Saints about their lives
Isn't it true that “holiness” is often called something that they don’t want and are not going to do? “He is holy, I can’t do that” – this is a win-win alibi, this is how we use the concept of holiness. “I am not holy” is the best way to cover up my sins. "There is only one grief – not to be holy" – this is the exact wording of Graham Green, we will discuss below.
So, the "holiness" of everyday speech and thought is "not ours" and "not about us." Whose then? Several options.
1) There is an occultist point of view: there are supernatural beings, all in light and gold are “saints,” and their function consists, of course, in magical assistance. Or more than that: there are holy objects and substances that, of course, heal something.
2) The moralistic version: “holy” – a kind of amazing character, “morally perfect” individual, frightening with his perfection. From birth, he did not take the mother's breast on Wednesday and Friday, from childhood he did not like romps … The reader clearly understands: this is not about him.
3) There is an idolatrous approach: "holy", "this is holy for us." The thing is dangerous, because where the idols are, there is blood: what to do with the shrine, except to kill for it?
Any perversion is a perversion of the norm; only that which was healthy is sick. So any false understanding is only a perversion of the understanding of the true. Certainly, the holy is another, distant, healing, perfect and good, which should be worshiped: the holy is God. God is the only truly Holy One, in Hebrew, “Kadosh,” that is, another, separate, nonworldly. Something can be called holy when it is sanctified, dedicated to God. Thus, to be with God is to be holy, that is, as man is conceived by God. To be holy means to be generally (to belong to Being, that is, to God), to enter eternal life, to be perfect, whole, healthy.
Sin (the concept is also not only moral) is the disconnection from God, non-life with Him – Life. Ultimately, sin is death, the abomination of desolation, hell. Fall is the essence of falling away from God, and hence sin, death, hell. But God does not want this: therefore the history of the world is the history of salvation, the reunion of the whole world with God. To be saved is to be with Him, to adore, that is, to become a god by grace.
“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” – this commandment of Christ is suspiciously rarely remembered. We are all called to be saints, conceived by the Creator as saints. In this sense, we are all potentially holy. Israel is holy because it is dedicated to God. The church is holy because it is God’s: Christians called themselves saints once “simply” as belonging to the Body of Christ. Those who are called saints now, canonized saints of the Church are those who are completely healed from sin, those who in communion with God and with each other form the Triumphant Church, where we are all called to enter, into which the whole world should turn after the Glorious Advent. These are people whose life the Church considered to be an example that could help us in our movement towards holiness. If we do not become holy like them, then we will finally fall away from God, the source of life, and “die to hell.” That is why “there is only one grief – not to be holy,” not to be saved, not to be with God, to perish forever. But the Good News (i.e. – Joyful, Merry, Encouraging) is that there is salvation.
Lisa from the animated series "The Simpsons" in one of the series says: "I do not deny the existence of angels, but I do not believe that one of them can appear in our garage." This is the slogan of a true agnostic (and it seems that the good old atheists no longer exist): whether there is God or not – it does not matter, it’s not about me, not about life. This is the essence of unbelief. But the saints, after all, are such “angels in our garage”: real people, with sins, problems, addictions, etc., etc., are the same as we, but who fulfilled the commandment about perfection. How did they do it? Let's look at their own "reports" – their autobiographical compositions, and, God willing, we will use them as cheat sheets in the work of salvation.
1. "Confession" of blessed Augustine
Of course, the first is the “Confession” of Augustine. This book, of course, must be read: if not as a great theological book, then as a philosophical masterpiece, if not as a philosophical one, then as the first masterpiece of European (Christian) literature, and if not so, then as simply interesting memoirs. In one of the lectures, Father Andrei Kuraev called Confession the best missionary book.
Augustine's lifetime, V century, is similar to ours. Multi-million cities, a life full of troubles – from political to religious. Christianity has already become a permitted religion, but many still remember the persecution, and Christians are still in the minority. Augustine himself is the son of a Christian, but for a very long time he is simply not interested in faith: he is a careerist with a restless life and character. Great saint, great theologian, great thinker and writer.
“Confession” is presented in text and audio formats.
You can read about St. Augustine at Rose in “A Taste of True Orthodoxy,” an essay by Meyendorf, and Merezhkovsky’s book.
2. Gregory the Theologian about his life
Gregory the Theologian, a contemporary of Augustine – the most significant Eastern Christian theologian. We owe this man the final wording of the Creed. Melancholic (inclined even to insults and complaints), introvert, refined intellectual, lover and great master of elegant prose, poetry and rhetoric.
The Church is a Kingdom not of this world, therefore, of course, it does not consider culture an absolute value and generally treats it with suspicion. However, this does not mean obscurantism, does not mean that Christians should be some kind of naive, illiterate fools. The great teacher of the Church, St. Gregory, is the best argument against such mistakes. In general, Gregory the Theologian, a “typical intellectual,” the creator of high standards of culture, can be considered the heavenly patron of intellectuals.
The saint has many works of autobiographical properties, as in prose, and in poetry. Among them are “Poems about myself”, “A poem in which Gregory retells his life”, “About himself and the envious.”
We would especially like to draw your attention to the poem “About myself and about the bishops”, where the saint tells the story of the Second Ecumenical Council, sharply denounces the bishop, and in general the “fattened church” of that time.
You can read about Gregory the Theologian: in Haman, in the essay by Florovsky, and in the monograph by Met. Hilarion (Alfeev).
3. Hymns of Simeon the New Theologian
"A certain young man, about twenty years old, lived in Constantinople in our times, handsome with a look and having something ostentatious in his appearance, manners and gait, so even some had bad opinions about him because of this" – so reverend Simeon describes himself.
