All Orthodox services are full of such type of reports. Consequently it becomes easily comprehendable that Holy Eucharist is an invitation no simply to communicate with God and our brothers but is a virtual experience of “communication” (“Kinonia”) between God and people, between fellowmen, but also between all the faithful, the entire world and all the universe. The essential prerequisite for this “communication” is love, as in the example of Christ’s love. In this “communication” we develop, of course progressively, from communication with ourselves, we return to “communication- contact” with our neighborus, and brothers and from there we go on to “communication- contact” with all the world and all creation. It is not unusual for many of us to reach and pass the initial stages very quickly and to open ourselves up to the very sensitive feeling of the world’s pain (world-wide human suffering) very quickly while others are enclosed in the initial stages for many years or even for an entire lifetime. Thus this “communication” becomes a model for life and unity, which will supposedly be able to surpass its boundaries and unfold continuously into the private world of each of our neighborus.This is extremely basic for the Orthodox Church because it does not mean, in anyway, an “individual” relationship with God, except if this relationship passes our neighborus way. It is unnecessary to stress that many times exists enormous gap between life and theory, among people from the same homeland, faith and generation, precisely because they are found in a different stage in their relation with themselves, their fellowman and God.
During Holy Eucharist all faithful members, are integrated into Christ’s Body through the Holy Spirit. In this integration into Christ’s Body, the members are not distinguished from the Body. This is what we call the “sanctification” of the faithful, that is participation via the Holy Spirit in the consumption of Christ’s body and of His passion for the salvation of the world despite all of the particular weaknesses of each separate member. Thus, the Holy Eucharist records the existence of all faithful people, not simply revealing the history of salvation of the world but, by implanting and cultivating through the example of Divine -Humanity, the desire for love and sacrifice for the whole world. But, despite the Ecclesiastical concern and effort for people to become apprentices through the Holy Spirit in genuine “communication” and then to transport this experience to the places where they live and struggle daily, often we have the sense that very little has been achieved. This impression is created because during this Church’s struggle to transmit and transfuse the Divine- Humanity’s morals into this world, it also has to fight against an enemy and parallel social morality that is learnt without being taught is instilled in the foundations of each society and time, a morality which is based on the unwritten principles of “easy”, “lucrative” and “pleasant”. In Ecclesiastical language this morality is known as “secular morality” which has the ability to penetrate not only into the area of the Christian faith but also, to each faith, so that we speak, henceforth, of a “secular” or “no secular” faith, church and community. This “secular morality” is in fact the permanent opponent of the Church’s effort to bring each person to a state of real communication with his/ her own existence, with the around and with God. This “secular morality” is also the permanent danger and threat to the Church because it essentially detracts the Church from the sense of life and it imposes the deadening of conscience on the Church that it is the living Body of Christ and this brings tragic results in the form of divisions of faithful members, disputes, schisms and the rejection of interdependance and inter-completion and finally, total dislocation. Participation in the “communication”, in our own and the entire world’s quest is, essentially, an effort of exertion on our part from the excludes of our own being to the limits of our fellow human’s world, a world which hurts, destroys and dies precisely because it does not want to locate the cause of its pain. And the cause of this pain is human rejection of God, the attempt of people to become God and to live a life without God. The ascertainment that all these things are lacking can be supposed to be if we had followed the sacrificial example of Christ’s love, which simply means that we do not participate in the love and freedom God gave to us . It means that we have not deeply comprehended what St. Vasilios the Great said «ο την αγάπην έχων τον Θεόν έχει» (Vasilios he Great “Askitika”, 2, 2, P. G. 31, 885 B) That is to say the one who has love, also have God with him. This is also confirmed by St. Maximos the Professor who said: «ο κτησάμενος την αγάπην αυτόν τον Θεόν εκτήσατο» , (Maximos the Professor, Chapter of Love 4,.100, P. G. 90, 1073), , that is to say, the one who has conquered the love, has also conquered God. It means that we should change a lot of things in our lives and we must change them radically. This is the role of the Orthodox Church, it “completes” a human being and renders them shareholders of God’s active blessing. With the completion of people, Divine Human history is also on its permanent course to its ultimate point.
The term “Love” and its existential dimensions.
It would consider it an error for me to speak, in front of you all, about what love is or means. We all know the straight, shortcut, wise, beautiful and even through uncomfortable, the secure path of love. And it is comprehensible to all of us that the root, the cause of each division is, essentially, what we find in each analysis: the “lack” of love. I will place emphasis only in this thoughts: whether it is true and it appears to be true that, justice and peace are the “sociopolitical” dimensions of love. From this optical side of love, we can say a lot of things without the risk of being characterized as gullible and out of context. On this basis, many humanitarian organisations are founded and become active, while simultaneously, we see similar initiatives on the part of religious organisations. Of course, the role of Religions is not political and it cannot even mean to be something such as that because, very generally speaking, the role of Religions is exactly the “surpassing” of this world and hence also the “surpassing” of each form of policy that can be created by this world on its historical course.
