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St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 49.3 (Reviews to be added later)

The following article will be most helpful to Slavophiles, students of Islam in the 19th century, or inquirers into the geography and architecture of the Holy Land in 1820. It is also useful because of its implications for ecumenism and theologies of space.

Prousis, Theophilus C. “The Holy Places: A Russian Travel Perspective.” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49 no. 3 (2005): 271-96.

Theophilus Prousis has translated selected passages recounting the Russian diplomat Dmitrii V. Dashkov’s (1784-1839) travels in the Holy Land in 1820. Dashkov traveled at a time when tensions between rival Christian denominations were at a highpoint. The Ottoman empire has granted the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox the greatest control over the holy places in Palestine, but the Orthodox had the lion’s share over the Church of the Resurrection (the Holy Sepulcher) in Jerusalem. The Church of the Resurrection has multiple claimants: the Greeks, Copts, Catholics, and Monophysite Armenians. On the one hand, this variety has an almost pentecostal quality to it. Dashkov, having spent all night leaning against a pedestal, goes on to note the beginnings of worship. “Toward morning these reveries were cut short by the ringing of a church bell in the wooden belfry; priests and deacons, with burning censers in their hands, flickered by like shadows; chants from the gathered worshipers harmonized with the sound of organs; and praise to God rose up in different languages, with different rites, but in a single church...” (283). On the other hand, Dashkov notes with disdain and irony that these Christian sects cannot get along under a tolerant Muslim government. He blames the corruption of local authorities for exacerbating these conflicts. The remainder of the translation goes on to report on visits to other holy sites, the financial status of various dioceses, and the judicial system of the Ottoman Empire.

The following article provides useful background to new Slavophiles. Those interested in Radical Orthodoxy and its turn to Sergius Bulgakov will benefit from an introduction to one of his main influences.

Rossum, Joost van. “The Notion of Freedom in Khomiakov’s Teaching on the Church,” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49 no. 3 (2005): 297-312.

Rossum summarizes the teaching of Alexis Stepanovich Khomiakov (1804-1860), the founder of the so called Slavophiles. Khomiakov’s influence can be seen in Sergei Bulgakov, Alexander Schmemann, and I would suggest that aspects of his ecclesiology are remarkably similar to the ecclesiology of Rowan Williams and Radical Orthodoxy (though the latter movement is just beginning to discover its Russian roots). Khomiakov said that there were two fundamental principles at work in the church: unity and freedom. The western churches fall into error by emphasizing one aspect over the others. Rome favors unity falls into ecclesiasticalism. Protestants splinter because they favor freedom. Khomiakov holds unity and freedom together with the principle of soborny, the Russian translation of “catholic.” According to Roosum, soborny means has a sense of voluntary gathering and can mean “having a unity in freedom” (299). Freedom is in the church under two aspects. First, the members of the church freely assent to her doctrines. Second, the hierarchy of the church is held in check by its members. Second, the bishop can be censured by his flock. Roosum notes the example of Nestorius, a Patriarch who later was condemned as a heretic. The author then turns to the writings of Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the confessor to argue that “‘freedom” is an essential characteristic of the human person, as it is of God” (303). In response to the critiques of Lossky and Zizioulas, who object that the theology of Khomiakov is voluntary rather than “compulsory” (in an anthropological sense, as in Zizioulas, for example, who argues that the person is a fundamentally communing being, is compelled to commune), Rossum objects that the church is also give to us as a mother. He says, “This metaphor implies that the Church has not been created by us, and is not the result of our human efforts, but that she is a gift of God to us. The Church is a paradoxical mystery: we are the Church, and the Church is given to us” (308).

The following article will be of benefit students of Russian history as well as those with a general interest in issues of church polity. The article also has implications for political theology.

Mack, John N. “Peter the Great and the Ecclesiastical Regulation: Secularization or Reformation,” St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49 no. 3 (2005): 243-69.

In Russian history and the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, Peter the Great’s ecclesiastical reforms take center stage. Peter replaced the Patriarchate with a Spiritual College. According to John N. Mack, most historians read these reforms as underhanded political posturing at the expense of religion. The author argues to the contrary that these reforms were the outcome of the traditional role of the Russian tsar and especially Peter’s own piety. In the author’s own words, “The purpose of Peter’s ecclesiastical reform, therefore, was not to ‘secularize’ Russian society but rather to ensure the continuation of its Orthodox Christian past” (247). Mack begins by summarizing the role of the tsar. The Russian tsar had three responsibilities. The first was to maintain his own piety because his power came directly from Christ himself. Second, the tsar was a pastor of his flock. He was the cooperate the with Patriarch in order to protect the church from theological error, heresy, and schism. Finally, the tsar was to maintain hierarchy in society. He could not simply change the established system of political and ecclesiastical relationships because he was a product of that very system. The tsar stood in the tradition of the kings and judges of Israel, leaders whose power came from God. The Kremlin was not a glorious building. It served a practical purpose. The glory of the tsar was in the churches. The architecture and iconography of the palace reinforced this link to the divine. Mack goes on to argue at great length for Peter’s piety. If that was the case, then Peter the Great established his reforms out of his role as a pastor of the flock and preserver of an Orthodox faith that was quickly becoming Roman (with the Patriarch of Moscow fast becoming a pope), not as a political power play.

This article will be of interest to readers who are looking for Orthodox parallels to famous Protestant and Catholic figures. Mother Maria Skobtsova is an Orthodox cross between Mother Teressa and Dorothy Day. Paul Evdokimov was an ecumenically-minded theologian who is still more popular in Catholic and Protestant circles. His theology of God’s suffering resembles Jürgen Moltmann’s.

