Sunday, April 29, 2012

Met. Georges Khodr on the Principles of the Orthodox Youth Movement (IV)

From 1950. Part I here. Part II here.Part III here. Arabic original here.

The Third Principle: "The Movement strives to create an Orthodox culture animated by the spirit of the Church."

The Church and Civilization

By culture, we mean everything that the human intellect has produced in history-- philosophies, sciences, arts, and social situations. Culture is a creative activity without any confusion regarding the truth. Like everything in existence, it is either with Christ or against Him. Believers cannot allow activity in the world to be stripped of its Christ, whether or not this activity is separated from the Church by law, because the position of worldly activity toward Him is not that which is officially accepted, but that which actually done. The Church cannot limit her concern to places of worship. She must go beyond this and enter into all manifestations of life, directing the movement of life. History should not go forward in isolation from her. Rather, it should set its course in accordance with her spirituality. She is the source of every good theory that explains humanity and existence and there is no mysticism like Christian mysticism which is based on love and is capable of building up a person with harmonious faculties and inclinations, sensing his complete unity with God, humankind, and creation. The soundness of human reason demands an end to this painful dualism that stands between the Church and civilization. This is possible if we understand that Christianity is the religion of the Incarnation and that the faithful are not performing their duty to God if they are satisfied to work for their own salvation apart from the salvation of culture. Christ is the Savior of the world and thus the Savior of civilization, which is part of the world. This does not mean that the Church should dominate culture from without, in the way that the Western Church dominated it during the Middle Ages. God must become in deed Master of civilization, but from within by means of the spirituality that we sew in our creative, cultural activity. Orthodoxy does not know external dominance over the world and it deplores clerical authoritarianism. It believes in the culture of its free spirit which liberates man from all the enslavements of history and submits him to truth. Culture grows through its free natural faculties, but our natural movements have no life if they are not transfigured by divine grace. This grace enlightens the human intellect from within and through its light the features of Christian culture are produced.

From a theoretical perspective, the question of Orthodox culture is a forgone conclusion. The complicated issue lies in actively applying it to current issues in thought, art, and social life. This application depends on the effort of Orthodox people who are active in all parts of the world, in social, legal, artistic, and other fields. Clergy and laity must participate in this because the spirit of the Orthodox Church commands it. It is especially the responsibility of laity to introduce the life of the Church into the world within their worldly activities. But clergy also must be proficient in worldly culture in addition to the religious sciences, so that they can win educated people for Christ. The culture of the priest must be no lower than the highest cultural level in the country, so that cultured people can feel that they are on the same level of thinking with him, in order to make it possible for them to rise from the culture of sense and reason to that which is outside the bounds of sense and reason.

Orthodoxy and National Heritage

If, by "Orthodox culture" we mean the embodiment of the spirit of the Church in civilization, a consequence of this is that Orthodox culture does not have a specific cultural face. The Orthodox Church is not bound to Greek heritage or to any eastern cultural form. The spirit of the Orthodox Church is shared by Russians, Greeks, Arabs, and others, but there is a great difference between Greek, Russian, and Arab cultures. There is no Orthodox culture that is added to the national cultures of the various Orthodox peoples. An Orthodox person adopts the culture of the country in which he lives and breathes into it his spirit and the spirituality of the Orthodox Church. This spirituality is distinguished by the fact that it is love, sympathy, and humility. Cultural differences between Orthodox people in all the world do not preclude them from embodying the Orthodox Christian life in the various environments in which they live. In other words, we must support the intellect in all the forms of civilization in which it appears. We must especially be present in our Arab Middle East as an Arab Christian movement, robust in thought, literature, and art so that Orthodoxy will be manifest in all nations and peoples.

Orthodox Education

Culture calls us to construct a particularly Orthodox education. The Christian West, in both its Latin and Protestant halves, differs from us in its understanding of the nature of man, his spirituality, and his relationship with God. For this reason, it poses its questions in ways different from how we pose our questions. The creation of Orthodox educational curricula will end the educational crises that we are stumbling through. Schools that are Orthodox in action and not just in name are ones that give instruction in a satisfactory manner and that direct their students in a profoundly spiritual manner in all fields of study. Such is a school that lives in a sound religious atmosphere for its teachers and students. 

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