EAST MEETS WEST
Contemporary Theological Dialogues The Righteousness of Rights Orthodoxy and Avant-Garde
ISSUE 3 | FALL 2015
ISSUE 3 | FALL 2015
EAST MEETS WEST
Ways of Contemporary Orthodox Theology in the West
Latin American Liberation Theology and Eastern Orthodox Social Ethics
On the Righteousness of Rights
The Orthodox Church Facing Up to Its Own Challenges
Meetings About Meetings
STATE OF AFFAIRS
Religion and Politics in Russia: An Insider’s View
Mother Maria Skobtsova
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Present and Future of the Church
EARS TO HEAR, EYES TO SEE
Orthodox Architecture and the Avant-Garde: Russian Church in Moisenay, France
Susan R. Holman
Metropolitan Stephanos Gregory Tucker
Xenia Loutchenko Interviewed by Christopher Stroop David O’Neal
Mother Maria Skobtsova
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Talks on the Beatitudes: Blessed Are the Merciful; Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
Roman Naumov Peter Longofono
For the Unity of All: A Prayer Worth Reviewing?
Letters to the Editors
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EAST MEETS WEST
Ways of Contemporary Orthodox Theology in the West Nikolaos Asproulis
Introduction When one claims to represent the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this implies that one is following a specific set of hermeneutical presuppositions of the common tradition. All Christian traditions share the same basic sources in the first millennium, so the definition of a theology as “Orthodox” is necessarily related to a specific point of view, to concrete presuppositions, when approaching this common tradition. One such widely recognized special feature of Orthodox theology is its frequent strong emphasis on the patristic heritage (up until the fifteenth century), which somehow marks its distinctive character as the formative factor of its identity. In the subsequent period of almost five centuries to the The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
present, Orthodox theology in general faced a long period of oppression under the Ottoman regime, resulting in a strategic defeat, which has been characterized as a “Babylonian captivity” or “pseudomorphosis.” During this period, which extended until the first decades of the twentieth century or even later, Orthodox theology seemed to follow uncritically Western (Roman Catholic or Protestant) scholastic models, obscuring its own particular identity and losing its distinctively patristic character. This resulted in most cases in a robust conservatism and anti-Westernism, in a catastrophic self-referentiality, and a departure from the challenges posed by ongoing history (of salvation)—issues that can still be traced in many facets of 5
subsequent modern theology. During the long Ottoman occupation, the socalled Orthodox world (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, etc.) did not have the opportunity to undergo the transformations of the landmarks of Western intellectual history (such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, etc.). In order to better understand the real flourishing of Orthodox theology during the last century, it is necessary to bear in mind a few basic influences on its early history, important for its development.
Historical Landmarks of TwentiethCentury Orthodox Theology The Bolshevik Revolution (1917–1918) Although most of us are aware of the various consequences and implications of this great historical event on the political, social, and intellectual history of Europe, its theological impact, though indirect, is something that passes almost unnoticed. However, had the Bolshevik Revolution never occurred, it could be argued that the map of the whole of modern Orthodox theology would be quite different. Without the rise of Communism, especially in Russia, Russian émigré theology would not have been possible.
The First Congress of Orthodox Theology, Athens, 1936 This First Congress of Orthodox Theology, held in Athens in 1936, with the presence of eminent figures such as Georges Florovsky and Sergius Bulgakov, was a groundbreaking event for the future of Orthodox theology. It signaled an attempt by the world6
wide Orthodox theological elite of that period to liberate theology from the so-called “Babylonian captivity” of Western and scholastic influences, to recover its genuine Orthodox and ecclesial ethos through, and by appealing to, the Fathers.
The 1990s and the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century The 1990s would signal a new and quite different development in Orthodox theology. On the one hand, a serious revival of a deep scholarly interest emerged regarding the previously neglected, if not unofficially condemned, sophiological tradition as it was articulated by Vladimir Solovyov and especially Sergius Bulgakov in the first half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, it was the period when many Orthodox theologians would begin to reflect on the need for the social-political engagement of Orthodoxy in an open ecumenical dialogue with the major Western Christian traditions. This development culminated most explicitly in a conference widely recognized as a sequel to the 1936 First Congress, which was recently held in Greece in 2010, organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in cooperation with Fordham University and many other Orthodox institutions and university faculties on the provocative topic: “Neo-Patristic Synthesis or PostPatristic Theology: Can Orthodox Theology Be Contextual?” The basic goal of this latter development was to challenge the normative patristic character of academic Orthodox theology, which, despite the achievements and developments of earlier generations, tends to limit its scope to a merely historical way of doing theology and studying past documents or traditional relics, dealing primarily with purely histor-
ical-theological issues (intra-ecclesial issues, doctrinal issues, etc.), while avoiding opening theology to a creative dialogue with current social and political movements, science, and society and the living culture of our time.
Aspects of the Synthesis Between the Mystical and the Political in the Contemporary History of Orthodox Theology During the major part of the twentieth century, it was widely recognized in Orthodox scholarship that there were two major, almost mutually exclusive, trends in Orthodox theology, the socalled “Neo-patristic” theology represented by Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky, and the “Russian school” represented primarily by Solovyev, Bulgakov, and Pavel Florensky. These two central trajectories of Orthodox theology were a result of the Russian intellectual diaspora in the West. Notwithstanding their common cultural and historical roots, a deep and often hostile separation was considered as the basic attitude and framework within which the eminent figures of both trends developed their theological outlook and program during the subsequent years.1 Chronologically speaking, the foundational figures of the Russian school precede their Neo-patristic colleagues, and they represent a more or less comprehensive worldview, under the rubric of Sophiology. If this is true for the Russian party, the image of the Neo-patristic school is more complex than it seems at first sight,2 with whom there is a greater variety of visions and methodological presuppositions that cannot necessarily be labeled within the same Neo-patristic rubric. At the same time, today, the alleged radical The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
distinction between the Russian and the Neo-patristic school is being seriously reconsidered and reenvisioned as an oversimplification.3 The Ad Intra and Ad Extra Dialogue with Modernity and Post-modernity In what follows I would like to present concrete cases from both the Russian Religious Renaissance and Neo-patristic theology that account for a creative and very interesting dialogue with various aspects of modernity and postmodernity. For this reason, I am going to use as a methodological tool (in accordance with the distinction between the mystical and the political), a distinction proposed by Paul Valliere between “Church Dogmatics” and “Church and World Dogmatics.”4 In our perspective, the concept of “Church Dogmatics” is primarily related to a theology proper (the mystical aspect of theology per se), in other words to a theology ad intra, in terms of classic dogmatics, while the second one (the political aspect of theology) is intended to express an openended theological reflection on secular issues, or in other words a kind of systematic theology in the current sense of the term. In this respect, the central axis of this article, presented as a synthesis between the mystical and the political, coincides naturally with the above distinction in terms of theological methodology, since the mystical could be easily identified with the “Church Dogmatics” branch, while the political, with “Church and World Dogmatics.”5 “Church Dogmatics”: The Mystical Undoubtedly any attempt at theologizing must be premised on the first principles of the divine, specifically Christian, discipline. A deep divergence emerges on this point between
1 Alexander Schmemann, “Russian Theology: 1920–1972: An Introductory Survey,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 16 (1972): 172–194; Paul Valliere, Modern Russian Theology: Bucharev, Soloviev, Bulgakov: Orthodox Theology in a New Key (London: T&T Clark, 2000). 2
See Georges Florovsky, “Review of The Mystical Theology of Eastern Church,” Journal of Religion 38:3 (July 1958): 207–208. 3 Kallistos Ware, “Orthodox Theology Today: Trends and Tasks,” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 12:2 (2012): 105–121; Paul Gavrilyuk, Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 4
5 See more in my “Is a Dialogue between Orthodox Theology and (Post)modernity Possible?” Communio Viatorum LIV:11 (2012): 203–222.
the Russian and the Neo-patristic trends. On the one hand, Russian theology, and particularly Sophiology, begins its reflection from the world in order to develop its theological vision. According to its premises, God cannot be thought of apart from the world, insofar as the God of the Christian faith is a “God for us.” Without avoiding frequent and extended speculation about the inner being of God, Sophiology’s desire is to keep God and the world in a very close relationship (“allunity”) through Sophia.
On the other hand, Neo-patristic theology attempts to preserve the absolute gap, the absoluteness of the ontological difference between uncreated and created. In order to secure the absolute transcendence of God, this school insists on a theology of creatio ex nihilo and on the contingency of the world, with the ensuing freedom for both God and the world that derives from this hiatus. For instance, Lossky, as is well known, bestows on apophatic theology an almost absolute primacy in theological discourse, in order to preserve God from any kind of conceptualization, while Zizioulas, closer on this point to Florovsky, emphasizes the necessity and importance of the absolute dialectic between created and uncreated for Christian theology. However, while it seems paradoxical that theological discourse is only possible by virtue of God’s self-revelation, in a few cases, such as for Zizioulas and perhaps Stăniloae, speculation on the inner being of God is justified in light of the Eucharistic experience of God’s Trinitarian life, a vision that provides a balance between the cataphatic and apophatic aspects of doing theology, rendering theology justifiable. But for Lossky, at least in his early work, this
kind of theologizing is rejected outright. It seems natural then that Sophiology is located closer to modern culture, which reacts against religious authority and heteronomy in favor of an absolute immanence of life and the ensuing dignity and self-reference of human beings and the world. For that purpose, a kind of “humano-theology” (a theology of the humanity of God), which “expresses the Word of God but it speaks human words as well . . . in a creative sense” is presented as the only legitimate kind of religious discourse to the modern world.7 This religious philosophy seems to fit better into the context of secularized modern society, (characterized by human autonomy and self-referentiality). Evaluating this perspective from the angle of Valliere’s twofold typology, one could add a third type, that of “World Dogmatics,” as a sort of secular theology, having as its starting point the common existential concern of humanity, and its deep and honest longing to reach its outward truth as it is finally manifested in the man Jesus. However, given the overall return of religion to the public sphere during the last decades of late modernity or postmodernity, the Neo-patristic School, in my estimation, will be more beneficial than these, inasmuch as it proposes a theological justification of God in and for the world, and not merely the other way around. Moreover it could be added that the prevailing argument of many post-modern thinkers (such as Derrida, Marion, etc.) concerning the absolute and radical différence between God and the world finds its similarities in the absolute dialectical relation between created and the uncreated, as expounded in light of the patristic
tradition by Florovsky and more successfully by Zizioulas. Moreover, the modern or post-modern Christian tension between transcendence (cf. Barth’s early dialectical theology) and immanence (secular theology, cf. Vahanian et al.) is a reality that Orthodox theology is challenged to face. The renewal of interest in the analogical-dialogical dimension of the God-world relationship as the core of both theological trends could be a corrective step beyond any sterile dichotomization. In this perspective, my view about a “World Dogmatics” way of doing theology could be useful for modern Orthodox theology in its attempt to address the existential need of the current world. “Church and World Dogmatics”: The Political Many of the early Neo-patristic scholars were educated more or less as historians, while none of the representatives of the Russian school were primarily interested in historical concerns. In contrast, they were professional philosophers (Berdyaev), economists (Bulgakov), and biblical scholars (Bucharev). This is an important difference, which presents the Russian School as initially more open and oriented to secular culture, supporting the vital engagement of Orthodoxy with the modern world and its experience. However a brief overview of the works of the thinkers of both streams demonstrates that most of them have a serious interest in how to bring the good news of the Gospel into soteriological dialogue with the urgent existential needs of each time. From the Neo-patristic school, let us consider titles such as Meyendorff’s Living Tradition: Orthodox Witness in the Contemporary World, Schmemann’s Ultimate Questions: An Anthology of Modern Russian Religious The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Thought, Florovsky’s “The Social Problem of the Orthodox Church,” and Zizioulas’s eco-theological essays. The theologians and scholars who came into dialogue with the modernization of Russia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries attempted to engage in a deep dialogue with intellectual and ideological movements, such as Socialism and Marxism, in the lands of origin, and with the emergence of human rights. They also attempted to respond to the challenge of how to conceptualize and experience traditional faith and the Church’s life in liberal, democratic, and even laïque conditions, as for example in France. Social issues were the first priority of all the émigré theologians and philosophers in their attempt to counter Western liberalism and capitalism with a fresh Christian socialism rooted in the social insights of the Gospel (see for instance the work of Bucharev, Florovsky’s essay on St. John Chrysostom, and several works by Berdyaev) or an alternative philosophy of economy with a special and Christian understanding of labor as a way to go beyond dialectical materialism and reorient the material world to its divine roots beyond a mere self-referential and self-sufficient understanding (cf. Bulgakov’s “Philosophy of the Economy”). In this respect, the wellknown insight of the human being as the “priest of creation,” particularly as articulated through its sophiological mediation by Zizioulas, according to which the created order should be oriented by humanity’s priestly efforts toward a communion with its Creator, should be presented as a very important and also critical proposal of Orthodox theology to the modern and post-modern environmental and ethical impasses. 9
Although Florovsky seems not to have been interested explicitly in social issues, he did write two ad hoc articles on this topic, articulating a theology of labor based on the ascetical and social dimension of the Orthodox understanding of the human being. At the same time, his strong emphasis on history and human responsibility and struggle (podvig) against evil toward the transformation of the world could count as a positive attitude in relation to the immanent and secular concerns of the everyday life of modern and post-modern humans as well. In any case, in both theological schools, the integrity and the dignity of the human being and the world is more or less taken as a given due to the ex nihilo and ex amore Christian doctrine of creation.
Conclusion: Challenges of the Twenty-first Century Let us now briefly turn to two challenges that modern Orthodox theology needs to address today by formulating a coherent synthesis between the aforementioned mystical and political aspects of doing theology.
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First, concerning the existential interpretation of Christian faith. Unless an attempt is made to find the proper hermeneutical means and tools for a deep and fresh existential reinterpretation of the basic elements of our tra-
dition, Orthodoxy will not have any future. The people of our age need to hear specific answers to concrete questions and problems they are called to deal with. In other words, modern Orthodox theology should open itself to a constant dialogue with the real problems and concerns of the people of our age, attempting to find what the Fathers would have to say in similar situations. In this case, the existential concern (following Zizioulasâ€™s reasoning), something common to all ages and all the people, could easily become the common framework of the encounter and the deep dialogue between theology and world. A second challenge that modern Orthodox theology should seriously have to take into account is the historical commitment. It has become a common accusation on behalf of the Western Christian tradition that Orthodoxy does not pay the necessary attention to history and the social-political issues, something implied in its metahistorical, more eschatological (see liturgical) perspective. While this is true to some extent both historically and theologically, and despite the positive signs that one could discern during the past and recent history of Orthodox theology, a comprehensive and serious engagement in political theology is something that is still lacking in the current theological curricula.
Nikolaos Asproulis, MTh, PhD candidate (Hellenic Open University) is an academic associate of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies and the editor of the official journal of the Church of Greece, Theologia. He has authored many articles related to contemporary Orthodox dogmatic theology and theologians, political theology, and theological education.
Diego Rivera. Flower Day (detail), 1925. Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
EAST MEETS WEST
Latin American Liberation Theology and Eastern Orthodox Social Ethics Is a Conversation Possible?
Philip LeMasters How should Christians respond to situations of poverty and social injustice? Proponents of Latin American liberation theology and teachers of Eastern Orthodoxy typically frame their answers in very different ways.1 For example, the liberationist call to fundamentally alter economic, social, and political structures for the benefit of the poor differs from the Orthodox focus on exercising philanthropy within extant political structures. Liberationists are heirs of the Catholicism of Vatican II and the political and cultural legacy of the West, while many Orthodox Christian populations are relative newcomers to democratic societies (or have never truly made this transition) and maintain sensibilities shaped by centuries of survival under Byzantine, Ottoman, and Communist rulers. Liberation theology originated as a distinct movement within the Catholic Church in Latin America during the The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
revolutionary enthusiasm of the 1960s and ‘70s. Although John Paul II and Benedict XVI affirmed the centrality of concern for the poor to Catholic social teaching, the pontificate of Francis I has brought a new level of attention to liberationist concerns about unjust political structures. In contrast, Orthodoxy looks to theologians such as SS. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, who fully integrated social concern with doctrinal teaching, liturgical practice, and spiritual formation. Following their example, it is not controversial to praise or encourage acts of philanthropy, though active compassion for the victims of injustice and prophetic critiques of oppression have often been neglected in practice. Given the brutal persecution of the Church by communist parties in so many traditionally Orthodox lands during the twentieth century, it is understandable that the Marxist-sounding formulations of liberation theologians rankle many Orthodox. To note criti-
Peter C. Bouteneff, “Liberation: Challenges to Modern Orthodox Theology from the Contextual Theologies,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 63/3-4 (2012), 30. See also Pantelis Kalaitzidis, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2012), 70. 2
Gustavo Gutierrez, The Power of the Poor in History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1983), 57. 3 Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973), 6ff. 4 Gutierrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free: Confrontations (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990), 10. 5
6 Olivier Clément, “Orthodox Reflections on ‘Liberation Theology,’” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 29:1 (1985): 67. 7
Gutierrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free, 99.
Gutierrez, The Power of the Poor in History, 50.
John McGuckin, “Embodying the New Society: The Byzantine Christian Instinct of Philanthropy,” in Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition, ed. Matthew J. Pereira (New York: Theotokos Press, 2010), 60.
Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, 2003), 30.
