Is This Orthodoxy?
- Is This Orthodoxy?
Or Modernism, Subverting True Orthodoxy,
and Unacceptable for the Orthodox Conscience?
Father Michael Pomazansky
A review of the book: Orthodoxy in Life. A collection of articles edited by
S. Verhovskoy. Published by the Chekhov Society, New York, 1953, 405 pages.
As it may be seen from the opening lines by the editor of this collection,
the book is intended for a wide circle of readers. Its aim is "to give
brief information about Orthodoxy in teaching and life." However, a cursory
examination is sufficient in order to see that little is said about the
concrete features of Orthodoxy, and that the main part is full of abstract
religious-philosophical matter; the other part is composed of articles of a
theoretical character. The two articles by A. Kartashev giving
church-historical material are an exception. The title Orthodoxy in Life,
therefore, is in the latter case, completely unsuitable.
The participants in this collection [Prof. A. Kartashev, Fr. Alexander
Schmemann, Fr. Serge Verhovskoy, V. Rev. V. Zenkovsky, Rev. E. Melia, Rev.
A. Kniazev, B. Bobrinskoy, N. Arseniev, and N. Struve] are representatives,
mainly as professors, of two theological schools: the Paris Institute and
St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York. The book is arranged in a widely
expanding plan:Orthodoxy and Today's World, Christianity, Christ, The
Church, Faith and Knowledge, The Church and State, The Parish, Holy
Scripture, Prayer and Services, Orthodoxy and Russia, Great Examples,
Spiritual Traditions of the Russian Family. The Collection is internally
united by a series of characteristic ideas which, evidently, must be their
"Orthodoxy is Christianity in its purest form," we read in the first line
of an introductory article by the editor. A further reading of the content
of the articles of this collection permits us to accept these first words
as the formula for the basis of the whole book. In this phrase, Orthodoxy
is equated with the general, ideal image of Christianity. It follows that
everything the authors say about Christianity, in its purest form, is
Orthodoxy. The treatment of the subject of Orthodoxy in the basic essays of
the book is guided in this direction.
Orthodoxy, however, has its own historical image, representing a way of
life, and properly presenting itself as "Orthodoxy in Life." This image is
touched on very lightly in the introductory chapter entitled, "Orthodoxy
and Today's World." Here the picture is far from ideal? "Christians are
weak, inactive, hypocrites; Church society is unchurchly in its spirit, in
its life and conscience, often the only thing remaining of it is the form,
with a predisposition towards compromise, even with bolshevism or racism.
Beginning even with the Middle Ages, Church society ailed with all the
illnesses of pharisaism, ritualism, scholasticism, insensibility to evil,
an unwillingness to bring the light of Christianity into the essence of
life?" (p. 23). "The condition of the Orthodox Church itself is very sad?"
(p. 11). Thence follow the deductions: "it is necessary," "it is
indispensible," "it is lacking," "it must be," "second necessity," "third
necessity" ? in a word, the correction of! all sides of Church life is
indispensible. Such is reality ? to the author.
Let us return to the first phrase: "Orthodoxy is Christianity in its purest
form." The phrase itself demands a series of rebuttals. A Protestant, of
course, moved by an Orthodox service or captivated by the writings of the
Holy Fathers, could express himself so: "Orthodoxy is the purest form of
Christianity." His point of view is the relativeness of all Christian
faiths. In other words, he holds the point of view of present-day
ecumenism, and for him such a form of expression is completely natural. But
when Orthodox theologians include Orthodoxy in a long list of Christian
faiths, even though it is in the first place, the result is worse. First of
all, this echoes of a clear subjectivity: to a Christian of any faith or
sect, his understanding of Christianity must present itself as being the
best, if he is faithful to it. Secondly, by such a listing the name
"Orthodoxy" itself is implicitly crossed out. This name must imply to us
that Orthodox doct! rine is the true Christian doctrine, "the right faith,"
placed in opposition to "other religions". It is the true Church of Christ.
In this collection there is no such direct and clear statement about
Orthodoxy. For now, only a slightly noticeable move is made off the solid
foundation. The switchman has only lightly separated the rails on the
switch; but the brilliant express will now take another direction.
If Orthodoxy is the purest form in a line of other forms of Christianity,
then where will the authors of this collection place the Church? Will not
the name of the Church then be spread throughout all Christianity in the
hundreds of its forms of confessions of faith? And if the Church is equated
to Christianity in general, then in this diffused state, what does the
Church add to Christianity? Is She in that case necessary? And where is She
to be found in life, in a concrete incarnation?
Those are exactly the questions posed in the article by Fr. Alexander
Schmemann, "Of the Church." "Why is so little said about the Church of the
Gospel?" Is She not an "unnecessary, human obstacle" between Christ and
those who love Him?  In order to begin to answer this question, the
author deems it necessary first of all "to allude to that perspective, in
which 'the problem of the Church' is placed and resolved by the Gospel
itself." In presenting this perspective, the author speaks of the Kingdom
of God, of "birth from water and the Spirit," of following Christ, of
personal freedom, of faith, of renewal in Christ; of the Holy Spirit, Who
is a) "the Life of the Father and the Son" and b) the Life "uniting me with
the Son and adopting me to the Father"; of the Sacrament of the Eucharist,
of love towards brothers in Christ, "of the service of one fulfilling the
service of Christ, becoming the tie for all" [one could think that the
theme here is the papacy, although, apparently, pastorship is the question
at hand]. And, finally, the last chapter gives an answer about the Church.
