Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
This book A Life Together: Wisdom of Community from the Christian East began with a talk in Moscow and with a British man from BP actually who was present asking if I would consider writing more on the idea of 'sobornost' because (himself a member of a renewal community in Britain) it seemed important to him... So began to write...in my way which is rather recursive...or perhaps it is as Ingmar Bergman says one throws a spear as far into the forest as one can and then goes and finds it. I tend to write in paragraphs circling the topic and then draw them together. This has analogy to the 'centuries' of St Maximus or of course the Temple of Thomas Traherne. But I have gotten into mechanics... as to why? It is my little offering to the Church, might be an answer...? To try to suggest ways forward...ways of elan and even a little romanticism (Chesterton and Merton and Lax were romantics werent they) to the extent that I could... ways of hope in the work of the Spirit...And of course what I might have to offer includes my being a Christian of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and my experience in life and so on...
2. What about your own background led you to the writing of this book?
Well the subject of sobornost is of a meditation of unity, sobornost being a Russian word whose root means 'gathering'. I am an American and for years I served in Japan and then returned to the United States where I live now. But my deepest experience of community perhaps came in visits to Russia beginning in 1994 and contact with disciples and spiritual heirs of Fr Alexander Men. Fr Men was a great leader of renewal of life and mission in the church at the end of the Soviet period, who baptized many thousands, wrote many books, and had an ever widening ministry through lectures and the media cut short by his assassination in 1990. However these works, including house meetings and all sorts of ministries to the poor,to prisoners, to youth and so on continue in the Church through those who learned from him...and with these people I felt a very deep sense of community and I have remained in contact with and sharing in this work until now...however paradoxical it may be, myself an American separated usually by many miles and also speaking little Russian and so on. But this experience and other experiences of community, and of what the theologian Antoine Arjakowsky calls 'the ecumenism of friendship' form a background for my feeling that the mystery of the church is indeed the mystery of community, and that the meditation of it and the opening out of the experience and reality of deep community and unity in Christ is ongoing in the Church and is something to which we are called...
3.For whom was the book written—was there a particular audience you had in mind?
I did not, and would not, conceive the appropriate readership to be narrowly limited. Of course the subject of community, or of sobornost, can be of particular interest to people interested in the Eastern Church, as to sobornost, or in the new communities. But also when we speak of unity we must start with inner unity, which is something which all people need, and all of us are involved with others in in the interweave of relationswhich is the ground of community. Certainly any Christian who takes seriously John 17 where the Lord says that the unity of the disciples can be and ought be of the order of that of the persons of the Trinity, will find it important to consider where we stand now, so many years after that high priestly prayer and after Pentecost and how this sort of depth of unity still comes to us as a call from the future...
4.Were there any surprises you discovered in the writing?
Well as I said earlier I started with discussing the meaning of the idea of sobornost, unity if you will, for the Russian thinkers of the 19th century. And then like the man throwing a spear into the woods and following to its place, I found many connections that opened out...For example to the idea of co-inherence developed quite independently by the novelist Charles Williams, and then beyond my initial intention there came the question of what spiritual disciplines can be ways of unity? The final three sections of the book propose a new discipline of attention, of 'watchfulness', not simply inwardly as in some monastic writing but to the world and to the times that are coming and to the coming Lord which we suggest recovers the original sense of the command to 'watch', secondly in complementarity the principle of opposites completing each other in physics associated with Nils Bohr we propose an important inner orientation also deeply related to unity and only beginning to be applied in religious thought, and thirdly that external mission which is dialogic, on the model of the conversation on the road to Emmaus, and is necessarily grounded in prayer...These are some of the ideas which came together as I worked with this theme.
5. Are there similar books out there, and if so, how is yours different?
I am honored by comparisons to Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I do cite Bonhoeffer in one place, but I think for one thing my discussion is more broadly focused... and, apart from simmilarity of title, the books quite different. The only book I know on simply sobornost is Sobornost by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. It is an admirable little book but again its scope is really the spirituality of her Madonna House and it is part of a trilogy (Poustinia--hermitage--and Molchanie or silence being the other two.) It is rather surprising fact that there are really no books giving a broad consideration just to Sobornost, and this in spite of the importance of the word and its currency in Eastern Christian circles. The more I looked into the subject the more I felt that something further ought be said and in A Life Together I attempted to at least open the discussion in a new way...
6. Sum up briefly the main themes/ideas/insights of the book
That the Mystery of Unity our Lord spoke of, should appear as fresh and unheard of in the 19th century, shows how the history of the Church is not finished...rather it seems we are only beginning to enter the depth of the experience of Pentecost...
This unity is, as the Russians felt, the necessary way between the loss of the person in collectivism and on the other hand the loss of the human family and of the Church in individualism...
The journey into unity is a spiritual calling to the Church but also to persons and we can become,as we are called to be, men and women of unity... We can live the sign of unity. It is a deeper question than that of 'ecumenism' and yet it is also of course the way forward for external church unity.
Christianity is in its infancy, Fr Alexander Men said. This is opposite to the current feeling which even enters the churches that Christianity is played out, exhausted... but as we enter the way of community and inner and outer unity we see how deeply true it is that the journey is only begun.. This realization I think is deeply liberating and renewing...
In this renewed journey is there not also a renewal of spirit and elan and of the sense of boundless possibility which we and, if we may say so, the Church so need?
+Seraphim Joseph Sigrist
Bishop, Orthodox Church in America
formerly of Sendai and East Japan
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
“The appearance in 1965 of Orthodoxy, a masterpiece of synthesis, was a landmark in religious publishing and earned for its author a doctorate of theology from the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris. Paul Evdokimov here circumvents all scholastic theology on the one hand, and the traditional approach of the ‘Dogmatic’ theologians on the other, to develop an original synthesis of Orthodox theological thinking. Although he constantly quotes the Fathers, he does so creatively, so as not simply to repeat them, but to incarnate their spirit in our own time and for our future. In addition, he enriches Patristic thought by bringing to bear on it the two great movements that have occurred in Eastern Christianity: the theology of the divine energies in the 14th century which enlightened our understanding of the material world and human culture; and the Russian religious philosophy of the first half of the 20th century with its prophetic intuitions, its Pentecostal understanding of the modern world, and its vital eschatology. A theological approach in which the human intelligence progresses by an ascesis of repentance, of the great conversion of the heart, metanoia, is here set forth so as to show, or rather celebrate, the theosis or deification of the whole human person.... An understanding we might call eucharistic, gathering together and clarifying the experience of life in the Church, an understanding inseparable from the golden chain of holiness, including the holiness of intelligence, which the Church venerates in those whom she calls the ‘Fathers.’ ”
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Today those of us in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate the feast of the Ascension as recorded in the Book of Acts chapter 1 and Luke 24. Those of you in the Roman Catholic Church will celebrate this feast on Sunday since the Vatican II reforms moved the feast to the following Sunday.