St. Margaret's, Westminster
SERMONS ON SUBJECTS SUGGESTED BY THE WAR
THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT OF THE SLAVS
THREE LECTURES GIVEN IN LENT, 1916
The Rev. FATHER NICOLAI VELIMIROVIC
Priest of the Serbian Church, and Professor of Theology in the University of Belgrade
I. SLAV ORTHODOXY
THE HOLY SYNOD AND TOLSTOI.
A CIRCLE OR A DRAMA.
HAPPINESS AND ATONEMENT.
DREAMS ABOUT THE REALITY.
REALITY AS A DREAM.
THE "PETRIFEID" CHURCH.
"THE GREAT DOGMA OF SIN AND SUFFERING.
SLAV ORTHODOXY IS NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT.
II. SLAV REVOLUTIONARY CATHOLICISM
A FAR AIM AND A NARROW WAY.
JAN HUSS'S REVOLUTION.
THE POLISH REVOLUTION.
THE SOUTHERN SLAV REVOLUTION.
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION.
III. THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT OF THE SLAVS.
WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS WORLD.
GOD ONLY IS GREAT.
YOUR SINS ARE MY SINS.
CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILISATION.
THE HOLY SYNOD AND TOLSTOI.
When Count Tolstoi was excommunicated by the Holy Synod of Russia because
"he preached the teachings which are contrary to the Christian faith," the
world was divided in opinion and sympathy into two parts. The partisans of
Tolstoi were in the majority in the Western world; those of the Holy Synod
in Russia and the Orthodox East. Yet Holy Russia rejected Tolstoi with much
more compassion than Western Europe approved of him. It was a human tragedy
which is not often repeated in history and was understood only by Russia.
The conflict was more stern than appeared on the surface. The problems in
question meant not less than the dilemma: either the Christian world was to
continue or it must return to the starting point of human history and begin
all anew. A little blade of grass in the field said to its green
neighbours: "Why do we grow up? It is nonsense and pain. In growing up we
grow in complications, which enhance the darkness and pain of our lives. I
propose, therefore, to go back into seeds, from which we have grown big and
So spoke one blade of grass to the field. And the field replied: "Although
perhaps we are growing in nonsense and pain, still we cannot return, we
must grow and go our way in the belief that we are not mistaken."
That is the simile of Tolstoi and the Holy Synod.
A CIRCLE OR A DRAMA.
Tolstoi perceived life as a circle, with the beginning everywhere and with
the end everywhere. The Holy Synod, representing Slav Orthodoxy, perceived
life as a drama with a beginning and an end in space and time. From his
point of view, Tolstoi thought it possible for mankind to stop a mistaken
course of things and to begin anew, to cast away all the burdens of
culture, of State, Church, militarism, worldly ambitions, the vanities of
towns, to draw the curtain on the past and to come back to the field and
forest, to plough and sow, to listen to the life of Nature and to live with
Nature and God in unison.
The Holy Synod, from their point of view, thought that the past is the very
foundation of the present and future, and that in separating us from the
past we were as an uprooted plant, condemned to inevitable death, while in
continuing the world-drama we are going the only possible way. The
beginning of sin in this drama is in Adam, the beginning of salvation is in
Christ. We cannot live without taking notice even of the life of Adam and
without connecting our life with Christ's. And all the other millions of
human beings between those two milestones, between Adam and Christ, and
Christ and us, are greater or smaller foundations, or conditions, or even
disturbances of our own life.
"My understanding is against your traditions," said Tolstoi.
"Our traditions are against your understandings," replied the Holy Synod.
But that was not all.
The difference existed also in views on
HAPPINESS AND ATONEMENT.
Tolstoi was much troubled by the suffering of men. He himself saw, felt and
described an immense amount of this suffering in various forms. The problem
of happiness was his most cherished problem. He believed that men can be
made happy in this life, and even more—that they are created in order to
be happy. He refused quite definitely the idea of atonement as
inconceivable and contrary to the idea of God. Human life has been normal
and happy as long as men lived their simple life without towns and without
all urban complications. Life can again be made a normal and happy one as
God wills, if we only return to the primitive simplicity of the peasants.
The Holy Synod was not opposed to the happiness of men, but they did not
believe either that happiness is attainable in this world or that it is the
aim of our life on earth. Did it not occur quite in the beginning of the
world's history that there lived on earth two brothers, Cain and Abel, two
farmers, without any burden of culture, and with all the Tolstoian
simplicity of life? Yet is it not reported that one killed the other?
Life is a drama, a tragic drama even, and not at all a metaphysical
immobility or a quasi-mobility, or even an eternal circulus viciosus.
There are three stages of human life: the first stage before the sin, in
God-like naïveté, the second in sin, and the third after the atonement,
life in perfection, when there will be "a new earth and a new heaven." We
are in the middle stage, where life means sin and atonement, therefore in
the most tragic stage. Life in the first and third stages may consist
entirely in contemplation, but the life which we are actually living
consists of deeds, of sins and virtues, i.e., of the struggle between
good and evil, of suffering and purification, of a tragic heroism, of
DREAMS ABOUT THE REALITY.
It was not until the decline of the glorious Byzantine Empire that the
Slavs embraced Christianity. For nine hundred years the Greeks were the
principal representatives, protectors, elaborators and explorers of
Christianity. When the Greeks visited the Slav country with their divine
message, the Slavs were heathens. Their heathenism was like a confusing
dream. Nature stood before them with its contradictory forces. The
primitive Slavs regarded all the forces of Nature encircling a human
creature as being alive and stronger than this creature. All the forces,
whether friendly or unfriendly to man, are man like, anthropomorphic, and
none of them are indifferent to human life and doings. The practical
conclusion come to was: men must give sacrifices to both of them, to the
good and to the evil; to the good in order to encourage them to be more
good, to the evil in order to induce them to be less evil. It was necessary
to pray equally to the good as to the evil gods. The best worship was the
best balance between the good and bad spirits; not to offend any of them,
but to be reconciled with all of them! Skilful diplomacy was indeed needed
in worshipping all the terrible, invisible representatives of the forces of
Nature seemingly fighting around man and because of man. And men are too
weak to take their part decisively in one or other fighting camp.
Everything useful or beautiful for men was regarded as being possessed by a
good god or spirit. Everything dangerous and unfriendly was considered to
be possessed by an evil god or spirit. The supreme god Perun, supreme
because the strongest, was considered as acting equally for good and for
evil. The curious fact is that the supreme divinity in every pagan theology
was imagined to be acting equally strongly for good and for evil, as Zeus
Jupiter, Wothan. You cannot call Zeus or Jupiter or Wothan or Perun a
good god, but only a mighty god. With Christianity came into the world,
including the Slav world, decisiveness, and every confusion disappeared.
The Slavs learned to know that they could not serve two masters, but only
one, and that they had not to balance between good and evil but to go
straightway on the side of good.
