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An Interview with His Grace, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.svots.edu/ An Interview with His Grace, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria SVS Chancellor, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Dean Emeritus,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2008

      An Interview with His Grace, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria

      SVS Chancellor, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Dean
      Emeritus, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, and Dean,
      Archpriest John Behr, attended the world premiere
      of the English setting of "The Passion According
      to Saint Matthew," a musical composition by His
      Grace Hilarion (Alfeyev), Bishop of Vienna and
      Austria, on October 25, 2008 in Toronto. Bishop
      Hilarion's musical settings, which include as
      well "The All-Night Vigil" and "The Divine
      Liturgy," have received high acclaim from both ecclesial and secular reviewers.

      At the premiere in Canada, Fathers Chad, Thomas,
      and John were able to visit with His Grace for
      several hours. Subsequently, the SVS Dean and
      Chancellor arranged for an interview with His
      Grace, to learn more about this prominent, global
      Orthodox figure, and in particular, his
      understanding of the relationship between the
      Moscow Patriarchate, under which he serves, and
      the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

      Recently, Bishop Hilarion has become a person of
      particular interest within OCA circles, following
      suggestions from some Orthodox Christian
      faithful—including a public statement by
      Protopresbyter Hopko—that he be considered for
      possible election to the position of Metropolitan
      of the OCA at the upcoming 15th All-American Council, November 10–13.

      Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, Associate Professor in
      Systematic Theology at SVS, conducted the
      following interview on October 30, 2008.

      Your Grace, as an archpastor and scholar, with
      experience both within the Moscow Patriarchate
      and globally, you have reflected on a vast array
      of topics, many of which are now of key
      importance to us in the Orthodox Church in
      America as we prepare to meet in council and
      elect a new primate. While we in America reflect
      on the origins of our autocephaly, the recent
      scandal in our Church, and the challenges we
      face, how do you see a way forward for us?

      I find it helpful here to recall the history of
      more than two centuries of Orthodox presence in
      North America. Orthodoxy came to North America
      from Russia through Alaska (which, as Governor
      Sarah Palin has recently reminded us, is “sort of
      near the eastern border of Russia”). The roots of
      Orthodoxy in North America lie with St. Herman of
      Alaska, who came to Alaska in 1794 and spent more
      than 40 years there, and St. Innocent
      (Veniaminov), the future metropolitan of Moscow.
      In 1872, five years after the sale of Alaska to
      America, the see of the Russian bishop was
      transferred to San Francisco. From 1898 to 1907
      St. Tikhon, future Patriarch of Russia, governed
      the diocese. It was he who organized the
      all-American council of 1907, which renamed the
      diocese as the “Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic
      Church in North America.” Thus began the future
      autocephalous American Orthodox Church.

      But American Orthodoxy then quickly became
      multi-ethnic. Thus began a new, unique
      ecclesiological model that foresaw that bishops
      of different nationalities could act within one
      Local Church and on the same canonical territory,
      with dioceses being created not on the basis of
      territory, but ethnicity. Such a model did not
      correspond to the ecclesiology of the Ancient
      Church, but it was true to the new reality that
      emerged as a result of immigration to Europe and
      America. If events had continued according to the
      plan outlined by St. Tikhon, a Local Orthodox
      Church in America could have been created in the
      1920s, headed by one metropolitan, under whom
      bishops of various nationalities would be in
      submission, with each caring for the flock of his
      own ethnic background, be it Russians,
      Ukrainians, Greeks, Antiochians, Romanians, et cetera.

      However, as a result of the mass immigration of
      Greeks from the former Ottoman Empire to Europe,
      America, and Australia in the 1920s,
      metropolitanates of the Patriarchate of
      Constantinople were created on these continents.
      Moreover, the Patriarchate of Constantinople
      declared its jurisdiction over the entire church
      “diaspora” which, in their definition, included
      practically all of Western Europe, North and
      South America as well as Australia and Oceania.
      In North America, however, there already existed
      an Orthodox Church headed by a Russian
      metropolitan. Thus the creation there of a
      jurisdiction of Constantinople introduced
      divisions into American Orthodoxy, something that
      was exacerbated after the establishment of other jurisdictions.

