Fr. Alexis Vinogradov on “issues” and “persons”
The idea I mentioned of individual uniqueness could be construed by rubricists of every ilk as the slippery slope to situational ethics, the mantra of pre-Woodstock ditching of all societal norms. However, I still maintain, as the central discovery of my priesthood, that we are moment to moment “sent” on an unprecedented discovery of a unique creation of God, that has never before been imagined, and will never be repeated. To that creature, I must find a unique response, willed by God. I won’t find answers in a book, though the books may guide me. Like a good physician, I now have to bring to bear everything in my arsenal and make a once-in-a-lifetime decision. This act is a cross, which in my falleness I seek to avoid; I recuse myself from life by appeal to the dead letter of secure laws.
In order to function by the law, I have to fragment the creature before me into a component amalgam. From the mystery I substitute Pinocchio. John Smith becomes a “forty year-old homosexual urban white collar male with occasional ties to Orthodoxy”. Google now offers me at least six distinct categories by which I can apply “correctives” to John Smith in order to align his reality closer to the specific categories that the law has designated for category “Orthodox Christian”. I stop seeing John in all his infinite complexity as a sexual being like all beings, for it is easier for me to label him “homo-sexual”. That furnishes me with a compartment into which I can “fit” John Smith for further inquiry and for the lubricated functioning of the social machine, of which precisely, John is a component.
But John ceases to be that unique child of God, who in the eschaton will no longer be classified: urban, nor white, nor male, nor female, married nor given in marriage. By the law I can obliterate John’s “telos”; that which is John’s only reality is no longer real for me. Florensky would justifiably charge me with the ability to see his face, but the absence of wisdom to know his countenance. Today, we are no longer icons before one another, and herein lies our tragic pit. Our arguments have become circular. In the Eucharist, Schmemann held that definitions are not repaired by further definitions. In the enterprise of theology, words don’t need to be understood, but like everything else they need to be redeemed and saved.