Beauty in the Christian Life according to St Ephraim the Syrian
The article examines the concept of beauty in Christian anthropology using the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. The interpretation of the biblical verse about the creation of man in God’s image is analysed using the hymns of a fourth-century Syriac poet as an example. Metaphors are revealed, with the help of which Ephrem develops the idea of the original beauty of man in Paradise, the fall into sin and the loss of beauty by Adam and Eve. The beauty of the image of God in man has been obscured by sin, and human effort and ascesis are needed to restore it. In doing so, God retains the gift of free will and does not resort to coercion. The creation and fall of man, the incarnation of Christ, and man’s return to God through baptism are described by Ephrem using the metaphors of the garment and mirror. The image of a clean and unclouded mirror is revealed in Christ. One who has been baptized must constantly purify his inner eye in order to imitate Christ in this purity. The images of being clothed in the “garments of glory”, the purification of the mirror and the return to original beauty help not only to reveal the specificity of the concepts inherent in early Syriac Christian literature, but also to shed light on the possible understanding of F. M. Dostoevsky’s words “beauty will save the world”.
Keywords: Christian anthropology, the image of God, early Syriac literature, Ephrem the Syrian, the Fall, beauty.
The Problem of Identifying Church Boundaries in the writings of Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, Protopresbyter Nicholas Afanasiev and Archpriest Georges Florovsky
The article considers one of the most pressing problems of Orthodox ecclesiology, related to the identification of different ecclesial boundaries. It depends not only on the solution of this question to clarify the doctrine of the Church, which is extremely important in the absence of a special ecclesiological dogma, but also to find ways of achieving the church unity desired by all. The works of Russian Orthodox theologians who made the most significant contribution to the
development of Orthodox ecclesiology in the twentieth century – Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, Protopr. Nikolai Afanasiev, and Archpriest Georges Florovsky – are used for this study. Proceeding from an understanding of each individual’s belonging to the Church (membership in the Church) and the problem of recognition or non-recognition of sacraments administered outside the Church, the authors under study come to important conclusions. The main one concerns the need to distinguish not only between the nature of one’s ecclesiality (actual, potential and conditional membership) and the canonical and gracious validity of the sacraments administered outside the Church, but also to consider the existence of ecclesial boundaries of a different order than just canonical ones. The analysis of the studied works results in revealing the difference in approaches in determining the boundaries of the Church of different orders (Florovsky distinguishes charismatic boundaries, Afanasiev points out the boundaries of the Eucharistic assembly, while Bulgakov speaks of mystical boundaries).
Keywords: ecclesiology, Church boundaries, Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov, Protopr. Nicholas Afanasiev and Archpriest Georges Florovsky.
What is the Role of the Laity in the Church? The Laity are the Church!
The question of the role of the laity in the Church, in and of itself, requires clarification insofar as the laity are the very essence of the people of God; they are not only in the Church – they are the Church. All divisions between clergy and laity in Church History are relatively late innovations, as this paper seeks to demonstrate. Neither New Testament texts nor early Christian sources show
evidence of the separate category of “laity”, as a definition of non-clerics, who do not have a calling to the special liturgical ministries. All members of the church gathering are together the essence of the people of God (ὁ λαὸs τοῦ Θεοῦ) – a phrase used to describe all those in the gathering, whether or not they have been assigned a particular ministry in the Church. Even the word "laity” presents us with a terminological difficulty, insofar as it does not have a clear terminological equivalent in Russian (the term “laiki” only partially conveys the meaning and when we designate people within the Church who do not have a specific church or liturgical ministry as “miryanje”, we are specifically accenting their tendency to associate themselves only with “this world”, understanding them as “people who are concerned with the interests and needs of this world”). This author of this paper seeks to demonstrate that for any faithful member of the people of God, it is his or her service to the church – according to his or her spiritual gifting and related ministry, that bears witness to full membership. The genre of “Story
Theology” is of particular significance here, alongside early Christian sources and modern church documents. The narrative of “Story Theology” allows us to reveal the path of faith and simple people’s desire to sanctify their lives before God, while retaining their faithfulness to their Christian calling. Their real life witness to the deep and transformative power of God’s action reveals to us, in the opinion of Archimandrite Robert Taft, the actual place that faithful members of the people of God who are designated as “lay” members hold in the history of Church sanctity
and witness to Christ in the world.