      In 1970 the Russian Orthodox Church, inspired as
      before by St. Tikhon’s vision of a single
      Orthodox Church on the American continent,
      granted autocephaly to that part of American
      Orthodoxy that was previously under its canonical
      authority. It was hoped that the Orthodox of
      other jurisdictions would eventually join this
      autocephalous Church, which received the name
      “Orthodox Church in America.” However, this has
      not yet happened, and in the Americas there are
      currently metropolitanates, archdioceses, and
      dioceses of several Local Orthodox Churches
      alongside the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.

      Within this situation, I believe that the
      uniqueness of the OCA consists in the fact that
      it is the first Orthodox Church on the American
      continent that has declared itself American. It
      is meant to be not one of the ethnic churches of
      the “diaspora,” but the national Orthodox church
      of the USA, Canada and Mexico. It is meant to be
      the living testimony to the universality of
      Orthodox Christianity. As Metropolitan Kallistos
      Ware said, “The Orthodox Church is not something
      exotic or oriental. It is mere Christianity.” So,
      we can say to whoever wants to join the Orthodox
      Church: “You don’t need to be or to become
      Russian, or Greek, or Antiochian in order to be
      Orthodox. You don’t need to become exotic or
      oriental. You can be Orthodox while retaining
      your national and cultural identity.”

      While being American, however, the Orthodox
      Church on the American continent must be able to
      pastorally assist all ethnic groups that need
      such assistance. This kind of receptivity,
      indeed, is part of the very American experience.
      The Church should also be able to react to new
      waves of immigration and incorporate new
      immigrants with their languages and cultures. The
      mission of the Orthodox Church in America with
      regard to the immigrants should consist not in
      Americanizing, but in Christianizing and
      “Orthodox-izing” them. Hence the need to be open
      to new possibilities offered by new immigration.

      In Hungary, where I have been serving as a bishop
      for the last five and a half years, we have both
      Hungarian-speaking and Russian-speaking Orthodox
      people. But the diocese was initially devised as
      Hungarian and not Russian. Therefore one of the
      bishop’s tasks is to maintain its predominantly
      Hungarian character. For example, when I
      celebrate liturgy on Sunday in our Cathedral in
      Budapest, 90 per cent of service is conducted in
      Hungarian, and only 5 per cent respectively in
      Greek and Slavonic. On the other hand, I cannot
      overlook the needs of the Russian-speaking
      people. Thus, in the Cathedral we have some
      Slavonic services on weekdays at the request of
      our “Russians” (including Ukrainians,
      Belorussians, Moldavians, and so forth). All
      priests of our diocese, with one exception, are
      native Hungarians. But, as far as I know, all of
      them (without any instruction on my part) use not
      only Hungarian, but also Slavonic and
      occasionally Greek in liturgical services.

      I am not in a position to give a concrete advice,
      I am only saying that the shepherd, be it bishop
      or priest, must be sensitive to the needs of his
      sheep. This, I believe, was precisely the vision
      of St. Tikhon, when he dreamed of a united
      Orthodox Church of North America in which people
      of all ethnic backgrounds would feel at home.

      Orthodox Christians everywhere—and especially
      lately in America—have been seeking to identify
      the proper relationship between conciliarity and
      hierarchy, among bishops, clergy, and laity, on
      all levels of church life. How do you understand these relationships?

      Here too, I would like to think historically,
      although in this case going further back, to the
      first centuries of the Church, which laid the
      foundations of an answer to your question. The
      Orthodox Church is “episcopal” in the sense that
      the primacy in each diocese belongs to the
      bishop. In the early Church, as we know primarily
      from St. Ignatius, the guarantee of the
      catholicity of each local Church, i.e. the Church
      of each local region, was the presence in it of a
      single Eucharistic gathering headed by the bishop
      as the chosen head of God’s people.

      The supreme role of the bishop is due to the fact
      that he occupies the place of Christ in the
      Eucharistic gathering. It is this understanding
      that explains the fact that the so-called
      monarchic episcopate—one bishop in each
      Eucharistic community or Church—became generally
      accepted in the ancient Church.

      Being the single leader of the Church of a given
      locality, the bishop nevertheless governs the
      Church not single-handedly, but in conjunction
      with the presbyters and deacons. The bishop does
      not possess ecclesiastical power or authority by
      himself, due to his ordination to the episcopate:
      he is a member of the local church community that
      entrusted him with this service. Outside the
      church community the bishop’s ministry loses its
      meaning and efficacy. And if he acts in an
      authoritarian way, if he does not consult clergy
      and laity before taking important decisions, if
      he acts on behalf of himself rather than
      implementing the desires of his community, then
      his ministry does not correspond to the norm.

