and
bring them before God as His servants: The Church intended to educate
all men, to purify and elevate them, and to bring them before God as His
And all others: star-worshippers, and fire, and wood, and water, and
stone, and animal-worshippers had a touching sense of the immediate
divine presence in nature. The Church came not to extinguish this sense
but to explain and to subordinate it; to put God in the place of demons
and hope instead of fear.
The Church came not to destroy, but to purify, to aid and to assimilate.
The destination of the Church was neither national nor racial, but
cosmic. No exclusive power was ever destined to be a world-power. The
ultimate failure of Islam to become a world-power lies in its
exclusiveness. It was with religion as with politics. Every exclusive
policy is foredoomed to failure: the German as well as the Turkish and
the Napoleonic. The policy of the Church was designed by her Divine
Founder: "He that is not against us is for us." Well, there is no human
race on earth wholly against Christ and wholly unprepared to receive
Him. The wisdom of the Christian missionaries therefore is to see first
in what ways Providence has prepared a soil for Christian seed; to see
which of the Christian elements a race, or a religion, already
possesses, and how to utilise these elements and weld them into
Christianity. All that--in order to make Christianity grow organically,
instead of pushing it mechanically.
In conclusion let me repeat again: the wisdom of the Church has been
inclusive. Inclusive was the wisdom of her Founder, inclusive the wisdom
of her organisation and of her destination. Exclusiveness was the very
sickness and weakness of the Church. That is why we in the East in the
time of sickness of the Church looked neither towards Peter, nor Paul,
nor John, but towards the Holy Wisdom, the all-healing and
all-illuminating. For St Sophia in Constantinople, the temple dedicated
to Christ the Eternal, includes in itself the sanctuaries of Peter, Paul
and John; moreover, it is supported even by some pillars of Diana's
temple from Ephesus and has many other things, in style or material,
which belonged to the Paganism of old. Indeed, St Sophia has room and
heart even for Islam. The Mohamedans have been praising it as the best
of their sanctuaries!
I speak thus to you because I am sure you will not misunderstand me. And
because I know you, the British, to be a race of the world-wide spirit,
I dare to make this appeal to you.
Look to the Holy Wisdom! Look beyond Peter, and Paul, and John--through
them and still beyond them! Every Church has her prophet, her apostle,
her angel. Look now over them all to the very top of the pyramid, where
all the lines meet!
Either Christianity is one, or there is no Christianity. Either the
Church is universal, or there is no Church.
There lived once upon a time twelve men as different as any twelve men
could be. And the Holy Wisdom united all of them into one spiritual
body. Such was the first Church of the twelve, and such ought to be the
last Church of the milliards: different in all her parts, but cemented
by the Holy Wisdom into one glorious building. Christ, God's Holy
Wisdom, includes all of us, why should we exclude each other? He was
sent for the salvation of China and Japan and India as well as for that
of the Jews and Greeks. Well, let us quarrel no more about the
"circumcision" while a milliard of human beings are still waiting to
hear for the first time the name of Jesus Christ--yea, for the first
time after two thousand years! Let the present time be the new Pentecost
for us all. I speak to you, the British: don't look around you and wait;
it is yours to start. All the peoples of earth are looking towards you
and listening to you. Don't be too shy to start.
To start what? To start a revival of the primitive wisdom of the Church,
i.e. to confess and declare:
That Christianity in its integrity is one and indivisible;
That Christianity is not a precious stone preserved in a box called the
Church of England, or the Church of the East, or Rome, but that it is
the common good of mankind, destined for all continents and all races;
That there is no constituent of the present European civilisation, but
the Christian religion, which could stop the brutal struggle among men,
in one form or another, and guarantee a Godlike peace profitable for
the whole of mankind.
All of us, small or great nations, are now looking to you with respect,
not only for the victory over a revived anachronical Paganism in Central
Europe, but also for a formulation of the new ideal, of saving power for
Great is our expectation indeed, but it is justified by your gifts,
given to you by Providence. Therefore let your hearts be larger than
your Empire and your national Church, and the respect of mankind towards
you will be warmed by love. Surely there can not be built a greater
Empire than yours, humanly speaking. The only greater Empire than yours
will be Christ's Empire. And if you are longing for something greater
than your present possession, you are indeed longing for this universal,
pan-human Empire of Christ. Otherwise you would be sticking either at a
stagnancy or at something impossible. Both would be unwise: nature
tolerates no stagnancy and punishes experiments with the impossible.
But who am I to teach you? "A reed (from the wilderness) shaken with the
wind"? Not I but the present despair of the world teaches you. I am only
a loud amongst many suffocated cries from West and East, from North and
South, directed to you: lift up your hearts and listen! God is now doing
a great thing through you, and the whole world is expecting a great
thing from you. What is this great thing? How to reach it? Pray and
listen! One thing only is sure, that this great thing will come neither
from any Foreign Office nor from any War Office, but from the living
Christian Church. Yes, she is still living, although she looks dead. She
is only sleeping. But Christ is standing beside her now, calling: "Rise,
ye daughter! Talitha Cumi!"
THE DRAMA OF THE CHURCH
The Church is a drama. She represents the greatest drama in the world's
history, yea, she personates the whole of the world's history. She
originated in an astounding personal drama. Humanly speaking, in the
life of Jesus Christ during the three years of His public work there was
more that was dramatic, from an outside and inside point of view, than
in the lives of all other founders of religion taken together. And
speaking from a soteriological and theological point of view, His
life-drama had a cosmic greatness, involving heaven and earth and both
ends of the world's history. Wonderful was the life of Buddha, but his
teaching was still more wonderful than his life. Very striking was the
life of Mohammed, the life of a pious and romantic statesman, but his
work quickly overgrew his personality. Five years after Mohammed's
death, Islam numbered more followers than Christianity five hundred
years after Golgotha. But the life-drama of Jesus was and still is
reckoned as the most marvellous aspect of Christianity: not His teaching
or His work, but His life.
Well, was not His life-drama typical and prophetic for His Church? His
Church had to live through all those agonies, external and internal,
that He Himself lived through. She had to go through sunshine and
darkness, through angelic concerts and devilish temptations, through
death and resurrection. In one word, she had to live His life, again and
again, treading sometimes quickly, sometimes reluctantly, her path,
always asking for light and comfort from her visions of Him. I say the
visions of Him, because those visions were omnipotent, including in
themselves words and works.
There is an impressive picture now circulating in London of an English
soldier lying wounded in agony on the battlefield. Well, what would a
Buddhistic painter put as a simile of consolation for the man in agony?
What else if not a Buddha's sentence or word? And what would a
Mohammedan painter put on the picture to console the expiring soldier if
not also a sentence or word from the Koran or an imaginative view of the
Paradise which is waiting for him? And you know what a Christian painter
depicted--the vision of the Crucified! the soldier lying beneath this
vision grasping with his hand Jesus' bleeding feet; this vision of the
Crucified is greater than any sentence, any word, yea, it includes all
the words of sympathy and of consolation. On another occasion the
Christian painter would paint another appropriate vision, and a painter
of another religion or philosophy would write another appropriate word.
Therefore, it is difficult to learn the Christian religion without
pictures, or to teach it without visions.
THE DRAMATIC FORMATION OF THE CHURCH
It was a quarrel, as usual, among men about God and bread, when Jesus
interrupted them. Peter never thought to fish anything else all his life
but fishes, nor Pilate to sentence to death anyone but criminals, nor
the Jewish patriots that they were losing their greatest opportunity,
nor the heathen of Britannia that they were contemporaries with the very
God in flesh of their posterity. How many times did it happen that Jesus
during the first thirty years of His life was present in the temple when
a Rabbi read the prophetic passages on the Messiah! Reading the
Scriptures the poor Rabbi measured the distance between himself and the
Messiah by thousands of years, and 10--the Messiah in person was
listening to his reading!
