Well, the stack of books sitting in front of my computer that I've placed there waiting for me to write a review for remain, well, sitting there. I have made a vow to myself to discontinue my reading of new books until I finish this pile and by golly, I intend to keep this vow. In fact, keeping this vow I have been reduced to reading periodicals and other random material to satisfy my need for reading. One of my intentions for keeping this blog was and is to post on the books I read so with this intention in place, somehow I have fallen way behind in keeping up the actual posting with the actual reading I'm doing. But, here is where friendship comes to my rescue, at least for this work I am providing an article for. And better still from the friend I met a couple of years ago and who passed through Las Vegas then and photocopied his own personal copy of the work. Yes, he's back and he is very concerned with my lackluster performance posting on the books.
So as I stated above, the stack of books sitting in front of my computer that I've placed there waiting for me to write a review for remain, well, sitting there, and seeing my friend also, well, sitting there, I decided to put an end to this horrid inertia and join the two together. He has obligingly accepted to do this review for me. I leave you with Maxim.
There was this pile of books sitting there gathering dust, and I was sitting there gathering dust, and Sophocles has always been able to put two and two together, so here I am, writing a review of a spiritually edifying book that I illegally copied for him last time I was here. The book is "The Works of Archbishop Averky of Blessed Memory, Volume II". There is, of course, a "Works of Archbishop Averky (of Blessed Memory), Vol. I, which precedes Vol. II, but I didn't have Vol. I with me when I was here last time, consequently Sophocles doesn't have a copy of Volume I; so, I am not reviewing Volume I. My apologies if this offends anyone's sense of order.
First of all, may I venture to hope that in the not-too-distant future someone will take it upon themselves to take these two flimsy, typewritten booklets in hand, add other material that is available, correct the numerous typos, handsomely typeset and bind the materials, and make a real book out of them? It's true that you can't judge a book by its cover, but we all do, and the present writings are very much diamond rings set in a sow's ear. There are very nice productions of Archbishop Averky's writings in Russian, and the fact that we don't have similar books in English, while Volume 54 of the lecture notes of some modernist theologian is no doubt rolling off the presses even as I write, must surely attest to a singular lack of sobriety in matters concerning the Faith in the English-speaking world.
Sobriety is the word which most expresses the quality of Archbishop Averky's theological vision; sobriety, and vigilance, these two interconnected virtues that are almost equally neglected in today's ecumenical atmosphere. We, having labored to convince ourselves that everything in the moral environment is really just different shades of gray, have developed a great aversion to speaking of things in terms of black or white; Archbishop Averky has none of this reluctance.
In general, one could say that, before the middle of the 20th century, all Orthodox figures of unquestioned sanctity were united in warning against the rising evils of Modernism; it is only after this point that this witness becomes somewhat diffused. Now, we are told, (familiarity having rendered us insensitive) it is actually O.K. to be at ease in the modern world; sure, there are some evils which need to be corrected, but hey, when has there been no evil? Let the world manage your finances, let it educate your children, provide you with information, and advise you in your marital and communal relations; make sure all your Bishops are men of the world, and while you're at it, it might be a good idea to strangle Mount Athos in a network of paved roads and computer cable. Archbishop Averky stands as the last figure absolutely uninfluenced by the banality of modern prioritizations; instead, he simply delivers to us the priorities of the Church, and Her view of life, starkly, simply and beautifully. Some may call him a "fundamentalist" just because there isn't the slightest taint of New-Age spirituality about him, but if this is fundamentalism, we need more fundamentalism in the Church.
Just examining the titles of these essays communicates the quality of his staunch rectitude; consider: "For What Purpose Was The Church Founded?", "Why Christians Are Not Permitted To Arrange Amusements On The Eves Of Sundays And Feast Days", "The Kingdom Of God On Earth: Progress Or The Cross?", "Christianity Is The Feat Of Bearing The Cross", "The Spirit Of Antichrist And Forerunner Of Antichrist".
Or this quote: "One must know and remember that it is such earthly 'progress' such illusory well-being and prosperity of man on earth, that Antichrist, Christ's opponent, promises to give to the people. His servants, who are preparing for his reign on earth, are already striving beforehand in like manner to influence the people,shouting and preaching everywhere about this 'paradise on earth' which supposedly awaits the people. And all those who strive for this earthly 'progress' forgetting Christ's words: 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6: 33), who avoid bearing their cross as Christs commands, but think only of how they might make the world better and more free, richer and more carefree, enjoying all the earthly goods and pleasures, are in the same camp with the servants of the imminent Antichrist, working consciously or unconsciously for his swift appearance and reign in the world.". This is what unbending vigilance looks like.
Many of the essays in this book, and some additional material, may be found online at The Orthodox Information Center.
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