"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).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Metropolitans in Print

St. Vladimir's Seminary Press has recently released two books, one from its own primate, Metropolitan Jonah, and another from the prolific Russian Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, author of books on hell, the canonical structure of the Church, Isaac the Syrian, Symeon the New Theologian, Orthodox witness today, and many musical works.

The first book, from the OCA's primate, whom I was delighted to meet in June at Orientale Lumen, is entitled Reflections on a Spiritual Journey, eds. Virginia Nieuwsma and Chad Hatfield (SVS Press, 2011), 207pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
Reflections on a Spiritual Journey —a collection of essays and addresses by Metropolitan Jonah— provides a glimpse into His Beatitude’s spiritual formation and thinking. The book, which contains not only a lengthy biography of the author but also a Foreword by The Right Rev. Benjamin, bishop of San Francisco and the West, is divided into two main sections. Part One, “The Spiritual Life,” contains the author’s reflections on forgiveness and reconciliation; becoming and purifying the true self; the connection between shame and the passions; and human personhood and the value of suffering. Part Two, “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” conveys the author’s vision regarding the identity and mission of the Orthodox Church in America as well as his perspectives on episcopacy, primacy, and the mother churches.
The volume is the first in the press’s new Orthodox Profiles series, which acquaints readers on an intimate level with Orthodox figures who have shaped the direction of the Orthodox Church in areas of mission, ascetical and liturgical theology, scholarly and pastoral endeavors, and various other professional disciplines. Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor/CEO of the seminary, is the Series Editor.
The second publication is not so much a new publication as a new version of a previously published book by Met. Hilarion: The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church.

About this book, the publisher says:
The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, by Metropolitan Hilarion, was written when His Eminence was a priest, lecturing in dogmatic theology at the Moscow Theological Seminary in 1992. It was published in Russian in 1996, and it was first printed in English by Darton, Longman and Todd, Ltd. in the United Kingdom in 2002. It is, in the words of the author “…neither a systematic exposition of the dogmatic theology of the Orthodox Church, nor a comprehensive analysis of Orthodox spiritual tradition. It is rather a personal commentary by an Orthodox priest on the dogmas of the Orthodox Church as they relate to spiritual life.” A collection of texts, mostly patristic, which illustrate the author’s points, follows each chapter.
It is, I must note, very sad that a man of Hilarion's caliber, who can produce many theological books of considerable erudition, nonetheless recently popped up in the media to repeat the same tedious nonsense about Ukrainian Greco-Catholics and the so-called conditions for the pope of Rome to meet the patriarch of Moscow. This is the same tendentious rubbish that the Russians slanderously spout every few months when it suits their mendacious purposes. No serious historian believes them (Robert Taft, inter alia, has long debunked all this, first in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2001, and again at Orientale Lumen in June of this year) and it is a mystery that such an intelligent and Oxford-educated man as Hilarion can put this forward with a straight face. After reading Taft's article "The Problem of 'Uniatism' and the 'Healing of Memories'," and listening to his OL lecture, Hilarion should next go out immediately and buy a copy of a new book by his fellow Russian Orthodox theologian, Antoine Arjakovsky: En attendant le Concile de l'Eglise Orthodoxe

I have read this book with great interest, and am reviewing it for a journal in Ukraine this fall. In chapter 24 of this very meaty and wholly welcome book, "Memories of the Pseudo-Synod of Lviv," Arjakovsky writes movingly and powerfully about that attempted suppression by Stalin of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC) with clear and demonstrably verifiable collusion from the Russian Church. Arjakovsky, as a well-trained historian (with a doctorate from the Sorbonne), simply lays out all the evidence without polemics or hysterics, allowing the absurdity of Russian claims, still mindlessly mouthed by Met. Hilarion, to be made manifest. He goes on to note that the other notion, that Ukraine somehow today remains part of Russia's "canonical territory" is equally risible to anyone who, in Taft's memorable words, actually studies and understands history instead of just making it up:
la difficulté ici n’est pas seulement que la justification historique présentée est loin de pouvoir convaincre. Le principal problème est que le patriarcat de Moscou ná eu à aucun moment de son histoire de juridiction en Galicie ! L’Église de Kiev-Halitch a toujours relevé du patriarcat de Constantinople (499). 
This chapter is especially useful in updating the discussion with all the documentation issued in 2006 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the pseudo-synod. Thus we read the letter from Pope Benedict XVI on the anniversary, the letter from then-president Victor Yuschenko, and a handful of rather reluctant acknowledgements from some Orthodox, including Nicolas Lossky. In the end, though, as Arjakovsky notes, memories of 1946 remain an enormous wound (“une blessure profonde”) that, in truth and justice, must be acknowledged and then healed. How long will it take for the Russian hierarchy to admit this? 

1 comment:

  1. Could you summarize the findings of Arjakovsky and others on this topic? I assume they well represent the view of Eastern Catholics on the facts, as well. Does he focus on the entire history of EC/EO relations, or is he focusing on a particular event or period of time within the larger story?

    I've always gotten the sense that each side is 'right' when speaking of its own preferred slice of time. Thus, Eastern Catholics were wronged by Stalin and the ROC in the 20th century, but Eastern Orthodox were wronged by Poles and Austrians prior to that in areas they had control over (starting with the Unia itself), and many claim the ECs persecute the EOC in western Ukraine today. I am in no position, personally, to determine the veracity of either side on any of the issues - and I don't have any French, unfortunately, so as to be able to read Arjakovsky's book.

    However, it seems disingenuous to complain about past wrongs, but then to put a statute of limitations on how far back is 'too far back' to be relevant. Taft is fond of saying something along the lines of how the Orthodox like to telescope events treating "long-past" events by Catholics as if they happened yesterday (or earlier today, and usually to their mothers), but much the same can be said of complaints about "long-past" actions by Stalin. "Long-past" is in the eye of the beholder, that is, and each side seems to feel rightly aggrieved over the specific time period(s) and events each side prefers to focus on.

    As I have pointed out to Serb friends, you can't argue for population and possession in one case while arguing for history in another. That is, Serbia can't rightly hold Vojvodina based on its contemporary "Serb-ness" (which it essentially annexed from Hungary by flooding it with Serb refugees from the Ottoman Empire during the two Great Serb Migrations) while refusing to relinquish Kosovo because of its historic "Serb-ness" regardless of its contemporary "Albanian-ness".


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