"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).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Diaries of Met. Maxim Hermaniuk at Vatican II

I am an unrepentant reader of diaries, especially, as it happens, of "controversial" but hugely entertaining Englishmen such as the greatest Catholic writer of his generation, Evelyn Waugh or the Tory cabinet minister Alan Clark: The Diaries 1972 - 1999, a racy collection by a man who could have rivaled Waugh for the political incorrectness award of the twentieth century. The genre of a diary was, of course, made most famous by that of another Englishman, Samuel Pepys. Many others have followed suite down through the ages. E.g., John Colville's The Fringes of Power: 10 Downing Street Diaries, 1939-1955 offers fascinating insights into the Second World War in general and Churchill's direction of it in particular. For the same time, The Harold Nicolson Diaries 1907-1964 are also fascinating, not least for Nicolson's very unusual marriage to Vita Sackville-West.

In theology, the diary is not a major genre, though there are arguments to be made that some of the classical literature of the Fathers, including much of the patristic literature of the desert, along with Augustine's Confessions come close to what we understand as a diary in the modern sense. But it is in the last two centuries in particular that we find more celebrated examples of theological diarists, including, once more, the greatest Englishman of his day, John Henry Cardinal Newman, a voluminous writer of letters, diaries, and other magnificent prose, most famously his Apologia pro Vita Sua. More recently still, in Mon journal du Concile the French Dominican ecclesiologist, ecumenist, and historian Yves Congar reveals fascinating details of his life at the centre of some of the great controversies in the Catholic Church in the twentieth century--before, during, and after Vatican II.

In an Eastern context, there are several recent examples, including The Diary of Mar Dionysios Georgios al-Qas Behnam, Metropolitan of Aleppo (1912-1992) (Dar Mardin: Christian Arabic and Syriac Studies from the Middle East); and Aleksandr Elchaninov, The Diary of a Russian Priest. But the best example remains, of course, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983, published in 2000 by SVS Press in a redacted form.

More recently, the fuller version was published in French, and Michael Plekon discussed them in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies last year at this time. In his review, Plekon began by saying that
Before going on, let me plead that those in control of these texts allow them to be published in English translation—not the truncated collections of excerpts, but the full entries, and all of them. And let me further note that not only should the full journal see the light of day in English, but also his letters and perhaps earlier papers and memoirs. There is a wealth of tapes and transcriptions of the thousands of talks Schmemann recorded for Radio Liberty for broadcast to the USSR
Later this year, we should see the publication of The Second Vatican Council Diaries of Met. Maxim Hermaniuk, C.Ss.R. (1960-1965) under the editorship of Jaroslav Skira and K. Schelkens (Peeters, 2011). These promise to be fascinating as Hermaniuk was a major figure at the council and after, sometimes called the "father of collegiality."

He was forthright about certain developments after the council, voicing the disappointment of many that the "synod" of bishops Pope Paul VI ironically unilaterally created in 1965 was not a real example of Synod and Synodality but instead just "international study days for the Catholic bishops." (I review the nature and different types of synods in the East in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity). We will certainly be paying attention to Hermaniuk's diaries upon publication, discussing them on here and reviewing them in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, the scholarly revue of which Hermaniuk was editor-in-chief from 1993 until his death in 1996.

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