"And when the centurion, who stood near Him,
saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit,
he said, 'Truly, this man was the Son of God'".
Thus began the faith of the centurion. It is clear that this cry of Christ expressed a treasure of moral content in a spirit which the centurion understood. Such a connection between a tormenting cry of the soul and the beginning of a new grace-filled life in one who has heard it, is found repeatedly in the Holy Scripture. We will begin a survey of these places in the Scripture with the most dramatic one, found in the Book of Esdras:
I lifted my eyes, and on my right hand I saw a woman, and behold, she mourned and wept with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved in heart, and her clothes were torn, and she had ashes upon her head.
Transfiguration, Spaso Preobrazhensky Monastery, Yaroslavl, ca 1516
The prayers sung in church today explain to us, brothers, that the Lord revealed His divine Transfiguration with the specific goal of persuading His followers that they, too, are to adorn their inner image with virtues, and to shine also with external spiritual beauty. Within our souls lies the insatiable thirst of seeing the internal and external correspond. That is why before the arrival on Earth by the Son of God, the righteous were bewildered why they were fated to eternally exist in a humble state, with their poor, sorrowful appearance, while God allows sinners to adorn themselves in grandeur. The contemporaries of our Savior eagerly expected the day when He would cast off His humble exterior, free Himself of poverty and homelessness, and as a magnificent king, donning shining garments in regal surroundings, would ascend David’s throne, the place of His forefather, and trample underfoot His wicked enemies and the enemies of Israel.
But the Lord reveals to His impatient followers a different, spiritual beauty He possesses, ever-presently, but which is hidden from human eyes in daily life. He ascends with three of His disciples to a mountain, and when His spirit turns in prayer to the Father, His face commences to shine like the Sun, and His clothing become white as snow. Moses and Elias appear with Him from beyond the grave, and a heavenly cloud surrounds them and the disciples, who behold the scene in pious horror. This arrival of an unearthly, heavenly splendor brought the Apostles to inexpressible bliss, and Peter exclaimed, forgetting himself from joy: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” He ceased at once to yearn for royal splendor or a position of leadership, which the Savior had rejected; he understood how much more magnificent is His Divine sanctity than the banal adornments of this world, how pitiful were the regrets the disciples had over their Teacher’s external poverty and meekness. He in fact had an overabundance of unearthly, eternal, heavenly beauty and celestial glory.
The following lecture was given in Belgrade at a solemn gathering In memory of His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by the renowned Serbian theologian Archimandrite Dr. Justin Popovich, at that time professor of dogmatic theology at the Theological Faculty of Belgrade University. The lecture was printed in the journal of the Orthodox theological faculty in Belgrade "Theology" (vol. XIV, No. 1, 1939, p. 40) and is presented here in an English translation by Joachim Wertz. The Russian text of this most eloquent article appears in Vol. X of Archbishop Nikon’s “Life and Works of Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky”. - Ed.
I find myself in the position of an ant who must speak about the soarings of an eagle. Can an ant follow the path of an eagle? No! However, it is possible, from its ant's perspective, for it to admire the eagle soaring in the heavens, and to stand frozen by the awe of sweet delight.
Therefore, with my ant's tongue I want to babble on with some of my observations, and I ask you to pardon an ant, that he dare to speak of an eagle of Orthodoxy. Oh! I am firmly convinced that I possess neither the skill nor the capability to explain the mystery of the wondrous personality of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony, but I am only able to bow down, in fervent awe and pious respect, before the wonders of his boundless love for Christ and his gracious love for man.
Hieroschemamonk Anthony Bulatovich’s booklet differs significantly from Schemamonk Ilarion’s book, Na Gorakh Kavkaza (In the Mountains of Caucasia), in the defense of which it is written. Schemamonk Ilarion had as his primary intention to praise the "Jesus Prayer"and to convince his contemporary ascetics to practise this monastic activity, which is so often neglected today. This intention is altogether praiseworthy. Everything that has been written by the fathers on the Jesus Prayer is beneficial, as Christians should be reminded. Those monks who would want to lessen the significance of the Jesus Prayer and all other spiritual activities passed down by the fathers are worthy of reproach. Nonetheless, a correct undertaking does not stand in need of incorrect means, and the patristic tradition of the Jesus Prayer has sufficient sound reasons in its favour so that one need not resort to superstitious arguments. Unfortunately the Elder Ilarion did not avoid this and he added his own sophistries to the many patristic and salvific reflections on the benefit and meaning of the Jesus Prayer. He took it into his mind to argue that the name of Jesus is God Himself.
Святой Дух. Фреска монастыря Гелати, Грузия.
Metropolitan Antony wrote this article in the 1920’s, shortly after he left the Crimea and joined the Russian emigration. Religious feelings and strivings were coming to life again among Russians at that time under the influence of the afflictions they had undergone. At this time Vladika Antony considered it essential to elucidate the Church’s teaching about the Holy Spirit. This article was originally published by the American YMCA Press in Paris [in 1927 as "Tserkovnoye ucheniye o Svyatom Dukhe"], but the edition is now extremely rare1. The workings of the Holy Spirit, as described here by this twentieth century Church Father in accordance with the true, traditional Orthodox teaching, will be seen to be very different from the delusions of the contemporary “charismatic movement”.
At the present time many completely untrained writers and thinkers have acquired an itch for theologizing about the most abstruse and abstract questions. They all want to say something new and profound, and, in addition to that, to hint at how unsatisfactory the Church’s teaching is, although they simply do not know it, or, at any rate, do not understand it.