In a town in the Amur region, the authorities came up with an unusual punishment for minor criminal offences. Those delinquents are assigned to work in the church. The officials write happy reports, the press rejoices, old ladies have plenty to chat about. Everyone talks of how the hooligans must now do some honest work in the "most honestest" of places.
That 's just what they write about the matter the newspapers:
"In the Magdachaginsky district debt delinquents are assigned for compulsory work in a local church, by court decision. The Church of St. Prince Vladimir is included in the list of organisations for the execution of minor administrative punishment. According to the press service of the Amur department of the Federal Bailiff Service, five Magdagachin residents are currently working out mandatory hours in the temple. Earlier, a resident of Magachinsk received 80 hours of work for non-payment of fines"
So it looks like the procedure's simple. Break the law, ignore your fines, do whatever you please - everything can be measured in hours of work in a church. On four charges – 80 hours of work, on one charge – twenty hours. Couple days of scrubbing church floors - and there you have it, you've paid your debt to society, and - hey, presto! - your sins are cleared too. God, that's convenient!
But to be honest, it is difficult to come up with a greater mockery of the holy Church. Of course, in the eyes of some calloused army superintendent or an old school warden, the church is just like any other institution. It is a place where people work. There are floors to be scrubbed, garden paths to be cleared, windows to be cleaned, roof to be mended, to say nothing of flowerbeds, gardens, farmyards etc. Village churches often have rather large households that require a lot of maintenance, monasteries even more so, and a pair of hands never goes amiss.
I read a press-release and it says: "The citizen chose to serve her sentence in a local church, and has worked in good faith a total of 80 hours on four charges. Subsequently, has fully covered all debts on household bills"
The saddest thing here is even in our time when spiritual enlightenment is all around us - any book is in your pocket, any film is on your screen, many priests are available for consultation online - we still don’t understand that the church is truly a house of God. We don’t understand that when we make God’s work into a punishment - we insult our Church and desecrate our churches.
St. John Chrysostom wrote: " You have the Church offering sacrifices, the prayers of the fathers, the administration of the Holy Spirit, the memory of the martyrs, the assembly of the faithful, and many things of the kind which have power to recall you from iniquity unto justice.." No protocol of working for punishment will lead to righteousness. And even more so, without understanding the true meaning of the prayers and the memory of the martyrs - how can someone work in the church at all, no matter in punishment or otherwise?
For years we teach our children respect for the faith of their fathers, for shrines, and sacred history. We worship icons and from the very heart we sing The Symbol Of Faith.This is the only way to connect with God, as the holy fathers tell us, only sincerely, humbling in the soul. And they decided to skip all that - just scrub some floors, and you’re over and done.
St. Theophan the Recluse wrote: «“My house is the house of prayer.” And indeed, just enter into a church, and it already calls you to prayer. Everything there is disposed and done in order to dispose one to and assist prayer. Therefore, if you want to stir up prayer in your heart, go more often to the church of God»
But as we all know perfectly well, a slave is not a worshipper. Is it possible to cultivate respect for holy things by an administrative sentence? Everyone knows the answer to this question. Or so it seemed to me before.