of a martyrdom spirituality can be seen both in the unbending rigour of many monasteries, such as the monastery of Esphigmenou on Mount Athos, where a banner is hung proclaiming 'Orthodoxy or Death', and also in the depth of compassion hinted at in the response given by Metropolitan Antony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox cathedral in London, when asked whether the church in Russia was free under communism. 'The freedom of the church is to love until death' was his reply.
With a spirituality shaped by these two huge communal experiences, the Orthodox Church is now entering upon a new stage of its life. In the final decade of the twentieth century the communist governments, which had ruled much of the Orthodox Church, disappeared with extraordinary rapidity. The church had a new freedom and self-determination forced upon it, and alongside this has come the need to function in a modern society, where democracy, secularism, a market economy and individualism are cultural norms. A church formed in an autocratic, religious, traditional and corporate setting has to define itself anew and assert its identity and self-understanding. This has been a massive shock. Western churches became used to this modern world over centuries, and helped to create it, but for the east this new world culture arrived with suddenness. Of course some countries such as Greece became independent over a century earlier, and in others, mainly in the Middle East, Christians remain a beleaguered minority. But the church as a whole was precipitated into a new and uncertain world.5 The questions asked of the Orthodox Church in the modern world are how it will reaffirm its identity in the new climate of freedom, how it will relate to this new culture which surrounds it, and whether it can develop a new spirituality to equip itself to survive, to witness and to grow in this modern world.
One church which has adapted successfully to the demands of a modern society is the Coptic Church of Egypt, even allowing for the fact that the modernity of a Middle Eastern society is different from that in the west. Here the church has responded to life in a modern society in three different ways. All three came out of the Sunday School Movement in Cairo and are identified with three of the leaders of the modern Coptic Church. The first is Abbot Matthew the Poor, or Matta el-Miskin, who established his monastic community at the monastery of St Makarios in the desert of Wadi el-Natrim as a centre of traditional monastic ascetic life, but combined with enterprising economic development in the desert. Next comes Bishop Samuel, who worked in
5 The Church of Greece became independent in 1833 and was recognised as autonomous by the ecumenical patriarch in 1850.
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