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Ἐννόημα
! This very often was not the attitude of Christian missionaries; the missionary movement in Christianity is not a movement of people who so live their neighbour with the love of God that they go out to the world ready to die that others may live, who go out into the world, with all the frailty that is theirs, knowing that they can do nothing, but God can do everything.
 
! When Paul spoke of God he was transfigured and there is an ancient manuscript, which says that when St. Paul was in repose, as it were simply himself, he was as ugly as a devil, but when he spoke of God, he shone with light like an angel of Heaven.
 
! This is an element which the Apostles could bring because in the pagan society in which they lived people were terrified of evil, of evil powers, of Satan. And the Apostles came and said, "fear not; Christ has conquered. The devil is defeated. If you are with Him, you are invincible." That is not something we often hear today.
 
! A mentality has developed us that we must be secure within the walls of the Church, within the limits of a Christian community. Going out is dangerous, that is exactly what we should be doing and we have forgotten it.
 
! Men of a daring spirit left the cities and the comfort of a state Christianity to go into the wilderness to fight evil in themselves and the evil that was spreading around. Fr. George Florovsky insists on the fact that these people were not running away from a still pagan society; they were not running away from persecution. They were running away from a Christianity that had "lost its salt." They were going away because the Christian community had become tasteless; it was no longer the heroic body it had been in the beginning.
 
! Ever since Cain murdered Abel all the Cains of the world have been trying to murder all the Abels of the world, but the Abels of the world have a function to fulfill and we have learned to survive as long as necessary for this function to be fulfilled without compromise, but allowing God to chose the moment when we will be killed. And Abel was killed.
 
! We have bought a plot of land, we have oxen, we have attachment, we cannot give our lives to anything that is beyond us and our enslavement. That does not mean that we cannot be free. The question is are you attached or not? There is a difference between love and attachment. You may be the slave of a relationship, but you may be free within it.
 
! We must learn to pray within the Liturgy, to receive from all our services all the richness it can give, but not to be slaves of it.
 
! St. Hermas speaks in his first visitor of meeting a woman of extreme beauty with the face of a virgin and with white hair. He says to her, "Who are you?" and she answers, "I am the Church." "How is it that you are so young? You have existed for so long." She replies, "I have the youth of eternity." "But why then have you got white hair?" And the answer came: "Because I have the hair of wisdom." And this is what the Church should be -- the Church not a vague, amorphous concept. You, I, we. That is the Church. And we should have the youth of the newly born into eternity and possess the wisdom of the centuries before us and even more the wisdom of God that stretches into eternity.
 
! I will conclude with the words of Pastor Visser Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who said: "one can be a heretic even while proclaiming every article of the Creed if we give the lie to one or all of them by the way in which we live. One can be a heretic by denying the truth, by not living according to the truth."
 
Συναντώντας μιὰ μὴ ὀρθόδοξη κοινωνία
Anthony Bloom (Metropolitan of Sourozh (1914- 2003))


 





Δώδεκα Ἀπόστολοι μὲ τὴ χάρη τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος βγῆκαν στὸν κόσμο. Συνοδεύονταν ἀπὸ μιὰ μικρὴ ὁμάδα μαθητῶν, ἑβδομήντα ἄνδρες καὶ γυναῖκες. Καὶ ἄλλαξαν τὸν κόσμο, ὄχι ἀμέσως, ἀλλὰ μέσα ἀπὸ ἕνα κύμα κατανόησης, βιώματος, ἀνανέωσης τῆς ζωῆς, ἔκαναν διαφορετικὸ ὁλόκληρο τὸν κόσμο ἀπὸ αὐτὸ ποὺ ἦταν γιὰ ἑκατοντάδες χρόνια. Ὑπάρχουν σήμερα ἑκατομμύρια Χριστιανοὶ διαφορετικοῦ δόγματος καὶ ὅμως, ἐξαιτίας μας, οἱ Χριστιανοί, ὁ Χριστιανισμὸς φαίνεται ὅτι ὅλο καὶ πιὸ πολὺ δὲν ἔχουν σχέση μὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ Χριστιανισμοῦ.

Ὑπάρχει ἕνα μεγάλο μέρος τῆς κοινωνίας ποὺ ζεῖ, δρᾶ, σκέφτεται, δημιουργεῖ σ’ ἕναν κόσμο ποὺ φαινομενικὰ δὲν ἔχει τίποτα κοινὸ μὲ τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο. Καὶ λέω φαινομενικά, ἐπειδὴ αύτὸ δὲν εἶναι τελείως ἀλήθεια. Οἱ ἀρχὲς πάνω στὶς ὁποῖες θεμελιώθηκαν ἀκόμα καὶ οἱ ἄθεες κοινωνίες, ἔχουν συχνὰ ρίζες Χριστιανικὲς. Ὁ Χριστιανισμὸς ἔφερε στὸν κόσμο μιὰ ἔννοια ποὺ δὲν ὑπῆρχε στὴν ἀρχαιότητα: τὴν ἀπόλυτη, ἐσχατολογικὴ ἀξία τοῦ προσώπου, τὴν ἀξία ποὺ ἔχει κάθε ὕπαρξη. Στὸ παρελθὸν ὑπῆρχαν κύριοι καὶ σκλάβοι, τώρα ὑπάρχουν ὑπάρξεις, ἄνδρες καὶ γυναῖκες, παιδιά, μοναδικὲς ὑπάρξεις – καὶ ὁ καθένας μας, ἀκόμα κι ἄν δὲν τὸ γνωρίζουμε πάντα, ἔχει μιὰν ἀξία ἀπόλυτη στὰ μάτια τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ στὰ μάτια τῆς κοινωνίας. Κι ὅμως, κατὰ κάποιο τρόπο, ἡ ζωή μας δὲν ἔχει τίποτα κοινό μὲ τὸν Χριστιανισμό. Δὲν σᾶς προκαλῶ, δὲν κάνω κριτικὴ στὴν Ἐκκλησία, ἀλλὰ νομίζω ὅτι ὑπάρχουν κάποια πράγματα ποὺ θὰ πρέπει νὰ λάβουμε ὑπ’ὅψιν μας, νὰ σκεφτοῦμε σοβαρά καὶ νὰ δοῦμε ποὺ βρισκόμαστε.


Μισθοφόροι καὶ προσκυνητές

Ἡ πρώτη γενιὰ Χριστιανῶν, οἱ Ἀπόστολοι, οἱ μαθητὲς κι ἐκεῖνοι ποὺ προσηλυτίσθηκαν ἀπ’ αὐτοὺς, ἦταν προσκυνητὲς. Δὲν ἦταν μιὰ τακτοποιημένη κοινωνία ἀνθρώπων · οἱ πρῶτοι Χριστιανοὶ ἦταν ἄνθρωποι ποὺ μετακινοῦνταν ἀπὸ μέρος σὲ μέρος γιὰ νὰ μεταφέρουν τὴν ἀνείπωτη χαρὰ μιᾶς νέας ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς. Ἀπὸ τὴν ἄλλη πλευρὰ, ἐκεῖνοι ποὺ ἐγκαταστάθηκαν σ’ ἕνα μέρος δὲν ἀποτελοῦσαν μιὰ ἐσωστρεφῆ κοινωνία, μιὰ κοινωνία κλεισμένη στὸν ἑαυτό της, ἀλλὰ μιὰ κοινωνία ἀνθρώπων ποὺ ἔψαχνε τὸ χαμένο πρόβατο τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ Θεοῦ. Αὐτὸ εἶναι κάτι ποὺ χάσαμε. Ὅλες οἱ Ἐκκλησίες, μὲ τὸν ἕνα ἤ τὸν ἄλλο τρόπο, εἶχαν ἱεραποστολὲς. Ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ ποὺ εἶναι ἐντυπωσιακὸ εἶναι ὅτι πολὺ συχνὰ οἱ ἱεραπόστολοι, πήγαιναν στὸν κόσμο μὲ μιὰν αἴσθηση ἐπιθετικῆς, προσβλητικῆς, ἀλλαζονικῆς ἀνωτερότητας. Πῆγαν στὸν κόσμο γιὰ νὰ προσφέρουν ὅ,τι εἶχαν, δίχως νὰ συνειδητοποιοῦν ὅτι δὲν εἶχαν τίποτα δικό τους, ὅτι αὐτὸ ποὺ μποροῦσαν μόνο νὰ κάνουν ἦταν ν’ ἀκολουθήσουν τὸν Ἀπόστολο Παῦλο, ὁ ὁποῖος βλέποντας τὸ τεράστιο μέγεθος, τὴν ἀπίστευτη δυσκολία τῆς ἀποστολῆς του, στράφηκε στὸν Θεὸ γιὰ νὰ τοῦ δώσει δύναμη καὶ ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ εἶπε: «Ἡ χάρις Μου ἐνδυναμώνεται μέσα ἀπὸ τὴν δική σου ἀδυναμία». Καὶ ἡ μικρὴ ὁμάδα πιστῶν, Χριστιανῶν, ποὺ πῆγε στὸν κόσμο ἀκολουθώντας τὴν ἐντολὴ τοῦ Κυρίου: «Πηγαίνετε, καὶ διδᾶξτε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο σὲ ὅλα τὰ ἔθνη»-- ἤξερε ὅτι ἦταν ἀδύναμη, ἀνυπεράσπιστη, καὶ ὅτι δὲν μποροῦσε νὰ βασιστεῖ πουθενὰ ἀλλοῦ παρὰ στὴ δύναμη τοῦ Θεοῦ. Ὁ Ἀπόστολος Παῦλος εἶπε ὅτι θὰ δοξαστεῖ μέσα ἀπὸ τὴν ἀδυναμία του, ἔτσι κάθε τι ποὺ θὰ γινόταν, θὰ ἦταν ἔργο θεϊκό. Αὐτὴ δὲν ἦταν πολὺ συχνὰ ἡ συμπεριφορὰ τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἱεραποστόλων: ἡ ἱεραποστολὴ στὸν Χριστιανισμὸ ἀποτελεῖ κίνηση ἀνθρώπων ποὺ ἀγάπησαν τόσο τὸν πλησίον μὲ τὴν ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὥστε βγῆκαν στὸν κόσμο ἕτοιμοι νὰ πεθάνουν γιὰ νὰ ζήσουν οἱ ἄλλοι, πῆγαν στὸν κόσμο μὲ τὶς ἀδυναμίες τους, καὶ γνωρίζοντας ὅτι ὅ,τι ἔκαναν ἦταν μὲ τὴ χάρη τοῦ Θεοῦ.

