The Beautiful Wife and I went to church early last Sunday, eager to get a seat for the Christmas service. The service was a spiritual treat, replete with inspired speakers and Christmas music. We left uplifted. Laguna’s church services may be the best value in town. Dogma may vary, but I believe you hear more truth in church than any other institution. Which brings us to the great Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), born a century and a year ago this month.
Solzhenitsyn won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature for “the ethical force” unleashed by his writing, considered a factor in the fall of the USSR. Solzhenitsyn closed his Nobel Lecture with a Russian proverb, “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” The power of truth stands unparalleled, but its nature is more complicated. Consider the plaintive query of Roman governor Pontius Pilate two millennia ago: “What is truth?” Pilate has disappeared into the dust of history, but his question is ever with us.
Laguna Presbyterian recently sponsored a discussion by the scientist Michael Dennin, author of “Divine Science,” who introduced a term that has remained with me: “the fullness of reality.” He meant the combined contribution to truth of both science and of religion. Science, he said, addresses the physical world. It’s visible, we see it every day. Religion deals with the spiritual world, it’s invisible, found only through diligent search. Dennin’s “fullness of reality” acknowledges the synergy of the two combined.
This brings us to another speech by Solzhenitsyn, in my view his greatest, given at his acceptance of the 1983 Templeton Prize for contributions of a spiritual dimension. Solzhenitsyn recounted the persecution of Russian Orthodox churchmen during 65 years of Communist rule, thinking it worse than that of the Roman Empire against the primitive Christians. Solzhenitsyn, born 1918 in Russia, lived through the disaster of socialist rule in the USSR. Though often imprisoned, his writing was a powerful voice for truth, beginning with “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” a book that influenced me as a youth. This is the heart of Solzhenitsyn’s speech:
“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval.
“But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’”
Each Monday, I turn in 500 words of “Finding Meaning” to the editor of our Indy. As we come to the end of 2019, the total exceeds 26,000 words. If you, dear reader, remember any, make it Solzhenitsyn’s wise guidance to remember God. There’s meaning in that.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.
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