by St. Justin Popovich
Fr. Justin Popovich, was a renowned Serbian theologian. A patristic scholar, poet and true philosopher, who had command of several languages, he devoted his many talents to defending the Faith against ecumenism-for which he was called “the conscience of the Serbian Church”-and unmasking the true face of humanism as a regression to ancient paganism. As an antidote he vigorously preached the eternal truth of Christ the God-man. Appropriately, this “holy messenger of glad tidings” was born and died on the Feast of Annunciation.
The theanthropic means are none other than the theanthropic asceses-virtues. Only the theanthropic virtues exist among them in an organic relation. The one springs from the other, the one completes the other.
The first among the asceses-virtues is the ascesis of faith. Through this ascesis the soul of our people must pass and constantly pass: that is, this soul must be given up to Christ without reservations and compromises, must go deeply into the theanthropic depths, and be elevated to the theanthropic heights. The awareness must be created in our people that the faith of Christ is a supranational, ecumenical and catholic, trinitarian virtue, and that for one to believe in Christ means to serve Christ and only Christ, in all aspects of one’s life.
The second is: the theanthropic virtue of prayer and fasting. This virtue must become a method of life for our Orthodox people; it must become the soul of its soul, because prayer and fasting are the almighty means given by Christ for purification from every impurity-not only of the human being, but also of society and of the people, and of humanity. Prayer and fasting are able to cleanse the soul of our people from our impurities and from our sins. (Matt. 17:19-21); Luke 9:17-29). The soul of our people must be identified with the Orthodox life of prayer. Prayer and fasting must be performed not only for individuals, not only for the people, but for everyone and for everything (“in all and for all”): for friends and enemies, those who persecute and kill us, because this is what distinguishes Christians from pagans (Matt. 5:44-45).
The third theanthropic virtue is the theanthropic virtue of love. This love has no boundaries. It does not ask who is worthy and who is not; it loves everyone: it loves friends and enemies, it loves sinners and criminals (but it does not love their sins and crimes); it blesses those who curse, and like the sun it enlightens both the wicked and the good (Matt. 5:45-46). This theanthropic love must be cultivated in our people, because by this catholicity Christian love is distinguished from the love of the other self-styled and relative loves: from pharisaical, humanistic, altruistic, ethnic, anim al love. The love of Christ is always total love. This love is acquired through prayer, because it is a gift of Christ. And the Orthodox heart prays with intensity: O Lord of love, give me Thy love for all people and for all things!
The fourth is: the theanthropic virtue of meekness and humility. Only he “who is meek in heart” makes rebellious and wild hearts meek. Only he who is humble in heart humble proud and haughty souls. To
“show meekness towards all people”
is the obligation of every true Christian (Titus 3:2). But man becomes truly meek and hum ble when he makes the meek and humble Lord Jesus the heart of his heart, He who alone is truly meek and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29). The soul of the people must be made meek with the meekness of Christ. Every man must learn to pray: O most meek Lord, make my wild soul meek! The Lord humbled Himself with the greatest humility: He became incarnate, He became man. If you are Christ’s, humble yourself to the utmost, to a worm; incarnate yourself in the pain of every pained person, in the affliction of every afflicted person, in the sufferings of every tortured person, in the grief of every animal and bird. Humble yourself below everyone: be everything to everyone-through Christ and according to Christ. When you are alone, pray:
O Humble Lord, humble me through Thy humility!
The fifth is: the theanthropic virtue of patience and humility. That is, to forbear evil, not to return evil for evil, to forgive with total compassion the curses, the slanders, the wounds. This is Christ’s: constantly to feel crucified in the world, persecuted by the world, cursed and spat upon. The world cannot bear Christ-bearing people, just as it could not bear Christ. Martyrdom is the atmosphere in which the Christian bears fruit. We must teach this to our people. For Orthodox, martyrdom is purification. It is Christian not only to bear sufferings with joy, but also to forgive with total compassion those who cause them, to pray for them to God, just as did Christ and the Archdeacon Stephen. For this reason, pray: O long-suffering Lord, give me long-suffering, magnanimity and meekness!
The mission of our Church is: to make these theandric virtues-asceses the methods of life for the people, to weave the Christ-like theanthrophic virtues into the soul and life of the people. In this lies the salvation of the soul from the world and from all soul-corrupting, homicidal, atheistic movements and worldly organizations. Against the “educated” atheism and the gentlemanly cannibalism of contemporary civilization, we must array Christ-bearing personalities, which with the meekness of a sheep will be victorious over the excited passions of the wolves, and with the innocence of doves will save the soul of the people from the cultural and political stench. We must counteract cultural asceticism-which takes place in the name of the rotted and deformed European man, in the name of atheism, of civilization, of the antichrist-with ascesis in the name of Christ.
For this reason the main obligation of our Church is to create Christ-bearing ascetics. The voice which must be heard in it today is: Go back to the Christ-bearing ascetics, towards the Holy Fathers! Go back to the asceses and virtues of the Holy Fathers! Go back to the virtues of Saints Anthony and Athanasios, of Saints Basil and Gregory, of Saints John Chrysostom and Damascene, of Saints Sergei and Seraphim (the Russians), of Saints Savva, Prochor and Gabriel (the Serbs), and others! Because these theanthropic asceses-virtues created Saint Anthony, Saint Gregory and Saint Savva. And today, only the Orthodox asceses-virtues are capable of sanctifying every soul and the soul of our whole people, because the theanthropic purpose is eternal and unalterable, and its means are also eternal and unalterable, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). Here is the difference between the human world and the world of Christ: the human one is finite and temporal, while Christ’s is unalterable and eternal. Orthodoxy, as the unique bearer and guardian of the perfect and all-radiant Person of the God-man Christ, is realized exclusively with the theanthropic-Orthodox means, the ascetical virtues in grace, not with means lent by Roman Catholicism or
Protestantism, because these are Christianities according to the version of the proud European man, and not of the humble God-man. God Himself facilita tes this mission of our Church, because in our people there exists a spirit of asceticism, as Orthodoxy created it through the ages. The Orthodox soul of our people inclines towards the Holy Fathers, towards the Orthodox Ascetics. The personal, familial, and parochial ascesis-especially in prayer and fasting-is characteristic of Orthodoxy. Our people, the Orthodox people, are the people of Christ because, like Christ, they summarize the Gospel in these two virtues: prayer and fasting. They are convinced that every impurity, every impure thought, every impure desire, every impure spirit, can be chased out of man only by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). In the depths of their hearts our people know Christ, they know Orthodoxy, know what it is that makes the Orthodox man Orthodox. Orthodoxy always creates ascetical rebirths; it does not recognize other rebirths.
The ascetics are the only missionaries of Orthodoxy. Asceticism is the only missionary school of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is ascesis and life, for this reason only with ascesis and life does she reach and realize her mission. Asceticism-personal and ecclesiastical-must be developed; this must be the internal mission of our Church towards our people. The parish must become an ascetical center. But this can only be done by an ascetic parish priest. Prayer and fasting, the ecclesiastical life of the parish, the liturgical life-these are the chief means by which Orthodoxy brings about rebirth in people.
The parish, the parish community must be reborn, and in Christ-loving and brother-loving love humbly serve Christ and all people with meekness and humility, with sacrifice and self-denial. This service ought to be saturated and nourished by prayer and a liturgical life. This is fundamental and absolutely essential. But all of these demand as a prerequisite that our hierarchs, our priests, our monastics become ascetics, and for this: Let us beseech the Lord.