On Social Justice: St. Basil the Great, trans. C. Paul Schroeder (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), 38. 15
Theodore Damian, “John Chrysostom’s Teaching on Neighborly Love,” in Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition, ed. Matthew J. Pereira (New York: Theotokos Press, 2010), 114.
cally points of commonality between liberation theology and Orthodoxy is not, however, to betray the memory of the millions of martyrs and confessors who suffered from Communist oppression. Instead, it is intended to bring liberationist perspectives into dialogue with Orthodox teaching in a way that encourages the Orthodox to articulate and live with integrity our distinctive vocation on behalf of the poor, needy, and downtrodden with whom Jesus Christ identified Himself. A first point of comparison concerns God’s intentions for the flourishing of the poor. Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian Catholic priest considered the founder of liberation theology, stresses God’s desire to liberate the poor from deprivation, calling for a “preferential option for the poor” grounded in God’s universal love and demanding special consideration for those suffering from social injustice.2 His liberation theology arises from critical reflection on the practical experience of struggling against the social evils experienced by the people of his region.3 Gutierrez teaches that Latin American poverty contradicts the demands of the Gospel proclaimed by Christ.4 He teaches that witnessing to the victory over the tomb requires opposing the unjust oppression and death experienced by the poor.5 Similarly, the Orthodox theologian Olivier-Maurice Clément sees the Lord’s resurrection as calling for the “defeat [of] every form of death, slavery and degradation in human souls and bodies.”6 Peter Bouteneff agrees that the Church’s deepest commitments call for “a consistent life-ethic” that addresses “abortion, reproductive technology, poverty, politics . . . war, healthcare, etc.”7 He sees the liberationists’ focus on “God’s preferential option for the poor” as resonating with the preaching and philanthropic
practice of Basil, John Chrysostom, and other Fathers.8 In this light, a second point of comparison concerns the kind of praxis promoted by each tradition in response to poverty. Gutierrez defines praxis as “a transformative activity that is influenced and illumined by Christian love.”9 He advocates “concrete actions” that show love for neighbors and for Christ, who identifies himself with “our suffering brothers and sisters.”10 He calls for orthopraxy as “doing the truth” in faithfulness to the Lord’s teaching and example.11 Eastern Orthodoxy also calls for actions consistent with right belief and right worship. John McGuckin notes that philanthropia requires deeds that manifest Christ’s love and mercy for human beings. He even calls philanthropy “the fifth mark . . . of the Church’s identity.” St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris would agree: The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead, I shall be asked, Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Savior says “I”: “I was hungry, and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.” To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need.13 In contrast to liberation theology, however, Orthodoxy does not construe praxis in relation to political or revolutionary action, focusing instead on personal acts of compassion. Basil, for example, used his own inheritance to care for the needy and established philanthropic foundations to serve the sick, the elderly, orphans, and the homeless. Insisting that the goods of creation are for the common benefit of
all, he denounced those who hoarded resources as thieves who did not show and would not receive God’s mercy.14 Likewise, Chrysostom founded organizations in Antioch and Constantinople to provide basic necessities to the destitute.15 Basil and Chrysostom saw the physical needs of the poor as manifesting the very body of Christ, so that caring for them was truly a liturgical action. 16 Communion with the Lord in the Eucharist demanded caring for him in the bodies of the poor.17 Liberationist ecclesial communities integrate study, worship, and the pursuit of justice, in some ways paralleling Basil’s integration of philanthropy with communal life and worship. Gutierrez teaches that a community is necessary for living out and celebrating Christian love.18 “The vocation of the entire church to be a church of the poor” is rooted in the universal love of God.19 Following the example of Basil’s philanthropic complex, for centuries Orthodox monastic communities have also undertaken philanthropic ministries addressed to the needs of their neighbors. In the 1930s, St. Maria Skobtsova founded houses of hospitality for the poor in Paris. She later died in a Nazi concentration camp, where she and others in her community were sent as a punishment for assisting Jews.20 In order for Christian action with the poor to be effective, it must be informed by sound knowledge of the relevant social problems to be addressed. Gutierrez finds that the grave circumstances of Latin American poverty call for social scientific analysis, but not in a way that makes theology the servant of other methods or agendas.21 He explicitly rejects the atheistic and totalitarian dimensions of Marxism as well as efforts to synthesize Christianity and MarxThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
ism.22 Indeed, “if there is a meeting, it is between theology and the social sciences, and not between theology and Marxist analysis,” except “insofar as dimensions of Marxism are part of social scientific discourse in Latin America.” And since theology and the social sciences are distinct, independent fields, it is not legitimate “to turn theological reflection into a premise in the service of a specific political choice.”23 Due to Communist persecution, skepticism about the growing influence of secularist agendas, and a focus on true liberation as mystical union with God, Orthodox thinkers have rarely identified themselves with the social analysis of liberation theologians.24 (Clément is certainly atypical in affirming collaboration with “‘open’ Marxists by working for the liberation of the poor and oppressed” and criticizing the economic abuses of the West.25) Yet while it would be anachronistic to look for contemporary modes of analysis in patristic sources, Basil and Chrysostom did bring a critical perspective—appropriate to their time and place—to the question of why so many people were impoverished. For example, Basil commented on the social problems, especially hoarding of resources by the wealthy, that impoverished many to the point of selling their children into slavery in order to survive.26 “If only each one would take as much as he or she requires to satisfy his or her immediate needs, and leave the rest to others who equally needed it, no one would be rich—and no one would be poor.”27 Chrysostom criticized those who used grandiose acts of public generosity to advance their social standing.28 Combating the self-centeredness and pride of the wealthy, he stressed the mutual dependence of rich and poor, while also proclaiming that the needy were superior in the eyes of God. By helping
Susan Holman, The Hungry Are Dying (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 97.
See also Emmanuel Clapsis, “Wealth and Poverty in Christian Tradition,” in Church and Society: Orthodox Perspectives, Past Experiences, and Modern Challenges, ed. George P. Liacopulos, (Boston: Somerset Hall Press, 2007), 97–100.
Gutierrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free, 13. 19
20 Skobtsova, 29. See also Sergei Hackel, Pearl of Great Price: The Life of Mother Maria Skobtsova 1891–1945, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), 1982. 21
Gutierrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free, 58.
them materially, the wealthy benefited themselves spiritually.29
24 See Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988), 10; and Joseph Allen, “An Orthodox Perspective of ‘Liberation,’” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 26:1–2 (1981): 71–80. 25
Basil quoted in Paulo Siepierski, “Poverty and Spirituality: Saint Basil and Liberation Theology,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 33:3 (1988): 319–22.
28 Blake Leyerle, “John Chrysostom on Almsgiving and the Use of Money,” Harvard Theological Review 87:1 (1994): 32. 29
Bartholomew I, Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 160. 31
Even as Basil and Chrysostom analyzed the economic and social systems of their day, contemporary Orthodox scholars may use social scientific methods to understand the conditions that produce current social problems and the means of their structural redress. For example, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew writes that “economic development in itself and the globalization that serves it lose their value when they cause deprivation among the many and excessive concentration of wealth among the few.”30 He states that Orthodoxy affirms economic development that promotes the common good and enables various cultural groups to flourish as they maintain their identities. 31 Current economic conditions have brought “the international elite to . . . new heights of wealth, while the fate of the poorest has visibly worsened.”32 Though explicitly not “advocating sharing of wealth or eradication of poverty through some abstract dogma or Marxist formula,” Bartholomew stresses “the spiritual value of social justice” and the duty of governments to promote the interests of the people.33 Such a vision requires social scientific analysis in order to understand the effects of economic development, globalization, poverty, and other factors. Even as the Ecumenical Patriarch’s advocacy for environmental stewardship draws on contemporary scientific findings about human corruption of the natural world, Orthodox thinkers should also draw on the results of social science in order to address poverty and other social problems.34 A third point of comparison is the role of the Eucharist in shaping an appropriate response to poverty. Gutierrez especially
emphasizes the sacrament’s demand for social action on behalf of the downtrodden: The bond which unites God and man is celebrated—that is, effectively recalled and proclaimed—in the Eucharist. Without a real commitment against exploitation and alienation and for a society of solidarity and justice, the Eucharistic celebration is an empty action, lacking any genuine endorsement by those who participate in it . . . “To make a remembrance” of Christ is more than the performance of an act of worship; it is to accept living under the sign of the cross and in the hope of the resurrection. It is to accept the meaning of a life that was given over to death—at the hands of the powerful of this world—for love of others.35 The petitions in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy call for God to bless the world and its inhabitants with peace and salvation, especially asking for mercy for those who suffer from poverty, illness, captivity, and other forms of human degradation. McGuckin comments that the petitions of the Liturgy present a vision of blessing that is “not spiritually disembodied… but one of body and soul; not an isolated individual phenomenon; but a matter of compassion for all who sail, or journey, or labor, or are sick.”36 Quoting the priest’s exclamation in the Liturgy, “Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all,” Skobtsova emphasizes that communicants join themselves to Christ’s offering on behalf of the world. “In this sense, the liturgy outside the church is our sacrificial ministry in the church of the world, adorned with living icons of God . . .”37 Eucharistic liturgy became the lens through which she saw her service of the poor and oppressed as her participation in the offering of the Lord, a liturgy in daily life. Kalaitzidis
writes that the Eucharist challenges the very premises of unjust and oppressive divisions between people.38 David J. Dunn teaches that those who “systemically preserve the economic divisions that characterize this fallen world . . . violate the communion that Communion is all about.” Following St. Paul’s concern about the neglect of the poor in the Corinthians’ Lord’s Supper, he thinks that “Unworthy Communion is feasting with Christ, yet allowing our sister or brother at home to starve to death . . . Eucharistic worthiness requires opening our tables to those who have nothing good to eat.”39 Basil, Chrysostom, and Gutierrez would surely agree. As an Orthodox priest who studies moral theology and social ethics, I know that this brief discussion has barely skimmed the surface of very profound matters. Nonetheless, bringing these perspectives into dialogue highlights the imperative of Orthodox Christians to find effective ways to show Christ’s love to those who lack the basic necessities of life or live in settings where they are treated as less than human beings in God’s image and likeness. The specific language of “liberation” is not essential to this calling, and neither is any given
school of social or political analysis. What is essential, and perfectly genuine to our faith, is treating others with the love and care due to the living icons of Christ. If we receive his body and blood, we must manifest his healing, blessing, and mercy in tangible ways to the suffering people through whom he is present to us. Their sick, malnourished, and tortured flesh is also his. Yet since no individual exists in isolation, engagement with social, economic, and political problems will often be necessary in order to speak and act in ways that effectively address social injustice and promote orders that support at least a glimpse of the kind of blessed life for which we pray in every liturgical gathering. Earthly realms or ideologies cannot be substantively identified with the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, it is necessary to acknowledge that those who believe in the Incarnation may not abandon their neighbors for the sake of an imaginary and disembodied spirituality that disregards those with whom Christ identified himself. If benefiting them is not a theological imperative, I do not know what is. Surely, every act of mercy is in some way an icon of his Kingdom.
See Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer: The Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I, ed. John Chrysssavgis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003). 35
Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, 265.
David J. Dunn, “Going Away Hungry: The Economics of Eucharistic Worthiness,” in Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition, 274. © 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
The Rev. Fr. Philip LeMasters, Ph.D., is the pastor of St. Luke Orthodox Church in Abilene, Texas, and Professor of Religion and Director of the Honors Program at McMurry University. In addition, Fr. Philip is the Corporate Secretary of the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. Fr. Philip is the author of Toward a Eucharistic Vision of Church, Family, Marriage, and Sex (Light & Life Publishing Company, 2004), The Goodness of God’s Creation (Regina Orthodox Press, 2008), and The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights From Eastern Christianity for Contemporary Believers (Cascade Books, 2014), as well as other books, articles and reviews on Christian theology and ethics.
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Archibishop Iakovos and Dr. Martin Luther King, Montgomery, Alabama, March 1965.
EAST MEETS WEST
On the Righteousness of Rights Susan R. Holman 1
The underlying principles of liberation theology are sometimes linked with Paulo Freire’s influential Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in 1970; see Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum, 2000). On the tradition of liberation theology in Freire’s work, see, Shari J. Stenberg, “Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies: Renewing the Dialogue,” College English 68:3 (2006): 271–90.
Some years ago I was teaching a continuing education course at Providence College on the history of Christian responses to poverty. A fresh-hatched PhD, I could reflect at length on the early Church and a small collection of Cappadocian sermons. But when it came to subject matter after, say, the sixth century, I was at best a running half-step ahead of my students. One day mid-semester, lecturing on what I had learned only days earlier, I found myself praising liberation theology and its ideal of human rights within biblical principles as a near-perfect ideal when, from the back of the room, a veteran nun raised her hand. She had recently returned from years among the poor in Central America. “I know it sounds great when you read the priests and intellectuals,” she said, “but I’ve been there. The reality for ordinary people is not as empowering or positive as all that.” She was voicing more than just her personal observa-
tions from the field; she was also reflecting, I later learned, an underlying hesitancy of Catholic authorities (before Pope Francis) about the politics of liberation theology.1 Our conversation opened my eyes to the complexities of solidarity and human rights, and the equally complex interactions between religious power and talk about liberation. Indeed for some Christians today, a focus on human rights is dismissed as a secular or relative and therefore meaningless construct, or demonized, often (paradoxically) by the same sectors of faith communities that are also most active in global missions and aid activities. Asked why Christians should care about the poor, few may think of human rights. For many ordinary citizens around the world today, Christianity more often evokes concerns about human rights abuses, particularly (for example, in missions aid) an evangelical zeal that runs roughshod over human
dignity and the validity of respect for agency in a fragile incarnation. Yet rights play a huge role in global and public health, and an estimated 40 percent of health care services around the world have faith-based roots. Poverty-relevant rights in such contexts are usually about the basic provision of food, clothing, safe shelter, legal economic justice, and adequate and effective health care delivery. These are known as economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights. Why does it matter that Orthodox Christians take such rights seriously? In this essay I suggest three reasons why Christian ethics support a mindful affirmation of ESC rights. Two of my reasons are largely pragmatic; the third is theological. First—most obviously—basic human moral ethics call us to an other-centered maturity that, for Christians, engages a journey into understanding our fellow human beings as persons who bear and reflect the essential image of God. This view of the human person makes it all the more important to remember that people tend to feel appalled or insulted when treated as objects of “charity.” As C. S. Lewis once put it, “ ‘I don’t want any of your darned Christian charity’ is a very familiar sentence . . . because of course much that is called charity contains so much vanity, self-applause, and veiled contempt that it cannot but be resented.”2 For example, the Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva, was so ashamed by the unequal power dynamics of living on alms from friends after the 1917 Revolution that she felt even saying “thank you” would be a demeaning expression of “paid love . . . an outright offense to the giver as well as the recipient.”3 Charity as kneejerk response to “help a worthy cause” also The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
risks dehumanization when it fails to prove effective delivery, as such gifts are often misdirected, blocked by inattentive, ineffective, or corrupt administrators, or irrelevant, resulting in a partial or total waste. In contrast, if we are committed to ensure someone’s entitlement (both a right and obligation) to realize and enjoy certain essential resources and capabilities, we may be more attentive to following the need for accountability and equity at every step in the chain of resource delivery. And rights talk may counter arrogant patronage by reminding us that giving is a mutual exchange tied to common vulnerabilities, including our own. So the first reason is behavioral: seeing others’ needs through a human rights lens may help prevent well-meaning Christians from acting like jerks. Second, human rights awareness can help foster constructive collaboration. As the journalist Nicholas Kristof put it, “[R]eligious people and secular people alike do fantastic work on humanitarian issues—but they often don’t work together because of mutual suspicions. If we could bridge this ‘God gulf,’ we would make far more progress on the world’s ills.”4 Those engaged in fighting homelessness, humanitarian crises, epidemic and infectious disease, and the life-crippling effects of infant and childhood malnutrition might be more effective if they played together well. To play well, it helps to know the language. Rights vocabulary in aid and development settings commonly assumes two different but related meanings. One is that of legal rights. Most countries’ governments (the U.S. is an exception) have “ratified” or agreed to treat as law the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This means that in any one
2 C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (audio CD) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004). The passage given here is found only in the radio talk, recorded in London by the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation in 1958. 3 Aafke Elisabeth Komter, “Gratitude and Gift Exchange” in The Psychology of Gratitude, ed. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 207. 4 Nicholas Kristof, “Evangelicals without Blowhards,” New York Times blogpost, July 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes. com/2011/07/31/ opinion/sunday/ kristof-evangelicalswithout-blowhards. html?_r=0, accessed 2/25/14. 5 See Alicia Ely Yamin and Siri Gloppen, eds. Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health? (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2011). 6 Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting, and Intent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2000), xi.
7 What follows here is expanded substantially in Susan R. Holman, Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 83-122. On the use of various patristic terms, see also idem, “Healing the world with righteousness? The language of social justice in early Christian homilies,” in Miriam Frenkel and Yaacov Lev, eds., Charity and Giving in Monotheistic Religions (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009), 89–110; and idem, “Out of the Fitting Room: Rethinking Patristic Social Texts on ‘The Common Good,” in Johan Leemans, Brian Matz, and Johan Verstraeten, eds., Reading Patristic Texts on Social Ethics: Issues and Challenges for 21st Century Christian Social Thought (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2011), 103–123. 8 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 14. My translation. 9 Lactantius, Divine Institutes 5.14.16–17, in Lactantius: Divine Institutes, ed./trans. Anthony Bowen and Peter Garnsey (Translated Texts for Historians; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004), 310. 10
of those countries (including very poor nations), international human rights lawyers can rightly enforce change concerning inequities in food, housing, health care, employment, and so forth, although such legal efforts are often immensely difficult, with daunting opposition.5 At the same time, rights language is also used as an appeal to less actionable but equally influential moral ideals. In this context, most governments (including the U.S.) affirm the similar claims found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Although the UDHR has shaped a number of international documents that do have legal power, the UDHR itself is not a legally binding agreement but rather “a statement of more or less abstract moral rights and principles.”6 Whether Christians agree on these principles and laws or not, there is value in knowing how to speak about these texts—and their rules and nuances—if we want to have a voice in the conversation. The two reasons outlined above are largely utilitarian. A third reason helps to ground ESC rights more solidly, as having a legitimate place, in a Christian rhetoric of aid: They belong, theologically. That is, both Christian sacred texts and the exegetical patristic tradition that together inform Christian ethics contain clear statements supporting such rights language and principles.7 Take for example Matthew 25:31–46. This parable of the sheep and goats has shaped most views of Christian philanthropy through the ages, not least for its central theology of Christ in the poor. The actions mandated in this text— feeding, water, clothing, attending, medical care to those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison—are sometimes called “works of mercy.” But while
other biblical texts certainly speak of mercy (or pity), compassion, and kindness as virtues that reflect God’s nature and among the reasons we should treat others likewise, the Matthew parable does not. There is nothing of mercy in this text. The actions it names are criteria for (or against) divine judgment, mandating divestments as acts of “righteousness” or tzedakah, that useful Hebrew word that means both alms and righteousness in the sense of social justice for the other. What is right is to give others their due, whether we see Christ in them or not, and no matter how we feel about it. Patristic texts can be equally clear. In his well-known Oration 14, “On the Love of the Poor,” Gregory of Nazianzus uses the term isotes, which one translator renders “the justice of God,” and isonomia, a Greek political term that could mean either “equity” or “equality of rights.” Appealing to the Garden of Eden before the Fall, Gregory says, “I would have you look back to our primary equality of rights [isonomia], not the later diversity . . .” (Or. 14.26) 8 Lactantius, a Christian convert and tutor to one of the emperor Constantine’s sons in the early fourth century, also appeals to human rights, explicitly and at length, in his Divine Institutes. As “God divides his unique light equally between all, makes springs flow, supplies food,” says Lactantius, and “if ‘he is the same father to everyone,’ so are we all his children with equal rights.”9 Indeed, he adds, “the whole force of justice lies in the fact that everyone who comes into this human estate on equal terms is made equal by it.”10 Lactantius knew firsthand the civil and political violations that stripped Christians of property, legal recourse, and often life itself under the Diocletian persecutions. So it is perhaps notable that he does not
use the new freedoms under Constantine to push for a Christian rhetoric of civil rights. He focuses instead on what he regards as true justice, providing for “the needy and the useless”11 with health care, hospitality, food, decent burial for paupers and strangers, and ransom for captives.
nonetheless insisted that “The crucial issue of these rights is ‘to prevent confrontation and disparity in society.’”14 Despite the thick qualifiers in this statement, it clearly confirmed human rights as valid for Christian efforts to counter social inequities.
