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Erlangen University Celebrates the 80th Birthday of Professor Felmy

On the 5th of May, Erlangen University celebrated a special academic holiday – the 80th birthday of Professor Deacon Vasily Felmy.

Fr Vladimir Fyodorov, Professor Michael Hübner, Professor Deacon Vasily Felmy, Dmitry Gasak, Fr Georges Lang, interpreter Natalia Merkel

Fr Vladimir Fyodorov, Professor Michael Hübner, Professor Deacon Vasily Felmy, Dmitry Gasak, Fr Georges Lang, interpreter Natalia Merkel

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Deacon Vasily (Karl Christian) Felmy is a leading specialist in the History and Theology of the Christian East and author of two doctoral dissertations: The Sermon in Orthodox Russia (1969) and The Interpretation of the Divine Liturgy in Russian Orthodox Theology (1982), as well as many other theological works. Russian readers best know him for his books Icons of Christ, and Introduction to Orthodox Theology, a significantly reworked and updated edition of which was recently published by SFI under the title Introduction to Contemporary Orthodox Theology.

For many years, Professor Felmy has been on the board of St. Philaret’s Institute, and has given many lectures within these walls.

Professor Deacon Vasily (Karl Christian) Felmy

Professor Deacon Vasily (Karl Christian) Felmy

The celebrations were organized by Erlangen University and the Union of Martin Luther. More than 60 people were present that evening, primarily colleagues and students of Karl Christian Felmy. Russian theological academies were represented by Fr Vladimir Fyodorov, a Senior Lecturer at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and Vice Rector Dmitry Gasak, of Saint Philaret’s Institute.

Assistant Dean of the Philosophy and Theology Faculties at Erlangen University. Doctor Anselm Schubert, introduced the assembled guests, and Doctor Hacik Rafi Gazer, also a Professor at Erlangen University, moderated the evening’s meeting.

The keynote address was delivered by a former student of Deacon Felmy from the Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Strasbourg, Doctor Jennifer Wasmuth. Papers of others of Professor Felmy’s students were also given, including papers by Professor Heinz Ohme of Humboldt University in Berlin and Professor Daniel Benga of LMU Munich, looking at various theological aspects of Professor Felmy’s work, including his contribution into the study of Orthodox Liturgy.

Between the academic offerings, the assembled crowd was treated to various samplings of organ music, and the university celebrations were finished off with a small reception at the Union of Martin Luther House.

On Sunday, the assembled guests were invited to the Divine Liturgy at the Moscow Patriarchate parish church of Blessed Ksenia of St. Petersburg in Nuremburg, where Fr. Pyotr Stepanov serves. Deacon Felmy also serves at this church.

“The history of research into Eastern Orthodox theology at Erlangen University began in the 1920s and 30s, when the University acquired a large library of theological literature being sold off by the Bolsheviks for almost nothing,” said Dmitry Gasak. “At the time, interest in the Russian theological tradition was, in large part, connected with the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union.”

After the war, the theology faculty and its Institute of the Eastern Churches at Erlangen University, was headed by Vera Georgievna Lilienfeld (Fairy von Lilienfeld), the only woman to take part in dialogues between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Church of Germany. She had a deep knowledge of Russian spiritual literature, church history, and Orthodoxy theology, and was very sympathetic to Orthodoxy. Karl Christian Felmy replaced Vera Lilienfeld as head of Erlangen’s Faculty of Theology; his own studies of Eastern theology led him to be received into the Orthodox Church.