“We need to take God’s Covenant seriously – not just as a nice tradition, but as an imperative”

“A lot depends on internal Church processes. How will we be able to use the treasures bequeathed to us. I compare our situation with the early spring, when the snow appears all: the mud, the rotting remains of last year’s leaves. But the key to the future – the first flowers and the first grass come to life”. On how to take God’s Covenant seriously – one of the last interviews of Archpriest Alexander men.

Archpriest Alexander Men

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Father Alexander, please tell us about the religious politics of the Church in the USSR. What is the relationship between such concepts as politics and culture?

– Well, that’s a topic for a research. If to speak very briefly, then the absolutization of state authority in our society logically led to war against any authority, primarily the authority of religion. In fact, the state leadership (until recently) tried to replace religious authority. Mix “God” and “Caesar”. Or rather – to leave only one “Caesar”.

The connection certainly exists. Although genuine cultural creativity rises above the transient political situation, it cannot be entirely separated from the political life of the era. For example, “the divine Comedy” by Dante interesting for us regardless of the history of party strife in Florence of the TWELFTH century, but these conflicts have influenced the destiny of Dante, and on the content of his poem. Politics is external environment, which serves as a background for spiritual and cultural life.

Today the religion is not opposed to culture, which was born in its depths, and the Millennium were connected with it. What are the challenges in the field of culture stand in front of the Church?

The Church has a purpose – given to her by Jesus Christ. To Proclaim The Gospel. To sanctify life. To convert to the Evangelical spirit. In short, to serve the work of salvation. However, this activity in all ages has stimulated cultural creativity. Moral ideals have shaped many aspects of society. And as believers, we are very pleased that the government realized the important role of religious beginning. Better late than never.

Definitely one of the causes of the current crisis is rooted in the spiritual impoverishment, the loss of ideals.

Religious life, of course, can change things. Just need to eat from healthy sources.

The Church, if you give her the opportunity everyday development, there are many resources to help in the moral renewal and cultural recovery. But excessive “patronage” of the state will only interfere. After all, the public status of the Church is greatly undermined its credibility among the people before the revolution.

What is the main mission of the Church in our day?

– Here is the Church and has a mission to guide the spiritual life in healthy ways. Without fanaticism, obscurantism, given his centuries of experience. But this experience is still to learn. One day will not do that.

Photo from alexandermen.ru

What, in your opinion, can be explained by the protracted adoption of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Law on freedom of conscience which believers look forward to? Because the Church lives in an irreversible “regulations on religious associations” of 1929 and has the status of a public organization, therefore, deprived of the opportunity to dispose of their funds, to open Sunday schools, to act as a publisher of religious literature, etc. does this mean that the relations of Church and state, everything returns to normal – religious organizations will be like a few years ago, the object of state control? Is this not another ploy of the state, which was, for example, undertaken by Stalin during the great Patriotic war, when in 1943 the Soviet Union was restored to the Patriarchate, began service in some of the newly opened churches?

– Frankly, I’m not surprised at the delay in relation to the Law on freedom of conscience. The twist here is too drastic. Unprecedented for the entire Soviet period. So people who do not break the old thinking (and many more), actively inhibit the process. Here is the same picture as in other areas, where the planned and proposed a fundamental break with the stagnant prejudices.

Yes, Stalin easing of religious policy in the 1940-ies it was only a temporary tactical ploy, dictated by the military and other considerations. But I do not think that today something like this happens. First, the scale of change is incomparable. Now we are at the threshold of true religious freedom. And secondly, it seems to me that responsible people in the government are quite convinced of the evils of the destruction of spiritual values and sincerely wish for their revival in the country.

Director Boris Pokrovsky in an interview, compared the current state of Soviet society with the seething cauldron of foam which throws a lot of superficial, all that can be called in one word – “filth” of human existence. When this process is subsidence of the genuine human spirit and its development. How much we will be “boiled” to clean your soul?

– A difficult question. Much depends on internal Church processes. How will we be able to use the treasures bequeathed to us. Unlike Pokrovsky, I compare our situation with the early spring, when the snow appears all: the mud, the rotting remains of last year’s leaves. But the key to the future – the first flowers and the first living grass.

It’ll be summer. The dirt will dry. Life will continue to evolve.

From the book of Revelation, outlining the dire predictions about the future of humanity, we know that living in the end time that will end life on this earth, the judgment and Eternity. What can save humanity? Once the tears of repentance saved the Apostle Peter…

– The many predictions of the Apocalypse come true. But the judgment of the world is not only the present and the future. He began two thousand years ago, when the Light of Christ came into the world, and people, according to the gospel, chose the darkness.

Forgiveness is possible. However, the Bible teaches us that it must be preceded by repentance. Without repentance there is no hope left…

Photo from alexandermen.ru

Calling in the Kingdom of heaven, the Church has never neglected the earth cares about the person, care about your neighbor. Service to God and closer to the Russian Orthodox Church was always crowded, inextricably linked…

Today the Church returned to its legitimate field. She can take care of the afflicted. And not only “impersonal” transfer money to various funds. Opened to the living works of mercy. For concerns specific people about specific people. Although over seventy years we have lost the habit, I hope the spirit of love will again return. How many of us are in need of immediate assistance, participation, warm, outstretched hand! It and the elderly, and abandoned children, the lonely and the sick, and victims of various disasters – natural and social. Field of activity is immense.

