The Journal of the Fellowship of St.Alban & St.Sergius. No.21 September 1933
The Eucharist and the social problems of modern society
Our historical epoch is overshadowed by the sign of the social problem in the widest sense of the word. The social conscience clamours for justice in mutual human relationships to be made tangible, it seeks to overcome the coercion (compulsion), imposed by actual reality, by reason and purpose. One could state, in fact, that although the social question existed at all times in history, it represents a certain destiny for our own epoch, a pressing historical task. The attitude towards this problem is in practice determined according to different criteria, the dominant place being occupied by natural, so-called biological factors – by the animal struggle for existence in the form of class war, and by direct economic competition. The latter gives us a clue to an understanding of the economic life of society through political economy, which represents, unfortunately, not only an evil nightmare, originating in the brain of Ricardo or Marx, but hard reality itself, denouncing our pseudo-Christian society. And the animal struggle between classes and individuals becomes not merely a fact, but also an exhortation. We find it proclaimed in the press, in the streets, at public gatherings, so that contemporary society comes to live on a crator, always threatened by catastrophes and earthquakes, similar to the one which has overcome our country. The whole atmosphere is poisoned by social hatred, jealousy and despair. «Solve my riddle, or I shall eat you», – says the social sphinx to the contemporary Œdipus. But can harmony be achieved along tracks of mutual hatred? The spiritual store-house of contemporary society, however, contains also other ideas and powers, apart from class hatred. We should mention here, primarily, those ideals which can best be described as humanitarian and moral in the wider sense. Contemporary society owns an accumulated capital of social solidarity, sympathy – it strives for liberty, – equality and even fraternity. Notwithstanding social obduracy a feeling of respect for personality and its freedom is widespread in European society, which shudders involuntarily when these rights are violated as, for instance, in contemporary Germany.
This love of freedom is most obviously displayed when we compare the life of European nations with that of Soviet Russia, where we observe the most bestial form of Eastern despotism raging wild, under a ’red’ mien. This European humanism is undoubtedly of Christian origin. Long since, however, has it been severed from its Christian soil and is in fact more directly associated with the principles of 1789 – liberté, égalité, fraternité – with Rousseau and Voltaire, rather than with the Gospels and the New Testament, although only in these latter can it find sufficient justification for itself. These humanitarian ideals in themselves represent a common, so to speak, self-evident basis of the contemporary social movement. One might describe this as the social sentimentality of our times, which does not penetrate deeply into life, but is satisfied with superficial humanitarian optimism. If one were to express this series of ideas in the language of Christian dogma, it would broadly speaking correspond to Pelagianism with its
insensibility to original sin and the power of evil in man. Quantitatively such social Pelagianism is very widespread in our days. As a result of this the contemporary social movement, taken in general, tends to be un-religious, or at least a-religious. One of the embodiments of such a-religious humanism we witness in Freemasonry – in at least some of its forms.