Ὑπάρχει ἕνα γεγονὸς στὴ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Στεφὰν τοῦ Πέρμ, ἑνὸς ἀπὸ τοὺς νέους Ρώσους ἱεραποστόλους. Ἀνακάλυψε στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Πέρμ, εἰδωλολάτρες ποὺ μιλοῦσαν μιὰ γλώσσα διαφορετικὴ ἀπὸ τὴν γλώσσα τῶν Σλάβων καὶ γι’αὐτὸ δὲν μποροῦσαν νὰ προσεγγίσουν τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο. Ἔμαθε τὴ γλώσσα τους καὶ πῆγε στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Πέρμ, ὅπου καὶ ἄρχισε νὰ προσεύχεται ἀνάμεσα τους. Οἱ ντόπιοι ἤθελαν νὰ τὸν καταστρέψουν καὶ ἔστειλαν μιὰ ὁμάδα ὁπλισμένων ἀνθρώπων νὰ τὸν σκοτώσουν.Ἐπέστρεψαν καὶ τοὺς ρώτησαν: «Εἶναι νεκρός;». «Ὄχι», εἶπαν, «δὲν μπορέσαμε νὰ τὸν σκοτώσουμε· ὅταν τὸν συναντήσαμε, εἴδαμε σ’ αὐτὸν τόσην ἀγάπη ποὺ γονατίσαμε καὶ τὸν ἐκλιπαρήσαμε νὰ μᾶς εὐλογήσει». Αὐτὸ εἶναι ἱεραποστολή.

Ἀντίθετα νὰ σᾶς θυμίσω ἕναν Δυτικὸ ἱεραπόστολο ποὺ στάλθηκε στὴν Ἰνδία κι ἔγραψε στὸν προϊστάμενο του στὴν Ἰσπανία: «Στεῖλτε μας ἱερεῖς, δὲν ἔχει σημασία πόσο ἀνίκανοι εἶναι· ἡ ὁποιαδήποτε βοήθεια θὰ εἶναι ὡφέλιμη γι’αὐτοὺς τοὺς πρωτόγονους». Δὲν εἶχε δεῖ τίποτα ἀπὸ τὸ βάθος, ἀπὸ τὸν πλοῦτο, ἀπὸ τὴν ὀμορφιὰ ποὺ ὑπῆρχε. Θὰ ἦταν κατάλληλος ὁ κάθε ἱερέας! Αὐτὸ εἶναι κάτι ποὺ δὲν βρίσκουμε στὸ Εὐαγγέλιο. Αὐτὸ ποὺ ἔφεραν μερικοὶ ἱεραπόστολοι δὲν ἦταν τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο, ἡ χαρὰ μιᾶς νέας ζωῆς, μιὰ συνάντηση μὲ τὸν ζωντανὸ Θεό. Ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ ποὺ εἶναι ἀξιοσημείωτο, ἀκόμα μοναδικὸ στὸ κήρυγμα τῶν σύγχρονων ἱεραποστόλων, τῶν Ἀποστόλων, εἶναι αὐτὸ ποὺ ὁ Ἅγιος Ἰωάννης λέει: « Μιλᾶμε γι ‘ αὐτὰ ποὺ εἶδαν τὰ μάτια μας, ποὺ ἄγγιξαν τὰ χέρια μας, ποὺ ἄκουσαν τ’ αὐτιά μας». Μιλοῦσαν γιὰ τὴν ἐμπειρία τους. Κάποιος μπορεῖ νὰ πεῖ : «Ἦταν μαζὶ μὲ τὸν Χριστὸ, μποροῦσαν νὰ μιλήσουν γι’ αὐτὰ ποὺ εἶδαν», ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ δὲν εἶναι ἀλήθεια, ἐπειδὴ χιλιάδες ἄνθρωποι συνάντησαν τὸν Χριστὸ στοὺς δρόμους τῆς Ἁγίας Γῆς, ἀλλὰ πολὺ λίγοι Τὸν εἶδαν. Τὰ μάτια τους ἦταν τυφλά. Εἶδαν μόνο μιὰ μορφή, ἄκουσαν παράξενα, προκλητικὰ γι’αὐτοὺς λόγια, ἀλλὰ δὲν ἄγγιξαν τὸν πυρήνα τῆς ψυχῆς τους γιὰ νὰ τοὺς μεταμορφώσουν σὲ νέες ὑπάρξεις. Ὅταν ὁ Χριστὸς εἶπε θὰ τοὺς δώσει νὰ φάγουν τὸ σῶμα Του, ἐκεῖνοι ποὺ ἦταν γύρω Του Τὸν ἄφησαν κι ἔφυγαν καὶ ἀφοῦ στράφηκε στοὺς μαθητὲς Του, τοὺς ρώτησε: «Θέλετε κι ἐσεῖς νὰ φύγετε;» καὶ ὁ Πέτρος Τοῦ εἶπε: «Ποῦ νὰ πᾶμε; Τὰ λόγια Σου εἶναι λόγια ζωῆς αἰωνίου». Καὶ ἄν μελετᾶτε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο, θὰ δεῖτε ὅτι δὲν ὑπάρχει κανένα κείμενο, ὅπου ὁ Κύριος νὰ περιγράφει τὴν αἰώνια ζωή. Ὑποδεικνύει σὲ κάποια σημεῖα, μ’ἕναν λόγο ὅτι αὐτὴ εἶναι ἡ ζωὴ τῆς αἰωνιότητας, ἀλλὰ δὲν μᾶς δίνει τὸ εἶδος τῶν εἰκόνων ποὺ συναντᾶμε στὴν μυστικὴ λογοτεχνία. Αὐτὸ ποὺ σημαίνουν τὰ λόγια τοῦ Πέτρου εἶναι ὅτι ὅποτε μιλᾶτε, τὰ λόγια σας πρέπει νὰ βρίσκουν ἀνταπόκριση στὸ κέντρο τῆς ὕπαρξης σας, ὅπως δύο πέτρες ποὺ τρίβονται καὶ παράγουν σπίθα. Ὅταν τὸ κέντρο τῆς ὕπαρξης μας ἐνεργοποιεῖται, τότε ἡ αἰώνια ζωὴ ποὺ εἶναι ἀδρανὴς μέσα μας, ξεδιπλώνεται, ἐκρήγνυται. Αὐτὸ ἔκαναν οἱ Ἀπόστολοι, οἱ πρῶτοι Χριστιανοὶ, ἐπειδὴ ἡ ἐμπειρία τους ἦταν βίωμα ποὺ προῆλθε ἀπὸ τὴ συνάντηση τους μὲ τὸν Ζωντανὸ Θεὸ. Δὲν ἐννοῶ ὅτι συνάντησαν τὸν ἴδιο τὸν Χριστὸ, ἐννοῶ ὅτι γνώριζαν τὸν Θεὸ βιωματικὰ μέσω τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς καὶ τῶν φωτισμένων Ἀποστόλων. Ὅταν ὁ Παῦλος μιλοῦσε γιὰ τὸν Θεό, ἦταν μεταμορφωμένος ἀπὸ τὴν Θεία Χάρη, καὶ ὑπάρχει ἕνα ἀρχαῖο χειρόγραφο ποὺ γράφει ὅτι ὅταν ὁ Παῦλος ξεκουραζόταν, ἦταν τόσο ἄσχημος ὅσο ὁ διάβολος, ἀλλὰ ὅταν μιλοῦσε γιὰ τὸν Θεό, ἔλαμπε ὅπως ἕνας ἄγγελος τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.


Μὴν φοβᾶστε

Ὅταν οἱ Ἀπόστολοι μετακινοῦνταν ἀπὸ μέρος σὲ μέρος, δὲν ἄλλαζαν ἁπλὰ τόπο κατοικίας, πήγαιναν ὡς φορεῖς μιᾶς νέας ζωῆς ποὺ μποροῦσαν νὰ μεταλαμπαδεύσουν στοὺς ἄλλους. Τὶ συμβαίνει μ’ ἐμᾶς; Μεταδίδουμε τὰ πάντα στοὺς ἀνθρώπους ποὺ συναντᾶμε, ποὺ βρίσκοναι γύρω μας; Αύτὸ ποὺ συμβαίνει στὴν Χριστιανικὴ κοινότητα, μὲ τὴν ἀναγνώριση τοῦ Χριστιανισμοῦ ἀπὸ τὸν Μ.Κωνσταντῖνο καὶ τὴν μετέπειτα ἐξάπλωση του, εἶναι ὅτι ἡ Χριστιανικὴ κοινότητα ἀπέκτησε μιὰ σιγουριὰ καὶ ἀσφάλεια. Καὶ αὐτὰ τὰ δύο στοιχεῖα εἶναι ἄσχημα. Ἀσφάλεια σημαίνει ὅτι δὲν συνειδητοποιοῦμε πόσο ἐπικίνδυνα εἶναι τὰ μονοπάτια ποὺ βαδίζουμε, καθὼς μᾶς λέει μιὰ Ἐπιστολή. Δὲν καταλαβαίνουμε ὅτι δὲν ἐπιβιβαζόμαστε ἁπλὰ σ’ ἕνα πλοῖο ποὺ θὰ μᾶς μεταφέρει ἀπὸ τὸν ὡκεανὸ τῆς ζωῆς στὴν αἰωνιότητα. Κάθε βῆμα εἶναι μιὰ πρόκληση, εἶναι ἕνας κίνδυνος, ἕνα ρίσκο. Κάθε στιγμή, τὸ κακὸ εἶναι μπροστὰ μας καὶ ὁ Θεὸς εἶναι μαζί μας. Καὶ πολὺ συχνὰ ξεχνᾶμε ὅτι ἡ δύναμη τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι πάνω ἀπὸ κάθε κακό. Ὁ Ἑρμᾶς, ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς ἑβδομήκοντα, λέει σὲ μιὰ ἀπὸ τὶς ἐπιστολὲς του: «Θυμῆσου, ποτὲ νὰ μὴν φοβᾶσαι τὴ δύναμη τοῦ κακοῦ περισσότερο ἀπὸ τὴν ἐμπιστοσύνη ποὺ ἔχεις στὴ δύναμη καὶ τὴν ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ». Ἔτσι οἰ Ἀπόστολοι μποροῦσαν νὰ εἶναι φορεῖς αὐτοῦ τοῦ στοιχεῖου, ἐπειδὴ στὴν εἰλωλολατρικὴ κοινωνία ὅπου ζοῦσαν, οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἦταν τρομοκρατημένοι ἀπὸ τὸ κακό, ἀπὸ τὶς δυνάμεις τοῦ κακοῦ, ἀπὸ τὸν Σατανᾶ. Καὶ οἱ Ἀπόστολοι ἦρθαν καὶ εἶπαν: «Μὴ φοβᾶσθε· ὁ Χριστὸς νίκησε, ὁ διάβολος νικήθηκε. Ἄν εἶστε μαζί Του, θὰ εἶστε ἀνίκητοι». Αὐτὸ δὲν εἶναι κάτι ποὺ ἀκοῦμε συχνὰ σήμερα.