REALITY AS A DREAM.
The Byzantine Emperors promised to the Serbs peace and land in their Empire
in the Balkans if they accepted the Christian faith. And the Serbs accepted
the Christian faith. The Emperors Basil and Constantine agreed to give
their sister in marriage to Vladimir, King of Kieff, if he would embrace
the Christian faith. And King Vladimir embraced the Christian faith. These
may be considered very petty motives! Yet this was not the price to tie the
mighty idol Perun on a horse's tail and to carry him into the water of
Dnieper. The principal motive was the striking reality of the Christian
foundation. The Christian message was like a dream ("We have been in
Heaven," reported the Russian delegates, returning from Saint Sophia)—the
Slavs loved dreams and poetry very much; but the Christian faith was stated
to be a reality, and the Slavs, as men the world over, considered reality
as more solid than any dream. Instead of a nightmare of youthful dreams, as
the Slav pagan theology was, came now a bright poetry warranted both as a
past and present reality.
It will remain as the greatest wonder in history how a poor Man, who
preached in Palestine for about two years, who scarcely had a hundred
followers at the end of His mission, who was crucified and died a shameful
death, whose cause seemed a quite desperate episode, scornfully rejected or
fearfully abandoned by all those who knew it—how this poor Man replaced
successively the mightiest gods the human imagination ever invented: Zeus
in Olympus, Jupiter in the Capitol, Wothan in the North, and at last also
Perun in Kieff. The secret lies, I think, in the reality of His human life,
in the mystery of His resurrection, and in the amazing enthusiasm with
which thousands of His followers afterwards suffered death for Him and His
However, Christ entered the Slav world in an epoch when, not only one man
after another bowed before Him, but nation after nation. He came to our
ancestors no more as a humble preacher, but as a Lord, under whose feet lay
already conquered Zeus, Jupiter and Wothan. He came to us, not from a poor
Bethlehem cottage, but from the most brilliant temple upon earth, from the
Saint Sophia in Constantinople. He came with a wonderful three-fold
mission, to serve, to fight, to reigning one word, to be "all in all." He
entered the Roman world as a humble servant. I am afraid He remained in
this world for ever only as a servant. But He entered the Slav world as a
Lord, and until to-day He remains there as the Lord.
With Christ's coming among the Slavs the balance between good and evil
spirits was lost. Quite unlike Perun, Christ was a decisive fighter for
good. He showed only one—exclusively one—way, the narrow way leading to
the kingdom of good, which is the Kingdom of God, the Highest and the Best,
Deus Optimus, not only as a dream of Pagan humanity, but as a provable
reality. Although good seems very often to be a weak and losing party in
this world, men must not waver but always take cheerfully the part of good.
Evil spirits in men and around men are very powerful in this world. Christ
Himself was overwhelmed for a time by the evil spirits of this world. But
it was only for a time which is now over. It was at the new beginning of
the world, so to say, when He came to break the power of Pagan men, hold
the balance between the good and evil spirits and to stop the serving of
"two masters." The start was very unpromising; He was trodden down, but He
got up and proved Himself the victor. He came now as a victor to the Slavs
to make new armies of men, who would consent to undertake His burden, and
to go His exclusive way of good, worshipping and serving only one God, His
Father and the Father of all men. He came claiming everyone, telling each
one "not to be ashamed"—as it is wonderfully expressed in the English
Baptism formula—"manfully to fight under His banner, against sin, the
world, and the devil, and to continue to be Christ's faithful soldier and
servant unto his life's end."
Tolstoi exalted only Christ's Sermon on the Mount, i.e., only Christ's
teaching, or part of Christ's teaching. The Orthodox Church exalted Christ
himself, as an exceptional, dramatic Person, suffering for good; as a
divine hero, fighting against all the evil powers of the world. A teaching
or a life drama—i.e., Tolstoi or Orthodoxy! The Church thought: there is
something greater than Christ's words, that is Christ Himself. His words
are extraordinary, it is true, no man spoke as He, but His person and His
life were more extraordinary still. Thousands of martyrs died for Him,
not for the Sermon on the Mount. His words died with His death and came
to life again only with His resurrection. The fate of His words was quite
dependent on the fate of His person. Consequently His words have been only
a shadow of His personal drama, only an inadequate expression of His
individuality and His world mission, only the secondary fascination for the
coming generation. He himself was the essence of the human drama; He
himself—the essence of God and Man; He himself—the incarnated good and
the standard of the good in the world's history. He is incomparably better
than Zeus, Jupiter, Wothan or Perun, because He is a reality, a divine
reality among men.
THE "PETRIFEID" CHURCH.
So Professor Harnack from Berlin called the Orthodox Church of the East. I
know his reasons for that very well. Comparing the unchangeable image of
Christ, fixed in the East once for all, with the confusing thousand
opinions of Christ in Protestant Germany, he was quite justified in
calling our Church by a striking name, so differentiating her from his own.
I am glad that he invented the name "petrified." With the proud spirit of a
Protestant scientist, I wonder why He did not invent a worse name for
Eastern Orthodoxy. I wonder much more that Professor Harnack, one of the
chief representatives of German Christianity, omitted to see how every
hollow that he and his colleagues made in traditional Christianity in
Germany was at once filled with the all-conquering Nietzscheanism. And I
wonder, lastly, whether he is now aware that in the nineteen hundred and
fourteenth year of our Lord, when he and other destroyers of the Bible, who
proclaimed Christ a dreamy maniac, clothed Christianity in rags,
Nietzscheanism grew up the real religion of the German race.
What is the fact about the "petrified" Church? If "petrified" means intact,
or whole, or undestroyed or living always in the same dress, but still
living, then the famous Professor may be right. Yet this petrified Church
has always come victorious out of any test to which she has been put. The
Christian Church is always on trial, and I think she is never so much
Christian as when she is being tested. She does not shine or develop or
make progress otherwise than through hard tests. Christianity is founded
upon a drama and not upon a science; therefore its growth and development
are dramatic and not scientific. Let us take an example. Eastern Orthodoxy
was put to the test for centuries to fight for its existence and its ideals
against the ruling Islam. Roman Catholicism was put to a similar test in
Spain. German Protestantism was put to the test of German science. What
happened? Islam was defeated in Russia and in the Balkans, not only
physically, but morally and intellectually. The epoch of the catacombs and
the bloody days of Nero and Diocletian have been repeated once more in the
Balkans, in Russia, and are still being experienced in Armenia and Asia
Minor. The killed and martyred kings, princes, bishops, priests and laymen
from these countries will not be ashamed before the martyrs from the
Coliseum. Orthodox Christianity stood the test very well. It saved itself;
it gave the inspiration for resistance; it showed itself superior even
afterwards when the enslaved countries were liberated. Holy Russia counts
her greatness from the time when she got rid of Islam. During the five
years of their freedom Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria built more than the
Turks built during 500 years of Turkish rule.
