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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

About Christian humanism (2)

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However, if the anti-humanist understanding of Christianity, so characteristic of our time, wins, will it cure the world’s diseases? Will it stop the further disintegration of Christian society?

If anti-humanist Christianity treats man harshly, his attitude towards the social world is even more cruel. War is not denied. The attitude towards it is often positive: as a school for ascetic virtues or as a cruel medicine that cures the vices of civilization. Mankind already knew about religious wars, so on the basis of anti-humanist Christianity, their re-emergence is possible. The revival of the Inquisition is also possible. All the prerequisites for this are there. The irritation of religious differences is growing. In principle, Roman Catholicism never gave up the Inquisition. It has been suspended in it, but its entire apparatus is fully preserved and always ready to be activated. In Orthodoxy, the apparatus of the Inquisition is still missing, but its spirit is already beginning to hover here, and as for the apparatus – it can be created at any time. Antihumanist Christianity seeks to take all holiness out of the world and place it entirely in the possession of the beast. The polarization of the world is precisely the ideal of this new Christianity, which is inspired by the book. Revelation also from Benevolence. It is remarkable that the Church does not include this book among those intended for liturgical use, but, despite its wise caution, it, not the Gospel, becomes the main, defining book of anti-humanist Christianity. It nurtures and nurtures the awareness of the hopelessness of the fight against evil in the world, and the corresponding conclusion that the task of Christian salvation is to extract the good, concentrating it on one pole – dooming everything else to destruction. In apocalyptic Christianity, the concept of Manichaeism was revived.

Contrary to all this, the humanistic meaning of Christianity, which is given in the very fact of the incarnation and in the dogma of it, must be affirmed. In the act of incarnation the ascetic consciousness sees mainly just one moment – a moment of exhaustion, of humiliation, of “kenosis” of the Deity. However, being a humiliation, a voluntary humiliation of God, the incarnation of Christ is at the same time the ascension of the human being, the beginning of the deification of human nature. This was especially revealed and confirmed by St. Athanasius the Great. In the Incarnation of Christ and in the Gospel is the greatest affirmation of the dignity of the human person. Here are the roots of Christian humanism. It is remarkable that in the Gospel the word soul occurs exactly where we would expect the word spirit. Therefore, there is nothing disgraceful in the word soul. In the doctrine of the taking of the cross as a condition for following Christ, the Savior speaks everywhere of the soul, not of the spirit: “For he that will save his soul shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? ”(Matt. 16: 25-26).

In the Gospel the soul is shown free from fragmentation, from decay, the soul is not opposed to the spiritual, the manifestations of spirituality are not excluded from the content of the spirit, but are present in it as something natural and obligatory. For example, such emotional feelings as compassion and compassion are not excluded. Christ wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and these tears – so understandable and so much spiritual, are they possible spiritually – as he is now thought? Can the death of the righteous be lamented in a spiritual order? But the center of the Gospel is living, concrete, spiritual-spiritual love, love for both God and man. Love for man is the supreme measure, the decisive moment of the Last Judgment. From the point of view of pure spirituality, the pain of starving, of being tortured in prison, the desire to be actively helped – this is just a “pink” Christianity. However, Christ judges otherwise. For the Church, only love shows the place of fasting and asceticism. In the hymns and the statutory readings of Lent, the Church insists that love of neighbor is above all, that fasting cannot and should not become an obstacle to love, an occasion for condemnation.

The first moment of the religious birth of man is given to us in the Gospel – in the God-man Christ. However, the task of Christian humanity proved to be too difficult for Byzantine and medieval Christianity. During the classical age of asceticism, the Christian dignity of man suffered considerable damage. Let me dwell on a feature of the history of Christian iconography that is significant in its meaning and consequences.

In the Early Middle Ages, the Christian West seemed to be ashamed of the human nature of Christ, ashamed of Christ’s humiliation.

For a long time, the piety of the West could not get used to the thought of the suffering Christ, it was disgusted by the scenes of the Crucifixion, where Christ was depicted naked, it required even in these scenes Christ to be depicted as king, with a crown and not bowed. head – without the slightest sign of death. The gospel has been diminished, religiosity has become ascetic and vital. Was it different in the East?

Byzantine culture, for all its splendor and splendor, is one of the most brutal cultures in the world. The usual measure for Byzantine customs was to cut off the nose and ears of the deposed emperor, to blind and gather prisoners of war. How could such a holistic, deeply religious, undeniably Christian culture happen to be so cruel? This diminution of love was connected with the diminution of the human face of Christ. For the Byzantines, Christ is predominantly Pantocrator, the Lord Almighty – not a wanderer on earth, but a ruler of the world and a judge of the world. Monastic piety was spreading. The line of the great ascetics did not end. The world worshiped the great ascetics, sought salvation in worship, but apparently did not consider the works of love and mercy particularly necessary for salvation.

