(An excerpt for the book “The Agony of the Church” written while been a profesor at ST SAVVA’S COLLEGE, BELGRADE, 1917)
If the official churches have had no other merit but that they have preserved Christ as the treasury of the world, yet they are justified thereby. Even if they have solely repeated through all the past centuries “Lord! Lord!” still they stand above the secular world. For they know at least who the Lord is, whereas the world does not know. Churches may disappear, but The Church never will. For not churches are the work of Christ, but the Church. Moreover, if the Church disappears, as an institution, the essence of the Church cannot disappear. It is like rivers, sea and water: when rivers disappear into the sea, the sea remains, and if the sea disappears into steam, water still remains. If Christ ever meant to form the Church as an institution He meant to form it not as the end but as the means, like a boat to bring its inmates safely over the stormy ocean of life into the quiet harbour of His Kingdom. Like the body in a bath, so the soul disrobes in the Church to wash. But as soon as we get out, we clothe our soul in order to conceal it from the curious eye. Is it not illogical that we dare to show our imperfections to the Most Perfect, while we are ashamed to show them to those who are just as imperfect, ugly and unclean as ourselves? The Church, like a bath, reveals most uncleanness.
The initial and most obvious idea of the Church is collectiveness of sin and salvation. To pray alone and for one’s self is like eating alone without regard to other people’s hunger.
When the sun sees a man of science, wealth or politics, kneeling at prayer with the poor and humble, it goes smiling to its rest. Full of beauty and wonders are all the Christian churches, but not because of their pretended perfections: they are beautiful and wonderful because of Him whose shadow they are. You are a Christian? Then do not be afraid to enter any Christian church with prayerful respect. All the Churches have sworn allegiance to the same Sovereign. How can you respect a cottage, in which once abided His Majesty King Alfred, or Charles, while you would not go into a building dedicated to His Majesty the Invisible King of kings?
The real value of any Christian community is not to be found in its own prosperity but in its care for the prosperity of other Christian communities. So, for example, the value of the Protestants is to be found in their loving care for the Roman Catholics, and vice versa.
Taking the above standard, we find that all the Christian communities are almost quite valueless as to the spirit, i.e. as to their unusual loving care. Their actual value is more physical than spiritual, being as they are limited to the care for themselves. Exceptions are as refreshing as an oasis in the desert. Church and State are like fire and water. How to connect them? For if connected, fire always dies down under water.
There are three ages in the history of the Church: the Golden Age, when the Church was opposed to political governments; the Iron Age, when she was politically directing Europe’s kingdoms; and the Stone Age, when she has been subdued to the service of political governments. What a humiliation for the present generation to live in the Stone Age of Christianity!
Trying to unite Church and State we are trying to unite what God separated from the beginning of our era. To separate the Church from the State does not mean, as many think, to separate soul from body; it means to separate two quite opposed spirits unakin and hostile to each other, like Cross and Capitol. The worm of comfort and human inertia has reconciled Christianity with secular, pagan governments, and so paralysed the most divine movement in human history. Go to the bottom of all those clever advocacies for unity of Church and State, and you will meet, as their primus motor, the worm of comfort and human inertia.
All Churches and Christian institutions of the present time, however wonderful they may be, are only a dim prophecy of the coming Christian worship in truth and spirit. Through them we look now to the future as through a glass. Christianity is neither monarchical nor republican. It does not care about institutions but about the spirit living in them. That institution is the best which is fullest of the Christian spirit. From this point of view, an autocracy may be better than a republic, and vice versa.
The true Christianity has been hidden from us as iron and coal were hidden from the men of the Stone Age. They walked over iron and coal but they used stone and wood only. So we are walking over and around Christ, still using in our daily life the pagan gods of old.
If there is to be a new geological epoch, with a new type of man, it will be the Christian epoch. All the existing types have been made by revolutions and influences of earth and water, or of air and fire. Now only the Christian revolution–I mean literally and not allegorically–can produce a higher type of the human animal. My friend, you are dissatisfied with the existing Churches, and you are anxious to form a new church, or sect, or some kind of religious organisation! How childish of you! The existing Churches are the most wonderful vessels–some in gold, others in silver or pottery–made by thousands of years and generations. I know your dissatisfaction comes because of the emptiness of those vessels and not because of their ugliness. Well then, pour the divine wine into them and they will please you just as the vessels in Cana of Galilee pleased the thirsty people around the table. No one of those people, being thirsty, ever thought of making new vessels for the wine, but to get wine as soon as possible into the vessels. To pour wine into existing vessels, that is really the needed miracle, my dear grumbler!
People say: Read the Bible! Almost would I say: Do not touch it for five years–read other literature during this period–and then read it again, and you will see its real greatness, power and sweetness.
The Christ’s wounds have wrought more blessings in the world than the health of all the Roman Caears.
The Eucharist does not mean a memory only but also a prophecy. The prophecy of it is, that the whole earth will become Christ’s body, Christ’s flesh and blood, so that whatever we eat or drink we eat and drink Him.
