On Nationalism

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

The Church is God-human, eternity incarnated within the boundaries of time and space. She is here in this world but she is not of this world (John 18:36). She is in the world in order to raise it on high where she herself has her origin. The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, œcumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), because “Christ is all, and in all.” The means and methods of this all-human God-human union of all in Christ have been provided by the Church, through the holy sacraments and in her God-human works (ascetic exertions, virtues). And so it is: in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the ways of Christ and the means of uniting all people are composed and defined and integrated. Through this mystery, man is made organically one with Christ and with all the virtues: faith, prayer, fasting, love, meekness, through compassion and giving alms, a man consolidates in this union and preserves himself in its sanctity, personally experiencing Christ both as the unity of his personality and as the essence of his union with other members of the body of Christ, the Church.

The Church is the personhood of the God-human Christ, a God-human organism and not a human organization. The Church is indivisible, as is the person of the God-human, as is the body of the God-human. For this reason it is a fundamental error to have the God-human organism of the Church divided into little national organizations. In the course of their procession down through history many local Churches have limited themselves to nationalism, to national methods and aspirations, ours being among them. The Church has adapted herself to the people when it should properly be just the reverse: the people adapting themselves to the Church. This mistake has been made many times by our Church here. But we very well know that these were the “tares” of our Church life, tares which the Lord will not uproot, leaving them rather to grow with the wheat until the time of harvest (Matt. 13, 29-30). We also well know (the Lord so taught us) that these tares have their origin in our primeval enemy and enemy of Christ: the devil (Matt. 13, 25-28). But we wield this knowledge in vain if it is not transformed into prayer, the prayer that in time to come Christ will safeguard us from becoming the sowers and cultivators of such tares ourselves.

It is now high time—the twelfth hour—time for our Church representatives to cease being nothing but the servants of nationalism and for them to become bishops and priests of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The mission of the Church, given by Christ and put into practice by the Holy Fathers, is this: that in the soul of our people be planted and cultivated a sense and awareness that every member of the Orthodox Church is a Catholic Person, a person who is for ever and ever, and is God-human; that each person is Christ’s, and is therefore a brother to every human being, a ministering servant to all men and all created things. This is the Christ-given objective of the Church. Any other is not an objective of Christ but of the Antichrist. For our local Church to be the Church of Christ, the Church Catholic, this objective must be brought about continuously among our people. And yet what are the means of accomplishing this God-human objective? Once again, the means are themselves God-human because a God-human objective can only be brought about exclusively by God-human means, never by human ones or by any others. It is on this point that the Church differs radically from anything which is human or of this earth. (“The Inward Mission of the Church”, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 23-26)

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