neighbour there is the whole law
of Father John of Kronstadt
Archbishop of Kursk
and the great man humbleth himself (Isa. 2, 9)
to Polycarp, monk of the Caves
to Hegumen Damaskin to Valaam
which was in 1671
crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2, 9).
St. Zosima and Savvatiy of Solovki
towards yourself and others
(Maybe another) Elder Agathon's Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
| Faith signifies the recognition of something true with such determination that exceeds the strength of external factual and formally logical evidence. This does not mean that the truths of faith are not subject to any evidence, but only that the power of faith depends on a special independent mental act. Faith is a state of consciousness associated with the unconditional recognition of the existence of God. But one can believe in a lot. Faith in God is a religion.
Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov gave in the most general form such a definition of religion: "religion is the recognition of God and the experience of communication with God." However, "a religious experience certifies a person in the reality of another, Divine world, not by the fact that it proves its existence... but by the fact that... it shows it to him. Only that person truly embarked on a religious path who actually met the Deity on his life path, whom It overtook, on whom It poured out Its overcoming power. Religious experience in its immediacy is neither scientific, nor philosophical, nor aesthetic, nor ethical, and, just as beauty cannot be cognized by the mind (you can only think about it), only a pale idea of the searing fire of religious experience is given by thought... The life of saints, ascetics, prophets, founders of religions and living monuments of religion: writing, cult, custom ... — that is what, along with each person’s personal experience, is more accurate makes person enter into the field of religion than an abstracted philosophizing about it."
According to the words of Priest Pavel Florensky, "the mysteries of religion are not secrets that should not be disclosed, not conditional passwords of the conspirators, but inexpressible, unspeakable, indescribable experiences that cannot be put on a word..."
Blessed Augustine wrote in his Confession: "A person is unhappy who, knowing everything, does not know Thee; blessed is he who knows Thee, even if he does not know anything else."
Many works of St. Hilarion (Troitsky) are devoted to the disclosure of the doctrine about the Church. In a 1914 work he wrote: "The incarnation of the Son of God was necessary for the salvation of mankind, and not for writing a book. Any book neither could save humanity, nor can do it now. Christ is not a Teacher, but namely, the Saviour of mankind... This new humanity Christ Himself called the Church... An individual person only by connection with the Church receives his moral recreation of strength."
According to the Christian Orthodox doctrine, the Church is a society of people united among themselves by faith in God, one God-revealed teaching, one worship and sacraments, under the direction and guidance of the God-established hierarchy, to achieve moral perfection and salvation.
"Not the entire human race enters the Church," wrote Father Sergius Bulgakov, "but only the elect, and not even all Christians in their entirety belong to the true Church, but only the Orthodox." This does not mean the proud superiority of the Orthodox, because "the preservation of Truth is entrusted not by merit, but by election, and the history of the chosen people, like and of Orthodoxy, sufficiently shows how unworthy these keepers can be." But be that as it may, entry into the Church is not done mechanically, besides of human freedom, but involves a free and conscious acceptance of Christ. Like His rejection by some who did not want to enter the Church, this is an internal independent act of self-determination of a person. Through faith people enter the Church, through unbelief they leave it (even if they formally observe the norms of churchly life).
The life of the Church is manifested from two sides, external and internal. Man appeared in this world, knowing about God. All religions of the world before Christ, except the Old Testament one, can be called pagan. The common thing in them was the deification either of nature or of human being, that is, of the world which was created and had its end, the deification of the creature, and not the Creator. Using the granted reason and freedom, a man in his spiritual life (and a man is a spiritual creation, and this differs him from an animal), walked in his own ways. He deified everything in the world, from stone and plant to heaven and himself. True knowledge of God was granted only to Jewish people, and the religious and moral state of the whole pagan world by the beginning of the 1st century could be called dreary.
In the Roman state, the folk religion lasted until Rome, in its conquests, came beyond Italy and came into contact with Greece. The Greeks, defeated by the Romans, in turn subjugated them to their moral influence. They introduced the Romans to their philosophy and gave them their views on religion, which increased the spread of disbelief in the native gods among the upper class, and then among the simple people. There was no faith left, only rituals and ceremonies remained. The coldness to their religion aggravated among the Romans, the persuasion appeared that any religion has a right to exist. Ready truths were easily and thoughtlessly taken, allowing one to distract from reality, affirming virtue and wisdom for the sake of peace and simple discharge of duty, without further real positive goals. However, the Roman government demanded the preservation of respect for the ancient folk religion, seeing in it (not without reason) one of the pillars of statehood.
Judaea, in which the Saviour was to appear, after a long period of independent existence, in 63 BC was conquered by Roman troops under the command of the Roman warlord Pompey. However, in 37 B.C. Herod, with the assistance of one of the Roman triumvirs Anthony, was proclaimed king of the Jews. Herod, named the Great, expanded the boundaries of Judaea, rebuilt the destroyed cities, rebuilt and decorated the very Jewish temple in Jerusalem. But he was not loved by his subjects for cruelty. In the first years after the death of Herod, which followed in 4 BC, in Judaea, unrest began, riots broke out against the rule of Rome, numerous gangs of outlaws arose. Rome brought order to its province, although the Jewish kings shared real power with the Roman procurators.
The Jews had the religion of the Revelation of God, with true concepts and prophecies about the one God set forth in the Old Testament, but they did not escape the fate of the rest of mankind. Severe trials, enslavement by the Egyptians, Syrians, other nations and, finally, the Romans led the Jewish people to see the Messiah promised by the Old Testament prophets as their deliverer from a foreign yoke, their earthly king, who was to restore power, wealth, glory and domination to the Jewish people over all other nations. That is why, when false prophets appeared from time to time, the Jews readily believed them in the hope of liberation from the Roman yoke.
Belief in one God was not lost, but in the understanding of faith, the people were divided into several movements that had their own organizational structure and their own vision of God, the main ones were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Therapeuti, and also Samaritans. The appearance of the first two currents dates back to the 2nd century BC, when Greek education was widespread in the East, which brought with it following some pagan customs. Zealots of their faith and their traditions in the reign of King Hyrcanus I (134–104 BC) rallied to resist the penetration of these dangerous innovations and formed a community of Pharisees (from Aramaic word meaning "isolated") — elected ones, led by learnt experts of Scripture. The essence of the Pharisees' teaching soon came down to strict adherence to the Law granted by God to the Jews through Moses, to the literal and unswervingly petty fulfilment of all later developed regulations for the performance of rites and standards of living. All their attention was drawn to the external side of religion — observing fasts, frequent and loud prayers, honouring the Sabbath, ritual bathing, etc. Many Pharisees were so preoccupied with their righteousness and piety that they neglected the real cares of other people, some Pharisees had contempt for all others. However, the external strict sanctity of their life attracted people to them, and from the second half of the 1st century BC Pharisees gain significant influence.
The Sadducees (on behalf of the high priest Zadok, who lived in the era of the Kings David and Solomon) were the opposite of them. Having assimilated the achievements of Greek science, they treated faith philosophically, they considered the laws of Moses from a rationalist point of view, recognizing the Pentateuch as a religious legal norm. The most significant in their religious views was ethics based on the Law. They rejected oral traditions, did not attach much importance to rituals, and even denied faith in the resurrection of the dead, the existence of angels and the entire spiritual world. The Sadducees constituted exclusively the upper layer of the temple priests of Jerusalem and the rich Jewish aristocracy; they remained a small but influential political and religious group, which also tried to achieve independence from the Romans, but in a non-violent way (unlike the Pharisees).
The Essenes and Therapeuti were small closed communities, a kind of ascetic brotherрhoods, formed by people who decided to serve God far away from the then Jewish society. They lived in desert places, were engaged in agriculture, all their property was common. At the general meetings on Saturday, they prayed, read the Scriptures and sang hymns. According to religious views, they were close to the Pharisees, but in contrast to the Pharisees, all the attention of the followers of these two religious movements (which differed slightly) was turned to the internal self-improvement of a person.
Samaritans were residents of Samaria, descendants of Israelites and immigrants from the Assyrian kingdom, which is why the Jews considered them "unclean" and did not allow them to pray in the Jerusalem temple. Samaritans erected their own temple on Mount Garizim. They did not have such pride and confidence in their holiness as the Jews, recognized only the Pentateuch of Moses as sacred, in the Messiah they expected a prophet who was to explain the Law to them and teach them everything.
The Jews of the dissipation (diaspora) who lived outside Palestine remained faithful to the faith of their ancestors, but in anticipation of the Messiah they saw not the earthly king, but the Redeemer from sins. They contributed to the adoption of their faith by individual pagans, who were clearly aware of the decline of morality and dreamt of a blissful "golden age". A peculiar kind of religious teaching was the teaching of Philo, which combined unconditional faith in Divine revelation and recognition of the truths of the philosophy of Plato.
Thus, both the Jews and some pagans, especially the oppressed lower classes of the then society, although for various reasons, but equally ardently awaited the coming of the Messiah, as the Deliverer of all evils of present life and the Installer of the best orders.
The coming of Jesus Christ, His preaching to all people about repentance and salvation, His voluntary sacrifice and Resurrection served to realize the essence and meaning of human existence on earth. One cannot but recall, even in its most general terms, the Gospel, the "good news" that makes up the content of churchly life and Christian preaching. In the days of His earthly ministry, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God to people. The meaning of His sermon was not only in a new teaching, but in faith in Him, that His coming is the beginning of the Kingdom, which the Son of God revealed and gave to people. From then on, people can again, through faith in Christ, recognize the one true God and His love for the world, in conjunction with Him, receive a new, righteous and eternal life for which they were created. Put to shameful death, Jesus undertook the image of complete self-feedback, perfect love, and this was His victory over evil and sin: love on the Cross triumphed over hatred, life over death. He won this victory for people, and therefore from the very beginning he chose 12 witnesses who were with Him, heard His teachings, saw His works, His death, Resurrection and glorification.