Speaking therefore, of the “political dimension” of love that we call “justice”, it would be good to clarify it by saying that we mean a justice which will not remain simply a legislative monument that will cite its legislator, but a system of justice that really takes into account the individuality of each personality and at the same time, can have by nature the chance of always surpassing himself. Of course something like this sounds a little utopian or somehow “romantic” but, I believe that even this effort which is happening in this congression, could be characterized utopian or “romantic” if we did not believe ourselves that this is not the case and that, from this effort it could result in many enjoying help, even a little, to relieve the pain that exists around us and in a final analysis that is also the mission of the Church. The desire, from the side of the Orthodox world, for peace and absolute reprobation of war is not identified as a barren pacifism, which in the name of peace tolerates all other oppression and trespass of the rights of other nations. The way, in which a lot of Christian societies have turned in order to face the threat to Peace, is the prevention of future wars. And this comes about through peace organizations and political and diplomatic handlings. It also comes about through the absurdity and competition with nuclear equipment. What an absurd thing to think: “I am equipped with nuclear weapons or biological arms but I do not use them; I have them for purposes intimidation!!!” I think that the lightness of such statements is obvious, at a time when our recent history has shown us that such arms have already been used and are still being used on a widespread scale. And it is here, I believe, that a legitimate question arises: Is there such a thing a “fair war”? In order for such a war to exist - (a fair one) - if it there could be such a suggestion, it should complete certain terms as:
Taking all these terms of a “fair war” into account, today, at maximum, only the first term can exist. It has been confirmed that modern weaponry systems cannot ensure nor limit themselves to such terms. There is, however, recorded in the World’s History another type of War, that I, strongly, believe deserves to mentioned as long as we speaking about Peace. Wars and battles have been recorded in Chinese history with an absence of victims. The opponents paraded their troops on the field of battle and then a team of generals passed equal inspection on the two parties and depending on how they had been placed, the generals decided who would be the victor if there had been a war. The decision of the generals was accepted and the opponents retreated and settled their differences as if they had lost or won the war without a single drop of blood being spilt. Of course, such type of confrontation needs a very high level of moral culture and bravery, which in our days does not exist or is obviously judged as utopian.
The position of Evangelic reason against the fact of war.
Concerning the question of War and Peace, the pervading Christian line originates from the Evangelic words. Alone the New Testament, offers neither acceptance nor condemnation of war, nor a justification of war as means of political imposition. Jesus sees war and all types of power as realities of this world. “Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14,3) “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews;” (John 18,36) In these two, Jesus mentions power and war as two realities without characterising them. In other places, however, he characterizes war as Divine judgment. To the disciple who admired the brilliant buildings an answer is given: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13,2)
In another point he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem stressing the cause: “because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Louk19,44). (Because you did not feel the time that the God visited you in order to save you). In his “eschatological speeches” Jesus characterized war as a trouble of utmost times “Alas for those who are with child and for those who gives suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon these people;” (Luke 21, 23), “and upon the earth distress of nations of perplexity” (Luke 21, 25). At this time, it would be good to clarify a point: Christ, generally did not announce social changes or reforms for which the society of his time was neither morally, organizationally nor intellectually ready.What He did was to give a new “spirit”, a new state of mind from which such changes could emerge. For this reason, we cannot support what concerns war in the past or in the present with direct answers. We can, however, form arguments against war when we depend exactly on Christ’s spirit , that is to say, the message of the Gospel in its entirity. This message teaches us of love, justice, reconciliation, apology and peace. The Old Testament calls God, “The God of peace”. This peace is a gift from God and at the same time, a quest and task for people. This peace is always understood in combination with the capacity of justice for poor and oppressed people. The word “schalom” also means peace and salvation. The coming Messiah is named “sovereign of peace”. And Peace will be his work. Jesus’ words on Peace “Peace I live with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives to you I give to you” (John 14, 27) are found to be in harmony with those of the Old Testament. Also, He blesses the “peacemakers” (Matt.5, 9). He, also, extends love to the enemies (Matt. 5, 44). (Luke 6, 27). Christians are “called” to Peace (Col. 3, 15). The peace of Christ “which passes all understanding” should live in their hearts (Philip. 4, 7). Christ Himself is the personification of peace and reconciliation, “For he (Christ) is our peace” (Ephes.2,14- 17). For this reason exactly, in the Orthodox Church, we stress that Peace is a Person and this Person is Jesus Christ. These reasons can be characterized as “political reasons” because they totally exclude any form of war that occurs in order to increase force or to influence a population or government.
