Chiliasm or the Cross: An Easter Message for the South
By Walt Garlington
I. Life in Christ
St Justin Popovich of
’s great theologian-philosopher (+1979), wrote, ‘The hunger for infinity, the hunger for immortality is the ancient, metaphysical hunger of the human spirit. . . . the human spirit wants infinity, it wants immortality at any price and in any form’ because it is made in the image of the infinite, all good, all perfect God (‘The Supreme Value and Infallible Criterion’, Man and the God-Man, p. 19). Chelije, Serbia
When man sought to become immortal through his own efforts in the Garden, rejecting God’s deifying grace, he fell into an unbelievable abyss from which he could not escape unaided.
But the Lord, in His usual kindness, came to earth as Jesus Christ the God-man to restore fallen man to his original condition and to help him attain his natural end, Godlikeness (p. 20). ‘ . . . the appearance of the God-man Christ in this world was natural, logical, and indispensable. . . . He alone satisfies all the hungers of man’s Godlike being . . . the hunger for all the divine infinities’ (p. 21).
‘Only in the God-man Christ is man elevated to the highest level of perfection, to the apex of all apexes. For no one has ever glorified human nature or humanity to such an extent as the God-man. . . .
‘ . . .
‘ . . . As the only One Who is sinless and almighty, Christ the Lord has given human nature grace-filled powers to be able to come to perfection in divine good and to overcome sin and evil to the point of final victory over them. For this reason the God-man Jesus is the greatest value in all the worlds in which human thought and sensation move’ (p. 23).
II. Life Apart from Christ and Chiliasm in the West
But the enemy of mankind, the devil, is ever active, seeking to separate man from ‘the greatest value’, Christ the Lord. With the Great Schism of 1054 A. D., when the Roman Pope deposed Christ as Head of the Church and tore away
Western Europe from the Orthodox Faith, a vast field for mischief was opened. Pope Leo IX’s actions and those of his successors were the revival of humanism in the West, the belief that man and not God is the measure of all things (St Justin Popovich, ‘Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man’, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, pgs. 101-3). The humanistic Schism and later reactions to it - the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, etc. - have given rise to what Eugene Rose (later Father Seraphim Rose (+1982)) called chiliasm, ‘any secular belief in a future age of perfect peace and heavenly blessedness on earth’ (Hieromonk Damascene, Father Seraphim Rose, p. 242). About this belief Fr Seraphim wrote that it ‘is the religion of earthly bread. It has one central doctrine, and that is: the welfare of man in this world is the only common and indispensable religious concern of all men. To anyone capable of distinguishing between them, such humanitarianism seems indeed a paltry substitute for Christianity; but it is by no means superficial. It appeals to some of the highest human emotions; and its logic—once one grants the initial premise—is irrefutable. It is, in fact, the profoundest and most ingenious substitute for Christianity ever devised’ (pgs. 241-2).
The way to achieve this goal of earthly perfection and blessedness without God has taken different forms, but two are particularly prominent in our day: capitalism and constitutionalism.
Most are familiar with Adam Smith’s idea of ‘the invisible hand’, that mysterious, benevolent force that is said to guide human action when individuals are free to pursue their own economic self-interests, unrestrained by artificial barriers. Thus, in a mystical way, the human sin of selfishness is transformed by human liberty into an endless abundance of goods with which to satisfy every longing, thereby dispelling every worry: God the Provider is replaced by Man the Producer and Consumer; the miracle of the loaves and the fishes repeats itself forever; earth has become Heaven.
But there are some who have seen that this is a deadly lie. Among them is the economist E. F. Schumacher, who wrote in Small Is Beautiful about ‘the hollowness and fundamental unsatisfactoriness of a life devoted primarily to the pursuit of material ends, to the neglect of the spiritual’, and then went on to add, ‘Such a life necessarily sets man against man and nation against nation, because man’s needs are infinite and infinitude can be achieved only in the spiritual realm, never in the material. . . . Instead of overcoming the “world” by moving towards saintliness, he tries to overcome it by gaining preeminence in wealth, power, science, or indeed any imaginable “sport”’ (pgs. 38-9).