Parallel to the un-religious social movement, however, which is biological and humanitarian, there also exists a religious and Christian movement. It would be impossible to conceive that contemporary Christianity, as represented by its various confessions, completely lacked a consciousness of social duty and social responsibility. The Church constantly rouses both individual and social consciousness. There is no need to dwell in particular on the various manifestations of the social movement – the social, the labour, the ideological-whose representatives procure their inspiration from the Christian faith, striving to make the principles of the Gospels incarnate in life, and thus following the teaching of Christ. In this country in particular we have the earliest far-reaching examples of such a movement, which continues now. The common Christian attitude to the social problem finds itself generalised in the so-called Stockholm Movement, One should mention here also Social Roman Catholicism, which holds itself distinct from the Stockholm Movement, This Movement is predominantly religious-ethical or social-ethical. According to the unforgettable expression used by one of its leaders, Archbishop Söderblom, the Stockholm Conference of 1925 should have been the Nicea of Social Ethics. In general the social movement in Christianity finds sufficient justification for itself, as well as inspiration, in the precepts of the Gospels. It strives to become a Social Sermon on the Mount, of course in conjunction with other precepts of the Gospels and the New Testament. Such an understanding of the Word of God on the above question finds sufficient support in Holy Tradition, viz. – in the writings of the holy fathers, which, as is well known, contain abundant material with regard to the Social message of Christianity (St.Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Lactantius, Ambrose and many others). Of course their teaching requires modernisation from the point of view of its purely social content, but it establishes quite clearly the link which exists between Christian ethics and the Social problem, and gives Christian love also a social aspect. One could say in general that it is precisely social Christianity, and not the individualism which leads to a denial of the world, that rather appears to receive the support of Holy Tradition. But an interpretation of the Social question, which remains only within the bounds of social ethics, an ethical understanding of the Kingdom of God alone, which, in particular, is characteristic of Protestantism, is undoubtedly inadequate. This problem must discover a metaphysical or ontological basis for itself, it must acquire a dogmatic setting,
The idea of the Kingdom of God must be revealed in its fulness, not only as something that ought to exist ethically, but also as a universal prophecy about a higher level of existence – in its eschatological and antological aspects. And in this sense we can formulate beforehand our thesis, which requires to be
disclosed further – Eucharistic theology must serve as a basis for Christian Sociology.
What does this actually mean? What connection is there between the Lord’s Supper and social life? In attempting to answer this question we shall be obliged to deflect ourselves slightly in the direction of Christian anthropology.
Man, according to his very creation, is not only an individual being but also a progenitor. In contrast to the angels, who represent in themselves a concordant multitude, a 'sobor' (council), mankind is a multiunity, a genus. Mankind is bound by common descent from one ancestor, the first-created Adam, and has one nature in common. In this sense humanity is created in the image of the Holy Trinity, in which the 3 hypostases also possess one nature, and in it share one life in common. The basic Christian dogmas of the Fall and of Redemption are associated with this fact. According to the teaching of the Church, through the person of the first-created Adam all mankind is damaged by Original Sin, for in him «all sinned» (Rom.7:12). But in the person of the New Adam, Christ, all human kind is reinstated «For as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ shall all be made alive» (I Cor.XV: 22), and for this reason ὁ Λόγος σάρς έγενετο, Christ's Incarnation, the fact that He became man implies that He took on the entire human nature, the whole and complete Adam. Christ in His human nature possessed a concrete human individuality, was a definite person.
This was Jesus of Nazareth, the son «as was supposed» (Luke III: 23) of Joseph and Mary, He possessed definite ancestry and definite kinship. He lived in a definite place at a definite time, belonged to a definite historical epoch, spoke in a definite language, which was Aramaic. If He were not to possess a definite individuality His very humanity would not be genuine. If He would have lacked individuality in this way He would have differed from every other man in this particular characteristic. But simultaneously with being a definite man – Jesus, the son of David – Christ was also an all-man an all-individual. He contained in His human natixre the whole of mankind – all the fulness of Adam’s nature and all its hypostatic images, similarly as the first Adam potentially contained in himself all the individualities of future mankind. Only by being an all-man could Christ redeem the whole of humanity and become its new progenitor, the New Adam, starting with Himself a new generation of the sons of God. Adam’s humanity in Redemption becomes Christ’s humanity. It represents a living multiunity which has one life in Christ, but at the same time it is an absolutely real multitude of hypostatic images, which are united in this oneness of life.
This multi-une humanity, as one whole, is the Body of Christ, which consists of many members united, however, in their life in Christ, As a multiplicity of individuals it is a living ‘sobornost’ – that is, such a harmonious existence, in which both the separate existence of each one and of all together is a complete reality. Comparing the Church to a body, the Apostle Paul simultaneously shows us both the common life in the body and the multiplicity of its members, and the living link which exists, between these members. «But now hath God set the members of each one of them in the body... and if they were all one member, where were the body? But now there are many members, but one body” (I Cor.XII: 18-19).
