October 22, 2014

Peace or Truth?

In “What is important and what is not,” Fr. Alexander Schmemann looked at controversies in the Church and how these may have led to “more true love” for the Body of Christ.

Reprinted here in full:

When controversies are ignited and flare up in the Church, which happens and has happened often, alas, we inevitably hear appeals from Church circles to cease these controversies in the name of peace and love. Now, this would be cause for great joy, if only in these appeals there were no unmistakably different overtones: “Your controversy is not important. It is of interest to no one: only ‘specialists’ and ‘scholars’ can understand it, so all this argument leads only to seduction and harm.”

And here we must point out to these accusers something very important which they have apparently forgotten. They have forgotten that peace and concord in the Church are inseparable from the Truth. An outsider who does not believe and is not part of the Church would smile and shrug his shoulders, “What is truth?” That is precisely Pilate’s question to the Savior who stood before him. And the Savior did not respond, because and “outsider” does not believe in the possibility of Truth. For him the truth is always relative and measured according to advantage, improvement or expedience. But for us who know and believe that the Church is founded on the Truth made flesh, that all her life is in Him who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” for us there is nothing in the Church which is unimportant, because everything is measured by this Truth and is subordinate to it.

Yes, there have been many controversies in the Church, and its earthly history is replete with them. They occurred not only in times of trouble, like ours, but also when Church life flowered, in the golden ages of the Ecumenical Councils and the Fathers of the Church. Only then no one would have dared to acknowledge anything in the Church as unimportant. So for this cause they debated and for this cause they were persecuted and exiled for one word, for one “iota” (an accurate assessment of the Aryan controversy at the time of St. Athanasius the Great), that above all on earth they placed the Truth and fidelity to the Truth. And in these controversies there was more true love for the Church and her people, whom the Lord Himself through His incarnation deemed worthy of the knowledge of the Truth — more ardor, more faith than in the lukewarm “latitude” and “tolerance” of our time, when so much in the Church has become the portion of the clergy alone and the “specialists.” We should not be seduced by controversies about how to plan our Church life in accordance with the Truth, because in these controversies there burns a living anguish for the Church and its destiny, but rather by the sea of indifference among the Church populace itself which surrounds these controversies and by the skepticism with which even religious people treat these “unimportant” matters.

Of course in our controversies there is so much human passionateness, sinfulness and narrowness. They should and must be enlightened by prayer, love and patience. No one person embodies the Truth in its fullness, but each one is required to aspire to it, to call upon his spiritual intellect, his will and his heart to come to “the knowledge of the Truth.” “Put everything to the test; hold fast what is good,” says Paul the Apostle. And if in humility we attempt always to obey the Truth, if we try unceasingly to overcome all which is sinful and narrow for the sake of the Truth, then our controversies born of human weakness may lead to the glory of the Church, “for the strength of Christ is made perfect in weakness.”

Priest Alexander Schmemann
The Word of the Church, Paris, December, 1949

Translated from Russian by Robert Parent and first published in English in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol.1. No. 6, February 1994

Comments

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    L. Coman says:

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann looked at what we call
    today secular ecumenical movment. The worst of it is yet to come.
    It is an utopian vision dreamed up by man. It has spiritual force because it uses parts of the truth. People are unaware of its danger, not vigilant and almost unnoticed it alters one’s spiritual consciousness.

    I have bad news: they will succeed! Apparently … God promised to be with His Church until the end of the world.

    We are told that: we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:10, 12)

    St Anatoly of Optima tells us what to expect:
    http://www.stvladimirs.ca/library/instructions-anatoly-optina.html

    The enemy of the human kind will act skillfully, if possible, leading the chosen ones to heresy. He will not begin by discarding the dogmas on the Holy Trinity, divinity of Jesus Christ, on Theotokos, but will unnoticeably start to distort the Teachings of the Holy Fathers from the Holy Spirit – the Church teaching itself. Cunning of the enemy and his “tipics” will notice a very small number of those most experienced in spiritual life. Heretics will take over the Church, everywhere will appoint their servants, and the spirituality will be neglected.


    But the Lord will not leave His servants without protection, and in ignorance.

    He said “by the fruits you will recognize them”. And strive to distinguish them from real pastors; those spiritual thieves who are snatching the spiritual flock, do not enter through the door into the sheepfold, but cross in the other place” as the Lord said it, that is, they will enter in illegal way, with force(violence) destroying God’s order. The Lord calls them the criminals.
    Truly, their real duty is persecution of true pastors, their imprisonment, for without that the spiritual flock may not become captured.

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    Andrew says:

    Fr. Schememann hits the nail on the head. One of the reasons the election of Metropolitan Jonah is so refreshing is that it breaks the mold of the bishop who uses words like harmony, unity etc against the body of Christ and for his own self interest and to wield power over people

    How many times have we heard bishops use words such as harmony and unit to exploit the faithful and pillage the Church?

    How many times have we heard bishops use words such as harmony and unity to target and punish good men and women who express their opinion in public or in writing?

    From San Francisco to 79th Street the examples are many.
    However, we should not give up hope (especially in the GOA) for as the OCA shows us the Holy Spirit can shatter the the bonds of secular power that have seduced so many Church leaders.

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