Word Magazine September 1971 Page 9-10
THEOLOGY, WORSHIP, PEACE…
An address of His Beatitude, Patriarch Pimen while Metropolitan of Kroutitsy and Guardian of the Patriarchal Throne.
At the opening of the academic year at the Moscow Theological Academy, on the feast of the
Protection of the Holy Virgin, October 14th, 1970.
I salute all the participants at this solemn reunion on the day of the patronal feast of the academic chapel, dedicated to the Protection of the Holy Virgin, and I invoke the divine blessing on the daily work of our theological school of Moscow, situated at the portal of the same House of God.
Today, the Academy and the Theological Seminary celebrate for the first time the least of their patroness in the absence of one who in 1944 blessed the revival of their courses, who then devoted a quarter of a century of tireless work to these schools and who every year presided at this solemn day. I speak of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias, Alexis, deceased six months. In the recollection of his memory, and of the protection that for so many years he showed to our theological schools, I intend to express to the students and their teach-
ers some profound wishes in the spirit of the concern that the deceased Patriarch bore for the preparation of worthy servants of the Church, theologians, at the same time offering examples from our country.
In participating in the annual feasts of the Academy and the Seminary, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis always rejoiced in the fact that there were those at the sanctuary dedicated to the Mother of God who extended their protection to the theological schools. This joy of the Patriarch was linked, beyond question, to his attitude towards the temple, the place of our communion with God in prayer and the Sacraments, without which our ecclesiastical unity in Christ, our Saviour. would not be possible and true theology remains inaccessible to those who wish instruction in it in theological schools.
Meanwhile, are all the students of these schools and their teachers well aware of the fundamental importance that pertains to the church, and to the divine office which one celebrates there, for the assimilation of the revealed truths of our faith which constitutes the object of theological science?
I believe it would be useful to speak today of these concerns because in the atmosphere of daily work we are tempted to regard the church close to the theological school as a place of practical exercises for future pastors: exercises of reading, chanting, preaching, exercises for facility in using liturgical books and to perfect the ceremonial side of the divine offices. Such an approach to the church, essentially “technical”, finds a certain justification in the necessity to accustom the students to practical familiarity with the offices and the sacred rites, but this necessity ought not bring about the loss of the idea of the holiness of the temple, the House of God, of which it is said in the Gospel: “My house is a house of prayer.” It is just in this holiness of the temple that its true importance for the pupils of the theological schools resides, as it does for all of the faithful. In consequence our attitude toward the temple, toward that which fills it and that which fulfills it, ought to be full of reverence and awe, it ought to be defined by faith and the love of the holy. The icons and the objects of worship, the ornaments of serving at the altar and the offices and rites which accompany them, the management of the temple and the temple itself, all these constitute for us, believers, the symbols and signs, the images and the expressions of the realities of another world, a spiritual world. The temple with the beauty of its icons, of the readings, of the chant, is intended to guide us to the spiritual contemplation of the faith, the dogmas of the faith, the divine goodness and its grandeur, its eternal justice and perfection, its omnipotence and its wisdom. The Divine Liturgy is a shortened representation of the entire Gospel, of the terrestrial life of Jesus Christ, of His sacrifice on Golgotha; it is the commemoration of His resurrection and of His Ascension into heaven. It is not only a commemoration but a reactuali-zation of these events of the Gospel, lived by the believers as the real events are revealed to us all anew, its gracious meaning hidden and communicated to us through their beneficial action.
For it is not evident that those who enter the temple ought to have spiritual eyes in order to contemplate these events, and spiritual ears to perceive “the words of eternal life” which they contain? Otherwise stated, in order that his presence in the temple may have spiritual worth, the Christian ought to have a “spiritual intelligence, a heart purified from terrestrial passions” ; this is an essential condition for communication with God and for the comprehension of the truths of the Christian faith. In the contrary case, neither the frequenting of the divine offices, nor the understanding of the rubrics nor the formulae of dogmas learned by heart at school, will bring spiritual fruit to the soul, that is to say, the holy gift of grace and of divine understanding, which transfigures the soul in the temple, in the abiding place of God.
