15 July 2008, 12:01
"Scraps" are deputy head of Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Father Vsevolod Chaplin's sketches on various subjects beginning from church life to international politics. The Interfax-Religion continues publishing some of them.
In some places of Western Europe I used to meet Catholic monks leading self-sufficient life though quite pious, prayerful, but too distant from people around. We always talked on the same topic - how bad everything is. Reverend fathers and brethren live in a well-groomed monastery, get donations from the state or earn rents and sigh: the society has abandoned faith, politicians are masons, mass culture is anti-Christian... However, they refrain from communicating with "an alien" circle and are rather afraid of it.
It makes me think that this is a reason of western anticlericalism. Perhaps, such an attitude to life and people made persecutions of Christians possible. There is a question: how can we avoid it? Self-tranquility, self-righteousness and scorn to "laypeople" can soon evoke "coals of fire" upon our heads. Thus, the apostolic practice should become our main task today. We won't preserve our inner peace without it even behind high walls.
* * *
The Russian Orthodox parish in Antwerp has occupied the central part of a big Catholic cathedral. Local community moved to a small vault chapel. Orthodox Romanians were given a small south side-chapel in the Catholic St. Catherine Church in Brussels. The visitor can see the following picture there: about forty people visit the mess in the central part of the church, while about hundred and fifty people come to the side-chapel. A big Italian airport has two empty comfortable chapels and one overcrowded poor mosque. West, West! Look at least at those who are near! Only you live the way you do. Or indeed you'll never wake up?
* * *
I visited an exhibition of Christian literature in Texas in the early 90-s. There were a plenty of books, films and records. It was a real wonder for a Russian priest. I thought we would never live to see such abundance... I passed by a stand where a quiz on church history was being held. The questions were about the following. The Apostolic Council took place in... 50 A.D., in 1975 or in 1985? Herma is an author of the Pastor, Billy Graham's biography or textbook on psychiatry? I easily answered all the questions and won the prize - a thin beautiful book. I was asked where I learned and where I came from. I answer that I am from Moscow, graduated from a seminary and now completing an academic course. The reaction was amazing: do you really learn all this "stuff" there?!
* * *
I flew back home with fifty American missionaries in T-shirts with inscriptions a-la "Salvation in Siberia." They told me they were from Southern states and on their way to save Russian people. I tried to tell them about the Russian Church and our two-thousand history of Christian thought from ancient fathers to religious philosophy of the 20th century. They showed great interest and then said, "That's cool, but do you know this?" And took out of their pockets an eight-page illiterate brochure Four spiritual laws.
To be continued.
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