St Justin Popovich elaborates: ‘The
on earth, Orthodox culture, is not created by external, forcible and mechanical intrusion but by an internal, willing and personal acceptance of the Lord Christ through the constant practice of the Christian virtues. The Kingdom of God does not come in outward, visible ways but internally, invisibly and spiritually. . . . the first and greatest commandment of Orthodox culture is, therefore: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God , and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). All bodily needs will be added: food, clothing and shelter (cf. Matt. 6:25-32); all in addition to the Kingdom of God . Western culture seeks this addition first . . . . In this lies its tragedy, for it has worn out the soul with worry about material things. . . . Kingdom of God
‘The list of needs that modern man has invented for himself is unending. For the satisfaction of his numerous senseless needs, man has turned this precious planet of God’s into a slaughterhouse. . . .
‘When man seriously contemplates the mysteries of his life and the world around him in the light of the Gospel, he is forced to conclude that his ultimate need is to renounce all needs and resolutely follow the Lord Christ, being united to Him by the practice of evangelical ascesis. . . .
‘Man can extend his life and his being into eternity only through spiritual, organic unity with the Theanthropos [i.e., God-man -- W.G.]. . . . What is man without God? Initially a half-man; ultimately a brute. . . .
‘ . . . The soul is not insured by things, but enslaved by them. The Theanthropos frees men from the tyranny of things (‘Humanistic and Theanthropic Culture’, Man and the God-Man, pgs. 51-3).
Speaking of this enslavement of Western man to outward things following the Schism, the Russian philosopher Ivan Kireevsky wrote, ‘Only one serious thing was left to human beings: industry, since the reality of being survived for them only as the physical person. Industry rules the world without faith or poetry. In our time it unifies and divides peoples. It determines one’s fatherland; it delineates social estates; it lies at the foundation of state structures; it moves nations; it declares war, makes peace, changes mores, lends direction to learning and determines the character of civilization. People bow down before it and erect temples to it. It is the real deity in which people sincerely believe and to which they submit. Unselfish activity has become inconceivable. Industry has acquired the same significance in the contemporary world as chivalry in the time of Cervantes’ (‘On the Necessity and Possibility of New Principles in Philosophy’, On Spiritual Unity, p. 256).
But should worldly goods fail to fulfil Western man’s desire for infinity and deification, he has found another way to attain these goals: through the social contract, the constitution. Tage Lindbom, the Swedish Traditionalist, examined this aspect of chiliasm, especially as taught by the French philosopher Jean Jacque Rousseau:
‘Essentially, the new constitutional order must resolve two problems. One concerns the emptiness we encounter in profane existence when the divine presence is forgotten, denied, or contested. And this vacuum, this absence of verticality, must somehow be eliminated on the horizontal, one-dimensional plane. The second problem is the vexing one of human identity; in his complex reality, man is simultaneously individual and transcendent; and this raises the question of how he can be at the same time both individual and universal.
‘The constitution that is to be elaborated must rise above all earthly homologies, all worldly connections, whether of time or space. This constitutional system must be above criticism, must transcend all doubt, and must not be bound to historical processes of change. It must have a transcendent authority that, in reality, only the Absolute can impart; an authority that will make this constitutional order immutable and universally valid. This means it must be a system with an authoritative power, which is possessed only by the sacred. This can be realized only in myth.
‘ . . .
‘These theoretical contracts, combined with utopian ideas and constructions, are efforts to introduce into ordinary, palpable life, into the practical world, institutions by which man can dominate and eliminate lawlessness and arbitrary oppression. First, Rousseau liberates the contract from its earthly, institutional, and political character; he elevates it to a mythic dignity, with the intention of abstracting it from its profane condition. For Rousseau, Nature is more than simply psycho-physical phenomena; she is holy.
and equality likewise are holy and inalienable—Rousseau speaks of la sainteté du contrat. Liberty
‘ . . .
‘The development of this social contract requires Rousseau to proceed further down the road of pseudo-myth. Everyone will now have an associate status in the moral corporation, and not merely in a collectivity. The liberty of the individual is unchanged, but the contractual act excludes every form of social atomism and chaos because the social contract, as a moral corporation, is a unity; the contract-making multitude ascends to a higher “ego.” By this “ascent,” Rousseau adds another important element to the structure of his myth: Man’s new power on this earth demands that his identity, his “ego,” be united with the collectivity that legitimizes his boundless earthly power. The individual and the collectivity must constitute a common identity. Man and Mankind will be one.
