No, there is nothing wrong with change as such. Quite the contrary: the absence of change is often a sign of stagnation, inactivity, leading to degradation. But only … changes are different. Moreover, it is one thing when it comes to changes in yourself and your circumstances, and quite another when you are going to change something that is immeasurably larger than you and your personal experience.
I remember very well that the desire to change led me to the Church in my time. I understood: my life, such as it was, is wrong, wrong, and what I see in myself – all this must be changed. How, how? I found the answers to these questions already inside the Church. And the help, and support – both human, and, more importantly, gracious – also found and found to this day. Looking back, I can say that a lot of water has flowed away since I crossed the threshold of the church for the first time — about thirty years ago it was. But one thing remained unchanged: the feeling that there is too much in me today, that I still have a lot of work to do, a lot – that is, the rest of my life. And at the same time, I understand with utmost clarity that only in the Church this work will bring its fruit, without it it is impossible.
In the past few years, did I have a feeling that something needs to be changed, not only in myself, but also in the Church in which I am trying to escape? Yes, of course, it appeared. We do a lot of things wrong, we often make mistakes, we start to look for some “new forms” of church life – and we find, as a rule, not the best. And therefore, of course, much needs to be corrected. Much is about the same that needs correction and in us.
However, for some reason, I have never had a desire to change something in those church traditions that I perceived from the very beginning as a given — at first incomprehensible, but not rejected as a result of this by the heart, and then logically explicable. Why so? Yes, there are things that sometimes seem to me not quite comfortable. But there is another thing: the understanding that any changes in terms of traditions must be made with great care, delicacy, humility, and moreover, not only experience, but also some kind of graceful enlightenment is required. At my place, I don’t find anything like this – I don’t find something sufficiently, but I don’t find anything at all.
And I am very often surprised and puzzled by the readiness to make such changes in the Church in people for whom I cannot recognize the presence of all the above qualities and abilities. No, not because I think badly of them. The reason is different: we practically all in the Church today are “wild olives,” as the apostle Paul spoke of this. We have grafted on the feeding, life-giving tree, but have not yet become it, remaining wild in many ways. It is not insulting, it is not humiliating, it is just the truth. And because … therefore, it is hardly worth deciding to change what the people who were introduced into the life of the Church, unlike us, are not wild, much more experienced, much more intelligent, much more careful. It would be much more correct to focus on that from which we are constantly distracted, like a child with difficulty concentrating, on those most notorious changes in ourselves, which not only we, but the people next to us, desperately need.
One has to constantly think about this topic all the time: it has not lost its relevance for a long time. But the reason for this reasoning was, of course, the recent discussion on a topic that seemed to me completely far-fetched, but for some reason, it’s really troubling to many people seriously: do I have to kiss the priest’s hand.
By applying to the hand of a shepherd blessing the Holy Gifts, we think of another Hand — the Lord
Whether it is necessary or not – this is the most serious, most important, apparently, question! And opinions are very different. Well, and I venture to express my own: of course, it is necessary. It seems to me strange that people of the church (and the discussion participants in a large part of them are such people) may not understand that by kissing the hand of a pastor or archpastor we do not pay homage to him personally as a person, but testify to our reverence for his dignity, to the grace bestowed upon him in the ordinance of ordination. And what’s more: by attaching to his hand, blessing the Holy Gifts, we think of another Hand — all doing and transforming bread and wine into Flesh and Blood. What are we afraid of? That someone from modern, alien to Christian symbolism of people this "barbarous" custom will push away? That priests and bishops can suffer by taking this kiss on their own account and therefore exalting themselves? Honestly I do not understand.
But I understand something else very well: just as it is enough in the mountains to touch just one pebble in order to provoke an avalanche, so also in relation to church traditions: it is enough to change something small, abandon it, and the process of change will expand and grow, like the same avalanche. After all, too much in the daily life of the Church is built on tradition — not on exact calculation, not on the laws of physics or chemistry, but on the fact that our fathers used to be once (not fathers and grandfathers, of course, but apostles, saints, reverend fathers) took some external forms as optimal for the expression of certain spiritual realities.
Do I need to change something in these forms, adapting to the modern reality? Perhaps what is needed. But here everything is the same as with the editing of liturgical texts: it is necessary to edit, make them more understandable, but just a sufficient number of qualified editors who are able to lift this work and carry it without damaging the divine service, is definitely not there.
It is necessary to change – in ourselves, what prevents us from seeing the deep inner meaning of the traditions of the Church
It seems to me that now our life is already extremely difficult: we face many challenges, and we are not ready to give a sure answer to all of them. It is hardly worth today to concentrate on external changes – no matter how “matured” they may seem to someone: there is no need to somehow transform external forms, when we have such problems with internal content, when a lot of people do not understand how it should be . No need, because it can lead to consequences not completely predictable. It is much better to try to benefit from what is, rather than try to replace it with something else.
It seems strange to someone to kiss the priest’s blessing hand, it seems to someone that attaching to icons is even stranger, others think that it’s unhygienic to take communion from one Chalice and one liar, to stand during the service is hard sins at confession is indelicate. And a lot of this still seems and seems to be. But it is worth starting the “process of change”, as you will not stop it. That is why I am personally convinced: do not start. And it is still better to attach to icons, and from one Chalice to communion, and to kiss the hand of the priest, and not to demand that he do the same in return. There is nothing particularly difficult about this. And the deep inner meaning is. And if something needs to be changed, so this, I repeat, in ourselves, that prevents us from seeing this meaning.