This answer is very unclear. We shall cite important thoughts from it. "New
life, unity in Christ, the gathering of believers in the Spirit is the
Church of God?" "The Gospel calls us to life; but the life announced by it
is revealed as the Church. Christ came to the people and for the people. If
He then did not remain alone, if even two or three heard and received Him,
He is already in them and they in Him ? and this oneness of Him with people
the Gospel calls the Church:I will build My Church and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18)?" "But many will pose the last
question:where then is She, the true Church? We see Her in divisions, in
quarrels, in sin and temptations. How can one be sure what is of Christ in
Her, and what is apostasy from Him? Here too we receive an answer from
Christ Himself:'Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it will opened for you
? every one who seeks will find, to everyone who knocks it is opened?' One
thing is certain:faith in Christ brings us into the Church and life in Him
is life in the Church." The author then leaves the reader in this enigma,
leaving him alone, with the Gospel in his hands, to search for the answer
to the question of the Church.
On a parallel with the main theme, the Church, Fr. A. Schmemann in the same
article conveys another thought, later more fully developed in the articles
of S. Verhovskoy. This is the struggle with the seemingly false but ancient
view of "the purest form of Christianity" ? in Orthodoxy ? that the
substance of Christianity is "the salvation of the soul." Having reminded
us that "the teaching about the Kingdom of God is opened to us in a
somewhat double perspective," Fr. A. Schmemann writes, "We have already
long ago reduced all Christianity to the teaching not of a new life, but of
the salvation of the soul in a life beyond the grave" (p. 61). [We must
note in passing, that such an expression, "the salvation of the soul in a
life beyond the grave," is not generally encountered in an Orthodox church
lexicon.] The author calls us to "examine our usual understanding of
Christianity as the salvation of the soul" (p. 63). This thought of Fr. A.
Schmemann puts us into a state of perplexity. All the writings of the
Apostles, of the Holy Fathers, and finally all the Church services,
beginning with the prayer "O Heavenly King" ["?save our souls, O Good
One"], place the salvation of the soul in the center of our thoughts;
whether this is right or wrong in the estimation of the authors of this
work, such in truth is "Orthodoxy in Life," and without this, it is an
illusory "Orthodoxy." Whoever reckons that the constant thought and prayer
of the salvation of the soul is an unwanted element in Orthodoxy cancels
out for himself Orthodoxy in general.
The author continues, "When we read the Gospel in the light of this
question, we are convinced that the teaching of Christ is certainly not
limited to the 'soul,' and that on the contrary, in His life He pays much
attention to man's body. He 'heals all disease and sickness among the
people,' returns sight to the blind, cures the lame, the paralytic, the
hemorrhaging, and finally, raises the dead? He speaks of 'the luminous
body.' He performs miracles and heals through the medium of His body: by
touch, spittle, breath and, finally, His very resurrection is the
resurrection of His body. And even though age after age we search and await
from Christ most of all especially healing, i.e., bodily help still,
blinded by our own, and not by the Gospel understanding of the salvation of
the soul, we connect salvation to the soul alone, and limit it to the life
of the soul beyond the grave" (pp. 63?64). Further the author writes, "And
seeing that man lives in this union of the spiritual and bodily, and
outside of it discontinues being a man, then?" (p. 64).
In answer to the reasoning of Fr. A. Schmemann one could turn to the
Gospel, where it is said: and fear not them which kill the body, but are
not able to kill the soul (Matt:10:28); but it is not necessary to enter
upon discussion of this sort here, since, as it is said elsewhere in this
work, "you can prove anything through the Gospel" (p. 59). It is enough to
turn one's attention to the fact that the truth of the soul's immortality,
the truth of a knowledgeable life beyond the grave, after separation with
the bodily "temple," is preserved in full force from Apostolic days to our
time, namely by Orthodoxy, and this forms not only its distinctive
characteristic from other faiths, but also its grandeur, strength, glory,
its life. Hence, in Orthodoxy it is the exceptionally high regard for the
dead and the heavenly Church, the Eucharist and general remembrance of the
departed, an uninterrupted mindfulness of the saints and a prayerful
communion with them, which astou! nds the heterodox. If a soul without the
body is already not a personality, then how can we pray,"Give rest, O Lord,
to the souls of Thy departed servants, where from eternity the light of Thy
countenance shineth, and gladdeneth all Thy saints"? Fr. Schmemann calls
his readers to that melancholy world-view into which Protestantism has
already sunk, having almost lost its faith in life beyond the grave. Nobody
denies the importance of the body and the bodily needs of man in earthly
life, but the author evidently has a special purpose when he speaks of the
meaning of the body. With such a world-view, two results are natural: 1)
oblivion of the heavenly Church (and we see this in this work, where, in
spite of its comprehensive character, the heavenly Church receives only
several passing and pallid lines (p. 302), and 2) the idea of arranging "a
happy life" on earth under the protection of religion. Fr. A. Schmemann
does not elaborate on these points, but his second conclusion provides the
inspiration for the two long articles of Serge Verhovskoy:1)
"Christianity," and 2) "Christ." These articles can be regarded as the
heart of the whole Collection. We shall limit ourselves to a number of
excerpts from them.