Roman Catholicism in Spain came through its test very badly. Before the
Islamic invasion, and after it for a long time, the Christian population
showed itself inferior to the Moors, in work, in justice, in progress. But
to the honour of Roman Catholicism I must say that it stood the test very
well in Croatia and in Hungary in its struggle against Islam. German
cathedral Protestantism failed in its test. It is destroyed as a religion,
it exists only as an archival science. It ceased to be what Christianity
really sought to be—a drama; it is transformed into an indifferent
scientific medium for reading, exploring, classifying, comparing,
criticising. It is no more a living, dramatic being—no more the serving,
ruling and suffering Christ. There is very little heroic or divine in it!
Why not then worship Wothan again instead of Christ?
And Anglicanism? It had the worst enemy. That was wealth, comfort, quiet
business, lack of big disturbances and of great sufferings. The English
Church still succeeded in preventing all the misuses and abuses of life
under such circumstances. This success can be appreciated only if the
British Empire is compared with an antique Pagan Empire. Where in this
Empire is there a Lucullus or a Caracalla? The astonishing luxury, the
bestial, insatiable passions? Or the furious competitions in petty things
with which the social life of Rome was daily intoxicated? Yet English
Christianity is neither so dramatic and full of contrasts as Dante's
Catholicism, nor so vibrating a lyric as Dostojevsky's Orthodoxy, but
rather a quiet, smooth epic like Milton's poetry.
THE GREAT DOGMA OF SIN AND SUFFERING.
The Anglican Church has formulated this dogma much in the same words as
that of the Orthodox Church. Yet it is not nearly so vivid in the daily
faith of the English people as in that of the Slavs. The friends of the
reunion of the Anglican and Orthodox Churches never mention this
difference, which is, I think, the only really great difference between
them. This life on earth for the English Christian conscience is a normal
one with some few objections. Given some correction, and life here on earth
would be quite normal and perfect. Slav Orthodoxy, on the contrary,
emphasises very emphatically the abnormality of human life on earth from
the beginning. Sin is the beginning of life, and sins are the continuation
of it. The first man deviated in some way from God's will; the first
brother killed his younger brother; the first-born nation made war with the
second-born nation, and this bloody business of men, of which, in the
greatest degree, we are the witnesses to-day, continued through many
thousands of years. The development of human virtues is not so obvious as
the development of human sins. Still, nobody has written a work on the
development of sins. The Orthodox Church believes quite seriously in this
fatal development; she believes more than seriously that "the whole world
lies in evil." Suffering is a consequence of sin. Even the righteous man
suffers, not because of virtue, but because of sin. If he himself has no
personal sins still he must suffer because of the sins of other men, no
matter if near or far from him in space or time. For all men from the first
to the last are made from the same piece of clay, therefore they all, from
the first to the last, form one body and one life. Each is responsible for
all, and each is influencing all. If one link of this body sins, the whole
body must suffer. If Adam sinned, you and I must suffer for it. If St. Paul
suffered, it is because his suffering is a consequence of the sins of other
links of the same body. If Christ suffered and died because of Adam, it is
also just. It is not good, but it is just. The suffering of nature around
us is incomparably small compared with the suffering of men. The
abnormality of the animal, plant or mineral world is not nearly so obvious
as the abnormality of our life. God's creatures, who were created on the
sixth day and destined to be the most perfect among creatures, are abased
by sin to an imperfection which is unknown among the creatures made before
the sixth day.
In no other Churches are there so many repetitions, in no other so many
symbols, as in the Orthodox Church. The whole worship is a continual
repetition for thousands of years. In Byzantium was fixed the image of
Christ, His mission, His worship. The whole system of belief and worship
came, fixed and accomplished, over to us Slavs. To keep that system intact
for ever was the first duty taught us by those who brought it. Its tendency
was to impress the image of Christ in the imagination and heart of the
generations as much as possible and always in the same way. We are living
in a world of evil; Christ is leader of the struggle against this evil. Men
lived thousands of years wavering between good and evil, worshipping good
and evil. Now they must be for good. They are educated and accustomed to
weighing things for themselves. Therefore it has become necessary to ask
them every day, every hour even, to confess that they are with Christ. They
must repeat it again and again, in prayers, in signs, in symbols, until
it becomes a new custom, a new education, a new blood and spirit, a new
man, a new earth. They must be reminded in every place and at all times
that they are soldiers of Christ and not of Perun. Churches, shrines,
chapels, ikons, candles, processions, priests, bells, monasteries,
travelling preachers, every day's saints, fast seasons—everything is the
repetition of the same idea, namely, that Christ is the ruler of life and
we are His followers. Christ must be expressed everywhere, indoors and
outdoors. Many Englishmen have remarked that the Bible is read very seldom
in the home in Russia and Serbia. That is true. People read the Bible more
in symbols, pictures and signs, in music and prayers, than in the Book, Our
religion is not a book religion, not even a learned religion. It is a
dramatic mystery. The Bible contains the words, but in this dramatic
mystery there is something higher and deeper than words. Slav Christianity
is something greater than the Bible. Looking at an ikon, a Russian mujik
perceives the Bible incarnated in a saint's life-drama. Mystery of sin,
mystery of atonement, mystery of heroic suffering, mystery of the daily
presence of Christ among us in holy wine, in holy bread, in holy water, in
holy word, in holy deed, in every sanctified substance, even in matter as
in spirit, mystery of communion of sins and of virtues—all are recorded
once in the Bible, and all are recorded and repeated also in our daily
life—that is what we call our Slav Orthodoxy. We take the mystic outlines
of the Bible and do not care about the details. In those mystic outlines we
put our daily life, with its details of sins and sufferings. We conceive
the Christian religion neither so juristic as the Roman Catholics, nor so
scientific as the Protestants, nor even so reasonable and practical as the
Anglicans, but we conceive it rather as dramatic.
SLAV ORTHODOXY IS NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT.
We are quite conscious that our religion is not solely Christ's work. Every
drop of blood of a Christian martyr is a stone in the work. Every suffering
man with heroic Christian hopes, and every dying human being with
optimistic Christian belief is a collaborator of Christ, or is a founder of
our Church. The Church is not at all solely Christ's work, she is the
collective work of many and many millions who, in the name of Christ,
decisively took part in this mystic race of earthly life. That is just what
Christ wanted and prophesied. That is why He washed the feet of His
The work of Tolstoi is the work of a man; Slav Orthodoxy is the work of the
generations. Orthodoxy was first defined by the Christian Jews and Greeks
during the first eight hundred years. During the other thousand years
Orthodoxy was enriched by the Slav Bible, i.e., by Slav religious
experiences, by Slav martyrs, saints, heroes, by Slav sins and repentances,
by Slav struggles and convulsions for Christ. It is a very large record, a
very large Bible indeed, a wonderful drama, quite new, fresh, original,
although in old forms and words, and signs. Still Slav Orthodoxy is not
self-sufficient. She would become by human inertia self-sufficient, unless
Providence sent her punishment from time to time. Tolstoi was for Orthodoxy
a punishment. He was like a whirlwind which pulls down many things but at
the same time purifies the unhealthy air. He was not at all a demon, but a
man sent by God to help our Church; and he helped very much indeed—as all
the sects and critics of Christianity from the beginning have helped the
Christian cause, ridiculing and exposing the Christian Paganism manifested
in ecclesiastical pride, in superstitions, prejudices, intolerance, etc.
