"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Friday 30 January 2015

“Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all” (G.K. Chesterton, The Common Man).

In the year 1815, the major powers of the world were shaken. Napoleon was finally defeated in the battle of Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna began restoring Europe following bitter years of conflict. During this tumultuous time the Saint of the young and the poor, John Melchior Bosco, was born in a tiny cluster of farm houses called Becchi. His hometown, if such a small arrangement could be given this title, lied approximately 20 miles from the northern city of Turin. During the early to mid-19th century this section of Italy was under Austrian rule and was collectively known as Piedmont. His original language was not Italian but the dialect, Piedmontese.

John Bosco’s beginnings were humble to say the least. He was the third son of Francis and Margaret Bosco who diligently worked as tenant farmers. Deep faith and close family ties went hand-in-hand for the simple people of the area. Sadly, tragedy struck early in John’s life. His father, after completing a difficult day on the farm in the Spring of 1817, entered the wine cellar bathed in perspiration and came down almost immediately with a virulent form of pneumonia. Two days later his untimely death formed the first memory of John’s early existence. “Today, John, you have no more father” were the tearful words of his mother as they both knelt down next to the lifeless body of his father.

Despite this enormous loss, John’s mother set out to ensure the survival of her family. Mama Margaret had to care not only for her three boys, but her invalid mother-in-law as well. This simple woman of faith pressed ahead with undaunting courage. Her greatest concern was not mere food and shelter, but with infusing the lessons of Christian faith to her three children. They learned true love was self-sacrificial. Don Bosco spoke readily of his mother’s example throughout his life. “She taught me”, he would say, “the place of family prayer, prompt obedience, the power of a smile, compassion toward the elderly and a loving, tender devotion to our Blessed Mother.” Even after becoming a priest, Mama Margaret was known to remind John to kneel down to say his nightly prayers after returning late from an evening of visits to the sick. Her satisfaction would only come when she saw John on his knees fulfilling his prayerful duties!

Like every Saint who has ever walked this earth, Don Bosco was not born a ready-made specimen of sanctity. It’s true that his personality was replete with gifts such as a sharp intellect, photographic memory, leadership abilities, a keen sense of humor, and various other positive qualities. However, it’s also equally true that he was known to suffer from a fiery temper, stubborn will, a tendency toward pride and even a bit of manipulation to ensure obtaining his own way. John worked incessantly throughout his life to overcome, or at least mitigate, his personal limitations and weaknesses.

Don Bosco’s zeal was always for the young and the poor. From the time he was 7 years old he showed an ability to gather children, entertain them and repeat ideas he heard from the week’s Sunday sermon. His skills for performing were substantial and they were surpassed only by his desire to share the truths of the Christian Faith.

The motto he gave to the Salesian Congregation he founded in 1859 was “Da Mihi Animas Caetere Tolle” which means “Give me souls, take away the rest.” His greatest concern was to ensure the human and spiritual development of those found under his care. He spared no expense, personal or otherwise, when it meant the salvation of souls. Far from any false dichotomy between soul and body, which was prevalent during his time, Don Bosco readily ensured that every young person brought to his oratory received adequate food, shelter, clothing, education as well as the ability to grow in Christian virtue within an environment specially created for such an endeavor. His behavior echoed St. John Paul II’s personalistic norm. Every individual is worthy of love and never to be used toward an end.


This special Saint knew that young people form the most valuable and vulnerable portion of society. The unique place of purity was always on display in his example, words and teachings. Don Bosco would have been a theology of the body devotee had he lived during our time. He regularly railed against the excesses of either rigorism as found in the tenants of 19th century Jansenism or excessive permissiveness which many of the young people on the street found through prostitution, drug use and other dangerous practices. He knew young people need healthy activities, life-giving relationships, a deep sense of faith, devotion to our Blessed Mother and worthy models of self-sacrificial love to help learn the value of Christian purity and chastity. The body was considered the sacred temple of God and it revealed the interior worth and dignity of the human person. St. Don Bosco was truly a guardian of bodies and souls.

            Don Bosco’s approach could be categorized as a theological one. Every individual was created for a specific reason. And the purpose of that existence is to learn to love God in the vocation one has received. His entire system is imbued with the positive humanism of St. Francis de Sales. He readily recognized the favorable characteristics of his culture and challenged those, which misled souls away from God. The ordained and laity would be wise to draw on the humble, diligent witness of so many saints including the one given by this zealous pastor of souls. 

Father Matthew DeGance, SDB has been a Salesian of Don Bosco since entering the novitiate in 2000. After studying philosophy at Immaculate Conception Seminary and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Education from Seton Hall University, he was sent to study theology at Sts. Peter and Paul Studium Theologicum Salesianum in Jerusalem. Following ordination in 2011, he has been working as a high-school teacher in the areas of theology, philosophy and science. Currently, he is located at Salesian High-School in New Rochelle, NY and finds himself in-charge of campus ministry. He has attended the TOB Institute’s TOB I: Head and Heart Immersion course and is hopeful to attend more courses in the future.

Today is the feast of St John Bosco.  Although I left my Salesian school at the age of fourteen and later became a Benedictine monk, St John Bosco has continued to help shape my spirituality and, sometimes, has even determined my choices, and he has never let me down - Fr David


Thursday 29 January 2015


The third and last of these eucharists is the most ample.   Like the first (EP2), it has its own preface, or rather the complete schema of the Christian eucharist in its most clear and most synthetic form.   It makes explicit everything that it implies, but always in the manner of the liturgy of St Basil, by keeping to as moderate and scriptural a language as possible.   It ought to open to all the faithful of today the way to deepening their awareness of all the traditional riches of the Christian eucharist, placed within their grasp in a language which they can perfectly understand. (Louis Bouyer)

(Enrico Mazza)
Opening dialogue
Celebration of the praise of God
Introduction to the Sanctus
Anamnesis of salvation
First epiclesis
Account of institution
Anamnesis in the narrow sense
Second epiclesis

M. Arranz justifiably likens the structure of this prayer to the Syro-Antiochene anaphoras, except, of course, for the first epiclesis which comes from the Alexandrian liturgy.   After the opening dialogue, the prayer praises God for his greatness, that is, for being himself.   Next comes the Sanctus and after it a lengthy thanksgiving for the history of salvation, beginning with the creation.   The first epiclesis asks that  the Spirit would transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord.  This petition leads into the account of institution.   The account is followed by the anamnesis in the narrow sense, which leads, via the prayer of offering into the second epiclesis.   After the intercessions, the trinitarian doxology closes this anaphora as it does all others of the Roman rite.


