Orthodox America


  Reflections of Fr. Alexander Men'


      I am alarmed by inertia. There is physical inertia, biological (in the world of nature inertia has tremendous force), and there is psychological or social inertia. For decades severe blows have been dealt to the life, faith and consciousness of people, whole generations have been disfigured. To cure this in an instant, as if by the wave of a magic wand, is impossible. This is evident from the obstinate resistance to the truth about our society, not only among elderly people--who would be forced to part with their old illusions---but also from a significant sector of youth, among whom are unexpectedly being revealed tendencies toward a totalitarian way of thinking and feeling. This inertia of evil, the inertia of a monstrous social disease which has flung itself over nearly half the globe, this alarms me. People regard perestroika as some kind of panacea which requires no effort on their part. Fiat lux ("let there be light"); it's plugged in and, presto---everything is as it should be: they announced the truth, unmasked the lie, but the fact that the house has been ransacked, razed, have they forgotten this? Now they are turning to us, to the Church: You have such treasures of the spirit, we are waiting for these treasures... But they don't want to know that our church house was also ransacked, depopulated, virtually destroyed. We often heard talk about the consequences of the war, famine, but we are living today with the consequences of a colossal historical pathology, and these consequences are now living in people's souls, in the work ethic, in the family, in the conscience, on the street...

      My hopes are purely mystical, because I nevertheless believe in the victory of the forces of light. 

      Apostle Paul said; Be not overcome by evil, rather overcome evil with good (?) When we think that we are letting off steam by answering aggression with aggression, we are only increasing the tension. The ability to stop, to yield, to restrain oneself--this is already the first step towards preserving tranquility.

      I personally have a wonderful remedy. For more than thirty years I have had sitting on my desk a human skull, You need only glance at it and immediately you begin to understand how short life is, and the scale of values quickly falls into proper order. You understand how a majority of people suffer over trifles, make mountains of molehills and miss what is most important. Life, meanwhile, is short. 

      We are a religious people, we believe in a supreme meaning of existence and in a superior Divine Principle, in the immortality of the human soul, and in the absolute value of the individual, in man's being created in God's image, and in his moral accountability before God. We Christians believe that Truth reveals itself to the World in the person of Jesus Christ, Who lived on earth and is present in His Church, even in spite of the imperfections of her members. Atheists have different views and, it would seem, they have a legal right to their beliefs. But all of us are citizens of one country, members of one society, and therefore we should be equal Before the law. If atheism has at its disposal all means of education and information, we Christians have a right to expect that we, too, shall be given the opportunity to freely confess our beliefs, to witness to them before all who desire to listen, to pass them on to the younger generations in our families. 

      From all corners of the world come signals of alarm. Cries for help. The threat of mortal illness hangs over the world. Over our country, Over our children. Over our entire future. If we do not now move from words to action, we shall soon have missed our chance: For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places (Matt. 24:7).

      It is not the first time that terrifying Biblical prophecies are finding fulfillment. Man was given the choice of two paths: Behold, says the prophet, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil (Deut. 30:15). Alas, too many have preferred the way of death and evil.

      Now, in the waning years of the 20th century, we can, as it were, read in the Bible essential words written in the book of history. Again and again they teach us that evil carries within it its own payment.

      Coercion--of people, their wills, their conscience---has given birth to traitors, informers, slaves. Wars, terror, lawlessness have annihilated entire peoples; they have destroyed their spirit, their culture, their moral order.

     We were forewarned.

     I Long ago the Word of God foretold where tyrannies and chauvinism, unbelief and satanic pride would lead. However, we did not change our minds. We did not understand the need for repentance.

      Today yet another adversary is lying in wait for us. He comes from within, and his name is IRRESPONSIBILITY and APATHY.

 

      One must realize that there exist at least two kinds of religiosity. One is infected with worldly passions, the other remains faithful to the original spirit of faith. The first is fat with malignant excesses, authoritarianism, fanaticism, ritualism, intolerance, narrowness. The second stimulates the discovery of what is best in the individual, it facilitates the battle against evil--both within us and without.

      I know many unbelievers who have manifest a high degree of goodness and self-sacrifice. However, I ask you: where did they get their ethical principles? Were they not raised on classical Russian literature, which is almost entirely penetrated by these principles? Did they not receive their moral consciousness indirectly from a centuries-old religious tradition? In nature there is neither good nor evil. In nature there are only natural processes. Man alone opened for himself the world of ethics. And throughout the ages he has seen his origin not in nature, but in a Supreme Cause. When this was forgotten, there began a revelry in inhumanity and the absence of spirituality. Such a world view leads to tragic consequences. It destroys a man's spirituality, it destroys society, it destroys feelings of responsibility, it feeds egoism. We see this in our contemporary society. The flowers have come and gone; the time has come for the fruit. If we do not change course, if we do not revive fundamental spiritual values, we shall be faced with chaos. Worse---a global catastrophe. 

Prepared by V. Strelnik

Translated from Vechernyaya Moskva, September 17, 1990)

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