      It is clear that on the level of a diocese the
      primacy belongs to the diocesan bishops. On the
      level of a Local Church consisting of several
      dioceses, however, the principle of primacy gives
      way to collegial forms of government. In practice
      this means that the primate of a Local Church is
      the “first among equals” among the bishops of his
      Church: he does not interfere in the internal
      affairs of the dioceses and does not have direct
      jurisdiction over them, although he is granted
      some coordinating functions in questions that
      exceed the competence of the individual diocesan bishops.

      Although the rights and duties of the primate
      vary in different Local Churches, there is not a
      single Local Church that accords him supreme
      authority, for it is the council that has always
      been the final authority. For example, in the
      Russian Orthodox Church dogmatic authority is
      granted to the Local Council, in which not only
      bishops, but also clergy, monastics and laity
      participate, while the highest form of
      hierarchical government is the Bishops’ Council.
      In the Orthodox Church in America supreme
      administrative power is given to the All-American Council.

      What was the role of the presbyters and the laity in the church governance?

      Ancient church councils were in fact councils of
      bishops. Presbyters could participate in these
      councils only as proxies for bishops (e.g.
      legates of the Pope took part in Ecumenical
      Councils), and lay people participated only if
      they played special role (such as, the emperor
      who would convoke a council). However, in the
      ancient Church presbyters and laity took part in
      the election of the bishop. Therefore, while it
      was the bishop who represented a diocese at a
      council, yet by virtue of having been elected by
      the people of God he had legitimate right to
      represent the clergy and the laity. Nowadays
      clergy and laity in some Orthodox Churches take
      part in the election of the bishops. They also
      participate in various governing or controlling bodies.

      To clarify: you find it appropriate that
      councils—including those involving the election
      of bishops and decisions about church life—be
      composed of bishops, clergy, and laity?

      There are different types of councils. In the
      Russian Church, for example, the supreme
      authority in theological and dogmatic matters
      belongs to the Local Council, which consists of
      bishops, clergy, monastics and laity. It is this
      body that elects the Patriarch. The supreme
      authority in administrative matters belongs to
      the Bishops’ Council, which is convoked every
      four years. Between the Councils it is the Holy
      Synod, presided by the Patriarch, which has
      supreme authority in administrative matters. Only
      bishops participate and vote in Bishops’ Councils
      and sessions of the Holy Synod. However, a good
      number of clergy and laity are invited to
      participate as experts in various fields. So, the
      decisions of the Bishops’ Councils and the Holy
      Synod are based on the expertise and wisdom of
      people in all areas of church life, lay and ordained.

      Would you make some further general remarks on
      the role of the non-ordained in church life?

      The people of God includes both ordained and
      non-ordained members, and all of them constitute
      “the royal priesthood,” of which St. Peter spoke
      in his epistle. The division between those who
      are teaching and those who are being taught,
      between the initiators and those who are being
      initiated, between ordained and non-ordained is
      alien to Orthodox theological tradition. This
      division derives from medieval scholastic thought
      and from the arguments between Roman Catholics
      and Protestants at the time of the Reformation.

      Nowadays the ordained and non-ordained alike may
      teach theology in schools, seminaries and
      faculties, may preach in the church and do many
      other things. Many leading theologians of the two
      preceding centuries were lay: remember Khomiakov,
      Lossky, Evdokimov, to name but a few. The only
      thing that is reserved to the clergy is the
      celebration of the services and sacraments. But
      the presence and active participation of the
      laity is as important as the presence of a
      celebrant. The Divine Liturgy, for example, is a
      “common act,” in which the laity participates
      through prayer, singing and, most importantly, through Holy Communion.

      How do you see the relationship between the
      bishop and the clergy of a diocese? Would you
      comment on this from your personal experience?

      I believe that the bishop should be both the
      father and a brother of the priests of his
      diocese. Unfortunately, this does not happen very
      often. If a diocese is too large or a bishop too
      busy, it is difficult to establish a kind of
      family relations built on mutual trust and love.
      I have seen, however, a very inspiring example of
      such relations in one American diocese: the
      Diocese of Wichita of the Antiochian jurisdiction
      of North America. I was a speaker at their annual
      retreat and was able to observe their life for
      several consecutive days. I must admit that I had
      never seen such a strong bond of friendship and
      spiritual love between the clergy and their
      bishop. Since then I have regarded Bishop Basil
      of Wichita as a model of a true shepherd.