It is truly right to give you thanks, truly just to give you glory, Father, most holy, for you are the one God living and true, existing before all ages and abiding for all eternity, dwelling in unapproachable light; yet you, who alone are good, the source of life, have made all that is, so that you might fill your creatures with blessings and bring joy to many of them by the glory of your light. And so, in your presence are countless hosts of Angels, who serve you day and night and, gazing upon the glory of your face, glorify you without ceasing. With them we, too, confess your name in exultation, giving voice to every creature under heaven as we acclaim: Sanctus...
(Fr Louis Bouyer)
Note in this text the glorification of God in his transcendent eternity and in the economy of salvation in which the unfathomable goodness of the thrice-holy God is reflected.   Note also the two themes, traditional since Judaism, of light and life: the inaccessible light of the divine glory which belongs only to God, but which is also but one with the life he willed to give the world.   Its most perfect realisation is in his conscious creatures for whom life will be to see God in his own life and to reflect his glory in their praise of his goodness.
(part 2: Louis Bouyer)
The second of the act of thanksgiving after the Sanctus then evokes the history of salvation which despite the original fall, in which the creation of man and his universe seem to have been engulfed, has made a reality, in the redemptive mystery of the incarnate Son, of the primordial design in a manner which surpasses all expectation.
We give you praise, Father most holy, for you are great, and you have fashioned all your works in wisdom and in love. You formed man in your own image and entrusted the whole world to his care, so that in serving you alone, the Creator, he might have dominion over all creatures.
And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.
And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.
To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life. And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.

(Enrico Mazza)

A. Humankind and Created Nature
"Thanks" and "glorify" are the key words that introduced the celebration of God.   "Praise" is the verb that controls the narrative of saving events which runs from the Sanctus to the account of the "institution".  The object of praise is the greatness of God which manifests itself in doing everything in goodness and love.   The perfection is described concretely by speaking of human beings, who are defined as God's images.   Because they are his images, dominion over the universe is entrusted to them, and they become his representatives in the world.   But human beings are not automonous in their activity as caretakers of the universe; this activity is a service of God the creator and a form of worship of him.   Consequently, when human beings rule creation, they render to God their own special obedience and service...

B. The Human Being, Image of God

The Anaphora of Basil and the original text of the Anaphora of St James...do not have this theme.   Nonetheless, the idea of the image is certainly is certainly part of the oldest content of James, since redemption is described as the restoration of the image.   Conversely, the fourth anaphora does not describe redemption as the restoration of the image, but the perspective is, nonetheless, the same as in James.   In fact, the concept of restoration flows necessarily from the theology of creation we have been describing.   All this means that there is a surprising theological agreement between Anaphora IV and the Anaphora of James.

If human beings are the images of God, their relation to God is neither merely external nor an afterthought, but is part of their inmost nature and an ontological constituent of their being.

That is why the Eastern tradition can speak of the human person as a participation in the divine nature. Human beings are in their totality shaped and formed in the image of God, and the primordial expression of this likeness is the dignity of the free and responsible human person in whose depths is inscribed the call to communion with God: human beings were created to become "gods".

In defining sin, the Fathers of the Church vacillated between calling it a "loss of the image" and a "loss only of the likeness, with the image remaining intact.   Whatever the description adopted, they were sure that human beings had not in fact completely lost their original relation to God: the image in them is simply dimmed and tarnished.   This means that they can no longer share the divine life by their own powers; but the image of God is still impressed upon them as a demand for a communion with God that has now become impossible, as a summons and restlessness that can never be satisfied.

The fourth Anaphora adopts this anthropology, but leaves it simply implicit or, more accurately, takes it for granted.   It would have been better if the composers had brought it fully into the open and had defined the redemptive work of Christ as a "restoration of the image."   Then the conclusion, that in restoring human beings to God Christ restores them to themselves, would have been very clear and pastorally fruitful.

F.  Doctrine on the Trinity and the prayer

To understand the theology of the fourth anaphora, we must bear in mind that the underlying trinitarian doctrine is of the Eastern type, which can be summed up in the scheme: "to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit."  ...This dynamic interpretation of the divine unity that is taken in the fourth anaphora and in liturgical texts generally is that the prayer in it and the prayer based on it will always involve a relationship at once with the Father and with the Son and with the Spirit.


Therefore, O Lord, we pray: may this same Holy Spirit graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant.For when the hour had come for him to be glorified by you, Father most holy, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end: and while they were at supper, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
In a similar way, taking the chalice filled with the fruit of the vine, he gave thanks, and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT: FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT; WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.Therefore, O Lord, as we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption, we remember Christ’s death and his descent to the realm of the dead; we proclaim his Resurrection and his Ascension to your right hand; and as we await his coming in glory, we offer you his Body and Blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world.
Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church, and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.
In the epiclesis (=invocation) God is formally asked to send the Spirit that he may transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord - a theme lacking in the Roman canon.  The epiclesis should not be called "invocation of the Spirit" since the prayer is addressed not to the Spirit but to the Father, and it is the Father who sanctifies through the Spirit.
In the anaphoras of the Missal the Eastern epiclesis has been divided into two parts: one (before the account of the institution) asks for the consecration of the bread and wine, and the other (after the anamnesis) asks for the sanctification of the faithful who receive communion.   The solution was adopted for theological and pastoral reasons and represents a return, justifiable or not, to the Alexandrian anaphoral structure.   The latter probably provides the sole conscious liturgical basis for the theological decision made.   Further support is found in some epicletic Post-Sanctus prayers in the non-Roman Latin liturgies, which contain texts that are theologically closer to the position in the Roman Missal.

Independently of the historical basis for the decision, we must recognise the value of the choice made, namely the positive ecumenical significance  it has and the pastoral success it has met with.   It will be the task of catechists to bring out the fact that the sanctification brought about by the words of the Lord is effected by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Just as the Holy Spirit brought about the Incarnation of the Word, so he continues to act in our celebration.  The theme is a traditional one, expecially in the Fathers.


Chavasse's conclusion springs from the homily on the treason of Judas which John Chrysostom delivered on Holy Thursday: "As the words ' Increase and multiply and fill the earth' were said only once but gave our nature its abiding power to reproduce, so the words 'This is my body' and so on, were spoken only once, yet they bring about the perfect sacrifice on every altar-table in the Churches from that moment on until our Saviour's return."

This passage makes it clear that there has been only one consecration in history: that accomplished by Jesus at the Last Supper.   Congar comments: "There was (and there is), in fact, only one Eucharist - the one celebrated by Jesus himself in the night he was betrayed.   Our Eucharists are only Eucharists by the virtue and the making present of that Eucharist. (Enrico Mazza pg 264)

This part of the anaphora reflects our concerns that our celebration should correspond accurately to what the Lord established in the upper room at the Last Supper; and, at the same time, it expresses our certainty that this correspondence and conformity exists.   To use a favourite term in patristic theology, the desire and intention in the account of institution is to bring out the veritas (truth) of the sacrament.

The account of institution is a narrative text and is proclaimed as such; but, it also has a precise theological function and role in the anaphora.

The composition of the new eucharistic prayers brought changes in the text of the account of the institution; these changes were extended even to the Roman Canon.  The phrase "quod pro nobis tradetur" (which was given up for you) was added to the words over the bread.   The enigmatic phrase "mysterium fidei" was removed from the words over the chalice and became the cue for an acclamation of the faithful.  This latter shift created a situation comparable to what we find in the Eastern liturgies which allow ample room for acclamations by the congregations.   The reference to the "holy and venerable hands" of Christ were dropped in the new anaphoras.

