суббота, 2 октября 2010 г.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. THE GOSPEL

           Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
                        THE GOSPEL
                      1 March 1989

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

It  is  of  the  Gospel  that  I  wish  to  say a few words to you. In
countries  that  are  nominally Christian or allegedly Christian it is
very  difficult  for one to recapture the true meaning of the word and
of  the event of the Gospel. What is the Good News? What is new in it?
What  is  good  in  it? Those of us who discovered the Gospel as a new
life may perhaps feel that more intensely whether we are people of the
East  or people of the West. What is news? O, something very wonderful
and very simple - it is life but only those who were ill can know what
it  means to be whole, only those who were dead can appreciate what it
means to be alive.

In  one  of his broadcasts in 1943 C.S.Lewis said, “What should happen
to  those  who meet a Christian, a believer? They should stop arrested
by  what  they  see and exclaim, “Lo, a statue has come to life!” That
is, something that was nothing but stone, beautiful or not, but inert,
insensitive,  which  could not hear or speak, of a sudden has become a
living being. Can you imagine what would happen to people if all of us
who  call  ourselves  by  the  name  of  Christ  were such that people
encountering  us should say, “Look, this is a living being and because
I  have  met him or her I understand now that I don’t know yet what it
means  to be alive. I am a corpse, I am half dead, there is no life in
me, and in these people there is life.”

I  would like to single out a few elements of newness also in what one
may  discover  in  the Gospel and to do this, I am afraid, I will be a
little  too  personal  for  the  taste  of  Britain. I was baptised an
Orthodox  when  I  was  a child but then the first World War came, the
revolution   came,   the  bitter  and  hungry  and  painful  years  of
emigration.  And  there  was  no  time  for  me to receive any kind of
religious  education  so  that  God did not exist for me. I was not an
atheist  by  conviction (one is not an atheist at the age of 7 and 10,
and  12, and 15) but I was an atheist in the truer sense of the word -
there  was  no  God in my experience, no God in my life. And therefore
there  was  no  ultimate  meaning  in my life, all the meaning of life
could  be  summed up in the necessity of survival. There was no common
roof  for  my  parents  and  me, there was food when it happened to be
there  and  there was a great deal of violence and hardship around. So
that  all  my  vision  of  life  was  that  of  a  struggle and all my
understanding  of  people  around  me  was that of a jungle peopled by
prospective enemies.

And then one day I happened to read the Gospel. It happened by the act
of God as it were because it happened in order for me to discard it. I
heard  a priest speak to us, boys, in a youth organisation and what he
said  shocked  me, revolted me so much that I decided to check whether
what  he had said could possibly be true. We were teenagers, preparing
to  re-conquer  Russia  sword  in hand and here was a man who spoke of
Christ  and  spoke  of  nothing  but  meekness, humility, forbearance,
turning one cheek when one was hit on the other, giving us an image of
what  was  no manly. I came home determined to make sure and to finish
with  the Gospel if that was the Gospel and that was Christ. I counted
the  chapters  of  the  Gospels because as I expected no good from the
reading  I  thought  that  the shortest would be the best and so I was
landed  with  St.  Mark’s  Gospel, a Gospel written for young ruffians
like me, the youth of pre-Christian Rome.

And  then something happened to me which you may interpret either as a
hallucination or as a gift of God - between the beginning of the first
and the end of the second chapter of his Gospel, of St. Mark’s Gospel,
I  suddenly  became  aware  with total, absolute certainty that on the
other side of the desk the Lord Jesus Christ was standing alive. There
was  no  hallucination  of  the senses - I heard nothing, saw nothing,
smelt  nothing,  I  looked  and  my certainty remained as total and as
totally  convincing.  And then I thought that if Christ is alive, if I
am in his presence, then the man who died on Calvary was truly what is
purported him to be, the man who died on Calvary was God come to us as
a Savour.

And  then I began to read the Gospel with new eyes in a different way.
I  turned  pages simply to read other passages than the one I had read
about  the  beginnings  and  I  landed  on  a passage that said in St.
Matthew’s Gospel that God shines his light upon the good and the evil.
And  I  sat  back  and I thought, “All my life I’ve been surrounded by
people  whom  I  considered  as enemies, who to me were like beasts of
prey,  people  of  whom  I  was  terrified and whom I wanted to fight,
people  who  had taught me that the only way of survival was to become
as  hard  as  nails - and God loves them all. And if I want to be with
God  I must learn to love them whatever they may do to me because if I
reject  them  I will not be with God, I will not be with Christ who on
being  crucified said, “Father, forgive, they don’t know what they are
doing.”  Who  said  to  Judas who had come to betray him, “Friend, why
thou hast come hither?” I did not know these examples but that is what
I perceived.