All the controversies in the synagogues and in the streets of Jerusalem
were merely repeated platitudes, when a man appeared in Galilee, who
claimed the highest authority and showed the greatest humility at the
same time. The Law was the highest authority for the Jews, and the
Emperor of Rome the highest authority for Pilate. But Jesus declared
himself to be the bearer of an authority which was incomparably higher
than any authority existing on earth. He did not beg either Andrew or
Peter or John and James, to follow Him; He commanded them: "Follow Me!"
Speaking with authority He gained the confidence of His first followers,
and showing humility He also gamed their love. Authority and
humility--two qualities which not often were united in the character of
the church-leaders, a good reason why many of them were feared and many
others pitied, instead of being respected and loved as Jesus was
respected and loved by the first Church. For fear and pity are the
degenerate forms of respect and love.
What we call the first Church represented in reality the smallest Church
in number as well as in time and space, but the richest in its dramatic
changes and conflicts.
Some few fishermen were called by Christ, and this call meant real
baptism for them. He let Himself be baptised but He did not baptise His
disciples otherwise than by His personal calling to them to follow Him;
Pentecost was their "confirmation." The history of the first Church
comprised a time not of some hundred years but of some hundred days.
When Andrew and Peter followed Jesus the formation of the Church
started. There were already two gathered in His name and conducted by
Him in person. As a matter of fact, they followed Jesus at first merely
with their eyes and feet, but with their hearts they still followed
Moses and the Law. The Twelve Disciples were at first nothing more than
twelve insignificant grains of sand placed upon a big rocky foundation
of a palace, which had to be built. Only after their confirmation by the
Holy Spirit did they become the real pillars of the palace. They were
uncertain about their Master and everything He said, and they quarrelled
about many things. I think they represented through their differences
not one church but twelve churches, but by their common respect and love
for their Master they represented one Church only. What a prophetic
image of the Church of Christ, say, after nineteen hundred years!
Now as long as the living Jesus was with the first Church she was all
right. His life was the source of her life; His authority and power
meant her existence and unity. But when the Shepherd was smitten the
sheep were scattered. When the followers of Christ saw Him powerless and
dead they denied Him and fell back to their natural instinct of
self-defence, and the first Church died with the death of Christ. It was
like the green corn in the field smitten by a flail to the very root.
The owner of the corn walks in the field and looks with despair on his
perished corn. But it happens often that after a few days the field
begins under the sunshine to flourish anew, and the corn grows
beautifully and brings forth plenty of fruit.
Mary of Magdala and the other Mary brought this first sunshine over the
smitten corn. "He is alive!" This was the tidings of the women on the
second morning after His death. This tidings about the living Lord Jesus
con-verted Peter and the other disciples again to Christianity. "He is
alive"--that was the greatest word ever uttered by any human tongue
since the Church was founded. Yea, through this very word the drooping
Church was brought again to life. Whatever utterances Peter made during
Christ's life were as dead as stone compared with Mary Magdalene's
tidings of the living Lord after the catastrophe of His death. The
beautiful and true words: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living
God," had no meaning whatever for the future of Christianity in
comparison with the certainty that the dead Christ had risen, i.e. that
He was Lord even over death. Therefore if I could be convinced that a
grain of good as small as the mustardseed should result from the strange
quarrels about the primacy of this or that Church--or this or that
bishop--I would be very sorry that there did not exist a Church founded
upon the memory of Mary Magdalene. For Mary Magdalene, and not St Peter,
expressed the first the absolutely decisive revelation, churchmaking and
world-changing. "He is alive" was this decisive revelation.
Pentecost was the crown of the first Church and meant her victory over
all her internal conflicts and her final armament for the coming
dramatic struggle in the world. The Church, which kept herself after
Golgotha on the defensive, inwardly against doubt and fear, outwardly
against the regardless persecution of men, now, after Pentecost,
undertook again her offensive against all her enemies, and became again
the Church militant as she was before Golgotha when the Lord led her in
person. This is the second Church, to which also we all belong.
Historically, this Church is the second, but organically and
dogmatically she is absolutely one with the first Church. Let us see now
THE EXTERNAL CONFLICTS OF THE MILITANT CHURCH
For the quantity and quality of the conflicts are the conditions of the
dramatic life of a person as well as of a society. Well, the Christian
Church had plenty of the most extraordinary conflicts, external and
internal. Among the gravest external conflicts I reckon her conflicts
with Patriotism and Imperialism.
The first Christians were persecuted most fiercely by the exclusive
Jewish patriots, as all good Christians always have been persecuted by
exclusive patriots. For it is an essential characteristic of a true
Christian not to be an exclusive patriot, exalting his own nation and
despising all others. Oppression and suffering are the best soil for a
too excited Patriotism. Such a soil was Israel in the time of Christ and
the first Church. All parties were united against Christ and His
followers upon national and patriotic grounds; the Pharisees, the
Scribes, the Sadducees and the ignorant people, believers and
sceptics--they all accused Christ of "perverting the nation." They
accused St Paul of the same crime. Yet St Paul it was who dealt with the
question of Jewish Patriotism very courageously and minutely.
Patriotism is a natural quality, but Christianity is supernatural.
Patriotism is a provincial truth, but Christianity is a pan-human truth.
Patriotism means love of one's country or one's generation, Christianity
means love of all countries and all generations. Christianity includes a
sound and true Patriotism, but excludes untrue and exaggerated
Patriotism as it excludes every untrue thought and feeling. Of course an
exalted Patriotism in a frame of hatred all around excludes the
Christian religion and is its most dangerous enemy. St Paul, who
remained a true patriot till the end of his life, thought, as we all
shall think, that Christianity never can damage the just cause of a
country, but, on the contrary, it gives to a patriotic cause a universal
nimbus and importance, putting it direct before the Eternal Judge, and
liberating it from small anxieties, little faith and unworthy actions.
He who is numbering every day our hair, and feeding the sparrows, and
clothing the grass in the field--He is a greater warrant for our
patriotic justice than any of our exaggerated calculations and
sentiment about our country and our nation. Alas, no European nation has
right to blame the Jews because of their persecution of Christianity in
the name of their Patriotism. There exists no country in Europe which
has not at some time in the name of a false Patriotism either directly
persecuted or abased the Church, or at least subordinated her to the
cause of the country or put her in the service of its local and temporal
cause. The purest Christianity in the nineteenth century had a struggle
against patriotic and nationalistic exclusiveness not much less dramatic
than the primitive Church, struggling in Judasa against Judaism and in
Greece against Hellenism. The national hero-saints were exalted in
Europe over the merely Christian saints: in France, Jeanne d'Arc; in
Russia, Serge of Radonez; in Germany, Luther; among the Serbs, St Savva,
and St Peter of Cettinje.
Another enemy of the Church from the beginning was Imperialism. First of
all Roman Imperialism. Christ's second "crime," for which He was brought
before Pilate, was His disregard of Caesar. And Caesar was the symbol of
the Roman world-dominion. Therefore, one Caesar after the other did
their best to exterminate this dangerous Christian sect. Therefore,
among hundreds of religions only Christianity practically was prohibited
in the Roman Empire, as a religio illicita. No wonder! All other
religions which swarmed in Rome were tolerated as naive curiosities by
the people who had lost their own religion. But Christianity was marked
as an enemy from the first. Not only a corrupted Caesar, like Nero,
persecuted the Church, but the wise ones like Trajan and Diocletian, and
the wisest, like Marcus Aurelius. There were plenty of pretexts to
excite the public mind: burnings, earthquakes, diseases, etc. It was
Trajan who prohibited by an edict the Christian secret clubs, Hetoerias,
as dangerous to the State. And it was the philosopher Marcus Aurelius
who sentenced to death the Christian philosopher, Justin, on
Rome was armed to the teeth and the Church had no arms at all except an
ardent belief and the inspired word. Rome drew the sword against the
unarmed Christians, and the Christians armed only with Jesus Christ, and
with empty hands, took the challenge. The enemies knew each other from
the beginning. Rome's conviction was: better to lose the soul than the
Empire; and the Christians' was: better to save the soul than to get an
Empire. The Roman persecutors were every day sure of their victory,
slaughtering defenceless men and women, or throwing them ad bestias,
whereas the martyrs saw their victory as a distant vision, and still
rejoiced. "The prison was like a palace to me," exclaimed St Perpetua.