Certainly human rights have limits. John Chrysostom may also be under- They are social tools. Whether as justood as an advocate of such entitle- diciable laws on the books or as moral ments. The Protestant ethicist Nicholas principles, rights cannot, even at their Wolterstorff, reflecting on Chrysostom’s best, solve the world’s problems. “We need to stop thinking of human rights call to address human need, writes, as trumps,” wrote the public intellecI see no other way to interpret what John tual Michael Ignatieff. They are rather, is doing with his powerful rhetoric . . . he suggested, than that he is reminding his audience, rich and poor alike, of the natural rights not a secular religion, but something much of the poor . . . . The recognition of natural more limited and yet just as valuable: the rights is unmistakably there: The poor are shared vocabulary from which our arguwronged because they do not have what is ments can begin, and the bare human mintheirs by natural right, what they have a imum from which differing ideas of human flourishing can take root.15 natural right to.12 And the Dutch diplomat, Bas de Gaay Fortman, admitting that “[f]aith-based approaches to human rights cannot be of universal character,” nonetheless argues that through biblical sources “the connection with religion may provide the necessary cultural basis for the struggle for economic, social, and cultural rights.”13 We also find a cautious affirmation of rights in the 2008 Russian Orthodox Bishops’ Council on human dignity, freedom, and rights. This document affirmed the justice of ESC rights in a statement supporting property rights, the right to work, the protection from employers’ malpractices, the legitimacy of the right of free entrepreneurship, and the right to a decent quality of life. Noting an episcopal wish to “keep their ‘moral dimension’ central, and hence to assert the inferiority of rights to religious goals,” the bishops The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
If we agree that “the Christian gospel can support a theologically valid discourse of rights,”16 it may be useful within Christian ethics to think of it as a “dialectical boundary discourse.” This is the view of Ethna Regan, another Roman Catholic nun who has worked first-hand with liberation theology in Central America. That is, Regan notes, “Human rights can never be the centre and goal of ethics but rights discourse is positioned on the margins of ethics as a discourse of protection of the more to which we are called as persons and communities.” In conclusion, in explaining why they believe it is important to help others, people typically appeal to ideas such as justice, community identity (neighbor, kinship, kingdom), the virtue of imitating God’s goodness, and human rights. While all of these motives or ethics can be found in biblical and patristic texts,
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 62. 13
Bas de Gaay Fortman, Political Economy of Human Rights: Rights, Realities, and Realization (London: Routledge, 2011), 129. 14
“The Russian Orthodox Church’s Basic Teaching on Human Dignity Freedom and Rights, Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2008 (Osnovy 2008), IV.8,” http:// www.mospat.ru/ru/ documents/dignity-freedom-rights/, as cited in Alfons Brüning and Evert van der Zweerde, eds, Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights (Eastern Christian Studies 13; Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2012), 280. 15
Michael Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, ed. Amy Gutman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 95. 16
Esther D. Reed, The Ethics of Human Rights: Contested Doctrinal and Moral Issues (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007), 167-8.
Ethna Regan, remarks at Mater Dei Institute, Dublin, Ireland, June 8, 2010, at a launch event for her book, Theology and the Boundary Discourse of Human Rights, http:// www.materdei.ie/ index.cfm/page/ newsarchive/id/61
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
I have focused in this essay on human rights because it is the most controversial. Happily, this is not always the case, and human rights—both ESC rights and civil and political rights— play a crucial role in many faith-based NGOs. But where they do exist, such tensions over the use of human rights language may aggravate an already tragic alienation between polarized but
well-meaning people or service groups. I suggest that precisely because human rights ideals—described as “rights”— have a legitimate place within patristic and biblical tradition, Christians who care about these issues may take up such language fearlessly, albeit with a listening spirit of humility, to engage in synergies with global partners for the health and healing of body and soul.
Susan R. Holman, Ph.D. is a patristic scholar, historian, and Senior Writer at the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University. She is author of four academic monographs, editor of Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society, and co-translator of St Basil the Great: On Fasting and Feasts. This essay draws on ideas developed and expanded in her most recent book, Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).
The Orthodox Church Facing Up to Its Own Challenges Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallin and All Estonia Translated by Michael Berrigan Clark
Note: What follows is the transcript of a talk, translated from the original French. Met. Stephanos was speaking to a group of Orthodox publishers in Paris, in April 2014. The conference was organized by Les Mutuelles Saint-Christophe and the website orthodoxie. com. Met. Stephanos’ remarks have been abbreviated here to fit within our
I come to you from the far north of Europe, from the shores of the Baltic that were until very recently “beyond the iron curtain,” in order to share some ideas with you on the theme: “The Orthodox Church facing up to its own challenges” in today’s world. What indeed will become of the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church which, by the grace of God, will meet in Constantinople in 2016, which is already nearly upon us?
In order for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church to clarify the great questions which have troubled, preoccupied and even divided the Orthodox world for fifty years, it is essential that the council address frankly the Church’s greatest internal challenge, which is its unity. A unity to which a certain “but” is attached, concerning which one must engage in an open, direct, and if possible, loyal debate on the governance of the Church and territorial churches in particular.
To introduce my topic, I would like to cite a significant passage from the speech of the archbishop of Cypress to the Synaxis of the Orthodox Primates in Constantinople from March of this year : We have a presiding bishop.1 It is the life of the Orthodox Church through the centuries that has established him in his place. If one or another from among us thinks that he has taken the wrong path, we have the duty to point it out to him with sincerity in order to find a solution and to call him back, if necessary, to good order. If certain reactions are in order due to the difficult circumstances the Ecumenical Patriarchate is experiencing presently, I recall the words of the Apostle Paul: we carry this treasure in earthen vessels . . . so that it may appear that this exceptional power comes from God and not from us (2 Cor. 4,7). The power is derived neither from context nor from the exterior. It comes from God, whose power is made known in weakness. Furthermore we must recognize the rapid changes and the instability of the things of this world. . . . We are all witnesses of our incapacity to overcome our nationalism, our ethnophyletism. We cannot in this matter imitate either the Roman Catholics or the Muslims. So, for example, the agreement we have concluded for the episcopal assemblies of the “diaspora” is not the best, ecclesiologically speaking. This agreement is a reflection of our attachment to our national churches. I do not want to lecture anyone. . . . I am only pointing out the problem with sadness, all the while recalling the anguished question of the Apostle Paul: is Christ divided? The holy canons, the primacy, ethnophyletism . . . to which could be added— let’s not hide from it—for a certain number of our autocephalous churches, the nature and degree of their integration with the public powers, often the heritage of history, but also today a posture taken with respect to very concrete situations. The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
It is therefore absolutely imperative for the Orthodox Church to put its own house in order, without which how will the Church claim to convince the world that its word is a word of true life, a message of peace, a principal of authentic love? Today, “the image that we give,” according to the words of Patriarch Bartholomew to the Synaxis of Primates, “is an image of disintegration . . . It is time for us to place a priority on unity, unity within each of our churches as well as among them.” The Church exists simultaneously in history and outside of history in an eschatological fashion. The Church’s existence is at the same time synchronic, in other words part of our time, and diachronic, that is to say continuously through time and up to the end of time. This is what some orthodox clergy, theologians, and others seem to forget when they support the idea that the canons of the Church possess neither rules nor ad hoc expectations for the new canonical questions of the second millennium and today due to the fact that the canonical tradition of our Church took form during the first millennium.
space constraints; the omissions consisted entirely of background information on the Church in Estonia and detailed remarks about the challenges of publishing Orthodox material in the European context. 1 Translator’s note: the term “presiding bishop” or “presider” has been chosen to render the French “premier” when used as a noun referring to a Church hierarch.
In other words, we must decide whether these canons, which have held their authority up to our day, have conserved a sufficient dynamic vitality to respond to the needs of an ever-changing world. The calling into question of the canons has led to some impasses. Some have ended up questioning the substantive fundamental institutions of the Church (such as the territorial church and the synod, with its functional consequences) as well as it canonical systems (for example, the current difficulty in defining autocephaly, which constitutes a very serious canonical problem in the regions erroneously referred to as the “diaspora”). Put another way, 21
2 Alexander Schmemann, “Église et organisation ecclésiale,” Le Messager Orthodoxe 146 (2008): 1.
one reduces comprehension to intellectualizing as soon as one loses sight of the fact that the Church has not only the right, but also the vocation and the duty to intervene, to show its eschatological orientation (this is the perspective of the divine liturgy), and to prepare the ground for the human journey (this is the function of the ecclesial canons)—a journey that has as its goal to set right the difference between existence inside of history and the eschatological existence of humankind. As soon as one refuses to admit the diachronic character of the canons, one quickly loses sight of their theological plenitude. Some claim a so-called “canonical void” in various contemporary ecclesio-canonical questions, while others brandish the argument that the canons belong to another age, said to be ancient; to another, culturally different age. “The canons,” wrote Father Alexander Schmemann, “are not juridical documents, nor simple administrative rules, to be applied in a purely formal manner. The canons encapsulate directions on the manner of manifesting and making real in specific circumstances the eternal and unchangeable essence of the Church. This eternal truth expressed in the canons, regardless of the historical situation entirely different from our own in which they were formulated, constitutes the eternal and unchanging content of the canons and makes them an integral part of the Tradition of the Church . . . Fidelity to the canons is fidelity to the totality of Tradition, and this fidelity, according to Father Georges Florovsky, does not mean fidelity to the exterior authority of the past, but a living connection to the plenitude of the Church. References to Tradition are not just historical arguments, and Tradition cannot be reduced to ecclesiastical archeology.”2
Rather than having a sterile debate on this question, capable of generating perpetual confusion or leading to the unjustifiable rejection of the canons, it seems necessary to approach our theological point of departure from an entirely different perspective. More analytically and with a goal of clarifying matters, it would be useful to separate precisely the historical data from the diachronic theology that flows from the canons, in such a way that today’s world can recognize this theology’s true value, as well as its consequences for the life of the Church, the world, and each one of us. Then it will be clear that for the canonical Tradition of the Church there are no impasses, because the Tradition possesses axial means to overcome them and to find a way out, provided the “builders” of whom the Gospels speak agree to coordinate their efforts so that they can “see in common” instead of rejecting the rock, which finally, in spite of them and because God alone wills it, will become the chief cornerstone (Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, 1 Pet. 2:7). The greatest challenge in our day, one that is truly shaking Orthodoxy, is the challenge of its unity. But whoever says unity must also speak of “a presiding bishop.” In the Orthodox Church, only the bishop of each ecclesiastical structure can assure its unity in his role as its first in rank. It is the case for each diocese where the bishop alone has the privilege of presiding at the Eucharist (the priest can only act in this capacity if he is mandated to do so by his bishop); it is the case as well on the level of a metropolitan eparchy where the guarantor of the unity of the local churches that constitute that eparchy is the presiding bishop, whether he is metropolitan (according to the ancient taxis), patriarch or archbishop. Such is the meaning of the 34th canon of the
apostles, that deals with the relation of the presiding bishop with his other bishops and vice versa, and which, throughout the centuries, has preserved in the bosom of our Church the notion of synodality. In no case can the presider be an impersonal presence, an interpersonal collective, or an abstract thought. Synodality does not suppress hierarchical order, since the form of governance of the Church is synodally hierarchical and hierarchically synodal. Otherwise, it is just chaos. It is in this manner that our Church has been able to avoid, institutionally as well as in its practical life, falling into what could have been either a form of centralization of the “Roman” or “papal” sort, or a form of anarchical ecclesial behavior of the Protestant variety. What is valid for each territorial Orthodox church is also the case on the inter-orthodox level. The Ecumenical Patriarch, in his role as presiding bishop, is not simply an honorific president, without authority, for Pan-Orthodox Councils, contrary to what the expression primus inter pares might leave one to suppose . . . as soon as one doesn’t take the trouble to deepen one’s knowledge theologically and ecclesiastically . . . as soon as one forgets that the primacy is part of the structures of the Church. It is indispensable that a presiding bishop be able to address himself to the heads of the territorial churches in the name of the universal Church, “not to dominate,” as Patriarch Athenagoras said, “but to serve the fullness of each local Church by reminding it of its responsibilities toward Orthodoxy as a whole.” And besides, as far as the primatial service ministry is concerned: “The primate, who belongs to no national church, finds himself liberated from ethnic limitations, from national pride, which, even legitimate, shrink the horizon. His mission is to care for the universal character of The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
orthodoxy and this is indeed what the qualifier ecumenical means.”3 The fact that at the last two Synaxes of the Primates—in 2008 and 2014—two primates, Ignatius of Antioch of blessed memory and Chrysostom of Cyprus, intervened to remind all very clearly that “we have a presiding bishop and we know where he is”; the facts of the recent arbitrary suppression of the qualifier “Ecumenical” from the title of the Patriarch of Constantinople by the Church of Moscow and the return in force of the myth of the third Rome— formally condemned by the Council of Moscow of 1666–1667 but popular again on the pretext that, since the Church of Russia has the largest number of faithful, it is to this church that leadership naturally falls, the primacy of the ecumenical see being reduced recently to an honor without content; the fact that the territorial church aims first to be identified with the national church, reinforced by the application of the notion of autocephaly to that same national church (ethno-phyletism, nationalism)—all these factors, considered all together, have resulted in a state in which autocephalous churches consider themselves as totally independent from one another, defining Orthodoxy as a sort of confederation of sister churches and not as one Church. The Western media, when they speak of us, use the expression “the Orthodox churches” more easily than “the Orthodox Church.”
3 Olivier Clément, Dialogues avec le Patriarche Athénagoras (Paris: Fayard, 1969), 526–527.
As long as universal orthodoxy does not recognize unanimously the existence of a presiding bishop at the very highest level of the ecclesiastical structure—as a reminder, the holy canons of the Second and the Fourth Ecumenical Councils, of Constantinople (381) and of Chalcedon (451) accorded to the Patriarch of Constantinople privileges equal to those of the Roman Pontiff— then the Church will only go from di23
vision into division. One example: in ecumenical dialogues, we know all too well that we can no longer convince our interlocutors of our ontological unity. Let’s recognize it: we are very concerned with a synchronic union of our churches and hardly at all any more with our diachronic unity.
level of that famous “sobornost” that the Church proclaims with such pride to all passers by, its true spiritual and ecclesiological characteristics, which will cause it to turn entirely and exclusively toward the essentials of its mission whose ultimate feature is the salvation of the world.
Orthodoxy has totally forgotten that the sign of divine election is neither in number, nor in force, nor in the power and the riches of this world but in a certain historical weakness… As long as the mentality of taking power according to the conceptions and behaviors of this world has a part in the thoughts of our churches, it will be practically impossible to find enough wisdom and humility to come back to what is essential: in other words, how to express concretely our unity and our universality.
What witness to Christ will we Orthodox bear in the future?
The opening of the Pan-Orthodox Great and Holy Council is planned for Pentecost of the year 2016, unless some major obstacle intervenes before then to place it in jeopardy. What will be the contribution of the Fathers who will take part and with what intentions will they assume their contribution? On this topic, a little anecdote. During the Second Vatican Council, seventy outlines had been submitted in debates with the bishops in a system that the Roman curia thought to have carefully sealed shut. But a grain of sand made it all implode. From the first session, only a few minutes were needed—and the quiet boldness of Msgr. Liénart, progressive bishop of Lille—for the people of God to reappropriate this council and all the hopes that had been placed in it . . . . And now the lesson for us who await our Council: what can seem insurmountable, God can overcome and unleash an immense tsunami so that Orthodoxy can finally reclaim, at the 24
What comprehensible responses will we give not only to our own faithful but to the immense number of those who are searching? How will we render the Word of Christ accessible? How will we accompany those seekers of light in their professional work or in unemployment, in family life, in the education of children and our youth in general, in the trials and the divisions that make their mark on every life? These are the fundamental questions that I would like to see addressed by the media and, specifically, here in this Orthodox publishing house, through the printed word, in all of its aspects and in all its genres: from comic strip to novel, from theological and philosophical treatises to art books, from paperback editions to the rebinding of precious antiquities. I would like to share with you the thoughts that I pondered during my travels from Tallinn to Paris, on the incongruities of Providence. My parents were Cypriots, but I was born in Congo [francophone Africa]; I was happy there, and then it came time for me to pursue my studies in Paris. I was a young intellectual eager for knowledge, and then I found myself launched into a pastoral func-
tion. Finally, fulfilling my duties as bishop in Nice until a certain Sunday in March of 1999, I found myself in Tallinn the next Sunday as head of a church that some categorized as a “phantom”! Today I look at all the work accomplished and I say to myself: God always manages to come full circle with a great deal of humor. Providence is not so bad! You must understand that these multiple experiences are a great encouragement to gain perspective on contingencies from a distance, and to measure the insignificance of our quarrels— quarrels that the world might describe as “Byzantine.” The truth is that those who question the meaning of their lives, the powers of the mind or spirit, the need to open oneself to others, those persons ask us to be credible in the affirmation of our faith. But how are we to be credible if we are not readable? I mean visible and readable, in France, in Europe, everywhere in the world, along side the Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and non-believers. We are not visible as Christians for the “gentile of the outer courtyard” who believes in a supreme being, but not in eternal life.
We are not readable as Orthodox for the one who claims to be Christian and believes in God, sometimes in a trinitarian God, but knows of us only from our icons, our chant and our incense. We are hardly credible at all, especially here in the “diaspora,” except in the sense of being highly instructed in arcane matters. . . . The Orthodox people as a whole are lost in ethnic jurisdictions, patriarchates, exarchates, the subtleties of ritual, liturgical languages and languages of common use, the control of a parish by such an association and of some other parish by another association. We are walking in a thick fog and yet we are surprised that no one recognizes us. I conclude: my wish, for the benefit of the preparation of our Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council, is that this fog might dissipate so that we might be really visible, readable, and credible. This Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church ought to be the affair of us all. You can be sure, all of you here in the publishing world, on social networks and with the media, you have your own part in it. . . . How impenetrable are the ways of the Lord, even in Orthodoxy. I thank you all.
