Saturday, May 29, 2010

Notes: A Tale of Anti-Christ

Some notes from my reading of Soloviev's "A Tale of the Anti-Christ," which unfolds in the 21st century (the story was published in the year 1900). Bolded emphasis below is mine:

The Anti-Christ's course of thought:
"In this magnificent spirit he now awaited the sanction of the Most High in order to to begin his saving of humanity; but he saw no signs of it. He had passed the age of thirty. Three more years passed. Suddenly, a thought leaped into his mind and thrilled him to the core. 'What,' he thought, 'what if by some accident it is not I, but the other... the Galilean. What if he is not my annunciator but the true deliverer, the first and the last? In that case, he must be alive... But where is he, then? What if he suddenly comes to me... here, now? What shall I tell him? Shall I not be compelled to kneel down before him as the very last silly Christian, as some Russian peasant who mutters without understanding: 'Lord, Jesus Christ, forgive me, a sinful man'? Shall I not be compelled like an old Polish woman to prostrate myself? I, the serene genius, the superman! It cannot be."
So, the Anti-Christ intuits that Christ is present, but chooses himself instead. This leaves him open to the overtures of the evil one. After this, he writes a book called The Open Way to Universal Peace and Prosperity. A unified Europe names him as Roman Emperor.

As for Christians (I'm reminded of the mustard seed in another book, page 122):
"The various Christian persuasions had diminished fairly equally in their numbers, so that the proportional relationship among them remained almost unchanged. As to mutual feelings, hostility had not entirely given place to amity but had considerably softened down, and points of disagreement had lost much of their former acuteness. The Papacy had long before been expelled from Rome, and after long wanderings had found refuge in St. Petersburg on condition that it refrain from propaganda there and in the country."
The Anti-Christ and Emperor calls a world conference on September 14th, at which three Christian leaders figure prominently: Pope Peter II, Elder John, and Professor Ernst Pauli.

Pope Peter II, leader of the Catholics:
"He came of plebeian stock, from the province of Naples, and had become famous as a preacher of the Carmelite Order, having earned great successes in fighting a certain Satanic sect which was spreading in St. Petersburg and its environs and seducing not only the Orthodox but the Catholic faithful as well."
Elder John, true leader of the Orthodox:
"The actual, though not official, leader of the Orthodox members was the Elder John, extremely well known among the Russian people. Officially, he was considered a bishop 'in retirement,' but he did not live in any monastery, being always engaged in travelling all over the world. Many legendary stories were circulated about him. Some people believed he was Feodor Kuzmich, that is, Emperor Alexander I, who had died three centuries back and was now raised to life. Others went further and maintained that he was the true Elder John, that is, John the Apostle, who had never died and had now openly reappeared in the latter days."
Professor Ernst Pauli, leader of the Evangelical members:
"Heading the Evangelical members of the congress was the very learned German theologian, Professor Ernst Pauli. He was a short, wizened old man, with a large forehead, sharp nose, and a cleanly shaven chin. His eyes were distinguished by their particularly ferocious and yet kindly gaze."
The Anti-Christ asks a question to determine how best to unite Christians:
"'Christians! Tell me what is the most precious thing for you in Christianity, so that I may direct my efforts to this end?'"
First, he dictates an answer for the Catholics:
"'Dear Christians, I know that for many, and not the least among you, the most precious thing in Christianity is the spiritual authority with which it endows its legal representatives – of course, not for their personal benefit, but for the common good, since on this authority firmly rests the true spiritual order and moral discipline necessary for everyone.'" 
Second, he dictates an answer to appeal to the Orthodox:
"'Dear brothers and sisters! I know that there are among you many for whom the most precious thing in Christianity is its sacred tradition – the old symbols, the old hymns and prayers, the icons and the old rituals. What indeed, could be more precious for a religious soul? Know then, my beloved, that today I have signed the decree and have set aside vast sums of money for the establishment of a world museum of Christian archeology in our glorious imperial city, Constantinople.'"
Third, he speaks to Evangelicals:
"'I am aware, dear Christians, that there are among you also such who place the greatest value upon personal assurance of the truth and the free examination of the Scriptures. [...]  And today, simultaneously with the decree of the Museum of Christian Archeology, I signed another decree establishing a world institute for the free examination of the sacred Scriptures from all points of view and in all possible directions, and for study of all subsidiary sciences'""
Most Christians respond enthusiastically to these promises of the Anti-Christ, and join him on a platform. An even smaller mustard seed is gathered into a remnant:
"The greater part of the members, nearly all the hierarchs of the East and West, were now on the platform. Below there remained only three groups of members, now coming more closely together and pressing around Elder John, Pope Peter, and Professor Pauli.
Now in a grieved voice, the Emperor addressed them: 'What else can I do for you, you strange people? What do you want from me? I cannot understand. Tell me yourselves, you Christians, deserted by the majority of your peers and leaders, condemned by popular sentiment. What is it that you value most in Christianity?'"
At this, Elder John rose up like a white candle and answered quietly: 'Great sovereign! What we value most in Christianity is Christ himself – in his person. All comes from him, for we know that in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. We are ready, sire, to accept any gift from you, if only we recognize the holy hand of Christ in your generosity.'"
From the page linked above, Balthasar summarizes: "The harvest of the world is brought home, but not by man; it is brought home by Christ, who alone lays the whole Kingdom at his Father's feet." The same page offers an introduction to Soloviev by Fr. Addison Hart (original source, Touchstone, September 2000). Here's a pertinent excerpt where he says that he sees Soloviev as "remarkably prescient and often prophetic, and never more so than when he testifies to the essential underlying, ontological union of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, despite the historical schism between them."

What is most precious to us in Christianity? Spiritual authority, cultural tradition, personal assurance of truth and free interpretation of Scripture? Are these enough?
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