Paul Evdokimov: How Are You Making Your Work a Priestly Action?

Feast of St Cuthbert the Wonderworker, Bishop of Lindisfarne

Evdokimov_Square.jpg“TO BRING THE earth into submission” means to make it the temple of God. To consecrate the world is to make it pass from a demonic state to its nature as a creature conscious of God. No form of life or culture escapes the universal reach of the Incarnation. The image of all perfection, Christ took on the priesthood and the laity, all vocations, professions and trades in the world. “God so loved the world,” even in its sinfulness. The cosmic dimension of Christ’s victory, which destroys all barriers, is revealed by his descent into the very reaches of hell. Theosis is an essentially dynamic process in which the action of sharing in God’s life has repercussions for the whole of the cosmos, just as praise of God projects his glory to all that is human.

In the cosmology of the Fathers, which has nothing in common with natural ethics, the universe is moving towards its fulfillment in the full view of creation, even fuller because of the Incarnation. Christ takes up and fulfills, makes full that which was arrested by the Fall and manifests the saving Love without imposing his plan on us, who are concelebrants of the cosmic liturgy, co-workers with him

God is present in the world in a different way than he is present in his own Body. The Church has his explicit presence, the world has this implicitly. The Church’s task is that of St Paul in Athens when he discerned the “unknown God” and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:22-31). The work of spreading the Gospel must permeate civilization, turning it towards the Orient from on high, Christ himself. . . .

The paradox of Christian faith stimulates creativity in the world. But in the final phase true culture, in its eschatological dimension, makes the world shine, obliges history to leave its boundaries. Here it is not the way that is impossible, it is the impossible which is the way and the charisms of the Spirit help to realize it: “Divine power, capable of creating . . . a way through the impossible” (St Gregory of Nyssa). These are the radiant irruption of the “Wholly Other,” coming from the very depths of the same. All the forms of culture should lead to this border of the two worlds where they meet, relating the one to the other. This is the passage of the earthly “having” to the heavenly “being” of the Kingdom. The world in the Church, this is the Burning Bush located at the very heart of existence.

A great mind, a thinker, an artist, a social reformer, all ought to be able to rediscover the charisms of the royal priesthood, and each, as such a “priest,” can make of his or her work a priestly action, a sacrament transforming every form of culture into a place of theophany. This is to sing the Name of God in the midst of science, of thought, of social action (“the sacrament of the brother”), or of art. Thus in its own way, culture joins with the Liturgy, rendering it a “cosmic liturgy.” Culture itself becomes doxology, praise of God. . . .

In the eternal Liturgy of the age to come we, with all the elements of our culture passed through the fire of the last purifications, will sing the glory of our Lord. But already, here below we of the one community, the great thinker, artist, all as priests of the universal priesthood, celebrate our own Liturgy in which the presence of Christ is manifest according to the measure of the purity of those who receive and contain him. As skilled iconographers, we delineate with the matter of this world and in the light of the Transfiguration an entirely new reality in which slowly the mysterious figure of the Kingdom is made transparent.  

—Paul Evdokimov, “Culture and Faith”

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