Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

City of Men

English speaking Union
24 May 1983

When I was a teenager, a came once from a summer’s camp for boys and was met by my father, who said to me, ‘Did anything happen to you — I was worried about you!’ And rather flippantly I said, ‘Did you expect me to have broken a leg, or my neck?’ And he answered me in a quite different tune; he said to me, ‘No, that would have mattered little. I was afraid that you might have lost you integrity’. And then, continuing this conversation he said to me, ‘Remember always that whe­ther you live or die is of little importance; what matters is what you are prepa­red to live for and to die for’.

When we speak of values it is in such terms that we must think. The word ‘value’ is parallel to the word ‘worth’: what is it that it is worth living for? What is there that it is worth dying for? And ‘worth’ is the same root that has given ‘worship’: what is there one can truly worship, reverence, serve? What is greater than me? What is so great that it can be for me an inspiration and, at the same time, judgement over me if I fall short of what is my vision, my own vision, or my vocation?

I think this is my starting point, and I think that if there is any diver­gency between us, this is one of the important things we should look at.

Most people, — most of us, — live below their own stature; we are small as compared to what we can be. There are short moments when for one or another external or internal reason we become as great as we are capable of being; and than we fall back into mediocrity. W e not call it mediocrity when it is us, we call it mediocrity when it is others, but conversely others see mediocrity in us.

I remember a girl who had been my pupil in the Russian School /in Paris/ in the course of the war who found herself in Yugoslavia at the moment of the continued war and of bombardment. Their house was hit, everyone ran out. She was the most ordinary girl; no one ever thought that she had a hero within herself; no one had ever noticed that there was anything out of the ordinary in this girl. But she looked round and she saw that one old granny was missing, and she walked back into the fire. She did not save the granny, she died; but at that moment she revealed her greatness, she revealed her stature; she was all that she could possibly be: a hero, if you want, or simply her true self. Confrontation with the extremes of horror had made her grow to the extreme of her capabilities.

This is a heroic example; but we find similar examples in so many walks of life which are less striking, but are as important and as real, when someone who could be mean, small, self-centred, totally selfish, for some reason, very often unaccountably, reveals himself in a new light. It may be love that does this; it may be fear or shame; it may be a deep conviction. I can give you an example of what a deep conviction, even an erroneous one, and I underline the word because I do not want you to charge me with approving the conviction while I admire the person.

During the war as I was working as a surgeon quite close to the front line, among other wounded men two German soldiers were brought; they were atrociously wounded, there was not the slightest hope that they could survive. I came up to one of then and asked him, simply to establish a contact, to say something to him to which he could respond on the simplest human level: ‘Are you in great pain?’ And a smile came upon his ravaged face, and he said, ‘How can I suffer — we are beating you!’.

I do not say that the choice he had made was the right one: I was on the other side of the barrier by conviction, and I still am. Yet, the fact that he had chosen something that he felt was greater than himself, something for the sake of which it was worth giving his life in extreme suffering after the extremities of fatigue, fear and danger made him a greater person than he might have been otherwise. At that moment perhaps, only perhaps for that moment — perhaps was he quite a different man before, violent, brutal, cruel, but at this moment he was capable of discovering himself and seeing only that he was in the service of a cause, and a cause for which he was prepared to give all he was and all he had: his life.

The way in which love can inspire is not even worth giving examples about; one could find in the literature of the whole world striking examples of what love can do, how the frailest can grow stronger than the strongest, how a child can face danger and torment; how a mother, a friend can do this. You all can recall too many examples for me to give even one of them.

And so, the subject of values to me, on the personal level, means an attitude of reverence, of worship before something which is recognised as being great or holy, so great, so holy that it is worth living and dying for it. I remember a young man telling me of a very important experience in his life. It also happened during the last war. He was walking, in the night, in dangerous surroundings; he was not thinking either of God or anything lofty. He was walking in a wary manner because death was around him, lurking. And of a sudden he was overwhelmed by the sense of the presence of God. And there and then, on an empty bridge, where he could be seen, /spied (?)/ and shot at, he prostrated himself and said, ‘Lord, may Thy victory come, and if, for the sake of Thy victory I must be damned and destroyed, I am prepared to make you a present of it all’.

