Right Reverend Bishop, Diocesan Warden, Chief Notaries, Dear Congregation, Reformed Church Brothers and Sisters,
It would have been so nice to boast! Of course, in a moderate, Reformed Church way; but this is out of the question after the words of our Bishop Szabó – which are at the same time admonitions. I will therefore say that where the need is great, help is at hand. And how true this was on that terrible day when Bishop Szabó and I walked through the burnt-out corridors of the Ráday residence hall. But even in those anguished moments there was hope. As we have heard, on the day after the tragedy donations immediately started to flow, and within just a few days millions of forints had been raised for the necessary work and to help students who had been left without a home. Where did this strength come from? Entering the building through the old entrance on Ráday utca, one is greeted by a monumental staircase. On the first half landing one is confronted with a group of statues: Calvin, Beza, Knox, Bocskai and other heroes of the Reformed faith. They greet one like an examining board – and that comparison is not far from the truth. The gaze of the ancients assesses us: even those whom duty daily calls to the pulpit, those whom it daily calls to the lectern, and those whom it daily calls to lead and defend the country. And from the poem by Gyula Illyés – which he wrote in front of the “bigger brother” of this monument [in Geneva] – we know that the goal that the reformers set before us is not only the command to remain in the faith, but also the command to remain Hungarian. From this vantage point we looked at the charred body of the burnt-out building; and for us there was no question of the state or the Government not standing alongside the Reformed Church in Hungary in its plight – after all, this is why it is a national government. But this is more than a duty: it is rather a repayment. In fact, we have received more than we have given. We have received so much from the college since it first opened, next door to us. Theology in Pest was a national cause even in the days of its foundation. Lajos Kossuth dedicated an editorial to it in [the daily newspaper] Pesti Hírlap: “In a nation that which is done in the cause of education is done for the nation, no matter in which church the teacher prays with his students; and therefore this is in the national interest.” Or my favourite lines from the same source: “The Hungarian should be European, and in this country what we call European should always remain Hungarian.” And Kossuth was right. What happened in the Ráday residence hall was indeed for the good of the nation; and although it was European, it always remained Hungarian. Generations of Reformed pastors left here and served Hungary with honour, both within our present borders and beyond them. They took their faith, their knowledge, their sense of self, their Hungarian identity. They reaped where others dared not even sow: throughout war, when a minority, under communism. They accepted the difficult test, and through them God worked a miracle. And again and again Hungary received the strength to start anew, to renew, to rebuild the country after destruction. And this reinvigorating strength – which, if I am not mistaken, is the essence of the Reformation, of Reformed identity – is needed today as much as it was after the Second World War or the fall of the communist system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters,
It is tempting but dangerous to draw an analogy between biblical revelations and temporal life. It is a dangerous minefield, on which our pastors – at most – can move with confidence, but on which one cannot stand still. When we look out over the broad horizon of contemporary life, it is hard not to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is as if we see the Antichrist clad in Marxism’s retailored old clothes – called “wokeness” – riding at the head of once proud, Christian, Western countries, leading them into oppression while proclaiming freedom. And here, wheeling round on its red horse, is war: the Russo-Ukrainian war, which only deepens and widens, every day threatening ever more and approaching ever closer. And here, too, on its black horse, is the famine that is being brought upon the world today by the change in the Earth’s climate. And there are the pandemics, the first of which is COVID, spurred on by their pale horse. These are trials we must endure. It is precisely the responsibility of the Christian to see not only the tide, but also the destination, the coastline on the other side. For that is our task: to take our country safely to the far shore, standing as one and trusting in God, our eyes fixed not on the tide, but always on the far shore. We must be loudest when the world’s mighty powers want to silence us. We must stand up straight when we are threatened with false accusations. We must stand up with dignity for our traditions when half the world is writhing in a fever of new fashions, and calling it pride. And we must demand peace when everyone is acting according to the logic of war. To stand up and fight for our truth both as individuals and as a nation. The difficulties before us now are enormous, but where man’s strength fails, grace will always step in. We have no power to recreate from the ashes what was burned in the fire, but we have had the strength to build together a new hall of residence that will surpass its predecessor. At such times we do well to be encouraged by our Catholic brothers and sisters, who say that we have no enemy whom Jesus Christ has not already defeated – to which our psalm so beautifully responds: “‘Hold the fort, for I am coming,’ Jesus signals still…Onward comes our great Commander.’” And indeed, however dark the towering clouds, however high the waves, however insurmountable the obstacles may seem, we must simply listen to the words of that psalm: “Hold the fort!”
God above us all, Hungary before all else! Soli Deo gloria!