Μαρτύριο καὶ Ἀσφάλεια

Σήμερα οἱ ἄνθρωποι δένονται μεταξὺ τους καὶ δὲν ἀνοίγονται πρὸς τὰ ἔξω. Φοβοῦνται νὰ ζήσουν τὴ ζωὴ στὴν πληρότητα της, νὰ πᾶνε πρὸς τὸ ἄγνωστο, νὰ ἀντιμετωπίσουν αὐτοὺς ποὺ θὰ τοὺς ἀπορρίψουν ἤ θὰ τοὺς βάλουν σὲ κίνδυνο. Ὁ Ἐπίσκοπος Βασίλειος (ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς ὁμιλητὲς τοῦ συνεδρίου) μίλησε γιὰ τὸ βάπτισμα τοῦ αἵματος. Πόσο μακρυὰ εἴμαστε ἀπὸ αὐτὸ καὶ πόσο συχνὰ κι εὔκολα μιλᾶμε γι’ αὐτό. Ὁ Γάλλος κήρυκας Bossuet, λέει: «Πόσο παρήγορο εἶναι ν’ ἀκοῦμε ὅτι σὲ κάθε Ἐκκλησία, οἱ ἱερεῖς κηρύττουν τὸ Μαρτύριο. Ὅταν ὑπάρχουν Μαρτύρια, δὲν ἔχει κάποιος ἀνάγκη νὰ μιλήσει γι’αὐτὰ, τὰ ὑπομένει. Ἄν γίνεται τόσος λόγος γιὰ τὰ Μαρτύρια, σημαίνει ὅτι νοιώθουμε ἀσφάλεια. Ἀλλοίμονο, νοιώθουμε ὅτι εἴμαστε ἀσφαλεῖς, ἀλλὰ εἴμαστε κατὰ ἕναν τρόπο ἐπαναπαυμένοι. Εἴμαστε προσκολλημένοι σ’ ἕνα μέρος. Φτιάξαμε κοινότητες ποὺ δὲν εἶναι ἐξωστρεφεῖς. Ἔχουμε τὶς λειτουργίες καὶ τόσοι ἄνθρωποι πιστεύουν ὅτι εἶναι τὸ κέντρο τῆς Έκκλησίας. Οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἔρχονται τὶς Κυριακὲς στὴ Λειτουργία καὶ ὁμολογοῦν : «Ἄν ἦταν δυνατὸν νὰ μὴν ἀφήσουμε τὸν χῶρο τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, γιατὶ ἔξω ὑπάρχει ἕνας κόσμος ἐχθρικὸς καὶ ξεχνᾶμε ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς μᾶς εἶπε: «Πηγαίνετε, σὰν τὰ πρόβατα ἀνάμεσα στοὺς λύκους, πηγαίνετε στὸν κόσμο γιὰ νὰ κάνετε μαθητὲς τοῦ Χριστοῦ σὲ ὅλα τὰ ἔθνη». Αὐτὸ μοιάζει μὲ τὴν Λειτουργία. Ἄν στὴ Θ. Λειτουργία γίναμε κοινωνοὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, τότε ἡ διακονία μας εἶναι νὰ βγοῦμε ἔξω στὸν κόσμο καὶ νὰ μεταφέρουμε τὴ δόξα, τὴ χαρὰ καὶ τὴν ἀγάπη τῆς κοινωνίας αὐτῆς στοὺς ἄλλους. Ἕνας τρόπος σκέψης ἔχει ἀναπτυχθεῖ μέσα μας ποὺ θέλει νὰ εἴμαστε ἀσφαλεῖς ἐντὸς τῶν τοιχῶν τῆς Ἐκκλησίας μέσα στὸ ὅρια μιᾶς Χριστιανικῆς κοινότητας. Εἶναι ἐπικίνδυνο νὰ βγαίνουμε ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν Ἐκκλησία, αὐτὸ εἶναι ποὺ θὰ πρέπει νὰ κάνουμε κι ἔχουμε λησμονήσει.
Μοναχισμὸς καὶ ἡ προσφορὰ τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ Ἑνός.

Ξεκίνησε ἀπὸ πολὺ νωρὶς στὴν Ἐκκλησία, ἀπὸ τὴ στιγμὴ ποὺ γίναμε Χριστιανοὶ ἄλλαξαν πολλὰ πράγματα. Ἄντρες καὶ γυναῖκες ποὺ εἶχαν ἑτοιμαστεῖ νὰ πεθάνουν γιὰ τὸν Χριστὸ ἦταν ἄλλου πνευματικοῦ ἀναστήματος ἀπὸ ἄλλους ἄνθρώπους ποὺ ἑνώθηκαν μὲ τὴν Ἐκκλησία, ἐπειδὴ ὁ Αὐτοκράτορας εἶχε ἑνωθεῖ μαζί της καὶ ἤθελαν νὰ νοιώθουν ἀσφαλεῖς. Ἀλλὰ ἀσφάλεια ἔναντι τίνος; Τοῦ Θεοῦ; Ὄχι. Πολὺ συχνὰ ἀπέναντι στὴν αὐτοκρατορικὴ ἐξουσία. Καὶ τότε κάποια πράγματα συνέβησαν : Ἦταν ἡ ἀρχὴ τοῦ Μοναχισμοῦ. Ἄνθρωποι μὲ γενναῖο φρόνημα ἄφησαν τὶς πόλεις καὶ τὴν ἄνεση μιᾶς Χριστιανικῆς πολιτείας γιὰ νὰ πᾶνε σὲ ἄγρια, ἀφιλόξενα μέρη καὶ νὰ πολεμήσουν τὸ κακὸ μέσα τους καὶ τὴν ἐξάπλωση του γύρω τους. Ὁ πατὴρ Γ. Φλορόφσκι ἐπιμένει στὸ γεγονὸς ὅτι αὐτοὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι δὲν δραπέτευσαν ἀπὸ μιὰ κατὰ τ’ἄλλα εἰδωλολατρικὴ κοινωνία· δὲν ἔφυγαν ἐπειδὴ διώκονταν. Δραπέτευσαν ἀπὸ ἕναν Χριστιανισμὸ ποὺ εἶχε χάσει τὸ νόημα του. Ἔφυγαν ἐπειδὴ ἡ Χριστιανικὴ κοινότητα δὲν εἶχε ποιότητα, νόημα · δὲν ἦταν πιὰ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενναῖο τῶν πρώτων Χριστιανικῶν χρόνων. Ἦταν ἡ ἀρχὴ τοῦ μοναχισμοῦ καὶ ἡ πνοὴ του στὴ διάρκεια τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀκόμα καὶ τώρα αὐτὴ θὰ πρέπει νὰ εἶναι ἡ συμπεριφορὰ ὅποιου ἐπιθυμεῖ ν’ ἀγκαλιάσει τὴ μοναχικὴ ζωή. Ἀρνούμαστε νὰ δεχτοῦμε τὴν ἀναιμική, ἀδύναμη, ἀνεύθυνη στάση τῆς βολεμένης κοινότητας. Θέλουμε νὰ εἴμαστε μόνοι μὲ τὸν Θεό, καὶ μαζὶ Του νὰ πηγαίνουμε παντοῦ ὅπου χρειάζεται ἡ παρουσία Του καὶ ἡ προσφορὰ τῆς ζωῆς μας. Ὅταν μιλᾶμε γιὰ προσφορά, θυσία, δὲν ἐννοῶ νὰ πεθάνει κάποιος, κάποιες φορές, να ζεῖ καταστάσεις τραγικές ἤ ὀδυνηρές, ἴσως εἶναι σημαντικὸ ἀπὸ τὸ νὰ πεθαίνει ἀμέσως. Ἕνας Ρῶσος ἐπίσκοπος, ἥρωας στὴν περίοδο τῶν διώξεων τῶν Σοβιὲτ κατὰ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ἔλεγε συχνὰ ὅτι κάποιες φορὲς τὸ χρέος ἑνὸς πιστοῦ Χριστιανοῦ εἶναι νὰ ἐπιβιώνει. Ἀπὸ τότε ποὺ ὁ Κάιν δολοφόνησε τὸν Ἄβελ, ὅλοι οἱ Κάϊν τοῦ κόσμου προσπάθησαν νὰ δολοφονήσουν τοὺς Ἄβελ αὐτοῦ τοῦ κόσμου, ἀλλὰ οἱ τελευταῖοι ἔχουν νὰ φέρουν εἰς πέρας τὸ καθῆκον τους καὶ μάθαμε νὰ ἐπιβιώνουμε γιὰ ὅσο χρειαστεῖ ἕως ὅτου ὁλοκληρωθεῖ αὐτὸ τὸ ἔργο δίχως συμβιβασμό, ἀλλὰ ἐπιτρέποντας στὸν Θεὸ νὰ διαλέξει τὴ στιγμὴ ποὺ θὰ σκοτωθοῦμε. Καὶ ὁ Ἄβελ σκοτώθηκε.


Δία Χριστὸν Σαλοί.