In a way, it is the same kind of experience which Saint Paul describes when he says that if for the salvation of his people he had to be alienated from God, who was all the content of his life, all the longing of his death — he would accept it. In a sense it is absurd, but it expresses the extreme of an experience; the very absurdity of it is a way of saying, ‘There are no words to speak of it; there is no imagery to express it — I can express it only in the terms of an absurd paradox. But this absurd paradox is written in life and in blood at times.

And so, the first thing I would say concerning values, concretely, perhaps more concretely than I have done now, is this: Nietzsche, in one of his writings says, ‘Remember that your nature is not within you but above you’. Each of us must reach out to his own greatness. We cannot be content with being what we are; and how can we do that? How can we search and find this true self of ours towards which we must grow? Which we must at least attempt to attain?

I would like to give one example, one way of doing it; one could similarly find other approaches probably. But this is a kind of advice which I have taken and given now for many years. For those of us for whom Christ is true and perfect man, who is a revelation of all that a man i s and all that a man is called to do on earth, there is a simple way of searching for one’s own stature. When we read the Gospel, it evokes in us three kinds of reactions:

There are passages, which, while we recognize intellectually that they are God’s word to the world, we do not respond either positively or negatively; we are prepared to say, ‘If that’s what God thinks, it must be true, but it has nothing to do with me’. Incidentally this is what we do with most of what we read of spiritual literature: we read, we take stock of it, and we go on unchanged.

There are other passages which may elicit in us a frankly negative reaction: ‘O, no! Not that!’ I remember giving a talk in our parish some thirty years ago on the Beatitudes. And when I have finished, a rather outspoken Russian lady said to me, ‘Well, Father Anthony, if that’s what you call ‘Beatitude’, you keep them! I have been hungry and thirsty enough in my life, I have had enough trouble in my life not to call that a Beatitude — thank you very much!’ — Well, this was a very outspoken way of responding not only to my talk but to God’s own words to us; but it was at least frank, it was true! She could stand before God in truth. She was herself, imperfect, still unaware of all the richness and depth there was in her, but at least there was no lie in the way in which she presented herself before the judgement of her own experience, her conscience, of God, of us.

Such passages are important, because if we believe that Christ’s word is a way in which He describes — whether in the form of commandments, or in the form of action, or story, or parable — what a true human being should be, it allows us to measure the distance between the true being and myself. If most of it results in that kind of reaction, I have a long way to go! It does not mean that I am rejected, that I stand condemned. It means that I am challenged, it means also that I have a task, I can achieve something.

But there are other passages: in which there is a perceptible truth for us, passages to which we respond by saying, ‘How true! How beautiful! O, yes!’. In these passages we find two things. The one is that we understand the mind and the heart of God, and the will of God, we are attuned to Him. And if we are attuned to Him, if we understand with our mind and heart, it means that between Him and us there is a real kinship already established. It means that I have discovered in myself a feature of t h e true and perfect man; not in the sense that I have got to copy Christ, to imitate Him, to ape Him, but in the sense that He and I are of one mind and of one heart. At the same time as I discover m y true self, I dis­cover something about God. And there is no other way of discovering anything about God than by discovering the way in which God and I, His distorted and yet survi­ving image are in harmony.

From there one can begin to move; one can say, ‘I have discovered something in me which is greater than anything I thought I was, or I knew I was. And from now onwards, if I do not live up to t h i s standard, it is not God whom I am betraying alone, I am betraying myself, I am destroying in me my own greatness, I am making a monster of something, someone, that could be beautiful’. I would say that if we have discovered one, or two, or three passages of that kind to begin with, — and the less the better, because if we can accept as being our own most of the Gospel, we are probably in a delusion, we probably simply are prepared to applaud something that is ‘quite nice’, but not the sharp challenge which God’s greatness is to us…

If we have discovered this, then we must, in the course of all our life, day in day out, be faithful to that greatness of ours. We may, — it is not that we have permission to, but if we have got a choice, let us go against something else which is written in the Book rather than go against that which is not written o n l y in the Book, but which is written in our hearths, in our mind, in our whole self. There is a very daring saying by an ascetic called Mark the Ascetic who belongs to the first centuries of Christendom; a daring word which we must not misinterpret or misuse, not make an alibi for not doing what we should, but he says, ‘If God stood before you — I am not quoting exactly, but this is the thought he expresses — if God stood before you and told you to do something, and your heart could not say A m e n — don’t do it, because God is in no need of your action, He is in need of your heart, in other words, of your assent, of your sharing in His will, His mind, His heart.