      In my diocese in Hungary I inherited a rather
      difficult situation. My predecessor was not on
      good terms with some of the clergy, and there
      were lots of tensions. When he left and I came,
      my first meeting with the clergy was a “listening
      session”: I listened to a long list of bitter
      complaints. I was asked to change many things
      immediately, but I replied that I would need time
      to make my own evaluation of what should be done.
      Then I just observed and learned for about a year
      before I started to implement certain changes
      with the consent and approval of the clergy. I
      also had many encounters with the priests, both
      with all of them and with each of them
      separately. I am glad to say that we were able to
      create a community that now lives like a family.
      All of our clergy (with one exception) are native
      Hungarians, yet I believe they wholeheartedly
      support me as their bishop. When relations are
      based on mutual respect, trust and friendship,
      the ethnic factor either loses its importance or disappears altogether.

      The heads of Orthodox churches met recently in
      Istanbul. Their common statement accounted for
      the need to address “the canonical anomalies… in
      the so-called diaspora.” The OCA was naturally
      not there, as our autocephaly goes unrecognized
      by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. What do
      you see as the contribution, the role, and the
      position of the OCA on the global Orthodox scene?

      I believe that the granting of autocephaly to the
      OCA was a prophetic action of the Russian
      Orthodox Church. One of the most important
      features of the OCA in 1970s–90s was its high
      reputation throughout the world, perhaps
      especially through the great missionary work of
      St. Vladimir’s Seminary and its most notable
      personalities, such as Fathers Georges Florovsky,
      Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff. While
      the OCA remained unrecognized by Constantinople
      as an autocephalous Church, its merits in
      mission, education, and evangelism were
      recognized throughout the world. In other words,
      its fame was to a significant degree dependant on
      the personalities that represented it
      internationally. It is felt that after the
      untimely death of Fr. John Meyendorff the
      reputation of the OCA began to steadily decline.
      Indeed, the recent turmoil dealt a very serious
      blow to its fame. Great efforts will be needed to
      restore its credibility in the Orthodox world.

      Before the 1990s the OCA had very close relations
      with the Russian Orthodox Church. During the past
      15 years or so these relations have declined
      somewhat. I cannot list all the factors that
      contributed to this estrangement, but I believe a
      certain lack of leadership and vision was one of
      the causes. The Russian Church was the Mother
      Church for the OCA, but in 1970 it became the
      OCA’s sister. But until the OCA’s autocephaly is
      universally recognized it will still need its
      former mother, at least as a kind of backup
      force. It is clear to me that there is nobody
      else to actively defend the OCA as an
      autocephalous Church. And there is no way back,
      since autocephaly cannot be revoked by the former
      Mother Church. Thus, I believe, special efforts
      need to be made in order to restore trust between
      the Moscow Patriarchate and the OCA.

      The OCA plays a special role in American
      Orthodoxy. Through its participation in SCOBA it
      is already involved in fostering pan-Orthodox
      unity on the American continent. I believe that
      one day, sooner or later, there will be a united
      Orthodox Church of America that will embrace all
      currently existing jurisdictions. It is clear,
      however, that there is a long road ahead, and on
      this road the OCA, which is already constituted
      as an autocephalous Church, may assist other
      Orthodox Churches in identifying themselves as parts of all-American Orthodoxy.

      Many times, you have reminded ecumenical
      gatherings of the important witness Orthodox
      Christians make in the theological, moral, and
      ethical spheres. Do you believe that ecumenical dialogue holds promise?

      After more than thirteen years of intensive
      ecumenical involvement I can declare my profound
      disappointment with the existing forms of
      “official” ecumenism as represented by the World
      Council of Churches, the Conference of European
      Churches and other similar organizations. My
      impression is that they have exhausted their
      initial potential. Theologically they lead us
      nowhere. They produce texts that, for the most
      part, are pale and uninspiring. The reason for
      this is that these organizations include
      representatives of a wide variety of churches,
      from the most “conservative” to the most
      “liberal.” And the diversity of views is so great
      that they cannot say much in common except for a
      polite and politically correct talk about “common
      call to unity,” “mutual commitment,” and “shared responsibility.”