Keep in mind that the whole emphasis in the account falls on the two commands "Take and eat," "Take and drink."  The account ends with the mandate of Christ: "Do this in memory of me."   This prescribes two objectives for the disciples: they are to repeat the supper in which they have shared, and they are to be very clear in their minds that what is remembered is no longer the Hebrew Passover but Jesus himself as centre and principal actor of the supper, just as he is the centre and protagonist in all of their lives with him. He is their host at the head of the table, who welcomes and serves his companions, thus symbolising his work for the salvation of the world.   The disciples are to repeat the supper which Jesus has celebrated with them: a supper which is the conclusion and summary of the life of Jesus that has been given for them.

From both the theological and the pastoral standpoints, the anamnesis is the key part of the celebration and must always be seen in connection with the mandate.   When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we live out its mystery of redemption.   The mystery of redemption is not repeated; what is repeated is the supper, and, in repeating it, we celebrate the memorial of our redemption.
"Both ideas [anamnesis and oblation] contain an objective element as well as a subjective one.   But memorial as well as oblation must be realised in ourselves as our own remembrane and our offering.   Then, and only then, can a 'worship in spirit and truth'in the fullest sense arise to God from our hands." J.A. Jungmann
The liturgy, by its nature, calls for and demands active participation.


 The object commemorated in the anamnesis is the paschal mystery, which is described by the listing the various events which historically constituted it.   But this analytic list is introduced by a synthetic definition of the mystery: "as  we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption."   This summary brings out the unity in the events making up redemption and also makes it clear that the anamnesis is a profession of faith.

A comparative analysis of the anamneses in the various anaphoras reveals a scheme that unfolds in three steps: (1) a transitional element linking the anamnesis with the mandate [Do this in memory of me], (2) a list of the mysteries of Christ, and (3) an offering of the sacred gifts to the Father.   The first two steps are always directed to the offering which flows from them: the commemoration moves towards the offering and the offering proceeds from the commemoration.   There is an ontological connection between the two: admiration, expressed in the anamnesis, is necessarily followed by imitation, expressed in our offering of ourselves just as Christ offered himself.
The offering makes it clear that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, but a sacrifice only as much as it is a memorial of the one sacrifice that was accomplished once and for all on the cross.

The bread and wine,  now the sacrament of the body and blood, are offered to the Father...The fourth anaphora says, "We offer you his Body and Blood, the sacrifice acceptable to you which brings salvation to the whole world."


The object of the word "offer" is both "body and blood" and "sacrifice," but the prayer is not satisfied simply to juxtapose these two objects.   "Sacrifice" stands in apposition to "body and blood" and has the function of interpreting  the latter and explaining just what the characterof the "body and blood" of Christ is here..   There is, thus, a complete identity between the sacrifice of Christ and his body and blood that has been given to us.   "Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ" and "sacrament of the sacrifice of Christ" are one and the same.

We do not understand, therefore, the concern of those who claim that to emphasise the one to draw attention away from the other.   When we emphasise the real presence, we do not neglect the sacrifice or vice versa.  And if we emphasise the memorial, we do not neglect real presence, or vice versa.

Always bear in mind that the liturgy locates "offering" within the process of remembering, where it serves to express the remembering and present it to God. 


The beginning of the epiclesis serves as a link with the preceding prayer of offering.  [It develops further the theme of "the gifts you have given us" - which you won't find in the current English translation which talks about "the oblation of your Church," thus missing the allusion to the ram that Abraham called "the sacrifice that the Lord has provided": through consecration, Christ's body and blood are the sacrifice that God has provided for us to offer.]

No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (Jn 6, 44).  Therefore we ask the Father that our encounter with Christ may be salutary and redemptive for us through the action of the Spirit.   If, however, we want a fuller understanding of our epiclesis as an appeal to the Father to send the Spirit, we must begin with the anamnesis, since it is the latter with its commemoration of the ascension that leads us into, and even generates, the epiclesis.

The Letter to the Hebrews shows us that when the redemption wrought by Christ is expressed in Old Testament cultic terms, it has two stages: (1) the bloody self-offering on the altar of the cross; and (2) the entrance into the heavenly sanctuary by means of the resurrection and ascension.  Death, resurrection and ascension, thus constitute a single sacrificial act that has two phases, an earthly and a heavenly.   In his ascension, the Lord "has...entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf."   There, "he always lives to make intercession for them," and his sacrificial blood is "the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel" in interceding with God.

As A. Tarby says, the mention of the ascension in the anamnesis affirms the uniqueness and eternal irrevocableness of the sacrifice offered.   To put it differently, the mention of the ascension reminds us that Christ carries on his work of salvation in an endless intercession based on the cross.   If we ask what the concrete content is of this prayer of Jesus that eternalizes his sacrifice we must turn back to Jn 14, 16-17), "I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth."   The sacrifice of Christ, as an endless prayer offered at the right hand of the Father, is completed when the Father gives the Spirit.  Thus the ascension leads to Pentecost as its fulfilment.   "The ascension is the epiclesis par excellence" because the Son prays to the Father and the result is Pentecost.

The epiclesis of Anaphora IV does not ask explicitly for the descent of the Holy Spirit; rather, it supposes that this has already occurred, and thus reiforces the connection between anamnesis and epiclesis.  This approach to the epiclesis strongly emphasises the identity  between the fruit of the Spirit's action and the fruit of the body and blood of the Lord as made sacramentally visible in the one bread and the one cup.

The fruit in question is the unity of the Church which is to become one body in Christ.   Everyone recalls Augustine's theology of unity, which is summed up in the well-known exclamation:

"O sacrament of piety, O sign of unity, O bond of charity!"


Therefore, Lord, remember now all for whom we make this sacrifice: especially your servant, N. our Pope, N. our Bishop, and the whole Order of Bishops, all the clergy, those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before you, your entire people, and all who seek you with a sincere heart.
Remember also those who have died in the peace of your Christ and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known. To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St Joseph, her spouse, and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom. There, with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.
The intercessions in Anaphora IV begin with "Therefore" and "now", as attention turns from the sacrifice itself to the sacrifice as it relates to its celebrants, participants and beneficieries.  Among the latter, it specifies the pope and the local bishop, the whole Order of bishops, all the clergy, those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before you [the eucharistic assembly], your entire people, and all who seek you with a sincere heart. 

The mention of "all who seek you with a sincere heart" is a truly inspired addition which echoes an earlier sentence spoken shortly after the Sanctus: "In your mercy you came to the aid of all of them, so that they may seek and find you."   This phrase of the intercessions makes movingly present in our Eucharist all those who have not yet discovered the greatness of the Lord but are journeying towards him, even if without their knowledge.

The last part, just before the doxology, is a prayer for "us," all who celebrate the praises of God and his Christ.   The prayer is that we may share in the ultimate realities, those heavenly realities which we have nostalgically contemplated during the celebration.   This final section develops themes introduced in the Sanctus.   We ask for a "heavenly inheritance," with the saints; and not only with the the saints, for it is the whole of creation, all living things, and all human beings that will become and be a new heaven and a new earth after being freed from the corruption of sin and death.


