The dictionary defines a ‘legacy’, in its non-monetary sense, as ‘anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor’. Here we should be careful to distinguish between those who leave a good legacy and those who leave an indifferent or bad legacy. Those who leave an indifferent or bad legacy leave only a bad reputation. For example, those who are driven by a personal and cultish lust for power, and not a vision of the well-being and unity of those who come after them, leave only bad reputations.
However, the saints leave good legacies. Their reputations are good because of their legacies. This is because their lives are not centred on their own personalities, but on the Holy Spirit, Who is outside their personalities or ‘reputations’. Their legacies are then the result of the grace of God, Who is Eternal. Conversely, those who are centred on themselves, and not on God, develop reputations. These last for as long as they live; once they die, their reputations die with them and their legacy is seen to be illusory.
In this way, the lives, writings and sayings of personalities are forgotten by new generations. This is because a reputation built on a personality is as ephemeral as that personality, whereas those who are centred on God leave something that is not ephemeral, but by definition eternal. In Church terms we can see that builders of the Church like Sts Cyril and Methodius, St Herman of Alaska or St Nicholas of Tokyo leave legacies. However, those who destroyed and divided leave only reputations. History shows us who is who.
However, with all the talk of ‘legacies’ and ‘reputations’, we overlook the greater picture; by looking at trees, we fail to see the forest. Both legacies and reputations are concerned only with the past. We should be concerned with the future, for that is our Church life. We have no desire to return to the nightmares of the past and the ‘legacies’ and ‘reputations’ of those who have gone. ‘Let the dead bury the dead’, says the Saviour. Enough of the past; let us turn to building the Church of the future.