Sunday, February 24, 2008

Metropolitan Emilianos

Metropolitan Emilanos (Timiadis) of Silyvria (Patriarchate of Constantinople) reposed in the Lord in Greece on February 22, 2008, at the age of 91. Readers may remember him above all as the author of the book The Relevance of the Fathers.

In his brief study, "Saint Photios on Transcendence in Culture," the late Metropolitan touches on a theme dear to him: the relationship between Christian mission and cultural uniqueness. Speaking of Patriarch Photios and the brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles to the Slavs, he writes:
In order for the proclamation of the Gospel to be effective and meaningful, a great deal depends οn methods and strategy of communication. Photios, before dispatching the two brothers to the mission field, certainly had an elaborated and concrete plan, inspired by an elasticity of local customs and tradition of the indigenous people, respecting them as persons and without hurting their sensibility. When Methodios, tired from intrigues and hostilities from the Germanic clergy, was thinking of retiring and returning to his dear contemplative life in the Byzantine monastery, Cyril wrote to him to persuade him "how mission, instead, was more preferable than return to the monastic life, in this particular situation." This view echoes the staunch belief of John Chrysostom who, in many cases, finds evangelism more difficult than the work of a retired person in the desert.

All missionary activities taken by Photios are distinctive for heir flexibility, freedom, and realistic applicability. Every care was taken to avoid carrying out evangelism in an imposed and irrelevant manner. The ruler Hagan of the Khazars threatened that those who refuse to become Christians, preferring rather Judaism or Islam "will be swiftly put to death." However, Cyril defends free option, the "voluntary baptism" in full conscience, without any pressure.

Pluralism in customs, traditions, and languages is seen in reference to the Pauline instruction: "All things to all people" (Eph 1.23), by using all the positive and innocent elements in the life of a people as instruments for the glory of God. The use of the principle of applicability can be seen in the instrumental Slavic language carefully avoiding any foreign language, so that evangelism was not seen as a kind of cultural colonialism, as unfortunately was the case in the intensive foreign mission of European missionaries during what is known as the colonial period, in Africa ιnd Asia as well. Such unwise tactics discredited Christianity, and the Gospel of Jesus is still identified with Western culture and background by many Africans.
May Metropolitan Emilianos' memory be eternal!

No comments: