Still falls the Rain -
Then - O Ile leape up to my God: who pulls me doune -
See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmamente:
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree.
Europe is a mystery. Of all civilizations it is the European one that dominates the world. All modern movements have their sources in European history and work either to promote European values or else to resist them. True, the 20th century has been dominated economically, politically militarily and even scientifically by the United States - but ultimately the United Sates is only an extension of the Old World into the New, of the West into the Far West. And if we look at 20th century history, has it not, for good or ill, been dominated by Europe? Europe was the ill-fated birthplace of both World Wars, of Communism and Fascism. And although today, as we move into the third millennium, it seems that economically the future lies with East Asia, since 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, world attention has once again been focused on Europe. As recent events in both Western Europe and Eastern Europe show, when Europe sneezes, the world catches cold. Can we not attempt then, by looking over the panorama of European history, to look for clues as to Europe's inner meaning, its sense and its destiny?
The long millennia of the dark night of heathen Europe reached their summit in the pagan Roman Empire, the greatest Empire ever known to the pre-Christian world. The Roman Empire was the sum total of human knowledge and organizational ability. It built up an infrastructure for its military and economic predominance. It developed the principles and practices of a legal system. Its philosophy was that of rationalism. Its monolithic structure was held together by a syncretistic, ecumenical religion of worship of all the pagan gods of all the peoples of the vast Empire. It collected a pantheon of pagan deities and absurd myths with total freedom to worship those of one's choice - but on one condition, that of accepting the Emperor as a god. The Roman Empire thus contained within it the ultimate worldliness, the principle of worshipping a fallen man as a god. Neither medieval nor modern Europe can be understood without this background of 2,000 years ago, because Europe is haunted by this one, primitive idea of unity, of a centralized, monolithic Empire, which it has tried and tries to implement in almost every generation.
This monolithic system with its slavery, unspeakable cruelty and tyranny was challenged not by another such rival system, but by a young girl who gave birth to a son in a tiny village in a distant province from the back of beyond, a village called 'Bethlehem', meaning 'the House of Bread'. Thus began the Age of the Incarnation and calendars would later be adjusted to start from this lowly but momentous date.
The First Millennium was one of spiritual greatness, of spiritual heroism and triumph, but of worldly humility. Anti-Christian historians call it 'the Dark Ages', but Christians call it 'the Age of Saints' or 'the Bright Ages'. The quest for true religion was to lead men and women to the heights of holiness. Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Bishops, Fathers and Ascetics were to create a Christian culture. They did this by their refusal to worship Caesar and cense the pagan gods. Their worship was the antithesis of pagan Rome and all pagan Empires, consisting of the refusal to worship a mere man as god, and instead worshipping God, the God-Man. They worshipped God Crucified, not a bloodthirsty man deified. This faith came to Europe from the deserts of Palestine and Syria and from Egypt and was confirmed by the martyrs of the Greek-speaking world and Rome itself. Ascetics settled in Italy and Gaul and in 'the Island of the Saints', Ireland.
The monolithic nature of pagan Rome could not withstand the invasions of barbarian tribes from the East and the pagan Empire of Old Rome collapsed. However, the Faith survived the passing glory of a temporal, worldly Empire, for 'my Kingdom is not of this world'. And in the West Christians began the long task of converting the barbarians to Christ. In this way Europe passed from a monolithic, totalitarian system, held together by military terrorism, to Christendom. The building of Christendom was a long and gradual process which was marked by two phenomena which from a modern standpoint are quite remarkable.
First of all, the Age of the Incarnation is one where, although national identities were being established, there was no nationalism. Certainly there were struggles for power and influence, but once the barbarian tribes had accepted the principle of Christianity, Europe did not descend into a bloodbath of warring nationalisms. Indeed there was a remarkable international harmony and co-operation aided by intermarriage between the ruling families of the various peoples of Europe. The second phenomenon is that of the spirit of non-intervention in the affairs of other nations. In other words each people formed a sovereign State in a union of sovereign States. International harmony was guaranteed by the common Faith which in turn guaranteed the sovereignty of the nations which were then beginning to assume their national identities. Of course there were exceptions to this, but virtually all of them occurred either before Christianisation or else towards the end of the First Millennium, when this unity of diversity began to come to an end. Let us take as an example of this harmony of national and international interests the Christian England of the period.