Christianity offered its answer to the painful questions of the public life of the Roman Empire, and this answer satisfied the spiritual needs of society. Christianity was oriented not so much toward a comprehension of nature (like pagan beliefs) as toward a comprehension of history, understood not as a gyre of cycles, but as a way out to an absolute future. Before people a choice was opened between a belief in the meaninglessness of human existence and a belief in eternal life with God.
And to support people in their earthly life, to open their way to the future life, the Church was established. The moment of its appearance is not accidental, because in history there is no mechanical linkage of causes and effects. Then, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, the fulness of the time was come (Gal. 4, 4). The God-chosen Jewish people turned out to be included in the "universal" Roman Empire, thousands of synagogues arose in different cities, thereby creating opportunities for the future apostolic sermon; the universal Greco-Roman culture of antiquity was formed and became dominant with developed philosophical systems and Latin and Greek languages common to the whole empire; in the spiritual life of the peoples inhabiting the empire, crisis phenomena intensified, cooling and disappointment in the faith of the fathers, and religious indifference.
The Church was originally founded from the few summoned persons — apostles (from a Greek word meaning "messengers"). The first twelve apostles were chosen and so called by Jesus Christ, so that they would testify of His deeds and resurrection, and reveal to all people saving truths. These are Andrew the First-Called; Bartholomew (real name Nathanael); Jacob the Elder, son of Zebedee; Jacob the Younger, son of Alphaeus; John the Theologian, Evangelist, beloved disciple of Jesus, younger brother of James the Elder; Judas Iscariot, who held the money box of the apostles, and betrayed Jesus; Judah Thaddeus, brother of Jacob the Younger; Matthew Levi the Publican (tax collector); Peter, proper name Simon, brother of the Apostle Andrew, one of the closest disciples of Jesus; Philip, who led to Jesus Bartholomew; Simon Сananite (Zealot, "zealous" in Greek); Thomas (Greek name Didim, "twin"), "unbeliever." The apostles were of different ages: John was a very young man, Peter was already married; of different social status: Andrew and Peter were fishermen, Matthew was a tax collector; they had no formal education; all were from Galilee.
At the Last Supper, arranged by Jesus with the apostles on the eve of His sufferings in the image of a traditional Jewish Passover feast, Jesus Christ took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you (Lk. 22, 19–20). Thus was established the main sacrament of the Christian Church — communion (Eucharist).
After the ascension of Jesus Christ, the apostles gathered in Jerusalem, where they awaited the descent of the Holy Spirit. Being together, they prayed fervently with the Mother of God. In these days of waiting, to the place of the fallen away Judas Iscariot, Matthias was elected, counted in with the eleven apostles. Finally, after ten days from the ascension, suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues... (Acts 2, 2–4).
At that time, into Jerusalem on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost (the harvest festival, which occurs on the 50th day after Passover), many Jews from different places of the Roman Empire and other countries gathered. Many gathered around the house where the apostles were, attracted by noise from heaven. The apostles addressed them with a sermon, and spoke their native languages. Everyone was amazed and bewildered by how simple, unlearnt people can suddenly get known different languages, and others mocking said, These men are full of new wine (Acts 2, 13). The apostle Peter then gave an inspired speech in which he explained that the miracle they saw was the fulfilment of the prediction of the Old Testament prophet Joel about the outpouring of the blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit on believers in Him at the coming of the Messiah (Joel 2, 28). Further, the fiery apostle showed that the expected Messiah appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they killed, but Who was resurrected and Who is the true Lord. Hearing all this, the gathered were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2, 37–38), answered them the Apostle Peter. About three thousand people were baptized that day.
From the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, an open apostles' sermon began on Jesus Christ. They preached in the Jerusalem temple and in private homes and were extraordinarily successful: daily new converts of Jews joined the Church. The healing by the Apostle Peter of the lame from birth in the name of Jesus Christ, which occurred in the temple described in the Acts of the Apostles, especially strengthened the influx of converts, called the figure of 5 thousand people.
Members of the Sanhedrin took into custody the apostles Peter and John, after interrogation forbade them to talk about Jesus and teach about the resurrection of the dead in His name. The apostles answered this: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4, 19–20). After more and more people turned to the new faith, and even priests joined the Church, by the decision of the Sanhedrin, the apostles Peter and John were imprisoned, but miraculously released. During a new discussion of this issue in the Sanhedrin, one of its distinguished members, Pharisee Gamaliel said this: Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God (Acts 5, 38–39). They obeyed him and, calling the apostles, beat them, forbidding them to speak about the name of Jesus, they released them. However, the apostles continued to preach daily on Jesus Christ.
Then the high priests and legalists fully realized that from the followers of Christ a new community would be formed, not recognizing their authority and able to shake the very Jewish teaching. Having discarded the prudent advice of Gamaliel, the Sanhedrin begins the struggle with the Christians. In 36, the first victim was Deacon Stephen, stoned for alleged blasphemy, and then the open persecution of believers in Jerusalem began: they were searched for in their homes, forced to blaspheme the name of Jesus, imprisoned, and put some of them to death after the trial. Fleeing persecution and martyrdom, many Christians fled from Jerusalem and scattered throughout Judaea and the neighbouring provinces of the Roman Empire. The apostles, however, remained in Jerusalem.
The Christian community in Jerusalem and the communities in other cities had developed a new way of life, the defining ideal of which was unity: unity in business life (which did not mean the obligatory complete socialization of property), unity in relation to the world and to each other. Pointing out the importance of this aspect of early Christianity, Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote: “For the early Church, unity itself is the last, greatest value, the highest meaning of life, revealed to people by Christ. The Church is the restoration of the unity broken, torn by sin, that is, selfishness and falling away from God. In it, those who are baptized — that is, united with Christ and living by participating in His life through the breaking of bread — are reunited with God, and in God they again find unity with each other."
Persecutors of Christianity soon learnt that this teaching was quickly spreading among the Jews of the diaspora (dissipation) and decided to pursue it there also. The young Pharisee Saul, the son of noble parents from the city of Tarsus (who had Roman citizenship), who received a good education (he was a student of the famous rabbi Gamaliel), proved to be one of the most zealous defenders of Jewish law. Like many Israelites, he longed for the coming of the Messiah, but he expected to see in him a powerful king who would restore the Jewish kingdom in all the splendor of its ancient greatness. The recognition as the Messiah of an unknown preacher from Nazareth, put to shameful death on the cross, was from his point of view insanity. He entered into disputes with Christians, but could not overpersuade them and then turned to violence. In the young Christian community, the name of Saul was terrifying. In 35 or 37, he volunteered to go to Damascus, where the communities of the first Christians took refuge in order to smash them and bring them to the judgement of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Endowed by nature with extraordinary talents, Saul was burning with the desire to protect his faith. St. Theophane (Govorov) writes about this: "St. Paul at the beginning so zealously defended the Old Testament order because he sincerely was sure that there was an indisputable will of God on this."
A miracle happened on the way to Damascus: Christ appeared to Saul and the conversion of the ardent persecutor of Christianity to the fiery preacher of the new faith took place. .And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus (Acts 9, 3–8). After he was met by Ananias in Damascus, immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized... And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed (Acts 9, 18, 20–21). Explaining this miraculous conversion, St. Theophane (Govorov) points out: “It became clear to him that he was turning his jealousy to the wrong place, and that acting in this way he did not please God, but went against His will... And from that moment on, he turned all his jealousy to what was indicated to him..."
The vision to the Apostle Paul was not an illusion or a hallucination, but a real vision of Christ, revealed to his inner feeling, having a mystical character, transcending our physical world. After baptism, Saul began to call himself his Roman name Paul.
Until then, the Church was composed of Jews who converted to Christ; the first communities of Christians consisted of them, who in many respects remained faithful to Jewish law in everyday life. The Apostle Paul became a great preacher of Christianity among the Gentiles, having earned the name Apostle of the Gentiles. He made several long missionary trips to Asia Minor, Cyprus, Macedonia, and Greece (as the Apostle Luke wrote in the Acts of the Apostles and the Apostle Paul himself in some of his epistles). In all major cities at that time there was a Jewish colony and synagogue, where Paul began his sermon. The rumour of a new preacher was spreading quickly throughout the city, and here already the Gentiles paid attention to the herald of new truths. Most Jews did not accept them, Paul and his companions were often expelled, but the seeds of faith were already sown. "When St. Paul began to preach in Damascus," observes St. Theophane (Govorov), "everyone was amazed, saying: Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name? And it always happens that those among whom someone turns from unbelief to faith or from sin to virtue are amazed: what happened to this convert? Everything in him went our way, and then it suddenly became different: both speech, and gaze, and the gait, and the thoughts are not those as were before, and the undertakings are other, and places of visit are other too... Only those who do not understand things can say: 'Why so abruptly!'"
Ordinary human passions erupt in the Church: divisions, envy, disputes about persons. The apostle answers all questions and perplexities, enters into all the little things, affirming the main and fundamental: "We are already in Christ, and therefore we must overcome everything in accordance with this high calling and grow in faithChristians, while the Jews, with the adoption of a new teaching, did not dare to accept a new name.