So, that when we speak of values, values to live by they are not very far to find, or at least to seek for; they are not to be sought elsewhere — within ourselves: first, become the person which, whom you are, not the mediocre, small, insignificant person who tries to occupy as much space and make as much noise as possible to give himself and others the illusion that he exists, but become that person who is great, whether this is visible or not at first.

It does not mean that things are a sequence of events; I do not mean to say, ‘first become the true and perfect man and then you will be able to do something else,’ because the two things are concomitant, they go together. The moment you have discovered one thing which is your true self it implies, it calls for another way of dealing with life, another way of acting.

In this connection perhaps it is worth to say a word about the value of our awareness, or the awareness which is too dim in us, of death. The ancient writers, the Christians of old, used to say, ‘Be mindful of death’. When you say such a thing to a modern person it sounds as though you were saying, ‘Live your life under a frightening shadow, forget that there is sunshine, that the grass is green, that the spring has come, that there is beauty around you, that life is triumphant around you — all that will end in corruption’. It is n o t what the ancient Christians felt, certainly not what Saint Paul felt when he said, ‘For me life is Christ, and death is a gain’, because he saw in death, as he puts it himself, not a moment when he will be divested, unclothed of temporary lives, but a moment when he will be clothed in eternity.

What the ancient writers meant is that it is only an acute sense that life may come to an end at any moment, that can give to every single moment an intensity which nothing else can do. Imagine what would happen if while you speak to a person, not only a loved one, but anyone, you became clearly aware that this person or you may die within seconds; that does happen in fact, but this we never think of — how would we behave? How careful we would be to make every word, every gesture, all the complex relationship there exists between us and this person into a triumph, into a perfection! How would we feel that if my last word was the one I am speaking, I would try to make it a word of life for the person who is hearing; if I was aware that the person with whom I am now may be dead in a second, how would I act preparing a cup of tea, straightening cushions on the bed of a sick person, or even playing with a child?! Every action, every word would acquire the dimensions of finality, but of the great finality, not painted (?) with terror, but made great because it must be the summit of life.

Most of the time we live as though we were writing a rough draft of life and as though we were counting on time, one day to take this draft, to correct it, to make it into a piece of perfect writing, copy it out in fair hand and leave it to posterity. The trouble is that we write drafts all our life, we die, and what is left, is a messy manuscript out of which of course, those who love us can derive understanding, which people who know us can read with eyes that see what was meant and was never said or done: but this is a poor way of living. This is not the way in which Christ lived, the Apostles lived, the Saints lived, it’s not the way in which the great heroes of the spirit in all religions and in all ideologies have lived or live. And it is the sense of urgency that can allow us to understand and act accordingly, the sense of urgency which needs no longer the thought of death when we have discovered the dynamic of it, when we have discovered that the present moment is the o n l y thing which is in our possession and that in a split second no longer be there, irremediably, gone, either empty or marred (?), disfigured.

So, this is a second thing which, I believe, we must learn: in a search of self relate not only to our own selves but also to others, to every person; indi­vidually, with the urgency which end, finality can bring and which nothing else can bring, because give a chance to a human being to imagine that there are still years ahead, we will postpone anything, even the things which we treasure: they can be done later, or perhaps someone else can do them!

And this leads me to another element which is connected with time and which makes it possible for us, whatever values are dear and significant to us to act rightly. One of our Russian spiritual guides of this century has written that what prevents us from acting with power, from acting effectively is the fact that between an impulse to do the right thing and the doing of it we allow the split second, the minutes that will make it possible for a second thought to creep in. This second thought may be, ‘О, yes! Later!’, ‘O, is it really necessary — let me examine the subject’, ‘Should I really do it — isn’t it someone else’s duty?’, or ‘Am I worthy of doing this? So many other people are much better qualified!’

