Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Dialectic of the Church in the World

By Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece

(Excerpt from a Homily for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 2000)

The sacred images, but the very Divine Liturgy itself, as well as the hymnology and everything else that transpires within the church constitute a complete break with the criteria of all that takes place in the world outside the church.

This break or rupture is expressed by our Lord when He says: "My Kingdom is not of this world". By so stating our Lord not only declares that the present world is a place of death, displacement and failure, but also that the world is unable to become man-befriending, with respect for all who are weak; that it cannot become a world devoid of pain.

The Church is "not of this world"; She does, however, live "in the world", for the world's salvation. Her word, the comprehensive and dialectic orthodox word, is in opposition to the "mind" of the world; at the same time, however, the object of her mission is man, who abides in the world. Her kerygma revolves around problems which beset man, not because she does not observe the many positive things that are being accomplished, but because she knows that the positive elements "of this world" are also carriers of death, unless they are transformed within her, into works unto God's glory. Otherwise, they remain works of human vanity. That which is positive for the world is always chained to the unjust, to that which is inhuman and demonic.

A good look at today's world will affirm the truth of what we say.

* The transplants of human organs, for instance, are a blessing because they save lives, and through them handicaps are overcome. However, they also create a relentless sale of human organs that drives the poor living in the so called Third-World countries to remove these organs from the elderly and from children and to sell them for a paltry sum of money -despite the efforts of the international community to stop such a thing.

* The improvement of the standard of living has banished the scepter of hunger and has released many millions of people from the bondage of poverty and need. At the same time, however, it has brought about the degradation of man by creating within him an insatiable consumerist appetite and a slavish mimicking of models imposed upon them by advertising workshops.

* The new technologies provide unhindered access to information and open the way to knowledge. Yet they have also become a super-weapon of corruption and perversion, with fearful consequences, especially upon the younger generations. Moreover, the new technologies lead to the gradual submission of the Press to a small group of vested interests, which convert the news media one after another into mechanisms that shamelessly distort events and mislead the masses.

* The demand for a just society has led to the creation of a society that completely subjugates man. The justified appeal for increase in national sentiment is easily transposed into frenzied nationalistic fever, resulting in barbarity and rivers of blood. The sense of emptiness will be intense.

We could continue to mention more examples. But we need only see the claw, in order to recognize the lion.

These new discoveries and many others may indeed be the food upon which human arrogance thrives, yet they do not make God superfluous. To the contrary, they make God necessary as a breakwater and a shield against the impending threat against His image.

MAN'S PROBLEMS are greater than ever before. Possibly for the first time in history, there exist powers that can kill not only the body but even the soul. There are powers that can control the thoughts and guide the will of entire peoples, powers able to convert the disdain for morality into virtue, powers able to convert scientific laboratories into dispatch departments of Hell. There are powers which, in full consciousness, short-sightedly blink at the truth, purposely support iniquity, and seek to muzzle and silence any word that might awaken man to his situation.

Within this whirlpool of darkness we light the candle of our mission. Within this clamor and uproar we are called to carry everywhere, unto all nations, the voice of the Lord.

The Church is in the world but rejects the logic of the world. She speaks to man every day, while at the same time calling upon him to overcome the routine and triteness of daily living.

This is something which we are obliged to protect. We are to preserve the Church's word authentic, that it able to speak to present-day man while at the same time leading him to her eternal source; that it participate in the life of the world without being trapped within its logic; that it be a powerful presence within its logic; that it be a powerful presence within the contemporary State, without being transformed into a secular authority.

TODAY THE CHURCH tries to prevent man from being trapped within new forms of the demonic. Today the threat of globalization looms large, as it appears under the innocent guise of world-wide economic progress. We would not have had any need to mention it here today, if it were but simply one more deception, simply the utopia of global prosperity to be achieved through unhindered commerce. That, however, which the authors of globalization seek to bring about, as they openly admit, is the abolishment of national identity, the imposition on the whole world not only of a single financial model, but also of a single language and a single culture for all the world's peoples.

Read the entire sermon here.