In the West, the revival of man in Christianity began very early – in the twelfth century. I guess the Crusades played a big role here. Thousands of pilgrims have visited the Savior’s earthly life, touching the Holy Land, melting hearts, reviving the memory of the gospel, and renewing the human form of Christ. There is a remarkable increase in the importance of the evangelical Christ in sermons and theological treatises. This change in the attitude towards Christ was first found in minor writers from the very beginning of the twelfth century, and then in the great ones, such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. And the more time passed, the more the gospel stream flooded the Western world. On the eve of the thirteenth century, St. Francis of Assisi undertook an apostolic feat – in poverty and wandering he preached love and peace, gave the laity the ideal of evangelical life. Something that was a kind of new discovery – a millennium later – of the gospel of the world. Until then, the Gospel was only one of the biblical books, quoted alongside books such as Deuteronomy, Numbers, etc. Now it becomes the first of them all. Under St. Francis, however, the religious-ethical revelation of the Gospel was connected with the aesthetic-religious perception of the world. And here were the roots of Christian humanism in the broadest sense of the word, ie not just humanity – philanthropy, but also the justification of human creativity in culture. St. Francis himself did not accept culture – in the same way he did not accept wealth. But his spiritual movement has fertilized culture. All his life he found himself under the creative influence of the new Christian humanism. This is especially vividly and strongly reflected in art. The connection of the new art with Franciscanism is unquestionable. In the search for Ducho di Buoninsenya, Chimabue, Giotto, the austerity of Greek iconic images is softened, tenderness and suffering are reflected in the icon, it is humanized. If the spiritual life in the Late Middle Ages had been at the level of this cultural humanistic flourishing, perhaps the Renaissance, from which the new epoch of human life began, would have retained its Christian character. In the fifteenth century, however, there was a huge, catastrophic collapse. Of course, it is not the human face of Christ that is to blame for this collapse, but the oppression of theocracy, the exaggerated and apocalyptic expectations of the Franciscans, the disappointment of the papal church and much more. In any case, the new content did not fit into the church culture and the trimming of the beauty of the human person has found another icon – the idols of the Greek gods and the resurrected Antiquity. However, the Christian current is still strong in pagan humanism. Therefore, such phenomena as Ambrose Traversari – abbot-humanist, considered one of the saints – were possible. A new emergence of Christian humanism was present in the sixteenth century in the Jesuit order – in the piety of St. Francis of Assisi. Having received a classical education, he wrote for the laity a guide to the spiritual life of the world, which still determines the secular and cultural Roman Catholic piety.

Let’s turn to Russia. At its birth, Russian Christianity was a human Christianity – at least in the sense of love and pity for man. In the faces of people like the passionate Boris and Gleb for the pagans of yesterday, the suffering and humiliated face of Christ was immediately revealed. In Russian monasticism, the ideal of the service of love is decisive. In this respect, St. Theodosius of Pechora is extremely important. He is a true monk and ascetic, but with him asceticism is subject to love. St. Theodosius took the Pechora Monastery out of the dungeons where its founder Anthony had hidden it from the world, and placed it near Kiev so that the monastery could serve the world. Thus, the service of love, the service of the world for a long time became a major tradition of Russian monasticism. She died only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when she was overwhelmed by the statutory attitude to religious life.

The nineteenth century in Russia was a century in which the radiance of centuries of popular holiness in Russian culture, which succeeded in breaking through the envelope of rationalist enlightenment, created a creative Christian humanism. Literature was created that Western man perceived as entirely Christian. Pushkin was brought up by Voltaire, in his artistic temperament he was close to Goethe, but Pushkin – in his best works – is a Christian. His work is a living testimony to the fact that Christianity is in his blood, that he himself is a ripe fruit of millennial wisdom. Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy – they are all phenomena of the same millennial wisdom of the heart, it lives in them, speaks through them. However, the transplantation of the Western creative worldview to Orthodox humanity created nineteenth-century Russian humanists.

But what is the meaning and task of Christian humanism, which should be revived in our time, because without it the spiritual rebirth of the individual will not save the world.

Humanism is love for the soul and the culture of the soul, for the middle class in man. They want to destroy it, but we have to preserve it and illuminate it.

For our time, however, this age-old idea of ​​Christian humanism has taken on a special direction: it sets the task of creating a Christian society – as a communion of individuals.

Ascetic Christianity has not set and is not able to set such a task, because in the soul, which is the basis of personality, it has seen an object of temptation. It has taught people to defend themselves, to stay away from the other person, because communication with people arouses passions. This Christianity did not teach and could not teach how to enter into communion with the soul. The problem of communication was posed by humanism. Literature has spoken about the attitude towards the person, art and secular ethics have spoken, but in religion this problem has not taken a worthy place. In the evangelical understanding of Christianity, it became central to religion. In the ascetic hermitage, the theme of love turned out to be undiscovered. Torn by controversy, the world expects Christianity to answer the question of how to establish communion between people. On a religious basis, this communion is possible only when we see in our neighbor a reflection of the image of Christ, when we honor our neighbor as a non-manufactured icon of Christ. For the modern inhuman, “spiritual” understanding of Christianity, this task does not exist. However, instead of staring at man’s sinful image, instead of denying that image, we must look to him for the features of his heavenly archetype, to see the One who “enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John 1: 9).

Note. A recording of an interview with the author, presented to the “Sunday meeting of the RSHD”; the text is also published in: Fedotov, G. P. Collected works in twelve volumes, vol. 4, M .: “Sam & Sam” 2012, p. 234-247 (in Russian).


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