And Saturus, another martyr, spoke to his executors: "Mark our faces
well, that you may know us again in the day of judgment." Such was the
spirit of the primitive Church in her duel with pagan Imperialism.
Islam was another kind of Imperialism against which the Church fought.
If the Roman Imperialism was cool, calculating, without any fanaticism,
Islam was a unique form of religious, fanatical Imperialism, having in
view world-conquest and world-dominion, like Rome and yet unlike Rome.
Here the Church fought with the sword against the sword. Before the
definite fall of the Roman Empire the crusades of Christianity against
Islam began, and it has not been finished until this day. Very dramatic
was this struggle in Palestine, under Western crusaders, in Spain and
Russia. But I think the most dramatic act of this dramatic conflict
happened in the Balkans, especially in Serbia, during the last five
The conflict with Islamic Imperialism was not yet at an end when a
French, and English, and Russian, and German Imperialism were
formulated. We may call it by one name, European Imperialism, although
every species of it is different. What was the Church's attitude towards
the European imperialistic formulae? Did she agree with them? Or did she
oppose and protest as she did against Rome and the Crescent? No, she
neither agreed nor disagreed as a whole, but partially she agreed or
disagreed. Yet the true Church of Christ reserves the world-dominion
only for Christianity in its most spiritual and perfect form and
excludes every other dominion of man over men. The present cataclysm of
Europe may show the world that no earthly king is destined for dominion
over our planet, but Christ, the Heavenly King of souls.
THE INTERNAL CONFLICTS OF THE CHURCH
Dramatic was the external course of Church history, fighting against
exclusive Patriotism and Imperialism, dramatic too, her internal
struggles for a true doctrine and an ethical ideal.
1. The Struggle for a True Doctrine.--The central problem for the living
Church has always been: Who was Jesus? and how to worship Him? The
restless spirit of humanity endeavoured to define the details both in
His relation to God and to the world. The Church did not define her
doctrine in advance, but bit by bit, pragmatically, according to the
questions and doubts raised in the Christian communities. The refused
solutions of a raised question were called heresy, the adopted solution
by the Church was called orthodoxy. No heresy came merely as an abstract
theory, but every one was a dramatic movement, an organisation, a camp,
a deed--and not merely a word. That made the struggle against it more
difficult. Docetism, Nicolaism, Gnosticism, Chiliasm, Manichaism,
Monatism, Monarchism, Monophysitism, Monotheletism, Arianism,
Nestorianism--every one of these terms means both a theory and a drama.
The Church had to correct the opinion of the heretics for herself, and
to fight against them for themselves.
The doctrine of the Church was regarded by the heretics as incorrect or
insufficient, and by outsiders as wicked. Celsus, an Epicurean writer,
despised the Christian doctrine as of "barbarous origin." The people of
Smyrna being aroused against the Christians and their bishop, Polycarp,
cried: "Away with the Atheists!" the heathen misunderstood the Church
doctrine and called the Christians atheists, as Montanus, a Christian
heretic, misunderstood the Church doctrine and regarded Jesus only as
his own Percursor and himself as an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. But
the Church did not care either for the pressure from without or from
within, she went on her way cheerfully, struggling and believing,
showing to the world her saints and martyrs as her argument and Christ
as the guarantee of her ultimate victory.
The Church had also a dramatic struggle with the philosophers. She
rather was inclusive concerning the different opposed systems. John of
Damascus based his theology upon Aristotle, like Thomas Aquinas, and
Gregory of Nyssa based his own upon Plato, as the Scottish School did in
the nineteenth century. Pantheism and Deism were both against the
Church. Pantheism thought God immanent, Deism thought God transcendent.
The Church had already in its creeds the true parts of both of these
systems. She taught that God is by His essence transcendent to this
world, which is His image, but immanent in the world pragmatically, or
dramatically, i.e. visiting this world and acting in this world.
Materialism and spiritualism excluded each other, but both held the
Church in contempt as a "rough philosophy for the people." Yet the
Church included the true parts for both, not by asserting anything about
the atoms but by recognising two different worlds, the world of bodies
and the world of spirits, in a dramatic union in this transitory
In the same way the Church cut off the extremities and one-sidedness in
empiricism and supernaturalism, in rationalism and mysticism, in
optimism and pessimism. All these systems represented the human effort
to solve the riddle of our life without taking any notice of the Church
and her wisdom. And all failed to become the universally accepted truth,
but all of them helped the Church unconsciously to her own orientation
and strength. The Church collided with any extreme philosophy. Her
wisdom was broad as life, simple as life on the one hand, and manifold
as life on the other; mystical as the starry night and pragmatic as a
2. The Struggle for an Ethical Ideal.--The primitive Church was "of one
heart and of one soul," or, in the words of a very early document, it
was among the Christians: "A life in the flesh but not according to the
flesh" (Epist. ad Diognet.). But the restless human spirit soon dug out
difficult questions and conflicts concerning the ethical life of the
Church members. Of course the Lord Himself was the supreme moral ideal,
but men felt themselves to be too small and too narrow to grasp this
ideal both in its purity and its broadness and inclusiveness. Therefore
we see not only in the primitive Church but throughout Church history
extreme and exclusive propositions to solve the problem. For instance,
asceticism with celibacy and flight from the world was regarded by some
people in the primitive Church as the highest ideal of morality. The
deserts were populated with the ascetics. The same ideal has been
strongly accentuated in Russia even in the nineteenth century. On the
other hand, chastity has been preferred as an ideal by many others.
Another problem was: what were more salvatory, faith or works? Or
another: whether we are saved or condemned by God's predestination or by
our free will (libertarian, arbitrarian, Augustinianism, and
Pelagianism; Jansenism and Ultramontanism)? Or another: in our moral
perfection how much is God's grace operating and how much our human
collaboration? Or another: what part worship plays in our salvation (the
problem known in theology as opus operatum)? Or another: what should be
the normal relation of the Church and State, the Church and social life,
the Church and education, the Church and the manifold needs and
tribulations of mankind?
All these problems, and many others here unmentioned, moved every part
of the Christian Church in the East and West. Your Church history too is
full of a moving and dramatic struggle for light in all these problems,
from the day when the first Roman missionaries brought the new Gospel to
your country up to our days.
The Church, inclusive in wisdom, has had the most dramatic history in
the world. Struggling against Patriotism, she pleaded for humanity; and
struggling against Imperialism, she pleaded for spirituality. And again:
struggling against heretics, she pleaded for unity, and struggling
against worldly philosophers, she pleaded for a sacred and pragmatic
wisdom. She looked sometimes defeated and on her knees before her
enemies, but she rose again and again like the phoenix from its ashes.
In her dramatic struggle through the world and against the world the
internal voice of her Founder comforted and inspired her. The harder
struggles she fought the louder was the comforting and inspiring voice.
The more comfortable she made herself in this world, the less was His
magic voice heard. His life was a scheme of her life: his crucifixion
and resurrection a prophecy of her history to the world's end. Whenever
she became satisfied with herself and with the world around her she was
overshadowed and eclipsed. Whenever she feared struggle and suffering
she became sick, on the dying bed. He then stood, meek and sorrowful, at
her bed and called: Arise, my daughter!
The Church's craving for comfort is indeed her craving for death. Like a
noble knight who descends into a prison to liberate the enchained
slaves, to whom the prison is painful and liberation still more painful,
so is the Church's position in this world. But how regrettable should it
be if the noble knight accommodated himself in the prison among the
slaves and forgot the light from which he had descended and to which he
ought to return! "He is one of ourselves," the slaves will say. So might
say to-day all the worldly institutions about the Christian Church in
this valley of slavery: "She is one of ourselves." She is destined to
quicken the world end, and she is postponing it. One millennium is past,
another is near by, yet the Church does not think of the world end: she
loves this world; that is her curse. The world still exists because of
the Church's hesitation and fear. Were she not hesitating and fearing
she had been dramatically struggling and suffering, and a new heaven and
a new earth should be in sight. Why has the Church stopped being a
drama? Why is she hesitating and fearing? Doubts and comfort have
weakened the Church. The most tragical religion has climbed from
Golgotha to Olympus and is now lying there comfortably, in sunshine and
forgetfulness, while Chronos, appeased, continues to measure the time by
thousands of years, as before.