What are the present needs of Slav Orthodoxy? Oh, her needs are great, her
thirst is immense. She does not need so much what Tolstoi proposed for her,
or what Harnack could give her, neither does she thirst after the stricter
and clearer juristic definitions, nor after a "sweet reasonableness," as
Matthew Arnold expressed Christ's being, a new theology or a new worship.
She needs more Christian dramas blended in one. She needs more of Christ on
earth, more votes for Christ, all the votes for Christ instead of dividing
them between Olympus and Golgotha. She needs to be united with all other
Churches in one Christ-like body and spirit, in order that all the pieces
of a broken mirror may be recomposed and that Christ could see in it His
whole face. She is thirsty for more stigmata, more suffering, more sins.
Yes, she is thirsty for more sins, I say, and more virtues; she likes to
have all the sins and all the virtues of the world confessed and recognised
as the common burden and common good. She is thirsty for a communion of
sins and virtues among men, she is thirsty to call you brothers. She is
thirsty to cry in exaltation to every man under the sun: "Poor child, give
me just your sins (you don't need them) and I will give you my virtues, in
order that I may be ashamed of your sins and you may be proud of my
For centuries Slav Orthodoxy seemed to the Western world like an immobile
tortoise with a multi-coloured shell and with no great probability of its
being inhabited by a living being. The outside world looked at this
multi-coloured, hard and unchangeable shell, sometimes with love, sometimes
with horror—always with an intense curiosity and almost always with a
doubt that there could be any living thing in it. I will try to show you
that there was and still is a living being contained therein, with many
more movements, dissatisfactions, convulsions, longings and sufferings than
it seems possible could exist.
SLAV REVOLUTIONARY CATHOLICISM
A FAR AIM AND A NARROW WAY.
If Providence bestows on the English Church only once in every half century
a man like Bishop Westcott, this Church, I think, can be sure of a solid
and sound longevity. Well, this Bishop Westcott spoke once enthusiastically
of "the noble catholicity which is the glory of the English Church." My
intention in this lecture is to describe to you an island in the Roman
Catholic Church among the Slavs, which island is distinguished by a noble
catholicity. "I believe in the holy catholic apostolic church." This
sentence that you repeat in London, as do the Roman Catholics in Rome, and
we Orthodox in Moscow, has always two meanings, a sectarian and a
universal, or a narrow one and a sublime one. The first meaning belongs to
the people who imagine Christ standing at the boundary of their Church,
turned with his face to them and with his back to all other "schismatic"
peoples. The second belongs to the people who think that Christ may be also
beyond their own churchyard; that the dwelling of their soul may be too
narrow for His soul, and that their self-praisings and schismatic
thunderings are very relative in His eyes. I propose to speak to-night
about the people of this second category, i.e., of the people who are in
the Christian history like a link connecting the different parts, the
different Churches, into a higher unity. I will limit my considerations in
this lecture to Slav Roman Catholicism. I call my theme of to-night "Slav
Revolutionary Catholicism." Why "revolutionary"?
Why not? Is not Christianity a revolutionary movement from its very
beginning? Is it not the most wonderful and the most noble among the
revolutionary movements in history? Cardinal Newman and many others spoke
about the evolution of Christianity. Revolution is the word much more
applicable to it. The spreading of this revolution from a poor village in
Galilee over all the world—that is the history of the Church; or, if you
like, the evolution of a revolution. As a volcano is an internal movement
of the earth which gives a new shape to the surface, so the Christian
revolution was also an internal movement, which gave a new form to the
drama of human life. The Christian religion seemed very simple, it was even
poor in simplicity, and still—what an incalculable impression it made! It
was simple in aims and in means. It had but one aim, and there was one way
only to it: to attain good only by good deeds; to fight for justice only
with means that were just; to realise Love only by Love itself; to push
darkness away, not by a greater darkness, but by light; to come to God the
Perfect by a perfect way. Christ preached a new aim and showed a new way—a
very sublime aim and a very limited way indeed. In the pre-Christian world
there were manifold aims and manifold ways and means. In Sparta,
skilfulness in sinning and hiding sins was tolerated and even applauded. In
ancient Rome, till the full sunset of its strength, a good man was regarded
as a weak man. Among the pagan Slavs, a prosperous man was envied more than
a virtuous man. Christianity cleared the spiritual atmosphere and deepened
human life. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." It was very clear. "Narrow is
the way which leads unto life." It was very deep. Through Hell you never
will reach Heaven. In making the devil your companion you will never come
to God. And God is the only aim, Christ the only way to that aim; a very
far aim, a very narrow way.
JAN HUSS'S REVOLUTION.
Your great compatriot, Wycliffe, is rightly considered as the beginner of
the Reformation. Wycliffe spoke, and his word was his great mission on
earth. But his word in Bohemia became flesh—yea, more than flesh—blood
and fire. Human words are never great except when transformed into a
drama—when incarnated into life. Wycliffe was never so great in England as
he became in Bohemia. Christianity in Bohemia was at that time relatively
young, nearly three times younger than in Rome. But since Prince Borivoj
was baptised by the Slav Apostle, Methodius, never did Bohemian
Christianity stand nearer to the primitive Bohemian paganism than at the
time when King Wenceslas ruled in Bohemia, and Pope John XXIII ruled in
Rome, and Jan Huss served as preacher in a Prague chapel called the
Bethlehemian. The paganism under the style of poor Jesus, against which
fought Huss, was much more obstinate and aggressive than the paganism under
the style of Perun, against which fought St. Methodius. Everywhere was
found a substitute for Christ, everywhere a pretext for an easy life and
for a broad way instead of the narrow one. Sins and virtues had been
equalised by means of money. The Church buildings had been transformed into
public places for the exchange of sins and virtues. "Repentance, not
Money!"—exclaimed Jan Huss. But his voice was stifled by the piercing
sounds of the drums by which the sale of absolution for sin was announced
in the streets. Again exclaimed Jan Huss: "The whole Bohemian nation is
longing after Truth." But the traders in Christ's blood and tears laughed
him to scorn. The doctors of theology asked their colleague Huss to confess
that "the Pope is the head and the Bishops the body of the Church, and all
their orders must be obeyed." But Huss did not care very much either about
the head or the body, but principally about the spirit of the Christian
Church. And this spirit he saw eclipsed. He saw men again falling back to
the creed of serving "two masters." He looked to the heart of the Christian
religion and saw that it was sick, and his soul revolted against it. But
his righteous revolution was regarded as a malevolent innovation, his words
as a scandalous licence, and his tendencies as a deliberate destruction of
Christianity. Therefore Jan Huss was brought before a tribunal of Christian
judges, condemned to death and burnt to ashes, ad magnam Dei gloriam, as
the Bishop of Lodi preached on that occasion.