By the end of the sixth century the island of Britain had been invaded by a number of pagan tribes, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Swedes and even Franks. They pushed back the British tribes towards the West, enslaving those who remained. They then set up various tribal kingdoms and began warring for territory among themselves. And then in 597, there came missionaries from Rome. They were followed by Irish missionaries coming from Iona and the North, by Lombard and Frank (St Birinus, Apostle of the West, St Agilbert, Bishop of Dorchester). Very quickly these different strands of Christianity fused together. There are many examples of this. For instance the name of the English town of Malmesbury is formed from the names of Maeldub, an Irish teacher, and St Aldhelm, his Saxon disciple. The fusion of Celt and Saxon was actively encouraged by a saint of broad vision, possibly the greatest of all the Archbishops of Canterbury, St Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek, sent by Pope Vitalian in the company of the African Abbot, Adrian, who well knew the local customs of the Roman Church. It was this Greek who ordained the great Old English bishop, St Erkenwald, 'the Light of London', and also St Cuthbert, the Celtic-trained Anglian, who became known as 'the Wonderworker of Britain'. St Cuthbert had absorbed the Celtic Christian way of life, itself inspired from Gaul, Spain, and ultimately, Egypt and Syria. And he, an Anglian, was thus ordained by the Greek Archbishop Theodore, their common language being Latin. When his tomb was opened in the 19th century, they found his holy relics with their Byzantine vestments and his bishop's cross, and its central adornment - a seashell from the Indian Ocean. This was Christendom.
This dynamic fusion gave rise to a new consciousness of national identity and thus self-confidence to go out and bring the Light of Christ to others. Such was the case of the English missionaries, setting out on their great national enterprise of the eighth century - the conversion of Europe to Christ. Such was the case of St Clement who brought the Frisians to Christ, and then St Boniface in the first half of the eighth century. From the little West-country village of Crediton he went out with the blessing of the Greek Pope Zacharias, to become the Apostle of Germany, organising a new local Church and bringing reform to other Churches in Northern Europe. Of many other examples we might mention the great King Alfred who brought not the sword but the Gospel to his mortal enemies, the Danes, and sent alms to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and even to India. Or that of the English missionaries who around the year 1000 went out to Norway, Sweden, and probably further, or those who baptised St Olaf of Norway in the Scilly Isles, or St Sigfrid, the Glastonbury monk, who baptised St Anne of Novgorod.
At the end of this First Millennium, England, thanks to the unifying influence of the Christian faith, bad become a nation. The first King of All England, St Edgar the Peaceful, who lived in the middle of the tenth century, summed up the work of the Church for 'the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the holy Churches of God and the unity of all people'. Under his ancestor, Athelstan, England had been united and her borders with Wales and Scotland fixed and good relations established with the peoples of the Continent.
The triumph of the Age of the Incarnation was to incarnate Christianity, to form Christendom. The Old English Church brought forth some 300 individual saints and a host of martyrs. England was united as a sovereign, independent State with the Church and yet was on excellent terms with her neighbours (with the sole exception of the pagan Vikings, who were not really neighbours, but invaders). Canterbury was the Metropolitan Church of the English. The Irish, Scottish and Welsh had theirs. On the Continent other Metropolitan Churches were being formed. The Iberian peninsula had Santiago with its Apostolic origin as its centre and its distinctive Mozarabic rite. A Gallican Church was formed on the territory of Ancient Gaul, with Lyons as a Metropolitan centre. In Italy one centre was in the North with Milan and its Ambrosian rite and distinctive customs, the other Rome with its Patriarchal traditions. To the North not all was clear, but there were centres of churchmanship along the Rhine and to the East in Hamburg, Magdeburg and Salzburg. Had this age continued, one can see the formation of Metropolitan Churches in different linguistic areas, a pattern of unity in diversity within the Patriarchal See of Rome, a harmony of unity of Faith and autonomy of local Metropolitans.
Such unity in diversity was possible because this was the Age of Saints. Europe was colonized by monasteries and ascetics. Europe was guided not by legalism or military dictatorship or rationalist philosophy, as it had been under Pagan Rome. Now Europe was guided by theology, the knowledge of God, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Men and women learnt in monasteries, this was the age of primacy of Faith; they believed because they knew God and they were not too concerned with understanding their belief. In other words; their theology was mystical theology, the fruit of prayer. But those who had a secular education and then experienced the presence of God were able to put their experience into words; these people are called the Fathers.
