The Same Spirit
Nothing new under the Sun, the only difference being that this time I will speak more frankly. The same spirit, that fights desperately to remove God from the center of our hearts, to remove God from the focus of our lives, to reduce the Church to a mere funeral home, to remove His temple from the center of the city – that is, from before our eyes (following the rule – far from the eyes, far from the heart), the same spirit which, in a word, tries to move God from the center to the margins of our whole existence, the same spirit – I would say – keeps trying to remove God from the education and upbringing of our children. Normally, the margins are the phase before the final imaginary elimination. Answer the question yourselves: which is the spirit that resists the Holy Spirit of God? – and then decide, freely, the side by which you will stand, and the road which you will follow. I am certain that by doing so, you are also choosing the substance, and possibly the ending of your life. Since both the former spirit and the latter Spirit will appear in the end to reap and gather what they have sown. Each in his own barn.
Therefore, for the second time as of late I am warning that for us, Orthodox Christians, whether nominal or real, our Church is the only force able to pull us together and unite us in good and and in love. I am speaking about our national unity as well as the unity of building a multicultural and tolerant civil society. The Church cannot and must not be used as a battlefield for partisan struggles and divisions! Such a situation is just an evidence of the retroactivity, the lack of ingenuity and the incapability of the politicians. This must stop immediately because all of us will lose in the end. I have always wondered where do some of them, in order to fulfill their partisan (better say – personal) goals, find the readiness to throw all that is worthy down the drain, be it the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian nation, the Macedonian national identity or even the Macedonian state. All political parties ought to be close to the Church, as well as the Church to them, and each and every party ought to help the Church, and vice-versa. The Orthodox spiritual life is, nonetheless, a permanent and common value, which, if accepted, makes us consistent successors, bearers, and witnesses of our common spiritual and cultural heritage and identity, and this fact alone must not be a bone of contention for any particular political party in the
Are we not, however, the witnesses of a vast misplacement and turmoil of true values today? Just one hundred years ago, the Church and the church schools were the main educational center of the people. Or, why am I talking about only one hundred years ago, when centuries ago are in question? Who and what were our very first teachers and educators, the Holy brothers Cyril and Methodius, and their Holy disciples St. Nahum and St. Clement, with whom we constantly praise ourselves? Were they not, above all, monastics and clergymen? What were their schools and educational centers, if not, above all, Church schools and centers? What was the first university in Ohrid, if not, above all, a Church university? For ages ago, our Church was the founder of the school, for ages the Church was the school, and now someone wants to exclude the Church from the school. But people, that is the smallest of problems. The Church carries an immense and century-long experience in itself, the Church may survive one way or the other, with or without everything. The Church has survived many more horrifyiing persecutions than this one. Instead of empty triumphalism, however, we should ask ourselves, for the sake of us and for the sake of our children's future – what are we doing and where are we heading?
Do you not realize that the dynamics of everyday life and consumer society, based solely on an ever-increasing satisfaction of our passions, represent an extremely unhealthy spiritual environment in which our children grow? If we do not instill in our children the Orthodox spiritual way of life during their youth, they will remain without a solid foundation as a reliable support in their modern erratic lives, and the chances of them becoming victims of such life will be higher. We console the people even in prison, visit them in the hospital, we even built and established centers for treating the addicts of various narcotic drugs and a resocialization center, we advise them on issues of everyday life, but would it not be better if we could prevent all that evil by entering the schools? The later you meet us in life, the more horrible the consequences we face together. Because all the misfortunes we face in life are a consequence of the amassed and non-repented sins. Moreover, do the contemporary scientific inventions not point to the the psychosomatic diseases, in other words, the ruined psyche and the stress, as the base of all somatic diseases? You know well that your meeting with us, the Church, certainly happen; it is up to you to choose the time and venue of such meeting. Make sure that the venue of this meeting is not the cemetery, and the time - your funeral. That is the day of the Final Judgement.
