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Visit of Bishop Hilarion of Vienna January 30, 2004

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  • samsonw2000
    http://www.svots.edu/Events/chronological/2004-013 0-bp-hilarion/index.html Visit of Bishop Hilarion of Vienna January 30, 2004 At the Feast of the Three Holy
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2004

      Visit of Bishop Hilarion of Vienna
      January 30, 2004

      At the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs, patrons of the seminary
      chapel, His Beatitude Metropolitan HERMAN, invited His Grace Bishop
      HILARION of Vienna to concelebrate with him at the Divine Liturgy.
      Aside from his role as Bishop of Vienna and Austria, His Grace is
      temporary administrator of the dioceses of Budapest and Brussels for
      the Moscow Patriarchate, and serves as Chief Representative of the
      Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions. He is author of
      many books and publications, and holds doctorates from Oxford
      University and St Sergius Institute in Paris.

      During the course of the liturgy, Bishop Hilarion preached a
      significant homily on the Three Holy Hierarchs. He took note of their
      special love of learning, their dedication to the committed study of
      literature, arts and sciences. He pointed out their eclectic,
      inclusive character, even as they also knew that all such study and
      learning must be brought to the feet of Christ. Bishop Hilarion
      encouraged SVS students to show the same dedication to broad learning
      and study, particularly during their years at the seminary. The text
      of the homily follows:

      Sermon delivered by Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria during the
      Divine Liturgy, celebrated at the Three Hierarchs Chapel at St
      Vladimir's Theological Seminary on 30 January 2004, by His Beatitude
      Metropolitan Herman of All America and Canada.

      Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

      There is much in common among the three hierarchs and great ecumenical
      teachers whom we commemorate today: Saints Basil the Great, Gregory
      the Theologian and John Chrysostom. All three lived in a time when the
      Christian Church, after almost three centuries of persecution,
      received freedom and was flourishing throughout the Byzantine
      'oikoumene'. All the three were involved in contesting contemporary
      heresies, of which the most dangerous was Arianism, which rejected the
      Divinity of Jesus Christ. All the three combined serving the Church in
      episcopal rank with literary activity, and it is precisely their
      literary legacy which secured for them the paramount place that they
      occupy in Christian Tradition. All the three were victims of
      ecclesiastical intrigues, and suffered — in one way or another
      — from their fellow bishops: in fact, two of the three (Gregory
      and John) were deposed and died in exile. Their posthumous glory,
      however, exceeded any expectations their contemporaries might have
      had, and their significance for the entire Christian Church in East
      and West cannot be overestimated.

      A particular common characteristic of the three holy hierarchs was
      their love for scholarship and learning. Gathered as we are today, in
      this place of Christian learning, in this chapel of which they are the
      holy patrons, it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of some
      features of their attitude toward scholarship. In what follows I will
      focus mostly on St Gregory the Theologian's teaching on this subject.

      Gregory was educated in the Academy of Athens, where he extensively
      studied Greek literature, poetry and philosophy. Apart from Greek
      authors, he also read the Christian Scriptures, as well as the
      writings of Origen, from whom he may have inherited the high respect
      for ancient Greek scholarship. Gregory's closest friends, Basil the
      Great and Gregory of Nyssa, contributed considerably to the
      development of Greek scholarship on Christian soil. St Basil wrote a
      famous 'Exhortation to Youths as to How They shall Best Profit by the
      Writings of Pagan Authors', where he recommends Christian youth to use
      the works by ancient Greek writers, poets and philosophers for
      educational purposes. The same approach is exhibited by Gregory of
      Nyssa, who allegorically interpreted the 'jewellery of silver and of
      gold', stolen by the Jews on their departure from Egypt (Ex. 12:35-6),
      to be the wealth of pagan learning which Christians must borrow from
      the Greeks. He said that this wealth included 'natural philosophy,
      geometry, astronomy, dialectic, and whatever else is sought by those
      outside the Church'.

      The fourth-century Fathers realized that they were living at a time
      when the scholarly and intellectual wealth inherited from ancient
      Greek culture needed to be appropriated by the Christian Church. While
      insisting on the superiority of Christian learning over Hellenistic
      wisdom, they at the same time thought it necessary for Christians to
      accumulate everything positive that had been amassed by human
      civilisation outside Christianity.

      In accordance with these views Gregory the Theologian promoted the
      idea that heathen culture and Hellenistic education do not belong to
      the pagans: though pagan in origin, they belong to the Christians as
      long as Christians are able to receive them. Not only Greek
      scholarship, but also world civilisation in general belongs to the
      Christian Church, Gregory claimed. Together with Origen and Gregory of
      Nyssa he was convinced that the jewellery of Egypt, which symbolizes
      pagan learning, must not be left by the New Israel (Christians) in the
      hands of Egyptians (pagans).

      We may note that early Christian literature at times saw human
      civilisation, art and culture, as being demonic in their provenance,
      since they result from the fall. John Chrysostom himself wrote that
      'cities, arts, clothes and many other things... were introduced by
      death'. In the 'Macarian Homilies' we read that wise men,
      philosophers, writers, poets, artists, sculptors, architects and
      archaeologists were 'prisoners and slaves of the evil power' and
      worked under the influence of the devil.

