Church and society: the torments of unrequited love

“In 1995, I took the tonsure and became a priest. Since that time, I always wear traditional robes. Market, book store, clinic, bus – everywhere I am still me”. What issues it causes and how to find common ground for believers and secular people says Archimandrite Savva (Maruko).


  • Why don’t people go to Church?
  • “I realized, why not go to the temple: there are priests on the Mercedes”
  • The Church they are building! It would be better for sick children helped!
  • There is a Church “good” or “bad”
  • “People go to Church, because bad work of the SSA and clinics”

Archimandrite Savva (Maruko)

Whether standing in line, whether on the street, lecturing in the audience – I’m wearing clothes, which is called “the cassock”, a belt, and sometimes a priestly cross, and above all, his beard and long hair. One young man saw me at the University, blurted out in surprise:

– What are you a priest?

– What gave me away? – I joked.

However, to live and act in this exotic way is not a joke. To be a priest, or for the sake of accuracy, to be a priest is a very strong emotional stress, so I am sympathetic to the priests who are outside the temple wear normal secular clothing.

Man naturally seek to blend in, to be among people, not to stand out. Hollywood actor johnny Depp once said that for him, freedom is first and foremost anonymous. It is very difficult to be round the clock “in the performance,” not everyone is under force, so the majority of priests are you searching for comfort and rest in anonymity, take it as a blessing, and no one dares to condemn them for it. Because life in the cassock – the real test.

In the first year of his priesthood, I decided to always be in his monastic clothes. First, so honest, because I’m a priest and a monk, I still have to get dressed? Secondly, I was just too lazy to change and also to buy, and try to use the secular closet, so their loyalty to the cassock I don’t take as a feat. Honestly, it was easier, more natural, naturally.

The Confessor said that my trips to the city in monastic clothes is a form of preaching. Belarus in the years of Soviet power has set itself a goal to become the most atheistic Republic and, it seems, has been a resounding success, at least in its Eastern part. You could write a detailed scientific study based on my experience of walking around the city. Replica, looks, facial expressions, gestures, unexpected conversations and, if not the most important thing, my personal emotion is alive and colorful picture in which are reflected all the contradictions that permeate the dialogue of Church and society.

My humble cassock – like reagent that detects the degree of tension of these relations, latent tendencies, accumulated claims, convenient stereotypes, nestled on the opposite side.

The voice of the hangers

Go with a friend of mine on the market. He is also a priest, overweight, suffers from diabetes and, like me, always wears a cassock. He is heavier than me: almost every a walk, he hears comments about excess weight.

The priests grow fat on the people’s grief!

– Fast, good, not tried?

Is on a dime ladies of the belly burst?

My friend, a man of incredible humility, once said:

– Yes, grown fat! You gnawed!

And immediately aroused the admiration of the critics themselves. The soul of the people – puzzle!

Can all this be blamed on plain rudeness. But it’s not. Ordinary person you are not going to ask the question:

– And why are you so fat? Take the trouble to explain Society excited and requires an immediate response!

Or this:

– What salary at you? And for the last month? Here is the car which means bought?

To address such questions to a stranger the priest is not considered rudeness. Why? These things I relate to the humor and are not going to be offended or to be hurt. I have a purely scientific interest: how is it that religious people, most of them are very good people, can not find a common language with their secular counterparts, which are often also very good people?

Christians are a people prone to soul-searching. We are trained to immediately look for the guilt. Why so much talk about the fierce old women and ignorant priests, strict nuns and the slowness of our Church bureaucracy. And we are eagerly looking for celebrities who converted to Christianity, collected catalogs of quotes by famous people – that the actor praised us, that this writer, see as spoke warmly about the Church.

I am deeply insulted that ridiculous begging. Like a whole community of great people suddenly struck by a “servile gene”, the complex of the old hangers.

The priest in the siege

Every day to go to the city’s mantle is a test. The nervous activity. People unconsciously point out to you of your irrelevance. Not because they are bad, just that society has become too secular, and a serious attitude to religion is taken as a dangerous eccentricity.