The fact was that the Council of Constance was a great innovator, and that
Huss stood for the true catholicity of old. He fought for the primitive
Christian spirit which always inspired, vivified and purified the Christian
world, and his judges introduced a quite anti-Christian, a quite new spirit
into the Church, the spirit of judging and killing. The sufficient
proof—if you need proof at all—of this is that Huss suffered as a
Christian martyr and through painful suffering brought his cause to
glory; whereas his judges killed him in the hope through a crime to
promote the Christian cause, and so covered their names with shame. The
truth and glory of Jan Huss's cause were manifested last year throughout
the whole of the globe. The whole world celebrated the quincentenary of his
martyr death. I participated in this celebration in New York. It was a rare
spectacle, that the New World saw. The Orthodox Christians, Roman
Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists, all the
Churches and denominations participated in it. We went together, we prayed
together, and we felt united in one and the same spirit. That was a great
moment, for many of us the unique moment, when we experienced what is
meant by the catholicity, by the noble catholicity, of the Christian
Church, as Bishop Westcott called it. It was an elevated and sweet feeling.
The diabolical spirit of the Council of Constance never could unite us, but
the Christian Catholic spirit of Jan Huss united us. The memory of Pope
John XXIII divides the world, whereas the memory of the great apostle of
the Bohemian nation unites it. Yet the revolution of Jan Huss was not of a
personal character. It was not directed against John XXIII, or against the
Vatican as Vatican—it was directed against the spirit of Forum Romanum
which crept into the Vatican and dwelled there. It was directed against
Jupiter, who took the place of Christ in Rome and who invisibly inspired
the Council of Constance; and against Perun, who, disguised, smiled from
every church in Prague, and with a smile ruled over the souls in Bohemia
under the name of Christ.
THE POLISH REVOLUTION.
Mickiewicz, Sienkiewicz! Two great milestones in the history of the Polish
soul; two great milestones in Christian history also! Both Roman Catholics
and both revolutionists in religion. The religious revolution they made can
be characterised only by the words "noble catholicity." Both of them were
attracted by Primitive Christianity much more than by the official Church
of their own time. Sienkiewicz's work "Quo Vadis?" is by far better known
than Mickiewicz's lectures on "The Official Church and Messianism." Yet the
same religious ideal has been pictured in both these works. Mickiewicz put
on record as the true Christian men of suffering, of intuition and of
action ("hommes de douleur, d'intuition, d'action"). Sienkiewicz
described the first Christians as being such men. He revived the first days
of Christianity in Rome. What striking contrasts between paganism and
Christianity! Two quite different worlds in conflict—one world consisting
of men of pleasure, and the other of men of suffering. On one side: Nero,
Petronius, Vinicius, Seneca himself, and a mass harassed only about panem
et circenses. On the other side: Paul of Tarsus, Petrus, Lygie, Ursus and
many others willing to suffer and to die, and singing in suffering and in
dying: pro Christo! pro Christo! On the one side, the proud Roman
citizens, who adored force and who gave sacrifices to good and to evil
spirits equally in order to save or procure their miserable, fleeting
pleasure. On the other the humble inhabitants of the suburbs of Rome who
adored only the Good Spirit of the Universe and did not care about
pleasure, but about Justice and Love. Nero or Christ! The Emperor of the
Casa Aurea, who, oversaturated and annoyed by life, finished by suicide;
or the Prophet from Nazareth who came to establish the Kingdom of God on
earth and who was forcibly crucified by the adorers of darkness!
I have read many Roman Catholic teachers of catechism. I doubt whether all
those teachers did for Christianity as much as an artist—Sienkiewicz
—did with his charming story, "Quo Vadis?" He aroused so much interest,
and so many sympathies even among the unbelievers; I am sure he converted
to Christianity many more than any propaganda fides working on a
half-political, half-scientific foundation. He put Christianity on a purely
religious foundation, and he was understood not only by the Roman Catholics
but by the whole world. He found the very heart of the "noble catholicity,"
and he inspired the world. He showed once more that Christianity is a drama
and not a science.
Sienkiewicz loved Christianity, but he saw that it was still far from
gaining a decisive victory. He knew the horrible injustice done to his
Christian nation by the surrounding Christian nations. He was horrified
looking at Bismarck. He called Bismarck the "true adorer of Thor," because
he was a true follower of a pagan philosophy expressed in the Iron
Chancellor's sentence—Might over Right. Yet Sienkiewicz prophesied that
"Germany in the future cannot live with Bismarck's spirit." She must change
her spirit, she must expel Thor and again kneel before Christ, because the
"Christian religion of two thousand years is an invincible power, a much
greater power than bayonets."
Mickiewicz hoped that only the Christian religion can save mankind. Christ
is for him the central person in the world's history. Christ never made
concessions to evil. But His Church to-day is making compromises with all
kinds of evil. The official Church is publishing diplomatic Notes and
promoting the publishing of books. That is all. The Church is afraid of
suffering, although "there are even to-day enough occasions for the Church
to suffer." "Prelates wear the purple which symbolises martyrdom: But who
on earth has heard lately of the martyrdom of a Cardinal?" Mickiewicz
bitterly complains that the "high clergy deserted the way of the Cross.
They never would suffer. In order to escape suffering they fled as refugees
to books, theology and doctrines. But la force ne vient que de la
douleur." "The lower clergy, the Russian as the Polish, conserved the
depot of faith intact," but still they are in a darkness of prejudice and
vice. It is remarkable how large a view of the Christian Church had
Mickiewicz. He did not care only for the Roman Church. He called the
Russian Orthodox and the Polish Roman Church by one name—"the Church of
the North." He cared about Christ's Church, and he believed steadfastly in
her Messianic rôle in the world. "The men of conventions must be
defeated," he said. The pride of the high clergy and the fear of suffering
must disappear. "The first need for a modern man is to be inspired and
elevated, de s'allumer et de s'élever." The Church is the only bearer of
inspiration and elevation; not the official Church, but the Messianic
Church of "men of suffering, intuition and action," i.e., the primitive
Church of Christ, which Sienkiewicz so magnificently described and for
which Jan Huss so heroically fought.
THE SOUTHERN SLAV REVOLUTION.