      Yet many church writers pointed to the positive aspects of human
      civilisation and culture. Gregory the Theologian was one of them. He
      argued that no nation, religion, or philosophical school can
      monopolise culture, science and art, because these belong to the whole
      of humanity. For Gregory, it is God himself who is the true creator of
      human civilisation, and the artists are instruments in God's hands:
      'Language belongs not to those who invented it but rather to all who
      use it, and so also art and every occupation which you can imagine. In
      music, each string has its own sound, high or low – so also in
      these arts the Divine Word, Artist and Creator, appointed various
      inventors of various occupations and arts, giving everything to those
      who desire to use it, in order to unite us by the bonds of common life
      and friendship, and to make our life more civilised'.

      Gregory the Theologian respected everything which demonstrates the
      power of human reason, be it humanitarian and natural sciences,
      rhetoric, literature, poetry, music or other arts, even the art of
      circus trainers, about which he spoke with great admiration. Gregory's
      ideal is a man of reason, of high intellectual culture, of great
      erudition, who combines the true faith with knowledge in various
      fields and with an open attitude to the world. It is reason that makes
      humans alike to the divine Logos. Many of Gregory's poetic works
      contain praises of reason, education, and scholarship. 'Consider
      reason as the lamp of your whole life', he says. 'Do not think that
      there is anything better than education', he writes elsewhere.

      At the same time Gregory underlines that education should not be
      considered as an aim in itself: it is necessary in order to bring one
      to the knowledge of God and to contribute to one's progress in faith.
      One has to study in youth in order to offer the fruits of one's
      learning to the divine Spirit when one reaches maturity. This was
      Gregory's own aspiration from his early years. In the twilight of his
      life he wrote: 'One glory was pleasing to me, to progress in literary
      sciences, which are collected by East and West, and by Athens, the
      glory of Greece. In them I toiled much for a long time. But even these
      I placed before Christ, having prostrated myself, in order that they
      should give room to the Word of great God, which eclipses any
      changeable and diverse invention of the human mind'.

      Thus, secular letters and the fullness of non-Christian culture
      withdraw into shadow when a person encounters Christ. Compared with
      the Divine Word, every human word is nothing but myth, tale and
      invention. Yet the studies of Greek philosophy, mythology, poetry and
      other humanitarian and natural sciences are necessary in order to
      bring them to Christ's feet.

      Gregory the Theologian had before his eyes many living examples of
      true Christian scholarship. One of them was Basil the Great, his
      friend and classmate, of whose erudition and learning he spoke with
      admiration. Praising Basil's knowledge of rhetoric, grammar, history,
      poetry, philosophy, astronomy, geometry, mathematics and medicine,
      Gregory exclaims: 'He was a ship loaded with scholarship insofar as
      human nature can possibly accumulate'.

      Being a defender of the Greek paideia (literary/philosophical
      cultivation), Gregory the Theologian was a strong opponent to any kind
      of ignorance and obscurantism. Resistance to learning, contempt for
      education and unwillingness to accumulate the richness of human
      culture are, according to Gregory, incompatible with Christianity. The
      understanding of Christianity as a semi-catacomb sect which encloses
      itself by thick walls of suspicion and prejudice, opposed to the
      outside world, is alien to Gregory. On the contrary, Christianity must
      be open and all-embracing enough to be able to contain within itself
      the achievements of human reason.

      In our days there are people who say: 'It is not necessary for a
      Christian to study much: the important thing is to observe the rules
      of the Church'. Some even claim that great learning is an obstacle to
      salvation and refer to the 'ancient times', when 'there were bishops
      and priests who could neither read nor write, who were not versed in
      sciences, and still achieved genuine holiness'.

      To this we must first of all reply that there were nevertheless other
      bishops and priests who could not only read and write, but who were
      among the most brilliantly educated people of their times: Basil the
      Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, together with many
      other great hierarchs and teachers, belonged to this group. Secondly,
      even those bishops and priests of Christian antiquity who did not know
      how to read or write were not necessarily uneducated: many of them
      studied sciences orally (which was quite widespread in those days).
      Thirdly, we are no longer in the fourth, the fourteenth or even the
      nineteenth century; we have entered the twenty-first century, where it
      is very unlikely that there will be any place for ignorant and
      half-educated clergy. Priests and lay leaders seeking to build the
      Church in our times, to defend it from the attacks of enemies both
      internal and external, must themselves be educated. Priests wishing
      not only to save themselves, but others as well (which is precisely
      the essence of priesthood), not only the ignorant and the illiterate,
      but also the intelligent and the educated — such priests must
      themselves be educated.

      Our time, dear brothers and sisters, is not less challenging for the
      Church than the time of the fourth century, and the mission which is
      set before us is in no way less important than one carried out by the
      great hierarchs and teachers of the past. In order to face the
      challenges of modernity we — I now mean especially the pastors and
      future pastors of the Church gathered here — must be highly

      Dear students! Use the time which is given to you to acquire as much
      knowledge in different fields of scholarship as possible in order to
      be able to put it to Christ's feet, when the time comes. Follow the
      example of the great hierarchs of the past, whose worldly erudition
      did not prevent them from but, on the contrary, assisted them in
      becoming true pillars of the Church. Follow also the example of the
      teachers of our times, such as Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr John
      Meyendorff, whose legacy is preserved by this Seminary and who
      combined total dedication to serving the Church with great erudition
      and scholarship.

      May this school be for you a true place of learning, a new Academy of
      Athens, in which you will know only two ways: the way to the church
      and the way to your teachers. May you become 'ships loaded by
      scholarship' insofar as your human capacity allows. And may the prayer
      of the three great hierarchs, whose memory we keep today, assist you
      in your studies and in your spiritual life. Amen.
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