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


Mickiewicz, Sienkiewicz! Two great milestones in the history of the Polish
soul; two great milestones in Christian history also! Both Roman Catholics
and both revolutionists in religion. The religious revolution they made can
be characterised only by the words "noble catholicity." Both of them were
attracted by Primitive Christianity much more than by the official Church
of their own time. Sienkiewicz’s work "Quo Vadis?" is by far better known
than Mickiewicz’s lectures on "The Official Church and Messianism." Yet the
same religious ideal has been pictured in both these works. Mickiewicz put
on record as the true Christian _men of suffering, of intuition and of
action_ ("_hommes de douleur, d’intuition, d’action"_). Sienkiewicz
described the first Christians as being such men. He revived the first days
of Christianity in Rome. What striking contrasts between paganism and
Christianity! Two quite different worlds in conflict–one world consisting
of men of pleasure, and the other of men of suffering. On one side: Nero,
Petronius, Vinicius, Seneca himself, and a mass harassed only about _panem
et circenses_. On the other side: Paul of Tarsus, Petrus, Lygie, Ursus and
many others willing to suffer and to die, and singing in suffering and in
dying: _pro Christo! pro Christo!_ On the one side, the proud Roman
citizens, who adored force and who gave sacrifices to good and to evil
spirits equally in order to save or procure their miserable, fleeting
pleasure. On the other the humble inhabitants of the suburbs of Rome who
adored only the Good Spirit of the Universe and did not care about
pleasure, but about Justice and Love. Nero or Christ! The Emperor of the
_Casa Aurea_, who, oversaturated and annoyed by life, finished by suicide;
or the Prophet from Nazareth who came to establish the Kingdom of God on
earth and who was forcibly crucified by the adorers of darkness!

I have read many Roman Catholic teachers of catechism. I doubt whether all
those _teachers_ did for Christianity as much as an _artist_–Sienkiewicz
–did with his charming story, "Quo Vadis?" He aroused so much interest,
and so many sympathies even among the unbelievers; I am sure he converted
to Christianity many more than any _propaganda fides_ working on a
half-political, half-scientific foundation. He put Christianity on a purely
religious foundation, and he was understood not only by the Roman Catholics
but by the whole world. He found the very heart of the "noble catholicity,"
and he inspired the world. He showed once more that Christianity is a drama
and not a science.

Sienkiewicz loved Christianity, but he saw that it was still far from
gaining a decisive victory. He knew the horrible injustice done to his
Christian nation by the surrounding Christian nations. He was horrified
looking at Bismarck. He called Bismarck the "true adorer of Thor," because
he was a true follower of a pagan philosophy expressed in the Iron
Chancellor’s sentence–_Might over Right_. Yet Sienkiewicz prophesied that
"Germany in the future cannot live with Bismarck’s spirit." She must change
her spirit, she must expel Thor and again kneel before Christ, because the
"Christian religion of two thousand years is an invincible power, a much
greater power than bayonets."

Mickiewicz hoped that only the Christian religion can save mankind. Christ
is for him the central person in the world’s history. Christ never made
concessions to evil. But His Church to-day is making compromises with all
kinds of evil. The official Church is publishing diplomatic Notes and
promoting the publishing of books. That is all. The Church is afraid of
suffering, although "there are even to-day enough occasions for the Church
to suffer." "Prelates wear the purple which symbolises martyrdom: But who
on earth has heard lately of the martyrdom of a Cardinal?" Mickiewicz
bitterly complains that the "high clergy deserted the way of the Cross.
They never would suffer. In order to escape suffering they fled as refugees
to books, theology and doctrines. But _la force ne vient que de la
douleur_." "The lower clergy, the Russian as the Polish, conserved the
depot of faith intact," but still they are in a darkness of prejudice and
vice. It is remarkable how large a view of the Christian Church had
Mickiewicz. He did not care only for the Roman Church. He called the
Russian Orthodox and the Polish Roman Church by one name–"the Church of
the North." He cared about Christ’s Church, and he believed steadfastly in
her Messianic _rôle_ in the world. "The men of conventions must be
defeated," he said. The pride of the high clergy and the fear of suffering
must disappear. "The first need for a modern man is to be inspired and
elevated, _de s’allumer et de s’élever_." The Church is the only bearer of
inspiration and elevation; not the official Church, but the Messianic
Church of "men of suffering, intuition and action," i.e., the primitive
Church of Christ, which Sienkiewicz so magnificently described and for
which Jan Huss so heroically fought.

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