Σὲ ἄλλες περιόδους παρουσιάστηκαν οἱ διὰ Χριστὸν σαλοί. Αὐτοὶ ἐπίσης ἀπέρριψαν τὴν προοπτικὴ μιᾶς ζωῆς μὲ ἀσφάλεια. Ἄν κοιτάξετε στὴν ἱστορία τῆς Βυζαντινῆς Αὐτοκρατορίας τῆς Ρωσίας, θὰ παρατηρήσετε ὅτι οἱ διὰ Χριστὸν σαλοί, ἐμφανίστηκαν σὲ μεγάλους ἀριθμοὺς σὲ μιὰ χρονική περίοδο ποὺ ἡ πολιτεία, ἡ αὐτοκρατορία ἄρχισαν νὰ διεκδικοῦν τὸ δικαίωμα νὰ χτίσουν μιὰ κοινωνία ἀσφαλή. Τότε ἐμφανίστηκαν οἱ διὰ Χριστὸν Σαλοὶ ποὺ συνιστοῦσαν προσβολὴ πρὸς κάθε πνεῦμα ἀσφάλειας. Συμπεριφέρθηκαν ὡς παράφρονες, ἐνῶ ὅλοι μας θεωροῦμε τόσο πολύτιμη τὴ διάνοια μας. Θέλουμε νὰ εἴμαστε ἀσφαλεῖς, θέλουμε ἕνα μυαλὸ ὑγιὲς ποὺ ἀποδίδει, ἐπειδὴ ὁ θάνατος καταστρέφει τὰ πάντα. Ἀλλὰ ἀρνήθηκαν νὰ φερθοῦν μ'ἕναν κοινωνικὰ ἀποδεκτὸ τρόπο, ἐπειδὴ ἡ πολιτεία καὶ ἡ Ἐκκλησία μιλοῦσαν γιὰ μιὰ συγκεκριμένη συμπεριφορά, γιὰ ἕναν συγκεκριμένο τρόπο ζωῆς κι αὐτὸ δὲν ἦταν πλέον ἀποδεκτό.

Ἀργότερα, συναντοῦμε στὴ Ρωσία καὶ σὲ ἄλλες χῶρες προσκυνητές· ἄνθρωποι ποὺ περιπλανιόνταν ἀπὸ ἕναν ἅγιο τόπο σ΄ἕναν ἄλλον ἤ ξόδεψαν πολὺ χρόνο στοὺς ἀπέραντους τόπους τῆς Ρωσίας γιὰ νὰ εἶναι μόνοι δίχως ὅρους, μὲ τὸν Θεὸ καὶ νὰ ἐπισκεφτοῦν τόπους ποὺ θὰ μποροῦσαν νὰ ἀνακαλύψουν μιὰ σπίθα θεϊκῆς παρουσίας. Αὐτοὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀπέρριψαν τὴν ἀσφάλεια μιᾶς βολεμένης ζωῆς, ἐπειδὴ ἡ μοναδικὴ τους ἀσφάλεια καὶ σιγουριὰ ἦταν ὁ Θεός. Καὶ ὁ Θεὸς δὲν μᾶς προσφέρει καθόλου ἀσφάλεια, ὅταν θέλουμε στήριξη καὶ προστασία. Πορεύτηκαν σὲ μιὰ ἀπόλυτη περιπέτεια καὶ κίνδυνο.


Κατέχοντες καὶ κατεχόμενοι

Ἵσως ρωτήσετε, τὶ μποροῦμε νὰ κάνουμε; Δὲν μποροῦμε νὰ γίνουμε ὅλοι προσκυνητὲς ἤ σαλοὶ γιὰ τὸ καλό τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὅση «τρέλα» κι ἄν ἔχουμε. Τὸ θέμα εἶναι πῶς στεκόμαστε ἀπέναντι σὲ αὐτὰ ποὺ ἔχουμε. Ἔχω κάτι εἶναι ἕνας τρόπος ἐξάρτησης, ἐξάρτησης ἴσως ἀπό κάτι πολὺ μικρό. Κι ἔτσι εἶναι ὁ τρόπος ποὺ ζοῦμε λίγο πολύ. Στὸ Εὐαγγέλιο ὑπάρχει μιὰ περικοπὴ τεράστιας σημασίας, εἶναι ἡ ἱστορία τοῦ βασιλιᾶ ποὺ καλεῖ τοὺς φίλους του στὸ γαμήλιο δεῖπνο τοῦ γιοῦ του. Ὁ ἕνας ἀρνεῖται γιατὶ πῆρε πέντε ζευγάρια βόδια, ὁ ἄλλος ἐπειδὴ μόλις παντρεύτηκε. Πῶς ἑρμηνεύεται αὐτό; Σημαίνει ὄχι μόνο ὅτι ἀγόρασα γῆ, ἀλλὰ ὅτι εἶναι κτῆμα μου. Εἶμαι σὰν τὸ δέντρο ποὺ δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ κινηθεῖ ἀπὸ τὸν τὸπο ποὺ εἶναι ριζωμένο. Ἔχω πέντε ζευγάρια βόδια, δηλαδὴ εἶμαι ἀπασχολημένος, καὶ αὐτὸ εἶναι πιὸ σημαντικὸ ἀπὸ τὴν φιλία, τὴν ἀγάπη, τὴν εὐγένεια, τὴ θυσία. Πρέπει νὰ κάνω τὴν ἐργασία μου. Παντρεύτηκα, ἡ καρδιά μου εἶναι γεμάτη, δὲν ὑπάρχει χῶρος γιὰ τὴ χαρὰ τοῦ ἄλλου. Καὶ ποιοὶ εἶναι οἱ καλεσμένοι; Ὁ Βασιλιὰς στέλνει τοὺς ὑπηρέτες Του νὰ φέρουν τοὺς ζητιάνους, τοὺς χαμένους καὶ καλοῦνται νὰ παραστοῦν ἐνώπιον του. Ἔρχονται μ’ ἕναν φόβο, τρέμοντας: «Ἐμεῖς,… ἐμεῖς ποὺ ζοῦμε κλέβοντας καὶ ζητιανεύοντας νὰ παρουσιαστοῦμε ἐνώπιον τοῦ Βασιλιὰ μας;» Στὴν πόρτα, συναντήθηκαν μὲ τοὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ Θεοῦ ποὺ τοὺς εἶπαν: «ἐλᾶτε, θὰ βάλετε ἄλλα ροῦχα, θὰ σᾶς πλύνουμε, θὰ σᾶς χτενίσουμε καὶ τότε θὰ μπορεῖτε νὰ σταθεῖτε ἐνώπιον τοῦ Βασιλια». Μόνο ἕνας ἀρνεῖται, λέγοντας: «Κλήθηκα σὲ δεῖπνο, ὄχι νὰ μὲ πλύνουν, νὰ μὲ φροντίσουν…· Καὶ διώχθηκε. Αὐτὴ εἶναι συχνὰ ἡ συμπεριφορὰ μας. Ἀγοράσαμε ἕνα κομμάτι γῆς, βόδια, δεσμευτήκαμε, δὲν μποροῦμε νὰ δώσουμε τὴ ζωή μας σὲ ὅ,τι εἶναι πέρα ἀπὸ ἐμᾶς. Αὐτὸ δὲν σημαίνει ὅτι δὲν μποροῦμε νὰ εἴμαστε ἐλεύθεροι. Τὸ ζήτημα εἶναι· εἶστε δεσμευμένοι, προσκολλημένοι ἤ ὄχι; Ὑπάρχει διαφορὰ ἀνάμεσα στὴν ἀγάπη καὶ τὴν προσκόλληση σὲ κάτι. Ἴσως εἶστε δοῦλοι μιᾶς σχέσης, ἀλλὰ ἴσως νὰ εἶστε ἐλεύθεροι μέσα σ’ αύτὴν.


Λειτουργία

Αὐτὴ ἡ διεργασία προχώρησε σὲ βάθος στὴν Ἐκκλησία, ἐπειδὴ τὰ λειτουργικὰ μας σχήματα διαποτίστηκαν ἀπὸ τὴν ἐπίδραση τῆς σχέσης μας μὲ τὴν πολιτεία. Ἡ Ὀρθόδοξη Λειτουργία εἶναι βαθιὰ ἐπηρεασμένη ἀπὸ τὸ τελετουργικὸ τῆς αὐλῆς τοῦ Βυζαντίου. Στὴν πρώτη Ἐκκλησία, ὑπῆρχε μιὰ ποικιλία τύπων. Στὸ Βυζάντιο ἔπρεπε νὰ γίνει ἀντάξια τοῦ Αὐτοκράτορα καὶ τῆς αὐλῆς του. Κι ἔτσι δομήθηκε κατά τέτοιον τρόπο ὥστε νὰ μπορεῖ νὰ ταυτίζεται μὲ τὸ τυπικὸ ποὺ ταίριαζε στὴν αὐτοκρατορικὴ αὐλή. Τὸ ἀποτέλεσμα ἦταν ἡ ἐξαιρετικὴ Λειτουργία στὴν ὁποία μετέχουμε. Ἀλλὰ εἶναι λάθος νὰ φανταζόμαστε ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ τύπος εἶναι μοναδικὸς, ἐπειδὴ τοὺς πρώτους αἰῶνες εἴχαμε ἕνα ἀριθμὸ λειτουργιῶν ποὺ ἀνῆκαν στὴν ἴδια ἀδιαίρετη Χριστιανικὴ Ἐκκλησία. Ὑπῆρχε ἡ Ρωμαϊκὴ Λειτουργία, ἡ Λειτουργία τοῦ Ἁγίου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Διαλόγου, ἡ Λειτουργία τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀμβροσίου στὸ Μιλᾶνο, ἡ Λειτουργία τῶν Λάϊονς, ἡ Ἀραβικὴ Λειτουργία, τοῦ Ἁγίου Ζερμαίν στὸ Παρίσι κι ἕνας ἀριθμὸς ἄλλων. Ὅλες ἦταν βασικὰ ὅμοιες ἐπειδὴ ἡ κάθε μία εἶχε τὸ ἴδιο κέντρο, ἀλλὰ εἶχαν διαφορετικὴ μορφὴ, ἔκφραση καὶ ἦταν σύμφωνες μὲ τὸ πνεῦμα ἐλευθερίας ποὺ συχνὰ ἔχουμε χάσει, μιὰ ἐλευθερία ποὺ ἀναφέρεται ταυτόχρονα στὸν πολιτισμὸ ἑνὸς τόπου καὶ στὸ κοινωνικὸ του πλαίσιο. Πρέπει νὰ μάθουμε νὰ προσευχόμαστε στὴν Λειτουργία, νὰ παίρνουμε ὅλο τὸν πλοῦτο ποὺ μπορεῖ νὰ μᾶς δώσει καὶ ὄχι νὰ εἴμαστε δοῦλοι της.