The “paradox” of the position of Orthodoxy against war.
It is a fact that the large nations that have a high level of technological and industrial growth seek, direct and offer, a “watery” form of peace to lesser nations. This is a form of peace that has a closer relation to the policy of investment of large nations rather than a real love of peace, solidarity and the reconciliation between nations. A glance at the so call “Third world” countries will very easily show us that investment policy of large nations often incurs greater trials and grater destruction on a state than a war does!! As it can be easily and often seen to avoid saying always seen, most states use religious people of all religion as lever for imposition of their policy. Furthermore, it should not be ignored, that if we want to eliminate war in the future, ways to overcome hunger and poverty in so called “Third World” countries should be found. As a problem, of course, it has been registered but it remains at a theoretical level as it does not limit the over consumption of rich countries and help to the poor countries is, still, insufficient or non-existent. And here I believe the religious function of each religion can play a fundamental role. What do I mean? Usually, all of us, the religious liturgists become entrapped in the historical conditions of our religions and in our effort to transmit the salvation message of God, we limit it either to a barren literature about the religious duties, or to a moralistic teaching and we lose the contact with today and utmost. And in this way, we always lose the thread. This is, also, the main reason that leads people to an externally typical religiosity and essentially, to a deep indifference, that is to say, where the “spirit of world” leads them.Subsequently, without having sought this, we drive people away from the very place we should be leading them.
One of the ascetic Fathers of the Orthodox Church and leader of modern monks and anchorites, Abbot Isaac from Syria, very succinctly determines what the place of monks and all ecclesiastical liturgists of each age should be: «Απουσία εκ του παρόντος αμαρτία εστίν».. A literal translation would explain it as meaning: “When you are absent from the everyday routine of this world you commit a sin”. This saying of Abbot Isaac also determines the place of shepherds and modern monks. But presence in today’s world is not simply handling modern technological medium or speaking in a way that is acceptable to the times, it is to conceive the real need of those around you and to try to respond to these by escaping the easy path of theory and by avoiding the sly game of differences. This is easy to do if we place each of our actions in the personality of Christ. How would Christ react today confronted by this problem? What would He say? How would He face it? We could say that this is also the basic condition for whether monasticism can help the world today to be led to a different relationship with the world around it and with God. If monasticism does not fulfill this condition, it would help more with its silent example and perhaps, in a world that is submerged by endless noise and an intolerable gabble, what can really, possibly, help is a “silent speech”. A “silent speech” which has no relationship to the illogical practice of silence that is a usual method for most people when facing an impasse due to their errors. The silence of monks comes from the view of the ultimate, from the view of the Kingdom of Haven and the very presence and function of monasticism has precisely, this aim, to show that the Kingdom of Heaven “is inside us” and we can spread it and transmit it to the world around us when and if we wish to do so. A noteworthy example is the story that has been preserved in the narrations of the Egyptian Ascetic Fathers about Abbot Macarios the Egyptian. It is said that once he went up from the Skiti to the mount of Nitria and as he approached the place, he told his student. “Proceed a little”. As the student proceeded he met a priest of idolaters and shouted: Hey! You demon where are you running to? The priest turned and struck him so hard that he left him for dead. The priest took his cane and run away.
As he advanced a little, Abbot Macarios met the priest running away and said to him: “I wish to save you, I wish to save you, my industrious one”. Admiringly, the priest of idolaters came to the Abbot and asked him: What good did you see in me to greet me with this wish? The Abbot said to him. Because I saw you to labour so hard and I know that you do not labour in vain. He answered. I was moved by your greeting and understood that you belong to God’s people. A bad monk met me before and he spoke using full language and I beat him to death. From the words the Abbot realised that he was talking about his student. The idolater priest held onto Abbot Macarios legs and said to him: “I will not let go off you, if you do not make me a monk”. And they went to where the wounded monk was and they raised him and carried him to the church on Mount Nitria. All the other monks were in awe when they saw Abbot Macarios with the idolater priest. There they made him a monk and a lot of idol worshippers became Christians due to his grace. After all this, Abbot Macarios said: “A bad word to a good person may make him a villian, and a good word even to a villian may make him good!!”. In this narration we see two different meetings, two different approaches on how we can face the problem between our differences in the faith. Therefore, wherever Monasticism has adopted the attitude of Abbot Macarios, it is explicit that it can immediately help, in a particular way, to bridge the differences that exists where there is Monasticism and where it is developed. It would be an omission if we did not even make a succinct reference to what each war leaves behind, not only in terms of material damage but also in illnesses, moral and psychological problems which correspond to the titanic and time-consuming fight that victors give, as well as, the beaten side, in order to save the humanity inside themselves
Our deep wish to change the world around us most of the times leads us to the dream, to the imagination, to the hope. Therefore today, and all these days, we are all together because: “Peace has a price….”