Keywords: Liturgics, ecclesiology, laity, people of God, lay people, clerics, church fellowship, prayer, Eucharist, Story Theology.
Liturgics and Sacramentology
Towards possible foundations for systematic orthodox sacramentology
The article presents an attempt to define the reasons for absence of unified orthodox sacramental doctrine and therefor suggests possible foundations for building up one. The author’s understanding of sacramentum is based on vision of the nature of Church. The predominant until nowadays the so called clerical ecclesiological model limits the concept of completed sacramentum by a few formal conditions: presence of canonically justified priest, exclamation of a special sacramental formula, sacramental substance and a fixed moment of commitment. As a result this approach ignores the mystery of Church and The Holy Spirit acting freedom declared by the New Testament, and the basic significance of which was especially
stressed by recognized Church authorities in different periods of Church history. Another foundation for an integral orthodox sacramental theory may be found in the experience of adult catechism practice which could be interpreted as the main Christian sacramental effort stemming from the high calling of the Church. Then the integral Church sacramentum appears to be an existential experience being therefore the core of Church existence including every separate act of entering the Church and also the general calling of the Church as it was explained by a number of notorious theologians. In this case The Church sacraments as well as the entire being of the Church turn into a dynamic process with unpredictable and varying
results where their positivity is dependent on the quality of the spiritual efforts performed by a certain christial society. The efficacy of the sacraments should be therefore preferably described in terms of effort, trial and degree of commitment.
Keywords: Orthodox Church, Church nature, sacramentology, sacraments, efficacy of sacraments.
Religious Pedagogy and Education
This article is about the experience of a new and unique type of educational institution which was born as a collective effort, during the late Soviet era, among Soviet intelligentsia, given their interest in religion and the Orthodox Church. The team did not try to recreate either the structure or the forms currently employed for seminary or university education. The author demonstrates the use of relevant early church catechetical systems, which open out into the necessity for further system-driven educational development which nevertheless presumes both the rejection of scholasticism and the assumption that there is no insurmountable rift between the attainment of knowledge in an intellectual sense and experienced knowledge in terms of spiritual, ecclesial practice. The principles of the new educational system, which occurs in three stages, are forged within the context of the search for commonality and unity in community, without which spiritual schools are doomed to formalization and degeneration. Maximal resources are dedicated to the active engagement of students with the educational process itself; the form and content of their independent work is proscribed, and then described, in specific, written detail. The necessity and opportunity to orient students directly toward the achievement of serious Christian theological thought are underscored, given the fact that the educational process is not primary, but an addition to the existential aspect of students’ lives. We consider this new type of spiritual education within the context of our understanding of the Christian tradition as a unity of theology, culture and education within the context of the church. We at the Moscow higher school of Orthodox Theology have come to the conclusion that spontaneous revelation of principles, methods and patterns on the basis of reintegrated patristic-style catechesis is an answer to the contemporary crisis in higher education, in many ways similar to what we see in the appearance of various forms of “open university” education.
Keywords: catechesis, church community, brotherhood, Christian education, stage-by-stage process, spiritual literature, Orthodox Christian tradition, educational programmes.
Adoption (Υἱοθεσία) Metaphor of Apostle Paul: Context and Interaction with the Jewish Tradition of Israel Sonship
The article deals with the matters of origin of apostle Paul’s υἱοθεσία (adoption) metaphor, its theological content and interaction with the Jewish tradition of Israel sonship. In all the biblical literature, υἱοθεσία metaphor occurs only in Paul’s epistles and can be studied as one of the characteristics of his exegetics and theology. The problem of sources (traditions) of Paul’s metaphor (Jewish texts or Greek-Roman legal norms and practices) is associated with dichotomy of his personality and theology, since Paul was a man of two cultures – Jewish and Greek. The article analyzes the content of υἱοθεσία in Galatians and Romans in its interaction with metaphors of Israel sonship of the Jewish tradition with the purpose to determine how well-known ideas of υἱοθεσία relate to Old Testament revelation, and what are Paul’s own concepts he intends to convey to his audience. The article discloses how Paul represents his own interpretation of Israel sonship referring to υἱοθεσία and how Paul puts his ideas of fulfilling God’s promises into one eschatological scenario with the central “adoption” idea. Being placed in the center of the story about Jesus embedded in the general history of Israel, υἱοθεσία
metaphor serves as justification for Paul’s definition of the “seed of Abraham”, including gentiles along with Jews as heirs of the Divine promises to Abraham, and shows how that promises are fulfilled.
