On Christ and the Church

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From "On Christ and the Church."

"Becoming'--"the fundamental idea of Scripture." On Christ and the Church" is a little book, translated by Fr Alexis Vinogradov, in which are transcribed discussions with Fr Men which took place in private homes and, with prepared questions and conversation, were an important part of his ministry.

"Becoming"--the Fundamental Idea of Scripture.

The pre-Christian cosmology contained two poles--the dynamic and the static. The static pole had a very developed, elaborate worldview, with a vast tradition and high intellectual culture; life was considered to be established according to a permanent schema in all its forms, I might add. Either this life style is understood to die and be reborn anew, as in the East, in India or in Greek philosophy, or it simply continues immovably as with the Egyptians. Even the best minds, from the first priests of the ancient East to the philosopher Aristotle, clung to this idea. how did this thinking become so deeply rooted in mankind? It corresponds to what we see around us in nature, the the cycles of winter,summer; sunrise ,sunset; and so on. The second point of view--call it "dynamic"--arose not as a conscious process, not as a conclusion from positive observations of nature, or from purely intellectual abstractions.

The idea of dynamism arose through revelation, it was not deduced intellectually. To us this now seems somewhat strange. When we have before us pictures of how the stars were formed,the evolution of plants, of matter,and so on, we understand that dynamism is part of nature. But prior to the Common Era, no one surmised this,even Aristotle who stood right on its threshold,one step away from evolution. Since he had examined the whole system of living things, it didn't even enter his head that the world might be in process. His world was static. There was no hint of dynamism, This means that the Biblical teaching of a developing world was a revelation given by God through inspiration rather than through a kind of reflection or deduction of facts which man already then had in hand. Coming to earth, Christ doubly reinforced the idea of dynamism, that is, He placed the notion of the Kingdom of God at the center. The world is moving towards perfection, towards fullness; the world is moving towards the time when all men will become the Sons of God.

In Christ the Kingdom of God is symbolized through growth. He loved parables about seeds. The seed develops, there is fermentation, everything expands and ascends, is determined by a goal. There are great religious systems, great approaches to God. God answers man: "Yes I hear you, but I say to you that before you lies an infinite goal, you have not reached which I propose to give you." This is the fundamental idea of Scripture, the notion of becoming-- although the Bible contains many idea. Contemporary thinkiers call this the linear concept of development, moving forward and ascending. The secular, worldly, areligious proponents of this worldview label it the theory of progress, which appeared in the post-Reformation era. The Communist variant of this teaching says that the world must arrive at a glorious future. Psychologically, this is quite understandable,inasmuch as from generation to generation for hundreds of years our civilization, both Russian and European, was built on Christian foundations and, therefore,believes in a glorious future. Incidentally ,the science of the age of Aristotle and Plato had no basis for belief in a glorious future. And in itself, knowledge does not require the belief that all will be well.

On the contrary,theer are many arguments in science to show that the world will incinerate,or freeze or disintegarate, or that mankind will be obliterated by epedemics. Not only are there no guarantees of a glorious future but, on the contrary,ther is much to contradict this. Nonetheless such a belief persists. And it is the legacy of Christianity. The philosopher Lucretius saw the wqorld as dying. If any of you have perused the book "The Nature of Things" you will remember that he said, "a global autumn approaches, the world is moving towards decline." All the pagans felt this way. And the Greek poet Hesiod, in "Works and Days" constructs a system of ages. The first was the Golden Age, and then worse and worse--he called his own the Age of Stell. Everything approaches the natural annihilation of the world. In the past everything was better.

But Christianity affirms that the best lies ahead. And this is based on Holy Scripture. When the Gospel appeared in the ancient world, there began a process of mutual interaction. This is not strictly data, my friends, not simply history. We are now being nourished spiritually in our Church and intellectual life with the fruits of this interaction.

Church life in the era of Constantine was a period of interaction between Christianity and paganism. This interaction began earlier, already in the second century. Can this really be considered a catastrophe, a collapse, a failure of Christianity? Not in the least! Can we say that this is wonderful and great? Neither can we say this. There is no single answer. Absorbing elements of paganism into itself, Christianity in this way sanctified all that was wonderful in the legacy from India to the New World. We can say that in the course of all millenia not a single soul which strived towards God passed unnoticed by him. Not one spark of the spectacular in the whole history of art passed unnoticed within the beauty of the world.

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

From On Christ and the Church pp 27-30