Christianity arose in the Jewish environment, and most Jews considered it necessary to observe the mitzvot (Jewish everyday commandments). Paul himself in many cases complied with the ritual laws of Moses, but did not force the Gentiles who believed in Christ to do so. He did not preach the justification of man by the works of the law, but by the grace of God; from man, only faith is expected solely and exclusively. This was finally approved at the first apostolic council in Jerusalem in 51.
Not less important is the value of the Apostle Paul as a teacher of faith. In his many epistles to the local Churches, he affirmed and clarified the truths of Christianity about the Kingdom of God, about the sinfulness of man, about love for God and neighbour. "He affirmed the essence of Christianity," G. Kung wrote, "what distinguishes Christianity from both Judaism, and from the old world religions, and from modern varieties of humanism, is Jesus Christ Himself. And it is precisely because He was crucified that Jesus differs from the many resurrected, ascended, eternally living gods, and from the deified founders of religions, Caesars, genii, lords and heroes of world history."
In 60, the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome and in 65 or 67 was beheaded on June 29 on the same day with the execution of the Apostle Peter.
Little reliable data has been preserved about the places of preaching of the other apostles and about their activities. All of them zealously engaged in the spread of Christianity and the creation of communities of believers. The Apostle Andrew preached in Scythia and Achaea, in 60 in Patras he was martyred: he was crucified on a slanting cross. The Apostle Peter preached in Jerusalem, Antioch, Asia, Egypt, Corinth, he was executed in the same day with the Apostle Paul, but not beheaded, but crucified upside down. The Apostle James the Elder, after several years of preaching in 44, was murdered with a sword in Jerusalem. The Apostle Jacob the Younger played a leading role in the Jerusalem Judaeo-Christian community, leading it, in 62 suffered a martyrdom: he was stoned. The Apostle Bartholomew preached in India, Mesopotamia, Armenia, where he received martyrdom. The Apostle Matthew (the publican) preached in Ethiopia and Persia, where he was chopped with a sword before the altar. The Apostle Thomas preached the word of God in Persia and India, where he was killed by a spear strike. About the Apostles Judas Thaddeus, Simon, Matthias, Philip it is known only that they preached outside the Roman Empire. All of them suffered a martyr's death, with the exception of the Apostle John the Theologian.
In fulfilment of the commandment of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John was the guardian of the Mother of God until Her death in 48, and until that time he did not leave Jerusalem. His preaching work in Asia Minor begins after the Apostolic Council in 51. In the 60s he settled in Ephesus, patronizing churches in various cities. He was sentenced to death, according to legend, drank a cup of poison without harm to himself. Around 96, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where the Revelation (Apocalypse) was written, and later the fourth Gospel. In 98, he was returned to Ephesus and died in extreme old age at the beginning of the 2nd century. In the last years of his life, as a result of senile weakness, he could no longer talk much, so he only repeated to his disciples: "Children, love one another." More than other disciples of Christ, he spoke of love, why he is sometimes called the Apostle of Love.
The result of the apostolic activity was the fact that in all the large and small cities of the Roman Empire, Christian communities arose, the disciples of the apostles who became the primates of the local Churches grew up. For example, at the very beginning of the 2nd century, shortly after the death of the Apostle John the Theologian, the ruler of Bithynia (a Roman province on the southern coast of the Black Sea) Pliny the Younger informed Emperor Trajan that Christianity penetrated into his area "as an infection, not only in cities, but even in villages and hamlets, so pagan temples were made empty and pagan celebrations ceased."
Of course, so fast and wide spread of the Church of Christ is difficult to explain by natural causes, this is a miracle. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the success of the preaching by a handful of illiterate, poor and not noble apostles among the zealous followers of Jewish law, among the enlightened by sciences and corrupted pagans, despite the open struggle against Christianity by the Jewish priesthood and the suppression of Christianity by the almighty Roman state. "As unknown, and yet [we are] well known", wrote the Apostle Paul, "as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6, 9–10). This inspiring consciousness dominated in the Church.
At the center of the apostolic sermon was the good news of the Saviour, Who brought peace and deliverance. The sermon was supplemented by that really renewed life that people lived in the first communities of Christians, abandoning the egoism and self-love of the pagan world. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. ...And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up (1 Cor. 13, 1, 3–4).
"Ones are not born Christians, but become," Tertullian argued, and there was usually at that time the adoption of baptism in adulthood after passing the probationary period. Only after the "catechumens" (who received knowledge of Christ) were genuinely cleansed by the spirit, did they enter the number of "faithful" admitted to the main sacrament of the Church — the Eucharist. From now on, the whole life of man was associated with this general meeting for the sake of joint unity in God. Unity in worship continued by unity in everyday life through mutual assistance, provision of prayer meetings, general care for the poor, orphans, widows, and burial of brethren and sisters.
The organizational structure of the Church was developed. Bishops were appointed by apostles at the head of the communities, who in turn appointed presbyters who led individual parishes, and deacons helped them in it. Such a structure did not develop immediately. "Initially, Christian Church represented a row of sectarian [in relation to Jewish religion of that time — Ed.] coteries, with sharply expressed eschatological aspirations, with a plentiful discovery of extraordinary spiritual charismas. Personal charisma without any successive ordination placed its possessor at the head of the Christian community." However, at the same time, hierarchical order was originally inherent in the Church. Christ Himself chose the 12 apostles, and of them He singled out especially Peter and John. "In the future, hierarchical persons," writes St. Hilarion (Troitsky), "did not inherit any apostolic rights and powers; they performed the Eucharist and were in charge of churchly management. Only when the initial enthusiasm was weakened, when vices and shortcomings began to penetrate the charismatic environment, did the hierarchy gain more importance, gradually appropriating themselves the authority of the charismatic, these true apostolic successors. Not immediately, but gradually and through a long struggle, the hierarchical organization established itself in the Church, instead of the charismatic one."
It would be wrong to imagine Christian communities consisting solely of representatives of the social lower classes of the then society. In the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of the Apostle Paul there are references to Erast, the city treasury guard, Dionysius, a member of the Athenian Areopagus, noble Thessalonian women. Thus, Christians were present on all the "floors" of Roman society, although they constituted a minority in it, according to historians, even in the 4th century about 10% of the total population of the empire.
The first stage of persecution of the Church falls in the middle of the 1st century. In those years, in Palestine, Jews were divided into Christians and zealots of their national interests, defenders of the ancient religion. The Roman rulers did not interfere in the religious disputes of the Jews and even restrained the religious fanaticism of the Pharisees, which somewhat hindered the manifestations of hatred of the first Christians from their opponents. The Jews themselves did not have the right to pronounce death sentences (they did not have the right to sentence the apostle Paul to death and were forced to send him to Rome; to kill the apostle Jacob, the high priest Ananias in 62 took advantage of the change of Roman authority). Finally, "the measure of the patience of God was fulfilled," writes Archpriest Peter Smirnov, and the persecutors of the first Christians themselves fell as victims.
In 67, a disastrous war between the Jews and Rome began. The reasons for it were on the part of the Romans, extreme cruelty towards the Jews of Roman procurators, who insulted their religious feelings and oppressed them with heavy taxes; on the part of the Jews, extreme hatred of the pagans domineering over them. The struggle began with the emerging party of Zealots ("jealous adherents" of the faith). They surrounded the Roman garrison and forced it to surrender, and then, contrary to their promises, cut all the soldiers. A protracted war began. Finally, the Romans moved their troops and besieged Jerusalem. In 70, the city was taken and destroyed during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. The Romans surrounded the city on the eve of Passover, when about 2 million people gathered there. Of these, more than a million Jews died from wounds, starvation, and their own conflicts, tens of thousands were taken into slavery, and the same number scattered in exile. The Jerusalem Temple was also destroyed. It was precisely the fateful force that led the God-chosen people to perish, and they could not escape it.
In 135, the Jews again rebelled against the Romans under the command of the fanatic Bar Kocheb and were again defeated by the Romans. Then the emperor Hadrian commanded the destruction of Jerusalem to the foundation and a plow to make a furrow along its streets as a sign of the complete annihilation of the city. Near the ruins, the Roman colony Elia Capitolina was founded, while the Jews were forbidden to approach this place under pain of death. Only once a year — on August 10, on the day the first temple was burnt by Nebuchadnezzar and the second temple by the Romans, the Jews were allowed to pay a look at the former capital of their state.
The fall of Jerusalem is important in the history of the Church. First, thereby the prophecies were fulfilled of the ancient prophets Moses: And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone (Deut. 28, 64), Daniel and others, as well as the words of Jesus Christ: And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles... (Lk. 21, 24). Secondly, in the destruction of the city and the temple, the actual end of the Old Testament was accomplished by deed; Jews lost their only temple, the sacred place of prayers and sacrifices, this bore among them a new trend of attachment to the letter of Scripture, to rites without understanding of their meaning. Thus, there happened a final gap between Christianity and Judaism. Thirdly, the fall of Jewish statehood along with their refusal to accept the New Testament was the prototype of destruction of the world that should be followed at the end of the centuries: For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Lk. 24, 38–39).
Meanwhile, from the inner regions of the empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christianity spread throughout its most remote provinces and in neighbouring countries. In the first half of the 2nd century, Christianity spread in Africa — in Carthage, Mauritania, Numidia. In the second half of the same century, there were already Christian churches in Spain and Gaul — in Lyon and Vienne, at the end of the 3rd century they already were in Britain and Germany beyond Rhine — in Cologne, Trier, Metz. In the East, Christianity spread to Persia, Bactria, northern Arabia, and India. However, the dominance of paganism led to the conflict of the Roman state with the new religion.
