Monday, May 28, 2012

Metropolitan Anthony's Devotional Addresses at the 1978 Lambeth Conference

Here are a few passages from the first devotional address of Metropolitan Anthony to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered for the 1978 Lambeth Conference. The entire address, as well as the others he gave, can be downloaded HERE. They are wonderful and powerful, and will be a blessing to you! 

Speaking to ordinands in one of the theological colleges of this country I was asked in the discussion that followed my introduction a question by one of them speaking for the whole group, “Can you tell us how we can recapture the living faith which brought us to this place and has been destroyed by the theological teaching, which we have received?” There was nothing wrong in the theological teaching as such, it was quite legitimate that theological students should have learnt all the subjects, which were taught. But apparently something in the way in which they were taught, in the approach or perhaps in the way in which they lived as a body of people prevented them from keeping alive to the mysterious meeting that had occurred once in their lives and made them to choose to be God’s messengers on earth . . . 

One of the things that impresses me time and again and very painfully in the Church, in all the Churches is the way in which we have made the most uncomfortable things comfortable. Behind the smoothness, the artistic beauty of a crucifix, whether it is a crucifix of ivory or wood, or an icon in the Orthodox Church, we have lost sight of the Cross. The crucifix can be admired, can be enjoyed, the cross on which a young Man in his thirties died a long and painful death proclaiming a Gospel, Good News of love and of the closeness of God, the Cross has disappeared from our eyes. We sing melodies, which should not leave our lips if we realise what is going on at the same moment. If we really believed, not intellectually only, theoretically, theologically but with all our being, soul and body, if we only believed that at a certain moment of the Holy Communion service the Spirit of God, the Divine Spirit descents upon this bread and this wine and it becomes truly though mysteriously the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Son of God, could we at that moment sing smoothly a hymn or sing the very words of Christ? Shouldn’t we be spellbound, dumbfounded, unable to move or to speak, forced to break the silence and our immobility of stone if we are to be the celebrant but against this sense that I can’t speak, yet I must, I cannot move yet, I must . . . 

Isn’t it terrifying to read aloud the Gospel or to hear it read with mastery while it should be read with terror, with the sense that how can I read these words that were spoken by the Living God become a living Man on his way to his real passion, to his real death? How can we read the story of Christ in the garden on the Mount of Olives without our heart breaking? There are thousands of people who heard it for the first time and their heart did break, while the reader, the clergyman read it smoothly as a thing he had always known. 

We must learn to break through all that has become familiar for us, but how can we do this? But again if we do not do this, we are like painted graves, and I am using the word “painted” advisedly instead of “white-washed” not to create problems of race discrimination because whatever our colour, we are in the same miserable condition — painted over and inside — what? Dry bones, alas. 

Now, there is a passage in the Gospel which I would like to bring to your attention. At the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew the Lord commands His disciples to go back to Galilee and to meet Him there. It seems really quite a superfluous journey if you take into account the fact that they are there in Jerusalem in the presence of Christ. Why should they go that far in order to meet Him while they are in His presence? What is there about Galilee that has a peculiar ring or a peculiar flavour? May I submit to you a thought, which I have, as every thought I ever express, stolen from someone better informed than I or more spiritual. This one belongs to an old French Orthodox priest who many of you know either as Fr. Lev Gillet or as the mysterious author of many books signed “A monk of the Orthodox Church”. 

Speaking to me about it he said once that Galilee was the place where the disciples had met Christ for the first time. It was the place of their first discoveries, first of all many quite certainly had met Him in Nazareth, in the surrounding villages, in the fields, in the workshop, in the familiarity of a growing generation of children and young men. Isn’t that the explanation of Nathaniel’s exclamation, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” What would you say if you were told that the Saviour of the world, the Messiah was the young man whom you have always known as a villager distant four or five miles from your village? Then they discovered Him as a youth beyond compare, a mysterious youth of a depth, of a simplicity, of the purity, of the wisdom like a crystal clear and transparent that allows the light to flow through him and at the same time multiplies the light by reflecting it in all directions. Then they discovered Him as their Guide, and their Master, and their Teacher, and their Lord. But all that happened before the tragic, cruel days of Christ’s ministry in Judea, it was the spring of life, it was the time when they opened up, when they blossomed out like flowers and trees in the beginning of the spring. It was the beginning when everything had total newness, when all things were possible, when beauty entered into their life, when faith expounded, when hope was fragrant and when they discovered a scope, a scale, a width and depth of love they had never suspected and the meaning of the Scriptures they had never heard expound in that way, words that were truth, words that were spirit, that were life, words to which everyone of them could say, “Amen,” and come to life. 

This is what Galilee stood for in their memories or perhaps forgotten somewhere in their own past, and Christ takes them out of the context of Judea, of hatred, of the Week of the Passion, of the agonies and fears, of betrayals, of His death and sends them back to their own roots, “Go back to your own beginnings.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Metropolitan Anthony was born in Lausanne in 1914. He spent his early childhood in Russia and Persia, his father being a member of the Russian Imperial Diplomatic Corps. His mother was the sister of Alexander Scriabin, the composer. 

During the Russian Revolution the family had to leave Persia, and in 1923 settled in Paris where the future Metropolitan was educated, graduating in physics, chemistry and biology, and taking his doctorate in medicine, at the University of Paris. 

In 1939, before leaving for the front as a surgeon in the French army, he secretly professed monastic vows. He was tonsured and received the name of Anthony in 1943. During the occupation of France by the Germans he worked as a doctor and took part in the Anti-Fascist movement of the Resistance. 

After the war he continued practising as a physician until 1948, when he was ordained to the priesthood and sent to England to serve as Orthodox Chaplain of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. He was appointed vicar of the Russian patriarchal parish in London in 1950, consecrated as Bishop in 1957 and Archbishop in 1962, in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland. In 1963 he was appointed Exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe, and in 1966 was raised to the rank of Metropolitan. At his own request he was released in 1974 from the function of Exarch, in order to devote himself more fully to the pastoral needs of the growing flock of his Diocese and all who come to him seeking advice and help.

Metropolitan Anthony received a D.D. from Aberdeen University 'for preaching the Word of God and renewing the spiritual life of this country'; from the Moscow Theological Academy for his theological, pastoral and preaching work; from Cambridge University; and from the Kiev Theological Academy. His first books on prayer and the spiritual life (Living Prayer, Meditations on a Theme and God and Man) were published in England, and his texts are now widely published in Russia, both as books and in periodicals. Metropolitan Anthony died peacefully 4th August, 2003, at the age of 89. Go HERE to the website devoted to his memory and his teachings. 


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