‘Rousseau has now resolved two fundamental constitutional problems. With the social contract he fills the vacuum we encounter when the traditional order is denied and abandoned; and he bridges the insupportable schism between the individual and the universal. The social contract is therefore much more than a judicial and moral act. The contract brings man—and therefore mankind—out of social bondage; man is elevated above all norms, above time and space, above all historical change and processes. The social contract thus has the elemental hallmarks of myth because it is, in its primordial origin, absolute. Man is “divinized”: he has usurped the place of God’ (‘The Myth of Democracy’, The Myth of Democracy, pgs. 28, 32-4).
It will be protested, ‘The
(or the Confederate, English, etc.) constitution was written to prevent such an overthrow of tradition. It is not modeled after the revolutionary French idea.’ Another Russian man of letters, Fyodr Tyutchev, answered, ‘That is one of the illusions of so-called moderate opinion, which believes itself eminently reasonable, and is only obtuse. As if institutions could be separated from the principle that created them and gave them life. As if the material body of institutions deprived of their soul were anything but a dead and useless apparatus—just rubbish’ (‘The Roman Question’, Poems and Political Letters of F. I. Tyutchev, p. 196). united States
The principle at the heart of even supposedly conservative Western constitutions is the same one at the heart of the Schism that destroyed the unity of the Church: Each man is sovereign and has the right to define and live life as he pleases, as well in politics as in religion and economics. But such a belief brings disharmony and disorder through the selfish clash of innumerable wills.
Howbeit, Western man, estranged from God and His Orthodox Church, continues this attempt at an outward fix through a constitution, whereby, through the perfect balancing and interacting of the various orders of society - rich and poor, old and young, man and woman, farmer and factoryman, etc. - and the different branches and departments of government, all wrongdoing would be eliminated, and peace would reign among men. But it is a sad delusion: ‘We know the fetishism of Westerners for everything that is form, formula, and political structure. This fetishism has become a kind of last religion of the West . . .’ (Tyutchev, p. 189).
The Orthodox world shows a different political model. Speaking of the Orthodox Empire during the time it was centered at Constantinople (but which could apply to any truly Orthodox nation), James Kelley, wrote, ‘In this conception of the emperor as fulfilling a divine ministry alongside the other ministries of “Church” and “people,” there is no system of “checks and balances” rife with coercive tension as in modern “democracies” nor is there any idea of an autocratic secular ruler who mediates literally between God and Law, as in later developments of the medieval West. Instead, there is a symphonia between the emperor, the Church, and the people, a harmonization of purpose based upon the Orthodoxy of each individual with each tangential sphere. The purity of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy was the basis of all politics, art, and wisdom in the
Eastern Roman Empire, because the purity of belief undergirt the proper fulfilling of each charismatic ministry, from the lowliest farmer to the emperor himself. . . . the Orthodox symphonia consists in apophatic principles which gesture toward the correlating ministries of emperor, Church, and people without a cataphatic, positive, and therefore legalistic definition of absolute vectors of power. Because of its basis in Orthodox apophasis, the Eastern Romans refused to place ultimate authority in any external body per sé, even that of an Ecumenical Council. This is why Westerners, who know only cataphasis in politics and faith, and who thus can point to neat, absolute structures of power, which they mistakenly equate with good order and “rational governance,” see nothing but confusion and disorder in an East Roman society that refuses to accept the many varieties of feudalistic oppression which have developed in the West, instead following the original politeia of Christian Hellenism. This Orthodox view of politics sees society as the coming together of the people of God in an ascetic, communal “work of the people” (leitourgeia) which accepts no final authority save that based in communion with God. Needless to say, the divine-human communion of the Eastern Roman society is opposed to that of the supposedly divine princes of the West . . . . Rather, the Orthodox society places all hope in theosis, the union with the energies of the Holy Trinity achieved by prophets, apostles and saints, some of whom have been emperors, farmers, soldiers, and Patriarchs’ (Anatomyzing Divinity, pgs. 104-7).
III. The South and the Schism
The South, because of the reverence of Englishmen for old custom and their stubbornness to accept change, built a more traditional, Christian society than other parts of the modern West, but it was not without tragic flaws, which it inherited from its schismatic parent, the Western tradition.
A. Southern Economic Chiliasm
Among the greatest was building the whole edifice of Southern life around the cornerstone of slavery, a merely economic, worldly principle, before which all else in Southern society, even the churches, knelt, rather than around Orthodox Christianity as in Serbia, Georgia, and other Orthodox countries.
