Talkin’ Wilde: Oscar Wilde on Orthodoxy
Faith is much too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.
Faith is a terrible encumrance, especially when one is not a believer.
You must not find Providence in everything you see. It makes life impossible.
When God wishes to punish us He answers our prayers.
There are two ways of disliking faith… One is to dislike it. The other is to like it rationally.
To reveal the Worshipped and to conceal the worshipper is faith’s aim.
Love can cannonize people. The saints are those who have loved most.
Prayer must never be answered: if it is, it ceases to be prayer and becomes correspondence.
The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except sanctity.
Religion is the fashionable substitute for Belief.
As long as sin is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar it will cease to be popular.
Religious zeal is the last refuge of the failure. This zeal is the virtue of the vicious.
[The Peacock is often mentioned as one of the symbols of Orthodoxy]
Some of our churches are peacocks in everything but beauty.
Clergy and laity
On the staircase stood several members of the Holy Synod, disguised as bishops.
Bishop N. is indeed one of the most spiritual people in my opinion. And I may add that in this opinion Bishop N. himself entirely concurs.
Christians nowadays seem so vicious, that honest folk are forced to look like Christians so as to be different.
The basis of bishops’ friendship is mixing the poisoned bowl.
A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks delightful.
I quite sympathize with the rage of the Orthodox laymen against what they call the vices of the clergy. The lay people feel that drunkenness, stupidity and immorality should be their own special property and that if any priest makes an ass of himself he is poaching on their preserves.
Preachers are so absurdly unreasonable. They always want one to be perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely deaf. They usually warn people against all the sins of which they have grown tired.
Parishoners begin by loving their parish priests. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever do they forgive them.
If one could only teach the lay people how to talk, and the bishops how to listen, our church would be a very different place.
Bishops should neither be seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for church life.
If we lay people had the bishops we deserve we should have a very bad time of it.
The lay people say nothing, the faculties of Theology have nothing to say, and the Holy Synod has nothing to say and says it.
Picturesqueness cannot survive the Holy Synod.
Only people who look dull ever go into the seminaries, and only people who are dull ever succeed there.
In our church a priest who can’t talk morality twice a week to a large, popular, immoral audience is quite over as a serious clergyman.
Our bishops would really forget our existence if we didn’t nag at them from time to time, just to remind them that we have a perfect legal right to do so.
I have always been of the opinion that a man who desires to become a priest should know either everything or nothing.
A sermon is a sorry sauce when you have nothing to eat it with.
Lady H: … there was … I remember, a clergyman who wanted to be a lunatic, or a lunatic who wanted to be a clergyman, I forget which, but I know the Holy Synod investigated the matter, and decided he was quite sane. And I saw him afterwards at poor Lord P.’s with straws in his hair, or something very odd about him.
To the wickedness of Papacy humanity owes much. The goodness of the Papacy owes a terrible debt to humanity.
Monks struggle with passions until they are ordained as bishops. From that moment, they never say a moral thing and never do a wrong thing.
Theology and theologians
Religious education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Everybody who is uncapable of learning has taken to teaching – that is really what our enthusiasm for religious education has come to.
I quite admit that modern theological books have many good points. All I insist on is that, as a class, they are quite unreadable.
We have been able to have fine Theology in the Orthodox Church because the faithful do not read it, and consequently do not influence it.
Anybody can write a three-volumed theological book. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and Theology.
There is not a single real theologian or spiritual writer of this century, on whom the Orthodox public have not solemnly conferred diplomas of heresy, and these diplomas practically take the place, with us, of what in earlier days has been the formal recognition of an Ecumenical Council, and fortunately make the summoning of such a council quite unnecessary these days.
Orthodox writers know how useful fear is for publication. Nowadays a frightened heart will run to many editions.
With an evening coat and a white tie, anybody, even a Doctor of Divinity, can gain a reputation for being civilized.
The books that our Orthodox public calls blasphemous are books that show the public its own shame.
The aim of most of our modern theologians seems to be, not to write good theology, but to write theology that will do good.