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
His Eminence Metropolitan Stephanos (Charalambides) of Tallinn and All Estonia is the primate of the autonomous Church of Estonia. He has held this position since 1999. He received a Master of Theology from St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris and a degree of lector from the Sorbonne. He serves as secretary of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France as well as lector at St. Sergius Institute and professor of patrology at the Roman Catholic seminary in Nice.
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Meetings About Meetings Impressions of the OTSA-Fordham Meeting in Preparation for the Great and Holy Council of 2016
Gregory Tucker Note: Short papers from the conference may be found on the blog of Fordham’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center at publicorthodoxy.org
When Orthodox scholars get together, we rarely talk directly about the future. But occasionally the pressing needs of our time demand such a conversation. The near future is an exciting time for Orthodoxy: His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch has called a representative council of bishops to convene in Istanbul next spring, and many hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a unified effort to address the manifold issues facing the Church in (post-)modernity. But the deliberations of a recent gathering of Orthodox scholars in New York, which discussed the Council’s agenda, suggest that this hope might remain unfulfilled. The idea of convening a substantial delegation of Orthodox theologians to consider the agenda for the forthcom-
ing Great and Holy Council was first mooted at an intensive study day on this theme, hosted by the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University in October 2014. At that meeting, a hand-picked panel of twenty-five international scholars agreed to pursue further dialogue, and the Center directors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou took that proposal to the Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA), who agreed to collaborate. At the subsequent gathering, members of OTSA and their guests were invited to proffer papers on topics related to the Great and Holy Council, and several papers on adjacent topics were also accepted. As a result, this year’s annual meeting of OTSA was cosponsored by the
Orthodox Studies Center, and the resources available through the Center and its benefactors enabled the gathering of a far larger delegation than in the past. This included several prominent international theologians, among them Pantelis Kalaitzidis, director of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in Greece; Nicholas Kazarian of the Institut de théologie orthodoxe SaintSerge, Paris; and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), from the United Kingdom. Gayle Woloschak, OTSA president and member of the Wheel advisory board, acknowledged the great significance of the new partnership between OTSA, which is recognized by the Assembly of Orthodox Canonical Bishops of North America, and the Center at Fordham, which is rapidly gaining high repute as a major academic locus of Orthodox Studies in the English-speaking world. The agenda of the OTSA-Fordham meeting was set by that of the forthcoming Council—fixed as long ago as 1976. There are ten topics on the agenda (fasting regulations, impediments to marriage, the calendar, ecumenical relations, the ordering of the diptychs, autonomy and autocephaly, the process for granting autocephaly, the presence of Orthodox Churches at the World Council of Churches, and issues of “peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples and the suppression of racial discrimination”), but it is known that not all of them are to be discussed at the Council, and not all can expect to achieve the consensus required to effect change. The conference was built around a combination of traditional presentations and panel sessions—a new format for OTSA, in which five scholars were invited to make prepared comments on a given topic before a wider conversation commenced with questions and comments from the floor. The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
This arrangement provided an opportunity for an honest assessment of the conciliar agenda and contemporary issues facing Orthodoxy in America. Despite moments of disagreement and tension, it was encouraging to see experts in their respective fields engaging one another openly and addressing contemporary topics directly, with a shared commitment to the well-being and growth of Orthodoxy. Fordham’s Manhattan campus opened its doors to a much-expanded audience for the conference’s keynote address, the annual Florovsky Lecture, given this year by His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia. Metropolitan Kallistos delivered a characteristically erudite and witty presentation on his chosen theme, “The Decisive Importance of Councils in the Life of the Church,” considering both the history of conciliar theology and the current state of affairs. In his wide-ranging lecture, he commented at length on the popular question of whether the forthcoming Council should be anticipated as another Ecumenical Council. Outlining various criteria for ecumenicity, His Eminence concluded that only the reception of the council as “ecumenical” by the Church as a whole could secure such status, adding that, “when and how and where the Truth is made manifest in the Church, we cannot predict.” In the course of the main proceedings, discussion focused on several key topics. The first of these were autocephaly and the so-called “diaspora”—matters of utmost importance to those of us living outside the boundaries of traditional Orthodox canonical territories, but also affecting those in modern nation-states, such as Ukraine. The conference expressed a strong desire that the needs and challenges of the diaspora should be represented directly to the Council, and while it seems that 27
some bishops from outside the traditional territories will be involved (for instance, the number of bishops of the Patriarchate of Antioch who reside within the territories of that autocephalous church is too small to fill their allotted quota of representative seats at the Council, so they will need to take bishops from their diaspora churches), this will not be as the result of a conscious effort to respond to the situation of Orthodoxy globally. The conference also debated the appropriateness of the term diaspora for describing the situation of Orthodox Christians located outside traditional canonical territories, especially in North America—and the use of the term for that purpose was almost unanimously rejected. An informal survey of those present showed that very few of the scholars regard themselves as part of a diaspora community and many felt that viewing the Church here as merely an offshoot of ancient patriarchal sees inhibited the ability of the Church to grow and embed itself in the context in which it finds itself today. An update was given on the discussions of the Assembly of Orthodox Canonical Bishops of North America, created at the instigation of the Pre-conciliar meetings with the purpose of considering how to bring Orthodoxy in the United States to unity. While the hierarchs continue to note their increased fraternal love, it appears that nationalist and ethnic interests remain as insurmountable stumbling blocks in the path to unity, with the North American jurisdictions unable even to agree that an administratively unified and canonically regular Church in North America should be the immediate goal of conversations. Encouragingly, this situation was met with widespread criticism among the conference delegates, who identified both the historical contexts which have 28
produced the present situation (multiple emigrations of Orthodox populations to America and the administrative presuppositions of Byzantium), and the theological and missiological imperatives for resolving the current crisis. A closely related conversation focused on the need for the Church to engage the challenges of modernity, rather than dismissing them and retreating into an idealized past. This theme appeared in almost all the panel sessions held across the two days and revealed considerable differences of opinion between the OTSA members as to what such an engagement would entail. Some spoke of this project as primarily an exercise in uncovering and reiterating the tenets of Orthodoxy to an increasingly deaf and uninterested world, and continuing to oppose what appears to be a deviation from the path carved out by the Orthodox Church. Others advocated for new approaches to fresh challenges. This requires that we no longer rely on the idea that every possible question concerning the proclamation and implementation of the Gospel has been answered by the Church in the past, but that we rather recognize the need to live the patristic life by embedding the Gospel in our culture. Only in this way can Orthodoxy respond with maturity and humble confidence to the seemingly permanent new realities of pluralistic cultures and globalization, which were unimaginable even in the recent past. These discussions, and the “panel of experts” format of the conference’s plenary sessions, highlighted the importance of involving educated specialists in contemporary conversations, so that those conversations might be informed by the labors of research and learning. The conference noted that the pre-conciliar process has involved experts and non-hierarchs, including North Amer-
ican Orthodox theologians such as the late Protopresbyter John Meyendorff and Archpriest John Erickson, but expressed concern that it appears that the Council itself will consist only of bishops—a departure from the practice of the ancient councils. Many conference delegates also lamented the absence of the laity in general and women in particular in the conciliar structures. The most heated discussion of the conference took place during the panel session on “Canonical Impediments to Marriage,” and surrounded, unsurprisingly, the issue of same-sex marriage and the place of LGBTQ persons in the Church. The conversation was somewhat energized by the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutional right of persons to enter samesex marriages, which coincided with the first day of the meeting. The clamorous debate over this topic revealed how divisive it is within the Orthodox community, and brought into the open the reality that the Church’s theologians are in disagreement and confusion over current mainstream teaching and disciplinary practices within Orthodoxy. But it also revealed more important realities: that the intellectual life of the Orthodox Church is diverse and lively, that there is a willingness to debate and discuss among those Orthodox who have devoted their lives to intellectual pursuits, and that investing resources in creating contexts for such conversations should be a priority for the Church. The topics that took center stage at the OTSA-Fordham conference have also shown something else about the forthcoming Council that really is of the greatest importance: the agenda is way off the mark. Rarely in the course of the two-day discussions did the dialogue stick within the bounds of the topics defined by the conciliar agenda and expounded in the pre-concilThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
iar documents. Frequently, following vivid, informed debate, the topics appeared to be inward-looking, pedantic, and outdated. While the hierarchs will attempt to agree on the order of precedence among themselves and whether even to recognize the existence of the hierarchies that minister to millions of Orthodox Christians across the globe, they will almost certainly remain silent on the plague of Orthodox nationalism and of the cooperation of the Church with totalitarian secular power, the rise of theological fundamentalism, and the violence which continues to erupt between groups of Orthodox Christians. It seems unlikely that the Council will address the widespread corruption by political power that afflicts many clergy in traditional Orthodox lands; nor will they address tragic moral failures of global proportions, such as the modern-day enslavement of sex workers and the refugee crises that dominate life in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and increasingly, Europe. This is to say nothing of the narrowly ecclesiastical issues such as the comprehensibility of liturgical languages and a resolution of the dispute over the calendar. Rarely is the parish priest confronted by a parishioner lamenting, “Father, I have not slept for worrying about the order of the diptychs,” as Metropolitan Kallistos quipped in his lecture, but perhaps that parishioner does lose sleep because of the schizophrenia induced by a Church that refuses to allow the Gospel to transfigure the realities of the world we experience, preferring an imaginary alternative with hypothetical issues. In short, the recent meeting in New York highlighted the need for the Orthodox Church to engage in an intelligent, rational conversation with modernity. One delegate made a comment to the effect that, unless the Orthodox Church makes modernity and post-modernity its own, modernity and post-modernity 29
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
will happen to the Church, and we will have no resources to control the outcome. While some commentators and participants in the conference have expressed the desire only to see a peaceful Council come to pass, in the hope that its mere occurrence will herald a renewal of Orthodox witness in the modern world, I hold out for the Holy Spirit to bring about something far
greater—genuine conversations about hard questions, which do not degenerate into apologetics, politicking, and character defamation. That hope is perhaps for now too great, considering the restriction of the 1976 agenda. So what are we to make of next year’s Council? I shall leave the last word to Metropolitan Kallistos: “Don’t expect too much— if it happens . . .”
Gregory Tucker is a PhD candidate at Fordham University. He received his BA and MSt from the University of Oxford and his MA from St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. His research interests lie in the areas of Patristic and Byzantine theology and liturgy. He has recently completed a survey of the history and theology of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Orbis, forthcoming 2016).
STATE OF AFFAIRS
Religion and Politics in Russia: an Insider’s View Xenia Loutchenko interviewed by Christopher Stroop The prominent Russian journalist and commentator on religion and society Xenia Loutchenko and I sat down over coffee at a Moscow cafe on May 8, 2015. During our interview, we discussed the meaning of Christian politics; religion and politics in Putin’s Russia; her work unpacking connections between American and Russian social conservatives, including a former Fox News employee’s work on a far right Russian Christian media project; and what she would like American audiences to know about the 30
state of Russia’s predominant Church. The author of Mothers: Priest’s Wives on Themselves and Their Lives (Matushki: Zheny sviashchennikov o zhizni i sebe, [Nikeia: 2015]), Loutchenko is a regular contributor to the independent Orthodox Christian media outlet Pravmir (Orthodox World), which publishes a limited quantity of its material in English, and a contributor to liberal Russian news outlets such as Colta. I have translated the interview from Russian and edited it for length and clarity.
Christopher Stroop: Xenia, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I certainly want to talk about our mutual interest in the collaborative efforts of ideologically oriented American and Russian religious conservatives, a topic we’ve both written about, but first I’d just like to invite you to say a bit about yourself and your career. Why did you decide to write about religion, and what are your current and future plans? Xenia Loutchenko: Why did I choose to write about religion? Well, you could say that in part it was accidental. It was the 1990s, when everything was very different here. The Church was also very different. I was an Orthodox Christian, but not particularly active. I studied in the Journalism Faculty at Lomonosov Moscow State University; there was a study group dedicated to religious journalism, but I only went to a few of its individual seminars, which were led by Fr. Georgy Chistyakov, a disciple of Fr. Alexander Men. I had an instructor named Maria Lukina—she taught specialized courses on religion and media. I started to write a course paper for her and got interested in just finding out what was out there in terms of Orthodox Christian media, I interned for a television project, and I just ended up going in this direction. At a time before most people realized the significance of the Internet, for a while I became the sole academic expert on how the Russian Orthodox Church was utilizing new technology, although this is no longer the primary focus of my work. I’m now more interested in people. I’ve ended up working on gender, although I didn’t originally plan to, and I continue to do work that could be described as personal narratives, oral history.
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CS: Is there such a thing as liberal Orthodox Christianity in Russia, and do you consider yourself a liberal Orthodox Christian? XL: You know, it’s a strange time, because now there’s this impulse for everyone to divide themselves into two camps, liberals and conservatives. But liberalism, it seems to me, concerns one’s political views, whereas Christianity is about faith. These are distinct categories. I’m not a big fan of these labels, but politically, within contemporary Russian reality, I can of course count myself among the liberals. CS: And within the Church, I suppose, it’s complicated. XL: Well, if we get back to the original meaning of the term, then all Christians are liberals, because we have a Gospel that proclaims freedom, freedom of choice, the dignity of the individual. CS: But nevertheless there are a lot of Christians who want to discipline other people’s behavior. Are Christians really for the freedom of all? XL: Well, in my understanding that’s a perversion of the Gospel’s teaching. You can only control your own decisions. If we take the teaching of the Savior to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, etc., literally, then that means you should tell people about Christ, about choosing that path, but not do things the other way around, first establish prohibitions, and then say that’s Christ. CS: So you’re saying that religion and politics should be completely separate things?
XL: No. But what’s called political Orthodoxy in Russia today is an absolute caricature and has nothing in common with normal politics; we don’t have normal political processes. This “battle for traditional values” in Russia is contrived, it’s PR. CS: So what is a genuine Christian politics? What does that look like? XL: Well, people will participate in political processes in accordance with their convictions. Some European politicians, also some from South America, Catholics, they work for the passage of laws that support the poor, provide a social safety net for the have-nots. They’re for a return to humaneness in politics, wanting to make sure that first of all people’s needs are met, and then we can talk about the interests of the state, the interests of the nation, etc. That’s Christian politics. CS: All right then, let’s go ahead and talk a bit about Russian and American religious conservatives. In the English-language press in recent years there’s been a lot of discussion of the exporting or globalization of the American culture wars, that is, battles for so-called “traditional” and “family” values. The connections between 32
Russians and Americans in this respect actually go deeper into history than most people know. For example, Cole Parke of Political Research Associates has taken note of the influence of the Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin on the founder of the World Congress of Families, Allan Carlson. Parke also points out the influence of other Russians on Carlson; the influence here is not one-sided. How would you assess the current situation? What have Russian culture warriors borrowed from Americans? And what might you be able to say about influence in the other direction? XL: In terms of connections, in the early ‘90s, when the Russian anti-abortion movement began, there was heavy American influence, our entire pro-life discourse is connected with America—we got films, materials, in Russian translation. There was the Life Center, associated with Fr. Maxim Obukhov— they started this whole program about abortion, they worked with Protestant organizations. And then later, as this whole rhetoric of traditional values gained popularity, the current head of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, he created the forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” [currently co-chaired by the Packey J. Dee Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, Fred Dallmayr – C.S.], which has been taking place on Rhodes for more than ten years, where he gathers retired and active European and American politicians and social actors. To use an analogy, it’s sort of like a traditionalist version of the Soviet exportation of Communism. It’s a right-wing International. I can’t say anything definitive about this, but there also seems to be financial influence from the Russian side. Marine Le Pen received a loan from Russia, for example.