Ἡ παράδοση ὡς Ζωντανὴ Μνήμη

Δὲν θὰ ἤθελα νὰ πῶ κάτι γιὰ τὴν σημασία τῆς παράδοσης. Ὅποτε κάποιος τολμᾶ νὰ προτείνει τὴν παραμικρὴ ἀλλαγὴ στὶς μεθόδους τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, κατηγορεῖται ὅτι ἀποκόβεται ἀπὸ τὴν παράδοση. Κι ἐδῶ εἶναι σημαντικὸ γιὰ ἐμᾶς νὰ δώσουμε μεγάλη ἀξία στὴν παράδοση, ἀλλὰ ἐπίσης νὰ τὴν κατανοήσουμε σωστὰ καὶ ὄχι νὰ δεσμευόμαστε καὶ νὰ σκλαβωνόμαστε ἀπὸ μιὰ ψεύτικη παράδοση. Ἡ Παράδοση εἶναι κάτι ποὺ μᾶς παραδόθηκε ἀπὸ τὴν ἀρχὴ. Ἀλλὰ ὅ,τι μᾶς ἔχει δοθεῖ εἶναι ἡ οὐσία καὶ τὸ νόημα καὶ ὄχι τύπος. Ἕνας Ρῶσος ἐπίσκοπος στὰ νεώτερα χρόνια τῆς διασπορᾶς, ἔγραψε ὅτι δὲν εἶναι ἐπιτρεπτὸ νὰ ἑορτάζουμε καὶ νὰ λειτουργοῦμε μέσα άπὸ μιὰ γλώσσα τῆς δύσης, ἐπειδὴ οἱ περισσότερες αἱρέσεις γεννήθηκαν στὴ Δύση, ξεχνώντας ὅτι ὑπῆρχαν ἀρκετοὶ αἱρετικοὶ στὸ Βυζάντιο καὶ ἀλλοῦ! Ἄν κατανοεῖτε ἔτσι τὴν παράδοση, γίνεστε δέσμιοι της! Ἡ παράδοση εἶναι ἡ ζωντανὴ μνήμη τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Ὅλοι μας ἔχουμε μνήμη, ἀλλὰ πιὸ συχνὰ ξεχνᾶμε τὸ παρελθὸν μας.Ἡ Ἐκκλησία ὄχι. Ἔχει μιὰ αἰώνια, ἀδιατάρακτη μνήμη. Ἀλλὰ μνήμη δὲν σημαίνει ὅτι τίποτα καινούργιο δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ μπεῖ στὴν ἐμπειρία μας. Αὐτὴ ἡ μνήμη δὲν μᾶς ὑποχρεώνει νὰ πηγαίνουμε πίσω σὲ κάθε μας βῆμα. Εἶναι μιὰ ἐμπειρία ποὺ σταδιακὰ ἐξελίχθηκε σὲ μιὰ νέα ἐμπειρία ποὺ ἔχει τὶς ρίζες της στὸν Θεὸ καὶ ἐμπνέεται ἀπὸ τὸ Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Αὐτὸ ποὺ ἡ Ἐκκλησία φαίνεται νὰ εἶναι σὲ κάθε βῆμα τῆς ζωῆς της, αὐτὸ ποὺ ὁ Ἀπόστολος Παῦλος ὀνομάζει «νοῦ Χριστοῦ». Ν’ ἀκοῦμε τὴ διδασκαλία τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα εἶναι πάντα νέο, σύγχρονο. Δὲν μᾶς λέει νὰ ζοῦμε ὅπως ζούσαμε τὸν δωδέκατο αἰώνα. Σὲ μία συζήτηση μὲ μιὰ ὁμάδα Ρώσων ἐπισκόπων σχετικὰ μὲ τὴν χειροτονία τῶν γυναικῶν, ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐπίσκοπος διατύπωσε τὸ πιὸ κάτω συμπέρασμα: Δὲν ἔχω ν’ ἀπαντήσω κάτι σ’αὐτὸ, ἀλλὰ δὲν συνέβη στὸ παρελθὸν καὶ γι’αὐτὸ δὲν θὰ πρέπει νὰ συμβεῖ στὸ μέλλον». Ἄν θὰ γίνει ἤ ὄχι, εἶναι ἄλλο θέμα. Ἡ παράδοση εἶναι ἡ ζωντανὴ μνήμη τῆς Ἐκκλησίας στὰ σχεδὸν δύο χιλιάδες χρόνια Χριστιανισμοῦ, ποὺ ζεῖ καὶ παραμένει ζωντανὴ ἀπὸ τὴν ἔμπνευση τοῦ ἉγίουΠνεύματος, καὶ παρέμεινε σταθερὴ καὶ ἀδιατάρακτη χάρη στὸν λόγο καὶ τὸ πρόσωπο τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Παραδοσιοκρατία εἶναι αὐτὸ ποὺ ἕνας Ρωμαιοκαθολικὸς θεολόγος στὴν Ἀμερικὴ περιέγραψε ὡς τὴν νεκρὴ μνήμη ποὺ διατηροῦν οἱ ζωντανοί.

(Σημείωση τοῦ ἐκδότη: ἐδῶ ὁ Μητροπολίτης Ἀντώνιος πιθανόν ἀναφέρεται σ΄ἕναν λόγο ἀφιερωμένο στὸν Λουθηρανὸ λόγιο, Γιαροσλάβ Πέλικαν). Μνήμη πραγμάτων ποὺ δὲν ὑπάρχουν πλέον στὴν πραγματικότητα, ἀλλὰ ποὺ παραμένουν ἐντελῶς ἄχρηστα, ἀλλὰ παρὰ ταῦτα θησαυρισμένα. Αὐτὸ εἶναι αἵρεση. Αὐτὸ ἀρνεῖται τὸ γεγονὸς ὅτι ἡ Ἐκκλησία εἶναι ζωντανή. Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἑρμᾶς μιλάει στὸν πρῶτο ἐπισκέπτη ποὺ συνάντησε, μιὰ γυναῖκα ἐξαιρετικῆς ὀμορφιᾶς μὲ πρόσωπο παρθένου καὶ λευκὰ μαλλιά. Τῆς λέει: «Ποιὰ εἶσαι;» καὶ τοῦ ἀπαντᾶ: «Ἡ Ἐκκλησία». «Πῶς συμβαίνει νὰ εἶσαι τόσο νέα; Ζεῖς ἐδῶ καὶ τόσα χρόνια». Αὐτὴ ἀπαντάει: «Κουβαλῶ τὴ νεότητα τῆς αἰωνιότητας». «Γιατὶ τότε ἔχεις λευκὰ μαλλιὰ;». Καὶ τοῦ ἀπάντησε: « Ἐπειδὴ ἔχω τὰ μαλλιὰ τῆς σοφίας». Κι αὐτὸ θὰ πρέπει νὰ εἶναι ἡ Ἐκκλησία· ὄχι μιὰ ἄμορφη, ἀσαφὴς ἔννοια. Ἐσὺ, ἐγώ, ἐμεῖς. Αὐτὴ εἶναι ἡ Ἐκκλησία καὶ θὰ πρέπει νὰ διατηροῦμε τὴ νεότητα τοῦ νεογέννητου στὴν αἰωνιότητα καὶ νὰ κατέχουμε τὴ σοφία τῶν αἰώνων ποὺ ἔχουν περάσει καὶ ἀκόμα περισσότερο τὴ σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ ποὺ ἐκτείνεται στὴν αἰωνιότητα.


Ἀρχηγία καὶ Διακονία.

Λίγα λόγια γιὰ τὴ δομὴ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Ἡ δομὴ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας προῆλθε ἀπὸ τὴν ἀντιγραφὴ τῶν δομῶν τῆς αὐτοκρατορικῆς πολιτείας ποὺ ἦταν αὐστητὰ ἱεραρχημένες. Ἀλλὰ σύμφωνα μὲ τὸν πατέρα Σωφρόνιο, ἡ πολιτεία εἶναι μιὰ πυραμίδα ποὺ στηρίζεται στὴ βάση της, ἐνῶ ἡ Ἐκκλησία εἶναι μιὰ πυραμίδα ποὺ βασίζεται στὴν κορυφή. Καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ σημεῖο δὲν εἶναι ἕνας ἄνθρωπος, ἕνας ἱεράρχης, ἕνα συμβούλιο ἐπισκόπων. Αὐτὸ τὸ σημεῖο εἶναι ὁ Κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς, ποὺ μόνος εἶναι ἡ κεφαλὴ, τὸ ἀνώτατο σημεῖο τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, κι ὕστερα οἱ ἄνθρωποι ποὺ ἀσκοῦν τὴν διακονία τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ποὺ κουβαλοῦν στοὺς ὥμους τους τὸ βάρος τῆς πυραμίδας. Ἄν μιλᾶμε γιὰ ἱεραρχία, πρέπει νὰ θυμόμαστε τὰ λόγια τοῦ Χριστοῦ: «Βρίσκομαι ἀνάμεσα σας «ὡς ὑπηρέτης» καὶ ὅσοι ἀπὸ ἐμᾶς ἐπιθυμοῦν νὰ ζοῦν ἐν Χριστῷ, πρέπει νὰ μάθουν νὰ εἶναι ὑπηρέτες καὶ τίποτε ἄλλο. Ἀλλὰ ἱστορικὰ, ἀναπτύχθηκε μιὰ ἱεραρχία ἐξουσίας: μιὰ ἱεραρχία ποὺ μπορεῖ νὰ δίνει ἐντολὲς ὄχι ἐπειδὴ μπορεῖ καὶ πείθει, ἀλλὰ ἐπειδὴ μπορεῖ νὰ ἐπιβάλλεται. Ἄν στὴν Ἐκκλησία ἀποτελοῦμε ἁπλὰ μιὰ ἱεραρχία δύναμης ἐπειδὴ ἔχουμε θέσεις καὶ τίτλους, αὐτὸ εἶναι ἄρνηση τῆς οὐσίας καὶ τῆς ζωῆς τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Γνωρίζουμε πόσο συχνὰ ἅγιοι «ἀσήμαντοι», ἦταν ὁδηγοὶ σὲ ἀνθρώπους ποὺ ἱεραρχικὰ ἤ κοινωνικὰ ἀπεῖχαν ἀπ’ αὐτοὺς. Στὴν Ἐκκλησία, ἡ δύναμη πρέπει ν’ ἀντικατασταθεῖ ἀπὸ τὴν διακονία, καὶ ὅσο συνεχίζουμε νὰ πιστεύουμε στὴ δύναμη τῆς ἱεραρχίας καὶ ὄχι στὸ διακόνημα της, δὲν εἴμαστε Ἐκκλησία, σύμφωνα μὲ τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο.

