"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, November 23, 2020

Schmemann and Florovsky's Correspondence

I just got the new (and very thick!) catalogue of St. Vladimir's Seminary Press in the mail. There are, as you can imagine, all sorts of gems in it, but the first that leapt out concerns two pivotal figures I first read and studied in one of my doctoral classes almost 20 years ago now: Alexander Schmemann and Georges Florovsky. Both are towering figures of 20th-century Orthodoxy, and both are always fascinating to read. 

Both men entered into a post-war correspondence that has just been published under the translation of Paul Gavrilyuk (whose previous superlative study of Florovsky I discussed in detail here): On Christian Leadership: the Letters of Alexander Schmemann and Georges Florovsky (1947-1955) (New York: SVS Press, 2020), 416pp.

I am a great reader of and believer in the value of letters, diaries, and journals and the utility of all of them to scholarship. So I shall greatly look forward to reading this new collection, about which the publisher tells us this:

Fr Georges Florovsky (1893-1979) and Fr Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983) profoundly shaped twentieth-century Orthodox theology. Their correspondence, edited and translated for the first time, provides a unique window into their theological visions, leadership styles, and interactions with their contemporaries. Most of the letters were written when Florovsky had recently moved to the US to lead and organize the fledgling St Vladimir s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, while Schmemann was still teaching at the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. The correspondence also reveals the circumstances of Schmemann s move to the US at the request of Florovsky, and offers glimpses into their subsequent collaboration at St Vladimir s Seminary until their tragic rift in 1955. Reminiscent of the style of Schmemann s Journals, the letters lay out the challenges of leadership with brutal honesty and good humor, bearing an eloquent testimony to their authors dedication to launching a new era of seminary education.

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