The two most vital teachings of the Fathers are the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity. The Incarnation says that God became man - in the Person of Christ there are two evenly balanced natures, the divine and the human. In this way we all have a heavenly homeland, we all belong ultimately to the Kingdom of Heaven. But we also have an earthly homeland to which we are also responsible, a homeland where we were born by the Will of God, in one earthly homeland and not another. We are called to love our earthly homeland (though not to the exclusion of others), since the Earth is God's Creation. Perhaps the best example of this is the so-called 'green martyrdom' of the Irish missionary saints who went out to other lands, making the sacrifice of exile from their homes which they would never see again. Thus they loved the Creation where they were born, Ireland, but were ready to sacrifice this for the sake of the Gospel, to bring the Light of Christ to others. They kept their roots, but were no 'nationalists', if we may use a modern term.
The second great teaching of the Fathers, these saints who possessed a secular education, was that of the Holy Trinity. This says that God is Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in One Essence. This is the teaching of Love, that different persons can be united by Love, it is the teaching of unity in diversity. Put into practice by thousands of European ascetics, this teaching softened the heathen ways of Pagan Rome and the heathen Germanic, Slavic and Turkish barbarians who invaded Northern and Eastern Europe. This was the teaching that formed Christendom, which shaped the Christian Commonwealth, which extended like St Cuthbert's pectoral cross, from Ireland to India. This was the teaching which shaped the European peoples, enabling them to live in unity and diversity, as sovereign kingdoms without tribal warfare, as an international Commonwealth, without a monolithic, totalitarian superstructure, as, quite simply, Christendom.
Contrary to the First Millennium, the Second Millennium is the age of worldly greatness, but spiritual enfeeblement. If it can be said that in the First Millennium Europe rose from the depths of paganism to the heights of holiness, then in the Second Millennium, Europe fell from the heights of holiness to the depths of paganism. The first half of the Second Millennium saw a gradual fall, but the second half has seen an acceleration of that fall, reaching breakneck speed in the 20th century. Despite attempts to slow down the process of Apostasy from the Age of the Incarnation and its traditions of holiness, traditions which were continued in the Eastern half of Europe right into the 20th century, the Second Millennium resembles a Second Fall. Ultimately, especially in recent times, it has been the age of triumph of pagan values, because of the Disincarnation, the rejection of Christian values. The quest for worldliness of the Second Millennium leads man to the depths of Apostasy, the loss of Faith, to the statement which resounds in the spiritual emptiness and hollowness of the contemporary European mind - the words of the German philosopher and madman Nietzsche: 'God is dead'. To which God has answered: 'Nietzsche is dead'.
Before the First Millennium was out, there were already undeniable tensions between the North of Continental Europe and the rest of Christendom. The tensions between 'Frankland', the Franco-German heartland of Western Europe, and the rest of the Christian Commonwealth, were signs that the Age of the Saints was coming to an end. It signified the attempt to govern the Church not by the Holy Spirit but by the human mind, in spite of the Gospel injunction: 'Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?'
At the end of the eighth century the semi-Christian Franks led by Charlemagne conceived the idea of 'renewing' or restoring Ancient Rome. This would have been unthinkable to the tens of thousands of Christians who had been martyred in the arenas of Rome and mercilessly persecuted all over the Roman Empire. However, the Franks, the most powerful people in Western Europe, desired to be 'great'. They wished to restore the cult of reason and law, to read once more the pagan, so-called 'classical' writers whom the saints (like the Venerable Bede only fifty years before) had refused to read. Could God perhaps be reduced to the size of the human reason? Could the unity of the pagan Roman Empire be recovered? The Carolingians, as the elite of Charlemagne are called, took as their model not Christian Rome, but pagan Rome and its philosophy. They took their knowledge from classical writers and ideas that had been carried from pagan Greece by Muslims to Spain, then transferred to Spanish Jews who transmitted the same philosophy to Christians, like Theodulf, the Spanish bishop of Orleans, and other Spaniards at the Court of Charlemagne and after: Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, Claud, Bishop of Turin and Felix, Bishop of Urgel, all in some way or other associated with heresies. In the year 800 Charlemagne was crowned in Rome by the Pope. This was the beginning of 'the Holy Roman Empire', which was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. The motives of Pope Leo III are not clear, but in crowning Charlemagne 'Emperor of the Romans', he seems to have been trying to bring the Frankish ruler to heel. Although Charles had the supranational idea of the pagan Romans, a policy of centralization, he was unable to implement it. Even with his barbarian violence of bringing pagans to the Faith by the sword, he failed to intimidate. Thus the British Isles remained outside his 'Empire'; King Offa of Mercia considered himself to be Charlemagne's equal. Iberia also remained outside his grasp. The Basques and the Bretons resisted him. Many in the South of the former territory of Gaul preferred Arab rule to his. The South of Italy never came under his control, nor did Scandinavia. And the Roman Capital in Constantinople looked on him as what he was - an upstart barbarian kinglet who through his ignorant ambition had even fallen into the grave error of changing the text of the Christian Creed, the Symbol of Faith drawn up by the Ścumenical Councils of the fourth century.