THE AGONY OF THE CHURCH
The present time should be one of self criticism. The European race now
needs this self-criticism more than any other race, and the Christian
Church needs it more than any other religion in the world, for before
this War the European race set itself up as the critic of the defects
and insufficiencies of all other races, and the Christian Church exalted
herself over all other religions "as high as the heaven is exalted over
the earth." The other races and religions thought that behind this proud
criticism of Christian Europe there must be at least a well-possessed
security for the world-peace. Of course it was an illusion. On no
continent was the peace of mankind more endangered than in Europe, the
very metropolis of Christianity and Christian civilisation. And it has
been so not only during the last few years, it has been the case during
the last thousand years, that Europe has represented a greater contrast
to peace than any other continent. During the last thousand years
history can report more wars, more bloodshed, and more criminal unrest
in Christian Europe than in the heathen countries of the Far
East--China, Japan, and India. It is a very humiliating fact, both for
the white race and for its religion, but, nevertheless, it is a fact.
This humiliating fact should rouse us in the present painful times to
the consideration of our own defects and insufficiencies. Europe is
sick, and her Church is sick too. How can a wounded man be healed unless
his wounds are unveiled? Europe's soul is sick, therefore her body is so
sorely suffering and bleeding. Well, Europe's soul is nothing else than
Europe's religion, but the religion of Europe to-day is not Europe's
guide and lord, it is Europe's most obedient servant.
THE CHURCH THE SERVANT OF PATRIOTISM AND IMPERIALISM
Patriotism and Imperialism--qualities more physical than spiritual--were
the worst enemies of the primitive Church, as I tried to show in my
previous chapters. Well, Patriotism and Imperialism have been the most
prominent qualities of modern Europe. Now compare the primitive Church
with the modern Church: the primitive Church fought most tenaciously and
heroically against the exclusive Patriotism of the Jews and against the
Imperialism of the Romans, and the modern Church serves very obediently
modern Patriotism and Imperialism! I wish I were wrong in what I am
stating now, but, alas! the facts are too obvious, both the facts of
this War, and the facts of previous peace.
Here are the facts:
When Austria mobilised against Serbia and declared War, the Church in
Austria did not protest against it, but, on the contrary, she supported
the Vienna Government with all her heart and means.
It is well known how much the Church of Germany, both the Protestant and
the Roman Catholic, unanimously and strongly supported the War policy of
the Kaiser's Government--the very policy of a blind exclusiveness and a
The Governments of Russia and Great Britain declared War against their
enemies without consulting their respective Churches, yet the Churches
of both countries have done their best to help their "country's cause."
The Churches of France, Italy, Serbia, Rumania, Belgium, and Bulgaria
have been at the disposal of the War Governments of their countries.
Now we have almost the same denominations of religion on each fighting
side (it is, however, significant that the whole Anglican Church and the
Eastern Orthodox Church are on the side of the Allies), so that we
cannot say it is a War of Protestants against Catholics, nor of the
Orthodox against the Modernists, nor of the Episcopalians against the
Presbyterians, nor even of the Christians against Mohamedans (because on
both sides we have Christians and Mohammedans). No, we cannot say that,
for it is not a War of one Church against the other, nor of one religion
against another; it is a War of Patriotism against Patriotism, of
Patriotism against Imperialism, and of Imperialism against Imperialism.
The Churches are only the tools of Patriotism or Imperialism. Not one of
the Churches has stated her standpoint as a different one from the
standpoint of its respective Government. The Churches have simply
adopted the standpoint of the Government. They seemed to have no
standpoint of their own concerning this War between nations. As if the
War were quite a surprisingly new event in history!
When the Austrian Government declared war on Serbia, the Church of
Austria adopted the standpoint of the Austrian Government as the right
one. The Serbian Church adopted the standpoint of the Serbian
Government, of course, as the right one. So it happened that the
Churches in Austria and Serbia prayed to the same God, and against each
The Church of Germany stood up against the Church of Russia because the
German Government stood up against the Russian Government. Neither could
the Church of Germany raise any protest against the warlike German
Government, nor could the Church of Russia say anything to cancel what
the Russian Government had already said. And so it happened that the
Churches of Germany and Russia prayed to the same God for each other's
The Churches of France, England, Belgium, and Italy have fully
recognised the justice of the Governments of France, Belgium, and Italy
concerning the War of those countries against other countries, whose
justice on the other hand has been fully recognised by their Churches.
And so it has happened that during the last three years the most
contradictory prayers have been sent to God in Heaven from the "One,
Holy, Catholic Church" on earth.
The Churches of the different countries adopted the standpoint of those
countries which governed them. What is the consequence if a Christian
Church adopts the standpoint of a worldly Government as the true one? It
means practically nothing else but that the said Church recognises that
standpoint as the Christian one.
Now, if the German policy is right, the German Church is right, and
consequently, the Russian Church is wrong; and, on the other hand, if
the Russian policy is right the Russian Church is right, and,
consequently, the German Church is wrong. The same, if the Serbian
Patriotism, which dictates the Serbian policy, is right, then the
Serbian Church, too, is right; and if the Austro-German Imperialism is
right, then the Austro-German Churches are right, and the Church in
Serbia wrong. Of course the same could be said for other belligerent
Churches, i.e., the justice or injustice of the Church of England
depended on the justice or injustice of the English Government, and the
same about the French, Belgian, and Italian Churches, which are
dependent on the justice or injustice of their respective Governments.
The same is true not only of the so-called established Churches, but of
the Disestablished as well. The great fact remains: no Church whatever
did protest against the War action taken by the respective Governments;
no Church whatever refused to do the War work she was asked to do, and,
finally, no Church whatever opposed her views to the views of the
Governments. In one word, no Christian Church now existing has declined
to be the very obedient servant either of Patriotism or Imperialism.
Future generations will be, I hope, more truly Christian than we have
been--they will be shocked to read in the history of the greatest and
bloodiest conflict in the world's history, that the worldly Governments,
and not the Christian Church, formulated the truth; in other words, that
the politicians and soldiers were bearers and formulators of the truth,
and that the Church was only a follower and supporter of that truth,
this truth having to wage War in consequence, i.e. the disobedience of
all God's ten Commandments--not to speak of the New Testament--which
truth must be condemned by the Church as untrue. Following to the
extreme the ideals of Patriotism and Imperialism, the Churches partially
did not shrink even from preaching War as a legal thing. The court
preacher of the Kaiser, preaching in the Domchurch at Berlin after the
Allie's refusal to enter into peace negotiations with Germany, said: "We
have spoken to our enemies (read, the enemies of German Imperialism),
and they did not listen to our words; well, let our guns talk now until
our enemies are compelled to listen to us!" That is the voice of a great
Church. Yet this voice has not remained unaccompanied with similar
warlike and unchristian voices from other great and small Churches.
THE LITTLE ISLANDS AMIDST THE OCEAN
Why did not the Church--the educator of Europe for the space of nineteen
hundred years--why did she not protest against this War?
Because she was too weak everywhere; and, even if she had protested, her
voice would not have been listened to.
But why was the Church so weak as to be silent at a most fatal moment in
history, and to have to listen to the Foreign and War Offices to know
what the truth was?
Because she was not a united, universal Church, like a lofty mountainous
continent despising all the storms of an angry ocean around. She was
weak, because she was cut in pieces and had become like an archipelago
of small islands in a stormy ocean.
The Churches were not prepared to protest, they were prepared only to
surrender to any temporal power. Therefore, they surrendered altogether,
without making any effort, to Patriotism and Imperialism.