Αὐτὸ σημαίνει ὅτι ὀφείλουμε νὰ ἀναθεωρήσουμε ἐντελῶς τὴν θέση τῶν λαϊκῶν, τοῦ κλήρου καὶ τοῦ ἐπισκοπείου. Πρῶτα ἀπ’ὅλα, οἱ διάκονοι παρουσιάστηκαν λίγο καιρὸ μετὰ τὴν Ἀνάληψη τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Δὲν χειροτονήθηκαν ἀπὸ τὸν Χριστό. Τοποθετήθηκαν ἀπὸ τοὺς μαθητὲς, τοὺς Ἀποστόλους, γιὰ μιὰ συγκεκριμένη λειτουργία. Δὲν ἀνήκουν στὸ Εὐαγγέλιο ποὺ διαβάζουμε. Τότε ἦρθαν οἱ Πρεσβύτεροι ποὺ διαδέχτηκαν τοὺς Ἀποστόλους, ὕστερα ἄνθρωποι ποὺ ὑπερεῖχαν λόγω τῆς χάρης καὶ τῆς θέσης ποὺ εἶχαν. Ἔτσι δὲν εἶναι ἔξω ἀπὸ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου ποὺ ἡ ἱεραρχία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἀναπτύχθηκε. Ἡ Ἐκκλησία γνώριζε μόνο κάτι· νὰ εἶναι τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ναὸς τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, ἡ συνέχεια στὴ διάρκεια τῆς ἱστορίας τῆς Ἐνσάρκωσης καὶ τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ πνεύματος ποὺ μᾶς διδάσκει νὰ κηρύττουμε τὸν λόγο τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Πρόκειται γιὰ τὸν λαὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ, καθὼς ἀναφέρεται στὶς Ἐπιστολὲς τοῦ Ἀποστόλου Παύλου, «Βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα», ποὺ πρέπει νὰ ἁγιάζει τὸ κάθε τὶ, ποὺ μπορεῖ ν’ἁγιάζει τὰ πάντα, ἁγιάζοντας πρῶτα τὸν ἑαυτὸ της κι ἔπειτα νὰ ὁδηγεῖ στὴν ἁγιότητα τὸ κάθε τι, «μέχρι νὰ γίνουν ὅλα Θεὸς». Ὁ Ἅγιος Βασίλειος μᾶς ὑπενθυμίζει ὅτι « καθένας μπορεῖ νὰ κυβερνήσει, ἀλλὰ μόνο ἕνας βασιλιὰς μπορεῖ νὰ δώσει τὴ ζωή του γιὰ τοὺς ὑπηκόους του», κι ὁ καθένας μας ἀπ΄αὐτὴν τὴν ἄποψη, εἶναι προικισμένος μὲ τὴν δωρεὰ τῆς Βασιλείας τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ποὺ μᾶς ζητᾶ νὰ θυσιαστοῦμε γιὰ τὸν συνάνθρωπο καὶ τὴν σωτηρία τοῦ κόσμου. Αὐτὸ εἶναι τὸ ποίμνιο, ὁλόκλητο τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ σὲ αὐτὸ ὑπάρχουν ἱερατεῖα. Εἶναι πολὺ σημαντικὸ νὰ θυμόμαστε ὅτι ὅλοι εἴμαστε λαϊκοὶ κι οἱ ἐπίσκοποι εἶναι λαὸς μὲ χάρη ἐπισκοπικὴ. Ἱσχυριζόμαστε ὅτι εἴμαστε μέλη τοῦ Σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, κι ἄν εἴμαστε μέλη του, εἶναι στὸν βαθμὸ ποὺ προσφέρουμε τὴ ζωὴ μας γιὰ τοὺς ἄλλους.


Ἐλευθερία, ὑπακοὴ καὶ πίστη.

Λίγες λέξεις γιὰ τὴν ἐλευθερία καὶ τὴν πίστη. Συχνὰ δὲν γνωρίζουμε τὶ σημαίνει ἐλευθερία, ἐπειδὴ διδασκόμαστε συχνὰ τὴν ἀρετὴ τῆς ὑπακοῆς.Τὴν ὑπακοὴ συχνὰ τὴν ἀντιλαμβανόμαστε στὴν Ἐκκλησία ὡς σκλαβιά, ὅτι εἴμαστε ὑποχωρητικοὶ, ἕτοιμοι νὰ δεχθοῦμε διαταγὲς καὶ νὰ ὑπακούσουμε. Ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ δὲν εἶναι ἐλευθερία. Ἡ ἀληθινὴ ὑπακοὴ εἶναι πολὺ διαφορετική. Ἡ ὑπακοὴ προέρχεται ἀπὸ τὴν προσοχὴ, εἶναι μαθητεία στὴν προσοχὴ καὶ ὄχι κάνω ὅ,τι λέει κάποιος. Εἶναι ἕνας τρόπος νὰ μαθαίνουμε ἀπὸ κάποιον ποὺ εἶναι πιὸ ἔμπειρος κάτι ποὺ θὰ μᾶς ἐπιτρέψει νὰ ἀναπτύξουμε τὴν ἐμπειρία μας καὶ μαθαίνοντας νὰ ἐνδίδουμε στὸ θέλημα μας, τὶς προκαταλήψεις μας, τὴν στενότητα τοῦ μυαλοῦ μας, νὰ ἀναπτυχθοῦμε στὸ βαθμὸ ἐκείνου ποὺ μᾶς διδάσκει· πρέπει σταδιακὰ νὰ μάθουμε πῶς νὰ γίνουμε ἱκανοὶ νὰ ἀκοῦμε τὴ φωνὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος μέσα μας. Καὶ ὅταν διαβάζουμε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο, δὲν πρέπει νὰ ἀκοῦμε μόνο τὰ λόγια καὶ τὶς ἐντολὲς του, ἀλλὰ τὴ φωνὴ τῆς ἀλήθειας ποὺ μᾶς ἀγγίζει, μᾶς μεταμορφώνει καὶ μᾶς μεταποιεῖ. Τότε ἡ ἐλευθερία παύει νὰ εἶναι τὸ ἀντίθετο τῆς ὑπακοῆς. Ἡ λέξη ἐλευθερία προέρχεται ἀπὸ τὴν Σανσκριτικὴ λέξη «priyia», ποὺ ὡς ρῆμα σημαίνει ν’ ἀγαπᾶς καὶ ν’ ἀγαπιέσαι, καὶ ὡς οὐσιαστικό, σημαίνει τὸ «ἀγαπημένο πρόσωπο». Ἐλευθερία εἶναι μιὰ σχέση ἀμοιβαίας ἀγάπης· νὰ προσφέρω τὸν ἑαυτὸ μου δῶρο στὸν ἄλλο ἄνθρωπο, στὴν ἑτοιμότητα μου ν’ἀκούω καὶ ν’ἀγαπῶ μὲ ὅλη τὴ σκέψη, τὴν καρδιά καὶ τὴν ὕπαρξη μου. Τότε ἄν αὐτὸ εἶναι ἀληθινό, πρέπει νὰ βρεῖ ἐφαρμογὴ στὴ ζωή μας, νὰ γίνει τρόπος ζωῆς, ἐπειδὴ συχνὰ φανταζόμαστε ὅτι εἴμαστε Χριστιανοί ἤ Ὀρθόδοξοι, ἐπειδὴ διδάσκουμε κάποιες ἀλήθειες ποὺ καθορίστηκαν ἀπὸ συμβούλια ἤ ἀπὸ μιὰ «ἀνώτερη ἐξουσία»(σὲ εἰσαγωγικά). Στὴν πραγματικότητα, πρέπει νὰ μάθουμε νὰ δεχόμαστε ὅ,τι μᾶς δόθηκε ἀπὸ τὸ παρελθόν μὲ νέα καρδιὰ καὶ νοῦ, μὲ πίστη ποὺ ἐκφράζεται μὲ κάθε τρόπο. Ἡ πίστη εἶναι ἡ βεβαιότητα γιὰ πράγματα ποὺ δὲν βλέπουμε, ἀλλὰ ἡ πίστη εἶναι ἐπίσης ἀφοσοίωση καὶ τρόπος ζωῆς.


Τὸ δικαίωμα μας νὰ λέμε ὅτι εἴμαστε Ὀρθόδοξοι

Κι ἔτσι, ἄν ζοῦμε τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο ἀφιερώνοντας ὅλη μας τὴν ἐνέργεια καὶ τὸ κουράγιο (καὶ ὅταν δὲν ἔχουμε δύναμη καὶ κουράγιο, στρεφόμαστε πρὸς τὸν Κύριο καὶ λέμε: « Κύριε, δυνάμωσε με· βάλε στὴ θέση τῆς ὀκνηρίας μου τὸ κουράγιο Σου· τὴν ἀκατάβλητη ἐνέργεια σου»), τότε καὶ μόνο τότε, ἔχουμε τὸ δικαίωμα νὰ λέμε ὅτι εἴμαστε Ὀρθόδοξοι. Καὶ θὰ κλείσω τὴν ὁμιλία μου μὲ τὰ λόγια τοῦ Πάστορα Βίσερ Λόφτ, τὸν πρῶτο γενικὸ γραμματέα τοῦ Παγκόσμιου Συμβουλίου Ἐκκλησιῶν, ποὺ εἶπε: « Μποροῦμε νὰ εἴμαστε αἱρετικοί, ἀκόμα καὶ ἄν διακηρύττουμε κάθε ἄρθρο τοῦ Συμβόλου τῆς Πίστεως, ἄν ὁ τρόπος τῆς ζωῆς μας μας διαψεύδει. Μπορεῖ κάποιος νὰ εἶναι αἱρετικὸς, ὅταν ἀρνεῖται τὴν ἀλήθεια, ὅταν δὲν ζεῖ σύμφωνα μὲ τὴν ἀλήθεια».


