Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Objective of Orthodox Culture

Archimandrite Justin (Popovic) writes:
What is the objective of Orthodox culture? It is to introduce and to realize, to the greatest extent possible, the Divine in man and in the world around him; to incarnate God in man and in the world, wherefore Orthodox culture is an incessant service to Christ our God, an incessant divine service. Man serves God by means of all creation; all around himself he systematically and regularly introduces that which is of God into his every effort, into his creativity. He awakens everything divine in nature around him, in order that all of nature, under man’s guidance, might serve God, and thus does all creation participate in a general and mutual divine service, for nature serves that man who serves God.

Theanthropic culture transfigures man from within, and thereby likewise influences his external condition, — it transfigures the soul, and by way of the soul, it transfigures the body. For this culture, the body is the temple of the soul, which lives, moves and has its being through the soul. Take away the soul from the body — and what will remain, if not a stinking corpse? The God-man first of all transfigures the soul — and, subsequently, the body as well. The transfigured soul transfigures the body; it transfigures matter.

The goal of Theanthropic culture is to transfigure not only man and humanity, but also all of nature through them. But how is this goal to be attained? Only by Theanthropic means: through the evangelic virtues of faith and love, hope and prayer, fasting and humility, meekness and compassion, love of God and neighbour. It is by means of these virtues that Theanthropic Orthodox culture is fashioned. Pursuing these virtues, man transfigures his deformed soul, making it beautiful; it is transformed from something dark into something light, something sinful into something holy, something with a dark countenance into something Godlike. And he transfigures his body into a temple that can accommodate his Godlike soul.
For more, see here, which leads to a portion of a longer essay. The full version can be found in Archimandrite Dr. Justin Popovic, The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism (Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 2000). This is by far the best book by Fr Justin to appear in English, inasmuch as it is translated directly from the Serbian (several other of his works that have appeared in English are in fact translated from the Greek) and represents the translation of a full book, rather than chapters drawn from different volumes. It's unfortunately a bit difficult to find and a bit pricey to purchase (although very much worth it, I assure you). A copy can be ordered online here (scroll down; books are listed alphabetically by title).


The Student said...

How come we don't here much about the Serbians except for Saint Justin Popovic and Saint Nicholae Velimirovich? I know that "The Orthodox Word" is covering more about the Serbians (ie. Father Sebastian Dabovich) but we hear very little of much Serbian writing in contrast to say Greek or Russian

Felix Culpa said...

See my post entitled "The Bread of Theology"(1/23) for a partial explanation. The fact is that the Serbs really haven't had an indigenous theological culture, so there simply isn't as much in Serbian as there is in Greek and Russian.

Even now the Serbs tend to be divided between those who follow the Greeks and those that follow the Russians. Bishop Nikolai and, after him, Fr Justin, went a long way in establish a Serbian theological culture, and there are a half dozen or so excellent theologians writing in Serbian today, mainly students of Fr Justin. Bishop Atanasije's book "Christ - the Alpha and Omega" recently appeared in English. A number of essays by Bishop Artemije (mainly concerning ecumenism) can also be found online. It would be nice to see translations, not only of more of Fr Justin's works -- especially his massive dogmatic theology -- but also of works by Patriarch Pavle and Metropolitan Amfiloije. Bishop Maxim of Western America is himself a student of Bp Atanasije and a gifted theologian, although few of his writings have yet to appear in English. He has started a new press, dedicated to Fr Sebastian, and hopefully will fill the gap somewhat.