Serge Verhovskoy writes, "The substance of Christianity is the union of
people with God, between themselves and with all beings," we read in the
beginning of the first article (p. 277). What draws us to God? "In love, in
understanding and creativity we can rise above life's problems. The
understanding of nature and the contemplation of its beauty creates in us
the ideal image of the world. Relationships with people?open to us the
depth of man's spirit. In science and art we express all the riches of
knowledge and beauty through which man is capable of living. If man could
limit himself to spiritual riches which he finds in himself and in the
world, he would not even begin to think of God. But in spiritual life man
is never satisfied with his own accomplishments? Who of us will say,
without falling into dull self-conceit: I love enough, I am holy enough; I
know enough, everything beautiful is open to me, I am perfect!? In this
consciousness of our limitedness, which appears to us on our endless road
toward perfection, God is revealed to us; He is that All-Complete Being, to
Whom we aspire; in Him is accomplished all that we seek?" (p. 278). [Here
an observation must be made: is it really true that hunger for that which
is greater than what is in our possession leads us to God? Is it not rather
often the opposite; does it not lead us away from God?]
The author sees man's good in the attainment, during life, of Truth, Good,
and Beauty. "In God we attain our Desire: Truth, Good, and Beauty," (p.
281); the triad of "Truth, Good, and Beauty," is used by the author on
every page, but especial attention is allotted to Beauty. "There is only
one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one good, one truth, one beauty in God"
(p. 283). "The beauty of the outside world and the inner beauty of man
leads us to the ideal beauty, in which we see primary shapes of beings, as
they exist in God, for God placed within the universe not only wisdom, but
also beauty" [page unknown, ed.]. "Whether we unite in the way of love or
morality, knowledge of beauty, ideals, or creativeness, the summit of our
way will be in God? Only a general living love for the one living God, only
a general faith in absolute Good, Truth, and Beauty can completely unite
people in the one and all-sided ideal of man's life" (p. 300). "Every
individual Christian recognizes the truth from one angle, even though the
Truth stands wholly before him in Christ. But Truth is fully open for the
unity of all. The same can be repeated also concerning beauty. One should
not forget that in multi-unity, i.e. in a complete unity of singleness and
multitude, of originality and sameness, lies the foundation of good and
truth and beauty, and of Being itself, and that is why God is the complete
Tri-Unity" (p. 304). "Why are we so persistently speaking of good, of
truth, and of beauty? Isn't there here a poor abstraction? No, the whole
irreplaceable and necessary value of good, truth, and beauty consists in
the fact that in them we are united with reality itself, i.e. with God,
people, and the world? The perfection of life is revealed to us in beauty,
more than in anything else. The perfect is always beautiful. It follows
then that in beauty we also enter into communion with Reality itself ? with
God and everything existing? For this reason the Kingdom of God can be but
a Kingdom of good, truth, and beauty" (pp. 306?307).
The author of the article cited does not see any difficulties in the fact
that the idea of serving truth, good, and beauty is also used by
irreligious humanism, pantheism, and atheistic philosophy. The article
suggests to us that no matter what unites searchers of the fullness of
life, whether in creativity, in love, or in beauty, the summit of their
road will be in God, they will be united by faith in "the Absolute Good."
"Everything positive already in fact belongs to Christianity, even though
it may not recognize this. Sooner or later everything will be gathered into
the Church, and at the end of world history the Universe will become the
Kingdom of God" (p. 308). The arts of the world, even though non-Christian,
are rated by the author as an integral part of the Kingdom of God, when he
says: "The arts of the world of the past (not only Christian) were the
treasure houses of the beautiful" (p. 321). So, if we follow the thought of
the author, the ideals of godless humanism flow together with the Christian
building of the Kingdom of God, and the Christian concept of the Church
diffuses into total vagueness.
The fullness of life in Christ, as represented by the author, seems to be
easily attainable. "Who loves Christ," we read here, "will want to belong
to Him and live a common life with Him. Continually remembering Christ, we
will turn to Him with our thoughts and feelings and search for personal
communion with Him, at first possible in answerless prayer to him, and
afterwards in prayerful conversation with Him and internal contemplation of
His actual presence in us. When we do feel the presence of Christ, we will
see Him in all the positive content of the spiritual life, as well as in
all that is good in the world" (p. 294). "The first sign of grace is the
presence in us of a force surpassing our strength; we perceive that our
actions and experiences contain in themselves more than our own capability.
