Monday, June 26, 2017

Elder Sophrony: "The World Does Not Need a Political Church"

By Elder Sophrony Sakharov

Every international or class war is associated with violence: "Strike the enemies." But Christ commands: "Love your enemies" (Matt. 5:44). The latter does not deteriorate at all the gospel at the level of the fratricidal division of material goods. When bishops, theologians and faithful Christians in general enter the ranks of militants, they consider those who avoid participation in these kinds of activities as petty and cowardly. The more dangerous the clash with the oppressors, the more this humanitarian mission is considered as "martyrdom" for Christ.

Our evasion is dictated by the consciousness that any change of status in social relations with a revolutionary, namely blackmailed, manner will ultimately prove to replace one violence with another. The historical experience demonstrates this in many cases. Already we have seen during our life how the idea of justice inspired people to war against despotism and exploitation, for freedom and full rights for all. However, the revolutions ended or converted into terrorist regimes with the suppression of huge masses of populations, depriving them of the most basic rights and the like. As agitated as we are for the injustices of a certain system, its change must be associated with long procedural processes of the moral standards of people in general. We have no right to carry out acts of blackmail - even towards extortioners - in the name of Christ. However, to rebuke injustice, in a lively and intense way, to guard justice for all, we can do, when we see the benefits from our reason.

The celebration of the Liturgy itself, which is a sacrifice for the salvation of all people, is the highest of all participations in the difficult ministry to humanity.

We are not allowed to deviate from our aim of remaining in the light of the Lord's commandments.

If we become one of the dark forces fighting for predominance over our brethren, we will overshadow the light which God brought to earth. This crime is more damaging to us than any other.

The world does not need a "political Church". The deprived character of the Church of Christ in the last centuries led to the departure of a large number of faithful from it. We can only recover the great brilliance of the Church with the extreme effort to live as Christians, evangelically, without turning our attention towards how our contemporaries will behave towards us. If Christians do not acquire the genuine spiritual gifts, and primarily holiness, preaching with words will remain as "a clanging symbol".

The complete turn towards the earth will not allow people to see the Church in its authentic essence, as the Kingdom of Paternal Love, as the place where the Holy Spirit shines, as the path where we assimilate with the All-Merciful God-man Jesus Christ.

We must not fear the temporary distancing of people from the Church. May the example of Christ, who was completely abandoned on the day of His Golgotha, help strengthen us to walk in His footsteps. He stood alone condemned by the Roman State of justice, by the Lawful Sanhedrin, and even by the mob of people. Therefore, if everyone abandons us, even then it would not be worth overstepping the true dimensions of the New Testament revelation given to us with the Passion of Christ at the level of "morals", the level of "atheistic humanism", the level of "every manner and type of entertainment". The distance may even take larger dimensions. None of us are excluded from standing firm in faith, to be ready to resist the whole world.

Source: From The Mystery of the Christian Life. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.