Where to light a candle

BBC radio programme.
Theme: Liturgy, Orthodoxy   Place: Media   Period: 1966-1970   Genre: Interview

Metropolitan Anthony: The Eucharistic celebration, the communion service has got one particular quality: it is an act of God. Because when the priest has prayed, vested, prepared the bread and wine and is about to start the service, the deacon comes up to him and says: ‘And now it is for God to act’, – because what will be the heart of the service — the making of this bread into the Body of Christ, of this wine into the Blood of Christ is something which no human agency can accomplish. And this is something which is felt very powerfully by the people. It is God Who acts not within or without cooperation of the believers because indeed it is the whole church which takes part in the celebration, but it is supremely a divine act.


MA: If by applying strictly a rule one can save, one should apply it, if by applying it strictly and blindly one would break what [is it be saved, it] should not [be] applied in this way. And this is left to the wisdom, the experience, the conscience of a given priest. If he finds difficulty he has brother priests to whom he can turn, men of greater experience, he can turn to lay people, who have greater experience and, perhaps, sanctity than he, he can turn to his bishop who is, one can hope, endowed with at least years of experience if not wisdom. And out of all that he will take decisions but he is in a position of a physician. One may turn to a consultant if necessary. But one takes immediate action and the action is to save.


MA: Perhaps, could one say that the Slavs have received Christianity at a moment when they were not possessed of a complex mythology or a rich philosophy, they were simple and primitive and the message found its way not in addition or (but on) in replacement but directly into a hunger and a need. So in that sense the Slavs have had a good beginning, a happy beginning.

On the other hand our Russian history very short, less than a thousand years of Christianity, has been tragic from end to end, and the tragedy in contrast with the beauty and the meaning which we found in God has made worship and the recognition of the Gospel as the ultimate truth extremely real and concrete. And this is what we can bring, because in the West I have an impression very often that Christianity has waxed old, everyone is used to it. Familiarity has bred contempt, people are tied of the same words. They have lost their edge, their cutting edge. And the simplicity, the primitiveness, perhaps, of our direct absolute certainties strike people and also a feature in Orthodoxy which is joy, just a serene peaceful or exalting joy that we have got: a God so wonderful that He is prepared to descend into hell to hold us out of it and so open that He can identify with us and take us into heaven.

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