Project Gutenberg's The Agony of the Church (1917), by Nikolaj Velimirovic
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Title: The Agony of the Church (1917)
Author: Nikolaj Velimirovic
Release Date: December 28, 2006 [EBook #20206]
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Produced by Project Rastko, Nikolaj Velimirovic Project, Rénald Lévesque and the Online Distributed Proofreaders Europe at http://dp.rastko.net
THE AGONY OF THE CHURCH
BY THE REV. NICHOLAI VELIMIROVIC, D.D. OF ST SAVVA'S COLLEGE, BELGRADE
WITH FOREWORD BY THE REV. ALEXANDER WHYTE, D.D. PRINCIPAL OF NEW COLLEGE, EDINBURGH LONDON
STUDENT CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 32 RUSSELL SQUARE, W.C.
Printed in Great Britain by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh.
The Eastern Church, the Church of the Apostles and the Mother of us all, in this book, speaks to her children in all lands and in all languages, and to us, with an authority and a wisdom and a tenderness all its own. The author and the publishers are doing us a service of the very best kind in issuing it. May God's blessing rest upon it.
The contents of this book was originally given in the form of lectures at St Margaret's, Westminster. There is, we think, a special fitness in the lectures appearing in book form bearing the imprint of the Student Christian Movement, for though Father Nicholas has hosts of friends in Great Britain now, when he first came here our Movement was perhaps the only body which had the right to claim him as being already a friend. When the Student Christian Movement made its way to Serbia a few years ago, Father Nicholas became one of its first friends and, the year the war commenced and the following year, it was he who, on the Universal Day of Prayer for Students, preached by invitation of the Student Movement and its President, Dr. Marko Leko, to the students in the Cathedrals of Belgrade and Nish. Members of our Movement, therefore, will recognise that he comes under the category of persons so highly valued in the Student Movement, namely, that of senior friend.
Both inside and outside the Student Movement to-day people are thinking of the Church. Much has been spoken and written about the Church of Jesus Christ in our modern world, but not so much as to leave us unready to welcome this arresting and penetrating message from Serbia.
If the official churches have had no other merit but that they have preserved Christ as the treasury of the world, yet they are justified thereby. Even if they have solely repeated through all the past centuries "Lord! Lord!" still they stand above the secular world. For they know at least who the Lord is, whereas the world does not know.
Churches may disappear, but The Church never will. For not churches are the work of Christ, but the Church. Moreover, if the Church disappears, as an institution, the essence of the Church cannot disappear. It is like rivers, sea and water: when rivers disappear into the sea, the sea remains, and if the sea disappears into steam, water still remains.
If Christ ever meant to form the Church as an institution He meant to form it not as the end but as the means, like a boat to bring its inmates safely over the stormy ocean of life into the quiet harbour of His Kingdom.
Like the body in a bath, so the soul disrobes in the Church to wash. But as soon as we get out, we clothe our soul in order to conceal it from the curious eye. Is it not illogical that we dare to show our imperfections to the Most Perfect, while we are ashamed to show them to those who are just as imperfect, ugly and unclean as ourselves? The Church, like a bath, reveals most uncleanness.
The initial and most obvious idea of the Church is collectiveness of sin and salvation. To pray alone and for one's self is like eating alone without regard to other people's hunger.
When the sun sees a man of science, wealth or politics, kneeling at prayer with the poor and humble, it goes smiling to its rest.
Full of beauty and wonders are all the Christian churches, but not because of their pretended perfections: they are beautiful and wonderful because of Him whose shadow they are.
You are a Christian? Then do not be afraid to enter any Christian church with prayerful respect. All the Churches have sworn allegiance to the same Sovereign. How can you respect a cottage, in which once abided His Majesty King Alfred, or Charles, while you would not go into a building dedicated to His Majesty the Invisible King of kings?
The real value of any Christian community is not to be found in its own prosperity but in its care for the prosperity of other Christian communities. So, for example, the value of the Protestants is to be found in their loving care for the Roman Catholics, and vice versa.
Taking the above standard, we find that all the Christian communities are almost quite valueless as to the spirit, i.e. as to their unusual loving care. Their actual value is more physical than spiritual, being as they are limited to the care for themselves. Exceptions are as refreshing as an oasis in the desert.
Church and State are like fire and water. How to connect them? For if connected, fire always dies down under water.
There are three ages in the history of the Church: the Golden Age, when the Church was opposed to political governments; the Iron Age, when she was politically directing Europe's kingdoms; and the Stone Age, when she has been subdued to the service of political governments. What a humiliation for the present generation to live in the Stone Age of Christianity!
Trying to unite Church and State we are trying to unite what God separated from the beginning of our era.
To separate the Church from the State does not mean, as many think, to separate soul from body; it means to separate two quite opposed spirits unakin and hostile to each other, like Cross and Capitol.
The worm of comfort and human inertia has reconciled Christianity with secular, pagan governments, and so paralysed the most divine movement in human history. Go to the bottom of all those clever advocacies for unity of Church and State, and you will meet, as their primus motor, the worm of comfort and human inertia.
All Churches and Christian institutions of the present time, however wonderful they may be, are only a dim prophecy of the coming Christian worship in truth and spirit. Through them we look now to the future as through a glass.