The Religious Spirit of the Slavs (1916)
by Nikolai Velimirovic


By its interference, religion can inspire science, and again science by
its interference can purify religion. The most beautiful spectacle in
human society is a priest contributing to science and a scientist
contributing to religion. The one-sided man is always an imperfect man;
and an imperfect man as a teacher of perfection is a dangerous teacher
for young generations.

Two Slavs, Nicolaus Copernicus, from Thorn, and Ruggiero Boscovich, from
Ragusa, both Roman Catholic priests, were at the same time both ardent
scientists. Copernicus postulated the heliocentric planetary system instead
of the geocentric. This happened soon after Columbus made a great
revolution in geographical science by discovering America. Some people
thought the end of the Church had come after Copernicus’ discovery that the
sun and not the earth is the centre of the world. But Copernicus not only
did not think so, but continued quietly in his vocation as a priest and
dedicated his famous work to Pope Paul III.

Ruggiero Boscovich was not such a great discoverer as Copernicus; still he
was one of the most distinguished scientific and philosophic minds in the
eighteenth century. In his "Theoria philosophiæ naturalis," he tried to
prove that bodies are composed not of a continuous material substance but
rather of innumerable point-like structures or particles which are without
any extension or divisibility. These elements are endowed with a repulsive
force which can, under special circumstances (of distance), become
attractive. Boscovich’s philosophical system can be called a dynamistic

Men with much smaller scientific successes sometimes consider it their duty
to separate themselves from the Christian Church. But great men like
Copernicus and Boscovich possessed in a high degree the _noble catholicity_
which should always exist between religion and science. For every great
revolution in science meant also a great revolution in religion. A
scientific revolution could never shake the realities of religion, but only
the illusions of religion.

This was likewise the great result of the religious revolutions among the
Slavs: not to shake the realities but the illusions of religion. Pride,
superstitions and hatred have produced all the revolutions in the Church,
the revolutions which meant for the Church real ventilation or punishment.
These revolutions gave light and air to the Roman Church. Either the
official books admit it, or they do not. No matter; the living Church
admits it. She has built monuments to the prophets whom she killed or
persecuted. No one is without a glorious monument–neither Huss nor
Savonarola, neither Bruno nor Hieronymus of Prague, neither Trubar nor
Strossmayer. The living Church always admired men of suffering and not men
of pleasure. It was not the self-sufficient prelates who promoted the
Christian cause, with their books and notes and discussions, but the
sufferers, hungry and thirsty for the Kingdom of God. Christ was victorious
over Nero in the Coliseum, but oftentimes afterwards Nero was victorious
over Christ in the Church. But Nero must go, and Christ come. We have all
pledged our word in our childhood to act so that Nero’s spirit may decrease
and Christ’s spirit increase in the world. We cannot otherwise keep our
pledge unless we adhere to the _noble catholicity_ of the Christian Church,
which is the very kernel of vulgar and verbal catholicity. But we cannot
grasp all the Christian centuries and generations behind us and bind our
own life with what is _noble_ and _catholic_ in all of them unless we are
men of suffering, intuition and action. And we can be all three.

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