But what led to the Churches' surrender? It was through their internal
quarrels; through their fruitless controversies and paralysing mutual
accusations and self-sufficiency.
The Eastern Church proudly insisted on her superiority over all other
Churches, because she preserved faithfully and unchangingly the most
ancient traditions of Christianity, and because she had an episcopal
decentralised system of Church administration, which has been capable of
adapting itself to all political and social situations. She reserved
perfection only for herself, and was prodigious in criticising other
Christian communities. She became an isolated island.
The Roman Church has had nothing to do with any other Church, living in
her isolation and raising higher and higher the walls which separated
her from other Churches. She has a wonderful record of missionary work
in Europe and outside; she has a minutely organised centralisation, with
an infallible autocrat at the head; and she has an enlarged dogmatic
system, larger than any other Church. She pointed out again and again
her superiority to all other Christian communities, and claimed for
herself the exclusive right to speak in the name of Jesus Christ. Thus
she became an isolated island.
The Anglican Church repudiated the papal authority. She repudiated as
well the Eastern worship of the saints and use of ikons on the one side,
and on the other she repudiated all the extremes of Protestantism in
teaching, worship and administration. She thought in that way to be the
absolutely true Christian organism, incomparably better than any other
all around. Thus the Anglican Church became an isolated island too.
The Protestants of the Continent, and of England and Scotland, thought
to save the Christian religion in its integrity by bringing it back to
its primitive simplicity. By repudiating the Pope and the Bishops, by
shortening the Christian dogmatic, and by reducing worship to a minimum,
they boasted of restoring the true Church of Christ and His Apostles.
Everything which was an addition to their simplicity was regarded by
them either as unnecessary, or even as idolatrous and false. Thus the
Presbyterian and Protestant Nonconformist Churches became isolated
But the more the morselling of Christianity went on, the more dangerous
became the raging ocean around it, so that now the Christian Archipelago
seems to be quite covered with the stormy waves. The Church, therefore,
is in an agony everywhere. Even if the Church had no responsibility upon
her shoulders for the present bloodshed in Europe, she would be in
agony, just because the whole Christian world is in agony, but much more
so because a great deal of responsibility for it must rest on her
The Christian monks of old used to castigate themselves when a great
plague came over the world. They used to consider themselves as the real
cause of the plague, and did not accuse anybody else. Well, this extreme
method ought to be used now by the Churches, for the good of mankind and
for their own good. It would be quite enough to bring the dawning of a
new day for Christianity if this self-castigation of the Churches were
only a self-criticism.
If, for instance, the Eastern Church would say: Although I have
preserved faithfully and unchangingly the most ancient traditions of
Christianity, still I have many faults and insufficiencies. I have much
to learn from the Roman Church, how to bring all my sections, all my
national and provincial branches into closer touch; and from Anglicanism
I have to learn the wonderful spirit of piety, expressed not only in old
times, but even in quite modern times through new prayers, new hymns,
new Psalms, added to the old ones; and from Protestantism I have to
learn the courage to look every day to the very heart of religion in its
simplest and most common expressions.
Or, if the Roman Church would use this self-criticism, saying: My
concentration is my strength and my weakness. Perhaps, after all, my
Pope is more a Caesaristic than a Christian Institution, making more for
worldly Imperialism than for the Spirituality of the world. I have to
learn from the Christian East more humility, and from Anglicanism more
respect for human freedom and social democracy, and from Protestantism a
more just appreciation of human efforts and results in science and
Or, if the Anglican Church would use self-criticism like this, and say,
I am, of course, an Apostolic Church, but I am not the only Church. I
have to learn from the Eastern Church something, and from the Church of
Rome something, but, above all, I have to learn that they are the
Apostolic Churches as well as I, and that I am, without them, too small
an island, and unable to resist alone the flood of patriotic and
imperialistic tendencies. And from the Protestants I have to learn to
put the living Christ above all doctrinal statements and liturgical
Or, if the Protestants of all classes would abandon their contemptuous
attitude towards so-called ecclesiasticism and ritualism, and criticise
themselves, saying: We have had too much confidence in human reason and
human words. Our worship is bare of every thing but the poor human
tongue. We have excluded Nature from our worship, though Nature is
purer, more innocent and worthier to come before the face of God than
men. We have been frightened by candles and incense, and vestments, and
signs, and symbols, and sacraments, but now we see that the mystery of
life and of our religion is too deep to be spoken out clearly in words
only. And we have been frightened by the episcopal administration of the
Church, but now we see that the episcopal system is a golden midway
between the papal and our extremes. Besides, we have gone too far in
our criticism of the Church tradition and of the Holy Scriptures. We
have to learn to abstain from calling the Eastern Church idolatrous and
the Roman Church tyrannical, and the Episcopal Church inconsistent. We
have our own idolatries (our idols are: individualism, human reason, and
the human word); and we have our own tyranny (the tyranny of criticism
and pride); and we have--thank god--our own inconsistencies.
Such a self-criticism would mean really a painful self-castigation,
because it would mean a reaction from a policy of criticism and
self-sufficiency which has lasted a thousand years, ever since the 16th
July 1054--the very fatal date when the Pope's delegates put an
Excommunication Bull on the altar of St Sophia's in Constantinople. The
primitive monks, who practised self-castigation because of the
world-evil, experienced a wonderful purification of soul, a new vision
of God, and an extraordinary sense of unity with all men, living and
dead. Well, that is just what the Church needs at present; a
purification, a new vision of God, and a sense of unity.
A COMMON ILLUSION
The present agony of the Church has resulted from an illusion which has
been common to all the Churches, i.e. that one of the Churches could be
saved without all other Churches. It is, in fact, only the enlarged
Protestant theory of individualism, which found its expression,
especially in Germany, in the famous formula: "Thou, man, and thy God!"
It is an anti-social and anti-Christian formula too, quite opposed to
the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father," which is in the plural and not in the
singular possessive. This prayer is a symbol of our salvation: we can be
saved only in the plural, not in the singular; only collectively, not as
individuals: i.e. we can be saved, but I cannot be saved. I cannot be
saved without thee, and thou canst not be saved without me. For if thou
art in need I can be saved only by helping thee; and vice versa, if I am
in need, thou canst save thyself only by saving me. And we all, and
always, are in need of each other. Peter could not be saved without
Andrew, and John and James, nor could the others be saved without Peter.
That is why Christ brought them all together, and educated them to live
and pray together, and spoke to them in assembly as to one being. If
Christ's method were like the German Protestant method, "Thou, man, and
thy God!" He would really never have gathered the disciples together,
but He would have gone to Andrew and saved Andrew first; and then to
Peter and saved Peter; and then to John and James and the others, and
saved them individually, one by one. That is just what He did
not--because He could not do it. He knew, and He said (speaking of the
two Commandments), that God is only one constituent of our salvation,
and that the other constituent is our neighbours. What does that mean,
but that I cannot be saved without God and my neighbours? And my
neighbours! The whole of mankind must become the mystical body of Christ
before any one of us is saved. If ninety nine of us think we are saved,
still we must wait in the corridor of Heaven until the one lost sheep is
found and brought in; the door of Heaven does not open for one person
only. And speaking in larger circles we may say: If ninety-nine Churches
think they are saved, still they must wait in the corridor of Heaven
until the one retrograde Church has become the member of the mystical
body of Christ. The door of Heaven is open for Christ only and for
nobody else. And the mystical Christ does not mean one righteous man
only, or two, or twelve, or one Church denomination, or one
generation--no. It means milliards and milliards of human beings. All
the Churches are inbuilt into His body. This building is yet far from
being finished, still it is much larger and more magnificent than we
think. It is larger than a denomination, it is loftier than our nation,
or our race, or our Empire; yea, it is stronger than Europe.