The main reason for the persecution of Christians was their denial of the whole system of values, customs and mores of paganism. The empire endured any faith, if only it would not interfere with maintaining the usual way of life and would not undermine the foundations of the state. But Christians in the place of egoism put love for their neighbour, in the place of pride humility, in the place of luxury, which everyone aspired to, abstinence and fasting; Christians refused polygamy, from debauchery that became usual; they exalted the slaves. The common people, seeing the dissimilarity of the life of Christians to their lives, reinterpreted this according to their crude concepts: Christians were considered godless for refusing to make sacrifices to the gods, misanthropists for refusing pagan amusements. Pagan priests and oracles, worried about the decline in their incomes, accused Christians of all troubles — military defeats, droughts, epidemics, fires, floods and earthquakes; they assured that Christians at their meetings indulged in debauchery, drank the blood of infants, etc. Philosophers, blinded by their pride, considered the Christian faith a gross and dangerous superstition, and firmness in standing for the faith was called by them "harmful fanaticism."
In addition, Christians rejected the dominant Roman national-political religion, which boiled down to an elaborate ritual of sacrifice and prayers. It was not a belief system or a system of morality, but simply a ritual cult that had state meaning. In that era of growing unbelief, few took seriously the “Roman gods,” but it was a symbol of statehood, although formal, but a symbol of citizenship, kin, family.
"And the Christians refused to fulfil this self-evident, simplest civic duty, and the refusal turned out to be the cause of the persecutions," writes Archpriest Alexander Schmemann. "It was neither a rebellion, nor a condemnation of the state as such, nor even resistance to its individual defects and vices... But they could not fulfil two requirements: to recognize the emperor as "the Lord", to perform even external worship of idols, even without faith in them..." Thus, Christians did not show their indifference to the world, but a truly serious attitude to it. Rejecting the imperial cult, which was not taken seriously in the empire itself, they actually called on everyone to abandon the false gods for the sake of the true God. Thus, the Church did not fight against the world, but to bring the world to the only true Lord. "The Lord is one!" — this exclamation that has survived to this day expressed the essence of the Church's attitude to the world.
The period of dividual persecution by some emperors is traditionally counted from a fire that destroyed almost all of Rome on the night of July 16, 64. Emperor Nero (reigned 58–64) accused the Christians of arson and declared them illegal: they were crucified on crosses, thrown to wild animals for being eaten, sewn up into bags, which were doused with resin and lit during public holidays. Emperor Domitian (81–96) persecuted Christians, seeing them as allies of the ever-rebellious Jews. According to legend, he called to Rome from Ephesus the Apostle John the Theologian and threw him into a cauldron with boiling oil, and when he remained unharmed, he sent him to the island of Patmos.
During the period of the beginning of certain systematic persecutions by the state, the strongest occurred in the reign of the emperors Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus. Emperor Trajan (98–117) banned the existence of secret societies, in the number of which the "sects" of Christians were included, whose nightly devine services seemed suspicious. Some rulers in the provinces hastened to launch persecution of Christians. However, when Proconsul Pliny the Younger was amazed at the plenty of accused of “Christianity” and asked for clarification of what to do with them, Trajan specifically ordered not to search for Christians and not accept anonymous denunciations on them, but if anyone is accused of belonging to Christianity and not refuses from it at the court — to execute those. Thus, the very name "Christian" became a corpus delicti. In his reign, the bishop of Rome Clement, the bishop of Antioch, Ignatius the God-bearer, the hundred-and-twenty-year-old bishop of Jerusalem, Simeon, were executed. Under his successor Adrian (117–138), in 137 the young daughters of the Christian widow Sophia, Faith, Hope and Love, were executed among many believers in Christ; the tormentors did not touch the mother, but she died on the third day after the death of her children.
Truly, the presence of Roman legal proceedings made it possible for Christians to exist even in such conditions. Rome did not have a public prosecutor. A private accusator was to oppose the follower of Christ. Therefore, separate persecutions were carried out at that time, and Christian communities continued to exist, although outside the law.
Under Marcus Aurelius, who feared for the state religion due to the numerical growth of Christians, the state begins to search for Christians, torture is introduced to force them to renounce their faith. Christians are being driven out of their homes, scourged, stoned, thrown into jail and deprived of burial. It happened that the bodies of tortured Christians in the masses lay on the streets of cities. However, this persecution stopped after the miracle that happened to the emperor: during the war in Pannonia (modern Hungary), his army fell into a completely waterless place and was dying of thirst and heat, but through the prayers of several secret Christians a thunderstorm broke out and heavy rain fell.
In the last period of ancient persecution, when the state waged a fierce struggle to completely eradicate Christianity, especially cruel persecution was carried out by the emperors Decius and Diocletian. The rude and cruel Decius (249–251) was convinced that the integrity of his state was inextricably linked with the preservation of paganism. In 250, he issued a decree on the obligatory offering of sacrifice to the altar of pagan gods and the violent enforcement to do it of all Christians without exception. If a Christian was hiding, he was found; if he refused to bring a pagan sacrifice, he was tortured, forcing to renounce Christ; if he fled away, he was deprived of property and civil rights. Not everyone withstood such torment, some were frightened and sacrificed to idols, some renounced after torture, some bought a certificate of “renunciation”, but others, even undergoing all kinds of torment, did not agree to throw a pinch of incense onto the smoking altar of pagan gods. There were many who fell away from Christianity, and the Church was shocked by mass apostasy, but there were also many martyrs. Some of the bishops withdrew with their flock to deserted places for the time of persecution, and they did not have the fallen away. After the perdition of Decius during the war with the Goths, the persecution calmed down, but did not stop.
Emperor Valerian (253–260) in 257 ordered by his edict to exile the bishops, elders and deacons to the confinement, while fore the laity the assembly was forbidden. But the Church could not be decapitated, and then in 258 the second edict ordered to execute all bishops and other clergy, and Christians from among noble citizens and courtiers to deprive of property and send to hard work, the emperor did not even mention ordinary people, they always were treated cruelly.
However, after 260, peacetime begins, and Christianity spreads with extraordinary speed. The Church openly enters the world. Temples appear in which worship is held, Christians no longer lurk, bishops become well-known to everyone, respected and honoured, many dignitaries adopt Christianity. But on the eve of the triumph of the Church, the last cruel persecution took place.
Diocletian was a reasonable sovereign, sought to maintain stability in the vast empire, but in the last years of his reign, his son-in-law Galerius, the archenemy of Christians, prompted the emperor, old and burdened by deeds, to persecution. In 303, four imperial edicts were issued one after the other, aimed at eradicating Christianity and the extermination of all Christians. All the power of the state with extraordinary cruelty fell upon the communities existing in different provinces that made up the Church. All liturgical gatherings of Christians were forbidden, churches were destroyed to the ground, sacred books were taken away and burnt, those who persisted in faith were deprived of property and civil rights, Christian slaves were deprived of the right to receive freedom, and torture was allowed in the trial of Christians. It is known that one of the Christians, struck by the injustice of the edict, publicly ripped it up, for which he was sentenced to death.
In different provinces of the empire, edicts were initially implemented in different ways. In some places, implicit gatherings of Christians, for example, in Roman catacombs, were allowed, somewhere the ransom of sacred books was allowed, but in most cities temples were destroyed and a huge number of Christians, young, old and children, rich and poor, ordinary citizens, slaves and aristocrats were persecuted. The priests were imprisoned, where they were forced to bring sacrifices to idols by all kinds of torture. According to the fourth edict adopted in 304, all Christians without exception were condemned to torture and torment in order to make them renounce from Christ. In almost all the provinces of the empire, the open slaughter of Christians began. Descriptions of the horrors of those years collected by Bishop Eusebius Pamphilus (c. 260–340) in his "Churchly History" have survived. The Christians were beaten with sticks, rods, whips, scourges, knouts; the bodies of the martyrs were tormented by shards, parts of their body, bellies, cheeks wre cut off; they were hung by one arm, by one leg; they were crucified on the cross, decapitated, drowned in the sea, wheeled, burnt at the stake; panthers, bears, wild boars, furious bulls were released to kill them.
In Phrygia, Bishop Eusebius writes, a small town inhabited by Christians “soldiers surrounded and burnt it to the ground with children and women who called up God the Pantocrator, burnt because all the inhabitants of the city: the town ruler himself, the military commander with other magistrates and the whole people professed themselves Christians."
And such torment of Christians did not occur in a few days, but in the course of several years. The authorities believed that after such a bloody massacre, Christianity was made over, but their triumph was premature. More and more proponents of faith in Christ came forward, so that the strength of the attackers was exhausted.
The centuries of martyrdom of Christians have become the strongest proof of the truth of Christianity. However, it would be wrong to reduce their martyrdom to one "heroism," says Archpriest Alexander Schmemann: "all religions had such martyr-heroes, and if the truth of idea were determined by the number of victims, then each one could present its own. But the Christian martyr is not a hero, but a "witness": by accepting suffering and death, he claims that the kingdom of death has ended, that life has triumphed; he dies not for Christ, but with Him, and then in Him he receives life... " In numerous cases of the desire for death for Christ there was no hysterical delight, but on the contrary, a calm confidence in the victory over death, in the superiority of life with God over the life of this world. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him (1 Thes. 4, 14).
Changes have occurred among the rulers of the empire. In the west, the title of emperor was taken by Constantine, who inherited from his father a favourable attitude towards Christians, and in the east, the frantic Galerius was struck by a serious illness and appointed Licinius as his successor. In 311, Galerius, Licinius, and Constantine issued an edict on the cessation of persecution of Christians, thereby witnessing the impotence of Roman power and ancient paganism before Christianity. The Gentiles marveled at the power of the Christian God Who defended His Church.