The final section sums up the anaphora; at the same time, it harks back to the opening thanksgiving and praises God in advance for what has been requested in the anaphora and which, as we know, he has already granted.

The doxology, be it noted, is accompanied by the great elevation of the species.   This elevation makes it emphatically clear that we have reached the high point and completion of the entire prayer, which is expressed in trinitarian form.   In the trinitarian doxology, the anaphora becomes a triumphal proclamation of the divine Name which, when invoked and proclaimed over us, becomes supreme blessing and perfect sanctification (Nm 6: 24-27)

I was forced to make use of Enrico Mazza's "Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite" in this article because I found, to my consternation, that my copy of Louis Bouyer's "Eucharist" has two pages missing, and it is difficult to find another copy in Peru.   

I am sorry that I gave you the article on the "Roman Canon" before this one - my memory was playing me tricks.  However, here is another, written only a few days ago, especially for you, on Eucharistic Prayer IV: and I shall try to give you a new edition on the Roman Canon which should be better than it is, next week.

by Father Louis Bouyer

If in conclusion we juxtapose and compare these three prayers, we will be struck by the consistency with which they give to the Holy Spirit, both in regard to the consecration and the communion, the same broad place that the Eastern liturgies progressively gave him.   This is a new ecumenical factor in the proposing of these texts to the Latin Church, after their so biblical and patristical expressions of sacrifice.   Undoubtedly this will contribute toward a rapprochement with the East as well as toward the reunion  of the Christian West.  It must be added more specifically that these texts bear witness to the fact that if the consecration of th eucharist finds its source in the words of the Saviour, as is attested in the East  by St Cyril of Jerusalem or St John Chrysostom, it becomes effective in each celebration within the prayer of the Church in which she uses these words herself  in order to invoke their accomplishment from the Father through the sole power of his Spirit.   Thus we may hope  that they will contribute towards a reconciliation of those viewpoints (more complementary than opposed) which have for too long divided the theologies of East and West.

The most radical, and at first sight most unusual novelty of the new texts is that they follow up to a certain point the remodelling of the most ancient eucharistic schemes worked out by the West Syrian liturgy, while retaining the ancient and more primitive distinction between the two epicleses as in both the Egyptian and Roman traditions.   This is a point which may possibly be not merely of pedagogical interest, in order to permit Christians familiar with this latter tradition to come to know the complememtary riches of the Eastern tradition.

Editor's note - I apologise for having left out the commentary on Anaphora IV before publishing that on the Roman Canon: I thought I had published it.  However, I am not satisfied with the post on the Roman Canon and shall publish an amplified edition of it next week.  I used Enrico Mazza's work "The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite" because some pages were missing from Bouyer's book "Eucharist"; but, I think, the result is a happy one.

Sunday 25 January 2015


The Roman Canon as one of the most venerable witnesses of the oldest tradition of the eucharistic prayer, at least contemporary in its totality with the most archaic forms of the Alexandrian eucharist.   There is every reason to think that the succession of these prayers and their content with many key expressions go straight back to the assuredly very ancient time at which the Eucharist at Rome as everywhere else was definitively connected with the service of readings and prayers.   This is to say that Hyppolytus, far from being its originator - a man who still wished to ignore this connection, must have propagated his own rite in Rome, if he ever did so, only in a vain attempt to dislodge a rite which must have been very like the one that has come down to us and which we still use, with the exception that the language was still Greek and not Latin.

This is how Louis Bouyer ends his chapter on the Roman canon. To read the full argument you will have to read the book, "Eucharist", by Louis Bouyer, published by the University of Notre Dame.  Because he says much about the Roman canon, you will have to largely rely on my commentary, with enough quotations to demonstate the my source is the great man himself rather than my own imagination. However,  quotations from the Mass text are taken from the modern English text rather than from the book, so that readers can relate what is said to their own experience.   As in the other articles of this series, quotations are in yellow, and my commentary is in white.

V. The Lord be with you.R.  And with your spirit.
V.  Lift up your hearts.R.  We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord           our God.R. It is right and just.

This form of the introductory dialogue, whose first two verses and their responses are so purely Semitic, and which are found in this precise way only in Hippolytus and the Egyptian liturgy (the latter has the word "all" instead of "you"), must be considered the most primitive form that has come down to us.   Yet, it is quite meaningful that the third verse gives us the form "to the Lord our God" and not solely "to the Lord" as in Hippolytus.   We have recalled that the latter formula seem to be a survival of the primitive Eucharist which, according to the happy formula of Dom Gregory Dix, was still a private meal of the Christians through which they were completing the public Synagogue service which they still attended with the Jews.   In accordance with the Jewish use, it was suited to a meal of a small group which was less than the number required for a Synagogue congregation (the rabbis say ten).   On the other hand, the Roman formula is the one prescribed since Jewish days for an assembly equivalent to that of a synagogue.   That it was preferred is perhaps the indication that the joining of the sacred meal to the service of readings and prayers came about rather early at Rome so that the original meaning of the use of one formula rather than another was still known.

For the beginning of the eucharist, we shall quote the text of the "preface" reserved today for the Easter season:

(old version)

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ, our Lord.   We praise you with greater joy than ever at this Easter season when Christ became our paschal sacrifice'He is the true Lamb who took away the sins of the world.   By dying he destroyed our death; by rising he restored our life.And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise: Holy...
The preface, as we are accustomed to call it in the Roman liturgy, remains variable as we know, like the Communicantes to a certain extent, and the  Hanc Igitur itself has long displayed this trait.   [The preface is really a variable part of the eucharistic prayer.] We must say that the variability, which have been preserved integrally down to our own day in the preface (we still have a few vestiges in the Communicantes and in some Hanc Igiturs most of which have fallen into disuse), is merely a survival of the ancient improvisation....   If we remove the phrase "We praise you with greater joy..." ( which further more give the effect of an addition) from the preface just quoted, it could be perfectly appicable originally to any Sunday celebration, before having been reserved to the Easter season.

There follows a highly detailed commentary on this wonderful eucharistic prayer with its roots in Jewish prayer.  I can only urge you to get  "Eucharist" and read it for yourself.

Meanwhile, we shall have to make do with my commentary, taken from my book "The Royal Road to Joy".

The Roman Canon is focused on heaven, where Christ is,   This is a particularly Christian orientation.  As in the Letter to the Hebrews, we approach the heavenly Jerusalem; as in the Apocalypse, we see a door by which we can enter heaven. Later, in the words of Hebrews, we share pass through the veil, which is the flesh of Christ, into the presence of the Father.  The Roman Canon looks ever upwards: there is no reference to the Holy Spirit coming down to transform the bread and wine, no remembering of the Second Coming. In the recitation of the words of institution, Jesus 'looking up to heaven' takes the bread, and, later, in a prayer that might well be one of the oldest in any liturgy, God is asked that his angel may take the bread and wine up to the heavenly altar so that we may receive his body and blood from this altar.