A believer is forced to spend a significant part of its forces for resistance to this cold pressure of alienation. In other words, just be a believer in our time requires enormous energy. This can be compared to the emotional costs that go to, say, an aspiring writer or musician to overcome resistance on the part of friends and relatives that a choir laugh at his passion, shame, the urge to be like everyone else and “just to make money.”

Man is a social being. Without the support of those who are near, without their approval and encouragement is very difficult. This barrier of alienation familiar people unexpectedly for relatives who decided to do sports or dance. Just go Jogging for the first time is an adventure! That’s what I say when trying to describe the emotional tension in which living is a believer.

Why is it important to recognize these emotional costs? If the resistance of the medium is high enough, then to overcome it sometimes takes so much energy, that creativity has almost nothing left. I emphasize this because we humans are prone to self-blame, tend to show themselves excessive demands. But our emotional charge is not unlimited. If you spend almost entirely on the pressure resistance of secular environment, don’t expect themselves to be great breakthroughs.


Yeah, I was in such an emotional siege, walking in his “calling outfit” around the city. And suddenly something happened. Apparently, I’ve matured. Suddenly I discovered that this city, which I go, same my city, like those who go near. I don’t need condescending looks, I don’t have to report to anyone.

This is my country, this is my city, and I’m the same citizen as all others. I’m not a hanger, begging for scraps in the expectation that someone will pick up or shelter. And most importantly: I don’t have to justify to anyone.

Justification – a genre to which Church people are so accustomed to that I don’t even notice its unnaturalness. Any discussion between a priest and a secular journalist turns into an endless and humiliating stream of excuses for the Church before “the broad masses of the people”, which is most often no matter to the Church or to her excuses. They’re just having fun.

Vertical dialogue

If I had my way I would eliminate the word “apology” from the Church lexicon. Our job is not apologia, and the gospel. We are the people the truth about Christ, the gospel of eternal life. This dignity and great honor. It is impossible to carry the gospel with a guilty look. The truth says with his head held high. I speak the truth with abandon, so it is not necessary to remember every step of his unworthiness. When it is not about me, but about Christ, I’m not going to hide his eyes and make excuses.

Where is the desire to appeal to a secular audience? Where is kowtowing to the people indifferent?

– Yes, but you are the blood of the victims of the Inquisition, and defamation of Galileo!

– And you have the blood of thousands of dead priests!

And what will this dispute? The number of fools on the other side of the same, and if we continue the dialogue in the genre of apology, he did nothing, because the Churches have nothing to justify to society, and how society before the Church, because we are talking about the same thing.

We tend to think in dialogue of Church and society, “vertical”: that society, and so the Church – two separate subject, the two antagonist. The society offers the Church condemns. Society rushes forward, the Church is lagging behind and suspects all the good initiatives and the impulses towards progress and enlightenment. Very convenient scheme, plain and simple – why it is so hard to give it up.

In reality everything is different. The dialogue of Church and society is “horizontally”. The Church is part of society and society is part of the Church.

In fact, the dialogue goes in the same society, and if so, then nobody has the right to put himself on the podium of the judge. Dialogue is not a judicial proceeding, a disinterested and benevolent attempt to explain to the interlocutor, sincere interest and gentle curiosity.

Society is not a monolith. It is a living organism diverse and heterogeneous lives and opinions, but with a living is always difficult. Much easier to be guided by stereotypes and clear diagrams. And we, Christians, have this weakness. But this weakness, sin, and our secular interlocutors. They are peculiar to the inertia and narrow-mindedness in assessing the actions of Christians.

Believers are accused categorical, in the absence of a healthy and sincere interest, in the unwillingness to dialogue. And our secular opponents is not guilty? Every Christian who had to participate in the discussions, knows from experience how much patience and energy it takes to withdraw dialogue from the vicious circle of stereotypes and generalizations.

Meeting dissimilar

Here my friend the priest on the minibus. Drunk man immediately begins a conversation on “the divine theme” and rounds off:

– But I’m Catholic. But to them – a foot!

– Why do not you go to Church?

They Joan of Arc burned!