Providentially, after Charles' death, his 'Empire' collapsed. And towards the end of the ninth century the unity of Christendom was restored by the saintly Pope John VIII and St Photius the Great, Patriarch of the Imperial Capital. In 879, at what the Greek-speaking Orthodox Churches generally call the Eighth Ścumenical Council, all those who dared to alter the Creed were condemned and excommunicated. Peace was restored. In the tenth century a dynastic marriage was arranged between Otto II, a successor to Charlemagne, and Theophano, a 'Byzantine' noblewoman. Artisans and monks from Constantinople went to Germany in numbers and played a considerable role in maintaining the Frankish world inside the Christian Commonwealth, thus reinforcing the conciliar decisions of the previous century. However, this would not be enough. The temptations of worldly greatness remained as an undercurrent among the Franks. The concept of 'the Holy Roman Empire' remained to burst forth again in the eleventh century (and last until Napoleon). This time the desire to be 'great' without God would be stronger than the influence of the Faith which had restrained until then the ambition and the arrogance of those in the Franco-German heart of Western Europe.
In the year 983 Peter of Pavia was appointed the first Germanic Pope. He was to be followed by others - Bruno of Carinthia (996-999) and then Gerbert of Aurillac, who reigned as Sylvester II from 999 to 1003. This latter was one who preferred Cicero and Boethius to prayer. When Gerbert reproached the Romans for their ignorance of the 'classics', the papal legate upbraided him as a true Christian should: 'Since the beginning of the world, God has chosen not orators and philosophers, but the illiterate and peasants'. Gerbert wished to combine faith and reason. He had studied in Spain with Muslims and Jews, he was a scientist, an astronomer, one who dreamed of restoring the glory of the Ancient Roman Empire. As William of Malmesbury wrote of him in the 12th century: 'Gerbert discovered what the pagans had buried in Rome'. According to chroniclers of the time, he had sold his soul to the Devil for the sake of knowledge.
This was the inauspicious but profoundly symbolic start of the eleventh century. It marked a return to the pagan thought-world of Aristotle, Plato, the Roman and Greek pagan philosophies, confused with Christianity. It was the beginning of what we now call 'Scholasticism', a new age where learning was no longer obtained in the monastery through prayer, but in the university through the human mind and logical analysis. It was the beginning of the Papal totalitarian Empire of the Middle Ages, the beginning of the period of the domination of the world by Western 'Judeo-Christian' civilization. The great Catholic historian, Christopher Dawson, has written thus of this age in his book Religion and the Rise of Western Culture: 'The West is different from all other civilizations because its religious ideal has not been the worship of timeless and changeless perfection but a spirit that strives to incorporate itself in humanity and change the world'. 'The other great cultures realized their synthesis between religion and life and then maintained their sacred order. But in the West the changing of the world became an integral part of its cultural ideal. In the eleventh century the movement of reform … had become the inspiration of a wider movement of spiritual change which transformed the order of the Western Church and the Spirit of Western Culture'. The academic Z. N. Brooke wrote: 'The eleventh century is, in Church history, the great century of reform, and it divides into two quite distinct halves. Before 1046, when the Papacy was still unreformed, the Church as a whole had no leader, and only a nominal head … From this time a new spirit enters into the Church … The idea of a centralized Church directly controlled in all its parts by the Pope was novel … it involved a beach of tradition …' (The English Church and the Papacy, pp 24, 27, 132).
The failed 'renovatio' or rebirth of pagan Rome under Charlemagne was to succeed in the eleventh century and to blossom fully in the twelfth. The second attempt to revive and restore the power and the glory of Ancient Rome was to be successful. But the true power and the true glory and the true kingdom sit on the back of an ass.