The canon is in two parts, before and after the words of institution.   The first part asks God to bless our gifts and is then dedicated to prayers for the living. A list of saints is given both before and after the anamnesis of the Last Supper, but there is a subtle difference between them.   The list before the words of institution notes the fact that this assembly is the Church of the apostles and martyrs and thus can benefit from their prayers.   The words of institution seem to be a launching pad for heaven because, in the second part which begins with Christ's journey upward through death, resurrection and ascension to the Father's presence, there is the request that our offerings, the bread and wine, may be carried into the Father's presence by an angel, as we have already indicated, there are prayers for "those who have gone before us," and this is immediately followed by another list of saints, but the accent here is on actually sharing in their fellowship.  The climax of the whole prayer, that which sums up everything that has been said, is the doxology, "Through him, with him, and in him, O God, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever."   I suggest that in this doxology, in this upward movement towards the Father, the consecratory role of the Holy Spirit is implicitly stated in a way that is in keeping with the whole canon.

We now continue with the word  of Fr Louis Bouyer.

Along the way, the Consilium naturally came across those pseudo-critical interpretations of the Roman canon which tended either to cast it aside all together or to refashion it fancifully...and the Consilium rightly refused to involve itself in such dead-end solutions.   On the other hand, it devoted itself to resoring to the initial act of thanksgiving in the Prefaces, all its fulness and substantial richness.  It was therefore resolved to discard the common preface which, as we have said, is merely a framework emptied of its essential content: the theme of thanksgiving.   For it, the Consilium has substituted either other proper prefaces added to those already in use or a variety of common prefaces, all of which contain an explicit glorification of the work of creation and the history of salvation.   These prefaces have brought back into use, with at times some modifications and adaptations, everything that is most substantial in the treasury of the old sacramentaries. And possibly the new compositions that have been added will not appear unworthy beside their ancient neighbours.....

If we add to this necessary reform the new (or ancient!) Communicantes and Hanc Igiturs which will re-establish in the Roman canon, along with the fulness of the commemoration of the magnalia Dei, a newly diversified expression of the Church presenting to the Father the unique sacrifice of the eternal Son, there is reason to hope that we shall again grasp all of the imperishable beauty of the jewel of the eucharistic tradition of the West that is the Roman Canon.   Moreover, alongside this restoration of the Roman canon, we must rejoice in the intention to enrich the modern Latin liturgy with complementary examples from the riches of Catholic Tradition.   At the same time, the goal has been to revive among the faithful the plenary sense of the eucharist, by proposing to them  formularies that are as explicit and as directly accessible as possible in their structure and their language.

If you have read the whole series on the eucharistic prayers, you will see how traditional they are.

One thing you may notice is the way Father Bouyer makes comparisons between Roman and Egyptian  rites.  He even suggests that many of the converts in apostolic Rome were Jews from Alexandria!  Perhaps because of sea routes, but there was a constant mutual influence between Rome and Alexandria, beginning with St Mark who is connected with both cities; and, of course, monasticism came from Egypt. We had a post on Celtic spirituality which expresses an Orthodox myth that, somehow or other, the Celtic church was different from Rome, more Eastern in type, because of its close connection with Egypt.   May I suggest that there was a close connection between western Christianity and Egypt, closer in the early years than with Constantinople. In this, the Celtic church is an obvious but not unique example.

   Great care was taken by the post-Vatican II Consilium, at least by the liturgists,  to be as faithful to Catholic Tradition.   In fact the whole project was to bring the ordinary Catholic faithful into contact with a living tradition that is wider and deeper than that which was possible before the Council.  Great pains were taken to bring into use texts that been dropped during the course of history, to restore the different aspects of the liturgy that had become petrified or smothered with liturgical weeds.   There was constant use of what Pope Benedict later called the "hermeneutic of continuity", reaching back to discover discontinuities in order to heal them by digging deeper or putting them in a wider context.   Bouyer and company used the hermeneutic of continuity, not only to form a liturgy in continuation with the past, but in an effort to seek continuity across the different strands of eucharistic Tradition in the contemporary world.   For these reasons, against the charges of the so-called conservatives, I wish to assert that the post-Vatican II rite is a truly Catholic, truly traditional project, at least at the level of texts. 

Nevertheless, we know that something went wrong.   It wasn't the new texts which reflect their concerns; but something happened which made the ressourcement theologians like de Lubac, von Balthazar, Ratzinger and Bouyer, all of whom were advocates of liturgical change, to be thoroughly dissatisfied with the results.   Also, where goes the reform of the reform?  All this and more, next week.

Friday 23 January 2015


 “The Church is still young. Christianity is only just beginning” said Fr. Alexander. And that inspired people: if genuine Christian history is still in the future, then each of us can do much for the blooming of the Church, for science and culture, for the spiritual rebirth of our country and the whole world.

Fr. Alexander often repeated that the Gospel has not yet been fully read or understood by mankind, since history is full of wars, revolutions, catastrophes. Each person must discover Christ and believe that God is Love. And when the Good News enters his heart, he will look at the world, at people, and his mission in the world with different eyes. And if this happens, then evil, hatred, conflicts will disappear from the world of man. Love teaches us to look on the other as a part of ourselves. Mankind is one, and therefore every enmity against the other is waged against us as well. Christ came in order to put an end to this chain reaction of hatred, in order to teach people to love. “We are moving to an age of Love,” said Fr. Alexander Men’. His entire life was a powerful striving to it and a witnessing to that fact, that already here on earth man can realize in complete fullness God’s plan, and to make near the Kingdom of Heaven.


my source: www.alexandermen.com/Two_Understandings_of_Christianity
Father Alexander Men (1935-1990) was a great leader, and one may say architect, of religious renewal in Russia at the end of the Soviet period. He was a pastor, who found the time to write a great number of books including a seven volume study of world religions, ranging in style from the academic to the popular, he lectured widely, at the end gaining access to radio and television and becoming a nationally known figure. He founded the first Sunday school after the communist persecution, established a university, made a film strip, started volunteer work at a children’s hospital. He baptized thousands into the faith, was at home with simple people but was also called “the apostle to the intellectuals.”His life and person and writings speak powerfully to a wide range of people, not only in Russia and not only Eastern Orthodox. It seems that he is one of the very few who can touch and speak to and for all Christians and indeed, through his broadness of learning and heart, not only to Christians.He was assassinated in 1990 but through his writings and through his memory and his spiritual heritage he still speaks and it may be is an increasing presence in the world and his work becomes better known.
What follows is the text of a lecture which Fr Alexander gave on 25 January, 1989 in Moscow. His first topic takes its starting point in the contrast between two monks depicted by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov: Zosima, the famous spiritual guide, a lover of nature and experienced man of the world who believes the Christian path is to be lived in the world and therefore sends his young protege Alyosha Karamazov away from the monastery and back into the world to deal with the troubles of his family; and the ascetic Ferapont, living a life turned in on himself, full of hatred and portrayed by Dostoevsky as semi-crazed. These two monks represent two different models of Christianity: the one open to the world, like the famous monastery of Optina Pustyn, and the other withdrawing from it. Fr Alexander draws a telling portrait of the present weaknesses and distorted ideology of many adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church today and shows how this tendency is rooted in Russian history. The second theme of the lecture is to weigh up and assess the relative importance of the inner life and of outward works in the Christian life in general, arguing for a balance of each. The talk concludes by drawing out the point that has been running like a leitmotif through the lecture: a plea for pluralism and understanding in the religious life.

