Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

expressed his religious convictions was Gogol, perhaps best known for his novel of "Dead Souls" in which he tried to give a picture of Russia in all its aspects. Always devout, he became more ascetic shortly before his death, and even made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is from this period of his life that we have his description of the Orthodox Eucharist, a mystical commentary on the Service which was translated into English some years ago. Another work, "Select Correspondence," contains letters which he wrote to different friends largely with a religious purpose, and he even went so far as to re-edit one of his stories, "The Portrait," in order to make religion rather than art the power to save from destruction a talented painter, who worked merely for popular approval.

This markedly religious trend of thought did not please the younger writers under the influence of the critic Bielinsky, who attacked the author for his defence of the Church and denounced him as a friend of obscurantism, until the government interfered and arrested the bold critic. Turgenev, the most Western of all the great Russian authors, found little to interest him in religion and except for the "Nest of Nobles," where Liza becomes a nun rather than marry Lavretsky because his wife whom they thought dead reappeared, the Orthodox Church plays a very insignificant part in his works.

The defence of Christianity was carried on by the Slavophiles, a very interesting group of men who saw in Orthodoxy one of the pillars of the Russian State along with the Autocracy. They revelled in their praises of the piety of the Russian peasant and stoutly denounced the atheism of those who would swerve the people from their ancient faith. They sought a mystical Christian sense in every act of government and endeavored to root out the noxious system introduced by Peter. Khomyakov and several members of the Aksakov family were the chief exponents

of this theory. In their hands, it had real religious value, but among their followers, too many used the idea as a blind defence for the Imperial Government, whether the immediate custom under discussion was of Russian or European origin.

The greatest of all the authors who were connected with this school of thought was undoubtedly Dostoyevsky. The great novelist was a sincere Christian, perhaps one of the most religious writers of all time. He did come forward as a defender of the Orthodox Church in his novels, but in the "Diary of a Writer" he devouts page after page to a careful and studied defence of the Orthodox position as compared with other groups of Christians, especially Tolstoy and his teachings. He visted England in 1866 and left a very unflattering account of the coldness of the English Church at that time (apparently he was not aware of any of the attempts to revive the Church). He rebuked Roman Catholicism and its daughter, Protestantism, and in spite of his hatred of socialism he predicted that in time the Pope would leave his splendor and as the bare-footed servant of Christ would unite with the poor of the world in establishing a socialist community, under his own sovereignty. His novels reveal his religious attitude. The words of the drunken Mameladov in "Crime and Punishment" that Christ will admit to heaven all the righteous and the loving and then call in the drunkards and the failures, simply because they knew that they never deserved such a pardon and had no hopes of obtaining it, seem almost a keynote to the teaching of the psychologist who saw in every one some spark of good, even in the depraved and the outcast. Dostoyevsky furnishes many problems he preached the doctrine of the super-man before Nietzsche and in the "Brothers Karamazov" he included the essay of the atheistic brother Ivan on the Grand Inquisitor and his repudiation of the teachings of Christ

in the name of the Church; but the same work gives us the monk Zosima and many other examples of Christian piety. Stranger still and more potent as a force for evil in his strange idea of the conflict between the Man-God and the God-Man as developed in the "Possessed," the title of which is named from the parable in the Gospel according to St. Luke in which the devils enter into the herd of swine which run down into the sea and perish, although here the swine are the revolutionists who hope to create a new era in Russia, largely without faith. Nevertheless, it is certainly fair to say to say that Dostoyevsky, though he paid little attention to the organized Church was yet a devout Christian in the conservative use of the word.

The toiling, suffering, disease-wracked Dostoyevsky stands in sharp contrast to the rich and successful Tolstoy cheerfully sacrificing his wealth and prerogatives to live as a peasant but the difference in their views of religion is equally striking. Dostoyevsky is the mystic, the follower of the living Christ, the Carpenter of Nazareth, the humble God; Tolstoy does not see or regard the miracles or the life of Christ. To him the Gospel is alone important and this not because Christ inspired it but because in the Sermon on the Mount Tolstoy was able to find a defence for non-resistance, his favorite theory. He expressly declared that the existence or non-existence of Christ was of no moment to him, since the teaching was all important and he adored and respected equally those preachers of non-Christian religions who taught the same doctrines. In other words Tolstoy saw in Christianity a religion designated to preach certain doctrines of ethics. The supernatural claims of Christ he boldly rejected and the idea of a visible Church of which the Orthodox hierarchy was a part, he openly repudiated. He considered the Church as a most shameless perversion of the Gospel and was so relentless in his hostility that a Synod even more

liberal-minded than that of Russia could not have failed to excommunicate him, even though this act could merely bring down upon them the curse and execration of Tolstoy's friends throughout the world.

Among the minor authors who paid attention to religion and the Church, the first place should probably be given to Pavel Melnikov, better known under his pen-name of Andrey Pechersky. An investigator of the various sectarian movements in Russia, he presented many of the results of his researches in two long novels and several stories. The novels, "In the Woods" and "On the Mountains," describe the sectarian colonies along the Volga, their monasteries, their customs, and the manner in which they differ from the Orthodox. Although Melnikov was a sharp critic of the sects, he gained a kind of admiration for them and the religious character of his works is very marked. These novels point out most strongly the tendency to empty formalism which has been a danger in Russia, where the position of the fingers in the sign of the cross has many times been an object worth dying for.

Another series of authors, usually less devout and hostile to conditions as they were, described the conditions in the Orthodox Seminaries. It is undeniable that the creation of a priestly caste brought with it certain grave evils. The sons of the clergy for centuries almost regularly became clergy and married the daughters of the priests. In this way the poor underpaid men were led to intrigue to obtain well paying parishes and widows of priests who had held such parishes either tried to obtain them for their sons or to marry their daughters to young men who could fill these posts. The whole unsavory situation was fully discussed in literature by a group of men of which Pomyalovsky was perhaps the most important, but their works have almost entirely sunk into oblivion with the reformation of the evils which they so vividly described.

Lyeskov, the arch-foe of the liberals, did not spare the spiritual negligence of many of the clergy, especially some of those in high position. It is more pleasant, however, to turn to those of his tales such as the "Russian Evangelists" which describe the almost unknown missionary work of the Orthodox Church among the primitive tribes of Siberia. The story of the devoted priests carrying the Sacraments to the scattered savages on sledges through the storms of the Siberian winters certainly speaks more for the spiritual life of the Orthodox Church than the library of volumes describing its weaknesses and defects. Nevertheless, even in the most remote parts of the wilderness the missionaries were faced with the ever present problem of obtaining a superficial loyalty on the part of their converts and being counted successful missionaries or of winning their flock to Christ and contenting themselves with a report of a few who had definitely given up their heathen faith, and being considered ineffective workers themselves in consequence.

In general Russian literature of the nineteenth century was a prose literature. Pushkin and Lermontov paid little attention to religion and the chief poet who interested himself in Christian themes was Alexis Toystoy. He left two poems dealing with religious motifs "St. John Damascene," the story of the prohibition of singing imposed by the stern monk who became preceptor of the saint in his monastic life until the Blessed Virgin appeared and forbade this treatment; and "The Sinner," the arrogant defiance of Christ by a woman who was a sinner and her almost instantaneous submission before His love and purity. Alexis Tolstoy's dramatic trilogy dealing with Ivan the Terrible and his successors presents several scenes in which the old Russian monks and ascetics are treated sympathetically and their position in the community is described. These few works, with the produc

« AnteriorContinuar »