Christians return from exile, new temples appear in which clergy perform divine service. Persecution stopped everywhere, although in some provinces local authorities still persecuted Christians. By 313, Constantine in the west and Licinius in the east of the Roman Empire asserted their dominance, which everywhere entailed a radical change in attitude towards Christianity.
Flavius Valerius Constantine the Great (c. 285–337), emperor in 306–337, was an active and belligerent statesman, had foresight and insight. In his youth, he was brought up at the court of Diocletian, and saw the horrors of persecution of Christians and their extraordinary resilience, combined with allegiance to the state and power. And now there are so many "catacomb" schismatics and "Orthodox" revolutionaries who write compositions with such headlines as "When the state power is not from God." He was not the first or the only one who began a turn from the persecution of Christianity, but, being a pagan and worshiping the cult of the invincible Sun, he sought the true God and was able to realize the significance of the new faith, and then strengthen its position. Thus, the recognition of the Christian doctrine as the Truth was on his part an act as much state as personal.
Emperor Constantine fought with many enemies. In 308, he defeated the ambitious Maximinus, who intended to seize the supreme power in Rome. In 312, he fought with the son of Maximinus, Caesar Maxentius. Shortly before the decisive battle, Constantine saw in the sunset darkening sky a sign of the cross formed from the light with the inscription "Thou wilt defeat by this" (later he witnessed the fact of the vision with an oath). In the same night, he saw in a dream Jesus Christ, Who commanded him to put on the shields of his troops a labarum (Christian monogram XP), and immediately ordered each warrior to inscribe these letters on the shield. Having achieved victory, Constantine at the end of October 312 triumphantly entered Rome and ordered to place his statue on the square with a cross in his right hand and the inscription: "With this saving sign I saved the city from the tyrant's yoke." From now on, the Christian symbol, which they further carried in all campaigns, became the banner of his troops.
It can be assumed that Constantine experienced a personal conversion when God appeared to him, but at the same time, he was able to see in Christianity a new spiritual foundation of his state. Together with Licinius, who ruled the eastern part of the empire, they issued a decree permitting the free adoption of Christianity, and in 313 — the Edict of Milan, which ordered to return to Christians the places of worship and all immovable property taken during the persecution. However, Licinius suspected that Constantine wanted to overthrow him, and the Christians of the eastern provinces were helping him in this. In 314 he led the persecution of Christians and began the struggle with Constantine, but in 324 he was defeated.
The establishment of the complete domination of Constantine in the empire was not a simple change of ruler, since the new emperor began the restructuring of his state in accordance with the ideas and practices of the Christian faith. During the years of his reign, the following measures were taken: in 314, pagan games were stopped, in 313–315. the clergy was relieved of civilian duties, and church lands were excluded from general taxes; in 315 the execution by crucifixion was abolished, organized actions of Jews against the Church were prohibited, in 316 the release of slaves in churches without unnecessary formalities was allowed, in 319 private persons were forbidden to bring sacrifices to idols and engage in fortune-telling at home (but this was still allowed for societies), in 321 it was ordered throughout the empire to celebrate Sunday (as the day of resurrection), later Roman laws against celibacy were repealed, the Church received the right to receive property by the wills; Christians were allowed to hold public office at any level; in 325, the state began to build Christian temples, where statues and images of the emperor were forbidden to be brought. At the same time, Constantine sentenced in 324 the death of his former like-minded Licinius, and in 326 his son Crispus and his wife Fausta. However, he increasingly began to identify the Highest Deity, whom he had worshiped from his youth, with Christ, Whom Christians worshiped.
In his new policy, Constantine met with strong opposition among the Romans, where there was a particularly strong pagan movement. Then he leaves Rome in 324–330. transferring his capital to the eastern part of the empire, to the place of the city of Byzantium, although its inhabitants themselves called Constantinople "the new Rome" (at the same time its name was returned to Jerusalem instead of Elia Capitolina). The new capital was rebuilt brilliantly, there were no pagan temples, Christian churches were built there. Mother of Constantine, Queen Elena, on his behalf, went to Palestine, where she was able to find the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified; she began the construction of churches in places memorable to Christians — at Calvary, in Bethlehem, in Hebron near the oak of Mamre.
Constantine the Great contributed to the unification and organization of the Church, both by the very fact of integration of all parts of the empire under his authority, and by giving it a privileged position among other cults. Thinking about himself in the traditions of Roman statehood, he considered his position as a “bishop from the outsiders” and considered himself entitled to intervene not only in matters of churchly structure, but also in dogmatic disputes. He convened Church councils in 316, 325, 327. to discuss emerging conflicts and disputes, presided over them and determined their solutions. Nevertheless, according to the customs of that time, he was baptized on the eve of his death in 337.
The conversion of Emperor Constantine entailed the biggest change in the position of the Church in its entire history. Not only did the conditions between the state and the Church change, but deep shifts began in the mass consciousness; state support for Christianity had intensified the process of changes in the worldview and understanding of people; the rapid formation of the visible part of the universal Church, as a completely earthly institution, the establishment of the order of worship and the development of a holistic doctrine began. At the same time, the transition of Christianity from existence among separate communities, all members of which were flaming with faith, all of whose lives went openly, and the sources of the creed were the Holy Scriptures, to the position of the state religion, whose dominant role in public life was supported by the help of the state, turned out to be complex and contradictory.
In the years 391–392 Emperor Theodosius completely forbade pagan worship. Since that time, the empire has become a legally Christian state. Theocratic absolutism of ancient statehood, inherited from the ancient cult of the emperor, recognized as "a sacred mediator between God and people", determined not only the nature of the new state in the "Constantine era". For centuries to come, the dominant role of the state, which has become the “bearer” of religion, had become fixed although the first Christian emperor turned out to be a Christian outside the Church, and his empire “became Christian without going through the crisis of the baptismal judgement,” as Alexander Schmemann writes.
The significance of the church hierarchy in the life of the Byzantines is often exaggerated. Since the 5th century, the emperor's power has certainly received religious sanction from the head of the local Church of Constantinople; since the 10th century, a special tax was established by a special imperial decree in favour of the Church, paid by each village in kind; supreme power supported and defended the doctrine of the Church, expelled heretics from the empire, and temples were built. All this seemed to give rise to a genuine "symphony" of secular (emperor in the state) and spiritual (clergy in the Church) power, but in reality it led to the governmentalization of the Church in Byzantium.
Emperor Justinian the Great (reigned 527–565) formulated the goal of his activity: "One state, one law and one Church." Understanding what a wonderful instrument for power the Church was, he made every effort to ensure that it was in his hands, that he was the master in the Church. A similar policy of secular dominance in churchly affairs was called Caesaropapism. Justinian the Great himself was an Orthodox and religiously educated person, but sometimes completely different people took the throne.
Michael III (reigned in 856–867) declared himself a libertine from his youth, he blasphemously mocked churchly rites and sacraments. When the pious Bishop Basil publicly exposed him, the emperor beat the saint with his own hands, notes A.P. Lebedev. Alas, imperial power passed into despotism regarding the Church itself, its rights were violated by the state. For example, by the will of the emperors, the patriarchs Ignatius and Photius were removed without any guilt, and the emperor Leo VI replaced the last in 886 with his brother Stephen, who was barely 16 years old.
The clergy rarely resisted the illegal actions of the highest authorities, did not condemn and did not denounce the oblivion of Christian norms and principles by emperors. Nevertheless, the Church, fulfilling its purpose, was placed at the service of the state.
It should be said about the fierce struggle that took place in society itself in the process of forming the Church. For example, philosophers of the Neoplatonic school attacked Christianity and at the same time tried to incorporate it into their system. The philosopher Porphirius (233-304), a disciple of Plotinus, wrote several polemical works, of which the most famous are the fifteen books "Against Christians". In them, Porphirius tries to prove the falsity of Christianity, at least to undermine its credibility, starting his philosophizing with the denial of the divinity of Christ and ending simply with swearing.
In 2nd century apologists, defenders of Christian faith, emerge. Some of them submitted their apologies to emperors and other rulers of the empire in order to arrange them in favour of Christians. Others defended the faith against attacks from the Gentiles and pagan philosophy. Among them the most famous are the first apologist Codratus, Saint Justin the Philosopher, Bishop of Sardis Meliton, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origenes.
Apologies constituted the beginning of Church theology, the first attempt to systematize the data of Scripture, Tradition and the experience of churchly life. According to the correct remark of Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, "the very fact of their appearance testifies to a turning point. At first, the world in the person of the empire persecuted Christianity, tried to destroy it, but did not argue with it. It was indifferent to its 'content', despised it. The Church responded to this indifference by the 'martyria' of the martyrs; with it, it made even the most indifferent think deeper about a faith that considers death for nothing, imputes all earthly goods for nothing." Of course, this does not mean the contempt of Christians for life, for they know that the whole world surrounding them was created by God as perfect, and life was given to them by God for a worthy passage according to the given commandments. It is no coincidence that the first miracle performed by Jesus Christ was a miracle in Cana of Galilee, for the first time He clearly manifested His divine essence in the hour of earthly joy and gladness. All this required reflection, both from thoughtful believers and from opponents.
Saint Justin the Philosopher (or Martyr) was Greek by birth, born in Palestine at the beginning of the 2nd century. He received an excellent philosophical education, but this did not satisfy him. A certain elder pointed him to the Old Testament and the Scriptures about Christ, and Justin becomes a Christian, recognizing this philosophy as the only true and useful one. With the preaching of Christianity, he traveled to different places in Asia and Europe, wrote several compositions. Two of his Apologies addressed to emperors contain a deep in thought and brilliant in form exposition of the Christian faith. In the "Conversation with Tryphon the Jew" the Old Testament is analyzed as preparation for Christianity, the doctrine of the Divine incarnation is revealed, the universality of Christianity is affirmed, in contrast to narrowly nationalistic Judaism. Around 166, Justin was arrested, refused to make sacrifices to the pagan gods, and went to his death, confident in his salvation in Christ.