He lived in the 10th century, during the time of the “stable” empire and the Church. The slogan of the time, against which Simeon rebelled, was: “the saints were all in the past; Now they are not and can not be "(familiar, is not it?). But the young Simeon wanted to escape, and tried to find a "living saint" for instruction. The struggle for the possibility of holiness, for the reality of holiness is his main aspiration: “do not say that God is invisible to people, do not say that people do not see the Divine light, or that this is impossible in real times! It is never impossible, friends! ”
His "Hymns" – perhaps the most daring description of the mystical experience in Orthodoxy. Their autobiography has two meanings: first, Simeon often recalls and describes his life in them. The second and most important: “Hymns” is a description of the life of Simeon with Christ, life in the Spirit; This is a story about burnt reality.
Our hymns are presented in text and audio formats.
The Thanksgiving of the Monk is also autobiographical, as are the Hymns – poetic compositions.
About Simeon the New Theologian: essay by Meyendorff, Krivoshein's monograph, and Life, written by the disciple of Simeon, the teacher Nikita Stifat.
4. Maxim Grek about himself and what he saw in the West
Maxim Grek is the reverse figure of Simeon with a unique biography. This is the holy Renaissance, not chronologically only, but in essence. He was an active activist of the Renaissance in Italy and France, a member of the begging order and an admirer of Savonarola, later an Athos monk, in recent years a fighter for Christian culture and society, built on Christian principles, for the purity of the Church in Russia, where he was put in prison on long years.
In imprisonment, he writes several works, partly autobiographical: “For consolation to myself, and approval in patience when he was imprisoned and in grief”, “A word of acquittal about the correction of books”, “Confession of the Orthodox faith”.
The most interesting, perhaps, is “A Terrible and Notable Tale,” which summarizes his experience of living in the West. It contains two stories: about the meager order of the Carthusians and about the life and death of Savonarola. These two stories seem to represent the two main ideas of the monk, which he wanted to embody in Russia: the non-binding ideal of the Church and social life based on evangelical principles. In essence, this is one ideal – just to live here and now according to the commandments of Christ.
About Rev. Maxim you can read the essay Kartseva, the book Sinitsyna from the series “ZHZL” and the book of Gromov.
5. Autobiography of Porfiry Kavsokalivita
Prep. Porphyry is our contemporary (died in 1991), canonized by the Greek Church in November 2013. The book we offer is a collection of old man’s memories. The live direct speech of the reverend reveals the mystery of the soul that chose the path of the monk who accomplished the feat. This is what we are trying to say: the soul that goes to God is “holiness in action.”
The book is presented in audio and text formats.
Banality of Christianity
John Mahler Collier "The Annunciation"
Collier’s painting “The Annunciation” is a good illustration of what we have here so tongue-tied and wordy trying to say.
There are three ways to portray Scripture events. The icon is the tallest: in fact, it is a realistic image, since it conveys the true meaning of the event. But she “works” only with believers: the icon of Christ-Pantocrator says nothing or says something not to those who have not yet believed in the Crucified One. First, to believe in the Crucified, then to see the Pantocrator in Him is the right, though long and difficult path.
The second way, a false one is a realistic image: a seven-year-old girl, two thousand years old clothes, the landscape of Galilee in the background … This is pseudo-realism, because for a modern person Galileo two thousand years ago is not commonplace, but on the contrary – exotic, ethnographic, history.
And there is the path of Collier, who conveys the essence: an ordinary fourteen-year-old girl who answers God's call. Collier returns us the Gospel event as it really was.
Also with the concept of holiness. Holiness is what actually happened and is happening now. Collier profans, secularizes, trivializes the "sacred." I think it is beautiful.
Let us examine the terms: banal – it means a trivial, ordinary, common place. The origin of the word: banal is the property of the owner, which everyone can (more precisely, should, must) use, this is a “common place”. Does the Lord not make Himself a commonplace, commonplace for His slaves? What could be more banal than the phrase “God is love”, more banal than the Sunday and Liturgy? Only the eternal life promised to all, the Good News known to all – the most famous news in the world?
Profanation is a legal term from ancient Rome, denoting the transition of the "property of the gods" into "the property of the people", from priests to society. God became man, born of a virgin, giving his flesh and blood to all; God, sitting with tax collectors and harlots – isn’t it a gesture of the first production, which gives the beginning to all the profanations of our culture? And the first ideologues of secularization were mendicant monks in the West and non-covetous in the East: Francis of Assisi, Nil Sorsky and all who followed them.
The heart, torn from the chest of a captive in sacrifice of God the Sun – here is a sample of the "sacred"; "Religious" does not mean "good" or "good." Christianity is not sacred. Do not we, the Christians, "cast off the spell" of the pagan world, expelled all the gods and stopped the sacrifices? Fighting religion, eternal vaals, is it not one of the main threads of Scripture? And did not the priests kill Christ for blasphemy? "Great Pan is dead" – thank God the One!
Therefore, Christian saints are not gods and heroes, but ordinary people who follow the steps of a Man.
Let's offer some more books on more general topics.
Three excellent literary images of the saints: Green's “Strength and Glory”, Bernanos's “Countryman's Diary”, Cronin's “Keys of the Kingdom”.
On the types of the sacred – "Essays" Eliade.
A serious reflection on the sacred – the book of Otto. And – excellent – exposing the sacred, religion in general (ie, paganism) – the books of Girard.
A brief, but beautiful book by Schmemann's “For the life of the world” is about the fatal division of the sacred / profane.
On holiness "now" is a controversial, but important book by Khudiyev, "On Confidence in Salvation."
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