By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
You may well ask: what in the world am I talking about here? “Petrified Church”, indeed!
Recently, I was reading about a little-known lecture delivered during Great Lent 1916 in England – in the middle of the Great War – by an Orthodox prelate who was examining the written commentary of a German professor who had described the Orthodox Church of the East as a “petrified” church.
As the Archbishop pointed out nearly 100 years ago, our church knew then (as we know today) what this German scientist was sarcastically referring to. The Venerable Archbishop’s insightful words strike a dramatic chord with us today and we can easily detect the parallels between his time of crisis, violence and tragedy – and the conflicts that we face in 2008. His commentary simply resonates!
“Comparing the unchangeable image of Christ, fixed in the East once for all, with the confusing thousand opinions of Christ in Protestant Germany, he was quite justified in calling our Church by a striking name, so differentiating her from his own. I am glad he invented the name ‘petrified’”. (!)
Later he says that, “if ‘petrified’ means intact, or whole, or undestroyed or living in the same dress, but still living, then the famous professor may be right. Yet this ‘petrified church’ has always come victorious out of any test to which she has been put.”
The term “petrified church” could well apply to 2008 and the crises that challenge our world and our Holy Orthodox faith. To my way of thinking, “petrified church” could have at least two relevant meanings today:
The first meaning refers to the long and glorious history and legacy of Orthodox Christianity – which is the same today as it was in 1916. Our Holy Church has not changed with the tides and trends that have afflicted other religions; we are the same church with the same faith and the same culture today that we were more than 2000 years ago! We have truly stayed the course, and this amplifies what St. Nicolai Velimirovic said in 1916.
The second meaning – and somewhat different from the first – could well refer to the apprehension and concern of all Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world with respect to the conditions in Serbia and Kosovo. We are correct in feeling petrified or afraid about the growing humanitarian crisis that currently confronts our brothers and sisters in both Serbia and Kosovo.
Sanity requires that we be petrified; our Holy Orthodox Faith requires that we continue to do something about it!
These are times for all of us, as pious and Orthodox Christians being the period of Great Lent to pray for our struggling and suffering brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord in the region of Kosovo/Metohija.
Recently many kind loving souls and good hearts offered their donations towards the Decani Monastery Relief Fund and more then fifteen thousand dollars were raised to help ameliorate the difficult situation faced by our brothers and sisters in Kosovo.
The matter is going to get worse day by day and we will have an unbelievable humanitarian crisis very soon.
Kindly send your tax deductible donations to the following address:
Decani Monastery Relief Fund
C/O Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
2618 West Bannock Street
Boise, ID 83702
Thank you and may our Lord God always bless you!
21 March 2008