The “Petrified” Church

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

The "Petrified" Church

So Professor Harnack from Berlin called the Orthodox Church of the East. I
know his reasons for that very well. Comparing the unchangeable image of
Christ, fixed in the East once for all, with the confusing thousand
_opinions_ of Christ in Protestant Germany, he was quite justified in
calling our Church by a striking name, so differentiating her from his own.
I am glad that he invented the name "petrified." With the proud spirit of a
Protestant scientist, I wonder why He did not invent a worse name for
Eastern Orthodoxy. I wonder much more that Professor Harnack, one of the
chief representatives of German Christianity, omitted to see how every
hollow that he and his colleagues made in traditional Christianity in
Germany was at once filled with the all-conquering Nietzscheanism. And I
wonder, lastly, whether he is now aware that in the nineteen hundred and
fourteenth year of our Lord, when he and other destroyers of the Bible, who
proclaimed Christ a dreamy maniac, clothed Christianity in rags,
Nietzscheanism grew up the real religion of the German race.

What is the fact about the "petrified" Church? If "petrified" means intact,
or whole, or undestroyed or living always in the same dress, but still
living, then the famous Professor may be right. Yet this petrified Church
has always come victorious out of any test to which she has been put. The
Christian Church is always on trial, and I think she is never so much
Christian as when she is being tested. She does not shine or develop or
make progress otherwise than through hard tests. Christianity is founded
upon a drama and not upon a science; therefore its growth and development
are dramatic and not scientific. Let us take an example. Eastern Orthodoxy
was put to the test for centuries to fight for its existence and its ideals
against the ruling Islam. Roman Catholicism was put to a similar test in
Spain. German Protestantism was put to the test of German science. What
happened? Islam was defeated in Russia and in the Balkans, not only
physically, but morally and intellectually. The epoch of the catacombs and
the bloody days of Nero and Diocletian have been repeated once more in the
Balkans, in Russia, and are still being experienced in Armenia and Asia
Minor. The killed and martyred kings, princes, bishops, priests and laymen
from these countries will not be ashamed before the martyrs from the
Coliseum. Orthodox Christianity stood the test very well. It saved itself;
it gave the inspiration for resistance; it showed itself superior even
afterwards when the enslaved countries were liberated. Holy Russia counts
her greatness from the time when she got rid of Islam. During the five
years of their freedom Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria built more than the
Turks built during 500 years of Turkish rule.

Roman Catholicism in Spain came through its test very badly. Before the
Islamic invasion, and after it for a long time, the Christian population
showed itself inferior to the Moors, in work, in justice, in progress. But
to the honour of Roman Catholicism I must say that it stood the test very
well in Croatia and in Hungary in its struggle against Islam. German
cathedral Protestantism failed in its test. It is destroyed as a religion,
it exists only as an archival science. It ceased to be what Christianity
really sought to be–a drama; it is transformed into an indifferent
scientific medium for reading, exploring, classifying, comparing,
criticising. It is no more a living, dramatic being–no more the serving,
ruling and suffering Christ. There is very little heroic or divine in it!

Why not then worship Wothan again instead of Christ?

And Anglicanism? It had the worst enemy. That was wealth, comfort, quiet
business, lack of big disturbances and of great sufferings. The English
Church still succeeded in preventing all the misuses and abuses of life
under such circumstances. This success can be appreciated only if the
British Empire is compared with an antique Pagan Empire. Where in this
Empire is there a Lucullus or a Caracalla? The astonishing luxury, the
bestial, insatiable passions? Or the furious competitions in petty things
with which the social life of Rome was daily intoxicated? Yet English
Christianity is neither so dramatic and full of contrasts as Dante’s
Catholicism, nor so vibrating a lyric as Dostojevsky’s Orthodoxy, but
rather a quiet, smooth epic like Milton’s poetry.

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