“And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof” (26-27). The harmony of the multi-unity is love, which unites it into the Church. Church unity is the inner norm for the life of Christian mankind: reunited by the Spirit of God it grows in unity. Such growing is thus depicted by the Apostle – we must, through true love «grow up in all things into Him which is the head, even Christ; from Whom all the body fitly framed and knit together, through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love «(Eph. IV: 15-16).
The 'sobornost' of the Church, that is – union in love – thus becomes the Body of Christ which is being accomplished, and at the same time contains in itself the guiding principle and ideal for the fellowship of mankind. In its simplicity and childlike, unassuming, originality it was revealed to the world in the life of the Primitive Church, in which newly converted Christians lived in religious communion and unity of love. «And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they did take their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people»(Acts Hr 44-46).
What is it that particularly attracts our attention in this picture of the simple life of the Primitive community? The fact that church love, the 'sobornost' of the Church is not confined to the temple and prayer, but spreads to the whole of their life. They do not draw a distinction between that which is of the Church and that which is not, for they included the whole of life into the fulness of Church unity. And thus silently, through an example from actual life, it is pointed out to us that the sobornost of Church life knows of no limitation and in principle leaves nothing to the lower, animal principles – on the contrary, that it desires to melt all and recast all in the fire of Church love. But in the further history of the Church, in fact very soon after, this sobornost pauses on the threshold of the temple and does not go further. It limited itself, leaving life beyond the doorstep of the temple, devoid of the consecration of the Church, The Church could never succeed, however, in forgetting the most cherished dreams of its childhood, which ought to have become the aim and striving of the grown man. For the activity of the Church, the power of its 'sobornost' ought to spread to the whole of the life of its members and consequently to the whole of the life of Christian society. Christ through His manhood lives in every man, as He Himself testifies to this in the questions He puts at the Last Judgment (Mat.XXV).
The 'soborny' body of the Church is the Body of Christ, His humanity. Its very existence is associated with the Incarnation, in fact one can say that it is His divine Incarnation. For the Incarnation was accomplished not only for the time of the earthly presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It also maintains an abiding significance. It exists not only within time, but also in eternity, and only by the power of this eternity it preserves an abiding value: «Jesus Christ
is the same yesterday and to-day and fox ever»(Heb.XIII: 8).
All the members of the Church, for themselves, have this power of the Incarnation, for they are bound to Christ in His Body. This reality of the Body of Christ acquires for itself a direct and immediate fulfilment in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood, in the Divine Eucharist. In this sense the Eucharist is the fulfilment of the divine reality of the deification of mankind, an abiding and extended Incarnation. In truth, what does this Sacrament signify in its fulness? Directly, it is the Lord’s Table, intended for the faithful, for their communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, for their union with Christ. But this its purpose becomes derivative in relation to its more general meaning. Partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ only becomes possible owing to the fact that this very Body and Blood of Christ actually exist – while their existence is a consequence of the accomplished Incarnation. Therefore Communion first of all witnesses to the Incarnation that has been fulfilled and the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ in itself represents this Incarnation, as if it takes place afresh, or more accurately, as if it were extended.
The Orthodox rite of Divine Liturgy comprises not only the mysterious change of the Eucharistic elements – which, as a matter of fact, constitutes the Roman Mass – but also reproduces pictorially the whole of the Incarnation, beginning with Christ’s Nativity and ending with the Ascension. The symbolism of the Liturgy represents the nativity of Christ – in so far as the paten signifies the manger and the star-cover, the star of Bethlehem; the solemn beginning of our Lord’s mission by the Little Entrance, and other various events in the life of Christ, according to the feast-day or the appointed lesson from the Gospel. Further the saving Passion, the death on the Cross, the Ascension and the Second Coming are commemorated, as is mentioned in the prayer prior to the Elevation of the Host – “Wherefore we also, O Master, having in remembrance His redeeming Passion and Life-Giving Cross, His Three Days Burial, and His Resurrection from the dead, His Ascension into Heaven and His Sitting on the right hand of God the Father, and His glorious and terrible coming again”. The Redeeming Passion and Christ’s glorious Resurrection correspond in the Liturgy to the consecration of the Holy Gifts and the mingling of the Body and Blood in the Chalice, and the Ascension to the transferance of the Holy Elements to the Table of Oblation after the last appearance before the people.