Consequently, the Church of England cannot be saved without the Church
of the East, nor the Church of Rome without Protestantism; nor can
England be saved without Serbia, nor Europe without China, nor America
without Africa, nor this generation without the generations past and
those to come. We are all one life, one organism. If one part of this
organism is sick, all other parts should be suffering. Therefore let the
healthy parts of the Church take care of the sick ones. Self-sufficiency
means the postponement of the end of the world and the prolongation of
human sufferings. It is of no use to change Churches and go from one
Church to another seeking salvation: salvation is in every Church as
long as a Church thinks and cares in sisterly love for all other
Churches, looking upon them as parts of the same body, or there is
salvation in no Church so long as a Church thinks and cares only for
herself, contemptuously denying the rights, beauty, truth and merits of
all other Churches. It is a great thing to love one's Church, as it is a
great thing to love one's country, but it is much better to love other
Churches and other countries too. Now, in this time, when the whole
Christian world is in a convulsive struggle one part against the other,
now or never the consciousness of the desire for one Church of Christ on
earth should dawn in our souls, and now or never should the
appreciation, right understanding and love for each part of this one
Church of Christ on earth should dawn in our souls, and now or never
should the appreciation, right understanding and love for each part of
this one Church begin in our hearts.
Stick to your Church: it is a beautiful and a holy Church, but,
nevertheless, break up every sort of disgraceful exclusiveness from
other Churches. That is the way to bring the Church out of the present
agony and weakness. That is the best way for you to serve your own
Church and your own nation. And the Crucified does not ask any other
service from your Church in the present world agony.
THE VICTORY OF THE CHURCH
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
What is the Church, psychologically viewed?
The Church is:
1. A school of the Christian spirit. That is her first task in the
2. She is the Body of Christ. That is her official and physical
determination--her firm, her name.
3. She is the living Christ Himself, i.e. Christ's body (consisting of
all the human bodies inside the Church organisation), and Christ's
spirit (filling all the human bodies inside the Church). That is her
ideal, her end, her Horeb.
What is the Church, sociologically viewed?
The Church is:
1. A Theocracy. That is her general virtue, which she shares with all
the religions in history.
2. She is a Christocracy. God is the abstract Ruler of Humanity, but
Christ is the pragmatic God, leading, enlightening, encouraging and
inspiring Humanity. That is the Church's special charter, special way,
different from the charters and ways of other religions.
She is a Sanctocracy. The saints ought to lead mankind--not the great
men of the world, but the saints. But when all men become saintly, no
special leaders will be needed: no authority, no state, no law, no
punishment. All men will do their over-duty, and all will be happy in
their neighbour's happiness. The fight for right is an inferior stage in
human history. It is a savage fight. But there will come a fight for
over-duty. It will be a smiling, pleasant fight.
What is the Church, historically viewed?
The Church is:
1. A heresy regarding Judaism and Paganism, a real, deep heresy. Not so
deep was the outward gulf as the inward. Outwardly, this heresy made a
thousand compromises with Judaism and Paganism. That did not matter. But
inwardly it was a new, an absolutely new and most uncompromising spirit
with anything in the world.
2. She was a heresy regarding the whole practical life of mankind:
politics, society, art, war, education, nationalism, imperialism,
science. She meant the most obstinate conflict between what exists and
what ought to exist. Therefore her martyrdom is quite comprehensible.
3. She was built up and applied to human life by the Graeco-Hebrew
spirit. Yet she has become the European religion, par excellence, almost
exclusively European. That is her historical development and fate.
Europe's acceptance of Christianity is nominally definite. No other
Asiatic religion (all great religions are Asiatic) has had any notable
success in Europe. Yet Europe's mission of Christianity has been no
success. St Paul has done more for the Christian mission than the whole
of modern Europe. Historically, Christianity has been and has remained
until now the religion of the European race only.
What is the Church viewed from the point of view of the world war?
The Church is:
1. The only keeper of the secret of the present war. The present war is
the result of the de-christianisation of Europe, and de-christianisation
of Europe's Church. The Church only is conscious of this fact and keeps
silent. She has no courage to accuse because she has no courage to
2. She is the only thing which makes European civilisation not lower
than the civilisation of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and China. The ruins of
those ancient civilisations are more magnificent than the actual
constructions of Europe. But the Church gives Europe a special nimbus
and a special excellency over those ancient worlds. Secular Europe does
not know that, but the Church knows it and keeps silent. She cannot
announce it because she has sinned. Her sins keep her tongue-tied.
3. Nothing is sure to survive the present catastrophe of Europe, but the
Christian Church. None of the European potencies has the idea for the
reconstruction of the world, for durable and Godlike world-peace, but
Socialism, Masonry, Philanthropy, Rousseauism,--all these are only small
units of the great treasury that the Christian Church hides under her
clouds and dust of errors and miseries. All non-Christian systems and
schemes mean, my own interest first and then thine, or first I and my
nation and my race, and then thou and thy nation and thy race, or, my
happiness and, along with it, thy happiness. The Christian idea hidden
in the Church is a revolutionary one, the most revolutionary idea in the
world. The Christian idea is, thou and thy nation and thy race first,
and then me and my nation and my race; or, thy happiness first and in
thy happiness my happiness. Saintliness above everything, the true
saintliness including goodness and sacrifice. That is the fundamental
idea of the Church. That is the only constructive, Godlike treasury that
Europe still possesses, the sleeping, never used, never tried treasury.
The Church is the keeper of this treasury. This treasury must survive
the old Europe and the old Church, the de-christianised Europe and the
THE POVERTY OF EUROPEAN CIVILISATION
The poverty of European civilisation has been revealed by this war. The
ugly nakedness of Europe has brought to shame all those who used to bow
before Europe's mask. It was a silken shining mask hiding the inner
ugliness and poverty of Europe. The mask was called: culture,
civilisation, progress, modernism. All was only vanitas vanitatum and
povertas povertatum. When the soul fled away, what remained was empty,
ugly and dangerous. When religion plunged into impotence, then:
Science became a mask of pride.
Art--a mask of vanity.
Politics--a mask of selfishness.
Laws--a mask of greediness.
Theology--a mask of scepticism.
Technical knowledge--a poor surrogate for spirituality.
Journalism--a desperate surrogate for literature.
Literature--a sick nostalgy and a nonsense, a dwarf-acrobacy.
Civilisation--a pretext for imperialism.
Fight for right--an atavistic formula of the primitive creeds.
Morals--the most controversial matter.
Individualism--the second name for egoism and egotism.
Christ--a banished beggar looking for a shelter, while in the royal and
pharisaic palaces lived: Machiavelli, the atheist; Napoleon, the
atheist; Marx, the atheist; and Nietsche, the atheist, imperially ruling
The spirit was wrong and everything became wrong. The spirit of any
civilisation is inspired by its religion, but the spirit of modern
Europe was not inspired by Europe's religion at all. A terrific effort
was made in many quarters to liberate Europe from the spirit of her
religion. The effort-makers forgot one thing, i.e. that no civilisation
ever was liberated from religion and still lived. Whenever this
liberation seemed to be fulfilled, the respective civilisation decayed
and died out, leaving behind barbaric materialism in towns and
superstitions in villages. Europe had to live with Christianity, or to
die in barbaric materialism and superstitions without it. The way to
death was chosen. From Continental Europe first the infection came to
the whole white race. It was there that the dangerous formula was
pointed out: "Beyond good and evil." Other parts of the white world
followed slowly, taking first the path between Good and Evil. Good was
changed for Power. Evil was explained away as Biological Necessity. The
Christian religion, which inspired the greatest things that Europe ever
possessed in every point of human activity, was degraded by means of new
watchwords; individualism, liberalism, conservatism, nationalism,
imperialism, secularism, which in essence meant nothing out
de-christianisation of the European society, or, in other words,
emptiness of European civilisation. Europe abandoned the greatest things
she possessed and clung to the lower and lowest ones. The greatest thing
As you cannot imagine Arabic civilisation in Spain without Islam, or
India's civilisation without Hinduism, or Rome without the Roman
Pantheon, so you cannot imagine Europe's civilisation without Christ.