Plekon, Michael. “The ‘Sacrament of the Brother/Sister’: The Lives and thought of Mother Maria Skobtsova and Paul Evdokimov.” St Vladimir Theological Quarterly 49 no. 3 (2005): 313-34.

Plekon begins his article by noting the resurgence in interest in Russian émigré theology, a Renaissance that has met with no small amount of resistance from the radical right wing of the church back home. Plekon’s purpose seems to be to defend émigré theology in light of reactionary movements by invoking some of its most radical figures and subtly calling for their canonization. These figures practiced what St John Chrysostom called the sacrament of the brother/sister; they made their live Eucharistic. The whole world became their church, and every person they encountered, whether Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic, or Hindu became a brother or sister to them by virtue of the image of God in them. Mother Maria Skobtsova was an outspoken writer and activist for the poor. She was tonsured after the death of her second husband, and immediately began working in hostels, gathering up the homeless and the hungry and doing what little she could to provide them with a place to sleep and food to eat. She would leave services early, or not attend them at all, in order to make her daily rounds to the bakeries and markets to claim any unused food on behalf of the poor. Like Mother Teressa, she focused on the two commands of Christ—love of God and neighbor—without sundering one from the other. Skobtsova was a radical because of a piety that made ascetics secondary to charity, but all the while she never ceased to be Orthodox. She condemned church subservience to the state in the reign of Peter the Great, but revered the great saints of her homeland. When the Nazis invaded France and the Jews were rounded up in a cycling stadium and left for days without food or water. Mother Maria would bring in what provisions should could and smuggle out small children in wastebaskets. She hid Jews in her hostel, a “crime” for which she was eventually condemned to the camps herself. She died shortly before the liberation of the camp when she offered her life in place of another condemned Jewish prisoner. Like Mother Maria, Evdokimov was active in hostels, first opening his doors to the homeless and hungry, and then to students and immigrants. All were welcome regardless of religion. It was once said of Paul Evdokimov that he usually behaved as if the church had never been split (330). Evdokimov wrote what remains one of the finest analyses of the Orthodox sacrament of marriage, but he spoke mostly to Protestants and Catholics. An ecumenically minded thinker, he was active in the WCC and other Protestant and Catholic charities. He joined Paul IV in calling for a radical redistribution of the wealth of the first world to the third world. Evdokimov also called for a great inter-religious council that could call the wealthy nations of the world to shame and action on behalf of the poor. His theology is reminiscent of Moltmann. Plekon summarizes his thought below.

God does not simply destroy evil and death but takes them upon himself. “He has destroyed death by death,” as the liturgy says. His light shines from truth, crucified and risen. It is this light which confronts the suffering of the innocent, of handicapped and deformed children, of senseless catastrophes. Here is the most paradoxical reality of God who is invincible weakness. The only response to such suffering is to say that God is weak, powerless and that he can only suffer with us. We can only say that suffering is “the bread that he shares with us.” God is powerful, certainly not in the omnipotence of his being but in his love which freely renounces power. (325)

This article is a helpful primer to readers unfamiliar with the history of Orthodoxy in America, particular among populations that fled from Eastern Europe during the reign of Stalin. It has implications for ecumenical theology.

Denysenko, Nicholas. “A Legacy of Struggle, Suffering, and Hope: Metropolitan Mstyslav Skrypnyk and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.” St Vladimir Theological Quarterly 49 no. 3 (2005): 335-51.

Through chronicling the complicated history of Ukrainian Orthodoxy at home and in the USA, with particular attention paid to the life of Mstyslav Skrypnyk, Nicholas Denysenko offers the reader unfamiliar with the long and complicated history of Orthodoxy in America a glimpse into some of the perennial problems that plague relations between different Orthodox communions, relations complicated by the noncanonical situation of having multiple (and competing!) Orthodox jurisdictions within the same vicinity. These problems are amplified in churches that exist as a result of immigrant flight from Stalin’s tyranny over Russia and much of Eastern Europe. Denysenko assumes that his reader is familiar with the history of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, focusing on the UOC-USA (the autocephalous American Ukrainian Orthodox church) and the UAOC (Ukrainian Auotcephalous Orthodox Church) in Ukraine. Denysenko begins by offering his reader a brief biography of Mstyslav Skrypnyk (born Stepan Skrypnyk). He began his adulthood in politics in the Polish “sejm,” but devoted his life to Ukrainian Orthodoxy after the death of his wife with the invasion of the Nazis. He was influential in the uniting a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine out of competing nationalistic and Muskovite devotees. While his efforts quickly failed as the Nazi occupiers began exacerbating the tensions that existed in this unstable alliance, his drive to unify competing churches would characterize the rest of his life’s work. The chaos of immigration after the war led to the formation of multiple Ukrainian Orthodox churches in America. Mstyslav Skrypnyk came to America in 1950 and allied himself with the dominant Metropolitan Ioann whose leadership was marred by accusations of noncanonical consecration in Ukraine. The greatest contribution of Mstyslav Skrypnyk was his administrative action in unifying the competing Ukrainian churches in America. While in America, he continued to be a controversial and outspoken defender of UOC-USA autocephaly (opposed by Moscow). He also dreamed of an autocephalous church in the Ukraine. He returned to his homeland in 1990 as a Patriarch, a symbolic move more than anything since there was little he could accomplish at 92. Mstyslav continued his life’s long work in his homeland and in the USA until his death in 1993. It was not until 1995 that part of his dream was fulfilled with the UOC-USA finally entered into communion with the rest of the Orthodox churches in the world.

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