And  I  remember coming out into the street the next morning, going to
the  suburban  train  that  will  bring  me to my school and crowds of
people  to  their  work  and I looked round at all these people moving
towards  the  station  that  had  been  so  alien,  that  were  to  me
prospective  danger,  tormentors, enemies, whom I wanted to ignore and
fight if necessary, I looked at them and thought, “God loves them all!
O,  the  wonder!  -  we are in a world of love. Whatever they may feel
about  me I know what they may not know themselves”. This was my first
experience,  this  was  a moment when I suddenly felt that I was alive
and that I had been dead. I had been a corpse among corpses, now I was
alive  among  people  who,  who knows, perhaps were as alive as I, or,
horror of horrors, were corpses that needed come to life. And with the
foolishness  of  a  boy  of  14-15,  pressed in these carriages of the
suburban  train I turned to my neighbour and said, “Have you ever read
the  Gospel?” He looked at me condescendly, smiled and said, ‘Now, why
should I?” And then I told him what I had just discovered. He probably
thought  I  was  mad.  And  I  was and I am still and I hope that this
madness  will  never  leave  me because from that moment onward I felt
there was no point in life except in whatever way of life, in whatever
walk  of life you are to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim this miracle
that  the Gospel is a power of life, that Christ can give us life. And
by  contrast  that  as  long as we are not possessed of the life which
Christ can give we are dead whatever we imagine.

And  then  I  discovered other things. I discovered the parable of the
prodigal  son  and  that  was such a wonderful experience because that
corroborated  what  I  have  felt within myself. Twice does the father
say, “My son, your brother was dead and he is now alive.” He says that
to  the servants, he says that to the older son, he knew what it meant
to  be  alive,  and he knew what it meant to be dead. The prodigal son
knew also what it meant to die and to resurrect. He was partaker after
a  fashion  in  the  experience  of Lazarus who had come to life after
having,  tasted  death.  The  older  son  did  not  know  that, in his
imagination his younger brother had gone into the far country, enjoyed
life  seeing things which he, faithful servant, slave, hireling of his
father, had never seen. Perhaps was he jealous of him but he certainly
did  not  feel  that  he  missed or had lost anything. And so what was
there  to  be  rejoiced  at when he came back? And why was it that the
father  was  so happy to see him back instead of saying, “No, you have
squandered  all  my  goods,  go and earn your living.” He did not know
what it meant to be dead because he had never been alive.

And  then I discovered something more. I discovered an answer (o, that
didn’t  come immediately) to a question that puzzled me - how could it
be  that  God could know what it means to be a creature? How could the
Immortal One know what it means to be dead? What could the Eternal One
know  how  one  can  lose even the transitory, ephemeral life which is
ours?  And  then I realised that God in his Incarnation had become one
with  our  creatureliness,  he  had  not only a human body and a human
soul,  he  had  inherited this body and soul from generations back, he
was the heir of centuries and centuries of humanity, of real, concrete
people.  He  was  true man, the only true man because to be a true man
means  to  be  a  man  in perfect oneness with God, partaker of divine
nature,  as  Peter  the  Apostle  puts it in his Epistle. The union of
divinity  and  humanity  had made his humanity not less human but more
truly  human.  He knew what it meant to be a human being, he knew what
it meant to be alive. Did he know what it meant to be dead?

Later  I discovered the Cross. On the same evening, turning pages (the
way  I  put it now of course could not have been the thing I perceived
and  put it when I was a boy in my middle teens) what I discovered was
this  - that Christ had chosen as it were simultaneously to be totally
solid  with  God  and  totally solid with man, at one with God, at one
with  man.  And  that  had  two tragic consequences - because he stood
before  man  in  God’s name, in total solidarity with him, without any
compromise,  he  had  become  inacceptable  to  all those who were not
prepared  to  accept God on his terms, on God’s own terms, to be God’s
own  people  in a real full, sacrificial, heroic sense. And because he
has chosen to remain in total, ultimate solidarity with man before the
face  of God he had to share with mankind all the predicament of being
a  creature, of living in fallen world, of being a man who had brought
through  sin  mortality  and  death.  And  so he had to be rejected by
mankind, he had to die outside of the city of men as the Anglican hymn
has  it  “on the little hill without the walls,” not within Jerusalem,
not  within  the company of men, outside, like the scrape-goat who was
loaded with the sins of Israel and cast out to die in the wilderness.

On  the  other  hand  he  could  not  die because in his very humanity
inseparably,  perfectly  united to his divinity there was no space for
dying  and  yet,  he chose to share with us the only ultimately tragic
predicament  of mankind - He chose mortality and death and this he did
on  the  Cross, something happened that he became unaware of his unity
with the Father and having lost God he had to die, he could die and he
could  go  down  into  the  pit, into the Hades, into sheol of the Old
Testament,  the place of the irremediable and ultimate separation from
God.  He came down into it as a man and he filled it with the glory of
his  divine  presence,  harrowing  hell,  making  an end to it. He had
united God and man in his person, he called every human being to unite
himself  to  him  and through him to become the son or the daughter of
God. What a marvel, what a wonder!

That is what the Gospel meant to me when I began to discover it. And I
ask  you  to  look  at  it  with  the eyes of one who was alien to the
Gospel,  who knew nothing about it and to ask yourself, “What is there
in  the  Gospel  which  is new to you, not yet ever experienced, never
known and what is in the Gospel which is so good that one can turn...


 * All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

           Metropolitan Anthony of  Sourozh Library

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