Yet some people thought that Christ was not so essentially needed for
Europe, and behaved accordingly without Him or against Him. Christ was
Europe's God. When this God was banished (from politics, art, science,
social life, business, education), everybody consequently asked for a
God, and everybody thought himself to be a god, and in truth there it
failed, not on theories in Europe proclaiming, openly or disguisedly,
everyone a god. So the godless Europe became full of gods!
Being de-christianised, Europe still thought to be civilised. In reality
she was a poor valley full of dry bones. The only thing she had to boast
of was her material power. By material power only she impressed and
frightened the unchristian (but not antichristian) countries of Central
and Eastern Asia, and depraved the rustic tribes in Africa and
elsewhere. She went to conquer not by God or for God, but by material
power and for material pleasure. Her spirituality did not astonish any
of the peoples on earth. Her materialism astonished all of them. Her
inner poverty was seen by India, China, Japan, and partly by Russia.
What an amazing poverty! She gained the whole world, and when she looked
inside herself she could not find her soul. Where has fled Europe's
soul? The present war will give the answer. It is not a war to destroy
the world but to show Europe's poverty and to bring back her soul. It
will last--this war--as long as Europe remains soulless, Godless,
Christless. It will stop when Europe gets the vision of her soul, her
only God, her only wealth.
THE CHRISTIANISATION OF THE CHURCH
The Church must first awaken out of her sleep and her European
emptiness, and then Europe will come again to life. The Church has
failed, not because she was not Europeanised, but just because she was
too much Europeanised. Instead of inspiring Europe she was inspired by
Europe, i.e. emptied by the empty Europe. The soul obeyed the body and
became the body itself. All the secular watchwords entered the Church
and the Church watchwords were eclipsed. Liberalism, conservatism,
ceremonialism, right, nationalism, imperialism, law, democracy,
autocracy, republicanism, socialism, scientific criticism, and similar
things have filled the Christian theology, Christian service, Christian
pulpits as the Christian Gospel. In reality the Christian gospel has
been as different from all these worldly ideas and temporal forms as
heaven is different from earth. For all these ideas or forms were
earthly, bodily, dustly--a convulsive attempt to change unhappiness for
happiness through the changing of institutions. The Church ought to have
been indifferent towards them, pointing always her principal idea,
embodied in Christ. And her principal idea meant never a change of
external things, of institutions, but a change of spirit. All the ideas
named were secular precepts to cure the world's evil, the very poor
drugs to heal the sick Europe outside of the Church and without the
Yet the Church only possessed the true remedy, although she became
forgetful of it, because she herself got sick, and instead of giving the
world the necessary remedy she looked about to take it from the world.
Weakened in her position in the world and forgetful of her external
value, the Church, or some parts or parties of the Church, made even
coquetry with the current and transitory potencies in order to make her
position stronger. Yet the fact stood in history as big as a mountain
that the Church always failed when making concessions of her spirit to
any temporary power, and when not making concessions as to the visible
forms and transitory shapes of human societies.
Neither Ritualism nor Liberalism helps anything without the true
Christian spirit. The modern Ritualism and Liberalism are absolutely
equally worthless from the Christian point of view, being so hostile to
each other as they are, filled with the unclean spirit of hatred,
unforgiveness, despising and even persecuting each other. They are
equally unchristian and even antichristian. Measured by the mildest
measure they are a new edition of the Judaistic Pharisaism and
Sadduceeism. The Ritualists cling to their ritual, the Liberals cling to
their protest against the Ritualists. But the true spirit by which both
of them move and act and write and speak is the unclean spirit of hatred
and despite of each other, the very spirit which excludes them both from
communion with Christ and the saints. The Church has been equally
de-christianised by Ritualists and Liberals, by Conservatives and
Modernists, by bowers and by talkers. The Church must be now
re-christianised amongst all of them and through all of them.
Let the Church be the Church, i.e. the community of the saints. Let the
world know that the Church's mission on earth is not to accumulate
wealth, or to gain political power or knowledge, or to cling to this
institution or to that, but to cleanse mankind from its unclean, evil
spirits, and to fill it with the spirit of saintliness. Let the Church
first change her spirit and then urge the whole of mankind to change
Let the Ritualists know that however devout they might be, still they
can call the Protestants their brothers. The most devout have been often
killers of their neighbours and killers of Christ.
Let the learned doctors of Protestantism think that however learned they
might be, still they are foolish and ignorant enough to be
self-satisfied. It is doubtful whether the most elaborate sermon of a
Protestant doctor smells more beautifully than incense. The most learned
theologians in Germany and elsewhere have whole-heartedly supported the
criminal enterprise of the warlike and criminal scientia militans. The
deepest learning and the meanest spirit have often shown in history a
very brotherly alliance. Christianity is not that.
Let the Pope be congratulated for his tenacious keeping of the idea of
Theocracy. But let him consider this idea only as the starting-point in
the social science of the Church. His Theocracy has been refused because
it was not at the same time Christocracy and Sanctocracy. The saints in
Christ are alone infallible. Let the Vatican be filled with saints, and
infallibility then will not need to be preached and ordered but only to
be silently shown. Nobody believes infallibility upon authority, but
everyone will accept it upon Saintliness.
The way of authority is a fallible way.
The way of knowledge is quite as fallible.
But the way of saintliness is infallible.
Every spirit is fallible but the spirit of saintless. The Church is
infallible not by any talisman but by her saintliness. The Bishop of
Rome or of Canterbury will be infallible only if they are saints. The
saints are detached from everything and attached to Christ, so that
Christ incarnates His spirit in them. Not we, but Christ in us, is
Let the people of the Eastern Church stick to their Christian ideal of
saintliness. Their interpretation of the Christian spirit may be the
best and truest. Yet the ideal must become flesh. Let them not be proud
of their not having pride, and exclusive because God chose them to
understand the bottomless deepness of the esoteric Christianity. By
pride towards the proud and by exclusiveness they may spoil and darken
their ideals and remain in the dark.
Let all the Churches feel their unity in the ideal spirit of
saintliness. But if that is difficult for them, let them first feel
their unity in sinfulness, in committed sins and crimes, in their
nakedness and poverty. Just to start with, this first step seems
absolutely necessary. Never any great saint became saintly unless he
first thought himself equal in impurity and sinfulness with all other
human beings. The Churches must go the way of the saints. Their way is
the only infallible one.
THE ONLY NECESSARY EXCLUSIVENESS OF THE CHURCH
When you deeply search in history about the causes of the strength of
the primitive Church and of the weakness and decay of the modern Church,
you will come to a very clear and simple conclusion.
1. The primitive Church was inclusive as to its forms, but exclusive as
to its spirit.
2. The modern Church has been exclusive as to its forms, but inclusive
as to its spirit.
The primitive Church was very puritanic concerning the Christian spirit.
She was not particular as to the vessels in which to pour the new wine,
but she was extremely particular as to the wine itself. She borrowed the
vessels in Judæa, Alexandria, Athens, Rome, but she never borrowed wine.
The Christian spirit and the pagan spirit were just like two opposite
poles, like white and black, or day and night. The Church was conscious
of it, and jealously watchful that no drop of any foreign spirit should
be mixed with the precious spirit of the New Gospel. There existed no
thought of compromise, and no idea of inclusiveness whatever regarding
the spirit. The terrific conflict of Christianity and Paganism through
centuries sprang from the irreconcilability of two different spirits.
Were the Church as inclusive as to the spirit as she was to forms,
doctrines, customs and worships, conflicts never would arise--but then
neither would Christianity arise.
The modern Church is particular as to its institutions, but not
particular at all as to its spirit. The Roman Emperors never would
persecute the modern Church, for they would easily recognise their own
spirit included in her. Nor would the Pharaohs from Egypt persecute
modern Christianity. Nor would Areopagus or Akropolis be puzzled so much
had St Paul preached to them the modern European Christianity with its
complicated spirit of all kinds of compromises with Heaven and Hell,
compromise with the State, Plutocracy, Nationalism, Imperialism,
Conquest, War, Diplomacy, Secular Philosophy, Secular Science, Agnostic
Parliaments, Tribal Chauvinism, Education, Officialism, Bureaucracy,
etc., etc. All these things have their own spirit, and every such spirit
is partly or wholly included in the spirit of the Church, i.e. of modern
Christianity. None of the Christian Churches of our time makes an
exception as to this inclusiveness of all kinds of spirits. Even
Protestantism, which claims the simplicity of its Christian ritual and
administration, represents a lamentable mosaic of spirits gathered from
all the pagan corners of secular Europe and mixed up with the Christian
wine in the same barrel.