This symbolism of the Divine Liturgy possesses not only a significatory but also a mysterious religious meaning: church «commemoration» is not only a subjective reproduction in human memory, but a communion with the actual reality – with the life of Christ, in the Incarnation, which, having been once accomplished within time abides in eternity.
For this reason the change in the Holy Gifts and Communion itself during the Liturgy are not separate isolated acts, taken outside any context with the whole life of our Saviour, of the whole of the Incarnation. This act is neither a kind of magic act performed by the priest, associated with the recitation of certain sacramental words, which as it were, resemble an incantation. Such an interpretation it acquires in Roman theology. In particular
according to St.Thomas Aquinas, if the priest recites the words of institution even apart from the saying of the whole Mass, outside its context, the Sacrament takes place in spite of this – evidently as an act of magic. But the transformation of the Holy Gifts only takes place in connection with the whole of the Incarnation.
Thus we see that the Liturgy represents the Incarnation which again takes place for us, is renewed, is repeated. Christ again comes into the world to unite with His humanity, and the rays of this union emerge from the Holy Chalice and penetrate the hearts of those who approach the Sacrament. And through Communion they fulfil for themselves the accomplished Incarnation, uniting with Christ into one Body, into one deified humanity. One could put it that God is born in every one of those who partake at the Liturgy, and everyone of them is born in God, enters His divine sonship. But at the same time everyone communicates also to the power of the redeeming Sacrifice of Calvary. For the divine Eucharist which represents for us a renewed Incarnation includes within itself also that which was the heart and the culminating event in the earthly life of our Saviour – the death on the Cross – the redeeming Sacrifice.
The Divine Eucharist is this redeeming Sacrifice. And in so far as it is this Redeeming Sacrifice it represents a communion of this Sacrifice: first the Sacrifice and then a partaking of it. And for this reason in instituting the Sacrament of Communion Our Lord makes it a partaking of His sacrificial Body and Blood – «Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you...» «Drink ye all of this: for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many». The sacrificial Blood washes the sins of all, and through it all are united in sonship to God, through the offering of the Sacrifice. Therefore Eucharistic Fellowship (κοινωνία) is first of all an encounter and a union before the Altar of Sacrifice. If the Church is a ’sobornost' – a ’bringing together’, a ’collecting’, then in the Eucharistic Sacrifice it represents a collective unit. Whose is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, whom does it affect and for whom is it offered? The answer is simple and clear: the Churches and for the Church. It is in the Sacrifice that we hear the pulsation of the heart of the Church, it is there that its unity is fulfilled in sobornost. The exclamation of offering, according to the Slavonic text, is read thus: «Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all”. This «all» equally applies both to all «sins» – the sin of the world, and to all men, united in the Church (in this case we have a curious inexactitude in the Slavonic translation of the Greek text, owing to which we get another version of the text and another shade of meaning).
Above all else the Eucharist is a redemptive Sacrifice,»unto the remission of sins». But this does not exhaust the power of Christ’s sacrifice, the power of the Incarnation. It does not only reinstate the fallen nature of Adam, it leads to a new life in Christ, It gives to the natural man of the Old Adam the power to become Christ's mankind, gives him the power for new life. For a fuller understanding of this side of the divine Eucharist we should consider here the parting
discourse of Our Lord at the Last Supper. This talk is preserved for us only in the Gospel of St.John. At the same time we find that he is the only one of the Evangelists who does not record the actual institution of the Eucharist, of which all the three Synoptists treat.