Αύτὸ τὸ κείμενο παρουσιάστηκε ἀρχικὰ σ’ ἕνα συνέδριο τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Μητροπόλεως τοῦ Σουρόζ ποὺ διεξήχθη στὸ Χέντινγκτον τῆς Ἀγγλίας τὸ 1995, μὲ θέμα «Ἡ Ὀρθόδοξη παρουσία μας στὴν Μεγάλη Βρετανία» καὶ στὴ συνέχεια ἐκδόθηκε ἀπὸ τὴν Ρωσικὴ Ὀρθόδοξη Μητρόπολη τοῦ Σουρὸζ τὸ 1996.


Ἀπόδοση στὴν νεοελληνική: www.agiazoni.gr



Πρωτότυπο κείμενο
 


Meeting a Non-Orthodox Society


Twelve Apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit went out into the world. They were accompanied or surrounded by a small group of disciples, in all seventy men and women. And they converted the world, not immediately, but they started a wave of understanding, of knowledge, of newness of life, that made the whole world different from what it had been for thousands of years before. There are now millions of Christians of different denominations and yet, because of us, Christians, Christianity seems to become increasingly irrelevant.

There is a vast society which lives, acts, thinks, creates in a world that has nothing seemingly to do with the Gospel. I said seemingly, because it is not totally true. The principles on which even godless societies are built very often have Christian roots. Christianity has brought into the world a notion that did not exist in antiquity: the absolute, final value of the person, of every single being. In the past there were masters and slaves; now there are human beings, men, women, children, unique - and each of us, even though we may not always know it, has an absolute value and significance in the eyes of God, and even through that in the eyes of society. And yet, somehow we have become irrelevant. I am not challenging you, I am not criticizing the Church, but I think there are a certain number of things which we should consider, reflect on and see where we stand with regard to them.


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Missionaries and Pilgrims

The first generation of Christians, the Apostles, the disciples and those who were converted by them, were on a pilgrimage. It was not a sedentary society; the first Christians were people who moved from place to place bring to others the unutterable joy of a new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, those who settled in one place were not an introverted society, a society locked in upon itself, but a society of people who looked outward for the lost sheep of the kingdom of God. This is something which we have lost. All the Churches, in one way or another, have had missions. But what is striking is that far too often the missionaries went out into the world with a sense of offensive, insulting, arrogant superiority. They went into the world in order to give what they possessed without realising that they possessed nothing, that all they could do was to follow St. Paul when seeing the vastness, the incredible difficulty of his mission turned to God for strength and the Lord said to him: "my grace suffices unto thee; my strength deploys itself in thy weakness." And the minute group of believers, of Christians, who went into the world following Christ’s command "go, and bring the Gospel to all nations" -- they knew that they were frail, defenceless, and that they could not count on any strength except that of God. St. Paul said that he would glory in nothing but his weakness, so that everything that happened should be an act of God. This very often was not the attitude of Christian missionaries; the missionary movement in Christianity is not a movement of people who so live their neighbour with the love of God that they go out to the world ready to die that others may live, who go out into the world, with all the frailty that is theirs, knowing that they can do nothing, but God can do everything.

There is an episode in the life of St. Stephen of Perm, one of the early Russian missionaries. He discovered in the region of Perm pagan people with a language different from the language spoken by the Slavs, and therefore out of reach of the Gospel. He learned their language, and went out to the region of Perm, where he began to pray in their midst. The local shamans wanted to destroy him and they sent a group of armed men to kill him. They came back and the shaman said, "Is he dead?" "No", they said, "we could not kill him; when we met him face to face, there was such love and openness in him that we knelt down and begged for his blessing." That is mission.

On the other hand, in a contrast, let me remind you of a Western missionary who went to India and wrote to his superior in Spain, "send us priests, it doesn’t matter how bad they are; anything will do for these savages." He had seen nothing of the depth, of the richness, of the beauty that was there. Any priest would do! That is something that we do not find in the Gospel. What some missionaries brought was not the Gospel, not the joy of a new life, not a meeting with living God. But what is remarkable, even unique in the preaching of the early missionaries, the Apostles, is what St. John says: "we speak of what our eyes have seen, our hands have touched, our ears have heard." They speak of their experience. One may say, "they had been with Christ, they could speak of what they saw in Him", but this is not the whole truth, becaus thousands of people met Christ on the roads of the Holy Land, but very few saw Him. Their eyes were blind. They saw an outer form, they heard strange, puzzling, challenging words, but not words that touched their inner core and made them into new beings. When Christ spoke of giving bread as His body, those around Him left Him and he turned to His disciples and said, "Do you want to leave me also?" and Peter said to Him, "Where should we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life." And if you read the Gospel you will see that there is not one passage in the Gospel, in which the Lord describes eternal life. He indicates, here and there, by a word, this is the life of eternity, but He does not give the kind of imagery which we find in mystical literature. What the words of Peter mean is that whenever you speak, your words must hit at the very core of our being, like two stones struck together and bringing out a spark. When the core of our being is so affected, eternal life which is dormant in us blossoms out, flares up. This is what the Apostles did, what the early Christians did, because their experience had been a personal experience of meeting the living God face to face. I do not mean meeting Christ in the flesh, I mean that in their experience they knew God through Christ and through the illumined Apostles. When Paul spoke of God he was transfigured and there is an ancient manuscript, which says that when St. Paul was in repose, as it were simply himself, he was as ugly as a devil, but when he spoke of God, he shone with light like an angel of Heaven.


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Fear Not

When the Apostles moved from place to place they did not simply change location; they went from place to place with the newness of life which they could impart to others. What about us? Do we impart anything to the people whom we meet, who are around us? What happens to us, to the Christian community, is that with the recognition of Christianity by Constantine and its later spread, the Christian community became secure and sedentary. And these two things are evils. Secure means that we do not realise how dangerous are the paths we tread, as one of the epistles tells us. We do not realise that we are not simply embarked in a ship that will carry us across the ocean of life into eternity. Every step is a challenge. Every step is a danger. Every step is a risk. At every moment evil is before us and God is with us. And we forget too often that the power of God is beyond all the power of evil. Hermas, one of the Seventy, says in one of his epistles, "remember, never to fear the power of evil more than your trust in the power and love of God." So, this is an element which the Apostles could bring because in the pagan society in which they lived people were terrified of evil, of evil powers, of Satan. And the Apostles came and said, "fear not; Christ has conquered. The devil is defeated. If you are with Him, you are invincible." That is not something we often hear today.


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Martyrdom and Security

Today, people cling together and do not look outwards, they are afraid of living to the full, of going into the unknown, of meeting face to face those who will reject them, or endanger them. Bishop Basil [one of the other speakers at the Conference] has spoken of the baptism of blood. Yet, how far we are from it, and how often and easily we speak of it. The French preacher Bossuet says, "How comforting it is to hear that practically in every Church, priests preach on martyrdom. When martyrdom is here one does not speak of it, one endures it. If there is so much talk of martyrdom, it means that we feel secure. Alas." We feel we are secure. But we are also sedentary in another way. We are encrusted in one place. We have formed Christian communities that are not outward looking. We have services and so many people feel that it is the services that are the centre; people come to a service on a Sunday and exclaim, "if only it was possible not to leave the precincts of this church, because outside there is an alien world’, and we forget that Christ said to us, "go, like sheep among the wolves, go into the world to make disciples of all nations." This is as it were, the fruition of the Liturgy. If in the Liturgy we have entered into communion with the Holy Spirit and with Christ, then our function is to go out and to bring the glory, the joy, and the love of it to others. A mentality has developed us that we must be secure within the walls of the Church, within the limits of a Christian community. Going out is dangerous, that is exactly what we should be doing and we have forgotten it.


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Monasticism and the Giving of One’s Life

It began very early in the Church, the moment we became Christians many things changed. The men and women who had been prepared to live to die for Christ were of another stature than the many who joined the Church because the Emperor had joined it. And having entered the Church, they wanted to be secure, but secure under what? Under God? No. Very often under the authority of the imperial power. And at this moment certain things happened: it was the beginning of monasticism. Men of a daring spirit left the cities and the comfort of a state Christianity to go into the wilderness to fight evil in themselves and the evil that was spreading around. Fr. George Florovsky insists on the fact that these people were not running away from a still pagan society; they were not running away from persecution. They were running away from a Christianity that had "lost its salt." They were going away because the Christian community had become tasteless; it was no longer the heroic body it had been in the beginning. That is the beginning of monasticism, and has been the impetus for it throughout the ages. Even now this should be the attitude of anyone embracing the monastic life. We refuse to accept the anaemic, weak, irresponsible attitude of the sedentary community. We want to be alone with God, and together with God to go into all the situations that need His presence and the giving of our lives. When I speak of giving our lives I do not mean dying; at times, to live a long time in circumstances that are tragic or painful may be more important than to die at once. A Russian bishop, a hero of the years of Soviet persecution of the Church, often said that at times the duty of the believing Christian is to survive. Ever since Cain murdered Abel all the Cains of the world have been trying to murder all the Abels of the world, but the Abels of the world have a function to fulfill and we have learned to survive as long as necessary for this function to be fulfilled without compromise, but allowing God to chose the moment when we will be killed. And Abel was killed.


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Fools For Christ

At other moments the fools for Christ’s sake appeared. They too rejected the secure sedentary approach. If you look at the history of the Byzantine Empire, or of Russia, you will discover that the fools for Christ’s sake appeared in numbers at a moment when the state, the empire began to assert its right to build a secure society. At that moment fools for Christ’s sake appeared who were an offence to everything that is security. They behaved like fools, while we all treasure our intellect. We want to be safe, to have our intellect working because the intellect cannot be destroyed, otherwise than together with our physical body. But they refused to behave in a socially acceptable manner because the state and the Church within the state proclaimed a certain behavior, a certain way of being and that was no longer acceptable.

Later, we find in Russia and in other countries pilgrims; people who wandered from one holy place to another, or spent long periods of time in the vastness of Russia to be uncompromisingly alone with God and to visit places where they could find a spark of the divine. These people rejected the security of a sedentary life, because it was a place of ultimate insecurity, because their only security, their only safety was God. And God is totally unsafe and insecure for us when we want to be supported, held, protected. They went into an adventure of ultimate and total risk.


