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Of course not all of us live the ascetic life in its fulness and some of us, myself for example, are very far removed from it. But in the Church, as parts of one Body, the Body of Christ, we are organically linked to the monks and the ascetics, meaning that we benefit from their struggles whether we are personally aware of them or not. This is the importance of the veneration of the Saints, the Saints who surround us in the Church, represented in the icons, our family, the family we joined when we joined the church. However much we may respect the visible hierarchy of the Church, the priests, the Bishops, the Archbishops, it is an essentially administrative structure, certainly indispensable, but the real hierarchy is the Saints. And we join with the Saints by reading their lives and their writings.

The old iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Dormition (Moscow Patriarchate), Ennismore Gardens, London. Much loved by all who frequented the church in the days of Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom). Unfortunately since replaced with a new one.

This helps us understand the essential conservatism of the Church. Our job is not to impose our own ideas, however ingenious or even useful they might be. It is to preserve and to transmit what we have been given. We have confidence in the value of our liturgical practise, of the words used in our services, because we know that they have been found useful by the Saints in the past. We most certainly do not regard ourselves as the bearers of a superior knowledge of heavenly things just because, over the centuries, we have learnt a few more facts about the earthly reality that surrounds us.

Which brings us back to the essential conservatism of Constantinople, the Greek speaking capital that preserved classical Greek culture, including the philosophy, but lost interest in philosophical speculation. Instead of an intellectual puzzle, the knowledge of God had become a clearly defined task. The basic material for this task existed and had been proved to be adequate. There was no need for intellectual speculation. I'm not suggesting that it did not occur but it had nothing like the importance it had in the West.

I now want to say something about the external or political history of the Church, of the culture that developed in the Roman Empire once it had become Christian. 

                                                                            To afternoon session