In the beginning of the sixteenth century, a preacher of the Gospel in
Trieste and Laibach, Primus Trubar, published successively the New
Testament, Psalter and Catechism in the vulgar Slovene language. It
produced the greatest imaginable excitement amongst the Slovene clergy and
people. Christ and the Prophets spoke for the first time to the people in
mountainous Carniola and Istria in a language that the people could
understand. A minority of the clergy shared the popular excitement, whereas
the majority was filled with fury against the innovator. But Trubar went
his way courageously and continued to publish and republish the sacred
books in the Slovene tongue. The affair had the usual ending: the violent
persecution of the disturbers of the semper eadem, and the victory of the
persecuted cause. Trubar died in exile from his country, his books were
burnt, the churches in which his books had been read pulled down, and the
people who dared to speak with Christ and the Prophets in their native
language terrified. At the same time, the Turks, after having devastated
Serbia and Croatia, descended on Slovenia with the sword, burning pulling
down, and terrifying everywhere.
Yet the great question of the ecclesiastical language could not be stifled.
Even before and after Trubar, the Slavs on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia
and Istria insisted on the so-called Glagoliza as the language which
should be used in the divine service. Glagoliza is not the common
language of the Croats and Slovenes, but it is an old and sacred form of
the same tongue. Rome opposed for a long time, declined afterwards, opposed
or half-opposed again, till the question is to-day brought to a very acute
phase. Pope Paul V permitted the use of the Glagoliza in the Church. This
permission was repeated by John VIII. and Urban VIII. There was printed a
Missale Romanum, slavicâ linguâ, glagolitico charactere (Rome, 1893).
Still, one can say that although it is theoretically allowed, it is
practically forbidden. It is used to-day in some new places, like Krk,
Cherso, Zara, Sebenico, in Senj, Spalato, etc. But the fact remains that
the Southern Slavs, or the Slavs generally, do not like the Latin language
in the divine service. For the Slav conscience it is something incongruous:
the Latin language of Nero and the spirit of Christ. Every language is the
bearer of a certain spirit. Latin is the bearer of a juristic and despotic
spirit. Ranke said: "The Papal Church is a legacy of ancient Rome." If
this be true, the language doubtless was one of the principal reasons for
it. With the language of the Cæsars also crept into the Church the spirit
of the Cæsars. This spirit was brought to a triumph in 1870 at the Council
of the Vatican.
As the Croats and Slovenes protested against the language of the Cæsars, so
they protested also against the triumphant spirit of the Cæsars in the
Church. Bishop Strossmayer opposed the dogma of Papal Infallibility with a
sincerity, obstinacy and eloquence which can be compared only with the
spirit of the "golden age" of Christian history. In a letter to an old
Catholic friend, he wrote: "It is nonsense to say that the Popes cannot
live without these miserable rags called temporary possessions." Is this
not true apostolic language? Again he wrote: "What occurs to-day in Rome is
obviously God's punishment and at the same time a providential way to those
reforms which the Church needs in order to fulfil her mission with more
success in the future than she has done till now." And to Dr. Döllinger
he confessed quite openly: "And what about my nation and its future? It
seems to me quite certain that it will one day get rid of Roman despotism."
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION.
By its interference, religion can inspire science, and again science by its
interference can purify religion. The most beautiful spectacle in human
society is a priest
contributing to science and a scientist contributing to religion. The
one-sided man is always an imperfect man; and an imperfect man as a teacher
of perfection is a dangerous teacher for young generations.
Two Slavs, Nicolaus Copernicus, from Thorn, and Ruggiero Boscovich, from
Ragusa, both Roman Catholic priests, were at the same time both ardent
scientists. Copernicus postulated the heliocentric planetary system instead
of the geocentric. This happened soon after Columbus made a great
revolution in geographical science by discovering America. Some people
thought the end of the Church had come after Copernicus' discovery that the
sun and not the earth is the centre of the world. But Copernicus not only
did not think so, but continued quietly in his vocation as a priest and
dedicated his famous work to Pope Paul III.
Ruggiero Boscovich was not such a great discoverer as Copernicus; still he
was one of the most distinguished scientific and philosophic minds in the
eighteenth century. In his "Theoria philosophiæ naturalis," he tried to
prove that bodies are composed not of a continuous material substance but
rather of innumerable point-like structures or particles which are without
any extension or divisibility. These elements are endowed with a repulsive
force which can, under special circumstances (of distance), become
attractive. Boscovich's philosophical system can be called a dynamistic
Men with much smaller scientific successes sometimes consider it their duty
to separate themselves from the Christian Church. But great men like
Copernicus and Boscovich possessed in a high degree the noble catholicity
which should always exist between religion and science. For every great
revolution in science meant also a great revolution in religion. A
scientific revolution could never shake the realities of religion, but only
the illusions of religion.
This was likewise the great result of the religious revolutions among the
Slavs: not to shake the realities but the illusions of religion. Pride,
superstitions and hatred have produced all the revolutions in the Church,
the revolutions which meant for the Church real ventilation or punishment.
These revolutions gave light and air to the Roman Church. Either the
official books admit it, or they do not. No matter; the living Church
admits it. She has built monuments to the prophets whom she killed or
persecuted. No one is without a glorious monument—neither Huss nor
Savonarola, neither Bruno nor Hieronymus of Prague, neither Trubar nor
Strossmayer. The living Church always admired men of suffering and not men
of pleasure. It was not the self-sufficient prelates who promoted the
Christian cause, with their books and notes and discussions, but the
sufferers, hungry and thirsty for the Kingdom of God. Christ was victorious
over Nero in the Coliseum, but oftentimes afterwards Nero was victorious
over Christ in the Church. But Nero must go, and Christ come. We have all
pledged our word in our childhood to act so that Nero's spirit may decrease
and Christ's spirit increase in the world. We cannot otherwise keep our
pledge unless we adhere to the noble catholicity of the Christian Church,
which is the very kernel of vulgar and verbal catholicity. But we cannot
grasp all the Christian centuries and generations behind us and bind our
own life with what is noble and catholic in all of them unless we are
men of suffering, intuition and action. And we can be all three.
THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT OF THE SLAVS
WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS WORLD.
That is the principal feeling of the Slav soul: we are neither alone in
this world nor destined for it. Whether I wander in the streets of London
or stand in the green fields outside, I have always the same feeling of
human loneliness and helplessness on one side, and the company of some
overwhelming and invisible powers on the other. I say the feeling and not
thought, because I feel they touch me and I am unhappy because I cannot
touch them. They seem to be like shadows, and still I am sure they are
greater realities than I am. My life is dependent on theirs and their lives
are connected with, but not dependent on, my life. My being is quite
transparent to these higher intelligences, while their beings I can feel
only in the most lucid moments of my life. The dreamy nature around me is
pervaded by them, and my own life, I feel, is pervaded by them also. In
some way they disindividualise me, but on the other hand they give me
strength, light and inspiration.
What is the number of these powers surrounding us? "Many," answered
Paganism. "One only," answered Judaism and Islam. "One in Trinity,"
So—Christianity is a viá media between limitless Polytheism and absolute
Monotheism. Professor Haeckel of Jena, in his hatred of Christianity,
instanced Mohammedanism as a better religion and scornfully called the
Christian religion "Polytheism." The definition is not altogether untrue.