The first result of this 'renaissance' is Scholasticism, the abandon of the only real theology, the mystical theology of practical experience, for a rationalistic philosophy. This is the reconciliation of Christianity with pagan thought, the effort to conform faith to the fallen human reason. But man's reason is darkened by the absence of God's grace, if it is not first purified by prayer and ascetic work, by all that is not learnt at university. Anselm, the Father of Scholasticism, writing at the end of the eleventh century, said that he believed 'in order to understand'.. The Age of the Saints, the Age of the Incarnation, would have replied that it believed because it was natural to believe, God was everywhere, belief was a recognition of reality, the facts spoke for themselves; understanding was secondary and it was not understanding, but faith that brought salvation. Scholasticism was the triumph of the pagan mind, of pagan logic, of Aristotle over Christ.
There was, however, a second consequence of this rebirth of paganism. This was the rebirth of the Imperial idea. This time it would be implemented not by a bloodthirsty layman, Charlemagne, but by the Papacy. The new, reformed Papacy of the second half of the eleventh century assumed the powers of the ancient Roman Emperors. In order to do this it first had to divorce itself from the actual Roman Emperors who still ruled in the East and the south of Italy from Constantinople. For the Frankish Pope, Bruno of Toul, from the family of the Counts of Egisheim-Dagsburg, known to history as Pope Leo IX, this occurred in 1054 when he had the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated. From this point on the Papacy stopped at nothing to enforce its pretensions. Gradually it extended its power to the margins of Western Europe. This it did by using the military prowess of the Normans, first in Sicily, then in England, Wales and Ireland. These mercenaries were to be used against the recalcitrant everywhere. Other Teuton warriors were to be used against Russia and non-Catholics in so-called 'Crusades'. Finally in 1204 these 'knights' were used to destroy Christian Constantinople, New Rome, itself. With New Rome crushed, Old Rome was now supreme, and the pagan Roman Empire all but restored. By the beginning of the thirteenth century the Papacy had reached its apogee, it was the centre of a complex legal system, a monolithic Empire which made kings shudder at the threat of excommunication. It was the inspiration of thinkers who were attempting to seize Nature's secrets through alchemy and astrology, algebra and Aristotle, Plato and Ptolomey. Rome was the apex of a pyramid called Feudalism. The remains of the system can still be seen in Sicily and Southern Italy to this day in the Mafia. For Feudalism is little more than a protection racket legitimised by ritual restraints.
Let us not, however, paint too dark a picture. The first half of the Second Millennium was still tempered by the heritage of the Age of the Saints, the Age of the Incarnation, which had preceded it. The rebirth of pagan, 'classical' Antiquity took place among the elite of Western European society only. Among the people there was still piety. There was a divorce between the people and the elite, between heart and head, between faith and philosophy, between 'town and gown', between the legacy of the Age of Saints and the pagan intellect, between the Age of the Incarnation and that of the Disincarnation.
Moreover in Eastern Europe this divorce had not yet occurred. In the areas not yet subject to Rome, in the Orthodox Christian Patriarchates, Christendom continued. The Age of the Saints, the Patristic Age, the Age of the Incarnation continued. Indeed there was even a blossoming of this Age in Constantinople in the eleventh century (St Simeon the New Theologian), in Russia with the development of monasticism and also in the Balkans. This would continue throughout the second millennium with the appearance of new Church Fathers, St Dositheus of Jerusalem in the seventeenth century, St Paisius in Moldavia, St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain. St Seraphim and the Optima Elders in Russia (all of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), and in our own times, St John of Kronstadt, Blessed Nicholas (Velimirovich), Blessed John (Maximovich), Blessed Justin (Popovich), together with a host of other martyrs and confessors in Greece, in Anatolia, in the Balkans and in Russia, persecuted by the enemies of Christ. This Commonwealth (to use the term of Sir Dimitri Obolensky), was the inheritance and continuation of the First Millennium. It not only survived into the twentieth century but defended itself against the intellectual paganization of Christendom which had so moved ahead in Western Europe. Possibly the greatest Christian apologist for the Age of the Saints against the Western abandonment of Christian values was St Gregory Palamas, the fourteenth century Church Father. He defended the theology of the Fathers against rationalism and thus defended the whole Spirit-based civilization of Christendom. He developed the theology of the Holy Spirit, denying that man was separated from God, asserting that man could know God through the Holy Spirit. To the growing cult of humanism he opposed 'theosis', divinisation. The cult of fallen man, humanism, was ultimately the cult of sin. Man could partake of the divine nature, partake in the life of God through the Divine Energies, communicated to repentant and purified mankind through the Holy Spirit. To rationalistic thought he opposed 'noetic' thought, the thought that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. To speculation he opposed 'noetic' knowledge, that which enters the soul through the Holy Spirit. This was not speculation but the spiritual experience of a saint written down in theology. Theology outside the territory of Papal Rome thus continued, as in the First Millennium, to be mystical, experiential, empirical, non-philosophical.