But, according to his general custom, St.John amplifies the narratives which speak of the establishment of the Eucharist, by the parting discourse of Our Lord. This discourse provides an authentic divine interpretation of all the significance of this usage and its testament on prayer, prophecies and pledges. It is, so to speak, a divine Eucharistic theology. And it treats first of all of the coining of the Spirit – the Comforter Who shall teach all things and shall declare the things that are to come. Further it speaks of love through the power of which. Christians must stand united as the Persons of the Holy Trinity – «I am in the Father and the Father is in Me» (John XVII: 21) «that they may be one in us». It deals finally with the works that Christians are called on to perform – greater works than those that Jesus did «because I go unto the Father» (John XIV: 28).
Boundless horizons are here disclosed before the spiritual eyes of the disciples for the life of the whole of Christ’s mankind. Just before hearing this they had communicated of His Body and Blood and had thus been united to Christ. Therefore the Christ Who speaks to them here as their Master, and the Eucharistic Christ of Whom they have just partaken, is the one and same Christ, so that the parting discourse is, so to speak, the voice of Holy Communion itself in the communicants, the word of the Word in the Eucharist which constantly resounds in the Eucharistic heart. And all this parting speech is the sweetest discourse ever expressed in human language. It culminates in the so-called High-Priestly Prayer, which speaks of eternal glory and life eternal. And this Prayer says: «They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world even so I send them into the world» (John XVII: 17-18). This blessing in prayer the High Priest bestowes on His mankind, when He consecrates it to a service of His Truth, sending His disciples into the world, as He Himself was sent into the world by His Father. He seems to throw open before His disciples the gates of the temple – of the Upper Room – calling on them to share with the world the treasures which they have received – the divine Eucharist. He bequeaths to them a Eucharistic life, He gives then Eucharistic inspiration, through this communion of the word. Christ’s parting discourse, as divine Eucharistic theology contains within it the seed of the liturgical text of the future, in which its various aspects are revealed.
Owing to this the most common characteristic of the Liturgy, as of a Rite of the Divine Eucharist, is its universal quality – «for all and for everything». This universality acquires here a two-fold meaning – on the one hand it concerns all – the whole world and the whole of mankind, on the other hand – everything – that is, all in life, with the exception, of course, of sin.
The universal element does not preclude, but includes the personal, and the
universal character of the Eucharist does not prevent the prayer being adapted both to certain persons – living or dead – or, equally to specific human needs. It is important to insist that here we have no repugnance to or disregard of human life, still less any scorn of this life. The Lord’s Prayer embraces within itself not only our striving towards God, but the whole of our earthly life with its needs. Similarly all Liturgical prayers, which also have their outward summary and their prototype in the Lord’s Prayer, expand to the whole of life, A mere glance at liturgical texts, starting with the most ancient times, confirms one general principle: the Church prays at the Liturgy for the whole of human life, according to the direction of the Apostles (I Tim.11:1-3). And in fact St.Cyril of Alexandria speaks of it thus: «on celebrating the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service we pray to God for the general peace of the Churches, for the wellbeing of the world... for all who lie in sickness, for those who are worn out by toil and in general for all who need help», or, as St.John Chrysostom puts it – «for the universe, for all that has existed, for all that exists at present, for all those who were born before us, for those who will be born after us», «for bishops, priests, kings, and those in authority, for the earth, the sea and the air, and for the whole world».
And when we come to scan the contents of ancient liturgies, and especially the liturgies of the so-called Apostolic Constitutions (II and III centureis), of the Greek Liturgy of the Apostle James, the Ethiopian Liturgy, the Messopotamian Liturgy of the Apostles Thaddeus and Maris and the Nestorian Liturgy, we see that they all contain long prayers for the wellbeing of the world and for help to the sick, the needy, those in prison and others.
