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




If Providence bestows on the English Church only once in every half century
a man like Bishop Westcott, this Church, I think, can be sure of a solid
and sound longevity. Well, this Bishop Westcott spoke once enthusiastically
of "_the noble catholicity which is the glory of the English Church_." My
intention in this lecture is to describe to you an island in the Roman
Catholic Church among the Slavs, which island is distinguished by a _noble
catholicity_. "I believe in the holy _catholic_ apostolic church." This
sentence that you repeat in London, as do the Roman Catholics in Rome, and
we Orthodox in Moscow, has always two meanings, a sectarian and a
universal, or a narrow one and a sublime one. The first meaning belongs to
the people who imagine Christ standing at the boundary of their Church,
turned with his face to them and with his back to all other "schismatic"
peoples. The second belongs to the people who think that Christ may be also
beyond their own churchyard; that the dwelling of their soul may be too
narrow for His soul, and that their self-praisings and schismatic
thunderings are very relative in His eyes. I propose to speak to-night
about the people of this second category, _i.e._, of the people who are in
the Christian history like a link connecting the different parts, the
different Churches, into a higher unity. I will limit my considerations in
this lecture to Slav Roman Catholicism. I call my theme of to-night "Slav
Revolutionary Catholicism." Why "revolutionary"?

Why not? Is not Christianity a revolutionary movement from its very
beginning? Is it not the most wonderful and the most noble among the
revolutionary movements in history? Cardinal Newman and many others spoke
about the evolution of Christianity. _Revolution_ is the word much more
applicable to it. The spreading of this revolution from a poor village in
Galilee over all the world–that is the history of the Church; or, if you
like, the evolution of a revolution. As a volcano is an internal movement
of the earth which gives a new shape to the surface, so the Christian
revolution was also an internal movement, which gave a new form to the
drama of human life. The Christian religion seemed very simple, it was even
poor in simplicity, and still–what an incalculable impression it made! It
was simple in aims and in means. It had but one aim, and there was one way
only to it: to attain good only by good deeds; to fight for justice only
with means that were just; to realise Love only by Love itself; to push
darkness away, not by a greater darkness, but by light; to come to God the
Perfect by a perfect way. Christ preached a new aim and showed a new way–a
very sublime aim and a very limited way indeed. In the pre-Christian world
there were manifold aims and manifold ways and means. In Sparta,
skilfulness in sinning and hiding sins was tolerated and even applauded. In
ancient Rome, till the full sunset of its strength, a good man was regarded
as a weak man. Among the pagan Slavs, a prosperous man was envied more than
a virtuous man. Christianity cleared the spiritual atmosphere and deepened
human life. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." It was very clear. "Narrow is
the way which leads unto life." It was very deep. Through Hell you never
will reach Heaven. In making the devil your companion you will never come
to God. And God is the only aim, Christ the only way to that aim; a very
far aim, a very narrow way.

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