Dear Friends! Perhaps the subject of this talk of mine may seem strange to some of you, but I want to remind you of a scene from Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and you will realize that my subject has not been idly or casually chosen; it is a topic that has a deep relevance to the history of spiritual culture, to the history of literature and to the history of Christianity in Russia and in other Christian countries.
You remember, I’m sure, two characters in The Brothers Karamazov who are polar opposites: the starets Zosima and his antagonist Ferapont. Remember how the starets Zosima is described by Dostoevsky as a radiant personality with broad and enlightened views about the world, human destiny and about people’s attitude to eternal life and to God. Some literary scholars think that Zosima is modelled upon the famous starets Amvrosy of Optino, who was canonized at the time of the thousandth anniversary of Christianity in Russia [1988]. Other specialist historians reject this idea because there are important differences between the real, historical Amvrosy and the character which Dostoevsky imagined. Even so, there definitely is a connection between the prototype and the literary character. The monastery of Optina Pustyn was not a typical one, and indeed it was unique in the history of our Church. That was why so many cultural figures made a point of going there: Khomyakov, Kireevsky, Dostoevsky, Solovyev, Leo Tolstoy, Leontyev, Sergei Bulgakov and many others.(2) They didn’t stream off to any other monasteries, but specifically this one which was so unusual and unexpected. In one of the issues of the literary almanac Prometei, there is an article entitled ‘Optina Pustyn – why did so many famous people go there?’, written by the well-known poet Nadezhda Pavlovich,(3) who started publishing her work in Blok’s lifetime. She worked at Optina Pustyn and managed to meet the last starets there. She shared her impressions with me of her meetings with this amazing character . In her article, Pavlovich names many more of them whom I have not mentioned.
The startsy and other inhabitants of the monastery were concerned with the same problems which preoccupied the cultured section of society at that time. That’s why both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were able to discuss with the startsy not only their own personal problems but also general human and cultural issues. Yes indeed, the place was exceptional. That was why Dostoevsky created his Zosima with Optina Pustyn in mind for he found there a kind of open variant, an open understanding of Orthodoxy and an open understanding of Christianity.
But in this same monastery, which is described in Dostoevsky’s novel, there is another character – starets Ferapont, a famous ascetic, a powerful old man who walked around bare-foot, dressed in a rough belted overcoat, like a beggar. He hated starets Zosima and even on the day he died, had no shame about denouncing him over his grave. If you haven’t read it already, read this great epic novel, and you will see how within one Orthodoxy, one Church, one culture and even one monastery, two seemingly completely antagonistic elements clash – and clash quite sharply. The situation which Dostoevsky describes gives us as it were the first intimation that within Christian culture not everything is identical and not everything can be reduced to some sort of unity.
I do not intend now to discuss those divisions within the Christian world which have happened over the last twenty centuries – the split which occurred as early as the first councils of the church, divisions between Arians and Orthodox, between Orthodox and Monophysites and finally the great and tragic schism of the Christian world between West and East: that is between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. This division took place in spite of the fact that each side adopted the same names: the Eastern church called itself Catholic and the Western called itself Orthodox, but still the schism took place.
Of course, two understandings of Christianity clashed there too. If we turn to history, then we shall see yet another great clash within Western European culture: the rise of Protestantism. This again was a new interpretation of Christianity: Catholicism and Protestantism are two different understandings of it. And finally, within Protestantism itself, the orthodox and radical movements clashed with each other. I do not intend to discuss this because it is a large special subject. For the present I shall be dealing only with problems related to that culture in which we Russians have grown up and were educated and which is closest and most comprehensible to us.
Orthodox culture derives from two sources. The first source is the fundamental and most important one, namely the Gospels. That source is the teaching and proclamation about God-manhood, in other words, about the mystery of the eternal and the mystery of the human. It is the teaching that humanity is exceptionally important and valuable for the Creator. It is the teaching that humanity is raised above all creation because the Eternal itself made contact with it, because human beings are created in the image and likeness of the Creator and in them lives a kind of programme for the future: to develop from beings akin to the animals to beings akin to heaven.
But there was another tradition too, born long before Christianity, and that is the tradition of ascetic practice. It is an exceptionally important tradition. It contains some of the richest experience of self-observation and the richest experience of inner practice, that is, of spiritual work designed to make the human personality grow. But this ascetic tradition, which came mainly from India and Greece and which was adopted by the church several centuries after the appearance of Christ, came to regard the surrounding world as something alien and external to it, something which had to be recoiled from and shunned.
Were there good grounds for this tendency? Of course there were. Every one of us can readily understand how energetically a person seeking depth, stillness, contemplation and eternal wisdom must push away the cares and noise, the superficiality and futility of life which surrounds them, if they are to find themselves. And then by picking out a few words from the Gospels (true, taken out of context) such as ‘He who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life’ [John 12.25], this tendency began to predominate, firstly in monastic circles and in certain strands of the church, but then, gathering ever greater strength thanks to its inner spiritual energy, this tendency began imperceptibly to be the dominant one, and almost overshadowed the other source, the principle of the God-man. If in the Gospel it says, ‘ He who hates the world’, it also says in the same Gospel of St John that God so loved the world that he gave his own Son to save it. This is the contradiction, and this is the dialectic in which we have to distinguish the two understandings of the world.
In practice, of course, it was not so straightforward. And so the other-worldly type of Christianity which shunned the life surrounding it, shunned history and creativity and culture, developed along its own lines. It could not, of course, be totally consistent, and it did create things of cultural value. We know that within the walls of monasteries of the ascetic tradition there were great artists, chroniclers, masters of historical narrative, and architects. But this culture developed there in spite of the basic tendency which set Christianity outside the world and above it.
And then in our own national culture, these two lines have clashed, and the clash grew into antagonism. For educated society at the beginning of the nineteenth century, this other-worldly Christianity was identified with Orthodoxy itself. And what is more, Orthodox circles themselves easily slipped into the same identification. That is why almost all initiative was left to the secular world. Social justice, the structure of society, agonizing problems such as serfdom – all were left to the sphere of the state and were disregarded by the church. These matters seemed to be of no concern to Christians. Hence the indifference, the apathy to things of this transient world, and hence the bitter inner split.Though the process had begun in the eighteenth century, the division deepened throughout the nineteenth century. Even Christian writers like Dostoevsky did not fully understand the true tradition of the church. And what of the church people who were far removed from society? There grew up two languages, in the literal sense – a church language and a secular language. The church language absorbed a mass of Slavonicisms (you will find, for example, a large number in the works of Leskov). This was why Russian versions of the Bible in the nineteenth century were immediately outdated for they didn’t correspond either to the language of Pushkin and Gogol, or to that of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Secular language developed along its own lines.
