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Word Magazine October 1962 Page 13
By Brother Sergius
It is the dubious genius of Western society, via a gradual evolution, to be able to separate knowledge from fact, and the Church from truth. The establishment of Roman Catholicism, after
its tragic defection from true Christianity, gave to the West a surface authenticity, beneath which nourished the growing heresies that were inevitably to inspire the Protestant Reformation and its unfortunate and deplorable aftermath.
Thus, we find ourselves in a world of separated Christianity on the one hand, and the Church on the other. And the problem is not that the Church should rediscover its fabled lost unity, but rather that those who have lost its unity should rediscover the Church.
The events of the last fifty years or so, and, more particularly, of the last few years, are encouraging signs: the recognition among Protestants that something is conspicuously missing, and that it perhaps may be found at the roots of Christianity; the slow but promising steps toward cooperation of Roman Catholicism with its alleged “separated brethren,” especially with Eastern Christendom; and the strengthening of age-old ties within Orthodoxy itself.
The Church has never ceased to pray with its Head “that they all may be one” (JOHN 17:21), and, if we look closely enough, we may realize that the Holy Spirit, which has never left the Church, is bringing its lost children closer to it. Orthodoxy is, in some quarters, still severely persecuted, grossly unknown, and often misunderstood, yet the active participation of the Church in such bodies as the World Council of Churches has given original Christianity not only a place in the deliberations of its subsequent imitators (or perverters, as the case may be) but a representative and respected voice as well. The Church which was once thought to be at worst hopelessly moribund and at best outdated is now a vital part of what is frequently referred to as the “Ecumenical Movement” and a constant reminder to the world or at least, to the better educated part of it — that the Church of the Ecumenical Councils is not dying nor has any intentions of doing so.
The fact that Roman Catholicism has progressed from a schismatical Church to a suspiciously heretical super-organization of packaged grace, and the shameful state of Protestantism, with its numerous divisions and countless fallacies, should have a mitigative effect on those Orthodox who are somewhat doubtful whether Christ really meant it when He said to His Church, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (MATT. 28: 20).
The implications are all too clear, and it would take a deliberate and calculated effort or a colossal ignorance on our part to misunderstand them. Christianity was established by Christ to serve as the sole means for the redemption of all mankind, and not to cater to our prejudices, sentiments and philosophies, nor, least of all, to serve as a divisive influence among those who would take up their cross and follow Him. The Church stands today not only by the grace of God, but for it, too, as the necessary dispenser of it. Holy zeal which tends to separate one Christian from another is not holy at all, but a serious fanaticism. The Church cannot be accused of fostering disunity by consistently supporting its Apostolic claims of truth because others have been wrong and have of themselves departed from that truth. No sincere and effective purpose is served by asking the Church to join with Protestants in sweeping the dust under the carpet, or with Roman Catholics in kissing the feet of an ambitious prelate. Neither can we say that we have all, Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, behaved merely as impulsive little boys who fight at one moment but restore the gang to its original unity the next. True, there have been mistakes on all sides, but while some of those of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have been doctrinal in nature, the Church cannot very well accuse Jesus of failing to keep His promise to it. To be sure, there have been sinful Orthodox patriarchs as well as sainted ones, but the Orthodox Church has moved not a millionth of an inch from the divine revelation deposited forever in its bosom.
This is the reality that we all must face if we have any hopes at all of restoring a single Christianity. We must be willing to look back to the womb of Christian history — not with scorn and a feeling of superiority, but with a deeply earnest desire to please God and sanctify ourselves
— to uncover beneath the dust of centuries that Faith which was instituted to bring men peace, joy and salvation. It is only in this way that we will be able to see that what was Christianity on that very first Pentecost is Orthodoxy today.