And the moment we allow ourselves to enter into a dialogue with that kind of thoughts, we no longer can act because there will be enough deflation in us for us no longer to have the energy to act. So, that when the thought comes clear, luminous, inspiring of doing something which we are certain of being right and true, we must act with immediacy, with all our power, all our intelligence, all our heart, all our will, all our body without allowing a second thought to come. This of course doesn’t mean that we must take every fantasy of ours as a call for action; but it does mean that there are moments when we know perfectly well that something should be done and do not do it because we have given ourselves time to convince ourselves that it can be done later, by someone else, or diffe­rently.

There are values by which one can live, or, if you prefer, principles.

Now, the object, that thing which we can consider as a supreme worth may be of different types. The first one I have already mentioned: my self, my true self to become gradually what I am called to be, as the German mystic Angelus Silesius says, ‘I am as great as God, He is as small as I’. We must — it is a must — we must grow to the full stature of what we are, otherwise whatever we do is not worth doing. What is the point of doing if we do not become? (?) This is one of the characteristics of the difference between the Old-testamental commandments and the commandments of Christ. In the Old Testament we have commandments the fulfilling of which could make a person righteous, but could not bridge the gap between God and man, or between his true nature and his present self. It could lead in that direction, it could not resolve the conflict. In the New Testament Christ says to us, ‘When you will have done all these things, recognize that you are still unprofitable servants’ — because it is not the doing, it is the being that matters. The commandments of Christ, the parables of Christ, example are aimed at showing us what a true human being is, is a call to become the person for whom such behaviour, such words, such role in life is the natural out­pouring of what he truly is.

Now, according to the kind of persons (we envisage (?)) there are also supreme values, and I would like to mention two or three. The first one, and you may well expect that from a professional clergyman, the first one is God. To say, to use the word ‘worship’ with regard to God means that we recognize in Him a worth which is our supreme value. And the word ‘God’ from its Germanic roots means, ‘One before Whom one falls in adoration’ — this is God. It is one image or another, it is Him Who evokes in us awe, veneration, admiration, readiness and desire to serve Him at any cost because of His surpassing beauty and greatness. He is the One that is Light in the world, He is the One who is Life, He is the only One Who is reality.

Then, there is our neighbour, not simply in moral terms — my duty is to love my neighbour as myself — but in a more essential way. You know what happens when we know that someone whom we respect and revere and love is attached to someone, loves someone, is prepared to go to the extreme limits of life and death for the sake of a given person. If we truly love our friend, we will treat his beloved one as he would have done. And the same is true about God and our neighbour. It is not only me whom God loves — He loves each of us, He has loved us into existence, He has revealed Himself to us, He has given Himself to us, He has died of this love which He has for us. If that is the way in which our God in Christ loves the neighbour whom I dislike, the neighbour for whom I have no warm feeling, it still remains that I should treat him, in God’s own name, as He would treat him, because God has put me in charge of it, because He expects me if I love Him, to treat His beloved ones as he would treat them.

So, in that sense, my neighbour matters, matters supremely, and it is by combining by kinship with the Living God, with the knowledge of how God loves His creatures that I can become truly myself, and, at the same time, play my role, occupy my rightful place in the disharmony and in the harmony of creation.

And then, there is the wider circle of humanity. I don’t mean to say the total humanity. Soljenitsin has said in one of his books, describing one of his characters, that so-and-so so loved mankind that he hated every single indivi­dual in it, because every individual disfigured the beautiful image he had of the whole. This is something which is not totally alien to us; it is much more difficult to love a concrete person than the total humanity. A concrete person has volume, shape, features, intellectual or other qualities or defects, while humanity is a vision of ours, so that we are confronted with a humanity which must reduce to our own scale, the concrete humanity which is around us: our family, our friends, the place where we work, the wider society in which we live and from there project to relationships (but (?) beyond the) concrete relationships that challenge us.