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Possessing and Being Possessed

You may ask, what can we do? We cannot become all pilgrims, or fools for Christ’s sake, however "foolish" we may be. It is not a question of what we possess. It is a question of our attitude to our possessions. Possession is a way of being possessed and you may be possessed even by a very small thing. And that is how all of us live to a greater or lesser extent. In the Gospel we find a passage of immense importance, the story of the king calling his closest friends to the bridal feast of his son. One refuses because he has bought five pairs of oxen, another one refuses because he has just got married himself. What does this amount to? It means that not only have I bought land, but I think I possess it. I am like a tree which cannot move from the place of rootedness. I have five pairs of oxen, that is, I have something to do in life, and, therefore, it is more important than anything, than friendship, than love, than generosity, than sacrifice. I must do my work. I have married someone, my heart is full, I have no space in my heart for anyone else’s joy. And who are the invited? The king sends his servants to bring in the beggars, the lost people who are called to come into the king’s presence and they come with a feeling of fear and trembling; "we, in our rags, we, who live a life of thieving and begging and low morality, how can we enter into the presence of our king?" At the door they are met by the angels of God who say to the, "come, we will change your clothes, we will bathe your bodies, we will comb your hair and you will then come worthily into the presence of the king." Only one refuses, saying: "I was invited to eat, not to bathe, not to be pampered; I want my food." And that one is expelled. This is very often our attitude. We have bought a plot of land, we have oxen, we have attachment, we cannot give our lives to anything that is beyond us and our enslavement. That does not mean that we cannot be free. The question is are you attached or not? There is a difference between love and attachment. You may be the slave of a relationship, but you may be free within it.


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Liturgy

This process has gone deeper into the Church, because our liturgical forms have also been penetrated by the effect of our relationship with the state. Our Orthodox Liturgy is deeply influenced by the court ceremonial of Byzantium. In the early Church there was a variety of forms. In Byzantium it had to become worthy of the Emperor and of his court. And so, it was structured in such a way that it could coincide with the forms familiar to the imperial court. The result was the magnificent Liturgy that we possess. But it is a mistake to imagine that this is the only form, because in the early centuries there were a number of liturgies that belonged to the same undivided Christian Church. There was the Liturgy of Rome, of St. Gregory Dialogos, there was the Liturgy of St. Ambrose of Milan, there was the Liturgy of Lyons, there was the Arabic Liturgy, there was the St. Germain Liturgy in Paris and a number of others. They were all basically identical because each of them had the same identical core. But they were different in form, in expression and they corresponded to a freedom which very often we have lost, a freedom which corresponded both to the culture of a place and the social context. We must learn to pray within the Liturgy, to receive from all our services all the richness it can give, but not to be slaves of it.


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Tradition as Living Memory

I would not like to say a word about the meaning of tradition. Whenever someone dares to suggest the slightest change in the ways of the Church he is accused of breaking with tradition. And here it is important for us to treasure tradition, but also to understand it rightly and not to become prisoners and slaves of false tradition. Tradition is something that is handed down to us from the very beginning, from one generation to the other. But what is handed down to us is the substance and the meaning and not the form. A Russian bishop in the early years of the emigration wrote that it was not permissible to celebrate in a western language because most heresies were born in the West, forgetting that there were enough heretics in Byzantium and elsewhere! If tradition is understood in that sense you become its prisoner. Tradition is the living memory of the Church. We all have a memory but more often than not, too often, we forget our past. The Church does not. The Church has an eternal, unshakeable memory. But memory does not mean that nothing new can enter into our experience. But this memory does not force us backward at every step. It is an experience that has gradually grown into new and further experience rooted in God and inspired by the Holy Spirit. What the Church does is to look at every step of its development and its life for what St. Paul calls "the mind of Christ." To listen to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is always young, always new, always modern. It does not tell us to live as we lived in the twelfth century. In a discussion with a group of Russian bishops on the ordination of women, the senior bishop articulated the following conclusion: "I have no answer on this matter, but it has not happened in the past and therefore it should never happen in the future." Whether it should happen or not is another matter. But that is not a reason. Tradition is the living memory of almost two thousand years of Christianity, living and kept alive by the action and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and made solid, unshakeable by the word and the person of Christ. Traditionalism is what a Roman Catholic theologian in America has described as the dead memory which is kept by the living. [Editor’s note: here Metropolitan Anthony is probably referring to quote attributed to the Lutheran scholar, Jaroslav Pelikan.] Memories of thing which do not exit anymore in reality but which are kept, totally useless, but nonetheless treasured. This is heresy. This denies the fact that the Church is alive. St. Hermas speaks in his first visitor of meeting a woman of extreme beauty with the face of a virgin and with white hair. He says to her, "Who are you?" and she answers, "I am the Church." "How is it that you are so young? You have existed for so long." She replies, "I have the youth of eternity." "But why then have you got white hair?" And the answer came: "Because I have the hair of wisdom." And this is what the Church should be -- the Church not a vague, amorphous concept. You, I, we. That is the Church. And we should have the youth of the newly born into eternity and possess the wisdom of the centuries before us and even more the wisdom of God that stretches into eternity.


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Leadership and Service

A few words on the structure of the Church. The structure of the Church has resulted from copying the structures of the imperial state, which is strictly hierarchical. But according to Fr. Sophrony, the state is a pyramid standing on its base, whereas the Church is a pyramid standing on its point. And this point is not a man, not a hierarch, not a council of bishops. That point is the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can be the head, the supreme point of the Church, and then, layer after layer of the people who exercise Christ’s own diakonia, carry on their shoulders all the weight of the pyramid. If we speak of hierarchy, we must remember Christ’s words,"I am in your midst like the servant" and those of us who wish to be in Christ must learn to be servants and nothing else. But historically a hierarchy of power has developed: a hierarchy that can command not because what is said is convincing, but because what is said can be enforced. If in the Church we are simply a hierarchy of power because we have different titles and ranks, that is a negation of the very substance and life of the Church. We know how often saints "of no account" were guides for people who were far above them hierarchically or socially. In the Church power must be replaced by service, by diakonia, and as long as we continue to believe in the power of the hierarchy and not in the diakonia of the hierarchy, we are not a Church according to the Gospel.

That means that we have to reconsider completely the situation of the laity, the clergy and episcopate. First of all, deacons appeared some time after Christ’s Ascension. They were not ordained by Christ. They were appointed by the disciples, by the Apostles, for a specific function. They do not belong to the original Gospel which we read. Then came the presbyters who took over from the Apostles, then came a seniority of grace and of function. So, it is not out of the Gospel that the hierarchy of the Church sprang. The Church knew only one thing. To be the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the continuation throughout history of the Incarnation and of the voice of the Spirit teaching us to proclaim what Christ has taught us. It is the people of god, as we find in the Epistle, "a royal priesthood", who must make sacred everything they touch, who can sanctify all things by sanctifying themselves first, and then bring into sanctity everything they touch and do, until God can become "all in all." St. Basil reminds us that "anyone can rule, but only a king can give his life for his subjects", and each of us in that respect is endowed with the kingship of Christ, that is with His command to die for our neighbour and for the salvation of the world. So, this is the laity, the total body of Christ and within it there are ministries, but within it. It is very important to remember that we are all lay people and bishops are laymen with episcopal grace. We claim to be members of the Body of Christ, and if we are members of it in a singular way, is to the extent to which we give our lives to others.


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Freedom, Obedience, and Faith

A final few words on freedom and faith. We do not know very often what freedom means because we have been taught far too often about the virtue of obedience. Obedience is understood too often in the Church as enslavement, as being submissive, as being ready to be commanded and to obey. But that is not freedom. True obedience is very different. bedience comes from listening and hearing and obedience on very level is a school of hearing, not a school of doing what one is told. It is a way of learning from someone who has more experience, something that will allow us to outgrow our own experience and by learning to renounce our own self-will, our own prejudices, our own narrow-mindedness, to expand to the measure of the one who teaches us; we must learn gradually to become capable of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit within us. And when we read the Gospel, we must hear not only its words and commandments, but the voice of truth reaching us and transforming and transfiguring us. Freedom then ceases to be the opposite of obedience. The word freedom comes from a Sanskrit word priyia, which in its verbal form means to love and to be loved, and as a noun, means "my beloved." Freedom is a relationship of mutual love; of the gift of self to another, in readiness to listen with all our mind, all our heart, all our being, and to love with all our mind, all our heart and all our being. And if that is true, then it must reach out into life, in a way of living, because far too often we imagine that we are Christina or Orthodox because we proclaim a certain number of truths which were defined by the councils or by ‘superior authority’ (in very inverted commas). In reality we must learn to receive all that we are given from the past, receive it with newness of heart and mind, with a faith that expresses itself in every way. Faith is defined as the certainty of things unseen, but faith is also faithfulness and faith is also a way of living.


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The Right to Say We are Orthodox

And so, if we live up to the Gospel with all our courage, with all our energy (and when we have no energy and no courage we turn to God and say, "Lord fill my weakness with your strength; replace my cowardice with your courage; replace my sloth with your indomitable energy"), then and only then have we the right to say that we are Orthodox. And I will conclude with the words of Pastor Visser Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who said: "one can be a heretic even while proclaiming every article of the Creed if we give the lie to one or all of them by the way in which we live. One can be a heretic by denying the truth, by not living according to the truth."


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Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) is the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh, Moscow Patriarchate.
The Diocese of Sourozh spans Great Britain.

This article was originally presented by Metropolitan Anthony at "Our Orthodox Presence in Great Britain," a Conference of the Diocese of Sourozh held in Headington, England (1995) and published subsequently by The Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh, 1996. 



 
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Τὸ χρυσάφι εἶναι πράγμα βαρύ. Βαριὰ εἶναι κι ὅλα τὰ ἐπιδιωκόμενα ὑλικὰ πλούτη. Ἀνάλαφρο καὶ πρὸς τὰ ἄνω φερόμενο πράγμα εἶναι ἡ ἀρετή. Μεταξύ τους, ὅμως, αὐτά, τὸ βαρὺ καὶ τὸ ἐλαφρό, εἶναι ἀντίθετα. Συνεπῶς εἶναι ἀδύνατο νὰ γίνει κανεὶς ἀνάλαφρος, ὅταν ἔχει καρφώσει τὸν ἑαυτὸ του πάνω στὸ βάρος τῆς ὕλης. Ἐὰν πρέπει, λοιπόν, νὰ ἀνεβοῦμε στὰ ψηλά, θὰ πτωχεύσουμε ὡς πρὸς ἐκεῖνα ποὺ μᾶς τραβοῦν πρὸς τὰ κάτω, γιὰ νὰ φθάσουμε στὰ ψηλά.