The Church and the "Problem of the Third"

A friend of mine told me once that “the Orthodox Church does not have an answer to the problem of the third.” I think he was coming from a Levinasian perspective: how we can pass from the relationship with the other to the relationship with the third, so from the ethical to the political. However, the problem was more concrete: the Church asks you to love your enemy, your persecutor; the answer of communist prisons is found precisely here, in the responsibility that the persecuted experiences for the soul of the persecutor. However, the Church has nothing to say, my friend used to tell me, to the one who could not care less about it, to the one who does not persecute the faithful but does not feel part of them either.

Another friend of mine told me once that each human being is a church under reconstruction. There is beauty in each one of these churches, but when you visit them (so when you enter in communication with other people), you are so overwhelmed by the construction, by the work of restoration, that you no longer grasp the beauty hidden under this work. 

Perhaps the beauty hidden in each of these churches, waiting to be restored, is Christ, and Christ crucified, as Paul says. Anytime the institutional Church has nothing to say to the third, so to the one who finds no connection with it, anytime it does not weep for the absence of communication with this third, the Church may need to ask itself whether it has forgotten the real Third, Christ crucified in all and each of these small churches in restoration. For the Church is the Body of Christ crucified for all these other bodies.

Any time I have the problem of the third, not being able to love the one for whom my life is an enigma and to rejoice in his life, I am not in the Church.


About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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