Karina Chernyak

K. Chernyak: Living in one Spirit

http://www.euroforum.pl/euroforum-en/?MID=7000, c. 2003.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am very glad to be here today and to share with you what God has revealed to me and to our little Hosanna community.

Almost 25 years have passed since the day my husband Andrey and I were so lucky to meet with father Alexandre Men. Many of you have heard about him. He was close with many wonderful Christians from the West like Sister Magdalena – the founder of the congregation of Little Sisters of Jesus – and many others. He knew and loved the Orthodox Tradition and practiced it as an orthodox priest and stayed faithful to the Orthodox Church until his tragic death. But at the same time he indeed “breathed with two lungs”: his spiritual experience involved the best from the spiritualities of both East and West. In his everyday work and in his writings he used to speak about Christianity as a whole, about God’s presence in the whole Church. For him God’s gifts were obvious in every local church or movement or community.

This is because of Father Men and his contacts that 15 years ago we came to Warsaw for the first time and got acquainted with Faith and Light movement. We were deeply touched by simplicity and joyfulness of the mentally handicapped people and their young friends in these groups. A little later Jean Vanier visited Moscow and we could meet with many families with mentally handicapped children. It was the beginning of Faith and Light in Russia, which now has its history, its own life, and development in our country, mostly among Orthodox Christians.

Our little group which grew later into Hosanna community at that moment decided to choose another spiritual way, nevertheless we could always feel strong influence of the spirit of Jean Vanier and his movements.

Later we met with St.Egidio community. And again their gift of love to the poor people and desire to become their friends was very close to our hearts. In the same way as they regard it we also see the problem of divisions in the Church and in the world as our own and as God’s call to become his instruments of peace and reconciliation.

God is fantastically generous to us. He poured out so much of His love to us letting us see the beauty and richness of His Church. We met so many wonderful brothers and sisters in different movements and communities in various countries. Sometimes it was not easy for us to understand what in their experience we should try to follow and bring into the life of our community. That is why one of the main challenges for us from the Lord was to discern how to learn to, let’s say, “combine” these gifts with the grace, which we could constantly draw from the sources placed before us by Lord in our Church. And that task proved to be difficult, we are still on our way of learning, as the whole Church is on her way to the Unity.

As an illustration of this process I would just say that during the years due to getting acquainted with so-called new communities (such as Emmanuel, Beatitudes, Chemin Neuf and others) an element of joyful and open to the action of the Spirit prayer of thanksgiving and praising God has become important for us. And then suddenly we began to discover that the same joyful spirit (or Spirit) is present in the whole tradition of the Orthodox Church but in a little bit different manner.

In the same way we feel really close with the Taizй community – their experience of contemplative prayer in silence with simple meditative singing (which turned out to be as appealing to young Russians, including Orthodox Christians, as everywhere else) always seems to us invitingly different and yet, somehow deeply familiar.

And these examples helped us to realize once again the paradox of profound unity and interconnectedness (by the Spirit) of various Church traditions: they are revealed in full beauty and depth in the presence of each other.

Perhaps the most significant for us was the meeting with father Daniel-Ange – the founder and leader of Jeunesse-Lumiere – Catholic school of evangelization. His closeness to Russian Orthodox tradition, his love and deep knowledge of it opened hearts of thousands of Russian Christians towards his vision of the Church and its mission in this world. We are sons and daughters of One God and we are together responsible for the world and we should be obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ and His commission to go and make disciples of all nations, sharing His love with each other and with all those who seeks to know Him. This became the center of the life of our community – to receive God’s love, to share it with people and to serve to the poor and weak. It is already 8 years since the beginning of our little Orthodox Youth Missionary School, which we started because of our friendship with fr.Daniel-Ange and his school. Today in our school young people from different Orthodox parishes come together 3 times a week – to pray, to study and to prepare themselves for their ministries. Their desire is to help young people of their generation to come to God – especially those who are in difficult situations like poverty and unemployment in small provincial towns, who are imprisoned for their crimes, etc.

During last 10-15 years great changes took place in Eastern European countries, both in the society and in the Church life. For instance, we got freedom for all our church ministries in Russia. Before perestroika we could not dream about open evangelization events in big public halls – now it became possible. Visiting Emmanuel community in Paris we saw how they organized lunch for poor people just in the church of Holy Trinity. Some years ago the same ministry of feeding homeless people was started in our Orthodox parish of Sts. Cosmas and Damian church in the very center of Moscow. About 300 people get hot meal and some possible care 2-3 times every week. It restores the image of the Church serving to the world’s needs.

Back in 1970-80s a large number of small groups was organized by father Alexandre Men in his parish. 7-10 people met together every week (secretly, of course!) to read the Scriptures and to pray. Later we could attend such “home churches” or small groups (they could be called differently) in different countries: in Poland and in the USA, in France and in Italy, etc. And we always felt at home. It is the same Spirit Who creates and leads these groups all over the world and above all barriers of our human and church traditions. Now, there are more than 60 such groups in the parish of Sts. Cosmas and Damian church.

Lectio Divina is the deep tradition of undivided Church of the first millenium. Today it is again in the focus of spiritual life due to fr. Enzo Bianchi and the whole Bose community. Father Alexandre Men helped us and other parishioners to see the richness of biblical tradition in the Orthodox Church and taught us how to put the Bible in the central place of our Christian life as the foundation of all ministries. His approach to the Holy Scripture was the same as Lectio Divina – and now for many church members and groups in Russian Orthodox Church it is their everyday way of living with the Bible.

God’s Word, the Sacraments of the Church and personal relationships with God are sources for our way as a Christian community and for our ministries. To live as a community in our world of individualism and separations is itself a ministry to God and His Church, and also to the Church unity. Every day we can discover God’s grace on the faces of our brothers and sisters as much as on the faces of the brothers and sisters from other countries and other church traditions. And again and again we can witness that this is the same Holy Spirit Who acts in hearts of all Christians to bring them together into the fullness of unity – to fulfill the Eucharist prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”