Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is hot.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus over at this month's First Things included a long excerpt from Fr. Thomas Hopko's commencement address to St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. It's worth the time to read it. May the Church soon be one again!

"The first and most important thing is that we are boudnlessly loved by God who blesses us to love Him boundlessly in return... The Church--the communion of faith and love (as St. Ignatius of Antoich defined it), the community of saints who are Christ's own very 'member' as his body and bride--is essential to our human being and life. We cannot be human beings--still less, Christians and saints--by ourselves. We need God and his wise and faithful servants. We need God's commandments and living examples of their fulfillment. We need the Church's scriptures, sacraments, services and saints. And we need one another. As Tertullian said centuries ago, 'One Christian is no Christian.'... Like it or not, we are members 'of one another' in God. If we like it, it is life and paradise. If we reject it, it is death and hell."

And then this bit:

"Thus, if we have become convinced of anything at all as Orthodox Christians, we are convinced that human beings are not autonomous. The proclamation and defense of human autonomy is the most insidious lie of our day, especially here in North America, and in the Western and Westernized worlds generally. Human beings are by nature heteronomous. Another law (heteros nomos) is always working in our minds and members. This 'other law' is either the law of God, the law of Christ, the law of the Holy Spirit, the law of liberty and life that can only be recognized, received, and realized by holy humility, or it is the law of sin and death (cf. Romans 7-8). When the law within us is God's law, then we are who we really are, and we are sane and free. But when that law is the law of sin and death, then we are not ourselves, and we are insane, enslaved, and sold to sin."

Finally, he wraps it up by a sobering look at CS Lewis's The Abolition of Man:

"I am convinced that what Lewis foresaw has happened, and is still happening with ever more catastrophic consequences, in our Western and Westernized worlds. It happens that men and women who once were human are simply no longer so. They have become nothing but minds and matter, brains and bodies, computers and copulators, constructors and cloners, who believe that they are free and powerful but who are in fact being destroyed by the very 'Nature' that they wish to conquer as they are enslaved to an oligarchy of 'Conditioners' who are themselves enslaved and destroyed by their insane strivings to define, design, manage, and manipulate a world and a humanity bereft of the God who boundlessly loves them."

Hm. Two thoughts:

First, in my youthful idealism, I hope that Fr. Hopko's diagnosis is extreme--that there is something to the men and women of my generation besides their machinized bodies and atrophied souls. I hold an uncertain hope that the young people I see around the university campus--with designer clothes, dead eyes, and iPod-plugged ears--can come back from the dead. I am sure it is a narrow, difficult road from there back to being human.

Second, I really must read The Abolition of Man. So must you.

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