      I see that there is now a deep-seated discrepancy
      between those churches which strive to preserve
      the Holy Tradition and those that constantly
      revise it to fit modern standards. This
      divergence is as evident at the level of
      religious teaching, including doctrine and
      ecclesiology, as it is at the level of church
      practice, such as worship and morality.

      In my opinion, the recent liberalization of
      teaching and practice in many Protestant
      communities has greatly alienated them from both
      the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. It has also
      undermined the common Christian witness to the
      secularized world. The voice of Christendom is
      nowadays deeply disunited: we preach
      contradictory moral standards, our doctrinal
      positions are divergent, and our social
      perspectives vary a great deal. One wonders
      whether we can still speak at all of
      “Christianity” or whether it would be more
      accurate to refer to “Christianities,” that is to
      say, markedly diverse versions of the Christian faith.

      Under these circumstances I am not optimistic
      about the dialogue with the Protestant
      communities. I am also far less optimistic about
      the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue than my beloved
      teacher Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. In my
      opinion, the only two promising ecumenical
      dialogues are between the Orthodox and the Roman
      Catholics, and between the Eastern and Oriental
      Orthodox families. While there are well-known
      theological differences between these three
      traditions, there is also very much in common: we
      all believe in Christ as fully human and fully
      divine, we all uphold the apostolic succession of
      hierarchy, and de facto recognize each others’ sacraments.

      But even with regard to relations between the
      Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, both Eastern
      and Oriental, we need new forms of dialogue and
      cooperation. It is not sufficient to come once
      every two years for a theological discussion on a
      topic related to controversies that took place
      fifteen or ten centuries ago. We need to see
      whether we can form a common front for the
      defense of traditional Christianity without
      waiting until all our theological differences
      will disappear. I call this proposed common front
      a “strategic alliance” between the Roman
      Catholics and the Orthodox. I deliberately avoid
      calling it a “union” or a “council,” because I
      want to avoid any historical reminiscences and
      ecclesiastical connotations. Mine is not a call
      for yet another “union” on dogmatic and
      theological matters. I am rather proposing a new
      type of partnership based on the understanding
      that we are no longer enemies or competitors: we
      are allies and partners facing common challenges,
      such as militant secularism, aggressive Islam,
      and many others. We can face these challenges
      together and unite our forces in order to protect
      traditional Christianity with its doctrinal and moral teaching.

      As an author of many scholarly publications,
      including groundbreaking reflections on
      theological education in Russia, would you please
      comment on how academic work informs faith, and
      how faith informs scholarly work?

      I don’t think that every church leader has to be
      “an academic” in the technical sense of the word:
      to spend time in libraries, doing research and
      polishing footnotes. Yet I do not share the
      opinion that church leaders do not need to be
      good theologians. The great Fathers of the past
      were all theologians, even if hardly any of them was “an academic.”

      I was recently in Toronto and, among other
      things, gave a lecture on the theological
      education in the 21st century. I argued, in
      particular, that one of the major problems of
      contemporary Christianity is the divorce between
      theory and praxis, between faith and knowledge,
      between theology and life. Nowadays knowledge
      about theological subjects does not necessarily
      presuppose faith. You can be a “theologian” and
      not belong to any church community; in principle,
      you do not need to believe in God to receive a
      theological degree. Theology is reduced to one of
      the subjects of human knowledge alongside with
      chemistry, mathematics, or biology.

      There is also another divorce: that between
      theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian,
      liturgical texts are not simply the works of
      outstanding theologians and poets, but also the
      fruits of the prayerful experience of those who
      have attained sanctity and theosis. Liturgical
      texts have been accepted by the whole Church as a
      “rule of faith” (kanon pisteos), for they have
      been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox
      churches over many centuries. Throughout this
      time, any erroneous ideas foreign to Orthodoxy
      that might have crept in either through
      misunderstanding or oversight were eliminated by
      church Tradition itself, leaving only pure and
      authoritative doctrine clothed by the poetic forms of the Church’s hymns.

