Chapter 4 // Contents // Chapter 6
WHY I CONVERTED TO
THE ORTHODOX FAITH
THE MOMENT HAD ARRIVED FOR GEORGE TO FIGHT ON TWO FRONTS! At a quarter to five in the morning, the bell rang in the students' quarters at the seminary. Half-awake, they gathered in the corridors for their fifteen minute daily exercise: "lean to the left, lean to the right, touch your toes, hands high in the air..." followed by a quick wash. George used to fall heavily into his bed afterwards, as he was still half-asleep.
This was followed by a silent prayer, the morning liturgy and finally the various subjects - thirty hours of schooling a week. Exams were given often, which required many hours of studying.
Wanting to rest awhile after the meal, George often wondered why their quarters were unheated and so cold. The only heated room was the library, so George used to go there, lean his head on the desk and fall asleep, while the other students studied.
The evenings were taken up by conjugating Jewish verbs, as the Jesuits placed great emphasis on foreign languages. The large hall reverberated with: "Katal, katala, katalta."
One evening, a classmate came to George and told him confidentially that he had been invited to have breakfast with Father Alphonso, who was in charge of all the religious students. Father Alphonso was a saintly person and a great music teacher and reminded people of Franz Liszt with his large mane of hair. Every morning, Father Alphonso would invite one of his students to share his breakfast, which consisted of real coffee and a rich selection of food, as he knew that the meals given to the students were not near enough for their age. An old joke in the seminary exemplified this: A teacher once asked a religious student if the baptism ceremony could be performed with soup instead of water. With the student's soup, yes, replied the student. "But not with the soup of our superiors". The feudal era still existed in Hungary.
This was why the good-natured Father Alphonso Wagner sacrificed his breakfast every morning. But this and other kind acts (giving a coat to a student) was setting a "bad example", according to the other teachers, and their envy soon caused the father to lose his position.
Amongst the students was a well-organized group consisting of the fanatical members of the Jesuit Order. It was very difficult for George, who was a new member of the Order, to enter this group, composed of older members of the Order. George was an only child and found it difficult to adapt to sharing his life with others, but he needed these friends.
"The true members of our Order are not intellectuals; they are people with a pastoral conscience", stated Joseph Kovach. Blond, likeable and polite, Joseph was not considered to have been an intellectual when he was at high school, and so he unloaded his inferiority complex onto poor George. The more George tried to cultivate the friendship of Joseph and the others in the group, the more inadequate he began to feel.
Feeling guilty, he wondered if he had adequately helped his classmates. Therefore, to rectify his mistakes and to win back his companions in the group, he tried to befriend the classmates who were not in Kovach's group. But instead of gaining respect by imitating Joseph, George found himself being ridiculed in the school. It took awhile before he realized that every person had his own standards of value, and that imitating someone caused only ridicule and scorn.
All the young members of the Order had highly-developed personalities, while most of them specialized in one thing or another. Philosophy was a favourite speciality, which was natural in a seminary. One religious student considered himself an expert in liturgical matters and tried to impose on the school to accept the strict Roman version of the liturgy, causing clashes with school authorities. Joseph Kovach, the self-acclaimed proletarian, presented himself as the interested party for the pastoral care of the workers, and spent many hours childishly mimicking the boy-scouts by wearing a red tie, just as the Communist youth did.
George began to organize himself. In the mornings, he often used to wait in the temple for the tall and dignified priest to arrive and then help him perform the liturgy. They would enter the Sanctum, where the assistant would set out an attractive enamel cross and the Missal.
"Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." chanted the priest, following the Byzantine form. This was where George found his calling.
"No, the liturgical uniformity does not constitute an ideal for the Church", stated George once to a new member of the order. "Read about this subject in the encyclicals of Pope Leo in the 13th Century. There you'll clearly see that liturgical polymorphism is the adornment of Catholicism."
This is an example of how George studied the various documents of his Church, especially those relating to the Eastern Church and to the patrology of Bertold Altaner, who was trying to prove the preeminence of the Roman Church with the help of the Fathers. This patrology, which proved to be more objective than the papal documents, mythicized the well-known and endearing arguments of the Romans regarding the primacy. These arguments had been drawn from Ignatius of Antioch and from Irenaeus of Lyon. According to Altaner, Saint Ignatius had not described the Church in Rome as the church leader in the connection of love but just as the church leader to love or in other words, virtue. In addition, the article by Saint Irenaeus (the origin of which is questionable), in which he exhorted the other churches to align themselves with the teachings of Rome, was not infallible nor inviolable, but was a personal view that was warranted by the facts that during that period the Roman Church was Orthodox.
Despite all his attempts to confirm the teachings of Catholicism, George began to get the feeling that the first Church was decentralized, polyarchial and synodical.
This impression was reinforced by certain religious students who, instead of kneeling, worshipped Orthodox style in church. These students were called Greeks - that is, religious students who followed the Byzantine form or discipline (similar to the Uniates). George liked them, but the Catholic clergy harassed them as they were allowed to marry before their ordination. This was confirmed several years later when one of the fathers of the order swore to George, in the name of God, that the unmarried priests were jealous of the Greeks because they were allowed to marry.
Once, an important Jesuit teacher stated that the Church tolerated married clergymen with the aim of uniting all the Orthodox schismatics. The "Greeks were amongst the people that were present when this statement was given.
However, even the Greeks themselves did not really know what they represented. Eastern Theology was one of the courses taught at the Theological Academy by priests of Byzantine philosophy. But the word "Eastern" was vague, as was indicated by the fact that a Jewish student, from the old ghetto, attended the course and was organizing a Hungarian Buddhists sect - a truly eastern sect! But what does the apparent lama of Budapest have in common with the theology of the Orthodox Fathers?
"And unto the Jews I became as a Jew...To them that are without law, as without law...To the weak became I as weak...I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I. Corinthians 9, 20-22).
With these words, a leader of the Jesuit Order reminded the religious students of the methods of Paul. These methods had been adopted by the order, at least externally, in their missionary actions throughout the centuries.
George Pap accepted this alleged method so seriously, he began to feel more Greek than the Greeks, which again caused the displeasure of the seminary leaders. He placed a small print of an Orthodox icon on his desk, which was of great importance to him. He based his whole life on this print, as he now realized that after a fleeting curiosity for the external data of Eastern Christianity which gave him some relaxation and some indifference, he now wanted to concentrate on the depth and on the spirit of Orthodoxy.
Chapter 4 // Contents // Chapter 6
Page created: 30-9-2006.
Last update: 12-6-2008.