Keywords: “adoption” (υἱοθεσία), Greek-Roman adoption, Jewish tradition of sonship, Old Testament allusions, “formula of adoption”, historic-typological model, eschatological scenario, “seed of Abraham”.
Tsar-Martyr vs Tsar-Liberator. Why was not Alexander II canonized?
This article analyzes both the formation and functioning of the image of Alexander II as a tsar-martyr in the last quarter of the 19th century. The interpretation of the terrorist attacks against the Emperor and then his assassination on March 1, 1881 as a willing sacrifice for the “sins” of the Russian people and even as “co-crucifixion with the First Martyr Christ” was created by the
preachers of the Russian Orthodox Church. It allowed to speak about the tsar’s death not as a profound political crisis but as an act of “saving” Russia. The image of the tsar-martyr was actively used both in the official discourse and in press, not only conservative, but also liberal.
At the same time the constant use of this image had unexpected results and was accepted too literally, which led to direct demands for the canonization of Alexander II, the creation of icons with his image and the holding of religious processions with portraits of the Emperor. In the second part of the article I discuss a number of hypotheses why the canonization of Alexander II which logically followed from the discursive strategy of the Russian Orthodox Church and which found support of the flock was not realized by the political elite of the Russian Empire. Alexander II became part of the historical memory of Russia as a Tsar-Liberator, not a Tsar-Martyr.
Keywords: Alexander II, populist’s terror, canonization, martyr, representation.
А. А. Ershova. Should We not Read the Gospel, the Book of Acts,
and Epistles in Russian in the Church?
The published letter was written by Alexandra Alexeevna Ershova (nee Shteven, 1865–1933), an Orthodox educator and social activist, in Moscow in 1930. The author of the letter raises the question of the need for the Gospel, Acts and Epistles to be read in Russian during the divine service in the church. At the end of the nineteenth century, A. A. Ershova was known in Russia as an orthodox educator, engaged in the establishment of literacy schools (primary elementary peasant schools). Between 1885 and 1895 she opened about 50 schools in Nizhny Novgorod province. Then, as the wife of a landowner from Tula, later Voronezh Governor M. D. Ershov, she continued to be interested in problems of spiritual enlightenment and education, and wrote journalistic articles. Her correspondents included Chief Procurator of the Synod K. P. Pobedonostsev, political and public figures of the early twentieth century: prince D. I. Shakhovskoy, A. I. Guchkov, P. B. Struve, writers Leo Tolstoy, V. V. Veresaev, V. G. Korolenko, educators and enlighteners S. A. Rachinsky, N. N. Neplyuev, and others. The Yershov family did not accept the October revolution of 1917 and emigrated to Ukraine. In the late 1920s A. A. Yershova, along with her remaining children, moved to Moscow. She was acquainted with many Moscow priests, knew the church situation and wanted to be useful to the church, as the published letter attests.
Keywords: Orthodox Divine Service, translation of the Divine Service, Christian enlightenment, persecution of the Church in the twentieth century, A. A. Ershova.
“The fight against peasantry” in the Soviet Russia is a painful experience of agrarian and socio-political history. A review of the All-Russian Scientific Conference with international participation, dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the beginning of mass dispossession of ‘kulaks’ in the Soviet Union “Stalin’s collectivization: topical problems” (Moscow, November 12, 2020)
Book review: Kloppenborg J. S. Christ’s Associations: Connecting and
Belonging in the Ancient City. New Haven; London : Yale University Press, 2019. 536 p.
Book review: The Systemic Problems of Orthodoxy: Analysis, Relaxion,
Search for Solutions. Materials of the first seminar. Мoscow : “Sobornost” Project, 2020. 104 p.
Book review: Dikhanova-Vnukovskaya L. А. “Instead of Miracles or the Gift of Prophecy”: Jesuit Missionary Strategy in Asia in the Sixteenth Century. St. Petersburg : Aletheia, 2020. 224 p. : ill.
Book abstract: Sergei Nikolayevich Bulgakov / Ed. A. P. Kozyrev. Moscow : Political Encyclopaedia, 2020. 631 p. : ill. (Philosophy of Russia in the first half of the twentieth century)
Congratulations to L. V. Kroshkina on defending her Ph.D. for the degree of Candidate of Cultural Studies