After Divine Liturgy on Sunday 11 July at St George in St. Paul, MN, the Chanter, Steve, and his wife joined Katherine and I over luncheon. As usual, the conversation ranged far and wide because Steve and Minda are also of those lately come to Holy Orthodoxy (a decade or so, I think).
Steve and I were chatting when he recalled a statement made by a visiting speaker that came in the last year. That speaker pointed out that culture is a solvent.
Think about it, for a minute. What does a solvent do? It dissolves things, mixing them together, and eventually the unique characteristics are lost in a new amorphous thing. Add a solvent to a stain, and the color of the stain is lightened, changed, and if enough solvent is added in time, the original pigments are not visible any more. Add a solvent to some glues, and the joint will come apart because the "sticking properties" of the adhesive are removed, dissolved, and the bond is broken.
Now, think of culture and how it most often works. When I was young, divorce was not considered appropriate except in the most extreme of circumstances. Marriage was held in high esteem. Now, look at what goes on: marriage is considered by many to be outdated, divorce is extremely common … and the list goes on. What happened? Over time, our culture, a "melting pot" of sorts, acting as a solvent, dissolved what was good and proper. Now, under semblance of "being nice" or something, many things that were once highly offensive are now accepted.
Or from my background: when I was young and growing up as a Lutheran, you could go into a Lutheran Church and know that it was, well, Lutheran. The Missouri Synod's liturgy was basically the same in every congregation. If you went to an American Lutheran Church, the liturgy was the same, except for a different setting. Such is not the case today: there are some ten or fifteen formal "liturgies" amongst the Lutherans, along with blended, contemporary and who knows what else. Culture is a solvent. It dissolves things. The god of culture is what is popular, or what the majority votes on this week or next.
And even amongst those who call themselves "Christian" this continues because, in spite of protests to the contrary, God is not god, and in the thinking and analysis and so called reason of the age, the Blessed and Holy Trinity has been split up six ways from the middle.
The cultural solvent, the god of "my" reason, has and continues to attempt to kill the Killer of Death, shrouding light and beauty in grotesque shades and forms as those Gifts of God given so richly are twisted and contaminated by selfish and out of control passions and lust, in the name of some sort of "freedom" which is only really slavery.
In the midst of all this, Christ is God. The Holy Church (not all those who call themselves "church, but The Holy Church of the Apostles) remains the pillar and ground of Truth. In spite of all the attempts to dissolve this Holiness in the name of being relevant, She remains, Truth unchanged. This is why the Apostles and saints, the Elders and Monks and Nuns continue to shun the passions of this body and this world, praying mightily and seeking Uncreated Light, in order that you and I and the whole of the world might know again the peace and unity of Paradise.
And this is the reason that the faithful must never abandon the constant disciples of prayer and asceticism in the home and in the workplace, seeking always that bond and unity that come as we are joined in the Divine Liturgy into the very unity of the Blessed and Holy Trinity! Only in the prayers and hymns and Liturgy handed down and guarded and kept by faithful Bishops, Priests, Deacons and faithful are we able to receive all that the Father gives as gift and not god. Only in losing ourselves in Him do we find ourselves in life. Only in dying to self do we learn what it truly means to live.
The solvent of culture seeks only to dissolve and destroy, however inviting it may seem at times. In Christ and in Him alone do all things find their meaning.
So it is the even the Elders of our day, some of whom will surely be named as Saints in an age to come, counsel us to beware, to be cautious … even to throw out the TV's and movies in some cases. They don't do this in some narrow reaction to what is "modern;" they give this counsel because they are truly concerned for your salvation!
Beware! Watch out for the solvent that would insidiously lure you into death while promising life!
Thanks be to God that He has not abandoned us or left us to our own reason! Thanks be to the Blessed Theotokos that she continually intercedes on our behalf! Thanks be to the Apostles and Saints who lift our plight before the Throne of Grace! Ours is not the dismal end pictured in some of the "art" of our day, but Life, Life abundantly, as we grow in theosis, being joined in the paradisical union with the Blessed and Holy Trinity.
In the midst of confusion and corruption that would dissolve and destroy men's souls, we can say with St. Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!" Not only can we say, but we can live it as we deny ourselves, die to self and live in Christ!
The culture attempted to dissolve the Christ, and He dissolved it. Through our sufferings, we are perfected in Him for Life Eternal!
Glory to God for all things!