CS: So the goal for these sorts of Russian initiatives is to influence European and American politics, yes? XL: Yes, and I see that in Europe it’s very successful. We shouldn’t underestimate this, because Putin is loved in Europe. Many Italians love him, for example. There’s also a serious split in the contemporary Russian diaspora. A significant proportion is very pro-Russian, pro-Putin, but it seems that this is partially connected with the overly zealous anti-Russian views of the Western press, its frequent use of unverified information. It’s very aggressive, and this creates a natural desire on the part of those with Russian roots to respond defensively. CS: To get back to Russian society, you’ve said that these culture warring efforts, including those undertaken in collaboration with Americans and Europeans, are by and large “PR,” but are they really so superficial? If you look at the results of public opinion surveys, for example, you can see that by some measures homophobic attitudes have increased in Russia since 2012. These efforts do get some results, don’t they? XL: Of course they do. I don’t mean to say that these organizations are ineffective, the techniques they’ve imported, particularly from America, in terms of political lobbying and activism, can be very effective. The kinds of techniques that far right American Christians have introduced in Uganda, for example, are also being used by our politicians, such as [Elena] Mizulina and [Irina Yarovaya]. But what I mean when I say these efforts are PR is that the people who are making them here don’t themselves believe in what they’re doing. Most of our politicians who are screaming The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
about patriotism, their children live in Europe. This is why the sanctions actually seriously bother them. They all get health care abroad. CS: To get back to connections between Russia and America, did you read Pat Buchanan’s article, “Whose Side Is God on Now?” XL: Yes. I don’t systematically read everything in the Western press, but Buchanan is well known, and I did glance through that piece. CS: Well, the general idea here is that some far right American conservatives are really drawn to Putin—they praise him, for example, for actively opposing the LGBTQ community. There was this interesting moment after Putin signed the law banning so-called “propaganda” of so-called “non-traditional” relationships in 2012. This legislative initiative made a big impression on American religious conservatives, and not a few of them praised Putin for it. There’s this myth that some still insist that he’s going to save “Christian civilization.” XL: When it comes to American and European right-wing actors placing big hopes on Putin, I don’t know, it’s very strange, because generally American conservatives have been largely anti-Russian. I also find it funny to read all the time that “Christian civilization” is threatened by gay men and lesbians. It’s some kind of absurd joke. And yet serious people, people with higher education, with postgraduate degrees, politicians, they can talk about this seriously for hours. These people themselves ought to go to a psychiatrist. As if sexual ethics could bring down civilization. It’s nonsense. But of all these “cannibalistic” Russian laws, that one that troubles me 33
the most personally is the Dima Yakovlev Law. This is real cannibalism, when you see the terrible conditions in which these children are living in orphanages, how they suffer without access to proper health care. And when it comes to the issue of adoption, it’s absolutely clear that America is one of the global leaders, in terms of society’s attitude toward adoption, in terms of the social support that adopted children get. We ought to thank Americans who adopt for helping us save these children, and for the fact that they can love them, while some people here can’t. Sure there have been a few horror stories, but so many happen here as well, nothing can completely prevent that. I can’t admire the man who signed this ban into law. CS: That law is of course not popular with American religious conservatives. XL: So you see how they selectively love Putin. CS: Well at this point things with Russia are more complicated for the American religious right than they were in 2012. It seems to me that 2014 was a kind of turning point; after all, in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the World Congress of Families was forced to withdraw its official sponsorship from the September 2014 international Forum on Large Families and the Future of Humanity that took place in the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. As a result of the Ukraine crisis, for the most part prominent American religious conservatives have dumped Putin. Of course, not all of them were behind him in the first place, and there are also exceptions. XL: Yes, the interests of American conservative “imperialists” are now 34
completely at odds with the interest of Russian conservative “imperialists,” who really remain essentially Soviet in terms of their ideology. The methods are the same, as well as the cynicism. They’ve now replaced Communism with Orthodox Christianity, but it’s still the same Soviet consciousness. Of course, if American conservatives had known more about the realities of life in the Soviet Union, they’d have also found a lot to admire. It was always said that there was no sex in the USSR. For some time there were tough restrictions on divorce, which was controlled by the Party; the USSR defended the family; we had a medal for Heroic Mothers. Homosexuality was against the law. CS: Let’s talk a bit specifically about Konstantin Malofeev [he has been called “God’s Oligarch”—C.S.] and his project Tsargrad TV, which has been described as having the ambition to become a sort of Russian Orthodox Fox News, and your work on Malofeev’s collaboration with the former Fox News employee Jack Hanick. You followed that up with an interview with Hanick, who objected to your suggestion that he was involved with the ideological aspects of Tsargrad TV, even though we know he participated in a roundtable in Russia involving Malofeev and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, in which he asserted that God had called Russia to defend traditional values. Do you find his insistence that he is not involved in the ideological aspects of Tsargrad TV convincing? And how would you assess Tsargrad TV itself? Is Hanick still working on the project? XL: I don’t know 100 percent, but it seems that he still is. Regarding whether he influences the project’s politics, it’s hard to say. For one thing,
he’s an American who doesn’t speak Russian at all, and for that reason there are certain realities that he just can’t grasp, certain detailed aspects of the work over which he clearly can’t have influence. On the other hand, it’s clear that the content produced for Tsargrad TV doesn’t cause him any qualms. I don’t know, but I suppose that he is probably paid very well. The quality of the content shows that quite a bit has been invested in Tsargrad TV, and they had to convince Hanick to move from America to Russia. But on the other hand, they didn’t find him accidentally or randomly. However he got introduced to the project, its politics doesn’t seem to run counter to his own convictions. CS: Okay, last question. What would be the one thing you would want to pass along to Western readers either about Orthodox Christianity in general or the Russian Orthodox Church in particular? What should contempo-
rary Americans know about the religious situation in Russia? XL: Hmm, if they want to learn about Orthodoxy, Americans ought to read their own Fr. Alexander Schmemann. I think that will be more or less enough for them to get acquainted with an Orthodox view of the world, Orthodox views on the Church, life, the liturgy, the Gospel. As far as life in Russia goes, it’s important to understand that Russian Orthodox Christianity is quite diverse; that, like many things in Russia, it’s difficult to describe, because as soon as you come up with a general rule, you think of a bunch of exceptions. But this is why it’s inaccurate to form judgments about Russian Orthodoxy based on the official picture. It’d be much more productive to learn about the lives of individual people or what priests do at the local level—of course there’s a wide variety of things going on, it’s a big, interesting world that rhetoric can’t begin to fully capture.
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
Christopher Stroop is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the History Department at the University of South Florida. He is also a freelance writer, a senior research fellow in the School of Public Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and editor of the academic journal State, Religion and Church. Follow him on Twitter @C_Stroop. Xenia Loutchenko is a freelance journalist and an expert on religious issues in the Russian media and the role of the media in church–public relations. She graduated from the Department of Journalism of Moscow State University in 2001 and in 2009 defended her PhD thesis on “The Internet in Information and Communication Activities of Religious Organizations in Russia.” Loutchenko is the author of The Orthodox Internet: Guidebook (2004, 2006), a book on the lives of priests’ wives (2012), and dialogues with Priest Sergei Kruglov (2015).
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891–1945)
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
The Parisians who observed her Bargaining with the greengrocer For a better deal on potatoes Had no category for her, So confusing to them was The garb of a Russian nun. (But, inured to their stares, She continued, weighing The sorry state of the leeks Against their reduced price, Adding them, skeptically, To her bag.) Later (it’s always later), Her confusing persona Was revealed to be Nothing other than a sign Of the anomaly she’d become Among humankind The moment she understood Cross and resurrection To be the same thing, Rather than cause and effect. (As the apples seemed salvageable, She took some of those too.) That cigarette hanging from her mouth: Her antidote to the odor of sanctity. (A couple cabbages more, And she continued on her way home.)
David O’Neal is a book editor who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. His essays and poetry are archived on his blog, Nonidiomatic (http://davensati54.blogspot.com).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Present and Future of the Church Mother Maria (Skobtsova) Translated by Vera Winn
No matter what kinds of hardships and torments the Church endures throughout her history, for Orthodox Christians the fundamental promise of the Church stays unchanged—the Gates of Hell will not overcome her. We can question the survival of our homeland, we can even believe that no country, no society, no way of life is marked for eternity. The only unquestionable thing is that the Gates of Hell will not overcome the eternal life of the Church. In the days of the Second Coming and the Last Judgment, it will be the same Church that was founded on the feast of Pentecost. Unfortunately, this fundamental hope of the Orthodox Christian does not eradicate all the difficulties and doubts related to the historical existence of our Church. The Church is eternal, but that does not guarantee that the power behind the Gates of Hell would not call for the persecution of the Church, distort her historical essence, and force her again and again to hide in the catacombs. Nor does it mean that her truth victoriously and eternally reigns over the world. We believe in the ultimate victory of the Church, but, alas, we also know that throughout the entire history of the Church, this victory has never been achieved and will not be fully achieved until the end of the world. The worldwide victory of the Church is prevented, first of all, by the presence The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
of evil, the devil himself, who will fight her until the end of the world. And secondly, it is hampered by the fact that the Church, being not only a divine but also a human institution, accommodates—along with her members—all human predispositions, weaknesses, sins, and vices. These always affect the life of the Church and prevent her from shining gloriously and triumphing over the world.
A presentation given in March 1936 at a monastic meeting in Paris chaired by Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgiyevsky)
Over the two thousand years of the Church’s existence, human intervention has been distorting it in two ways. The Church has either been under persecution, or under the patronage of the state. Now the age of persecution has come again. For twenty years, our Church has been enduring persecutions in Russia. It is difficult to tell which is harder for the Church and what distorts her image more—the persecutions or the state’s patronage? Persecutions first claim the most avid and devoted children of the Church for death and martyrdom. They corrupt the weak who begin to denounce, betray, or break away from the faith. They destroy the opportunity for preaching and teaching, they suppress freedom of speech, and thus deprive entire generations of the truth of the Gospel. In the time of persecutions, past and present, the Church has had to hide in catacombs so her voice was no longer heard among all, and the external signs of the Church’s life ceased 37
to be seen. Such are some of the tribulations of the ongoing persecution of the Church. Yet persecutions also manifest the holiness of the Church, they unite her true disciples, they purify her life from tepidness, banality, indifference, and superficiality. Persecutions unite our “little flock” and exact a selection that is like a test before that judgment that faces us in the last days. State patronage slowly implants unсhurchly concepts into the Church’s life. It falsifies the image of Christ, it shifts the planes. The Church is gradually transformed into a social institution. She becomes a bureaucratic organization corrupted by the non -Christian ideals imposed by the state. Such adulteration of the Church’s body goes so far that even the Church hierarchs declare the validity of capital punishment from a Christian perspective, and plead for the inseparability of the Church and Monarchy. Church membership becomes mandatory so that the Church automatically includes all the subjects of the state. This brings weakness and infidelity into the Church’s body accompanied by the de-spiritualization and formalization of the Church’s life. The truth of Christ is substituted with innumerable rules, canons, traditions, and superficial rites. External growth and seeming splendor flourish at the expense of the internal life and ascetic feat. The Church’s body stiffens. Such are the dangers of state patronage. Of course, state patronage of the Church also has positive aspects—a certain freedom (albeit within state boundaries), external well-being, the continued might of the Church as an institution, etc. And yet, both persecutions and patronage are curses that over two millennia have distorted the true way of the Church’s life and will 38
perhaps continue distorting it to the very Day of Judgment. We have to assess the present situation of the Church from this perspective. In today’s Russia, the Church is enduring persecutions that alternately intensify and subside. We can even say that lately they rather tend to subside. But this is not important. What is important is that in essence, the government views the Church as part of the national organism, and an undesirable part at that. However, even if the government would view her as a desirable part of the whole, the picture would basically be the same. The government feels entitled to enforce an obligatory attitude toward the Church. The government has positioned itself above the Church. Today, it confiscates the Church’s treasures, sends believers to concentration camps, executes the hierarchs. Tomorrow it will announce pardons and perhaps, out of its “benevolence,” will issue some “awards.” In response to persecutions, the Russian Church generates more and more confessors and martyrs. Our Church is washed with blood; it is producing multitudes of saints, more than it has generated during the first centuries of pagan persecutions. However, this is not the complete picture of the situation within our Church, otherwise we could talk about it by comparing today’s persecutions with those of the first centuries A.D. before it was officially recognized. Today we are dealing with a phenomenon that seems to us a pure miracle because of how unique and unprecedented it is historically. We have a small fragment of the Church that has never before been seen anywhere in the world. This fragment, this group exists in perfect freedom—freedom from both persecutions and state patronage. I am talking about our emigrant Church. Scattered through numerous countries, not organically tied to the governments
that have provided it with refuge, left to itself, presenting no concern to any authorities, the emigrant Church is free to live by her own rules. This freedom brings great historical and even providential significance to our existence, at first sight unbearable and abnormal. From the spiritual perspective, this condition may be is the only normal situation that has ever occurred in the entire history of the Church. We are free, and therefore we ourselves are responsible for all our failures and even our inertia. We cannot blame the authorities or the environment for anything—they do not persecute us and they do not corrupt us with their patronage. If anything is wrong with us it is because we, ourselves, are wrong. It is curious that even now, when we can exercise our freedom in our own Orthodox domain, we are not free completely from an ecclesiastical mentality that is rooted in the relationship between Church and state. This mentality manifests itself in two tendencies that are particularly evident when we look at the two separate Church groups that have broken away from the mainstream Church in exile. One is the “Karlovac”1 group which still has not overcome the ecclesiastic psychology which is in some way tied to the state. It mourns its widowhood with a mentality that is extremely conservative and highly caesaropapist. It keeps the traditions of the synodal period,2 denounces “heresies” and any nonconformity, and dreams of restoration of the old order of life when the state was punishing people for the crime against the Church, and the Church in turn was required to condemn crimes against the state. The other group is assembled around the so-called “Patriarchal Church.”3 It The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
attempts to foster in the free countries where it dwells the mentality of the persecuted, of the underground, of sometimes hysterical ecstasy. It accepts the whole specter of the limitations of freedom that were inevitable under the authority of the power of persecutors but are incomprehensible and almost criminal in places where those persecutors are now powerless. This group agreed to deny the very fact of persecutions of the Church in Russia because in Russia it is prohibited to state otherwise. These two churches are equally enslaved to the adherence to the state and equally do not understand the great providential meaning of the freedom that is given to them. Of course, it would be a mistake to attribute these characteristics to all the people who belong to these groups. There are people in both churches who are free. Similarly, in our “Evlogian”4 Church that represents the mainstream of church life in exile and is connected to the throne of the Ecumenical Patriarch, we too have people who are dedicated primarily to traditions, rituals, and memories of the past. But in general, such are the tendencies, the historical fate and essence of these groups. For us the conclusions are clear. Our Church in exile bears an immense responsibility because it is necessary for us to fulfill ourselves in a free world. We need not only to preserve those spiritual values that were given to us and that the authorities in today’s Russia are crushing by all available means, but also to restore the values that were eliminated by the earlier benevolent authority. Perhaps we should create new values—the values of spiritual freedom, values of openness to the world and addressing spiritual issues that are tearing it apart, values of openness to culture, science, and art, to new ways of life.
1 A group that became officially known as Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, originally the Karlovatski Synod, formed by exiled Russian hierarchs at the meeting in the Serbian town of Karlovac on September 13, 1922. The group declared itself independent of the governance of the Church in Russia suffering in Bolshevik captivity and autonomous of any other external ecclesiastical authority, representing “all Russian Orthodox outside of Russia.” – Ed. 2 The period in the history of the Russian Church between the abolition of the patriarchate by Peter the Great in 1700, his formation in 1721 of the Holy and Governing Synod founded on Protestant ecclesiastical principles rather than Orthodox canon law and serving at the pleasure of the tsar, and the election in 1917 of Patriarch Tikhon as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’. – Ed.
3 A group of the Russian Church in exile that eventually became known as the Western European Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate, maintaining canonical ties with the hierarchy in Moscow. This group split again in 1931, with the majority of the parishes transferring under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (see later reference to “Evlogian” Church.) – Ed. 4 The majority of the parishes of the Western European Exarchate under the omophorion of Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky), after 1931 in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. – Ed.
Pondering the condition of our emigrant Church, we can compare it to a complicated process that takes place in a human body when it has some major circulatory arteries cut. The blood is still pressing forward and without the opportunity to stream along wider arteries, it finds its way to the capillary vessels. We, the emigrant Church, feel ourselves like such a capillary vessel that should exert itself to the limit so that the life of the Church, the blood of the Church’s life could push forth. Therefore any form of inertia, any spiritual laziness, any passive existence in the atmosphere of the Church’s grace is unforgivable. We should stay alert. Moreover, we must consciously and responsibly accept our ecclesiastical destiny as a quest, as a cross that God has laid on our shoulders. We are responsible for the free religious creativity of Russian Orthodoxy, for the Orthodox culture, for the preservation and augmentation of our inheritance. What is the destiny, what is the future of our Church in exile? Will new traditions will emerge in the climate of unique, unprecedented freedom? How will it face the Church community in Russia and the Russian people in general? It is a difficult responsibility to talk about the future. However, some aspects of it can be either assumed or logically deduced based on the present state of affairs. Religious persecutions that have been carried out in Russia for twenty years have already lost their internal rigor. Atheists are complaining that their agents do not have enough enthusiasm to fight the Church. New processes that we can guess about rather than see from the outside are taking place in today’s Russia. However, the logic of these processes is so convincing that it confirms such guessing.
Over the last year, two coherent political processes have finally confirmed what was already sensed before. Lenin’s friends and associates, important figures of the October Revolution have been either executed, demoted, or voluntarily retired. There was a coup that we should compare not to the Thermidor, but to the Brumer. Revolution is over. Its results are being stabilized. The power represented by Stalin strives to transform itself from the revolutionary party power into the power based on national recognition. For Stalin, the great scale of his bloody and monstrous reprisals against his accomplices necessitates wide national acceptance. Such is the logic of affairs. The time is coming—and it has partly come already—when the authorities will begin to buy people’s acceptance with the help of various handouts and concessions. The Church might also receive such handouts. In a small way, it has already been done. We know that recently the authorities allowed church bells to ring, and that last Christmas the previously banned Christmas trees became almost mandatory. Of course, the issue is not exhausted by Christmas trees and church bells. One can surmise that some degree of tolerance will become an official line of Stalin’s religious policy. It will be quite easy to do. They have only to declare that Church people connected to the hated Tsarist regime have already been annihilated, that the new corps of believers are loyal Soviet citizens, and therefore their Church does not pose any danger to the Soviet state. And if that is the case, then it should be allowed to exist. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but the logic of affairs suggests that it is the case. Furthermore, one can assume that religious excitement will rapidly increase and wide circles of Russian youth who now cannot get acceptable answers to fundamental metaphys-
ical questions will be enticed into the sphere of the Church’s interests. Perhaps, even more—there is hope for a period of flourishing religious life and thought, and the intense searching for spiritual answers. But there is always one question that we cannot escape. What kind of people, with what spiritual upbringing, will come into the Church? It is not important that atheism was the central element of their education. Judging by the fragments of information we get from the Soviet Union, we can see that atheism has become quite exhausted and does not give anything nourishing to the searching human soul. There is a quaint Soviet word, reset, and it is reasonable to predict that reset would happen quite widely and painlessly. But there is one terrifying thing that cannot be reset easily. It has nothing to do with the modern Soviet worldview, but it has everything to do with the way it is manufactured, i.e., with the dictatorship not of power and force, but with the dictatorship of ideas—the “general party line” along with belief in its easily achievable infallibility. Basically, this is the major terror of modern mentality of the Soviet person. This person knows that today he should think the way Stalin himself and his infallible party orders him to think. This person knows what to think about atheism, science, economic development, foreign policy, revolution in Spain, private trade, marriage and family, in short, about all large and small issues of social and private life. This person submissively accepts all the mandatory attitudes. If something in the world would change tomorrow, and the party for some reason would have to modify its views not only on minor, but also on cardinal matThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
ters, that Soviet citizen would then open the next issue of Pravda or Izvestia to find out exactly what the party wants him to know and think. It might turn out that regarding a certain issue it is necessary to think not the way he thought yesterday but the way it is required today. And since the main premise of his worldview is belief in the infallibility of the party directives, he painlessly resets his worldview in accordance to the new party requirement. I was amazed to read André Gide’s book in which he describes how Communists in the Caucasus region were unclear on how to react to the Spanish revolution. Then Gide realized that the latest issue of Pravda with its mandatory viewpoint on this issue had not yet arrived. When it finally came, no doubts remained—it was required to fully sympathize with the Spanish revolution. Sometimes this goes even further—after the party’s directives change, the person would publicly and with utmost self-deprecation repent for his views of yesterday as if they were crimes. I purposely dwell on the details of this distorted, servile, and sick mentality in order to point out how deeply belief in the infallibility of the party and dogmatism are rooted in the Soviet psyche. Everything in Soviet Russia must be obligatory and authorized. We would not find a single spark of freedom or diversity of attitudes; in other words, we cannot count on any other kind of mentality but the one I just described. The conclusions, albeit quite tentative, are as follows. When people who have been brought up by the Soviet regime become part of the allowable and tolerated Church, they will carry this very mentality with them. What does this mean? It means that in the beginning they might eagerly study different views, attend services, etc. And then they will decide that they truly belong 41
5 Solovki was a common name for Solovetsky Monastery on the island on the White Sea, turned by the Soviets into an enormous forced labor camp. – Ed.