Paganism was not wholly false. The Christian dogma of the Trinity in
relation to this world symbolically means unity in multitude. This dogma
expresses a principle, an idea, rather than a number. As we cannot define
God's being chemically, historically, psychologically, etc., how can we
hope to define Him mathematically? God is beyond numbers; He is beyond
scientific research; beyond all expression. One in three, that is
half-way to Polytheism and to Monotheism. One in three gives the
substance of God's life and binds Him to His own work, the created world.
God's own life is dramatic internally, and externally (in relation to the
world). That is the real meaning of the dogma of the Trinity. God is
somehow one, and yet not one; rather He is a pluralistic unity. He can take
part in the human drama and still remain the God of the Universe. He can
suffer and still remain perfect. He can be omnipresent in the world and
still not be wholly immersed in it. "I cannot understand it; it is a
mystery to me," exclaimed Tolstoi. Certainly he could not understand it;
who could? We cannot understand our own beings. Modern biology discovered
that a human body consists of millions and millions of corpuscles, minute
organic cells which live their life and go their way unconscious of the
human person formed by themselves. New discoveries may open up new
problems, but the ancient mysteries about everything in the world continue
to be omnipresent. How could we have more knowledge about God except some
few glances, some imperfect allusions, some symbolical combinations?
However, lacking a clear and perfect understanding, we still feel that we
are not alone in the world. God is all round us like the atmosphere that we
breathe. The more we try to escape from this atmosphere, the closer it
seems to pervade us. Tolstoi felt this as strongly as the most orthodox
Fathers of the Church. Yet his doctrines on God, vague and pantheistic as
they are, slow to ascribe to God any traditional qualities and trying in
vain to invent new ones—his doctrines on God are less comprehensible than
the dogma of the Trinity—less comprehensible, less applicable, and
GOD ONLY IS GREAT
Not Napoleon, but God; not London, but God. Tolstoi analysed Napoleon's
life and character, and found that he was no better or greater than
thousands of other men who followed him. Why should London be called great?
Yes, perhaps it can be called great compared with anything on earth, except
God. I say, except God, because after a thousand years, i.e., after one
God's day, God will be surely the same, and London? Will it be in existence
a thousand years hence? Who knows? Walking in the streets of London I look
round me and see nothing great except God.
The famous Russian literature from Gogol to Dostojevsky is the finest
psychological analysis of men. The result of this analysis was: there
exists no great man. No one is great: neither Shakespeare nor Napoleon,
neither Peter the Great nor Kutuzov, neither the Russian landlords nor the
Czar himself, neither Prince Bolkonsky nor Raskolnikov, neither Nero nor
St. Paul, neither Beaconsfield nor Osman Pasha, neither Pope nor Patriarch,
neither Dalai-Lama nor Sheik-ul-Islam. How could they be great since they
must sleep, and eat, and be sick and disappointed, and despair, and die? A
review was made by the Russian authors—a review of ancient and modern
great men—and a verdict arrived at. For a thousand years Christian Russia
kept silent and listened to the hymns to the ancient and modern great men,
to the heroes whom they worshipped. She listened to the hymns and worship
of the great men while she begrudged praise to the good and saintly and
suffering men. Russia is called "Holy," not because she pretends to be
holy, but because her ideal is holiness—not greatness but holiness. She
first made use of the word in the nineteenth century. The poet Pushkin
first used it, and he used it in the customary way, like Lord Byron, or
Goethe, praising the great men, although still alluding here and there to
the true Russian ideal—to the good and saintly man. But he spoke not in
order to say a new, an original word to the world, but only to break the
silence and to attract the attention of the world to Russia. He was the
first of a series of preachers. He was listened to and applauded, but he
said nothing new. After him followed the preachers: Gogol, Tolstoi,
Goncharov, Tchehov, Turgeniev, Dostojevsky, and many others, like a choir,
in which three voices are still the strongest and most expressive: Gogol,
Tolstoi, Dostojevsky. What did they say?
They held a grand review of the souls, of the ancient and modern souls, and
found that there exists no great man among them. That was their verdict. In
all their writings they tried to show in the clearest manner, and to the
smallest detail, that there is no great man in the world. They analysed
everyone who was mentioned and adored by worldly society or by tradition as
a great man, and proved that he was not a great man at all. It was very
courageous indeed to speak like that in a world which was accustomed from
the beginning, in the pagan as in the Christian epoch, to adore greatness,
to divinise great men, to imitate and to worship heroes. It was still more
courageous to speak like that in the nineteenth century, when the worship
of great men found so many advocates, when the name of the demi-god
Napoleon filled every corner of the earth; when German philosophy, poetry
and music emphasised personality and individuality when the whole
continental theology followed the way of Cæsar and interpreted Christianity
as a teaching and promotion of individualism in human life. Yea, it
happened in the time when Carlyle, fascinated by German theories, ended the
matter and pressed the whole world's history into some few biographies.
Carlyle's "Heroes and Hero-Worship"—curiously enough—was published about
the same time as Tolstoi's "War and Peace." Two antipodes! Dostojevsky's
"Brothers Caramazov" was published nearly at the same time as Nietzsche's
"Zarathustra" with its message of the Superman. Again two antipodes! You
will in vain try to find such contrasts in the world as the Russian and
Germano-Carlylean literature. Petronius and Seneca could read and
understand very well Goethe and Carlyle, but they could not read and
understand Tolstoi and Dostojevsky, nor could they understand the
Christianity of their own time.
"Great men!" exclaimed the Roman world on their dying beds.
"Great men!" exclaimed rejuvenated Western Europe in the nineteenth
century. History consists of great men. The very aim of history is to
produce great men.
"No," answered Holy Russia, who kept silent for a thousand years. The ideal
of the great man is the fast ideal of the childhood of mankind, of the
youthful Pagan world. We are grown up in the Christian spirit; we can no
longer live in the childish illusions and dreams of great men. We see them
as they are. There has never existed and does not yet exist a great man. No
one great man ever existed.
On this point Tolstoi and the Holy Synod were in agreement with each other
and with the common spirit of the Russian people. They all agreed with
their whole heart in the denial of the Greco-Roman worship of great men,
which worship was everywhere revived in modern Europe in poetry,
philosophy, politics, art and even in theology. For eighteen hundred years
Western Europe was the spokesman of the Christian world and Russia kept
silent. When, after eighteen hundred years, Russia came to the world, her
answer was a decisive No. But that was not all she had to say. She had
also to say a decisive Yes.
No and Yes. There is in the Slav religious conscience a No and a
No—for a great man; Yes—for a saintly man.
No—for pride; Yes—for humility.
No—for individualism; Yes—for panhumanism.
No—for longing after pleasure; Yes—for longing after suffering.