At that time, in the reign of Nicholas I [1825-55], a person who became well-known as a writer was Archimandrite Fedor Bukharev. He was a monk who lived at the Trinity St Sergius monastery and a learned theologian and biblical scholar. He published a book entitled Orthodoxy and its Relationship With the Contemporary World in which he first broached the question of the need to bring the two understandings of Christianity together. He pointed out that the problems which concern everyone – culture, creativity, social justice and many more were not matters of indifference to Christianity; rather the contrary, that in the resolution of these problems, the spiritual ideals of the Gospel could be important and might be an inner resource for their solution. But Bukharev was attacked, abused in the press and reduced to such a state that he left monastic orders and the service of the church, became a journalist and soon died in poverty and oblivion. But his memory lasted long. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pavel Florensky made a collection of his letters. But to date, his works have not been published in full.
Then Tolstoy came along and posed the problem in a completely different way. For him, the traditional understanding of Christianity as a sum of traditions which had grown up from the Gospels was only a useless burden, the dead weight of centuries. He proposed casting all of it aside and returning to the original nucleus. One might say that he was following a Protestant line. But that’s not really so, for Tolstoy as a thinker never was a Christian. His ideas were different and much more Eastern, closer to the Eastern philosophies of India and China. That’s why his conflict with theology and with the church was not an indication of the conflict between the two understandings of Christianity but merely a side issue. Then Vladimir Solovyev came along, a great figure of world philosophy. He was a person who, in an era dominated by materialism and positivism, had the ability to raise questions about spiritual values in such a way that the most cultured people of the time were compelled to acknowledge the seriousness of the problems. He was a man who was at the same time a poet, critic, philosopher, theologian, historian, and historian of philosophy, and publicist. People like that with universal gifts are born only once in a century. In his Lectures on God-manhood,(4) he put the question like this: is the Good News of Christ really only a method of salvation for the individual soul? Is it only a personal route for someone on the way to perfection to achieve eternal bliss after their death? Indeed, if that were so then this is no different from several other religious systems. We find essentially the same thing in Islam and in Eastern religions. Solovyev saw things from a completely different point of view: Christianity is the line which joins higher things with lower, the divine with the human. If this is what Godmanhood means, then there is nothing in history which is a matter of indifference to spirituality. Therefore, the Christian ideal can absorb into itself everything, including social problems, the moral problems of society, and even problems of art. Solovyev created a great synthesis whereby the two understandings of Christianity could be united. His follower in the twentieth century was our well-known compatriot Nicolas Berdyaev, a bold, enlightened thinker with a most brilliant mind. The whole world knows him and international conferences gather to discuss his works. Unfortunately, his works were not published in Russia and to many Russians his name for a long time has hardly meant anything at all.
Berdyaev wrote several articles which had the same title as our lecture today – ‘Two Understandings of Christianity’. He clarified and reformulated the subject. He defined two points of view: personal salvation and creativity. These two points of view are as it were hostile to each other. To one group of Christians, the most important thing is simply inner self-perfection leading to salvation. Everything else is rejected. Creativity is left to the secular world, outside the domain of the church: it is left, as it were, outside the spiritual realm, without the light inherent to the impulse of the Gospels. This position led to a strange outcome: humanity was demeaned. The great word ‘humility’, which Christ spoke about, was turned into a synonym for compromise, appeasement and a wretched collusion with evil.
Collusion with evil means, in the final analysis, working for evil. Hence the unwillingness to make any kind of protest and the unwillingness to take any bold initiative. Submission means acknowledging evil. And although Christ said of himself that he was ‘gentle and lowly of heart’ [Matt. 11.29], he never taught us to compromise with evil. This was the source of human demeanment which offended Berdyaev so exceptionally. He said that faith and spirituality should elevate people, and help them to stand tall because people are made in the image of God and are the most valuable of beings. The gospel preaches about humanity, about the greatness of humanity on which the light of heaven shines. So Berdyaev treated humility in a completely different way: as openness to everything, as the readiness to accept other points of view, as the readiness to listen to and hear the voice of other people and the voice of God. This understanding of humility is the opposite of pride, for pride hears only itself. Pride, locked up in itself, feeds on itself, as the saying goes, lives in its own world, in its own prison. So Berdyaev sought to find a way of uniting these two opposing trends which were tearing the church apart.
This propensity for the two understandings of Christianity to clash continues even today. You can easily find it in literature. In Leskov’s story The Mountain, you will immediately see two types of Christian: one is the artist Zenon and the other is the crowd which hangs around the patriarch’s palace. There are also many legends and stories which Leskov makes into serious parables. Even Belinsky, in his letter to Gogol which you certainly remember from school, described his understanding of Christianity – true, in a very incompetent, irritable and inaccurate manner. He said that Christ proclaimed freedom, equality and brotherhood and so on – in short Belinsky treated Christianity as an egalitarian liberation movement of social opposition.
Why is it important for us to be aware of this now? – important for all of us, believers and non-believers? Because today our culture is getting back those lost and half-forgotten values from the past and, together with them, the age-old values of the Russian Orthodox Church and of Christianity as a whole. And people who lack a clear understanding of the richness and deep antinomies of the phenomenon that is Christianity, think that Christians are all the same and that the church is something which has one clearly defined official view and a systematic ideology fully worked out in theory and practice. And they will be discouraged when they see that within this historical stream are many diverse and even contradictory currents. And we must bear this in mind. It must be borne in mind by those who wish to start on the Christian way and by those who are interested in Christianity simply as a cultural phenomenon and who want to understand it and make their own minds up about it. In periods of social freezes and social storms, as in war, people get quickly divided into two groups: those for us and those against us, believers and non-believers and so on. This is an over- simplified picture. And for those people who are just joining the church the picture still seems valid. But it may happen that a pagan, someone far away from the church, may become spiritually closer to a Christian than their fellow believers. It’s a paradox but it’s true. This can happen because there isn’t one single interpretation of Christianity which wholly corresponds to it.
There was a time when the antagonistic and seemingly irreconcilable principles of other-worldly, culture-denying Christianity and the Christianity which strives to share in creativity were in fact united in the church. But that was long ago. When Christianity first appeared in the ancient world, it faced the question: how to treat all this heritage? How to treat the philosophy, art, literature and in general all the great edifice of ancient culture? Should we say it’s all rubbish? That it’s all out of date? That it should all be thrown away? Many people said precisely that. Many were willing to go down that road.
The main answer given by the classic Christian thinkers, who are known as the patristic writers or the Fathers of the Church was, however, a positive one. Christianity could and should be open to all these questions. That’s why the Church Fathers were most often the outstanding writers, thinkers, poets and social activists of their time. They did not consider that such things were alien to or unworthy of Christianity.
So in the case of John Chrysostom you will find not only discussions about injustice in his writings but also in his life too efforts to fight social oppression and the unjust distribution of material goods. You will find in the writings of Augustine the famous words that a state without law is in principle no different from a band of robbers. That was written in the fourth century. You will find among the writings of Basil the Great a special work on the meaning of pagan literature for Christian youth. You will find in the works of Gregory the Theologian (also the fourth century) marvellously humorous letters and poems which he wrote to his friend.