We have already said that the second millennium, the Age of the Disincarnation, can roughly be divided into two halves. The second half begins in Italy in the fourteenth century, but blossoms in the fifteenth and comes to fruition in the sixteenth. It is the period that modern historians call 'the Renaissance'. In fact, as we have seen it is the third renaissance or rebirth of pagan Roman and Greek values since the Carolingians first 'renovatio' and then the eleventh century Renaissance. It is the third attempt to destroy the heritage of the Age of the Saints, to disincarnate Christian values from the Western part of Europe, and ultimately the rest of the Christian world. It can most dramatically be seen in the Art of the period with its sensual, pagan, erotic style. Although this Renaissance with its basically anti-Christian ethos began in Italy, it was to come to its fruition in Germany, in the very cities, towns and villages where the Carolingian renaissance had taken place among a small and fragile elite. This was the unintended consequence of the Renaissance - it is called the Reformation. The first result of the protests of the Catholic monk, Martin Luther, was a religious division in Western Europe between the Germanic North and the mainly Latin South. This was aided by the German invention of printing. In the North was born a new, practical, pragmatic rationalism which was strongly opposed to the old, theoretical, speculative rationalism of the South. It opposed a divisive, nationalistic North to the old monolithism of the South.
Nevertheless, the result of the Renaissance and the Reformation and then the Counter-Reformation with their Wars of 'Religion' was not the total paganization of Western Europe. The process of paganization was still tempered by the stubborn and vital heritage of the Age of the Saints. Christian values, implanted by the Saints of the 'Bright Ages', could not be removed so easily. Both the Catholic South and the Protestant North went on believing in God. There was still a certain zeal, even if shaken, distorted and deformed. Faith would remain in Western Europe for as long as Western Europe refused wholly to renounce the heritage of the First Millennium and the basic Christian teachings it had given the West. Yet another, fourth, renaissance or pagan revival would be necessary to shake Christianity further and uproot its deep roots.
This was to take place in the eighteenth century, the Age of the 'Enlightenment', the Age of 'Classicism', the Age of 'Reason', with the beginning of 'Modem' Science and Philosophy. This was the age of the cult of the Reason, the Enlightenment of the Reason, but in fact it was opposed to the spiritual Enlightenment, as taught by Christianity. For the first time we see individuals openly declaring their atheism, proclaiming it in pride. The cult of Science and Reason was to lead to two Revolutions. The first was the Industrial Revolution in Protestant Britain, the second the French Revolution with its genocide and two million victims in Catholic France. The French Revolution was preached by the Freemason Encyclopedists, Diderot and Voltaire, although they did not imagine that the excesses of Reason would lead directly to the excesses of Unreason. The cries of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' were to lead directly to the tyranny of Bonaparte. Almost exactly 1,000 years after Charlemagne, Napoleon had himself crowned by the Pope. The new Charlemagne, he too attempted to restore the Roman Empire and unify Europe under his totalitarian rule. Conquering even more territory than Charlemagne and massacring hundreds of thousands in the process, Napoleon caused Europe to live through almost a generation of bloodshed. That he failed in his task was due to the obstinacy of Great Britain and Russia, who both refused the tyranny of this new 'Holy Roman Emperor', who was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Emperor. When he invaded Russia, he was said to be Antichrist, and in England he was called the Devil Incarnate. For it was Napoleon who left Europe full of graves and who said that he would have had Christ hanged as a fanatic.
