22 април 2013

The Agony of the Church (1917) - SELF-CASTIGATION


The Christian monks of old used to castigate themselves when a great plague came over the world. They used to consider themselves as the real cause of the plague, and did not accuse anybody else. Well, this extreme method ought to be used now by the Churches, for the good of mankind and for their own good. It would be quite enough to bring the dawning of a new day for Christianity if this self-castigation of the Churches were only a self-criticism. 
If, for instance, the Eastern Church would say: Although I have preserved faithfully and unchangingly the most ancient traditions of Christianity, still I have many faults and insufficiencies. I have much to learn from the Roman Church, how to bring all my sections, all my national and provincial branches into closer touch; and from Anglicanism I have to learn the wonderful spirit of piety, expressed not only in old times, but even in quite modern times through new prayers, new hymns, new Psalms, added to the old ones; and from Protestantism I have to learn the courage to look every day to the very heart of religion in its simplest and most common expressions.

Or, if the Roman Church would use this self-criticism, saying: My concentration is my strength and my weakness. Perhaps, after all, my Pope is more a Caesaristic than a Christian Institution, making more for worldly Imperialism than for the Spirituality of the world. I have to learn from the Christian East more humility, and from Anglicanism more respect for human freedom and social democracy, and from Protestantism a more just appreciation of human efforts and results in science and civilisation generally.

Or, if the Anglican Church would use self-criticism like this, and say, I am, of course, an Apostolic Church, but I am not the only Church. I have to learn from the Eastern Church something, and from the Church of Rome something, but, above all, I have to learn that they are the Apostolic Churches as well as I, and that I am, without them, too small an island, and unable to resist alone the flood of patriotic and imperialistic tendencies. And from the Protestants I have to learn to put the living Christ above all doctrinal statements and liturgical mysteries.

Such a self-criticism would mean really a painful self-castigation, because it would mean a reaction from a policy of criticism and self-sufficiency which has lasted a thousand years, ever since the 16th July 1054--the very fatal date when the Pope's delegates put an Excommunication Bull on the altar of St Sophia's in Constantinople. The primitive monks, who practised self-castigation because of the world-evil, experienced a wonderful purification of soul, a new vision of God, and an extraordinary sense of unity with all men, living and dead. Well, that is just what the Church needs at present; a purification, a new vision of God, and a sense of unity. 

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