In our contemporary liturgies such prayers have been preserved most in their developed form in the Liturgy of Basil the Great, where the priest prays after the consecration of the Holy Elements for the strengthening and guidance of authority, for the wellbeing of the family, for help to all who are undergoing sorrow and trials: «Have in remembrance, O Lord, this congregation here present, and those who are absent for reasonable cause; and have mercy upon them and upon us, according to the multitude of Thy mercies. Fill their treasures with every good thing; maintain their marriage-bond in peace and concord; rear the infants; guide the young; support the aged; encourage the fainthearted. Collect the scattered, and turn them form their wandering astray, and unite them to Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Set at liberty those who are vexed by unclean spirits; voyage with those who voyage; journey with those who journey; defend the widows; protect the orphans; free the captives; heal the sick. Have in remembrance, O God, those who are under trial, and in the mines and in prison, and in bitter labours, and in all affliction, distress and tribulation.»
«Have in remembrance, O God, all those who invoke Thy great loving-kindness; those also who love us, and those who hate us, and those who have enjoined us, unworthy though we are, that we should pray for them; and all Thy people,
O Lord, our God: And upon them all pour out Thy rich mercy, granting unto all such of their petitions as are unto salvation. And those whom we, through ignorance, or forgetfulness, or the multitude of names, have not remembered, do Thou Thyself call to mind, O God, who knowest the age and the name of each, and knowest every man even from his mother’s womb. For Thou, O Lord, art the Helper of the helpless, the Hope of the hopeless, the Saviour of the stormtossed, the Haven of the voyager, the Hoaler of the sick. Be Thyself all things unto all men, O Thou Who knowest every man, his petitions, his abode, and his need. Deliver, O Lord, this city and every city and land from, famine, plague, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, the invasion of enemies, and from civil war».
The Church believes that if every fervent and sincere prayer is efficacious, Eucharistic prayer must be particularly effective. This implies that the Eucharistic Sacrifice invisibly affects and saves not only souls, but even the very flesh of the world and that its efficacy extends far beyond the limits of a particular temple and the personal needs of those who pray, that it involves not only the personal spiritual life of individuals, but the entire life of society. Thus an immutable foundation is laid for Christian communal life and our thesis that Christian sociology must be based on Eucharistic theology already receives a preliminary ratification. This thesis, however, may admit of further development. In Christian life all is sanctified by prayer – this begins already from the Old Testament. But Eucharistic prayer and Eucharistic consecration involve something greater than prayer alone. Through them our whole life is absorbed in the increase of the Body of Christ and is thus brought into contact with Him. And the Ascended Christ resides in the Church in His humanity and with His humanity. This conclusion springs from the very essence of the Eucharistic dogma. The Lord ascended to heaven and withdrew from us. But at the same time He did not leave us as orphans (John XIV: 18) for He abides with us unto the end of the world. But how does He abide with us? Pre-eminently – visibly, though mysteriously, in the Divine Eucharist, which is, to this extent, a superseding of the Ascension. On ascending to heaven the Lord did not sever His bond with the world, and the Eucharist is this connecting link – an abiding Incarnation.
The Lord ascended with His glorified body to heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father, but He Himself simultaneously in the Eucharist creates for Himself a body on earth also, and abides in it also. And this His presence in the Holy Gifts (praesentia realis) must be interpreted as an external fact – of abiding in a definite point within space and time – but it is the power of life, which acts in us and abides not statically, but dynamically. The Body of Christ is thus being completed in His mankind on earth, and the power which brings this to pass is the Eucharistic presence of Christ in the world – the life-giving Chalice. Dogmatically this thought may also find confirmation in another theological consideration which, however, only acquires significance as a theological hypothesis (theologumenon). When Christ on the Cross was pierced with a spear, there came out blood and water from His pierced side (John XIX: 34). These remained and abide in the world as a gift
of the earthly humanity of Christ. This precious gift of Christ to our earth also constitutes a link with Him. Although this link differs from the Eucharistic one, it also unites us with it. Christ invisibly dwells on earth and acts in His humanity. He suffers and is crucified with mankind, hungers and thirsts and is cast into prison (Matth.XXV) whilst fulfilling His mission.