The Church of the East excommunicated thousands of those who crossed
themselves with two fingers instead of using three fingers. The Church
of the West burnt thousands of those who did not recognise the papal
organisation of the Church as the only ark of salvation. Yet there is
rarely to be found in the Church annals an excommunication on the ground
of chauvinism or brutal egoism. No one of the world conquerors--neither
Napoleon nor Kaiser William--have been excommunicated by the Church. It
signifies an extreme decadence of the Church. And this decadence
penetrates and dominates our own time. Speaking on the reunion of the
Churches the peoples of the East are anxious to know--not whether the
Church of the West has preserved the unmixed Christian spirit in its
integrity, but whether this Church still keeps Filioque as a dogma, and
whether she has ikons, and whether she allows eggs and milk in Lent. And
the people of the West are anxious to know whether the Eastern Church
has a screen quite different from their own screen at the altar, and
whether she has been always tenaciously exclusive in teaching, worship
and organisation. Who of us and of you asks about the integrity of the
Christian spirit? If St Paul were amongst us he would ridicule our
controversies on Filioque and all the trifles concerning Church
organisation and the external expressions of Christianity. He would ask:
What happened with the spirit he preached? What happened with this
spirit which excommunicated de facto the Jewish narrow Patriotism and
the Roman Imperialism? Have we still this exclusive spirit which moved
the world effecting the greatest revolution in History? I am sure he
would have to repeat with good reasons to every Church and to everyone
of us: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
Well, we must come again to this source of Christian strength and
greatness, which is Christ's spirit. A new revival, yea, regeneration of
Christianity, could be possible only in a united Christian Church; and
the union of the Church is possible only upon the ground of the
primitive Church, which was inclusive in teaching, worship and
organisation, but exclusive in spirit. On the day when we all exclude
from ourselves the Jewish and Greek and Roman spirit, and retain only
the pure Christian spirit, we shall be at once ready to include each
other's Church into one body, into one Christianity. We must be clear
about it, and we must confess that the divisions of the church are due
to the invasion of a foreign spirit, an unclean spirit, into the Church.
When the Church cleanses herself from this foreign unclean spirit she
will be victorious over herself, and from this victory to the ultimate
victory of Christianity over our planet will be a very short distance.
How can the church get her past strength again and triumph over the evil
inside and outside her walls?
If she were united she could get it by waiting for the ruin of
Europe--i.e. of a house which is divided in itself--which is not very
far off. But she the Church--is divided too. She is fighting with and
for the European parties, and against herself. Consequently, in waiting
for the ruin of Europe she is waiting for her own ruin. Therefore she
must make up her mind lest it is too late. Horribile dictu--she must
start a dramatic movement in order to get her soul back.
First of all she must become again a heresy towards Europe and European
secular, antidivine civilisation, just as she was a heresy towards the
theocratic Israel and semi-theocratic Greece and Rome. Theoretically,
she must stick to Theocracy, historically, to Christocracy, and
practically to Sanctocracy. She must loose herself from all the chains
binding her either to the chariot of any dynasty or of any oligarch or
president, or whatever political denomination it may be, and insist upon
the Holy Wisdom to lead humanity. It ought to be absolutely indifferent
to the Church what political denomination, or social creed, or
institutional shape a human society shall have as long as this is
founded upon any other ideal but saintliness. The Church ought to know
only two denominations--politics and social life, inter-human as well as
international and inter racial-racial relations in trade and business,
in education and family life--i.e. saintliness and unsaintliness. If you
ask what saintliness ought to mean, Christianity has not to argue but to
show you the saintliness in the flesh. Christ the saintly Lord, St Paul
and St John, Polycarp and Leo, Patrick and Francis, Sergius and Zosim,
St Theresa and hundreds of other saints. And if somebody thinks still
that a few thousands of Christian saints are not a sufficient argument
to show that saintliness is practicable, then the Church has still not
to give her ideal up and to take as her ideal thousands of great and
small Napoleons and Bismarcks, and Goethes and Spencers, or Medics and
Cromwells or Kaisers and Kings--no, in the latter case it would be much
nicer for the Church to point out the saintly men outside of Christian
walls, like St Hermes and St Pythagoras, or St Krishna and St Buddha, or
St Lao-Tse and St Confucius, or St Zoroaster and St Abu-Bekr. Better
even is unbaptised saintliness than baptised earthliness.
Saintliness includes goodness and sacrifice, and excludes all the
earthly impure spirits of selfishness, pride, quarrels and conquests.
Therefore, when the Church returns to her fundamental ideal, she will
return to her elementary simplicity in which she was so powerful as to
move mountains and empires and hearts at the beginning of her history.
That is what the world needs now just as much as it needs air and
light, i.e. an elementary spiritual power by which it could be moved,
cleared up, purified and brought out of its chaos to a solid and
HOLY CHURCH IN HOLY EUROPE
Europe has been eclipsed because her Church--her soul--has been
eclipsed; the Church has been eclipsed because her principal ideal has
been eclipsed. The principal ideal of the Church is saintliness. This
ideal, plunged down into darkness like a sun into ashes, must come out
again to illuminate the Church and Europe. Europe has tried all the ways
but the way of the Church, the European Church has tried all the ways
but the way of Christ. Well, then, Europe must try the only way left,
which is saintliness. The Church must give an example to Europe.
Europe has been materialistic, heroic, scientific, imperialistic,
technical, secular. At last she has to be holy. Whatever she has been,
she has been unhappy and restless, and brutal and criminal, unjust and
gluttonous. Soldiers and traders, despots and robbers, popes and kings,
gluttons and harlots, have ruled Europe, but not yet the saints, the
holy wizards. The Church's duty has been to provide Europe with such
holy wizards. She has failed because she has been obscured by Europe, as
a fine soul often is obscured by a heavy and greedy body. The body, one
thought, the soul, another, until their thought became one and the same,
i.e. the bodily thought. Now, after a bitter experience, the soul must
come to its rights. Europe and Europe's Church have not henceforth to
think two different thoughts, but one and the same, and this one thought
has not to be a bodily one but a spiritual one. The aim of the Church as
well as of Europe has to be God, Christ, saintliness. If this thing is
given to the Church and Europe, everything else will be easily given. A
Holy Church in Holy Europe!
A holy Europe only can be a missionary Europe. No other mission has
Europe on other continents but a Christian one. It was an illusion to
speak about Europe's mission in the wide world without Christ. Well, but
only a Christlike people can be a missionary of Christ. How could an
unholy Europe preach the Holy One?
Do you think that the Arabs, who gave Europe knowledge, are expecting
from Europe knowledge? No, they expect Europe's goodwill.
Or do you think that India, whose history is a history of saints, is
anxious to accept German materialistic science, individual philosophy,
and a destructive and shallow theology? No, they expect from Europe more
saintliness than they have had in their history. And that is just very
difficult for Europe to give them.
Or do you think that Chino-Japanese civilisation has anything worth
mentioning to borrow from Europe but Christian ideals? No, nothing that
could make them happier than they have been.
Well then, let Europe kill her pride and self-conceit in this war and
become humble and meek. The Church ought to give an example to secular
Europe: an example of humility, goodness, sacrifice--saintliness.
But which of the Churches ought to give this example for the salvation
of Europe and of the world? Yours, if you like. Why not just your
Anglican Church? But whichever undertakes to lead the way will be the
most glorious Church. For she will lead the whole Church and through the
Church Europe and through Europe the whole world to holiness and
victory, to God and His Kingdom.