Grace inspires and warms our soul: it is light; it is joy; it is love; it
is the fire which burns us and gives life to us, and this fire we can
transmit to others?" (p. 295). [Do these words not suggest an empty
self-delusion? Is this not self-flattery? Is it fitting to use the word
"we" in representing the heights of spiritual experience? And, is this in
fact what the saints, who have reached these heights, experienced?]
The essence of the Church, according to the author, is multi-unity. "No
human differences of sex, conditions of life, profession, education, class,
nation, or race can divide the Church. All Christians, parishes, dioceses,
and churches must be one, notwithstanding any differences which are
possible among people. We should not forget that the essence of every being
from the Most-holy Trinity to the atom, and also the essence of good,
truth, and beauty is multi-unity?" (pp. 312?313). [The author does not make
mention of the dogmatic distinctions; it may be that they are to be
understood in the expression: "notwithstanding any differences which are
possible among people." He places a mark of equality between the "Church"
and "all Christians"; on the other hand, he speaks of the (seven)
Ecumenical Councils of the Orthodox Church, as the highest authority of the
Church (p. 312). We cannot know whether by the words "all Christians" he
means only the Orthodox Church or, on the contrary, whether "Church" is to
be understood as Christians of all possible confessions, sects, and
The author understands Christian activity as "creativity" ? "according to
that ideal which we find in Christ": "to transform your own or other souls,
to cleanse and transfigure them, to elevate them to the fullness of the
life of the Kingdom of God ? cannot be the work of mechanical effort or
book learning; only an extreme effort of the will, mind, artistic
sensitivity, a continual inspiration and illumination from God, can give us
success? Christ, the prophets and apostles, left everything for the sake of
this creativity, and God and the World glorified them more than all other
genus of mankind" (p. 314).
Such a lofty spiritual state, an uninterrupted existence in Christ, etc.,
according to the author, are fully compatible with ordinary forms of life
and activity. He writes: "From what has been said, it does not follow of
course (to come to the conclusion) that Christians should not give their
efforts to those types of creativeness which are usually spoken of in the
world, i.e., social activity, science, art, etc. They are justified in so
far as they serve good, truth, and beauty" (p. 315).
"The spiritual life" is understood by the author as "love for God, people,
and the world, the recognition of truth and beauty" (p. 312). "The
understanding of spiritual life is constantly being reduced among
Christians to a plain concentration on a religious or prayerful-ascetic
life. The apostolic understanding of spirituality was not such," he writes
Only from the point of view of the breadth of Christianity does the author
tolerate the right of monasticism's existence. "The Church counts it
permissible to renounce these forms of life (political, family, cultural,
and household) for those who want to concentrate on an inner life, in
solitary prayerful labors: such is the ideal of monasticism." "It is
understood," the author finds it necessary to warn, "that love for one's
neighbor and the duty to help him remains in force even for a monk" (p.
The pinnacle of Christian attainment is the feeling of "happiness on
earth." "If three unite in the name of Christ, they will be strong and
happy. If thousands gather in the Kingdom of God, here on earth, the
Christian world will begin to be transfigured? The happiness of man is in
unity with God and people, in a nearness to all beings, in love, truth, and
beauty, in beneficent creativity. On earth all of this is accomplished in
the Church; in it resides the Kingdom of God?" (p. 329).
Church services are offered by the author as one of the kinds of Christian
art (pp. 287?311). 
A dangerous philosophy is observed in his expression of the relationship of
God to the world: "It is also evident, that God is inseparable from the
world. He Himself united Himself with us, desiring to be our Creator,
Guide, and Saviour. He, too, Who is the Perfect Spirit, is also the Creator
of the Universe. We must not divide God. Therefore, it is erroneous to
separate, in our religious life, our relationship to God from our
relationship to created beings (p. 305).
"God is actively present in the material world, in the body of Christ, in
Church, in icons, in the Cross, in sacred articles, in priestly actions, in
the relics of the saints" (p. 311).
What does "actively present" mean? Does He dwell "in the body of Christ"
and "in the material world" on an equal footing? Does the omnipresent God
"dwell especially" in sacred articles and in the relics of saints? Can He
dwell in priestly actions?
A special article, as the author writes, is "dedicated to our Lord Jesus
Christ" (p. 293). Former themes are partly repeated here.
Beauty: "For Christ it was most important to create an internal spiritual
world, in which the souls of mankind would be united one with another in
one truth, verity, holiness, love, beauty" (p. 345).
"Christ says nothing about arts, but in the image of God and man, which is
revealed by Him, are shown the foundations of all beauty. It does not
follow that Christ regarded with animosity all forms of our earthly life,
repudiating them in the name of pure spirituality" (p. 345).
The body: "Christ's body had an enormous meaning in His theanthropic
life?His miracles, transfiguration, resurrection, ascension, were connected
with His body? and in general, Christ disclosed His Divinity through His
body? Thanks to His body, Christ was in direct communication with the
material world" (p. 350).
