Monday, September 16, 2013

A Few More Words on National Exceptionalism

First, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s reminder that every nation is unique because each has a particular role to play in the drama of mankind’s salvation and the world’s renewal:

‘Recently it has become fashionable to speak of the levelling of nations, and the disappearance of peoples in the melting-pot of contemporary civilization . . . the disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all individual people were assimilated into one character, one person. Nations are the wealth of humanity, its social personalities; the smallest of them bears its own special traits, and hides within itself a special facet of the Divine plan...

‘It is precisely he who gives the highest value to the existence of nations, who sees in them not a temporary fruit of social formations, but a complex, vivid, unrepeatable organism that cannot be invented by men - he it is who recognizes that nations have a fullness of spiritual life, a fullness of ascents and falls, a range extending from holiness to villainy (though the extreme points are achieved only by individual personalities).

‘ . . .

‘Between a person and a nation there is the deepest similarity - in the mystical nature of the uncreatedness of both the one and the other’ (Quote from D. Shturman, Gorodu i Miru (To the City and the World), New York: Tretia Vol'na, 1988, pgs. 327, 333-4; quoted in Moss, Twelve Lectures on the Theology of Politics, 2009, p. 100,

Second, the way a nation develops its own exceptionalism, its own unique characteristics, as mentioned in the previous post on this subject, is through the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.  Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) wrote, ‘The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of freedom.  The Holy Spirit not only unites us but also ensures our infinite diversity in the Church . . . .  The gift of the Spirit is a gift to the Church, but it is at the same time a personal gift, appropriated by each in her or his own way.  . . . Life in the Church does not mean the ironing out of human variety, nor the imposition of a rigid and uniform pattern upon all alike, but the exact opposite.  The saints, so far from displaying a drab monotony, have developed the most vivid and distinctive personalities.  It is not holiness but evil which is dull’ (The Orthodox Church, New York, Penguin, 1997, pgs. 242-3).

Third, what, in short, is the mark of true exceptionalism?  Elder Arsenie of Romania (+2011) answered, “Self-denial marks the pinnacle of Holy Scripture, which says: ‘Do you want to be perfect?’ (cf. Matt. 19:21). Perfection is granted precisely by this self denial, which is an exceptional thing” (‘Eternity Hidden in the Moment: The Life and Recollections of Elder Arsenie (Papacioc), Part I’, The Orthodox Word, Vol. 47, No. 5 (280), Sept.-Oct. 2011, St. Herman of Alaska Press, Platina, Ca., p. 227).  By this yardstick, it is not at all difficult to see that American pushiness abroad and an all-absorbing selfishness at home are to our shame, not our glory. 

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