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to the Church, and at the same time, as people who are completely alien to the antinomian thinking, they would ask: “There are several opinions on such and such issue. Which one of them is correct?”—because for them several different opinions cannot be correct at the same time. And if one of these opinions is true, therefore others must be false and therefore exterminated. The Church for them would be as infallible as the Communist party, so first of all they would address this question to the Church. But soon enough they will begin attributing the principle of infallibility to themselves and start speaking on behalf of the whole Church. People who even in the area of ponderous and ambiguous Marxism were burning with passion of heresy mania and eagerness to destroy their opponents, in the Orthodox Church might become even more aggressive in exterminating “heresies” and in guarding “true Orthodoxy.” One can grotesquely imagine them charging people for the wrong way of crossing themselves, and sending them to the Gulag for refusal to go to confession. Free thought will be punishable by death. Here one cannot have any illusions—if the Church in Russia is recognized and becomes outwardly
mighty and successful, it cannot count on any cadres other than the people brought up in an uncritical, dogmatic spirit of authority. This means that freedom will be suppressed for many years. This means a new Solovki,5 new prisons and concentration camps for those who are seeking the Church’s freedom. This means new persecutions, new martyrs, and new confessors. If not for the belief that Christ’s truth is always free, one could despair over such perspectives. Yet the freedom of the Church will not completely fade until Judgment Day; the uniqueness of our Church in exile that exists in freedom has a providential character. It prepares us for fortitude and heroism. Metaphorically, it trusts us with a great treasure and gives us strength to preserve it. And, finally, most importantly—no matter what happens in the life of the Church—whether cajolery of the state, persecution by the atheists, or distortion of the spirit of Christ’s freedom—there is nothing to be afraid of because the Gates of Hell will not overcome her. Our way, our mission, our quest, and our Cross is to carry the free Christ’s Truth through all ordeals.
Maria Skobtsova (St. Maria of Paris, née Elizaveta Pilenko, 1891– 1945) was a Russian poet, philosopher and theologian. She was tonsured a nun by Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky) in Paris and devoted herself to social work among the Russian refugees, theological writings, and icon painting. During World War II she became a member of the French Resistance and together with her associates saved many Jews by providing them with baptismal certificates. In 1945 she was martyred at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. In 2004 she was glorified as a saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate together with Fr. Dmitry Klepinin, Yuri Skobtsov, and Yuri Fondaminsky.
Photo: From the Archives of the Monastery of Kazan (Moisenay) and Natalia Zelenina (Fontainebleau).
EARS TO HEAR, EYES TO SEE
Orthodox Architecture and the Avant-Garde: Russian Church in Moisenay, France
Valery Baidin Translated by Vera Winn There is an unshakable and almost unanimous opinion among contemporary Russian church architects that the development of Russian church architecture came to an end in 1917, after reaching its peak during the art nouveau era. It is a common belief that this development had stopped, firmly and “providentially,” and therefore that any further innovations should be discarded as suspicious. The “bright future” of church architecture was in its past. In fact, this retrospective utopianism indicates indifference and a lack of creativity. For a true artist, the “golden age” is always in the present. This is evident if we look at the development of Russian Orthodox church architecture outside Russia. Often the work of small groups The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
with limited means, Orthodox churches built in other lands demonstrate a persistent search for answers to the diverse challenges of the twentieth century. They reflect the development of Church culture, define approaches to new construction technologies, and articulate new visions for Orthodox architecture. This article analyzes one of the first and—in my opinion—most successful instances of church architecture adopting the aesthetics of the avant-garde, a structure which should be of interest to architects and historians of Russian architecture. The Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Moisenay, sixty kilometers southwest of Paris, is one of the most striking examples of Orthodox church architecture of the second half of the twentieth century. This is not only be43
cause it contains frescoes by Fr. Gregory Krug and an iconostasis and icons painted by Sister Joanna Reitlinger. The design of the building is unique and represents a rare synthesis of modernist aesthetics with the Russian Orthodox tradition. The history of this church is itself astonishing and almost hagiographic. It took two decades to build and was essentially a one-man feat. 1
Skete: An Eastern Orthodox monastic community typically smaller than a fullsize monastery and combining hermetic lifestyle with communal services. – Ed.
The author of the project and the builder of the church was the founder of a monastery in Moisenay, Archimandrite Euthymius (1894, Russia–1973, France, secular name Grigori Alexandrovich Wendt). Little is known about this extraordinary man. He was born in Sergiev Posad, Russia, graduated from high school with honors, showed great ability in mathematics, and studied at the Moscow Higher School of Engineering, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering. In the Civil War, he fought on the side of the White Army with the rank of lieutenant. In 1920, he left Russia and, until 1925, was assigned to the Alekseevsky Regiment in Czechoslovakia. He completed further studies at the Polytechnic Institute in Prague and at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. In 1932, he became a monk, in 1935 was ordained a hieromonk, and in 1938 founded a women’s skete in the village of Moisenay.1 For a long time, the tiny monastery church occupied the basement of a private house. Then Fr. Euthymius created an architectural plan for the stone church building and, in 1955, despite the obvious lack of funds and materials—and not yet having received a building permit—he started its construction. His neighbors allowed him to collect stones from their fields. He would load these stones in the wheelbarrow, bring them to the construction site, knead a concrete solution, and build the church walls. After a while,
his few friends and some students from the Theological Institute in Paris began to help him. It is not surprising that the construction of the church took about fifteen years, until 1969. Before the church was completed, however, Fr. Euthymius invited Russian Orthodox iconographer Gregory Krug, who, using the blueprints and instructions of the abbot, created frescoes and several icons during the years 1964–1966. More icons, and the iconostasis by Sister Joanna—with carvings by the nun Hilaria—were brought to the newly built church from the old one.
What is so special about architecture of the Moisenay church? Its appearance was defined during design when Fr. Euthymius—a mathematician, a theologian, and a disciple of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov—set out to convey the principle of “metaphysical architectonics,” the Trinitarian nature of God, and the idea of creative “Sophianic” energies, using the symbolism of geometric forms. Even the plan of this church, an elongated irregular trapezoid, does not look traditional. The altar is oriented to the southeast and is placed between the acute and obtuse angles of the lower sloping side. Two side walls form a single-nave interior which extends to the western wall, which is set at an angle to the central axis. The church is crowned with a bulbous cupola and a round drum topped with the familiar three-barred cross, but the rest of the building is far from traditional. It is an intricate compound volume with oblique and slightly upwardlyconverging side walls. The sides of the gable roof have unequal curvature. The angle of inclination of the transverse south wall is steeper than the northern wall. The roof rises sharply from the altar to the quadrangle vault,
with symmetrical upper edges that are reminiscent of geometrized zakomary.2 However, the chetverik (quadrilateral structure) is chamfered by the sloping ceiling, and on the entrance side it leans directly to the wall.3 Because of this, from the west the church looks like a belfry. The only entrance to the church passes through the open porch with roof peak, rectangular doorway, and symmetrical diamond-shaped windows on the sides. Two exterior stairs on the right and left lead directly to the choir. The walls are concrete lined on the bottom with local stone, recalling the fortifications of Northern Russian monasteries. Above, they are plastered evenly and not whitewashed. This treatment emphasizes the contrast between their vertical planes, which are inclined at different angles. The play of textures on the church roof is equally conspicuous: above the altar the roof is made from smooth pieces of silver tin and in another place from old roofing iron. The top part of the roof and the attic are covered with a platform of ribbed sheets of black iron. Geometrically, this section aligns the roof and brings it to the proper quadrangle vault. All of these surfaces are separated along their edges by decorative ribs. The hipped roof of the quadrangle vault is also covered with white tinplate, and the tinplated onion dome is crowned with an eight-pointed cross of the same color. A smaller cross stands over the altar, directly above a ceiling fresco of the Holy Trinity. It is cast from concrete and is similar to the four-pointed Greek cross. Despite the paucity of available means of expression, Fr. Euthymius was able to create the effect of a variety of architectural forms, their complex rhythmic unity and intense dynamics conveying the idea of “invincibility,” of “spiritual armor.” The architectural image of the church symbolizes a spiritual stronghold and expresses the idea of “the asThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Connections between the Creator and the created
Sacred cycle— exodus into ingress 4 3 5 2
Energema of movement— physical
Energema of stimulation— vegetative
gs in nn Alleluia gi e B Alleluia
Th Alleluia Alleluia
Energema of imagination
Alleluia s r
Energema of reasoning
s er w Po Alleluia
Energema of feeling— animal
Alleluia ing n
Energema of perception
Adam and Eve— New Adam
cent of the soul,” from the altar to the dome and into heaven. The whole image of the building is composed of broken and in some places overlapping planes of different inclinations, shapes, colors, and textures. It is accentuated by pilasters that turn into buttresses with two rectangular windows in austere platbands that cut through the top of rough exterior walls, as if they “see through.” These are complemented by four triangular dormers on the roof slopes and a narrow altar window in a small corner oriel. In subsequent years, the appearance of the church has been heavily distorted by alterations, and many details disappeared. The roof was completely leveled and covered with black slate tiles. A baroque golden cupola was added. But the feeling of “spiritual ascent” has not vanished.
Floor plan of the church after Euthymius Wendt. 2 Zakomary : In Russian church architecture, a semicircular expression of the end of the vault on the building façade. 3 Chetverik: A quadrilateral building structure common to traditional Russian architecture. Chetverik na vos’merike would describe a four-sided volume atop an eightsided one.
4 Euthymius Wendt, “Начертание и наречение решений отрешеннаго. Графика и грамматика догмата,” (author’s typewritten manuscript, Moisenay, 1969–1972). 5 Scholia (from the ancient Greek σχόλιον, “comment, interpretation”) are grammatical, critical, or explanatory comments, either original or extracted from preexisting commentaries, which are inserted as marginal glosses on manuscript of an ancient author. 6
7 In Christian theology, kenosis (Greek κένωσις, “emptiness”) is the “emptying” of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. 8
9 Quoted from the Russian edition of Alexander Schmemann’s Journals, Дневники 1973–1983 (Moscow: Russkiy Put, 2007), 35.
The interior of the church is consistent with its external forms. It is noteworthy that in accordance with the plan of the architect, there are no right angles except for the contours of the two side windows. This creates a sense of the temple’s otherworldliness, its unlikeness to conventions of earthly construction. The internal space was created in accordance with the laws of reverse perspective. It unfolds from the elevated altar, the diverging walls, the steps to the soleas, and the rising ceiling. These lines of emanation of “Sophianic” energies determine the external architecture of the church. The plastic expression greatly increases in the sanctuary, where one’s eyes encounter sharp corners, protruding edges, a slanted and irregular ceiling. The polygonal space here is an architectural metaphor of the cave—an early Christian crypt into which descends the Divine Spirit embodied in Christ, and where the “mental hell” explodes and the mystery of resurrection occurs (it should be noted that the image of the cave is also evoked by the local stone which lines the outside walls up to the top of the altar). In accordance with the medieval tradition, an icon is placed on the sill of the little altar window. Stylized pilasters inside the church are covered with traditional images of saints, but the left and right pilasters in front of the altar are decorated with frescoes of the enthroned Virgin Mary and Sophia, the Wisdom of God, who are not only “mystical pillars” but also creators of the Universal Church. The pilasters on the sides correspond to the ones inside, but instead of the usual five pilasters there are seven: three on each side and one at the apse. On the concrete walls, these pilasters obviously serve a purely symbolic function. They convey a “sophiological” idea of this church in particular and the temple building in general that
was very important for Fr. Euthymius: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars” (Prov. 9:1). The choir on the gallery above the entrance to the church is the image of the heavenly world, which is ascended to by the angelic hosts depicted in front of it on the walls. The view from the gallery offers a different, higher perspective on the spiritual world of the interior and a view of the external, earthly world through the windows. The space under the dome rises up like a “heavenly well,” emphasizing the general feeling of ascension. The lighting of the church also has symbolic meaning. Together with the light of the skies, the uncreated light of the Holy Trinity flows through the triangular dormers into the sanctuary, while visible, physical light streams into the nave through the windows in its walls and the choir loft. It should be added that Fr. Euthymius, who had a fine ear for music, managed to create excellent acoustics in his church. The church in Moisenay was the first concrete structure in the history of Orthodox church architecture in Europe. This new construction technology responded well to Fr. Euthymius’s desire to realize his “mathematical-architectural” and mystical theology by means of spatial geometry. In an expansive manuscript, whose Russian title translates as “Decisions of the Anchorite and Their Drawings and Naming: Graphics and Grammar of the Dogma,” Fr. Euthymius articulates his sophiological theory of church architecture.4 The word anchorite is of Greek origin and means one who has retired from the world—like the author himself, who was a monk, and like the church architecture that, in his view, should be detached from all earthly things. According to the author’s scholia,5 this book explains the main principle of church
architecture: “God manifests Himself in restriction.”6 Hence his idea of “sacred architectonics” through kenosis.7 The structure of the church building should reveal the Divine energies embodied in architecture. Kenosis is the concept in the theology of the Incarnation that describes the diminution or “reduction” of the Divinity, or, in the words of Fr. Euthymius, “the loss that has saved us.”8 Not surprisingly, Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote: “This church that was built by Fr. Euthymius almost on his own, is amazing. First reaction, ‘I wish I could serve here!’ Truly this is a church-epiphany.”9
Mystical interpretations aside, the church looks like a Cubo-Futurist structure, with its asymmetrical massing and oblique angles in plan. In this respect it is similar to the three-dimensional compositions of Boris Korolyov or the fantastic “churches” of Zhivskulptarch built between1919 and 1920.10 This impression is not accidental, as Fr. Euthymius’s theoretical writings demonstrate that he was familiar with the aesthetic heritage of the Russian avant-garde. “Decisions of the Anchorite,” an extremely complex theological and philosophical treatise, reflects the author’s somewhat surprising interest in the prominent representatives of Russian modernism, such as Alexei Remizov and particularly Velimir Khlebnikov. In his words, Velimir Khlebnikov “invented broken neologisms and abstruse contractions [contrs] in which he saw the highest meaning of the Russian language or universal human language.”11
biguous words such as ideoimage, willoglory, essensowordness, centreheartness, fevburn of Love, sootastness, underlay, popud, underprop, heav, rounble, deadess, innewn, inspeeched, marknoted, capavolumed, centable, and lifaliveable.12 Like Khlebnikov, Fr. Euthymius often rearranged the sounds or syllables in a word, or of words (metathesis), and so did Fr. Euthymius when he created his own numerous “contrs” or “letterial transformations.” He regarded the this act of metathesis as a special sacrament and used it not only to transform ordinary words such “winner–wine” (“воин–вино”), “carma–arch–cancer” (“карма–арка– рака”), and “mirk’s karma” (“карма мрака”), but also to the divine names: “The Lady–Veda (Deva–Veda) is perceived in the highest . . . She is Wisdom herself.”13 Fr. Euthymius even dared to use expression “Metathesis of the Father of all.”14 For Fr. Euthymius, the creation of words was a special “Path of the Fishing Net of the Word,” and his attitude to language was rooted in modernist aesthetics: “Remizov’s ligatures—literature. Khlebnikov’s abstrusity—poetry. It’s a Real Language! In any case we vouch that the true Khlebful Remiz
A creative group of Soviet architects in the era of 1919–1920 who worked toward a synthesis of art, sculpture, and architecture in development of a new avantgarde architectural style.
Preface to vol. 2, 2.
“умыслообраз,” “волеславие,” “сущесловие,” “средец,” “гар любви,” “опоть,” “подолжь,” “попудь,” “подстата,” “тяж,” “огибель,” “мертья,” “вновлен,” “въязычен,” “метный,” “емный,” “стотный,” “жизнимый.”
Fr. Euthymius’s own book is full of Khlebnikov-like neologisms: in addition to the florid title, there are amThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Wendt, 295, 376–377, 277.
Wendt, 369; Appendix to Volume 2, 65; 455.
Euthymius Wendt to Boris Bobrinsky, October 17, 1971. Archive of the Pokrovsky monastery, Bussy, France.