Asceticism: "Poverty and persecutions forced Christ to experience bodily
sufferings and deprivations, but premeditated asceticism occupies a
secondary place in the life of Christ; we know only of His forty-day fast
after Baptism" (p. 352). [We ask: Where does asceticism not occupy a
secondary place? Did the circumstances of life really "force," i.e., compel
the Saviour against His will to suffer deprivations and poverty? Do not the
words of the Saviour call one to an ascetic regard of life: whoever wishes
to follow Me, let him deny Himself and take up his Cross? The author, it is
evident, forgot the ascetical example of Saint John the Baptist.]
The author thinks it is necessary to suggest to readers that Christ loved
life in all its entirety. "Being Himself the Wisdom of God, Christ sees
wisdom and beauty in nature, in the Scriptures, in the ordinary life of
people? He is ready to accept accusation even from an evil slave; Christ
does not scorn any man: neither the loyalty of the fishermen, chosen by
Him, nor the children, nor the plain family of Lazarus, nor the
entertainment of publicans and pharisees, nor the anointing and tears of a
sinning woman" (p. 358). "Not justifying sin, He loved sinners with a
special love and occupied Himself more with them than with the righteous"
(p. 361). He "rejoiced with parents whose children were cured of sickness
or sin, [rejoiced over] the birth of a baby, a wedding, a shepherd finding
a sheep, and even the woman who found a coin" (p. 361). "Christ regarded
pagans with condescension: they know truth poorly, but can follow the
simplest morality" (p. 367).
Concerning the fact that the Saviour came to bring to earth not peace, but
a sword, not a word. Christ loved sinners not with a "special love," but of
publicans and sinning women He said: Verily I say unto you, that the
publicans and the harlots will go into the Kingdom of God before you; for
John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not,
but the publicans and the harlots believed him. It is strange even to read
such an expression: "did not scorn the loyalty of the fishermen, chosen by
Him"; to read of the Saviour, praying for them before the sufferings on the
cross: "I sanctify Myself for them."
The author's understanding of Christian humility is certainly original. He
writes, "Humility is usually understood very one-sidedly ? not in
substance, but in its ascetic expression ? as self-abasement, the regarding
of oneself as nothing, the emphasizing of one's sinfulness." The essence of
humility, according to the author, is not in the above, [rather]: "My good
is in all good, my life is in unity with all, my truth and good and beauty
is the same truth, good and beauty for all, my worth is measured by a
common measure ? this is the essence of humility" (p. 357).
It is evident that with such "humility" it will not be difficult to be
"reconciled" even with evil. And this we do read further. "Every
manifestation of Christ's humility is explained by His condescension to
everything alive ? to the worst sinner, to the slightest good" (p. 358).
"Why do the humble avoid external strife with evildoers? Because, in them
they are ready to see some good, and fear to destroy the good together with
the evil? In every being there is at least a drop of good and for this
reason God tolerates even those who knowingly become evil" (p. 359).
Not justifying, then, strife with evil, the author does justify egoism.
"Love naturally arises from humility, because it is natural to love that
which you recognize as good for yourself (!). Love is a yearning to live
one life with the loved one, to give yourself to him, to possess him (!).
Only he really loves God, people, truth, good, beauty, who not only takes
from them and makes use of them, but who also gives himself to them.
However, it is true that love is also possession, for if I do not have
possession of something, then how can I be in unity with it? It is
justifiable also to love one's self, for it is natural to want to possess
and live for yourself" (p. 359). [In the final analysis, then, humility
leads to the desire to "possess," to love for oneself, and to "live for
There are many separate phrases in the article which catch the eye with
their inappropriateness to Christian truth; others are so unclear that it
is difficult to appraise them.
"Riches and power seemed to Christ and the apostles to be dangerous for
spiritual life" (p. 341). [Is it possible to apply to Christ the expression
"Those who fulfill the word of God are more blessed than His Mother" (p.
343). [Where did the author get this? The Gospel does not say this.]
"Christ was the Righteous One, and His righteousness was first of all
internal holiness" (p. 346). [What does "first of all" mean? What other
kind of holiness can there be?]
"To follow Christ is the first step of Christianity; a higher step is to
live by Him" (p. 347). [Does this mean that to live by Him is already not
being a follower of Christ?]
Thoughts which are plainly contradictory to dogmas of faith are expressed
in the following deliberations.
"In His love for the Father and the world, Christ gave them His life and
His soul [?]. The death of Christ in itself was not related to His body
alone, but also His soul" (p. 366). (This is something entirely new in
theology, for we know that every person's soul, not only Christ's, is
immortal. "In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God?," we
hear in the Paschal service.)
Just as far from Orthodox theology are the following words: "Christians
have but one God ? Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one Lord ? Christ is our
Lord not only in that He is a divine, perfect Personality, but also because
in Him is opened to us a new world of being and a perfect ideal of life;
the true meaning of life is opened to us? In Christ we have reached the
comprehension of what man is; we have learned to appreciate the wealth of
the spirit and its indivisibility from the body" (p. 369). So says S.
