19 January 2014

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on Death

The following is from the conclusion to the printed text of a lecture given by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh which may be found on the internet at this location:

The seeds we sow

Death is never the end. The good we have done continues after us and bears fruit in the lives of others. Unfortunately, the corollary is also true: we can also leave a legacy of evil.

On the positive side, consider the effect of the Gospels. There are countless people who have been converted and transformed by reading even a small passage from them. This they gain from what someone, many centuries ago, formulated and wrote down for the sake of Christ. I myself owe my faith to St Mark. If there is anything good that has come out of my life it is because one day, when I was fifteen years of age, I read St Mark's Gospel and Christ revealed himself and entered into my life.

By contrast, I think of quite other people who have written books, such as the French nineteenth century writer Gobineau. Gobineau wrote some remarkable short stories, but also a miserable little treatise on the inequality of races. It is a treatise that would now be altogether and deservedly forgotten, except for one thing: it was read by Hitler. It is difficult to suppose that Gobineau shares no responsibility before God for all that resulted from his book. He was a theoretician. But his theories became practice, and they were to cost millions of innocent lives.

In this connection, I remember a fable by Krylov. Two individuals were sentenced to hell and placed in neighbouring cauldrons. One was a murderer, the other had merely written some trashy novels. The author took a quick look over the rim of his cauldron to see how the murderer was faring. He himself was being boiled so fiercely that he could not imagine how his neighbour might be treated. To his indignation he saw the murderer basking in tepid water. He summoned the devil on duty and expressed his dissatisfaction: 'I merely wrote some novels, and yet you give me such a violent boiling. Whereas this man committed murder and he is relaxing as if that were his bath'. 'True', said the devil, 'but that's no accident, it's deliberate.' 'How so?' 'Well', said the devil, 'this man murdered someone in a fit of rage. So we give him a hard boiling every now and again because that's how his rage flared up, then we give him a rest because it subsided. As for you, whenever anyone buys one of your books we stoke up the fire under your cauldron and add extra fuel'.

There is a theological point here. Our life does not end conveniently when we die, even on earth. It continues over the centuries through heredity and through the by-products of our existence; and we continue to carry a responsibility for its repercussions. Thus, we have met today; I have spoken; I shall be answerable for anything that you will have received and for the way in which it may affect your life.