Abbot Gennady (Eykalovich), “Extended Hieroglyph in memory of Archimandrite Euthymius Wendt.” Vestnik RSHD, 107:1 (1973): 100–103.
is a return of the Language to the Entrustment of the Revelation.”15 Thus, language that exists “at the mercy of Grace” sharply contrasts with the “language of dialectical materialists,” atheists and materialists of the word.16 This is why a divinely inspired creator “starts from a creakness [начинает от худа],” but “produces . . . marvelatory and spiritoartory [чудожество и духожество].”17 Such linguistic formations resonate with Khlebnikov’s “internal declension of words” (“glory– denigration” [слава–умаления], “word–prayer,” [cлово–умоление], “strength–tenderness” [сила–умиление]) and “glossological hallelujahs” (“alioui–Yiwu, alioui–aloi, uy, laoi”), and also “abstruseness” (“abstruseness of the music in language and language in music”).18 In a note to Fr. Boris Bobrinsky about the second volume, Fr. Euthymius half-jokingly called himself a “futurist”: “I received a book of poems by Velimir Khlebnikov from bibliophile A. P. Struve through Mother Blandina [A.V. Obolensky]. In it Khlebnikov mentioned his linguistic theories. I would love to see it and compare it with mine! I think that after the additional 200 pages, I will be attacked as both a sophiologist and a futurist.”19 People who knew the author well took this self-identification quite seriously. For example, Abbot Gennady (Eykalovich) saw in Fr. Euthymius’s writings “a reflection of bizarre futuristic trends” and a “game with phonosemantic elements.” He claimed that the creator of the church in Moisenay “not only knew Khlebnikov’s ‘philosophy of abstruseness,’ but also shared it.”20 In one of his letters in response, Fr. Euthymius wrote: “I am the engineer who invented the first drawing of the skies . . . I blew up the norms of the Greco-Roman grammar.”21
No wonder Fr. Euthymius decided to “blow up the norms” of traditional church architecture. In an appendix to the second volume of Decisions, entitled “History of the Construction of the Church,” he confesses that the decision to build such an unusual church was like a mystical insight that came from an angel, and that the image of the entire construction was predetermined by the irregular plot of land with obliquely truncated sides and an old stone wall bending inward. At the location of the wall, Fr. Euthymius saw the altar of the future church. Based on this starting point, the construction, “went on at the dictation of the plan” and “according to the necessary deduction.” Fr. Euthymius wrote that the “hyperbolism of both slopes of the roof,” its “convexity” and at the same time “concavity of the ceiling,” the absence of the dome and lack of “prettiness” so familiar to the Orthodox eye were all suggested by this plot of land. Not wishing to explain the true “Sophian” significance of the church to anyone, Fr. Euthymius good-naturedly compared it to the “smoothing-iron” and agreed that it was “ugly,” “bizarre,” and “pecking at the ground.”22 At the same time, however, he stated that it was precisely “the energema of God and the Name that is included in the volume of the church . . . that made demands to its visual . . . serviceability”—in other words, to its architecture. As he claimed: “The moment of vision precedes the moment of knowledge.”23 Long before he wrote his treatise, Fr. Euthymius had envisioned a “detached” image of a “sophianic,” unearthly, abstract church, built from concrete and stone. In this sense, the creation of Fr. Euthymius should be considered avant-garde. It would be wrong to consider the church in Moisenay as a mere curiosity, the fantasy of a lonely, self-taught
architect. Even though Fr. Euthymius’s life and legacy are poorly researched and no proof of his conscious adoption of architectural avant-garde techniques exists, the unusual design of his church is highly consistent with the avant-garde approach: “metaphysics” rather than a “game”; a definitive rejection of tradition; creative freedom; mystical vision; and conceptuality. The style of the church building should not be attributed directly to specific trends in twentieth-century architecture. It is, rather, a personal realization of various architectural ideas from the Middle Ages to Russian Constructivism. This is why Fr. Euthymius called himself a “constructor” and even referred to the Divine “All-construction.” He wrote about the “architectonics” of ideas and “armatures” of visual images.24 Like Konstantin Melnikov, he worked outside of styles, following his own “system” of views. The aesthetic essence of this system was architectural rationalism, understood as austerity of thought and form. To paraphrase the architect and educator Nikolai Ladovsky, the church building was for Fr. Euthymius a space formed by the Holy Spirit. Archimandrite Euthymius openly declared his “acute rejection of all world views which were shaped as a result of learning rather than by vision.” He undoubtedly built his church in line with his treatise, which he started writing “more than thirty-three years ago”— that is, immediately after the founding of the skete in 1938, and independent
of any architectural authority of the twentieth century.25 According to eyewitnesses (including Vladimir Lenzi and Fr. Michail Fortunato), the architectural plan of the church was created soon after World War II, long before the construction of Le Corbusier’s famous Catholic Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (1950–1954), which overturned traditional ideas of religious architecture. In “The History of the Construction of the Church,” Fr. Euthymius states: “The construction of the church began twenty years after the foundation of the Kazan Skete because of the institution of prayer and its own life, whose edict is not of this world. Day by day . . . this wise . . . Ordinate of Worship . . . caused a thirst of sublime Church-creation.”26 Undoubtedly, the founder of the Church of the Kazan Mother of God believed that church building was the highest form of human creative activity. For him, it was a mystical unification with the Creator and a sophianic participation in God’s creativity: “I have built a temple, and the temple became me, and my face became the Temple.”27 In Russian Orthodox church architecture, Moisenay remains an exception, a shining example of creative personalism. It was created in the cultural context of the Russian-European avantgarde, whose artistic experiments were profoundly re-thought, as the modernist “game of forms” was replaced by a mystical vision and by a theological sermon expressed in the language of sacred arts.
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Valery Baidin is a writer, philologist, and historian of Russian culture. He studied history at Moscow State University and continued his studies in Switzerland and France. He has taught at the University of Nancy and at the Sorbonne. In 2011, he participated in the architectural debate over the construction of a Russian cultural center in Paris. He is author of numerous scholarly articles and essays on Russian artistic culture and a number of works of prose and poetry. He lives in France and Russia.
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Ashes to Ashes
EARS TO HEAR, EYES TO SEE
Tombstone Stories Roman Naumov
I was born and have lived my entire life in Moscow. I have worked in publishing, including in the publishing house of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as a web developer.
It was four years ago, on a visit to (then-Ukrainian) Crimea, that I became seriously interested in photography. After reviewing my first collectionâ€”over 1,000 photosâ€”I destroyed it without hesitation. Now I take street photos, character shots, portraits, and still lives. At first I disliked black and white photography, but later I fell in love with it.
The absence of color makes it possible to excise everything that is extraneous to the essence of the shot. “Tombstone Stories” is one of my earliest series. It was conceived as an experiment. I thought of the Gothic beauty of Moscow’s Vvedenskoye (German) cemetery, where many Christian ascetics were buried, and how it would be interesting to show the “postmortem” without death itself. In search for interesting shots, I visited four or five cemeteries, and ended up not including the Vvedenskoye itself.
Where is My Soul?
These days, four years later, with more experience and wisdom, I would have probably realized this idea differently, with different meanings. But “Tombstone Stories” remains a valuable experience for me as a photographer and as a Christian pondering death. Burdens
Smile of Death
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Angels of Death
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Yesteryear Peter Longofono We enter our problem with Is and are answered by kind. Pistons churn Be, by sequence, sickentocrawl. Which we must and will. From the first, our being had an isometric lull, our Ought a magic-lanterned secret throat. How wrong we’ve been, and up to, poor tatting belies. This Is we won’t-show. Headlong in some brittle, revolving ordinariat, were we part problem? Sure wars cull, surl, are charmless. Have we hostility? Harms? Being’s strange
© 2015 The Wheel. May be distributed for noncommercial use. www.wheeljournal.com
syrinx worms through. Opprobrium, the unwholesome bassoon, isn’t done. So for and against goes austere, goes aegis, whenwhat our conscious works, rare and curling rarer, are.
Peter Longofono received his MFA from NYU, where he edited international content for Washington Square Review and served as a Goldwater Fellow. His poems and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in H_NGM_N, Boog City, Luna Luna Magazine, tenderloin, The Operating System, and Coldfront. He lives in Brooklyn.
Photo by Yuri Belanovsky.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Talks on The Beatitudes Alexander Schmemann Translated by Inga Leonova
“Blessed are the merciful” The Fifth Beatitude that was spoken in the Sermon on the Mount is Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7) It is possible that no other commandment of Christ is needed more in our epoch than this commandment of mercy, of charity. We live in the era of ideologies which in their attempt to be all-encompassing exist in continuous strife, and this strife fills the world with fear and hatred. We live in the world from which mercy and charity are exiled, and that is perhaps the most frightening thing about it, the sign of its dehumanization. It is possible to read all the thick tomes interpreting every word, every comma of those who are considered the creators of those ideologies, teachThe Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
ers, and prophets of “the new world.” Everything is described there, rules and laws are prescribed for everything. But all these teachings, ostensibly intended for the good and happiness of humanity, promising it the final solution to all issues, in practice for some reason turn out terribly inhuman. The explanation is simple: in all contemporary teachings about man there is no place for mercy. And perhaps this is why the adherents of these teachings hate Christianity so much, although they have something in common with it. For Christianity also speaks about perfection, and Christianity declared the absolute norm long before these newest “saviors” of mankind. But it contains something that is especially hateful for the alchemists of forcibly organized happiness: the light and the power of mercy. How often it 55
the simplest, poorest and most uneducated people) presupposes an endlessly exalted calling of each person. “Be perfect” (Matt. 5:48)—Christ said it not to some elect, but to everyone, which means also to us, considering each of us capable of such perfection.
Photo by Inga Leonova.
is told about Christ in the Gospels that He had compassion for the people, that He was merciful to them! What is this compassion, this mercy, this charity, and why are they so threatening to the enemies of Christianity, forcing them to uproot the image of Christ from people’s memory with all their might? Compassion, for example, is not at all the same as condescension. Condescension almost always comes from a sense of one’s own superiority, and most importantly from a light disdain for those who are considered incapable of meeting certain expectations. “This is beyond them,” a condescending person says about such people, and that means that he essentially holds them in derision and therefore can afford to be condescending. But Christ—and this is proven literally by every line of the Gospel—was infinitely removed from such condescension. His entire preaching (and He almost always preached to 56
Therefore in Christ and Christianity there is not even a shadow of that prideful condescension which we often bestow upon people. He has mercy— that which is the opposite of legalism and moralism. А legalist says, “You broke the law, you are guilty and must be punished!” One who is merciful is able to comfort, “You are guilty but you are my brother, you are human like me, and you are having just as hard a time searching for the right way!” Mercy is the loving understanding, loving trust, and most of all, belief that a human being, despite any guilt, any trespassing, is worthy of love. Mercy maintains the primacy of the personal over the collective. Law only knows a criminal; mercy sees a person even in a criminal. The law condemns; mercy is merciful. The law cannot discern the entire uniqueness of this particular person; mercy, without disputing the law, looks into the face of the guilty, into the depth of his eyes, and knows that man is in essence inexhaustible. Those ideologies which in their desire to completely govern a human being hate Christianity, hate its mercy. They choke with joy over their own “scientific might,” while science only tries to discover the laws, that is, the common, the normative, the impersonal. One’s identity, one’s living face, one’s living soul are obstacles for these ideologies, just as science is encumbered by everything singular, everything that it calls “accidental.” Yet mankind consists solely of such singular “accidents.”
There isn not and has never been an abstract “mankind” as described by science, but there has been, now is, and will be singular and inimitable John, Paul, Alexis. And this living, concrete person does not completely fit into any law, but by his singularity and inimitability constantly puts it all in doubt. And this is all hateful for an ideology that is only interested in generalities, and requires complete and unconditional uniformity—everything that excludes mercy. Blessed are the merciful (Matt. 5:7)— those who discern a living face in every human being, those who do not reduce his life to the sphere of the law and are therefore capable of being charitable, of being merciful. This is the foundation of Christian anthropology—the teaching about a human person—and the foundation of Christian morality—the teaching about the life of a Christian and his relationship with his brothers and sisters. With this commandment Christianity inevitably confronts all those builders of “the new world” who, while promising happiness to mankind, are bringing it the hell of impersonality.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” With the Sixth Beatitude we enter into the inner world of Christianity that the anti-religious propaganda passes by in silence out of fear that people, having discovered it, will regain sight, and all its efforts will be in vain. This Beatitude proclaims, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). Until now we have seen how each Beatitude reveals a facet of Christ’s teaching about a human person. What is revealed here, in these words about the purity of heart? What kind of vision of God are these words speaking about? The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
The word purity is exceptionally meaningful in Christianity, signifying much more than simply an antithesis to moral (especially sexual) licentiousness, and far surpassing the limits of morality per se. Purity is an internal quality that could be best defined as “wholeness.” Purity, according to Christian teaching, leads to chastity, that is, “whole-mindedness,”1 which endows a human being with a continuous awareness of standing before God. It is not so much filth, immorality, and sin that oppose purity and chastity in a person as his internal confusion and fragmentation. A Christian experiences sin as a loss of parity to himself, as blindness preventing the true, that is, whole self-valuation. And the main task, the main calling of a human person in Christianity is to claim anew one’s internal wholeness, to rebuild in oneself the former purity, and with it the fullness of vision that disappears in the state of internal fragmentation. A person of our time may see this all as unclear, excessively complicated, and—most importantly—unnecessary, whereas this is the most necessary endeavor, which is for some reason forgotten by the contemporary world.
The Russian word for “chastity” is tselomudrie, which is derived from tselyi (“whole”) and mudrost’ (“mind”).
The terrible evil of ideologies, forced upon a person as the scientific truth about him, is that they completely ignore the inner world, or, to put it in a simpler way, they deny a person his personality. Yet personality is not mere individuality but that depth of each person that the Bible and Christianity call his “heart.” Individuality can be understood as the combination of certain qualities of a particular human being: appearance, character, tastes, talents, and abilities, but all of this does not yet constitute personality. Christianity teaches that each human being possesses a deep and indivisible core—that which contains his true 57
self, incomparable with anything else, irreducible to anything else. This self is unique, and the authentic life of each of us is rooted in it. And it is that very self that we are constantly losing in the roaring hustle and bustle of life spent in a whirlwind of passions, interests, etc. And so it turns out that it is not I who possess life, but it is life that possesses me, constantly forcing upon me fleeting moods, desires, reactions. Yet this is precisely why my life is never whole, for I always see a fragment instead of a whole, only what possesses me at this very moment. It is as if I am disintegrating into a multitude of separate disconnected “selves,” and I am slowly dissolving in the stream of the impersonal which is carrying me into death. Materialistic ideology declares there to be a complete dependency of the human being on the external, but that is the crux of its horrible lie, of its truly slavish essence.
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Christianity on the other hand begins with calling a person to recover and rebuild in himself the lost wholeness— in other words, that purity of oneself that is so polluted by the sinful bustle of life. The entire Gospel, each word of Christ, is addressed to a person’s identity. Each word of Christ presupposes and affirms it. It is as if Christ says to each one of us, “You exist and thus can hear me. Stop, gaze into yourself, un-
derstand that your life is broken and you do not possess it, and that means that you are a slave. Free yourself from this slavery, for your freedom is inside you, where you can finally meet yourself, acquire yourself.” Materialistic ideology says the exact opposite, “Do not stop, do not retreat into yourself! You are given all that is necessary, the only verifiable truth, and by dissolving in it you will acquire happiness.” These approaches to a human being, Christian and materialistic, are not just divided by an impassable abyss—between them rages a battle to the death. It is either/or: either the dissolution of a man in an impersonal whole, or his free entry into an inspired organism living by love. And the entire history of Christianity (not the external institutional history that the anti-religious propaganda loves to “expose,” but its internal and therefore authentic history)—is here, in a man’s continuous purifying of his heart, in the reconstruction of his inner freedom and wholeness, or, in other terms, in communion with the very experience of holiness which is only afforded by the true possession of life. That is, in essence, what the Sixth Beatitude is calling us to: to return to the whole vision to see that which we do not see in our superficial life—the invisible beauty, power, light, and love in which God manifests himself.
The Rt. Rev. Alexander Schmemann was an Orthodox theologian who played a central role in founding the Orthodox Church in America. He was a graduate of St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. He was Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1962 to 1983, and also taught at Columbia University, New York University, and Union Theological Seminary.
For the Unity of All: A Prayer Worth Reviewing Ryan McDaniel
Few theological reflections penned by Orthodox authors begin with a foreword contributed by His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople–New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. The present book not only begins with such a foreword, but the reader is at once advised by His All Holiness: “It is with joy that we welcome and recommend For the Unity of All, by the Reverend Dr. John Panteleimon Manoussakis”.1 Such a glowing commendation for this little book (102 pages) allows the reader to immediately appreciate the old expression that big things often come in small packages. Dr. Manoussakis sets for himself a modest but noble task. After explaining that he will not recount the complex historical situations that led up to, or now sustain, the schism between East and West, much less enter upon a detailed analysis of polemical rhetoric past and present, he clarifies: Rather, our goal is to offer some theological reflections on the issues that, for some time now, have been cited and presented as the grounds on which the separation of the two churches can be explained and, for some, even justified. By reflecting on these issues briefly, I hope to show whether they are real differences or only apparent ones—whether, that is, we can talk of different theologies or rather of differences in theological style. 2 The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
He goes on to cautiously imply that these differences are indeed only apparent, rather than real, and offers an irenic hope that, with the help of the Paraclete and the intercessions of the Virgin Mary, “our common Mother,” such apparent differences will be understood in a new and reconciling light. The book is comprised of five chapters divided into two parts. The first explores three well-worn (real or apparent) differences between East and West: (1) Mary’s Immaculate Conception, (2) the procession of the Holy Spirit and filioque, and (3) Petrine primacy in the papacy. The second takes up “differences in theological style” regarding (4) Augustinian and Palamite approaches to created and uncreated light, and (5) Augustinian and Maximian approaches to will and grace. I would like to draw particular attention to the two chapters I found most intriguing (Chaps. 1 and 3), while only briefly commenting on the others. My aim is to spark the curiosity and whet the appetite of Orthodox or Catholic readers who, like Manoussakis, genuinely ponder whether these differences are real or perhaps only apparent. I will not assert whether Manoussakis is correct in what follows, but neither will I refrain from allowing even his most provocative assertions to speak for themselves.
John Panteleimon Manoussakis. For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015. 1
Bartholomew (Arhondonis), foreward to John Panteleimon Manoussakis, For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), ix.
John Panteleimon Manoussakis, For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), 2. Emphasis here and elsewhere in original.