I do not intend to say that the spirit which opposes the Spirit of Christ does not act even through people of the Church, regardless of them having senior clerical positions or being laymen. But for such deeds we will be personally held responsible even in this earthly life as well as the Final Judgement. Better in this life then. But, even if we may confidently say that some clergymen are responsible for the pale witnessing of Christ our Lord, or for the abomination among people, we cannot and it would not be normal, if for instance, we were to hate St. Nahum because of father Nahum. The people from the ecclesiastical organization are changeable, but the Church itself remains the only eternal place of salvation and the gates of hell will never overwhelm it. Short-sighted are the self-excuses in the manner: look what that priest or that bishop is doing, and on top of it I should go to his church!? If we are ready to think that everything else but ourselves is the obstacle to our relationship with God, then we are easily giving up our personal relationship with Him and our personal path to Him. If we do think and act in a way like this, then we do not live as personalities.
Man was created in the image of God, and should strive to achieve the likeness of God. Man is an open being, in which the potential to become god by grace was instilled. Therefore, education for us primarily means to bear and witness the image of our Creator. At the same time, this means that we should save and realize our own personality. To defend it from the demon, the sin and the death, from disintegration and eternal depersonalization. First of all, this approach to education doesn’t neglect at all the development of our intellectual potential. We achieve such education through the Orthodox upbringing. The basic meaning of the word “upbringing” according to the church-Slavonic origin is “rearing”. Aiming to form the image of God in us, we in the Church, are rearing and having communion with Christ, both in the material and spiritual meaning of the word. Therefore, I know well that the best place for getting religious education is the Liturgy of the Church. But I also know well that, due to many reasons, especially the previous stance of the state toward us, the Church as institution is not able to organize it on its own. Therefore, it is convenient for us as well for the spiritual food to be acquired in the earliest youth, in the primary school.
Why Religion Education in the school, but not in the churches – as some politicians desire? It is the same as we ask why the young branches that we graft or the young plants that we plant, we bind or fix to something solid and stabile, until they grow and become strong. It is the same as we would ask what do we need the hierarchy and order in the state institutions for, such as the police or the army. It is exactly for this reason that all that is young and immature needs hierarchy, order and stability up to a point of certain maturity in its growth. Exactly for this reason, and according to the Law on Primary Education, primary education is an obligation, and hence there are hierarchy and order in the primary schools. The Church must not force anyone, but why shouldn't a proven good deed, such as the Christian education and ethics, be allowed to use the already established educational system? The illusory antagonism between the free choice and the mandatory is resolved with the elective nature of the subject Religious Education, and with the right of the parents to decide on behalf of their children (surely, having in mind their desires) until the kids reach the maturity. Normally, if the politicians had a feeling about the Church, and if they consulted us about this issue prior to making decisions, they would not have made such substantial mistakes having consequences to our future. Now they only hide behind the legal curtain of the constitutional separation between the State and the Church in their reciprocal arguments. As an answer to the above question, I would only say at the end that Religious Education as a school subject is also an affirmative response to our commitment and responsibility to our own spiritual and cultural heritage and identity. The rejection of Religious Education is a renouncement of ourselves and our own identity.
As I told you the last time, I was appointed here to guide and to serve as an example, but not to force anyone. Every man is free, and by that, is also responsible to God to choose his own path and face the consequences of such choice. I will certainly not change my relation of love of anyone because of his choice. Our struggle is not against “blood and flesh” but against the “spirits of evil in the heavenly realms.” Therefore, the point of my writings, just as like the one from the last Saturday, is not whether primarily there will be or not Religious Education in the schools, or whether a Church on the city square will be built or not, but to warn you to be careful when choosing the one Spirit or the other spirit, both for you and your children. So, my care for you is my motive. Moreover, what is extremely important to me, I do not want to deprive the Sprit, bringing Him in a situation to whisper in my heart – why didn’t you tell them?
Christ is Risen!
Nahum, Metropolitan of Strumica