‘In the 1790s emancipationism declined as the principal churches, which earlier had protested against slavery, made their peace with it’ (Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, The Mind of the Master Class, p. 73).
‘To Southerners and not just slaveholders, slavery was a bulwark against the corrosive effects of free labor and the loosening of the social bonds that nurtured humane social relations. A consequence was the formation of a distinct southern people.
‘In the 1820s Joseph Cabell, Thomas Jefferson’s friend, sadly observed that slavery formed the very fabric of a southern life that emancipation would destroy. In 1826, former Governor Robert Hayne of South Carolina said of slavery, “To touch it at all is to violate our most sacred rights, to put in jeopardy our dearest interest, the peace of our country, the safety of our families, our altars, and our firesides”’ (p. 109; more examples follow on pgs. 110-3).
The South, then, even in trying to preserve a better way of living than that in other Western countries, fell into the chiliasm of the age by making the care of the earthly kingdom a higher concern than the salvation of their souls, than the building of the Kingdom of God that is in their hearts, as St Justin mentioned above. And the same may be said of capitalism in the ‘New South’ of today.
B. Southern Political Chiliasm
But just as the South fell into the economic chiliasm of the West, so also did she fall into its political chiliasm: the belief that unending happiness for man will result from the proper distribution of powers to the government and the people through a written constitution. The South’s preoccupation with constitutional questions is self-evident: Numerous books, essays, and speeches by Jefferson, Calhoun, Upshur, Davis, and more could be cited. A few excerpts from the speeches and writings during the Ratification debates will suffice to show the undue importance the South has placed on these charters.
Patrick Henry, speaking at the Virginia Ratifying Convention on 5 June 1788, said, ‘When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of
America was different: , Sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose Government was founded on liberty: Our glorious forefathers of Great-Britain, made liberty the foundation of every thing. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their Government is strong and energetic; but, Sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation: We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty: But now, Sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country to a powerful and mighty empire: . . . Such a Government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism: There will be no checks, no real balances, in this Government . . .’ (The Anti-Federalist, p. 305). Liberty
A (Maryland) Farmer, wrote, ‘From the first dawn of light, that broke in upon my reason, I became devoted to governments of simplicity and equal right—The names of heroes, whose blood has bedewed the altars of freedom, vibrate like a shock of electricity, on my frame; and when I read the story of Brutus and of Cassius, the most noble and the last of the Romans, tears of admiration gush from my eyes.—Under these impressions which only the grave can erase, I feel unspeakable horror at every step, which removes power and rights, at a greater distance from the body of the people, to whom they belong, and confines them to the hands of the few’ (‘Essay V’, 28 March 1788, pgs. 269-70).
And the Impartial Examiner, also of Virginia, wrote on 5 March 1788, pleading with God, ‘Let not the day be permitted to dawn, which shall discover to the world that America remains no longer a free nation!—O let not this sacred asylum of persecuted liberty cease to afford a resting place for that fair goddess!—Re-animate each spirit, that languishes in the glorious cause! Shine in upon us, and illumine all our counsels!—Suffer thy bright ministers of grace to come down and direct us;—and hovering for awhile on the wings of affection, breathe into our souls true sentiments of wisdom!—that in this awful, this important moment we may be conducted safely through the maze of error;—that a firm basis of national happiness may be established, and flourish in undiminished glory through all succeeding ages!’ (‘Essay I’, p. 291).
Even accounting for exaggeration, rhetorical style, and so forth, and acknowledging that some of their warnings ought to be heeded, such statements betray an idolatrous heart, an inordinate love of this-worldly political theories, systems, and institutions, rather than whole-hearted love for God. As above, the contrast with Orthodox countries is striking. St Nikolai Velimirovich (+1956) in The Serbian People as a Servant of God, spoke of the process of organizing the newly united Serbian nation several centuries ago; right faith and not precise constitutional balance was what mattered to them, and this for good and weighty reasons:
‘Saint Sava established and consolidated it [i.e., the government of
-- W.G.] in such a way that the Serbian archbishop would be the chief servant of Christ in the spiritual sphere, and the Serbian king would be the first servant of Christ in the civil sphere. And if the archbishop would be a servant of Christ, all the clergy would also be servants of Christ; and if the king would be a servant of Christ, then all the authorities, civil and military, would also be servants of Christ. Serbia
‘The whole spiritual hierarchy was supposed to serve Christ, and the whole military and civil hierarchy was supposed to serve Christ as well. Therefore, not only was the Church supposed to be enrolled in the service of Christ but the state as well; the state no less than the Church, and the king no less than the archbishop. Theodulia - service to God - was the path and the purpose of both the Church and the state together.