Origenes (185–254), according to Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern), "the greatest manifestation of Christian theological thought, the greatest theologian of all time," was especially famous for his extraordinary gifts and colossal works in theology. Brilliantly gifted, he already in the age of 17, after the execution of his Christian father and the confiscation of family property, became a mentor at the catechetical school in Alexandria and led the struggle against paganism there. At the request of believers, he explained the Holy Scriptures in temples, during the years of persecution he was forced to hide. As an apologist, he is known for his remarkable work in eight books “Against Celsus” and a set of four famous translations of the Old Testament with his comments (the text perished in 653), and in all he wrote about 6 thousand works in all branches of theological science, as a result of which the name of "adamant" ("diamond") was appropriated to him.
It should be noted that the eclectic philosopher Celsus turned out to be a serious opponent of Christianity, he studied the Old Testament and other scriptures. Around 150, he collected everything that the pagan scholars said against Christianity, and tried to scientifically prove its failure from the standpoint of "cultural Hellenism", speaking of the "barbarism", philosophical inconsistency, contradictory and non-originality of Christianity, which, as he seemed, borrowed much from the philosophy of Plato. Origenes worthily refuted him. Against the opinion of Celsus that the incarnation of God is inconsistent with His immutability, as well as the immutability of the world, Origenes objects that God, while thinking about the world and man, by His Divine will arranges the life of the world and the salvation of man, while remaining unchanged. Origenes proves the reality of the incarnation of the God the Word by the Old Testament prophecies, which were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In evidence of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Origenes cites the preaching of the apostles and the spread of Christianity, despite all the obstacles.
In "The Call to Martyrdom", written by Origenes during the persecution of Maximinus (235–238), he reveals his understanding of martyrdom. For him it is wider than the confession of Christ to the persecutors, it is the whole life of a Christian who in this world cannot but follow the narrow path if he strives for evangelical perfection. Origenes was one of the first Christian intellectuals, but he did not discard pagan wisdom. “I would like you to use all the powers of your mind to the benefit of Christianity,” Origenes wrote to his student Gregory. “To achieve this, I wish you to take from Greek philosophy a circle of knowledge that could be an introduction to Christianity..."
The lifestyle of Origenes was extremely ascetic, he helped a lot of victims of persecution, he died after a hard imprisonment. However, despite the fact that Origenes was a deeply religious Christian, not all of his works can unconditionally be called the works of a Christian thinker. In particular, Origenes' doctrine of the three hypostases of the One God, the pre-eternity of the existence of all rational beings and his soteriology of the unconditional salvation of all, as Archpriest John Meyendorf emphasizes, were not subsequently accepted by the Church.
In the very first years of the Church's existence, various kinds of false doctrines began to arise in it, sometimes developing into heresies and schisms, and this phenomenon turned out to be more dangerous for the Church than open persecution by the state.
Heresy is a falling away from the unity of the Church due to disagreement on matters of dogma, the teaching of faith. At first, Christian teaching was distorted by the introduction of Jewish views, for example, denying the deity of Jesus Christ and recognizing Him only as a great prophet. The pagans taught about two principles — God and matter, about the eternal struggle between them, about an omnipotent blind fate, about aeons — lower deities. In Christ, they saw the "highest aeon," appearing in a ghostly body, or, according to others, united with the holy man Jesus at baptism.
The Apostle Paul called the sermon on Christ crucified and risen, for the Hellenes "madness." In fact, the image of the joyful harmony of the ancient Greek world is based, according to Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, on the search and expression of the "ideal form" of the world hidden behind its fluid, changeable appearance. Christianity is deeply historical, the principle of historicism permeates all of the Holy Scripture, showing the world in its real state, full of tragic contradictions and conflicts, mistakes, suffering, calamities and evil; in Scripture the concreteness, singularity and originality of the world and people is clearly expressed, "the whole world is penetrated by personal life and therefore is revealed as history. It finds its focus in a man, a free personality, standing in front of the Personal God and before Him choosing and deciding his fate." It turned out to be impossible to combine such a realistic worldview with the idealism of the Greek understanding of the world, in which Nature was the center of all aspirations.
Having created his own understanding of Christianity, a heretic then measures and judges the Scriptures, proclaiming "unauthentic" everything that does not fit his views. Often he preaches merciless asceticism, absolute abstinence and creates new fasts, but all this is in vain, because falling away from the Church leads him and his followers to perdition. At the same time, adherence by his supporters to the accepted worship practice (water baptism, anointing with oil, making of communities led by bishops) intensify the enticement for believers. The danger of this threat to the Church was recognized back in apostolic times. Beware, [brethren,] wrote the Apostle Paul to Colossians, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col. 2, 8).
In the course of the struggle against heretics, the final canon of the books of the New Testament was formed, the principles of Church's tradition and apostolic succession of the hierarchy were strengthened. The fight against Gnosticism was led by the first Christian theologians, among whom St. Irenaeus of Lyon is to be named first, who wrote "The denunciation and refutation of a teaching that falsely calls itself knowledge," and this struggle itself continued for several centuries while and other heretics rebelled against the true Christian faith and the Church as its bearer. Thus an understanding arose of the need for firmer forms of organization of the Church, and this circumstance contributed to the hierarchical arrangement of churchly life, after which the hierarchy fully assimilated Church's magisterium. In defending the truth of the Church, St. Irenaeus of Lyon resolutely referred to its apostolate and indicated the sign of the true Church in the succession of the God-established hierarchy. "Beware of schisms as the beginning of all evil," wrote St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch. "Follow your bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father; follow the presbyters as apostles; and honour the deacons as God's commandments." Thus, the foundations of the existence of the earthly Church were developed on the basis of the acceptance by the Church's consciousness of the Word of God as the source of its existence.
Along with heresies in the Church, schisms also appeared as falling away from churchly unity due to disagreement on issues of rites, worship, and Church's administration. The most known of the schisms of the ancient Church are the schisms of the Novitians and Donatists.
The schism of the Novitians was generated in the middle of the 3rd century by the serious and extremely topical issue of attitude towards the fallen, i.e. those who betrayed faith during persecution. By that time, the Roman authorities, taught by experience, tried not only to destroy the Church, but to decompose it, and therefore faithful Christians were made to rot for a long time in prisons and tortured, in order to force them to renounce their faith. The presbyters Novatius in Rome and Novatus in Carthage demanded that these fallen, as having committed a mortal sin, be accepted into the Church only after repeated baptism. Meanwhile, the fallen, knowing the severity of the bishops, began to turn to the confessors of faith, to those who withstood sufferings and torture, there were more of them than the dead martyrs. And so the confessors began to give recommendations to the bishop about accepting the fallen into churchly fellowship after repentance. One of the most strict zealots of the faith, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, in order to prevent the emergence of double authority in the Church, at a council convened in 251, asserts a softened attitude towards the fallen (some are accepted into churchly fellowship only on their deathbed, others after prolonged repentance). Realism and mercy triumphed on rigorism and cruelty, but the irreconcilable began to unite in the sects of the "pure", which were led by Novatius and Novatus. In the fight against schism, the Church united around bishops. In its defense of principles, Novatianity found itself outside the Church, considering it "soiled." Its example was followed by some of the false Christians of our day, proudly calling themselves "truly Orthodox." It should be added that the Novatians lasted until the 8th century, and the strict bishop Cyprian was executed in September 258.
The schism of Donatists arose in Africa during the period of turmoil, when the atmosphere in the Church was poisoned by recent persecutions, which gave rise to suspicions of falls. In Carthage, some Christians refused to recognize the new bishop Cecelian, because a certain Felix, Bishop of Aptong, who was accused of issuing holy books to the authorities during the persecution, took part in his ordination. This group elected Donatus as its bishop, by whose name the sect was named. It included people who were both scientists and believers, but deprived of love, full of unshakable spiritual pride, their piety was pharisaic. Donatists reviled the "fallen" Church, took away temples from the Orthodox, thoroughly washing them out.
With the expansion of the Church and the increase in the number of Christians, the spiritual level of the communities gradually decreases, as if the "fire" with which the first Christians burnt is weakened. Actually, sin and falls were in the Church from the very beginning, and this is openly described in the Scriptures, but for early Christianity the Church is a society of saints, holiness is the norm of its life, those who received the white clothing of baptism keep it immaculate to the end. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not (1 Jn. 5, 18), writes Apostle John the Theologian. The entire teaching of the Apostle Paul is based on a reminder: ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph. 2, 19). But holiness does not mean sinlessness; God alone is sinless. The sinner must repent, but repentance itself is only possible because it is a return to the previously received state of purity.
Does this mean the transformation of the Church from a society of "saved" to a society of "those who save themselves"? No. The holiness of the Church as a whole does not exclude, but on the contrary, implies the constant repentance of its individual members in their sinfulness and unworthiness, for the strength of the "old", sinful beginning is strong even in the "transformed by water and spirit." According to the words of Jesus Christ, they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Jn. 2, 17). But this salvation is not magic, it is given for free acceptance, for independent struggle with sin, for the spiritual growth of man. The origin of schisms and heresies is rooted in the fear or unwillingness of people to accept instead of the "miracle" the realism of the Church, which remains in the world, in history.