The Imperialism of Bonaparte brought about a nationalist reaction in Europe. This nationalist reaction spread freely into Eastern Europe, to countries that had never really until Napoleon felt the influence of the Western European mentality, to Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania (In the twentieth century, it would spread even beyond Europe). And in these lands, this nationalist influence would begin to dissolve what remained of the Christian Commonwealth, the remains of the Age of the Saints of the first millennium. This became crystal clear in the fratricidal Balkan Wars between Bulgarians and Serbs in 1912-13. In Germany, which did not then exist, Bonaparte's influence in founding 'the Confederation of the Rhine' had a particularly pernicious effect, since this Confederation laid the foundation for the united Germany of Bismarck. This in turn would rebound on France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and ultimately would launch the whole German question which has so cast its shadow on 20th century Europe and cost tens of millions of lives. Similarly, Napoleon's work had pernicious effects in Italy, which did not exist either at the time. Italian unification under Garibaldi would have disastrous consequences in the twentieth century - as we shall see later.
Moreover, the Imperialism of Napoleon, the idea of restoring the Roman Empire, was not the only Imperialism of the nineteenth century. Many countries, seeing that they could not have an Empire in Europe, created ones in Africa and Asia. Thus the British, the Dutch, the French, the Belgians and the Germans all formed colonial empires, just as the Spanish and the Portuguese before them. All were obsessed with the Imperial idea, the pagan, Roman idea. Austro-Hungary continued to maintain theirs in Central and Eastern Europe. In the twentieth century Soviet Russia and Italy attempted to develop theirs. But Imperialism is always followed by nationalism, as pride is always followed by the fall. This is the spiritual law.
1914 marked the end of peace. Europe exploded in hatred and nine million dead. The Kaiser (Cćsar) wanted an unholy, German Empire. And he was slowed by Russia and then stopped by the English-speaking world; basically the same forces that had stopped Napoleon, only on a world scale this time, not just European. But after the four years of blood-bath, there was no repentance. After a spate of short-term, nationalist revenge, Europe fell under the spell of American commercialism and Russia fell under that of mass self-destruction with the Communist regime. European minds turned not to repentance, but to the rhythms of jazz, arousing immoral thoughts among the masses. Thoughts for so long buried in the European subconscious, which Freud exhumed, surfaced anew.
Exactly 25 years after the First War a new German Charlemagne-Napoleon arose in Europe and a new 'Roman' Emperor in Italy. The same old story, the same obsession with uniting Europe under a totalitarian regime. 'Germany will only truly be Germany, when it is Europe. As long as we do not dominate Europe, we shall only vegetate. We must have Europe and its colonies. Europe is our total living-space'.. (Hermann Rauschning, What Hitler told me). And the same mistakes: once again Hitler made the mistakes of Napoleon. Once again the pagan Roman idea was defeated by those on the periphery of Europe, Russia and the English-speaking world, those who refused the tyranny of Europe. Leaving over fifty million dead, this war, truly a global conflict, brought no repentance. Within years of its ending, Europe was involved in a moral war which culminated in the 1960's in a wave of 'liberalization', releasing hysterical and deregulated forces, whose direct consequences were the murders of tens of millions of children by abortion, and this continues today.
Economically, another war also began. In 1957 a Franco-German project, involving precisely the territories of the Carolingian Empire, was agreed upon and confirmed in Rome - 1157 years after Charlemagne's confirmation in the same city. Six countries with a population 80% Catholic formed a customs union, promising economic excommunication or exclusion to the European countries which did not wish to join. Just recently, now with twelve members, this Treaty has been strengthened by another Treaty drawn up, just a few miles away from Charlemagne's Palace in Aachen, in the city of Maastricht. Intent on Union, these countries seem not to have noticed that at the other end of Europe, another Union, the Soviet one, has broken up in chaos, hunger and war. Once again Europe is divided between the monolithic totalitarianism of the Superstate of Maastricht, and, on the other hand, the nationalistic fratricide of Sarajevo, fruit of the nationalism of the nineteenth century. Western Europe is promised bread and circuses, if it will worship on the altar of the new Baal, the Mammon of economism, productivism and its human sacrifices. Eastern Europe, having followed false gods, is tempted to do the same but wishes to conserve its new-found freedom - but the temptation of bread and circuses is great, and lands which reject the corporatist Eurostate are threatened with provincial status through economic excommunication.
How was this age possible?
The Second Millennium gradually put history into reverse, returning Christendom by the twentieth century into the pre-Constantinian age of martyrdom. The Age of the Disincarnation is that of rationalist philosophy, of the distancing of man from God.