History has proved that a great man is impossible and, even more,
undesirable, and that a saintly man is both possible and desirable. It is
proved also that a so-called great man meant a great danger for mankind; a
saintly man never could be dangerous. We do not need great men at all, we
need good and saintly men. We ought not to seek after greatness, but after
goodness and saintliness. Greatness is no real virtue, but goodness and
saintliness are virtues. Greatness is only an illusion, but goodness and
saintliness are realities. Christianity came to impress these realities on
the human conscience and to sweep illusions away.
The whole history of Christianity is a continual struggle between realities
and illusions. All the wars between Christians and pagans, and between
Christians themselves, from the time of Christ until our time, had always
the same meaning—a struggle between the Christian realities of goodness
and saintliness and the pagan illusions of greatness. The present War has
the same meaning as all the wars since Christ came until Bismarck. This war
was prophesied by Dostojevsky forty years ago. Dostoievsky was the only
contemporary man towards whom Nietzsche felt respect and even fear because
of his deep thought and clairvoyance. With his genial insight into human
nature, Dostojevsky saw clearly the inevitable conflict of the different
camps of Europe, whose apparent and hypocritical peace was only a busy
preparation for conflict. "Everything will be pulled down," he said,
"especially European pride." He had also a vision of what will come after
this great conflict. "Christ," he said, "nothing else but Christ Himself
will come in the form of panhuman brotherhood and panhuman love."
YOUR SINS ARE MY SINS.
Love the sinner as well! Do not fly away from the sinners, but go to them
without fear. After all—whoever you may be—you are not much better than
they are. Try to love the sinners; you will see that it is easier to love
those whom you despise than those whom you envy. The old Zosim (from the
"Brothers Caramazov") said, "Brothers, don't be afraid of the sins of a
sinner; but love a sinner also—that is the record of love upon earth." I
know you love St. Peter and St. John, but could you love the sinner
Zacchæeus? You can love the good Samaritan but love, please, the prodigal
son also! You love Christ, I am sure; but what about Judas, the seller of
Christ? He repented, poor human creature. Why don't you love him?
Dostojevsky—like Tolstoi and Gogol—emphasised two things: first, there is
no great man; secondly, there is no worthless man. He described the
blackest crimes and the deepest fall and showed that the authors of such
crimes are men just as other men, with much good hidden under their sins.
Servants and vagabonds, idiots and drunkards, the dirty katorzniki from
the Serbian prisons—all those people are God's sons and daughters, with
souls full of fears and hopes, of repentance and longings after good and
Between saintliness and vice there is a bridge, not an abyss. The
saintliest and the meanest men have still common ground for brotherhood.
Your sins are my sins, my sins are your sins. That is the starting-point
for a practical and lucid Christianity. I cannot be clean as long as you
are not clean. I cannot be happy as long as you are unhappy. I cannot enter
Heaven as long as you are in Hell. What does that mean? It means that you
and I are blended together for eternity, and that your effort to separate
yourselves from me is disastrous for you and for me. As long as you look to
the greatest sinner in the world and say: "God, I thank thee that I am not
as that man," you are far from Christ and the Kingdom of God. God wants not
one good man only, He wants a Kingdom of good men. If ninety-nine of us are
good and saintly but one of our brothers is far from our solace and
support, in sin and darkness, be sure God is not among us ninety-nine, but
He has gone to find our brother whom we have lost and forgotten. Will you
follow him or will you stand self-sufficient? Never has there existed in
the world such a social power binding man to man and commanding each to
take and bear the other's sorrows as Christianity did. Your sins are my
sins, my sins are your sins. Such a conception of the Christian religion
had Tolstoi in common with Dostojevsky and Gogol, with the Holy Synod, with
the popular religious conscience of millions and millions of the living and
the dead, in the orthodox world, and with all the jurodivi, the fools for
Christ's sake. That is the religious spirit of the best of the Slavs.
CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILISATION.
The following is the Slav point of view: Christianity came into the world,
not in order to inaugurate a new civilisation, but to infuse a new
religious spirit, to clear and purify the human conscience. A perfect
Christian spirit can exist quite outside civilisation as well as in the
midst of the most complicated civilisation. A Christian negro, in his
nudity, picking up dates under a palm tree, can be as good and saintly a
man as any business man from the Strand in London or from the Fifth Avenue
in New York. And, on the contrary, the most civilised men, like Bismarck
and Nietzsche can be of a much more anti-Christian spirit than any
primitive human creature in Central Africa or Siberia. Many civilisations
have been created without Christianity. You cannot say that Christian
London is a more perfect and beautiful city than Pagan Rome or Mohammedan
Cordova were. But you may perhaps say that the spirit of London is more
sublime and humane, more good and saintly, than the spirit of Rome and
Cordova. Well, it is the spirit which regards Christianity, and nothing
else. Civilisation is only an occasion for Christianity to prove its
spirit. It is an occasion of suffering, and also of corruption. In both
cases Christianity has to be tested. Christianity has to fight against a
Pagan civilisation as well as a Pagan barbarism. It is sometimes harder for
the Christian spirit to fight against the first than against the second
form of Paganism. It was easier for the Christian mission to Christianise
barbarous Africa than cultivated Rome. And imagine how much it will cost
till Bismarckian and Nietzschean Germany "changes her spirit" as
I mention this relation between Christianity and civilisation to prove that
a civilisation with any spirit is not attractive to the Slav, but rather
the civilisation with the Christian religious spirit only. Tolstoi denied
all civilisation just because he did not see the Christian spirit in it.
The Church was reserved towards modern science and art just because she saw
the anti-Christian, proud, egoistical spirit in many expressions of them.
Better the poor Christian spirit in a cottage of Macedonia than a rich and
cultivated Paganism in Vienna. The spirit with which a railway is made
counts and not the railway itself. We are never alone but always in the
presence of a great Spirit who encircles and inspires us. Whatever we do
through this inspiration is living and good; whatever we do without His
inspiration, but under the supposition that we are alone in this world, is
wrong and dead. A great civilisation may be wrong and dead Yea, as there is
no great man, there is no great civilisation. The ideal of Slav
Christianity is a good and saintly man, and also a good and saintly
civilisation. The very essence of life is mystic and religious. What is a
man or a civilisation without mysticism and religion? They are like a
painted landscape on paper. You enjoy it from a distance, but when you
touch it you are disappointed. Everything without God is discontentment,
Blessed are those—I wish you all may be numbered among them—whose life is
full of God. They are connected with the sun and the stars, with the living
and the dead, with the past and the future. They possess a wonderful bridge
over every abyss in life, and they are always safe. They are bright in
darkness, joyful in suffering, hopeful in death. Their life on earth, in
this very limited sphere of life, is escorted by the whole of the Universe,
from one end to the other. I wish that such a religious spirit belonged not
only to the Slavs but to all mankind.
"History of the Popes," Chap. I.
"Letter to Professor Reinkens," Schulte: Der Altcatholicismus.,