Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Random Quotes from an Unpublished Paper: Part 1

Posted in D.Min. Study Notes by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 17 August 2015

These are random quotes from an unpublished paper. I will post more quotes from the same paper every few days during the Dormition Fast (Old Calendar). 

It is often asserted that in the Early Church theologians did not write works merely for the sake of writing something. Rather, it is said, they responded when their faith was being challenged and wrote apologies and clarifications of Christian doctrine. I personally think that some people like to write, to think and to express their thoughts in writing. Even if the Christian faith had not been challenged by heresies and misunderstandings, I am certain that some people would still have written for their own benefit, if no one else’s, and the Church would still have the theology of Saint Clement, and the beautiful works of the Syriac mystics, and also Chrysostom’s On Virginity as well as Augustine’s Confessions. Nonetheless, writing purely for the sake of writing can lead one astray toward subjects irrelevant or even irreverent. When one is so enamoured with the sound of his own voice that he loses track of why he is speaking or writing, and the very act of speaking or writing becomes a pleasurable end in and of itself, then, perhaps, it is time to think about a career in creative fiction rather than Christian theology.

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In other words, the vision of Christian rebirth and transformation seems to be that of a completely new creation, total newness–the newness of time and space, of the meaning of life and death, even a new heaven and a new earth–all is to be new with, perhaps, some remnants of the old, such as dishes, or diapers, or an occasional physical illness to be patiently born as a cross in full realization of its temporal limitations and of the faith in the world to come which is without illness, sadness or sighing. However, what we see in reality is people who get baptized but not transformed or renewed. Their life remains the same as it was before the baptism, their worldview does not change, and neither do their values. A weekly Liturgy, or some shortened prayer rule, or a vegetarian diet during Great Lent is added to their otherwise-unchanged secular life. Their Christian transformation is quantitative rather than qualitative; their most frequent complaint is that they do not have the time for church services or prayer rules because they are trying to cram some elements or activities of a Christian life into a life already overstuffed with other activities. They are trying to live a double life and in the best-case scenario their life becomes fractured in the process: Sunday mornings are for church obligations, the rest of the week is for the obligations of the world, and the two do not intersect…

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no one can serve two masters, for he will be devoted to one and despise the other (see Matt. 6:24). And this is exactly what happens–the add-on Christian obligations and activities become a burden: church services and prayer rules interfere with leisure time, they are seen and felt as an inconvenience; fasts “ruin” birthday parties and are a nuisance on secular holidays, unless one decides to dispense with the fast on those occasions and thus resolve the overlap of secular and religious activities in favor of the secular ones. Life becomes compartmentalized: one practices Christianity when one is in church or in church settings and secularism when one is at work or with friends who are not “church people.”

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