Sunday, 18 November 2007

Beauty will save the world

Family reunited (after four days of separation): Raluca has come back from her team building trip project – as part of her multinational company yearly “ritual”. She says she had a good time: she had to jump – in a cave! - from a rock into a 2 meter deep puddle and she was the last one to jump. The rest of the team had to wait for her to jump for about 15 minutes.

Going to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday proved to be beneficial. I took Theodor to the altar to take Communion – usually Raluca does that, but today she was away on business. He seems to behave better and better during the services (and during the symphonic concerts as well). The sermon focused on the parable of the rich man who was dying and who “missed the whole point in life”, as he was interested in pursuing his epicurean life rather than “seeking God’s Kingdom”.

…Much has been said about “The” Way for two thousand years and much bigotry has been shown when preaching Orthodoxy behind long beards. But, as they say: if the beard were all, the goat might preach and so it is. After all, people do fall short of what they are supposed to be, of what they are called to be. That was the priest’s message to our “holy congregation” (of maybe 30) when he told us two parables – one on human envy (and the rat race) and the other on modesty (and genuine generosity). Nice, but I still believe it is a matter of common sense (rather than a unique feature belonging to one religious tradition alone – you’ve guessed: Christian Eastern Orthodox tradition) to be moderate. That is why attending the Liturgy is – to me - but a means of seizing opportunity (one of the many existing opportunities) to redeem the time, to ponder, to weigh and consider things, options, results.

I just had a challenging chat the other day: one of my 18 year old students – a rather open-minded and easy-going girl - was saying that the services she has attended so far in the Orthodox Church (especially the unappealing chanting) put her off rather than challenged her and make her want to repeat the experience. She also said that it seems to her pointless to go to church unless one really meets (=sees) God there. Well, nothing new under the sun, one can argue - the matter of "Incarnation” has fascinated, tormented (and even blinded) mankind for centuries. So, we’re back to the iconoclast issue once again. (And we shall go astray again and again until we fully understand and acknowledge John Damascene’s defensive view on religious images against the iconoclasts.) It would have been interesting to question her about the type of God she was (is) still expecting to meet (see, touch) in a church. It is funny indeed to see (hear) what sort of expectations people have from God…What amazes me though is that thin red line of believers (well, people who persevered in their faith - some call them martyrs) who didn’t give up going to church because they had not met (seen) God in the flesh on the way to church (or in the church, for that matter).

What a demanding task a teacher who teaches religion (Christian Orthodox Faith especially) has!...Usually high school students know nothing or very little about the Church they were christened in. Sometimes – most of the times - they couldn’t care less. Very often they are prejudiced and thus become (because of the obsessive zapping and surfing the net in search of a virtual reality) extremely vulnerable when it comes down to images. What a hard job it is to help a youth find his/her identity and put an end to parroting what other people (young and old) say and do. Many a time I wonder and wonder how we (Raluca and I) are going to bring up Theodor. What are we to answer him in words, how are we to put in words that which can not be put in words, especially once he starts asking questions about life and its meaning, about God and so on. In fact, he has already started…

I don’t seem to have (not anymore anyway - if I ever had at all) that piety, religious fervor and commitment to dogmas and to all the church rules and regulations. Yet, I do not feel like joining the army of the Nihilist. Quite strange and often embarrassing to be neither hot, nor cold, isn’t it? What I do know is that the very beauty of the icons (as a “replacement” for God) mesmerizes me and gives me strength and hope. And peace. I am all for the beauty of the redeeming icons and I think I understand Dostoevsky’s words: “Beauty will save the world”. As for other dogmatic issues, I do not claim to be either cold or hot, nor do I wish to be. I seem to have chosen the middle of the road policy. I guess the ancient sages were right when they talked about aura mediocritas.