Simply to consider the icons in the temple as works of art and not to see through them the celestial life, signifies spiritual blindness. Likewise, to restrict oneself to esthetic admiration of the chant of the church or of the resounding readings of the Epistles and the Gospels during the Liturgy and not to perceive the divine truths which are announced signifies that we are spiritually deaf. One can say the same about theology: in overloading the memory of the intellectual understanding with Christian truths, without accepting them into one’s life and into one’s spiritual experience, we remain with an intellectual faith only which does not save, because, as St. Isaac the Syrian said, ‘‘faith which rests only on science can not deliver man from pride and doubt.”
But this truth does not mean that one can do without theology, as certain Orthodox pastors thought in the past and as some in the present still believe. On the contrary, theology is indispensable for each Orthodox Christian, all the more for the pastors of the Church. It is particularly necessary if one is to frequently realize the hope which is in us, and when the world needs the pacifying word of Christ. For just this reason it is important to envisage not only the content of theology, but also the method of teaching it.
Professors and teachers of the theological schools, eminent theologians you know quite well the task of theology insofar as it consists in interpreting the truths of Revelation by methods of reason. But you know equally well that theology, the word which relates itself to God, should
proceed not only from natural intelligence, limited by the norms of logical reflexion but also reason regenerated by grace, which meditates on the truths of the divine Revelation and becomes integrated in spiritual experience and penetrates the truth in the same way. This is properly the way in which the Fathers and Doctors of the Church conceived and practiced theology. You know that their writings remain to this day an abundant treasure of authentic theology, from which equally reflect a myriad of liturgical texts. When during the divine offices we give attention to their content, the presence of God before us, in our life, in each of us becomes evident and the joy of this discovery transforms itself in a constant glorification of our Lord and Saviour. Is it not in this that the abundant force of patristic theology resides?
All this, I have reviewed for you to conclude that we must consider the church and the offices which are celebrated there not as a place of practical training for future ministers of worship, but as a school of the spiritual life where one acquires an understanding of divine things through experience, and that we must remind ourselves that it is impossible to become an authentic theologian otherwise than by communion with the Truth itself which reveals itself to man in proportion to the purity of his heart as well as his intelligence. This purity is acquired by prayer, penitence, abstinence, communion in the Holy Mysteries, humility, love and all Christian truth; because the word of the Lord, comes only to those who observe His commandments and draw near Him in His dwelling place, that is to say make to one’s soul His temple. To be a living temple of the Holy Spirit, this is the ultimate aim of the Christian life that one frequently forgets, and it is well for us to remind ourselves that the last century of St. Seraphin of Sarov is approaching.
Teachers and students, receive therefore in your hearts the warning of St. Seraphin, not for information only but for conduct: accept it not only in your mind, but also in the heart, so that, constantly purifying one another, you become worthy to be sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit whom we know in all truth. Then our theological schools will be able to teach the theological sciences in the spirit and mood of the thought of the Fathers of the Church, and the assimilation of these sciences by the future priests of the physical temples will complete them spiritually and help them to become skillful pastors, capable of building spiritual temples.
In expressing this wish for our theological schools. I have the firm belief that our aspiring teachers and tutors truly initiate their pupils in Christian spiritual wisdom when they teach them to be not only pastors and authentic servants of the Church of Christ, but also exemplary members in all things in our society, model citizens of our country who contribute to the prosperity of the land and to its efforts to promote peace between the peoples.
This is just that which was the view of Patriarch Alexis, of eternal memory, when at the beginning of our theological year in 1914 he said that “the spiritual wisdom is not given to us so that it serves as an instrument of discord and hostility between men, but so that it contributes to the spiritual union of men in the name of truth”. Those who seek true wisdom ought to recover the spirit of the believers for the blossoming and the manifestation of their forces in the work of the building of the Church of God and for their participation in building peace on the earth, which constitutes the hope of all enlightened humanity, of all men of good will.