‘Sava made a crystal clear expression of this at the Zica Monastery on the occasion of his brother Stevan's coronation as king of
. In his sermons at that time he constantly emphasized in the presence of the king, the nobles, and the people, two indisputable realities: first that faith is the only blessed foundation for the life of an individual, for the life of a society, and for the organization of a state; and second, that the king, all the nobles, all the people as well as the clergy must serve the faith, or rather the Founder of the faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, so that we might all be called sons of God and enter into the heavenly kingdom. Serbia
‘(Naturally, the sermon only pertains to the Orthodox faith, the pure and correct faith, the faith of the Apostles and Fathers, without any admixture of heretical philosophizing or clerical politicizing.)
‘Why did the wise Sava not speak at that time about putting the individual home and the royal palace in order, about organizing the state, fitting out the military, and assigning tasks and duties? Why not this, instead of speaking only about faith again and again? Because faith is truth, and truth is light, and without light we can see neither our path nor our goal, nor can we discern a true brother from a false brother, nor can we know whence we have come or where we are heading, nor why we live or why we die, nor whom we are serving, nor how and in what way we shall perform our service.
‘Truth is the primary and principle foundation, everything else will come of itself. But truth, that is the Gospel of Christ, is faith in Christ. In accordance with the words of Christ Himself: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness. " From that time and forever onward the Serb has remained a lover of the truth and a lover of Christ, which is one and the same thing. What people in the world speaks the truth and loves the truth so openly and sincerely? From that time and forever onward the Serbian rulers have been called lovers of Christ, which is to say lovers of the truth - children and servants of the truth.
‘The greatest concern of Sava, the son of Nemanja, the ascetic and monk of the Holy Mountain of Athos, was to open the eyes of his people so that they would see the reality of the spiritual and immortal world, to which this carnal, temporal and mortal world must orient and conform itself.
‘That other world is the heavenly kingdom, to which he bound himself in his seventeenth year, and for which he strove for so many more years, so that he might come to know it with absolute certainty and experiential knowledge. Later, as the head of his church and a fervent lover of his people, he wished to convince and lead his whole people to that heavenly kingdom.
‘For this is the main and fundamental object, and everything else becomes insignificant and secondary to those who have come to know the heavenly kingdom and chosen it’ (chapters 22-5).
There is evidence also within the Southern constitutions themselves that the South is closer to a chiliastic society than to a firmly Christian one - a society in which the churches conform to the dominant political and economic systems of the day rather than the latter being reflections of true Christian doctrine (Fr Andrew Phillips, e-mail to the author). That evidence is this: the guarantee of the freedom of conscience, present in every Southern State constitution and in the Confederate constitution.
About this the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church wrote in 2000, ‘The principle of the freedom of conscience, which emerged as a legal notion in the 18th - 19th centuries, has become a fundamental principle of interpersonal relations only after World War I. It was confirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and included in the constitutions of most states. The emergence of this principle testifies that in the contemporary world, religion is being turned from a “social” into a “private” affair of a person. This process in itself indicates that the spiritual value system has disintegrated, and that most people in a society that affirms freedom of conscience no longer aspire for salvation. If initially the state emerged as an instrument of asserting divine law in society, freedom of conscience has ultimately turned the state into an exclusively temporal institution with no religious commitments.
‘The adoption of freedom of conscience as a legal principle points to the fact that society has lost its religious goals and values, and has become massively apostate and actually indifferent to the task of the Church and to the overcoming of sin’ (The Orthodox Church and Society, Chapter III, Section 6: ‘Church and State’).
Tyutchev added an important point a century and an half earlier: ‘We know quite well that this alleged neutrality in religious matters is not serious on the part of the Revolution [i.e., man’s overthrowing of God -- W.G.]. It is too well aware of the nature of its adversary not to know that neutrality in regard to it is impossible. “Who is not with me is against me.” In fact in order to offer neutrality to Christianity, one must no longer be a Christian. . . . The modern State only prohibits State religions because it has its own—and this religion is the Revolution’ (‘The Roman Question’, p. 195).