This spiritual vision was expressed by the Russian poet Tutchev in his well known lines:-
«Worn out by the burden of the Cross,
The Heavenly King in servant’s guise,
Wanders all over thee, mother earth,
Bestowing His blessing on thee...»
Dostoievsky describes the same thought in his widely known «Legend of the Great Inquisitor». But this association of Christ with the world represents simultaneously a way towards the establishment of His Kingdom on earth, His Kingly mission. The history of mankind is a picture of this enthronement, which is being achieved through the struggle between good and evil – the beast and the draggon – with the power of Christ, which, will end in the victory of Christ. This earthly history of the Church is revealed in the Apocalypse in mysterious and symbolic images, and in itself it represents an apocalypse. And it culminates with the descent of the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, to earth. In whatever way we are led to interpret the particular symbols of the Apocalypse in detail, we cannot but agree as to its one common meaning: the city of God is built within history by the efforts of those who are the faithful servants of Christ the King. Although the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation it suffereth violence (and men of violence take it by force). And if the Church opens its heart in prayer into the current of the life of the whole world, if Christ Himself leads His faithful into battle with the powers of Antichrist, it stands to reason that our own struggle for the Church and for its victorious power in the world must include in itself the whole of life and must not put a ban on anything.
The rays of light from the Eucharistic Chalice penetrate all the darkness of our life, and the darkness cannot overcome this light. The inspiration of the Eucharist ought to accompany us in all our creative activity in life, and the Liturgy – the «common cause» must be transformed into a liturgy celebrated outside the temple. It must become our common cause not only in the temple, but also beyond it. This forms the basis of Christian culture and sociology (communal life). The general thesis which follows from the devotion of the Eucharist is this: everything in Christian life must be – if not directly, at least indirectly – orientated towards the Incarnation, and therefore associated with the Chalice of the Eucharist, and that which in an inner sense cannot belong to the Eucharist, and all that which cannot be-honoured by a Eucharistic blessing – has no right to existence. We do not cast off or forsake either our personality or our life – except for sin – when we approach the Chalice, and that which we should leave must be banished from life also. If we were able to examine our life, taking as a basis this criterion of the Eucharist, what striking and edifying results would be provided by such scrutiny!
And so a Christian's duty and calling is to create history in Christ and with Christ, putting Christ at the head of all, according to the expression of a remarkable Russian theologian of the XIX-th century, Archimandrite Theodor Bukharev. The Church assembles and unites mankind into the one Body of Christ, and the power of this ‘sobornost’ is the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself. Various circles can be inscribed from this centre, by taking different radii which will all remain within the boundary of Church fellowship, although at present, owing to the secularization of life various false centres spring up.
And with the actual fellowship of the Church, in the parish, a direct liturgical proximity before the Altar actually takes place.
Such communion found expression in the early Church in the one common life and directly in the so-called agapes, or suppers of love, which undoubtedly represented spiritual centres for further crystallization. The agapes disappear and degenerate comparatively early. At times, however, they are again revived here and there in various forms. May it not be that our present fellowship round the altar is also a special form of the agape? But this direct communion transcends the limits of a given temple and of a given community and merges with the whole of life of the Christian community, with all its pressing tasks.
Here we are faced with the social question and in general with all the needs of the community. They are characteristic of every epoch, and in addition to this each epoch has its own specific approach to these needs, which result therefore in various opinions, teachings, political parties. And here when we step over the threshold of the temple and enter communal life we find ourselves confronted by a quite peculiar difficulty. In this life we find that brothers in Christ, common participators of the Eucharistic Cup, may find themselves, and actually do, in various groups, which might be competing with each other or actually hostile to one another. But, if these competing groups unite before the altar and are filled with the spirit of Christian love, we find that their actual competition is mitigated and is removed from the hatred and suspicion, which are so characteristic of political parties. The Christian spirit represents an immeasurable factor, which overcomes the struggle from within.