And at that point we must realise that we are doing nothing of society, nothing of the City of Man if this City of Man is too small for the true and perfect Man. If we try to create a City of Man which is good enough for the selfish (?) or the greedy crowd, or the fearful lot which we represent in our togetherness (gap in recording)


must be as great and vast as our vision of the City of God. Or, if you prefer, the City of Man must become such that it could contain as its first citizen the Living God become a Living Man in Christ; it must be coextensive to the Kingdom. And that means that it cannot be built or achieved by selfishness, by greed, by fear, by hatred, by anything which is a negation of love and of the gift of self for others at a cost, and ultimately, at all costs.

I will end here my talk, I have spoken 40 minutes which is a time that I was allowed, and if after a few moments’ quiet someone wishes to contribute something I would be very grateful because I am aware of the fact that I have skirted round my subject.


Answers to questions


Question: How can one keep one’s mind sufficiently and one’s perception sufficiently true?

Answer: I think that our perception is bound to be limited and relative (?) to the experience of life which we have, the depth of communion which we have with things absolute. And I am not saying that we must act today with the perfection which we may achieve tomorrow or at the end of our life. But at every stage we must act with all our integrity, and not less, with all our understanding and not less, with all the courage which we possess at a given moment, but not less. And it is by acting and by listening to what comes to us, by perceiving with all the truth there is in us that we may develop an ever increasing refinement of perception. That prevents us so often from being percep­tive is that we lock our perception because to perceive is a dangerous thing. To ask a question from a sick person, ‘How do you feel today?’ and receive an answer, an evasive answer, ‘Not too bad, thank you’, is easy, and we have perceived it, our two ears have heard, but we had made sure that we have not listened to the sound of the voice or look into the eyes of the person that gave the lie to these words. It requires determination and courage to want to hear, and see, and perce­ive at any risk. And as long as we do not take the risk we remain dull; and the less we do it, we become ever more dull and incapable of seeing, because the mechanism develop which shields us against every thing that may frighten us. And we will always perceive in a relative way, incompletely, we will always be able to act in an imperfect way. But if we go on trying to perceive more and more perfec­tly, with a greater and greater detachment from self, disinterestedness, we will begin to perceive more. And if we act within our limits then I think I will quote to you the words of an American evangelist who came in the seventies of the last century to this country with great success, Dr Moody (?), who, on being challenged by a pious lady on the fact that he never did things perfectly, answered, ‘My lady, I much prefer my imperfect way of doing things to your perfect way of not doing them…’ I think, let us start by doing imperfectly what we can and not wait until we do them perfectly, because it will never happen! And that is really unsatisfactory, yes, because we wish to be perfect, we wish to do t h e thing of our life, but t h e thing can be done perhaps once… But listening, looking, hearing, perceiving is something which we can learn at every moment. And if we learn it at every moment, we develop our capa­bility to perceive, and therefore our ability to act in an ever more adequate manner.

Question (inaudible)

Answer: May I say first that I have an impression that very often people of all generations, including mine, are afraid or are unwilling to show all their feelings, because too often the genuine feelings had been aped, counter-fitted, and too many people will say, ‘O, that’s not a genuine thing, he is one more of those pious people, these whitened coffins!’ And there is a restraining feeling in that, ‘No, I don’t want to; I will keep the holy thing which I have within me because I don’t want it to be treated as a lie’.

But on the other hand, at times, there is a betrayal in this, a betrayal of someone or of something. And I will give you an example of it. I had a shaking and decisive experience of God when I was 14-15. I never spoke of it because I felt, I cannot utter a word about it; it is something so holy for me that I cannot allow anyone to touch it. And then, there was a meeting, in the fifties, in Kensington Town Hall: two unbelievers, two atheists in dialogue with two belie­vers. I happened to be one of the believers. The unbelievers were really not terribly unbelieving, and the discussion was not really very impressive. So much so, that at a certain moment, from the very depth of the amphitheatre a workman in blues got up and said, ‘All that is                        ! I want to ask that gentlemen in black — that was me — why he is a believer.’ And at that moment I saw clearly that I have a choice between betraying him by keeping my secret, or exposing the most secret, the most precious thing I have to ridicule or to just light conversation. And I chose to answer his question. It was a moment when I was — you may find it ridiculous, but I was terrified of it; I thought, I was loosing all I had that was precious to me. But I felt it’s betraying both God who had given me this experience and the man who, perhaps, needed it. I have no idea what he did with it. But I thought, I must say what happened.