Despite the passage of years, there persists in the Southern mind a strong tendency to elevate something above Christianity in society, as when Professor M. E. Bradford declared in 1981 in a not unimportant book on Southern ways, ‘ . . . the social identity of Southerners is antecedent to and the basis of the other components of their selfhood as economic and political, academic and religious men and women’ (‘Not in Memoriam, but in Affirmation’, Conclusion of Why the South Will Survive, p. 213).
IV. The Way of the Cross
For disobedience to God, the South has once already suffered the great cataclysm of the War of Northern Aggression. If she would avoid another for her even more grievous worldliness since then, she must enter voluntarily upon the path of struggle and repentance. The South must embrace the healing, life-creating suffering of the Cross of Jesus Christ our God, the suffering she rejected at the time of the War and thereafter but that her people must accept if they would inherit eternal life. St Theophan the Recluse (+1894), offers her these life-saving words from his ‘Three Homilies on the Bearing of the Cross’:
‘Divinely wise men had their eyes opened to the great meaning of the Cross, valued it highly, and gloried that they were made worthy to bear it. Instead of oppression they saw breadth; instead of grief, sweetness; instead of humiliation, greatness; instead of dishonor, glory—and they gloried in it like someone else would glory in some splendid adornment or rank.
‘Oh, when will the Lord grant us, too, such sense and disposition as to understand and experience the power of the Cross and begin to glory in it?
‘The Lord accomplished our salvation by His death on the Cross; on the Cross He tore up the handwriting of our sins; through the Cross He reconciled us with our God and Father; and through the Cross He brought down upon us grace-filled gifts and all heavenly blessings. But this is the Lord’s Cross itself. Each of us becomes a partaker of its salvific power in no other way than through our personal cross. When the personal cross of each of us is united with Christ’s Cross, the power and effect of the latter is transferred to us and becomes, as it were, a conduit through which every good gift and every perfect gift (James 1:17) is poured forth upon us from the Cross of Christ. From this it is evident that the personal cross of each of us is as essential to the work of salvation as the Cross of Christ. And you will not find one saved person who was not a cross-bearer . . . .
‘ . . . not everyone looks at his cross through Christ’s Cross. Not everyone turns it into a mechanism for his salvation. Therefore, not everyone’s cross is a salvific cross. . . .
‘ . . .
‘ . . . Why did the Lord arrange that on earth no one would be without afflictions and burdens? So that man would not forget that he is an exile, and so that he would live on earth, not as someone in his own land, but as a stranger and a foreigner in a foreign land, and might seek his return to his true homeland. As soon as man sinned, he was cast out of paradise, and outside of paradise was surrounded by sorrows and deprivations, and every kind of discomfort, that he might remember that he is not in his own place but is under punishment, and that he might take care to seek pardon and a return to his own rank.
‘So, seeing afflictions, unhappiness, and tears, don’t be surprised—endure them and don’t be annoyed. . . . It does not befit someone who is a criminal and disobedient man to have total prosperity and happiness. . . .
‘ . . .
‘Above all, pay attention to your moral state and its corresponding eternal lot. If you’re sinful—and of course you’re sinful—rejoice that the fire of affliction has come and is burning up your sins. . . .
‘So, whether you’re bearing the common bitter lot or you’re experiencing personal sorrows and afflictions, endure with equanimity, receiving this with thanksgiving from the hand of the Lord as a remedy for sins, as a key that opens the door to the Heavenly Kingdom. Don’t complain, don’t envy anyone else, and don’t give yourself over to senseless grief. . . .
‘ . . . If you’ve forgotten that the bitterness of your earthly lot redeems you from the bitterest eternal fate, revive your recollection of this and to your equanimity add the desire for sorrows, so that for the small sorrows endured here, eternal mercy from the Lord will meet you. Is all this very difficult? Yet such thoughts and feeling are the threads by which our cross is connected to Christ’s Cross, from which flows salvific power for us. With out them the cross remains upon us and weighs us down, but has no salvific qualities, being separated from Christ’s Cross. Then we’re not saved cross-bearers, and cannot glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘ . . . I invite you, brethren, to walk in wisdom, redeeming the time of sorrow and afflictions with placid, grateful, repentant endurance. Then we’ll feel the salvific effect of these sorrowful crosses and will rejoice when we’re subject to them, seeing through them the light of glory, and we’ll learn to glory in them not only for the sake of the future, but also for the fruits we receive from them at the present time. Amen’ (Homily 1, The Orthodox Word, pgs. 188-93).