Verhovskoy. But we have been taught by the Church not to separate God the
Son and Christ the Lord, for in Him mankind is united to God "inseparably"
and "indivisibly." There is no God the Son separately from Christ the Lord.
And concerning the assertion by the author about the indivisibility of the
spirit from the body ? the dust will return to earth, as it was, and the
spirit will return to God, Who gave it (Eccles. 12:7), and according to the
Apostle: There is a natural body (of the present age), and there is a
spiritual body (of the future age); Now this I say, continues the Apostle,
that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither doth
corruption inherit incorruption (I Cor. 15:44, 50).
Both articles of Professor S. Verhovskoy, to whose pen belongs more than a
quarter of the whole Collection, contain a number of subjective elements,
which can be found only in modernistic "theological" literature or in
publications of extreme Protestant doctrines. The internally contradictory
understanding of the essence of Christianity, the artificial, touched-up
picture of Christianity strikes the eyes. It may be that this picture, as
well as the style of exposition, was intended to meet the taste of a
definite circle of readers by its novelty and originality; it may be that
some who are little acquainted with Christianity will indeed find such a
picture satisfying. In any case, this is far from authentic Orthodoxy, and
we can say with confidence, that Orthodoxy is not in need of such an
We will now proceed to a short survey of other articles in this collection
following in order from general to particular themes.
"Faith and Knowledge," by V. Rev. V. Zenkovsky ? The author presents this
question: How are miracles possible in our world of strict causal
dependence of phenomena? He proposes to resolve this question by applying
the teaching of Cournot about the confines of causality, explaining the
appearance of "chance" in the world of causality. Chance is the result of
the collision of two "independent causative series," as the collision of
two moving machines at the point of intersection of two paths (i.e., to the
collision of a train and an auto). But the will of the engineer can
forestall the collision. Does not the will of God in the same way invade
the course of causative series, creating a favorable junction of events,
without violating the laws of causality, and this appears in our eyes to be
a miracle? However, in the opinion of Fr. V. Zenkovsky, there is one
exceptional miracle which does not conform to such an explanation: this is
the miracle of the resurrection of Christ. "I! n the matter of the
resurrection of the Saviour, on the contrary, the question of its very
possibility is difficult, but the question of its authenticity and
reality?is decided simply and categorically? The reality of the
resurrection of the bodily dead Saviour is certified, not only by its
complete possession of the mind and heart of His followers, but especially
by its entrance into the souls of the Lord's disciples in its victorious
radiance, that their preaching kindled endless masses of people with a fire
unquenchable until the present day. This force lives in mankind till now?"
(p. 50). The reader of the article draws the inference that the very
reference to the one fact of the resurrection, as the deciding argument in
the question of the miracle, namely the fact of Christ's Resurrection,
pushes aside as superfluous all discussions of the relationship of miracles
to the law of causality.
Continuing in the appointed order, we will speak briefly about the two
articles of Anton Kartashev, "Church and State" and "Orthodoxy and Russia."
Both articles, expressing thoughts already known from previous articles of
A. Kartashev, are distinguished by the author's knowledge of the history of
the Eastern Church and love of Russia's past.  He speaks about the
symphony of the Church and state in Byzantium and in Russia with sympathy,
notwithstanding all historical sins, and speaks sorrowfully of the present
"divorce" of Church and state. In conclusion, he contrasts the laudable old
symphony to the present "most absurd compromise" between a godless state
and the Church, "on the terms of reciprocal service, to which, in the
darkness of a Bolshevik hell, a terroristically-harassed and freedom-bereft
part of the episcopate lowered itself. This nightmarish absurdity is
accepted with unfeeling stupidity as something normal and tolerable by
foreign general church opinion, ecumenical circles, some Eastern Orthodox
hierarchs, and what is most unforgivable ? even by a small handful of
Orthodox Russians, living here, in the blessed lands of human and Christian
freedom" (p. 171).
The second article of A. Kartashev concerns the ideas of "Holy Russia" and
"Third Rome." In it the belief is expressed that, in spite of all the
terrifying reality, these two ideas even today have not lost their meaning.
"Let us pre-assume that we have already been pushed into eschatological
times? We are called with all the more anxiety to a stronger stand with the
banner of Christ even in rear-guard battles" (p. 202).
Referring to the past of the Eastern and Russian Churches with
understanding and love, the author acknowledges that you cannot return what
is lost. At the end of the first article, he writes: "In the belief that
the archaic Eastern system of the symphony is ideal, we do not weaken
ourselves with inactive, romantic longing for the irrevocable past" (p.
177). At the end of the second article: "Raising the banner of Orthodox
Russia and rendering her becoming honor for her attainments in the past, we
count it neither obligatory nor wise to take upon ourselves the thankless
and utopian role of restorers" (p. 204). In the light of these
reservations, more strange but characteristic is the reaction by the editor
of this work to the ideas of the author about the monarchic order of
Orthodox kingdoms in the past. In the most intimate sections of the article
the editor of this collection retorts with the following remarks in the
footnotes: "The intervention of Christian monarchs in the administration of
the church is a negative fact" (p. 204); "We do not think that at the
present time all Orthodox people must be monarchists" (p. 207); "?that the
constant and principle intervention of Christian monarchs into church
affairs was evil" (p. 161). On the question of the USSR the editor remarks,
"One can imagine that far from all the Russian hierarchy in fact serves the
interest of the Soviet authority?" (p. 202).