A funny conversation. But his comic grain is in each and every dispute with a secular audience that doesn’t want to hear and their unwillingness or inability to dialogue covers, clinging onto ancient anecdotes or journalistic cliches.

Society – a collection of dissimilar, and that’s fine. The Church is also not a monolith. Within Orthodoxy has lavalava – Christians who have a penchant for healthy anarchism, that does not make them any less Orthodox than, say, monarchists or Christians with Communist beliefs. Because we have so many Orthodox magazines, websites, communities, communities. And that’s fine. Diversity is good!

We are part of society, and sometimes I find it easier to find common ground with my atheist friend than with the person I with the communion from the same Cup. It’s easier for me to find a common language with the same left as me, but a secular person, than with the Orthodox, but right. But it does not destroy our Church unity. This is normal. Because our unity of a different order. However, to explain that a secular person is as simple as the believer. Because all this is complicated by appeal to the Church as an institution, with its hierarchical, bureaucratic and financial device.

Photo: Stanislav Marchenko /

Man is a social being. It is impossible without institutions, but the existence of such institutions does not mean that all believers go orderly ranks and repeat the orders of the leaders. Conversely, none of the groups that the Church community does not dare to declare a monopoly on judgment regarding issues not related to gospel teaching.

The Church is a society different people following Christ. And none of the groups did not dare to privatize the voice of the Church.

When the Church need to intercede for some of the activist to identify with a political party, to be on the side of certain groups in a particular dispute, you have to be very careful. Yes, this caution come at a cost. We certainly pachislot in the state “servants of the regime” or lawyers of the capital. Nothing to worry about. Actually this problem is not an ecclesiastical society, and of people who do and do not want to hear the opponent, people who dislike diversity.

The funeral of a grasshopper

The dialogue of Church and society is not a lawsuit of clerical institutions with the society, it is a conversation within the society: the believing part of society refers to the secular. And this dialogue, like all dialogue requires equal rights.

Christians should not beg for a spot, not have to constantly justify himself, because they are part of this society. They are in politics, science, art, social life, and therefore involved in the achievements and mistakes. By the way, it is, therefore, doubtful sound familiar stories about the conflict of science and religion, Church and culture. In science and in art, and in politics has always been and will be religious people and, therefore, for them, and the glory, and the blame for everything that happens in our world.

However, on the equal rights in the dialogue within society should remember Christians who also have considerable experience of religious arrogance. But the opposite is not better. To take on the role of annoying hangers no good. To beg for attention, as a SOP, condescending praise and lazy approval is unworthy of our ranks, so we will never work out.

For a long time I was the choir Director. Once I heard an argument about singing the works of one of our composer, very strong and complex, say, essays. Cefalù launched into a criticism, and by all means skimped on the practice. One old bass suffered in silence this stupid protest and, in the end, said:

– You can write better? No? So shut your mouth and sing!

If I had to find a phrase that conveys the essence of the claims of a secular society to the Church, it is better not to find: “Shut up and sing.”

Expensive car from the priest? – A thief and a liar! The priest in a shabby cassock rides in the bus? A loser and a loser!

– Why does the Church speak on political issues?

– Why does the Church go into politics?

Shut up and sing!

All the gospel:

We played you the flute and you did not dance;

We used to sing a deplorable song, and you did not weep (LK. 7:32).

Historians say that the Evangelist here mentions an old game called “the funeral of a grasshopper”. We impose the role in a bad play and offended, if we give a replica on the script. If you want to like, if like a beggar, looking for an approving nod, the dialogue will not take place. It is initially the wrong strategy. “Each rotok you will not throw a scarf”, said our late rector. Therefore it is not necessary to spend your hand at coaxing a “cheap clown”, the endless excuses that no one hears. You simply and with dignity to do their job and communicate with dignity.

Friendship is possible only between equals.

Friendship is possible only between decent people.

If we do not respect ourselves, who will respect us?

The dialogue of Church and society is a respectful and friendly Church community of the society with its secular part. This dialogue requires a patient and considerate listening, brought up the discussion culture, and a sincere desire to understand the interlocutor. All of these qualities is not the responsibility of any one part, but a joint mutual force, can be very expensive, but worth it.

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