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The following statements were made on 10 April by Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Deputy Head of the External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is once more heartening to hear a senior representative of the Patriarchal Church in Moscow repeating what members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and other Orthodox in the West have been saying for the last thirty or forty and more years, ever since the final spiritual collapse of the heterodox world which began in the 1960s. Fr Vsevolod, with whom we have shared a taxi and a platform on a radio programme in Moscow, preaches the Incarnation, not the ghetto, whether modernist or sectarian.

‘Secular people often ask why the Orthodox Church does not adapt to modern life, why it does not simplify the services or put pews in churches, thus making its spiritual message easier. In short, why does the Church not become convenient for the spiritually impotent (paralytics according to the Gospels)? Some still believe that this is the way to attract people to the Church.

The experience of the West proves just the opposite. The liberal Protestant denominations and parts of Roman Catholicism are losing their flocks and clergy, precisely because they have become too simple, too comfortable and too well-adapted to the whims of society. Some consider their churches a place to relax, to listen to nice music, to have a cup of tea with friends. Then they demand better tea, amazing music and conflict-free theological teaching. They demand all this, so that their consciences will not be unduly upset. But in the end, such churches are empty, because in reality it is easier to relax and lounge on the beach or in a café. It is quite remarkable that the most attended churches in the West are parishes that have brought back long and prayerful services, use ancient hymns and develop community life…

People come to Church for serious reasons, not when they want to have a good time. People come to Church to solve crucial and vital problems rather than forget about them. They come to Church to change their sinful lives and transfigure their hearts. There is no Christianity without heroism, without awakening our consciences, without cutting off our own wills for the will of God. People understand this. In the end, they come to hear the unflattering truth and are offered astringent (but effective) medication.

To tell the truth, it was painful and unpleasant to watch the film The Passion of the Christ. But, did the Mother of God and the apostles feel any differently? This film can wake people up, it can make them think about the essential meaning of Christ’s Passion, about the meaning of their lives, reminding them of the suffering and death that exists in the world, even though the mass media desperately conceal them from the average person. Even if the film only brought one person to Church, it was worthwhile. It is important not to make banal entertainment out of Mel Gibson’s heart-rending depiction and forget it the next day, plunging back into our usual everyday vanities.

All these Da Vinci Codes and Last Temptations look miserable in comparison. They are based on a very old tendency known from ancient heresies, which strove to bring Christ ‘closer’ to our sinful state, ascribing to Him our disillusionment and putting Him in the context of self-righteous everyday life or even downright sin. The implication is very simple: self-justification, an attempt to hide from the voice of the conscience. If I present Christ as an average person and manage to convince myself and others that ‘that’s the way it was’, then, what is wrong with my own swinish life? Who dares condemn it?

We are constantly tempted to create our own Orthodox ‘subculture’ in society, so that we can feel at home in it. To set up our own TV channels, newspapers, concerts, websites, conferences…We let the ‘wicked and sinful’ world live as it wants, because we hate the mere sight of it. However, such an attitude makes the masters of this world happy: just stick to your own little groups, just like you do when you stand huddled outside your churches, and don’t bother us in the wider world.

Roman Catholicism and the Protestant majority have taken this path in the West. They have created their own subculture, their ‘subspaces’, perfectly furnished, very comfortable, with all the latest equipment, but they go completely unnoticed by the influential mass media and seventy percent of the people. Should we strive to do the same?

It is often said that it is impossible to Church the whole of society today. Perhaps that is true. But we will not survive in a closed circle. This is because today’s secular society is more ideological and supports the cult of relativism. It is common practice to believe in a ‘lack of faith’ and to believe in it ardently, fanatically and intolerably. Moreover, this ‘lack of faith’ has its own missionaries, who have already captured the schools and the mass-media. Those who live in an ‘Orthodox ghetto’ are at risk of losing their children, who will be happy to break free and be attracted to today’s ‘heroes’. This is why we must go into the world, before it comes to take us’.

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