Special mention should be made of the organization and management of the Church. "The Church was gradually becoming a hierarchically organized structure, intended for the moral perfection of its members and possessing special, given through the hierarchy, gracious forces for this," states St. Hilarion (Troitsky). The Church rejected attempts to dissolve it in the surrounding pagan world through Gnosticism and avoided the Jewish enticement to fence itself off from the world harshly, which some "Old Believer" sectarians succumbed to. It became a holistic universal organization with precise boundaries established by authorities and discipline.
At the beginning of the 3rd century, in one Roman Church there were up to 100 presbyters, there were its own temples, cemeteries, almshouses, charity work was carried out. In Africa, up to 300 bishops gathered at the councils. All of Asia Minor was covered by Christian communities. In the first cathedral of the empire, 60 priests, 100 deacons, 90 subdeacons, 110 readers, 25 singers, 100 gatekeepers served in St. Sophia in Constantinople in 537. When the Church was founded, three degrees of churchly hierarchy arose — deaconess, presbytery and bishopric. At the beginning, these posts were elective from among the willing believers. Starting from the 4th century, the requirements for those who wish to join the clergy (of those serving in any church) have become stricter. From the 4th century onwards, special schools for the training of theologically educated clerics appear in Alexandria, Antioch, Edessa and other places. Age restrictions were established: a deacon could be ordained not younger than 25 years, a presbyter (priest) not younger than 30 years, a bishop not less than 40 years (sometimes 35 years). In the first centuries of Christianity, bishops themselves performed the functions of not only episcopal supervision, but also presbyter's service.
As the number of churches in a given area increased, a diocese was formed there, at the head of which a bishop was appointed. He possessed the fullness of apostolic authority and, by this right, controlled the churchly life of his diocese, not having the right to interfere in the affairs of any other diocese. The succession of apostolic authority put the bishop on a completely special position in churchly life, "without a bishop there is no Church," it was said then, "he who is not with the bishop is not with Christ." All bishops are equal to each other, but give priority of honour to the elder in importance of the city in which there was a pulpit — this is how the metropolitanates, and then individual Local Churches, headed by hierarchs, arise.
Christian teaching is concentrated in two sources that are Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Books of the Old and New Testaments make the Holy Scripture, the Bible, as in the Christian Church the collection of books is called, which are written on the inspiration and revelation of the Holy Spirit through God's chosen people. Jews do not know this word and designated their holy books as Scriptures or Testament. For the first time, the collection of holy books was called the Bible by St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century. The enemies of the Bible pursued it like no other book for two thousand years. It was burnt, banned, outlawed by many powerful rulers from Roman emperors to the general secretaries of the Communist Parties. Voltaire said that a hundred years after his death, Christianity will be swept off the face of the earth and go down in history. But Voltaire himself went down in history, and the Bible remains the most read book in the world. The Bible has endured the most crushing criticism. No other book in history has been so meticulously dissected, so exuberantly under efforts to be defamed.
A careful reading of the Bible reveals the prophecies contained in it: the predictions of the Old Testament prophets about the miraculous birth of the Messiah — the Saviour (which is not found in any other religion in the world). At the same time, the Bible is frank, it does not hide the sins of its heroes, does not obscure the dark sides of people's lives. The Bible is a unitary narrative of the human race from the creation of the world and man to his salvation by Jesus Christ, and to the end of this world. It is wrong to look at these texts as a literary or historical work (although the Bible has both history and literature). Each phrase of the Holy Scripture carries a larger meaning than can be expressed in human language, so the words of the Bible can be understood not only in their literal meaning. Despite the importance of independent reading of the Bible, it is very useful to turn to its interpretations, written by many scholars of the Church, which a special branch of theology, called exegetics or hermeneutics, deals with.
The only and main goal of biblical authors is to reveal the actions of God in the world, this is the book of Divine Revelation. "The purpose of the Bible," writes priest Andrei Lorgus, "is to show that all human history, everything that happens to people every day, is the fulfilment of what the Holy Spirit predicts. The Bible reminds us: a person is not a toy of blind fate, as the ancient Romans and Greeks thought, and as many people think today. The life of any person is in the hands of God, Who loves all, on Whom everything depends. The will of God is to lead man to the only true goal — to salvation." "At the same time," states St. Hilarion (Troitsky), "you can know the whole New Testament by heart... and, however, be very, very far from salvation. For salvation it is necessary to adhere to the Church... The books of the Holy Scripture are one of the means through which the grace-filled power of God acts on people in the Church. Perhaps the saddest thing in our time is precisely the forgery of Christ and the Church," wrote St. Hilarion in 1914, "Christianity is not viewed as the new life of a saved humanity united in the Church, but only as the sum of some theoretical and moral provisions. Too much and often people began to talk about Christian doctrine and to forget about churchly life... But these speeches are only a self-deception and a sad misunderstanding. We can think correctly about Scripture only by going from the idea of the Church, and we can use Scripture correctly for our own benefit only while living in the Church. Without the Church, without churchly life, Christianity itself is allowed into nothing and reading literary monuments cannot replace the died life."
In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the formation of a holistic and united teaching of the Church took place. In the process of revealing and formulating the truths of the doctrine, many points remained unclear or seemed doubtful to an inquiring mind. Thus, a wide field was opened for the study and discussion of certain provisions of the doctrine, which gave rise to fluctuations between truth and falsehood, sometimes even deviation into heresy. But if earlier, in the conditions of the existence of separate, even large Christian communities, the heresies that had arisen were not widespread, then with the Church becoming a state institution and its servants gaining high public status, the entire population began to divide into Orthodox and non-Orthodox, and therefore the importance of the struggle for Christian truths have risen up. The state retained the function of protecting the faith, but it often took the side of heretics, strengthening their position with the full power of its influence.
The Ecumenical Council is an extraordinary meeting of shepherds and teachers of the Church from the whole universe (more precisely, the empire) or the hierarchical representation of all local independent (autocephalous) Churches, compiled for a general witness of faith, for the confirmation of the truths of a creed given to the Church by Revelation, to establish the rules binding on throughout the Church, and to resolve issues of Church-wide importance. These councils are the only supreme authority in the ecumenical Orthodox Church on matters of dogma and the only organ of its ecumenical legislation. Such a cathedral has the property of infallibility in its definitions and rules, which is based both on wide representation and on the belief that the Spirit of God acts in it.
Disputes, disagreements and conflicts among Christians were usually generated by the sincere desire of an inquiring mind to clarify for itself more fully and clearly the truths and secrets of faith, especially the secrets of the last times and salvation (eschatology is the doctrine of the ultimate fate of the world and man; soteriology is the doctrine of saving people). The theological thought of the East was more fascinated by the theological side, the Western was by anthropological, moral and practical. In these conditions, the meetings of the hierarchs (bishops) of the Orthodox Ecumenical Church, which received the names of the Councils, acquired special significance. "The heretical troubles of the East psychologically seemed in the West to be something annoying, alien and painful, without which, as well as without ecumenical councils, they could dispense calmly", A. V. Kartashev points out.
Ecumenical councils of the first nine centuries were convened by emperors, but on the initiative of churchly hierarchs. Bishops had the right to participate in the affairs of the Council with a decisive vote, and presbyters and deacons could replace (represent) a bishop or have an advisory vote. The lay people present — emperors and dignitaries — sometimes played a significant role in the affairs of the Council, the emperor had the right of honourary presidency. In debates and conferences, the members of the Council enjoyed complete freedom of opinion without any hesitation until the authorities decided.
Many councils were held, but only a few received recognition as ecumenical. The qualities of the ecumenical council are: 1)the agreement of its doctrine and rules with the Holy Scriptures, the apostolic tradition, the acts of the previous ecumenical councils; 2)the unity of the participants in the Council and the unanimous expression of the doctrine, rules and norms of churchly life in it; 3)legislative activity in the doctrine, such as the compilation of a symbol of faith and the presentation of dogmas in the meaning of immutable models of doctrine, expressions that are absolute in their fidelity, distinguished by the property of infallibility and immutability and therefore obligatory for assimilation by all members of the Church. However, the rules of the Ecumenical Council may be subject to development and varied application in the practice of local Churches according to the circumstances of their place and time.
In the Orthodox Church, seven councils are recognized as ecumenical: 1)First Nicene (325); 2)First Constantinople (381); 3)Ephesian (431); 4)Chalcedonian (451); 5)Second Constantinople (533); 6)Third Constantinople (680–681 and 691–962); 7)Second Nicene (787). In the Roman Catholic Church, 21 councils are considered ecumenical, adding to the seven, named above, the fourth Constantinople (869-870), five Lateran councils (1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, 1512–1516), two Lyons (1245, 1274), Viennese (1311) , Constance (1414–1418), Basel (1431), Florentine (1439), Trent (1545–1563), the first (1869–1870) and the second (1962–1965) Vatican. In the Roman Church, not the council began to be counted the supreme authority, but the pope. The Constance and Basel Reformation Councils tried to assert the highest ecclesiastical authority in themselves, but subsequent councils returned to the pope his dominant importance. At the first Vatican Council, the dogma of the pope's infallibility was proclaimed, as a result of which the councils received the significance of the council of bishops under the pope.
The time of great and victorious triumph in the life of the Church is darkened by great temptations and sorrows because of heresies and schisms, because of the returning persecutions of the authorities. The external world, the world of everyday life has always remained alien, pagan, sometimes hostile to the faith of Christians. In the culture of Byzantium, the influence of paganism remained strong; pagan philosophy prevailed, pagan temples stayed open, the whole way of life and its everyday mode of the inhabitants of the vast empire remained alien to the ideals of the Christian faith. But the situation inside the Church also remained unstable. Excited theological controversies shook the Church. In such conditions, it became necessary to develop a single and integral teaching of the Church — this task was fulfilled by the Ecumenical Councils. In these disputes, in the intense elaboration of a new system of concepts and the assimilation of the experience of faith, some ministers of the Church showed themselves to be its outstanding defenders and apologists. Following the apostolic path, they did not create the Truth, which is such only by virtue of its divinity, but they expressed the Truth and explained it.