In the Orthodox Church “penitence” has no relation to, nor aims at the psychological alleviation of believers. Penitence means “I am changing my mind” and this means action, and to be exact, continuous and lifelong action. This action is clarified to us very skillfully in two narrations from the New Testament, the narration of the resurrectional appearance of Christ with “a different face”, and the parable of the “good Samaritan”. In the first narration we can touch the climate of real communication. Jesus Christ was hidden behind an ostensibly unknown person, an extraordinary person proves that the narrow intellectual horizon is for “foolish men, and slow of heart to believe”(Luke24, 25), those that do not comprehend the relation of God-people and they does not take the risk that God is not only in the Jerusalem but He may wait for us somewhere in the street for Emma’ us where “He appeared to be going further” (Luke.24, 28), that is to say his mission, his destination is still more far from our own microcosm of Emma’ us. In thenarration of Good Samaritan, we can clearly see that without the differences between people ceasing to exist that it is feasible for each of us to escape from our selfishness through real and indiscreet love of each difference, of each human and each personality. The efforts that are being made by all sides, for the existence of a dialogue between the religions are admirable because through this dialogue all of us can comprehend more and more about the mystery that is called “Human being”. In the Christian world we know that we are creations of a Dialogue between the persons of Saint Trinity. We are the essential difference that exists between the first days of Creation which are characterized by the command “Let there be…” (Gen.1, 3) and the dialogue “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen.1, 26). These words exactly and the incarnation of the Second person of the Holy Trinity extend this dialogue to the outer limits of Divine Human history, consequently, for all of us, it is a holy duty to talk together about God and about the Human beings and in this way, penetrate life’s mystery, the ultimate mystery of life and creation. Without making any criticism about what stage dialogues have reached between us, I would like to pose a personal opinion. I believe that despite the time limitations we have as a generation, apart from us being an important example and an equally important but difficult beginning, we will accomplish little. Because all of us carry the mistakes of our distant but also, recent past, and because it is unnecessary to point out how the colonialist policy of Western European forces exploited the vision and desire of peaceful unity between all nations through imposition or predominance of Western Christianity and simultaneously, Western culture. Or in the old days, the effort of Islam for an ecumenical unity and uniformity via military and political power from the 7th until 13th century A.D. with the Arabic dynasties and, later, up to the beginning of 20th century with the of Mongolian and Ottoman empires. Today, however, If we wish for real progress to exist in the dialogues, we should take care that in the future, another different generation will exist to be able to discuss with different experiences of their own. Perhaps, one day, this generation might touch upon the dream and the subconscious desire we all have for unity and overcome the differences that create the gaps and intensities. This could be realized if, all concerned, all religions made a concerted effort to organize a program parallel to the program of studies of young people which would be the intended to follow the way of religion. A program that will give them the possibility of enough time to make it possible to live in the bossom of other religions, to live with their peers of other religions and to see, learn at first hand what his faith, his life, his cultural heritage, his history, his everyday routine, his dreams, his friendships mean to him. But in order for this to happen, each religious group should create the satisfactory conditions to receive/ accommodate and entertain, not under false pretences, groups of young people from other religious persuasions and make it possible to send groups of young people on similar missions.
I believe that these young people, who will make this circle of acquaintances from other religions, will, in a few years, when they sit to discuss in interreligious dialogues, will sit with a different disposition to the other, with a different mentality, and with sincere respect the one for what the other believes in. I do not know if these people will finally reacher further than where we wish to reach but there must be gains wherever they live and work as religious men, as people dedicated to a faith. Only with such a long-term program might they unravel the problems of religious minorities. Theoretically, a similar program could also be implemented for young people who are interested in or intend to follow political or diplomatic paths. It is, however, preferable for people of religions to precede and be the first who will give a testimony to the world, which they serve. I know that many of you will reject this idea or you will deem it unfeasible or even dangerous. For me, however, the more it is rejected as an idea, the greater my conviction will be that this idea is right. I do not know how we could put such a plan into action, but we can, at least, pray that somebody at sometime will realise this idea, if such an idea has some meaning.