But often something else creeps in to this general orientation. In the great legacy of the Church Fathers there is a special section, a special part and that is the legacy of the Desert Fathers, of the supporters of monasticism. It was collected in the huge anthology the Philokalia.(6) This is a magnificent and, in its own way, eternally valuable book which has much to offer people. But then this tradition of the Philokalia began to be accepted as the only one. Yet it was intended for people who were called inoki [Russian for 'monk']. Inok means ‘a person living a different way of life’. This means a person who deliberately lives apart from the world, not at all because he despises the world but because he personally has chosen for himself that special way. This was when the mistaken idea grew up that the legacy of the Church Fathers was to be regarded as the rejection of culture, whereas in fact this was not the case at all.
The return of contemporary Christian thought (by contemporary I mean over the last one hundred years) to the traditions of the Church Fathers, is the return of Christianity to an open model, which participates in the whole movement of human society. Berdyaev called this ‘the churching of the world’. But understand me correctly: that word doesn’t at all mean that some historical church incidentals are imposed on the secular culture of the world. It means that there is no such thing as the secular.
I myself, I don’t know what the word ‘secular’ means. It is a conventional historical term because there is a spiritual element in everything – or not, as the case may be. Even though the title under a picture may say ‘The Virgin Mary’, if the picture is painted in an uninspired way, if it has something superficial, banal and flat about it, then it won’t have anything to do with spirituality. And it’s very important to understand that there isn’t some literature which is spiritual and some which is unspiritual or ‘secular’, but rather there is literature with spirituality and literature without spirituality, there is good literature and bad literature. And truly good literature will always have a bearing on the eternal problems.
We can say the same of all types of art and also of the most varied kinds of creativity. Christianity has nothing to fear in all this. It’s open to it all. The narrow, other-worldly model is a legacy from the past. It’s something mediaeval (in the worst sense of the word) which, alas, is still extant. It often attracts new recruits who think they become true Christians if they put on black head scarves and walk around with a special mincing gait. None of that’s necessary. That’s parody, that’s a caricature. There’s a complex relationship between the inner and the outer. There is a tendency for some people to say: my spiritual life is going on here inside and I don’t need anything from outside. But this is a serious mistake because somehow or other, a person expresses all their experiences. No one can be a bodiless spirit who looks indifferent and only experiences things somewhere deep inside them. No. Everything is expressed, is embodied, in gesture, facial expressions. Experience is a matter of body and soul together.
But at the same time what is outward, for instance, rituals are slippery customers, they are like dangerous underwater rocks: they have a tendency to become sufficient unto themselves. It is very good when a person makes the sign of the cross when they stand before the icon of God. But it’s possible that person may gradually forget the important thing and just continue to cross themselves. Indeed, in popular speech, the words for ‘to pray’ and ‘to cross oneself’ have become interchangable. When a grandmother says to her grandson: ‘Say your prayers, say your prayers’, she is not thinking about what is going on in his heart. She is thinking about him waving his hand and making the sign of the cross. In this way, the external can gradually squeeze out the internal. Is this a danger for Christianity? Not at all. This danger is not specific to Christianity. Pharisaical mechanisms are at work in all spiritual movements, because the externals are always easier. That is why the Pharisees of gospel times observed thousands of rituals but inside, their spiritual lives were often dead. And this pharisaical external piety can exist in all places and all times. In the dialectic tensions between these two elements: the external and the internal, what is open to the world and at the same time concentrated, lies the deepest truth of the scriptures. And when we look deeply into it, we find there eventually the ultimate and final formula.
A spiritual community of people who are moving towards the supreme aim will undoubtedly still look like an exclusive group, but at the same time, this community is open to all and to the whole world. The foundation of the church goes back to ancient Old Testament times. When God called Abraham, he said to him: separate yourself, leave your country, leave your father’s house, become a wanderer. This meant cutting himself off; but at the same time, God said to him: but through you will all the tribes and peoples of the earth be blessed. This contradiction, this paradox in the Bible, is still alive today. Yes, the person who wishes to develop in a deeply spiritual way must build some sort of defence around their soul. Otherwise, the noise of the world will deafen it. But at the same time anyone who does not wish to turn his soul into a small reservation, into a stuffy lamp-lit little world in which the spirit cannot live, must ensure that their defence is not absolute. It’s like breathing in and breathing out. It’s like talking to many people and talking to one. It’s like solitude and company. It’s like day and night. It’s like what joins things together.
So the conclusion at least for me is clear: neither of the two understandings of Christianity is wrong, but each as it were takes one side and wrongly develops it. Fullness of life lies in the synthesis of the two. Florensky, the well-known theologian and philosopher, said that complete truth when it comes to our world is fragmented into contradictory parts and we see only this fragmented world, but somewhere in a higher dimension all these paradoxical, disunited and antinomic fragments are united in one. That’s the mystery of life. That’s the mystery of the two understandings of Christianity.
I hope, after this short digression, that you may feel that the variety and even the contradictions within the Christian church, and even more, the contradictions between the different Christian denominations – Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox – are not a sign of decay and breakdown but rather manifestations of parts of the whole, the united whole which we have to reach at greater depth. Then what seems to us to be impossible to unite will be united. Then the source, the profound source of spiritual life will nourish not only individual souls or small groups of individual souls in their interior lives but will also go beyond the limits of the merely personal and become for us a social force, a force in society, a force that will help us live in this world, and bring to the world our value as human beings and the light which each of us has been given to the degree that we are in communion with it. It follows, therefore, that this is not just a question for literary scholarship although you will find in it many literary aspects. Nor is it purely historical, although, of course, it has a direct relationship to history. It is a subject for today.
And it seems to me that such pluralism, such interaction of different points of view, is an important pre-condition for the vitality of Christianity. And perhaps it was providential that Christianity was split into different tendencies, because without this it would probably have been something uniform and forced. It is as if, knowing people’s tendency to intolerance, God divided them so that each person in their place, in their own garden could bring forth their own fruit.
And the time will come when all the different fruits will come together into one stream, in which will   be preserved all the best in the spiritual culture of humanity and of each person who is made in the image and likeness of God.

Optina Pustyn Monastery played a vital role in the spiritual life of Russia. It has every right to be called a symbol of the Russian spiritual resurrection of the end of the XVIII century.

Located near a pine forest and separated by the Zhizdra from the outside world, the monastery was a perfect place for  hermits. This used to be a spiritual oasis, blessed with the grace of the first ages of Christianity. Optina Pustyn elders had the greatest gift of all - the gift of judgment,   as well as the gifts of vision, healing and working of miracles. Optina Pustyn is one of the oldest monasteries in Russia

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