      To rediscover the link between theology, liturgy
      and praxis, between lex orandi, lex credendi, and
      lex vivendi would be one of the urgent tasks of
      theological education in the 21st century. The
      whole notion of a “theology” as exclusively
      bookish knowledge must be put into question. The
      whole idea of a “theological faculty” as one of
      many other faculties of a secular university
      needs to be re-examined. The notions of
      “non-confessional,” “unbiased,” “objective,” or
      “inclusive” theology as opposed to “confessional”
      or “exclusive” must be reconsidered. I believe
      all this applies both to the European and the North American situation.

      Finally, Your Grace, your musical compositions,
      inspired by scriptural, patristic, and liturgical
      texts, have received high acclaim. Would you
      comment on the influence of music in your life,
      including your spiritual life, and on the
      relationship between faith and culture?

      Music has played very significant role in my
      life, though my involvement in “practicing” music
      was not always as intense as it is currently. I
      studied music from the age of 3 to the age of 20,
      and music became a part of my nature. Music was
      meant to be my profession, but at the age of 20 I
      entered monastic path and decided to dedicate my
      life to the service of the Church. I took things
      rather radically and decided that, since I must
      renounce the world and the only thing that
      connects me with the world is music, I have to
      renounce music. This is what I did. For several
      years I did not allow myself even to listen to
      music, not speaking of playing or composing it.
      Eventually, when I became less radical, I started
      to listen to classical music again.

      But it was only relatively recently, in June
      2006, that I began to compose music again, after
      an almost twenty-year break. I began with the
      Divine Liturgy, which I composed in ten days,
      while traveling from Moscow to Budapest and then
      from Vienna to Annecy via Geneva. Some pieces
      were composed in airports or on the plane. For
      example, the Beatitudes were composed in the
      Sheremetyevo airport, “Holy God” on the plane
      from Moscow to Budapest, some litanies in the
      Geneva airport, some other pieces in Annecy
      during the sessions of the WCC Faith and Order
      Commission. Then in August of the same year, when
      I was more or less on holiday in Moscow, I
      composed the “All-Night Vigil.” And then, on 19
      August, while I was driving from Vienna, where I
      celebrated the Holy Transfiguration, to Budapest,
      where I was to celebrate the memory of St.
      Stephen of Hungary on the following day, an idea
      occurred to me to compose the “St. Matthew
      Passion” using the Bach model but filling it with
      Orthodox content. On my way back from Budapest I
      began to compose in my head the early melodies.
      It took me three weeks to compose about 80
      percent of the music. I then left it aside for a
      couple of months, after which I returned to it,
      added a few pieces, and made a thorough revision.

      The “muse” then disappeared for a while in order
      to return on 30 January, when I was walking along
      the Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament
      and suddenly began to hear the music of “Glory to
      God in the highest.” In three months, on 30
      April, the “Christmas Oratorio” was completed.
      There was then a break for more than one year
      until I went to Finland for a short holiday in
      August this year. I spend there one week, which
      resulted in a choral symphony on the Psalms. This
      is my short musical biography.

      When I rediscovered music at the age of 40 I saw
      it not only as an interesting and inspiring
      occupation, but also as a strong missionary tool
      that can be used to preach Christ. The
      significant element of my two major compositions,
      the “Passion” and the “Christmas Oratorio,” is
      the reading of the Gospel. Music “illustrates”
      the Gospel, so to speak, helping the listener
      emotionally and spiritually to live through the
      story of Christ’s life and death. I also found
      out that there are things that you cannot
      transmit to other people through the language of
      words, while you can communicate them through
      music. Music is a different type of language,
      with a more direct and intimate access to human heart.

      Music and other arts, as well as culture in
      general can bear the Christian message. Pavel
      Florensky noted that the word “culture” derives
      from “cult,” which points to the cultic, sacred
      nature of the culture. In modern time culture is
      very often transformed into anti-culture and
      instead of carrying spiritual message becomes a
      tool for driving people into passions,
      depression, or aggression. I believe that the
      Church needs to build bridges between itself and
      the world of art and culture by exporting its own
      cultural richness and by positively influencing
      secular culture. We have a great deal to offer to
      the people not only inside our Church but also
      outside it. A dialogue between the Church and
      secular culture is one of the missionary imperatives for the 21st century.

      NOTE: To learn more about Bp. Hilarion, his
      works, and his writings, please visit http://en.hilarion.orthodoxia.org/.

      Finally, SVS Press is pleased to announce that it
      will be the U.S. distributor of Bp. Hilarion's
      musical recordings; you may view and order them at http://www.svspress.com
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