Saints Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, John Damascene, Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas in the East, Saint Ambrose of Mediolan, Blessed Jerome, Gregory the Great, Blessed Augustine in the West — these are just the most famous names.
It should be noted that the Church venerates them as saints and calls them Great not only for the righteousness of their lives and the wisdom of their labours. Otherwise how would they differ from some pagan philosophers, who often lived virtuously? Their merits consist in much of the careful preservation and clarification of the treasury of Holy Scripture and Tradition. But traditions are truly preserved only in their living reproduction and empathy, Fr. George Florovsky meant, and therefore "...paternal works are for us a source of creative inspiration, an example of Christian courage and wisdom. This is the school of Christian thought, Christian philosophy."
In the 4th and 5th centuries, three theological schools were especially remarkable in the East, in which integral directions were developed: New Alkesandrian, Antioch and East Syrian (Edesian-Nezibian). The New Alexandrian school gained glory and fame as early as the 3rd century thanks to Origenes, who laid the foundations of exegetics (interpretation of the Holy Scripture) and dogmatic theology. A prominent representatives of this school are Bishop Alexander of Alexandria (†326) and Athanasius, who succeeded him in the cathedra.
Saint Athanasius the Great (297–373) was a great fighter against Arianism. He was naturally endowed with extraordinary talents. In childhood, he played with his peers in churchly life, and little Athanasius was given the role of a bishop. Almost nothing is known about his life before joining the clergy. For some time he studied secular sciences, but only in order not to seem completely inexperienced in this and not knowing what he considered worthy of contempt, reported St. Gregory the Theologian. Already in his youth he could not stand when "noble and rich talents were exercised in vain subjects." For several years he was a reader (Greek "anagnost"), and by 325 he was ordained deacon, became close to Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, and his zealous assistant in the struggle against the Arian heresy. Alexander took him along to the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, and there Athanasius "with boldness rebelled against the wickedness of Arius", gaining wide fame and respect, both for the depth of thought and for his eloquence.
After the death of Vladyka Alexander, at the age of 28, on April 17, 326, Athanasius, by the will of the majority of believers, was elected to the chair of the Alexandrian archbishop, the "chair of St. Mark." Energetic and affable, adamant in the truth, but condescending to sincerely erring ones, Archbishop Athanasius quickly gained respect and love. But by that time there was a turn in the views of the Emperor Constantine, he brought the Arians closer to him, led by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, for whom the most dangerous enemy was Athanasius of Alexandria. After the refusal to accept Arius into church communion, by order of the emperor, an open war began against Athanasius the Great. That is why he was destined to spend most of his long, almost half-century hierarchical service in exile: he left the pulpit five times and returned to it the same amount.
He was mainly charged with purely political accusations of ties with rioters who were rivals of the ruling emperors, in an attempt to leave the East without Egyptian bread, etc. He was also accused of levying unrighteous income from churches, of killing a certain Bishop Arsenius, whose cut off hand he allegedly used for witchcraft (Athanasius the Great brought the living Bishop Arsenius with both his hands to the court and said to those present: "Arsenius, as you can see, has two hands , and the place from which the third was cut off, let the accusers show"). Emperor Julian the Apostate simply persecuted him for his firmness in the faith, amazing when other zealous companions of Athanasius in the struggle against Arianism — Bishop Hosea of Cordoba, Pope Liberius of Rome — hesitated and agreed to concessions to the Arians. For the Church, the positive significance of the expulsions of Athanasius the Great consisted in the fact that during his forced stay in Rome, he introduced the Western Church to monasticism and planted the first ideas of such a service to God there.
By the end of the 20th century, the attractiveness of Orthodoxy for other religions that had fallen out from the Church increased. The Orthodox Church is numerically little (for example, in England there are only 8 Orthodox churches), but it has always been so. According to Archbishop Alexis (van der Mensbrugge, 1899–1980), "The Church is like a candle lit in an endless world: it seems to warm and illuminate a very small part of it, but, however, the darkness is no longer perfect across the vastness of space."
Another question is whether everyone wants to go to this light. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (Bloom), who throughout his life gave an example of a harmonious combination of a modern way of thinking and deep faith, reflected on this problem in his sermons and conversations. In 1971, during one of his visits to Moscow, he told about this: "Now there is a huge crisis of faith in the West, a concrete faith. I can give you examples. A professor of dogma at the University of Oxford has published a book called 'The Myth of the Incarnation' — he simply does not believe in Incarnation. Our Orthodox student at a theological faculty in London participated in a seminar and said something about the Resurrection of Christ; an English professor said to her: 'Do not sabotage the meeting!' She objected: 'I'm sorry, I believe in the Resurrection.' 'Nonsense! If you continue to talk about it, I will ask you to get out!' and he expelled her from the seminar. The third example: we have a parish in northern Holland, in the city of Groningen. A local Catholic bishop went to our divine service. I asked him once: 'Why are you coming? We are only glad to see you, but why do you want to pray with us?' He replied: 'Because I need to be among the faithful.' I say: 'Don't you have enough of your Catholics?' 'You know, half of my clergy no longer believes in the Resurrection and the Divinity of Jesus Christ. There remains the image of Christ as a peerless person who shows us what a person should be; There is no God-man.'
I have given you, of course, very extreme examples, but such views are very common now. Say, for four years I can't speak in BBC in English because they don't agree with preaching of such a faith as I would preach. I spoke of the Deity of Christ, and they said to me: 'We're sorry, you belong to another century!' And since then they no longer invite me. I know some bishops of the Anglican Church who are forbidden to enter there because they believe, they simply believe in the Gospel. So the crisis is really very serious, and as a result, the hunger for Orthodoxy in the West in general... is very significant."
Thus, in the modern world, along with the process of apostasy (people fall away from the Church and lose their faith), the exact opposite process takes place: gaining faith in God and coming to the Church.
"The Church is one," wrote Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (1914–2003), "and on earth it is the Orthodox Church, which is holy with holiness of God in its Divine-human nature, its secret... but the path it follows is far from easy..." The Church still offers answers to the eternal questions of people: what is truth? what is a sense of life? According to Hegumen Hilarion (Alfeyev), "Christianity does not seek to dot the i, having exhausted all the questions of the human spirit. But it reveals a reality so superior to all that surrounds us in earthly life that, having met with it, a person forgets his questions and perplexities, because his soul comes into contact with the Divine and falls silent in standing before the Mystery, to express Which no human word is capable of."
The Church arose at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, being a free association of Christians surrounded by the predominant non-Christian population, in conditions of persecution by the pagan state. Toward the end of the 2nd millennium, the circular path of the Church in the world closed: Christianity again experienced a period of severe persecution, and the traditional union between the Church and the state in different countries comes to an end. The Church again feels itself to be an insignificant minority in the ocean of the modernity become worldly to the limit, but this is not a basis for despondencies. The Church is always on the way.
To a layman who was discussing the decomposition of the Church, Father Paisius said: As a secular civil engineer, you saw a crack in the dome of the temple, which depicts the Almighty Lord, and you are in a hurry to support Him with something so that He does not fall down. So know that you are nobody, zero! In even the least degree cannot you protect our Church. You can be sure that God Himself will come to save the Church when it is in danger. Not the Church has a need for you, but you need it in order to save your soul. The church was built not by people, as if God had a need for it, but by the Lord Himself, for people need it.
The world is on a ship that is being broken by waves. The rational have good anxiety and flee from the seething sea, enter a quiet harbour — the Church of Christ — and there they find peace.
It is not necessary to create problems in the Church and to exaggerate the moderate human discord that can always be found in it, so as not to do more evil by which we can only please the devil. Anyone who, having seen small churchly irregularities, begins to resent violently and is eager to fix everything with all his strength, looks like a stupid sexton who, noting during the service that the candle is flowing, throws himself at it to correct, but at the same time sweeps away on his way both people, and candle holders, making an even bigger mess.
Unfortunately, there are so many people now, who are disturbing peace of the Mother Church. Some of them with education accepted dogmas by their reason, and not by the spirit of the Church Fathers. Others, uneducated, clung to dogmas with their teeth, and therefore a "gnashing of teeth" is heard when they begin to argue about churchly matters. And it turns out that they bring the Church more harm than the enemies of Orthodoxy. Those people who justify themselves in their anger by the fact that their duty is to expose others (but at the same time they do not want to expose themselves), or that they must publicize the events of churchly life — even that which are not customary to talk about — referring to the instruction "tell it unto the Church" (Matt. 18, 17), let them begin reprimands from their small church: the family or the monastic brotherhood. And if they find this to be a good thing, then let them put to shame and the Mother Church. I think that good children will never allow themselves to slander their own mother. But many unreasonable Orthodox Christians, unfortunately, provide heretics with many reasons for nit-picking, and more and more Orthodox cities and villages are being captured by sectarians who are continuously expanding their "missionary" activities.
Let us not seek for human truth. People can justify us, but according to the spiritual law we will be condemned. Let us give Divine grace to act in the way Christ favours, for this is beneficial both to our soul and to every other, i.e. let us renounce each our will and wish from the bottom of our hearts that the Lord act. And then He will guide us, and we will marvel at the full of truth, love and wisdom action of God.