He ought to be our daily food. Regarding all our food through Christ it will not seem to be a prey from nature but rather nature’s sacrifice for us, reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice, and through it of our own calling to sacrifice.
You have to choose either to be proud or poor in spirit. The first will mean a noisy destruction, the second a quiet construction.
There exists no sublime and no mean thing in the whole world of which I could not find a representation in myself, and none in which I were wholly unrepresented.
The beauty, glory and greatness of a field of golden wheat consists of an association of innumerable blades of wheat, with their insignificant beauty, glory and greatness. If you have seen that, then do not repeat to me the old story of the beauty, glory and greatness of the human blade called Pythagoras, Caear or Napoleon.
The wealthiest and most powerful people, that we are wont to admire and imitate, were most pitied by Christ. To-day, as always, the most difficult Christian mission is that among the rich.
Our real value we never reveal through the using of our rights but through our capacity for service and sacrifice.
Easier is it for a man to get his own rights than to lose his pride.
Sacrifice without murmuring makes of our stormy life a calm holy day. We fill all our days with the talk of the people who are loth to sacrifice and of those who dare to sacrifice. Disgust and admiration are two baths in which our hearts bathe from sunrise to sunset. By nothing is the disgust towards a man more excited than by hearing: “He is incapable of sacrifice.”
When this sentence is directed to ourselves, we feel as if we had lost the whole battle of life.
The value of metaphysical systems is more for the scientific than for the moral progress of mankind. Upon Hegel you could build a new science, but upon St Paul only could you build a new social life and a new world politics. Did you ever think that St Paul is the greatest prophet of a new and desirable statesmanship?
All the Empires founded upon rights have perished and must perish. The future belongs to the Empire of St Paul, an Empire founded upon loving service.
It is better in humbleness to belong to the worst of the Churches than proudly to separate one’s self from the best of the Churches.
Aristocratic origin is as inscrutable as the darkness of the past night.
A mighty aristocrat of to-day may be of the meanest soul-stuff, and the beggar at his door of the noblest. But respect both of them equally, knowing that both of them are of the same royal origin. The Most High names both of them His children. For the same reason respect asses and sheep and trees and stones.
The real crucifiers of Christ in our time are those who think Christ’s Gospel could not be taken as a base for world politics. Were not His last words to the disciples: go to all nations? The last and supreme expression of Christianity will be in the relations of nation to nation, as its starting expression has been the relations of man to man.
Inter-individualism has been the elementary school of Christianity.
Inter-nationalism ought to be its university. Christian ethics, i.e. cheerful service and sacrifice, is the noblest consequence of real belief in God. Never a shorter line can bind our planet with the centre of the Universe than the line going through Christ. It is the shortest way, as a straight line is the shortest distance between two geometrical points.
Slavery means obligatory service; freedom ought to mean willing service.
Only a man or a nation educated for willing service to their neighbours is a really free man or free nation. All other theories of freedom are illusions. Freedom asking for rights and not for willing service means an endless quarrel crowning with unhappiness all its champions. Neither Pericles’ republic nor Octavian’s monarchy were the States of happiness, but St Paul‘s pan-human state, with a single Magna Charta of willing service, will be a State of Universal Happiness.
Every man is a battlefield of many unclean spirits, very bold in the absence of Christ and very shy in His Presence. O how many of these spirits that find an easy habitation in us would make even the swine to rage and run down the steep place–into the sea!
The conception that the mentality of Machiavelli and Metternich, Bismarck and Beaconsfield could be taken as a basis of politics, whereas Christ’s mentality could not, is the conception even of many theologians. Yet Christ survives all these politicians as an undying power, just because He is the fittest of all of them.
What an obscure philosophy it is which teaches that Moses and Mohamed had some thing to do with politics and Christ has not!
Carlyle and Emerson were over-anxious to recommend every great man as a leader of mankind more than Christ. It is the same as to say: men! Take candles and lamps to light your way in darkness, but be aware of the sun. How quite different are Dostoievsky and Tolstoi!
I looked at men in prayer and I thought: Behold, the fallen angels! I looked again at them in hateful quarrel and I thought: Behold, the risen demons!
Animals are cruel but not vulgar. Yet both in cruelty and vulgarity man is on record. If forced to chose one of two evils, we should prefer to look at cruelty rather than vulgarity.
All our to-days are spoiled by reminiscences about yesterday and sorrows about tomorrow. Thus we are disindividualising and emptying all our “to-days” and degrading them to a misty meeting-place of yesterday and tomorrow.
From the physical point of view the greatest thing in this life is its mystery. From the moral point of view the greatest thing in man is the optimistic interpretation of that mystery. There is no reasonable optimism outside of Christianity.
No man could be a tyrant unless he were a slave of some moral defects.
No nation could tyrannise over another nation unless it were tyrannised over itself by some illusions.
Nobody in the world is free but he who feels himself to be a prisoner of Christ. The greatest champion of freedom in human history called himself: “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”