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Four Revelations by Dostoyevsky

Remembering my youth now, I understand that Dostoevsky has taken possession of my soul since I was seventeen. I recall well that when studying mechanical engineering at the Moscow State University, I always tried to make time for Dostoevsky. In the end, this led to the fact that I just began waiting impatiently for the exam sessions, just so I could read Dostoevsky. Then I started rereading his main novels every year, but only recently I started pondering why he so appealing to me. I thought about it while analysing Tolstoy. But I didn't understand it until recently.

My words shouldn't be taken as a joke. Once in Yasnaya Polyana I was listening to a lecture by a remarkable Catholic priest, professor and spiritual leader of the Catholic University of Milan, Father Pino (this is how everyone affectionately calls him). The lecture was called "Dostoevsky's Catholic Eyes", but its meaning was broader - it was about what this writer means for the modern world. And in order to understand this, we must understand what modern world is. We often flatter this world and call it godless, atheistic, not realising that things are much more serious and tragic. This is a world that does not need God, that has forgot about Him, and is not interested in Him. It often seems that our world is a realm of horror and a triumph of evil. This situation resembles the evening of the Great Friday and the morning of the Great Sabbath: the disciples were scattered in horror, one of them became a traitor, another renounced his beloved teacher, and only several women remained near the Cross. Everyone else had forgotten...

Here is Dostoevsky's first theme - the apparent total victory of evil on Earth. Then there is another aspect, another topic: this world perfectly combines the "death of God", proclaimed by Friedrich Nietzsche, with "bourgeois religiosity," that is, a set of banal rules designed to regulate and safeguard the tranquility and welfare of the society (let's recall Luzhin).

Dostoevsky understood and saw what this world was turning into. And in a certain sense he "blows up" this world. He blows it up with the question: Is God really powerless in this world? Is Christ really powerless in this world? Where should we go in the morning of the Great Saturday? Let us recall the question Raskolnikov poses to Sonya: "What does your God do for you?" Dostoevsky starts with a very specific question, which in the preparatory material for the novel "Demons" appears in several variations: "Is it possible to believe?", "Is it possible to believe seriously and truly? ","Can a civilized, that is European, person believe? - that is, believe unconditionally in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ? (for all faith consists only in this), and finally, "Can one believe in everything that Orthodoxy tells us to believe? "(Collected Works, Vol. 30, Leningrad, 1972. Vol. 11, p. 178-179).

It is clearly seen here that the very "Divinity of Christ" is the central issue for Dostoevsky, as it is for his generation. By the way, Tolstoy fought over the same question his whole life, not only after his so-called "transformation", but his entire life. Of course, both he and Dostoevsky lived during a completely different historical epoch. Surely, he wasn't the only one who understood and saw the impending horror of the world without Christ. And it was necessary to do something about this, and there were two ways to do it: either a moral preaching or an artistic discourse. Leo Tolstoy chose the first way. His "Confession" was indeed a distinct alarm, which quite unexpectedly struck his contemporaries. Just like his denunciation of evil and injustice, the painful spots of the society that has forgotten about good and justice. The starting point of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky is the same, that is why Dostoevsky's answers are really the answers to Tolstoy - the questions of the latter were just hanging in the air.

But Tolstoy's preaching did not bring any result. Because this "result" could be brought only by Christ Himself, who did not resurrect in Tolstoy's moral treatises, but turned into a pious carrier of his famous "five nots." For Dostoyevsky, Christ's Resurrection was the central nerve of religious pursuits. He also realised, however, that a direct call for repentance will not bear visible fruit to his generation. Dostoyevsky's genius consists of several important "revelations," which not only had to be told to the readers, but to make them experience them. Of course I am using the word "revelation" in a figurative sense - believers "have known this for a long time," so it was in the 19th century, so it is today.

So, what are these revelations?

1. The life-bearing meaning of the Gospel. Dostoevsky, who loved the Gospel from his childhood and had the opportunity to read only this book during hard labor for four years, shows his readers that this is indeed the "eternal book," for the reading of which  murderers, publicans, harlots, clerks, chiefs and subordinates, poor and rich, humiliated and insulted have assembled. Every moment of our existence on earth, every word, every decision is a distinct commentary on the text of the Gospel, the story of the Gospel, which permeates life - penetrates it with images, symbols, parables, and its peculiar realism.

2. Sin and its limit. I can explain this discovery by Dostoevsky with a simple example from my own life. Several years ago, when the film "Island" appeared on the screens, I addressed the students of the PSTU with public criticism of this film. And on the very evening I got a call from a wonderful Moscow priest who said: "Don't you understand what the value of this film is for young people? Look, a man committed a terrible sin, treachery, and now he is lying on a pile of coal and finds no rest. But he asks God for mercy. And God hears it. This is a film about our youth! It often wanders in its search, but if a young person turns to God, then God will hear him, and the young person must know it! "This is where the second discovery is found: God will always hear you. But how can He be seen in this world?

3. Christ-centeredness of the world. Christ is present in our lives, says Dostoyevsky. He is in Sonya's room, reading the chapter on Lazarus's resurrection to Raskolnikov, he is in the cell of Elder Zosima, whom he takes to the eternal marriage at Cana in Galilee, he is together with the boys and Alyosha near the stone in the final scene of The Brothers Karamazov, he is in Mitya's chamber, he was even Ivan's room, because ultimately it is He who wins the heart of Ivan and draws him to the court, pushes him to confess the murder, even as the last potential witness (Smerdyakov) dies. Christ is not present only in his "ecclesiastic double" (the expression of S. I. Fudel), that is, where the Grand Inquisitor and Ferapont rule.

4. The "Sabbath" of Christ. The last and the most important thing. The illusion of the triumph of evil is connected with the fact that this evil is always noisy, and the good always "sabbaths." Our world is the expectation of the Great Sabbath: Christ is silent, but His Resurrection is already a metaphysical reality, which is to be revealed to those who have a loving heart, that is, for the Myrrh-bearers and the Apostles. The meaning of the famous formula "beauty will save the world" is in love itself, because beauty is a way of revelation of faith and love, understandable and accessible to all.

This is, in my opinion, the significance of Dostoevsky for his contemporaries, and for our generation, and for many future generations. He found a unique language through which he brought to readers, who were spiritually faint, the Good News. And only in this way, through artistic genius, Dostoevsky points to the main answer to the terrible and convincing (from a logical point of view) questions of Ivan Karamazov: only a sensitive conscience and a loving heart find Christ in this world.

Rev. George Orekhanov

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