‘ . . .
‘ . . . throw out of your head the idea that you can, through a comfortable life, become what you must be in Christ. If true Christians do have pleasures, they’re absolutely incidental. The most distinguishing characteristics of their existence are sufferings and sicknesses—inward and outward, voluntary and involuntary. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and into that which is within it. The first step here is the immediate change of your will from bad to good, which consists in a heart of repentance. This is reflected in a deadly pain from the wound of contrition, from which blood flows like sweat during the whole course of the battle against the passions, and which only closes after the attainment of purity, which leads the Christian up onto the cross of crucifixion together with Christ in doing the will of God. Everything is sorrows, sicknesses, and burdens. One can say it this way: the state of consolation is evidence of a circuitous path, while the state of tribulation is evidence of the right path.
‘ . . . If you want to do good for yourself, get rid of pleasures and enter on the path of the cross of repentance, burn up in the fire of self-crucifixion, be tempered in tears of heartfelt contrition—and you’ll become gold, or silver, or a precious stone, and in due time you’ll be taken by the Heavenly Householder as an adornment for His most bright and most peaceful mansions. Amen’ (Homily 3, pgs. 200, 202).
V. A Resurrected South
Truly, the Southland must stop denying her cross, the pain and hardship that was visited upon her during the War, Reconstruction, and afterwards (and that was part of her old farming life generally) – the hardship that all must endure who reject friendship with the world. She must no longer run toward the ease and comfort and luxury offered her by the modern, technological, apostate age, but face joyfully and bravely the enmity, abuse, oppression, privation, slander, injustice, and more that will be heaped upon her for opposing the worldliness that is so engrained in
America, Western Europe, and their colonies. For in hardship, struggle, simplicity, self-crucifixion, humility, and other such virtues, lie her salvation, her inward rising from the ashes, the fulfilment of her agrarian past, her transfiguration into a truly beautiful, God-pleasing folk:
‘Theanthropic culture transforms man from within, moving from the inner to the outer. . . . The God-man first transfigures the soul and then the body. The transformed soul transforms the body, transfiguring matter.
‘The goal of theanthropic culture is to transfigure, not just man and mankind, but, through them, the whole of nature. How can this goal be achieved? Only by theanthropic means: through the evangelical virtues of faith and love, hope and prayer, fasting and humility, meekness and compassion, love for God and one’s fellow-man. Theanthropic, Orthodox culture is built by exercise in these virtues. By practicing them, a man makes his ugly soul beautiful, his dark soul light, his sinful soul holy and Christ-like. The body is transformed into a framework for its Christ-like soul.
‘Through the practice of the evangelical virtues, man gains control over himself and nature around him. Driving sin out of himself and the world around him, he drives out the savage and destructive forces, completely transfiguring himself and the world, taming nature in and around him. This is best exemplified by the saints. By sanctifying and transforming themselves through the practice of the evangelical virtues, they sanctify and transform nature around them. Many of the saints were served by wild beasts and, by their mere presence, tamed lions, bears, and wolves. Their relationship with nature was prayerful, gentle, meek, and compassionate, not rough, cruel, inimical, and savage’ (St Justin Popovich, ‘Humanistic and Theanthropic Culture’, pgs. 50-1).
VI. The Death of the West?
The Great Schism, first in Western Europe and now in her descendants throughout the world, exiled Christ to heaven, made His divine-human Body the Church a merely earthly corporation, and set Western man (including Southrons) to working the only task left open to him after his rejection of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is within a man: the task of creating a perfect, purely outward, worldly paradise.
There is still grace in the Catholic and Protestant churches, but let the honest man also admit that within them lie the seeds of the humanistic, nihilistic disease of relativism that is destroying Western society: that man - whether the Pope, a Protestant layman, or a non-Christian - not God, is the final arbiter in all spheres of life, even religion, that he creates his own life and reality, that he in himself is all-sufficient. If Western man does not repent and unite with the God-man through His divine-human Body, the Orthodox Church, he will die: ‘European humanity’s self-love is the grave from which it has no desire to rise, and therefore cannot. Love of its rational faculty is the fatal passion that ravages European humanity. “The only salvation from all this is Christ,” asserts Gogol. But the world, “distracted by millions of glittering objects that disperse its thoughts, has no strength to encounter Christ directly”’ (St Justin Popovich, pgs. 54-5).
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