On the other hand, of course there is a very, if I may be so rude, Anglo-Saxon attitude to one’s own feelings of embarrassment to be serious. I remember lately, a young man who came to see me. He asked me first what he might do in order to become a priest; it fell into two halves: what does it mean to ‘be called’ and how does one respond. So we spoke of that; it was intelligent, it was sensible, there was feelings, perceptiveness. And then he said, ‘And now I want to ask you a question: I feel very uneasy at the fact that there are forty percent of men against sixty percent of women in the church; I feel I belong to a minority group. Why is it, and what one can do about it?’ And, as I have no British restrain, I said to him, ‘Very simple! The reason why it is like this is that you have not brought your friends into it!’ And he looked at me in horror and said, ‘But I would feel embarrassed to speak to my friends about my Church!’ And you know, I said to him, ‘Do you realize that you feel that God and all that the Church stands for is so important to you that you are prepared to give yourself to His and its service, and in the same breath you are ashamed of recognizing it before your friends’.

So, you know, all those elements play a role, and I think that one must have the courage to be ridiculous; one must have the courage to stand and be counted (?); one must have the courage to loose what one possesses if necessary, to give it away, and to remain with a cold (?), stern conviction without the joy which the secrecy and the intimacy of the experience can give you. And I think the problem of speaking of our time (?) in general is timidity and cowardice. There are so many things that happen because people have cold feet, not because of any other reason. (?) and you will discover that nothing terrible happens. I could give you examples that are quite unpleasant in that respect, of the ridicule in which you can put yourself, but also of the fact that y o u expect either ridicule or something quite catastrophic — and nothing happens at all. You know, we say in Russian, ‘He is a hero when he meets a sheep, he is a sheep when he meets a hero’. And most people happen to be sheep when one meet them. I have seen that in all walks of life, and I have walked around a variety of paths.

Question: about ‘…where do you put the Holy Spirit…’

Answer: May I say rather flippantly that I don’t put Him anywhere, He comes when He chooses!
Having said that, may I (?) more seriously. The Holy Spirit is in action, everywhere and all the time. He is the impulse that makes us long for God, He is the impulse that makes us live in a certain way, He is the call from the deep that says, ‘Don’t live on the surface! Go deep!’ And He is the one Who in unutterable groanings cries for that which is our fulfilment, even when we do not know what name to give to it. And He is also the one Who, when we have found Christ, teaches us to say ‘Father’ to Him Who is Christ’s Father and our God, but Who, in Christ, through our unity, closeness, love, faith (?) Christ becomes also our Father. He is continuously acting! I don’t stand a chance to ‘put’ Him anywhere because He is like air, He is like vibration (?) He is there. What I can do is to refuse to listen; what I can do is to dull the feelings and the experiences which He breaths within me. But He is in action all the time. I don’t know whether this is a sensible answer, but I don’t think I can do better.

Question (inaudible)

Answer: I think, since the Gospels were written people have been asking this question, and according to circumstances and intimation, they have found a variety of answers; may I suggest mine? — because every other answer can be found everywhere, or anywhere.

My answer will begin, I think, with an image. Ancient writers have spoken of God one in the Trinity, in terms either of the sun, its light, its warmth, or in terms of the burning of a log in an open fire, the flames and the heat that proceed from it. Speaking of God in Himself, one can say nothing because no-one can know what is means to be a log afire. You must become the log afire if you want to have a chance to know what it is, and that you cannot be or do. What you can perceive is the dancing flames, the movement and the presence. Now, these dancing flames are a phenomenon external to you, and you can interpret them rightly, or misinterpret them. And this is, I think, why Christ said that whatever wrong interpretation is given of Him, c a n be forgiven, because an objective fact, anything outside of you can be understood or misunderstood, or misconstrued. Supposing you find yourself freezing in the street, not knowing yet what fire is and through the window of a basement you see an open fire, and someone says, ‘That is fire, it gives warmth’. You will say, it doesn’t give any warmth, I am freezing’ — because there is a film, there is something between you and the fact that makes it impossible for you to appreciate it at its true value, to understand it. This is the way in which so many people misunderstood or rejected Christ, because there was this film, this blindness, this hardness of heart, or simply the kind of certainty that was incompatible with the recognition of Christ. Paul the Apostle is typical in that sense. His vision of God was so clear, so certain, that he could not possibly recognize in Christ Him Who He was.