3 This chapter is available online at https:// www.academia. edu/10198866/For_ the_Unity_of_All_ Contributions_to_ the_Theological_Dialogue_Between_East_ and_West_excerpt_. 4 John Panteleimon Manoussakis, For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), 5. 5
It is worth noting that such an approach was at one time advocated by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev in an article available online at http:// orthodoxeurope.org/ page/11/1/2.aspx. 6
In Chapter 1, “Mary’s Exception,”3 Manoussakis begins by suggesting that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary ought to be reoriented away from an approach fixated on historical theology, and instead directed toward the actual theological question at hand: Is the Virgin Mary without sin or not?4 He proceeds in his reflection from this simple and direct theological question, in contrast to problems of historical theology that rapidly become bogged down by an ever-increasing multiplication of concerns that are neither simple nor direct. Since historical theology employed for confessional purposes is inevitably tied to a constructed narrative of identity (and is thus the quintessential ground for East-West polemics), he directs his attention to the doctrine itself, rather than the story of how the Immaculate Conception was debated, liturgically celebrated, and ultimately dogmatically defined by the Catholic Church in 1854. The importance of asking whether a doctrine is or is not true, rather than parsing the particulars of a doctrine’s unique history in the East or the West, is emphasized throughout the book. Historical theology can easily be deployed to demonstrate that the East and the West experienced different histories. When the differences in those historical narratives—in whatever way they are fashioned—are elevated to the level of constituting fundamental differences in dogmatic confession, the results are predictably polarizing inasmuch as they are virtually predetermined by the methodology adopted at the outset. The result may be summarized in this way: The East and the West have different historical narratives, and therefore hold to differing dogmatic confessions. However, by using history to contextualize5 the ways in which doctrines were expressed in the East and the
West (rather than to construct competing identity narratives), Manoussakis is able to get at what he calls the actual theological question at hand: whether a given doctrine is or is not true, even if its expression varies in the East and the West owing to their varied histories. Identity narratives predictably tend toward emphasizing difference. Manoussakis, however, is interested in reflecting on the nature of those differences. Proceeding, then, from the simple question about theological truth posed in Chapter 1, he offers an equally simple and direct response: The doctrine that proclaims the Mother of God was sanctified at her conception comes to declare simply what every Christian, Orthodox or Catholic, has always believed about the person of the Theotokos, namely, that in her we find the most perfect human being—better yet, in her we see the true nature of a human person, a nature unafflicted by any sin, including the original sin.6 In a refutation of certain Orthodox theologians, Manoussakis insists that the Immaculate Conception of Mary has always been generally held and confessed by Orthodox Christians, even if this confession in the East enjoys a different historical narrative than the West. For example, he asserts that the efforts of some Orthodox theologians are comparable to “Protestant apologetics” in their assertions that the Immaculate Conception makes of Mary something “more than human,” or quasi-divine, separating her from the rest of humanity.7 By contrast, he insists that being free from sin is not contrary to being human, but rather an expression of what it means to be truly and authentically human. Mary, in being completely immaculate, is not more than human, but simply and merely human without qualification
or distortion. Lest Christians forget, Manoussakis reminds us that having sin is what is alien to humanity, not the other way around. Inasmuch as Mary is truly human, she is all the nearer to humanity, not farther away, much less qualitatively different. Nonetheless, the Immaculate Conception of Mary emphatically demonstrates the difference between Christ and his mother: although Christ was virginally conceived as sinless by his very nature as God incarnate, Mary was conceived free from the corruption of sin only by the grace of her Son.8 Christ alone is free from sin by nature as God, and Christ alone can save from sin as God—indeed, Christ alone could save Mary from sin, even from the moment of her conception. “Eschatologically speaking,” Manoussakis writes, “an event of the past can be caused by what happens in the present, or even by what has not yet taken place.” Both Catholics and Orthodox, then, confess that Mary was immaculate, sinless, and saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ; thus the “apparent” difference between East and West has never been a question of what, but only a question of when. Manoussakis insists that the Orthodox East has historically and generally answered the “when” question in the same way as Catholics (modern and polemically driven exceptions not withstanding), and the curious ought to be encouraged to read his book for the perhaps surprising answer he says that the Orthodox must give to the question. Is the Virgin Mary without sin or not? Manoussakis answers decisively: The Panagia, by the grace of God, is without sin. Draw from that all consequent conclusions, and do not be taken in by polemical identity narratives that lose sight of that basic confession of faith. The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Chapter 2, “The Procession of the Holy Spirit,” forgoes a recounting of doctrinal history, yet nonetheless establishes that historical context, judiciously applied, can be helpful in answering the basic theological question at hand. Manoussakis tells us: “There is no need to refer here to the historical reasons that led to the addition of the now famously controversial filioque to the Creed”.9 Nevertheless, he contextualizes the difficulty of the filioque addition to the Creed by stating that the controversy was not so much the cause as it was the result of difficulties between the East and the West: “In other words, such a mystery as the procession of the Holy Spirit was dragged into the mud of the polemics between the two sides in order not to cause but to justify an estrangement already underway”.10 He explores issues related to the differences between Greek and Latin languages, as well as differences in theological styles, including the multiple senses in which the Latin term for “procession” can itself be understood, even as explicitly explained in Augustine’s Trinity. In the end, he also points to the Orthodox understanding of perichoresis as a potential key that can unlock a reconcilable understanding. The richest and most important—if also the most provocative—chapter in the book is, “The Petrine Primacy,” where Manoussakis dares to tackle not only the Orthodox objections to it, but indeed the difficulty of trying to live without it: “the Orthodox churches . . . in the absence of a unity concretely manifested by a primus, face the dire consequences of inter-Orthodox disagreements, conflicts, and even schisms.”11 This chapter is in large part based on a paper he delivered for the 2010 Orthodox Constructions of the West conference at Fordham University.12 For him, the matter is clearly at the heart of the
11 Ibid., 22 12
Manoussakis’s paper was subsequently published as a chapter in Orthodox Constructions of the West, ed. George E. Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013). This chapter, in a version that is “unedited and without notes,” can be read online at https:// www.academia. edu/3816806/ Primacy_and_Ecclesiology_The_State_ of_the_Question_Unedited_and_without_notes_.
18 Ibid., 30. 19 Ibid., 31. 20
From the service for the Triumph of Orthodoxy.
present needs and future development of the Orthodox Church.
herself, and therefore this denial warrants the label heretical.
In one of his most notable declarations in the entire book, Manoussakis flatly asserts: “The phenomenon of anti-papism, understood as the denial of a primus for the universal Church and the elevation of such a denial to a trait that allegedly identifies the whole Orthodox Church, is, properly speaking, heretical.”13 On what grounds does he use the strongest negative description available in the Christian vocabulary to decry this “phenomenon”—calling it nothing less than heretical? He insists that, theologically, any unity worthy of the name—be it the unity of the Church, the divine and human natures of Christ, or the unity of the Trinity from all eternity—must be grounded in a person. The unity of the Trinity is grounded in the divine person of the Father; the unity of the divine and human natures of Christ is grounded in the divine person of the Son; and the unity of the Church is grounded in the person of the bishop of Rome.15 From there, Manoussakis contends that the absence of a “Romelike primacy”16 is an insoluble problem for Orthodox. In another of his more memorable phrases, he avers “that the Orthodox churches cannot unite with Rome as long as they are not united with Rome.” He clearly intends this as an example of the intractable paralysis that inevitably results from a lack of universal primacy within the Orthodox Church. Understanding the grave consequences of this ecclesiastical handicap, which at times manifests itself in truly tragic and catastrophic ways, helps explain why Manoussakis deploys the severest term heretical in condemning the “phenomenon of anti-papism.” To deny that a personal primus is indeed a trait of the Orthodox Church is devastating to the Church
Manoussakis anticipates and preemptively refutes common Orthodox objections to his assertion that the primacy of a single person is absolutely essential for the full and healthy life and unity of the universal church. He recalls that he was taught at Athens that “the highest authority in the Orthodox Church . . . is an interpersonal (and thus impersonal) body: the ecumenical council.”17 For Manoussakis, on the other hand, “no council is conceivable without a primus.”18 He also points out that an ecumenical council is an extraordinary event, not an enduring and ever-present personal embodiment of unity in and for the universal church. He similarly dispenses with the claim “that the Church needs no primus because Christ himself is the head of the Church.”19 That this is untenably “naïve” becomes apparent, he says, when a similar formula is applied to the diocesan bishop, or for that matter any “ecclesiastical structure” whatsoever. The moment “Christ himself” is invoked over and against any organ of authority in the Church on earth, the process of “degenerating into some individualistic, private piety” immediately appears as a clear and present danger. Without question, that sort of “individualistic, private piety” exists among Christians of other traditions, but this, Manoussakis implicitly insists, is not the Faith of the Apostles, the Faith of the Fathers, the Faith of the Orthodox, the Faith which has established the universe.20 Finally, he dismisses the claim that a “common rule of faith and ritual”21 is sufficient to fill the lacuna. This, he points out, is manifestly obvious by even a casual recognition of the diversity held together in unity throughout the history of the Church right up to the present day. Lest Eastern Christians forget their own history, he recalls the
multiplicity of rites that were historically normative throughout the East, the multiplicity of Western rites that were constitutive of the Church before the schism, and the variety of uses (including Western rites) that perdure within the Orthodox Church today.
tioning Orthodox primus in the person of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The cynical reader will here be reminded of the foreword, but judicious readers can judge for themselves whether Manoussakis’s stated reasons for this are worthy of consideration on their own merits.
Ultimately, the principle at stake for Manoussakis is summed up in this sentence: “In Christian theology the principle of unity is always a person.”22 He does not, however, argue that the papacy should be accepted by Orthodox precisely as it is presently understood and exercised among Catholics (or even among Eastern Rite churches sui juris in communion with Rome). The devil, as always, is in the details. In an expression that is perhaps a bit reticent when compared with his other statements, he says: “We have left the thorny question about the specific privileges and prerogatives into which this ministry translates untouched. This would be indeed another day’s work.”23 In other words, the Orthodox can, and indeed must, recognize the place of a universal primus in their midst. “That person, in principle, is the bishop of Rome.”24 However, it remains to be sorted out exactly how such a primacy would concretely function in a Church holding together those who today are separated as Orthodox and Catholics.
As for Chapters 4 and 5: to borrow our author’s expression, an epitome of the entire book would be indeed another day’s work. But those who are interested in the topics that Manoussakis tackles there may well find that he plays the apothecary in reconciling what are apparent, rather than real, differences between the two traditions and their unique “theological styles,” addressing himself always to the concrete theological question at hand rather than to endlessly hostile narratives of identity.
Therefore, what Manoussakis prescribes, until such time as unity with the bishop of Rome can be restored, is the emergence and recognition of a func-
I would conclude this review by returning to the beginning of For the Unity of All. The third petition of the Fervent Supplication, that ancient sung prayer that begins every major liturgical service of the Orthodox Church, cries to the Lord for mercy in these words: “For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.” Manoussakis bids every Christian, Orthodox or Catholic, to ponder whether this is a prayer worth reviewing, a prayer that the faithful truly desire to see answered, a prayer that does not merely echo throughout empty halls of rhetoric but resonates within hearts full of Christian love.
23 Ibid., 38. For the interested reader, Manoussakis footnotes Adam DeVille’s recent and noteworthy book, Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011). 24
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The Rev. Sebastian Ryan McDaniel is Rector of St. Bede the Venerable Orthodox Church in Charleston, Illinois, blessed to serve both Western and Eastern Rites. He has served as a member of the faculty in the Department of Communication Studies at Eastern Illinois University since 2007, and as a Chaplain in the Indiana Air National Guard since 2014.
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
Arrested Development Nicholas Denysenko
Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P. The Moscow Council (1917–1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. Edited by Michael Plekon and Vitaly Permiakov. Translated by Jerry Ryan. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. 1
Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P., The Moscow Council (1917–1918): The Creation of the Conciliar Institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, ed. Michael Plekon and Vitaly Permiakov, trans. Jerry Ryan (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015), 15.
Contemporary global Orthodoxy is in the process of confronting unprecedented challenges. The most formidable issues facing Church leaders are the relations between Church and state, the structures of the Church, the tension between conciliarity and authority, and seismic shifts in culture, to name a few. The autocephalous Orthodox Churches address these challenges in various ways, as pastors and theologians appeal to notions of consensus among the Fathers in the past as models. Occasionally, pastors and theologians will also consider creative models of the Church for engaging the modern world. The University of Notre Dame Press’s recent translation and publication of Hyacinthe Destivelle’s comprehensive analysis of the Moscow Council of 1917–1918 grants English-language readers access to one of the most discussed and perhaps least understood historical examples of such models. Destivelle’s study is comprised of five parts with two appendices. Part 1 discusses the Council’s origins; part 2 treats the tumultuous period of 1905–1917 immediately prior to to the Council; part 3 surveys the Council itself; part 4 analyzes the decrees of the Council; and part 5 analyzes the application and reception of the Council. Two appendices present the texts of the Council in English, the first covering the definitions and decrees of the Council, and the second providing the text of the statute.
The study is introduced with a foreword by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. The primary theme underpinning the content of Destivelle’s study is the persistent tension between authority and conciliarity in the years leading up to the Council and its reception. Destivelle’s survey of the situation of the Church in Russia in the late nineteenth century is brief, but to the point. He identifies the problem of ecclesial paralysis that Church leaders sought to resolve through the convocation of the Council. Destivelle discusses the general impotence of the Church that had been caused by the creation of the synodal system and the subservience of the Church to the state through the Spiritual Regulations legislated by Tsar Peter I in 1725. He also discusses the incapacity caused by the clerical caste system. In his treatment of these issues, Destivelle demonstrates his careful reading of the texts, and he arrives at carefully considered conclusions. For example, the author cautions the reader to avoid a hasty reduction of the paralysis of the Russian Church as attributable solely to the Petrine system.1 Destivelle refers to verifiable signs of Church renewal in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century, a period in which many saints were glorified and certain monastic centers attained spiritual prestige. This period manifested a creativity and a
healthy ecclesial vitality that partially mitigated the problem of structural paralysis. Destivelle depicts the Russian Church as attempting to elevate its influence on the life of the people without relinquishing its privileged place as the official governing religion in Russia. His study shows how the Church struggled to negotiate the rapidly evolving political situation from subservience to the Tsar, through the failed reforms of the provisional government, to the fierce persecution of the Soviet state. Remaining on the topic of Church-state relations, Destivelle refers to this matter on several occasions. In his conclusion, he notes the paradox of the Council’s legacy and the subsequent problems of Church-state relations, brought on by the fact that the Council sought to retain the Church’s privileged position within the state and that it was encouraged to do so in large part by the uncertain political situation that existed until the Bolshevik persecution of the Church increased in intensity. Destivelle acknowledges the difficulty in assessing the Council, since its deliberations on many matters were caused by circumstances. He considers John Meyendorff’s assessment of the Council as among those most well-informed, and Meyendorff had criticized the Council for failing to treat the problem of Church-state relations in depth.2 Destivelle states that the political situation actually contributed to the convocation of the Council. Some readers might view Destivelle’s caution as a hesitance to criticize the work of the Council fathers, however, a closer look at his treatment reveals him to be a scholar who acknowledges the difficulty of offering comprehensive statements on issues impacted by seismic political shifts. In this vein, the work of the Council is truly unfinished, and an opportunity is ripe for the inheritors of the Council to learn from its lessons. The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
In his analysis of the Council, Destivelle masterfully shows how the concept of sobornost developed by the Slavophile movement influenced the preference for conciliarity threaded throughout the discussions of the Moscow Council.3 The author’s attention to the nuances of nomenclature is particularly helpful to the reader, especially when he discusses the reception of the Moscow Council later in the study. When referring to the inclusion of the word collegiality in the statute of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe, Destivelle comments on the irony resulting from the Council’s aversion to the notion of collegiality, since the “colleges” were a vestige of the Petrine ecclesial system the Council sought to subvert.4
Destivelle points to the unprecedented lay representation in the Moscow Council as one of its most prominent achievements, but his study also illuminates the lack of universal reception of this conciliarity both among theologians and for succeeding councils. Destivelle contributes three particularly brilliant insights relevant to the Council’s legacy of conciliarity. First, he chronicles the reception of the Moscow Council within the Russian Orthodox Church. His survey of the Council’s legacy in time demonstrates the succeeding generation’s attempt to receive the Council in accordance with the needs of the times. Second, he analyzes the tepid reception of the Council by Nicholas Afanasiev. Readers might be surprised at Afanasiev’s perception that the Council improperly interpreted the idea of the priesthood of the laity by making the laity coadministrators with the bishops. Destivelle elucidates Afanasiev’s concern that the juridical authority of the Council came into direct conflict with the charismatic authority of the bishop.5 He resolves the matter satisfactorily, while gently critiquing Afanasiev’s con65
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cern, by summarizing the conciliar constitution of the Church as a temporary solution that met the needs of the times, which did not threaten the charismatic principle. Finally, the reader should not ignore Destivelle’s consistent treatment of the parish by the Council and its successors. For example, he juxtaposes the 1945 and 1961 statutes on the administration of the Church and the subsequent alienation of the parish priest to the 1988 revision which restored rectors “to their role of authentic parish leadership.”6 The 1917–1918 Council had envisioned the parish as a tightly-bound community led by the pastor with the participation of the people. The 1945 and 1961 decrees subordinated the priest to the elected parish lay leader (starosta), reverting the parish to a community in which its leader performed solely cultic roles and was subordinate to a state official. The 1988 regulation restored the spirit of conciliarity expressed through the entirety of the Moscow Council. The genius inherent in Destivelle’s presentation is his ability to show how the Church attempted to retain the spirit of conciliarity implemented by the 1917–1918 Council despite the frequent interference of the communist state in Church affairs. The reader benefits from two conclusions: first, the Council attempted to restore conciliarity while simultaneously honoring the charismatic leadership of the bishops, which was especially evident in the recreation of the patriarchate. Second, the reception of this principle is a process which remains incomplete today, as evidenced by the divergent assessments of the Moscow
Council and the successive revisions of the statutes at all levels of Church life. Destivelle discloses the complexity of implementing and receiving an ecclesiological principle through his thorough examination of the details of the Moscow Council. Destivelle delivers more than a broad and careful analysis of the Council’s impact and reception. The book also contains precious primary sources: English translations of the Council’s decrees and statutes. Advanced readers will be familiar with the material concerning the patriarchate, but the study also includes documents demonstrating the theological creativity of the Council on matters such as the authorization of lay evangelizers and the active participation of women in Church ministry. Readers might be tempted to quibble with the scope and breadth of various sections of the study. For example, Destivelle limits his discussion of the impact of the Council on the Church to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe, when the Council clerarly also influenced Church life in North America and theologians throughout the world. One might also speculate on how the conciliar legacy of hesitance to address Church-state relations impacted the Moscow Patriarchate in the post-Soviet period. Destivelle has created multiple opportunities for scholars to continue the work he has inaugurated by taking up these and many more issues in future volumes. His work is an instant classic and a necessary desktop resource for all serious students and scholars of Russian Orthodoxy and ecclesiology.
Nicholas Denysenko is Associate Professor of Theological Studies and Director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, and is deacon at St. Innocent Orthodox Church in Tarzana, California.
Letters to the Editors In the lead article of The Wheel’s first issue Father Cyril Hovorun states what must be a fundamental truth for many or most Orthodox Christians, namely that the Orthodox Church is the self-sufficient one true Church established by Christ and continuing without disruption or deficiency since apostolic times. It therefore stands apart from households of faith with inadequate statements of faith (heretical churches) or inadequate doctrines and celebrations of the Eucharist (schismatic churches). Father Hovorun states that both Orthodox and Roman Catholics deny that together Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, and Evangelical churches constitute the whole Church. They also both deny that “the unity of the Church [is] something to be achieved in its fullness only in the eschatological perspective.” Despite these contentions he concludes his article with a hope for continuing dialogue between the Orthodox and other Christians. Father Hovorun’s dispassionately argued presentation raises important questions. For example, if the Orthodox Church is the one true Church what kind of conversations can its members have with Protestant, Evangelical, and Catholic Christians? Indeed, since heretics and schismatics are not members of the one true Church, can they be considered Christians? If they are not Christians, why should Orthodox Christians seek dialogue with them, except, perhaps, to witness to the Eastern tradition as the article implies? Father Hovorun raises other important questions: For example, in what way is the Orthodox communion the one true church? What constitutes faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel? Does the survival of Christian households of faith in a hostile or indifferent world provide any cause for mutual dialogue? Is fidelity to Christ and the Gospel more important than survival? There may be more important questions than these, but these might be a beginning for readers of The Wheel and its contributors. Given Father Hovorun’s experience and reflection in the ecumenical world, he must have considered the questions raised in this letter. Perhaps in a future article he could share his answers. Rev. Carl Scovel, Boston, MA
The Wheel 3 | Fall 2015
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In the next issue Interview with Peter L. Berger Gregory Hallam “A Phony War” Daniel Buxhoeveden “The Challenge of Religious-Spiritual Experience” Gayle E. Woloschak “Have We Traded the Holy Spirit in for Ideology?” and more...