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An Ecclesiological Reading of Fr Sergei Bulgakov’s Mariology

Yulia Antipina

Yulia Antipina

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The latest in a series of roundtable discussions on Fr Sergei Bulgakov was held on 9 December, 2023, lead by Saint Philaret’s Institute graduates Aleksandr Volkov (PhD Candidate) and Yulia Antipina (Graduate student at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy).

Yulia Antipina presented a paper entitled “An Ecclesiological Reading of Fr Sergei Bulgakov’s Mariology” at the roundtable. Participants discussed how Bulgakov’s Mariology is related to his Ecclesiology and Sophiology.

“Orthodox Theology represents the Virgin Mary primarily as the Mother of God (“Bogoroditsa” = “God Bearer”), which always infers a certain reference to Christ”, says Yulia Antipina. “Also traditional for Orthodox Christianity, though perhaps less widespread, is the correlation of the Mother of God with the image of the Church. Similar ecclesiological readings of the service of the Mother of God can be found not only in iconography and hymnology, but in the theological writings of St. Nicholas Kabasilas, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Theophanes the Branded (of Nicaea), who underscore the Mother of God’s active role in the economy of salvation. Fr Sergei’s Mariology continues this line of thought, infusing it with new ecclesiological content.”

“The veneration of the Mother of God is very significant for Fr Sergei’s theological thought not only or even primarily as a question of his personal devotion, so much as an integral element of his dogmatic theology. He consistently develops his Mariology in his work “The Burning Bush” (1924), in specific chapters of his work “The Comforter” (1935), in a manuscript entitled “Mariology in the Fourth Gospel”, and in many of sermons given on Christmas and the feasts of the Annunciation, Entry into the Temple, Dormition, and Protective Veil (Pokrov). In Bulgakov’s theology, the Mother of God presents an image of divine humanity which is distinct from the divine humanity of Christ, yet nevertheless also continuous with Christ’s divine humanity. Bulgakov reveals the significance of the pneumatological foundation of divine-human synergy through the sacrificial service of the Mother of God, which is accomplished in the acceptance of the Holy Spirit and manifestation of His gifts”, says Yulia Antipina.

This roundtable discussion on Fr Sergei Bulgakov’s Mariology continues a series of SFI Student Scholarly Society meetings on the theological inheritance of this leading Russian thinker.