The fundamental Christian teaching of the Incarnation and its implications were progressively lost in this Age. Firstly, there was a loss of faith in the divinity of Christ and a focusing only on His humanity. Christ was seen as a poor, abandoned, suffering man. With the loss of faith in His divinity, there went the loss of faith in a heavenly homeland. The result of this was the attachment to the world and its institutions. Christ was distanced from man, He became a distant God locked up in an unknowable Heaven. He was replaced with a 'Vicar' and man was left to run his own life with reason and law, rationalist philosophy and legalism - exactly as before Christ's Coming. Christ became the Unknown God of the philosophers. The idea of a god as Superior Being survived, but this divine nature did not merge with the human nature in One Person. On Earth a man, Jesus, had died crucified. In Heaven there was a distant God, the Lord Christ, from Whom, they said, 'proceeded' the Holy Spirit. But this Holy Spirit and this God, this 'Superior Being' were unknowable because they could not descend to man. The divinization of man was impossible, the whole material world could never be hallowed - therefore it could be exploited without misgiving. The separation of the divine nature of Christ from His human nature in Western European religious thought and piety had many consequences. The admiration for the sacrifice of Christ the man, developed into humanism, at first Christian humanism, but then atheistic humanism. The distancing of divinity brought a new worldliness to Western attitudes, a lack of respect for Creation, the desacralization of Nature which before in the Age of the Incarnation had been seen as a pattern or code of signs and symbols of God's Presence among men on Earth. This worldliness gave rise to an excessive attachment to earthly homelands, that today we call nationalism. On the other hand, paradoxically, since the principle of the Incarnation was denied - God had not really become man - mankind also felt uprooted, able to devote itself to rootless, monolithic, totalitarian structures - the very ones that pagan Rome had so cultivated.
Similarly the teaching of the Holy Trinity was turned into an abstract, dry, dead formula. The Living God was replaced by the god of rationalizing philosophers, the abstract god of booklore, syllogism and speculative, scholastic hypothesis. This god was not the God experienced, known and lived by the Age of the Incarnation, this was a god of imagination. And when imagination would no longer need him to justify its hypotheses, then he would be cast aside as a dead god. The ignorance of the Living God meant that the knowledge of God as Three Persons in a Unity of Love was lost. And with it was lost the reality of unity in diversity, the whole vision of Christendom-Commonwealth of the Age of the Incarnation, the Age of the Saints.
We have termed the Second Millennium 'the Age of the Disincarnation', because it was the age when Christian values were lost, disincarnated, uprooted from daily life. As we come now to the third millennium, we may attempt to answer that question which we posed in the title of this essay: Europe: Quo Vadis? Whither Goest Thou?
We are now only six years away from the Third Millennium, from that excitement and no doubt hysteria of the night of 3l December 1999.
After the end of the Second World War, there were those who said that Europe had been saved for a purpose. The purpose does not seem to be clear. For since 1945 Europe has declined spiritually. For centuries Europe has opposed mere men to Christ. They asked: Christ or the Pope? Christ or Aristotle? Christ or Luther? Christ or Darwin? Christ or Marx? Christ or Freud? And now as we move 'forward' through an age of ultimate vice and disincarnation - abortion (what could be more disincarnate than abortion?), perversion, incest, witchcraft - practices that were unspeakable only a few years ago - it seems that Europe is opposing Christ to the ultimate. They ask: Christ or Antichrist? Antichrist is the ultimate disincarnation, for Antichrist is the moment when mankind falls at the feet of Lucifer, a fallen, bodiless, disincarnate angel.
Is Europe then to re-enter the age of history, or to fall out of history into the age of the Apocalypse? Is it to return to Christendom, the Incarnation of values, the Age of the Saints - or to disincarnate itself into the worship of disincarnate Satan? Is it to return to the reconstitution, the re-embodiment of the Christendom of the First Millennium - or its disembodiment?
Will Europe be saved by the Incarnation of Christ, and the Holy Trinity - or disembodied by its old demons who have so long waited to return since they were first cast out by the Saints of the former age?
Will Pagan Rome triumph with its Caesar-Antichrist worship and pantheon of demons - or will there be a True Renaissance, the True Rebirth of the Age of the Incarnation, the Age of the Saints?
The Cross and the Resurrection - or Spiritual Death? A Spiritual Commonwealth or an Economic Union? Jerusalem or Babylon? Unity in Christ or Unity in Antichrist?
We are unable to answer any of these questions, but as Orthodox Christians we go on fearless, knowing that the last word in human history belongs to God.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!