The article, "The Small Church: The Parish as a Christian Community," by
Rev. E. Melia, gives a series of theoretical, but in practice, useful ideas
about the organization of the internal life of a parish. Built on the plan:
unity, holiness, conciliarity, and apostolicity of the Church, by its very
plan it traces the idea that every Christian community is a small Church,
retaining all four signs of the Church.
A series of thoughts in the article appears as a fresh and good stream in
comparison to the prevailing spirit of this work. Such are: a) the idea
about the "unsuitability of Christianity with the natural reality of the
world, about the foreignness of Christianity in respect to the world" (p.
112); b) about monasteries: "the monastery is a likeness of a parish or
even of a diocese, it has such an accumulation of spiritual power that it
does not yield to the latter in its allotted importance in the Church" (p.
115); c) the priesthood: "like a prophet, the priest is subjected to
reproach, mockery, and even to a hidden anger because ? just like every
Christian, but in the first rank, where he offers himself voluntarily ? he
appears as a monk on earth, i.e., with all his being, witness of life, and
service, as also in his outer appearance. In the name of the Church he
reminds all of the corruption of this world, and of the coming age" (p.
"What is Holy Scripture?," by Rev. A. Kniazev contains the chapters: Books
of Holy Scripture. Their origin. The place of Holy Scripture as the source
of the knowledge of God. The nature of Holy Scripture. The mutual
relationships of the Bible and science. The composition of the Bible. Holy
Scripture and the prayerful life of the Church. The article represents an
introduction to the usual course on Holy Scripture.
"Prayer and Services in the Life of the Orthodox Church," by B. Bobrinskoy:
The first part of the article deals with prayer, its forms, the meaning of
the rule of prayer. The second part speaks of public services:of the
Christian icon, of reading and singing in church, of the daily, weekly, and
yearly cycle of services. The central place is here occupied by an
explanation of the Eucharist. The author explains the Eucharist
symbolically. The Eucharist is a symbol of our redemption by the Saviour
and is presented here as a reproduction of the Hebrew Paschal feast,
celebrated as a remembrance of the kindness of God during the leading out
of Egypt of the Hebrew people. The lamb on the table of the Old Testament
Passover, the bitter herbs, the chalice, were to the Hebrews symbols of
historic remembrances. Having expounded in detail and in succession the Old
Testament rituals of the Passover foods, the author writes:"Christ placed
into the rituals?a new meaning"! (p. 261). "And so this bread and this
wine, of which all partake according to rank, is none other than the Body
and Blood of Christ. As this bread ? His Body will be broken. As this wine
? they will spill His Blood. This chalice is the symbol of the sufferings
of Christ; the lamb is Christ Himself. The bitter herbs are the bitterness
of His Passion and desertion. There are no more doubts. At the Supper the
disciples are experiencing the very death of Christ" (p. 261). In such a
fashion, the significance of the lamb on the Paschal table and of the
bitter herbs is placed here on the same level with the bread and wine of
theEucharist, and all of this together is interpreted as a symbolic image
of the sufferings. Of the change in essence in the Sacrament of the
Eucharist the article says nothing. Although on the earlier pages one finds
the expression "the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ," a phrase
following this, "in the Liturgy we break the bread and drink fro! m the
common chalice with Christ and His disciples" (p. 255), does not give the
basis for understanding the explanation of the Eucharist in the Orthodox
sense. This is extreme Protestantism. We Orthodox Christians do not drink
from a common chalice with Christ when we accept Communion of His Body and
"The Spiritual Traditions of the Russian Family," by N. Arseniev ? This
chapter is from the book: Of Russian Spiritual and Creative Traditions.
Here is presented the life of the Russian family, properly of a family of
the upper class, satiated with cultural tradition, a tradition where the
contemporary was blended with the old religious ways and with the living
world of the past, where the main person, even though often unnoticed, and
the guardian of the firm principles was the mother. This literary
illustration only obliquely approaches the general theme about Orthodoxy;
it touches on general Russian life, an integral part of which was the
Orthodox way, and is confined only to the social stratum of old Russia.
The last article in this collection is an outline by Nikita Struve entitled
"Great Examples." The aim of this essay is "to prove from examples of the
most diverse epochs," that Christianity is "a great vital and creative
force." Contained in it are short biographies of the Apostle Paul, Ignatius
the God-bearer, St. Justin the Philosopher, St. Athanasius the Great, St.
Anthony the Great, Vladimir Monomachus, Metropolitan Philip, and St.