On the other hand, apart from the burning log and the flames there is the heat. If you perceive the heat and say, ‘There is no heat there’ you are either mad or a liar. And that cannot be cured, that is, if you are a liar, cannot be cured otherwise than from within yourself; it is a negation of your own knowledge and experience for a reason or another. And this, I think, is, to rejoin your question, the way in which we relate to the Holy Spirit. God is revealed in Christ; Christ sends us the Holy Spirit Who, in His turn, reveals (?) But the Holy Spirit can be only directly known and perceived as an experience, and if we deny this experience not because of lack of perception but because of a determined choice, there is no way out until we change. And I think this is what makes the sin, that is rejection, the separateness from the Holy Spirit an irremediable condition. I don’t mean an objective separateness but a choice that makes us say, ‘What I know, i s not, my experience does not exist. This is the only way in which I have found something that I imagine to be sensible; you may all think that it isn’t.


Question (inaudible)

Answer: The first answer to me is this: there are many teachers of mankind, men and women inclusive, who have revealed something about God, great things, deep things and true things; no one of them has claimed, as Christ have, that he was God Himself that had become man. What I do believe is that Christ was truly God who entered history through the incarnation and that this is a cosmic event. It is not a teaching, it is a physical presence of God. And in that sense to me Christ stands apart, or rather is unique because of what I believe He is, what He said He is, and what I believe He is. It is not so much a teaching than the event that counts. If you read the Gospel in parallel with what you can find in the writings of the Old Testament, of the commentators, of the Rabbies, Hillel in particular, you will find that an enormous amount of His commandments, or advice can be found there. What cannot be found there is Him.

Now, as far as men and women are concerned, I think Christ used words that include both. You know, if you read the Scriptures in Greek or in certain modern languages which have a word for men and another for women and another for the human being altogether, s a y, ‘mensch’ in German, or ‘anthropos’ in Greek, then, you haven’t got the same problem. The great problem in English is that there is no third word that keeps the two together.


Question (inaudible)

 Answer: I think that there are reminders on a variety of levels; the first kind of reminder I would mention is that on so many occasions in life, life presents us with a problem — I don’t mean a situation, but a question, which cannot be solved on the level of our human thinking. If at that moment, instead of twisting the situation, we say, ‘I am confronted with something which is beyond my comprehension’, we are face to face with the possibility of making discoveries. If we block the way by saying, ‘It’s not sens (?)’, or if we try to find an answer that will blur the situation, then we have lost a chance. You know, it’s like a scientist who does research. He comes to a point where he can no longer understand because all the knowledge acquired hitherto cannot solve what he sees before him. There is an interrogation mark that cannot be erased by the data of yesterday’s knowledge, or even today’s knowledge. And if he says, ‘All right, now I am face to face with the unknown, and I will not try to cover up the unknown with a sort of cloak, but I will face the emptiness of the interrogation mark’ — then there is a chance of a discovery.

And the same thing applies to us; there are moments when we are confronted with the insoluble; if we say, ‘It’s insoluble and I will not find a false solution to pacify my heart or make things easy, we may sit in front of it long time. It will be like the Sphinx of old who will sit, look at each of us, and say, ‘Well, what is your answer?’ If we gave a false answer, we are devoured; you know the story how there was a Sphinx, that sat at a crossroad and asked every person who came, ‘Who are you?’ And everyone who gave a false answer was devoured until Oedipus came everyone has said, ‘I am a soldier’; ‘I am a merchant’, ‘I am a King’, I am this, I am that, and when Oedipus arrived the Sphinx asked him the same question, and Oedipus said, ‘I am a man’ devastating himself of all the trimmings — and that was the answer… If we have the courage to sit in front of the Sphinx without trying to give him a variety of answers as one would throw a bone to a hungry dog for him to maul while we can be passed by, we may find something.