Decades the Church was described as a “ally of enemy of the Soviet system ideology” unjust power, exploiting the common people. Decade she insulted, humiliated – and that it seek help today… But is it enough to recall the experience of the past to a positive change in your life, in the culture?

The Church has a long history. But it is not just a relic of the past. It is a living organism, composed of living members, inspired by the Spirit of God. Therefore, it should not be limited to archaeological, aesthetic and historical aspects. The essence of it goes up over time, over Nations and countries. Its focus is God, in the person of Jesus Christ saves us from the evil of the world. And He, in the words of the Apostle, yesterday and today – the same. His Holy mystery does not depend on time and place.

The appeal to religion in itself does not make all people better, kinder, more tolerant. Why?

– The answer is clear. If one refers to the religion “selectively” if he is looking at her only complacency or justify their ambitions, if it accepts only what he likes, it weakens the transformative power of faith. You need to take God’s Covenant seriously. Not just as a nice tradition, but as an imperative. Need “treatment” with all my heart. The two major commandments – love to God and love for man are inseparable. This is clearly the Apostle John says in his Epistle.

For centuries people have turned to religion, lived it for centuries developed religious consciousness, as manifested in the Bible. Force having withdrawn the people of the churches, the government ruined the lives of generations…

– The Scripture says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” But it is God’s word, the Bible and Church literature we were deprived of many generations of both believers and unbelievers. Faith teaches about the meaning of life and purpose for everyone and for the entire human race, of the immortality of the human spirit and of human responsibility before God. The infinite value of the individual. About the commandment of love, given to man from God. If we have a heavenly Father, then we must be brothers. If nature, like man, is a creation of God, then we must treat it with care.

Narrow-minded bigotry, indifference, laziness of thought, social mythology, irresponsibility, and chauvinism, aggression is common analysis – all dangerous obstacles on the way.

The damage caused to the Church – only 1920s-1930s years in Russia, was demolished thirty-three thousand Orthodox churches, about five hundred monasteries, more than fifty thousand monuments, etc., is boundless. What you, as a priest, concerned in this regard?

– I do not believe that the mere respect for the past, the monuments can save the dying heritage of culture. Monuments were erected by faith, and the only reasonable solution is to transfer all the churches of religious communities (where they are). They will take care of them, restore, and preserve. Museums and other institutions could not cope with it and can’t handle.

According to the gospel, of his good deeds are not supposed to mention, but please tell me about your huge public activities aimed at the revival of our society.

– Like many of my colleagues, I have interviews, meetings, lectures, charity events. It is a natural part of the activities of the priest. In particular, in the framework of the society “Cultural revival” I held a series of talks about Russian religious philosophy, the Bible, Church history, catechism of the interview. I thank God and people for what can make this in large halls and with the use of radio, press, television. But, again, now so many do. It’s just the duty of a shepherd.

Photo from alexandermen.ru

A conversation about spiritual values with students – and you often meet with them – probably impossible without mentioning God, the Church. Is there a happy medium?

In regular schools I am not so-called Law of God. And I think that is hardly necessary. My subject for pupils – religion in the context of world culture. Other business – the Sunday schools, which give children, parents, consciously wishing that they received a Church education. In our ward we have only recently discovered this school. So about results to speak early. We want children to have the basic concepts about the Christian faith, about the Bible, about Liturgy, etc., the Children help out and sing with us in the temple. The most capable of them is likely to be a small choir. But all this freely. Without coercion. That was not official “school syndrome”. The right thing is important. And how it is not for us to judge. I hope for the help of God, while undertaking the difficult and new.

What are the advantages you could emphasize in the training of pupils of spiritual educational institutions in contrast to the secular, if you keep in mind the cultural or educational development?

– Unfortunately, in the past years cultural training in the theological schools had been artificially limited. Only recently has the situation started to change for the better. Began to take teachers and students with higher secular education (which it used very rarely). This will contribute to the growth of our schools in culturally.

Are you often abroad. What is usually involved in these trips?

– Often, is too strong. I was able to go only in the last two years. I participated in a number of literary, cultural, and theological symposiums. It seems that contacts of this kind between our country and the West contribute to the destruction of prejudices and expand the horizons.

Admonishing His disciples, Christ said, “…take heed that ye be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time is at hand. Don’t go after them.” Now divorced a lot of healers, etc. “take heed to yourself…” said the Apostle. But how to figure out which path is correct, what about?

– In every age spiritual crisis claimants to the role of “saviors.” History knows many examples. But I would not indiscriminately reject all that unusual. In each case we must carefully understand. And to do this in the Church and in Scripture there are benchmarks and criteria. I always thought that the success of non-traditional “new cults” is the result of inactivity or the errors themselves Christians.

When we do nothing, the temptations become stronger.

However, efficient, loyal to their ancestral covenants, Christianity is able to turn people away from dubious “Messiahs” and all sorts of futile wanderings.

The conversation was led by Elena Konstantinova

4 August 1990

Photo from the archive of the Foundation named Archpriest Alexander men

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