Seraphim of Sarov (all of whom, except Vladimir Monomachus, are glorified
by the Church as saints, though in the text the title of "Saint" is given
only to some of them). The features of these great personalities are
presented concisely, but expressively. But here something is
characteristic. They are composed in the form of ordinary biographies of
"historic personalities." This fully harmonizes with the general one-sided
direction of this collection. Where else, if not here, could we have
expected the idea of the heavenly Church, of the ever lasting blessed life
of these pillars of the Church, of their ties with those living on earth?
But the biographies of the saints here end with a dull "laid down his soul"
for the Truth; "died in bed"; "went the way of his fathers"; "fell in an
unequal battle and by martyrdom won the victory." 
Such is the collection as a whole. Its themes are varied, but one-sided in
content, and almost completely avoid many essential elements of Orthodoxy.
There is no mention of life beyond the grave, of temperance and asceticism,
of penitence, of the writings of the Holy Fathers, etc. In fact very little
is presented of "Orthodoxy in Life" and instead, too much is given
concerning Orthodoxy "outside of life," in the form of a questionable
subjective philosophy of Christianity. But what is most important is that
many points here do not represent authentic Orthodoxy, both from the point
of view of dogmatics and of history, as it came into being in life, with
its constant striving for the heavenly. The "Orthodoxy" of the collection
longs intensely for the earth.
In vain does it sorrowfully proclaim that "we have long ago reduced
Christianity to life beyond the grave" and to the Kingdom of the age to
come. No, we have not "reduced" it. Christians know that when they believe
in the Kingdom of Heaven and search for it, then the Kingdom of Heaven is
already entering "inside them" and into the world through the Church. But
if they intend to build a happy life of the Kingdom of God now on earth for
themselves or even for future generations, not only will they fail to build
it on earth, but they may lose it in Heaven as well.
1) "Is it possible, that in order to be a Christian, it is not enough to
believe in Christ and to strive to fulfill His commandments, but it is
still necessary to fulfill incomprehensible ancient rituals, to understand
difficult theological forms, to be drawn into church disputes and
divisions, to accept all of the human incrustation, which during two
thousand years has sullied the purity of the Gospel?" (p. 57).
2) The author writes: "It is a fact that Orthodox church services, in their
text as well as their structure, are real artistic productions? In general,
Orthodoxy summons one not only to inner beauty; it aspires that the whole
life of the Church and believers have a beautiful form; of course, this
outer beauty has an inner sense and impels us to the spiritually beautiful"
3) We would like to think that the application by the author to the
relationship of the Church and State of the
"Chalcedon dogma ? without confusion and without change," is only verbal
4) The New Testament is established by the Eucharist of the Mystical Supper
("this is My blood of the New Testament"). If we acknowledge that before
the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the eating of the Old
Testament lamb took place (this is denied by many contemporary exegetists:
see Clarendon Bible, Oxford, the explanations of the text of the Gospels of
Matthew, Mark and Luke), then it is necessary to acknowledge that giving
the disciples of the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine
at the Mystical Supper was accomplished after the Old Testament rite of
Passover and independently of it.
If the Mystical Supper had been in fact the Hebrew "Passover," fulfilled
once a year, then the words of the Saviour this (i.e. this same kind of
Supper) do in remembrance of Me would have been received as meaning that
the Eucharist be accomplished once a year, whereas the disciples of Christ
gathered for the "breaking of bread" each week (on the first day of the
week) from the very beginning of the institution of the Eucharist. The
Passover rites were fulfilled strictly by a ritual established by custom,
but here they were not applied: the blessing of the bread and wine took
place at the end of the Supper, while the Hebrew Passover ritual demands
the blessing at the beginning of the supper; the one presiding at the
Hebrew Passover table blesses not one chalice (as we see at the Mystical
Supper), but four cups. The name of the supper as "Passover" possibly has a
conditional meaning for the synoptic evangelists, transferring us to an
understanding of the "Ne! w Testament Passover." The "lamb" of the New
Testament Passover, the Lord Jesus Christ, was slain on the next day after
the completion of the Mystical Supper.
5) The author speaks ? as of one of the revealed truths ? of "the identity
of Christ with those believing in Him," on the basis of the words: "Saul,
Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" (p. 375). How we are to understand this is
unknown. If Christ is the believers, then where is Christ Himself?
This has been reprinted in Selected Essays, by Fr. Michael Pomazansky
(Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996), pp. 1-18. This is an
invaluable collection of his best essays.
- Away with the man who is ever seeking and never finds;
for he seeks there where nothing can be found.
Away with him who is always knocking because it will never be opened
for he knocks where there is none to open.
Away with him who is always asking because he will never be heard;
FOR HE ASKS OF ONE WHO DOES NOT HEAR.
--- In email@example.com, byakimov@c... wrote:
How can one be sure what is of Christ in
> Her, and what is apostasy from Him? Here too we receive an answer
> Christ Himself:'Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it will opened
> ? every one who seeks will find, to everyone who knocks it is
> thing is certain:faith in Christ brings us into the Church and life
> is life in the Church." The author then leaves the reader in this
> leaving him alone, with the Gospel in his hands, to search for the
> to the question of the Church.