But the question invariably arises; does not political and social unanimity follow from the fact that we have one Christian faith? May it not be true that a united Christian policy could be developed and a common Christian political party be formed? Could there be a party of the Gospel? It can be well understood that we should seek for such a thing, this is quite natural and inevitable – in certain cases it can be actually achieved in practice. Of course it is much more natural for us to try to find unanimity rather than disagreement within the limits of a particular church, though in actual practice reality often contradicts this. A sad example of such contradiction is supplied by our Russian Church in emigration with its present divisions, which are to a large extent of political and not ecclesiastical origin. Nevertheless practical questions of social life and their solution belong to the realm of the relative, in so far as this applies to methods, and not aims, and one cannot make the relative an absolute. There exist no Church dogmas in the domain of social politics, which could come to be established by the Church, on which it could insist and make them, obligatory to all. If the Church Universal allowed varios local churches
divergencies in rites and customs, the more this should be applied to the realm of social relations, where room must be left for the individual’s conscience and opinion. And an enforcement of political dogmas, obligatory to all, as it existed in the Russian Church during Tzardom, is an abuse.
Unanimity is the aim and achievement of love, a breath of the Holy Ghost, and not a jurisdiction of canons and dogmas. It can only be achieved, however, in a common endeavour of conscience, activity and thought, and a common concern for she welfare of our neighbour. In the olden times when life existed in patriarchal simplicity and when social relationships were very clear these questions were revolved on the basis of philanthropy, organised and unorganised. Now it represents a conglomeration of tasks, which aredescribed as the social problem in all its complexity. Christian sociology now begins to tread this path – different churches and Church communities follow this course more and more decisively. In our day the determining centre of such a Movement is the Stockholm organisation, which originated from the world-wide conference of 1925, which at present has various ramifications if its work. As recently as March 1933 a conference of theologians and sociologists look place in Germany. It was devoted to the study of questions of Christian sociology. The Anglican Church, which was faced by the sores of early capitalism and pauperism, sooner than any other Church began to concentrate on questions of social reform, and at present she sets an edifying and leading example to all the other Christian communities even at the present moment, when we cannot refrain from welcoming her campaign for the abolition of slums and for the improvement of cousing conditions for the working population. The Orthodox Churches, which for most part have dealings with primitively-patriarchal nations, tend in this respect to be rather backward. While before the Revolution, in addition to this, the Church was deprived of the freedom necessary for social action. Unfortunately after the revolution she did not receive it either, owing to the bestial terror which has been inflicted by the Soviet regime on the Church. This terror abolishes any kind if freedom of thought. But in spite of all this it is precisely the Russian Church, is represented by its writers and theologians, that immersed herself with special creative insight into questions of Social Christianity and of Christian culture.
In this realm Russian thought occupies a significant place and is most important for the entire Christian world, although this latter even now at times does not know anything about this. Dostoievsky once said «Our Russian Socialism is Orthodoxy». By these words he expressed the thought that it is precisely Orthodoxy which contains the beginnings for higher community life, the social truth for which the whole world thirsts. For Orthodoxy, according to the teaching of Khomiakov, is based on 'sobornost' – on freedom in love. And Orthodoxy also, according to the teaching of a series of Russian theologians of modern times – from Bukharev, Soloviev and Fedoroff – to our contemporaries, contains an inspiration for Christisn creativity. This creative effort is directed to a transfiguration of the world and to a seeking for the New City, descended from heaven. And when at last the hour shall strike for she deliverance of our country from the Soviet yoke, the Russian Church, having undergone the terrible experience of these past years, will disclose a new face and shall be called to new creativity. And we here are given the opportunity of speaking on old word about this, which is simultaneously a new word: the soborny life of mankind is fortified, inspired and accomplished by the power of the Incarnation, which reveals itself to us in the Divine Eucharist. This life must turn into a Liturgy performed outside the temple, celebrated around the Liturgy of the temple.