And then, once we have recognized the fact that there is there something that is beyond our comprehension and beyond our experience, we may begin, to ask ourselves other questions: Isn’t there in my experience anything which can answer this question? Oedipus found in himself that he was a man, that is a human being; we may find something of the same sort; we may find that the problem which is in front of us has echoes in the past, we already met something approaching to that, but we didn’t recognize a problem: we were too young, too immature, we were taken across the gulf because of that; now, we have got to answer.

You know, there is a passage at the end of Saint Mathew’s Gospel in which an angel says to the disciples, ‘Go to Galilee, you will find Him there’, ‘Him’ being Christ, and we take that placidly, without, most of the time, asking ourselves, Why on earth should they go to Galilee to meet Him when they have
been meeting Him several times before? What was wrong in meeting Him in the Upper Room on the first Sunday, in the Upper Room on the second Sunday, in the garden, here and there? And I heard someone whom I respected give the following explanation; he said, ‘Galilee was the place of their first encounters with Christ, the first meetings. He was born in Nazareth, Cane of Galilee to which Nathaniel belongs is four miles away, Capernaum is around the corner, they all had known one another as boys, as youths, the ministry of Christ had begun there in a sort of honeymoon of discovery and of joy: no persecution, no (?) the wonder of meeting a new teaching, of seeing the world unfolding in beauty and greatness: Go back to that moment! Forget the horrors of the last months, the way in which I was hunted down, the way in which Passion week came upon Me, My death and so on — go back to the source of our mutual relationship, to the freshness, to the original spring of it and recapture it!..

And I think, each of us has got within himself somewhere a few little Gali­lees. It may be a point where the spring of life began, it may be just glimpses, successive ones, which looked at years later may coalesce into a rich and wonderful picture: go back to that! And that is also a way in which one can recapture within oneself the elements of the answer to that frightening interrogation mark which the Sphinx is putting before us.


Question (inaudible)

Answer: First of all I see only a good thing in the falling of idols, provided they were idols, and all of them were not… I have used the word ‘idols’ intentionally: ideals, yes, which might have been wrong ones, ideals or visions that were too small for humanity, or distorted — hero-worship of one type or another: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and others, of all types, not only of one; or wealth, or happiness at all costs, or ease, and so forth. But the fact that one recognises the falseness of certain things, should be an encouraging moment, a moment when one says, ‘I see what is distorted, false and wrong, and I can now ask myself, what is truly right?’

Now, I cannot answer your question properly because the moment I will begin to answer it we will be in a controversy about choices. Say, there is not one political party or political ideology which each of us can accept. There is no social structure which each of us will find right or wrong. But what we can do is to say, ‘The supreme value is a selfless service to every individual and to the community at the cost of my effort, and every time I choose to be selfish, greedy, hateful and so on I am destroying what I allegedly came to build.’

And so, that would be a first value, yes — selflessness, if we want to build anything. Selflessness may find expression in a variety of ways. It may be the peaceful building of a society, it may be the defence of the society. There are such values as freedom, as human dignity; I don’t like ‘human rights’ because it has become a political slogan, but as the right to be human and not less than human. One can in a variety of situations interpret one’s duty in preserving these values in different ways. But basically it will be that to me. I am careful not to give examples because the moment I start giving examples we will probably have a fight!

Question (inaudible)

Answer: I have been a physician and I think that when in an organism pain, or some abnormal appears it is frightening to the patient but enlightening to the doctor! And at time pain is the only way in which a person that may die of it may discover an illness. It may apply even to small things: who would go to the dentist if we had no tooth-ache? It is our salvation! And the same applies to lethal illnesses. And the same applies to society in a way; (?) malaise or distortion, of human rela­tionships in a society should (call) (?) for people to become thoughtful and look into things instead of either being dismayed, or despondent, or feel that every­thing is lost because something has happened to us now that has happened to societies century after century.

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