Article selections by Vera Zhelihovsky | Note and Editor’s Note by H.P.B.
[The article begins with a description of the St. Stephano Church in Vienna, including the fact that the interior was currently being renovated and was filled with scaffolding. Then proceeds the following account:]
[In the right side chantry facing the alter] . . . we found a dense crowd of devotees comfortably seated in their pews and reading out of their prayer books1 opposite a huge stone crucifix with a life-size Christ hanging on it. The sermon of the padri had evidently produced its effect and driven them all to seek refuge in this cool little corner. Weary and tired, we followed their example and placed ourselves in their neighborhood, to rest, trying to collect our scattered thoughts, perplexed and dazzled as we were by such a variety of impressions. . . . While sitting in the parish pews, involuntarily some of us lifted their heads and gazed at the stone figure of the Crucified before us . . . ‘But what is this?!’ With this exclamation some of us started from our seats and approached the figure closer, while the rest rubbed their eyes in mute astonishment hardly believing that their senses were not deceiving them in what they saw . . . The figure of the Saviour, His face, how beautiful! The head surrounded with a thorny crown reclines on His right shoulder, and a dark shadow—too dense and dark—seems to fall from it . . . Good God! it is no shadow at all, but a bushy black beard! . . . A beard? . . . A white marble statue of the crucified with a beard?! . . . Yes; a real beard of hair?! . . . What can be the meaning of this blasphemous joke? . . . Why was it done? . . . we kept enquiring—‘No one has done it’ was the cool and decided reply of the monk who served us as a guide. ‘The hairs of the beard have grown themselves, during the last hour and while every one was praying . . . The miracle is of a daily occurrence, and every one knows it.’
What could we say to this?
Verily: glory, to Thy long suffering, Oh Lord Jesus Christ! . . .
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—The above is only a short extract from a very interesting narrative, written by a near relative and lately published in a Russian periodical. Mea culpa! We have translated it with two objects: (a) to show the disgraceful tricks resorted to, even in our own century by the priestcraft to secure income to their churches and keep faith alive in the hearts of the too credulous and fanatical; (b) to remind our readers that it is precisely this class of men who grow beards of hair on the chin of marble Jesuses, make the blood of their saints, dead centuries ago, boil in crystal flasks, and produce the materialized form of the Virgin Mary in miraculous grottos—who pose as our bitterest enemies, and denounce the Theosophists and Occultists right and left as “imposters,” “frauds” and “charlatans.” As now appears, the cap would fit our tonsured traducers far better than the head of any occultist living or dead. For, the narrative is no anecdote gotten up for the occasion, but the sober statement of a fact witnessed, to their great disgust, by a party of Christian ladies and gentlemen in full daylight, and no farther back than in September last. It may be uncharitable, no doubt; yet, it is not unjust that we should expose in our turn before our readers, and with a far better reason, this class of men who trade in, and profane the most sacred feelings of the believing multitudes. They have done so for long centuries; begging, and living and prospering upon the hard-earned coppers of the poor they so shamelessly deceive, and yet they will lose no opportunity of denouncing their opponents as the greatest infidels and blasphemers living, believing with some good reason perhaps, that he who cries “thief” while in the act of robbing, has more chances of escape than the innocent man who goes out of their way and keeps silent.
1. The Russians of the Greek Church have neither prayer books, nor are they allowed to sit during service, nor at any time inside a Church; hence the remark.