After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Orthodox believers gave new life to places such as Berlin, Prague, and particularly Paris, where two theological institutes, St. Sergius and St. Denys, were founded which tried to preserve the heritage of the home churches and to explore new possibilities of missionary activity in the West. This process can best be understood by looking at the diaspora before the First World War.
Orthodox Christianity in Western Europe at the Dawn of the 20th Century
Though small Orthodox communities existed in several Western European countries,1 the main focus of this entry is on France, Germany, and Britain, as the three leading Orthodox countries in Western Europe. The first significant Orthodox contact with the region occurred around 1600, when Czar Boris Godunov (ca. 1551–1605) sent a group of 18 men to study in England, France, and Germany. Not a single one came back.2 During subsequent centuries, many Russians, especially aristocrats, visited Western Europe, but there were no Orthodox churches or communities there.
The first purpose-built Russian Church in Paris, dedicated to St. Aleksandr Nevskii (ca. 1220–1263), was opened in 1861 and served the Russian nobility and merchants. The first organised Orthodox community in Paris had, however, been formed by the Romanians. In the 1850s a priest, Archimandrite Josaphat Snagoveano (ca. 1797–1872), came to Paris. Snagoveano was in exile as a result of the abortive revolution of 1848, and in late 1853 he founded a Romanian Chapel, which came under the authority of the Metropolitan of Bucharest in 1860.3 Meanwhile, a Greek-speaking congregation had formed in Marseille, and its church, completed in 1845, was the first Orthodox church built in France. Its construction was financed by a group of Greeks from the Black Sea region who had moved to France following the French Revolution in 1789. The communities in France prior to around 1920 were in general too small for there to have been any real conflicts between different jurisdictions, and each migrant church sought links with its home Patriarchate or Metropolitanate. These churches can be seen as typical ethnic churches, serving the needs of expatriates.
The story in Germany was broadly similar. During the Middle Ages, there was contact between Orthodox and Roman Catholic believers in the territory of what is now Germany, and of course there was also widespread migration of German-speakers eastwards. Although these emigrants took their own version of Christianity with them (and after the Reformation, many became Protestants), there is, nevertheless, a long history of individual contacts between German-speakers and Orthodoxy. However, the first Orthodox community in Germany came into being in 1718, and the first Orthodox church was built only in 1829, in the Russian colony of Alexandrowka, in Potsdam. Owing to dynastic ties between the German and Russian nobility and visits to Germany by the Russian aristocracy, temporary communities were formed in a number of spa towns and elsewhere, especially in the summer months. The Russian Orthodox presence tended to be initiated through diplomatic and aristocratic channels, whilst the Greek Orthodox communities arose from merchant communities. After the opening of the borders of the Ottoman Empire in 1700, Greek traders participated in the Leipzig trade fairs, and there is a record of Orthodox liturgy having been celebrated there in 1742.4 Leipzig was also important, alongside Venice, as a place where Greeks could publish their books. Links with Bavaria were strengthened with the election of Otto (1815–1867), the second son of the King of Bavaria, as the King of the newly independent Greece in 1832. A number of Greeks went to study in Munich, where Otto's father Ludwig I (1786–1868), a strong supporter of Greek independence, had already given the Greeks a former Roman Catholic church building, the Church of Our Saviour, which is today the longest-standing Orthodox church building in continuous function in Germany, being used by the Greek community since 1830.5
In Britain, the situation was similar. Already in the early 17th century, there had been a growing Anglican interest in Orthodoxy, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Kyrillos Loukaris (1572–1638),6 requested Anglican support against the inroads of the Jesuits in the Mediterranean area. The first church for the Greek Orthodox community in Britain was built in 1681, but owing to conflicts within the community it was not able to fulfil its role, and until 1850 believers were dependent on the chapel of the Russian embassy. In the second half of the 19th century the Greeks, with support from politically independent Greece,7 established their own church structure.
Generally, the Orthodox communities in France, Germany, and Britain were small, and exercised hardly any influence on other churches or on Western societies as a whole. Although, in the 18th century, some Western works were translated or edited into Greek by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (1748–1809), there was very little direct contact between Western and Eastern theologians,8 and no Orthodox theology was conducted in Western Europe. Owing to their focus on their own members (if they looked outwards, it was to their motherlands), the communities did not consider internal Orthodox unity when they established their first juridical links.
The Exodus from Russia and the National States that Succeeded the Ottoman Empire
Orthodox theology began in Western Europe as a direct result of the exodus of theologians and religious thinkers from Russia, who were among the hundreds of thousands of voluntary and forced migrants following the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917. There were several major routes to the West. Some individuals, like Fr. Sergei N. Bulgakov (1871–1944), came via Istanbul, others, such as Fr. Georges Florovsky (1893–1979) via Sofia, and many, like Nikolai O. Losskii (1870–1965) with his family, or Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948), were expelled from their homes, and came first to Berlin, from where some went to Prague and others straight to Paris. Still others went to Belgrade, as the government of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (which was to become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) sought to build up its intelligentsia and needed people to work in leading positions in the newly established civil service. The headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) was also located there, not far from the newly founded theological faculty of Belgrade University. Each of these temporary homes imprinted its character on the Orthodox exiles, and provided them with different opportunities to develop their ecclesiastical and intellectual lives, and for contact with others.9
Berlin was initially important also for economic reasons, since the weakness of the German currency in the early 1920s meant that life was relatively cheap, and many of the leading émigré publishing houses were established in Berlin, printing works by people like Berdyaev. It was also Berdyaev that helped to start a religious academy in Berlin, where lectures and discussions took place, hoping to prepare for the fall of Bolshevism and the restoration of a "true Russia". These kinds of setting were an important semi-formal platform for the discussion of theological ideas, and much of the Orthodox theology that emerged from the late 1920s and early 1930s onwards was first shared and debated in one of the myriad of small groups and seminars that existed in the various centres of "Russia outside Russia".
Prague had other attractions. There was financial assistance, thanks to the efforts of the head of state of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia, President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850–1937), who had long been interested in the Slavophile movement and wished to prepare a Russian intellectual elite to run the country after what he saw as the inevitable and rapid fall of Bolshevism. The main focus of émigré life in Prague was thus education. In 1923, the Russian People's University was founded, where both Nikolai Losskii and Bulgakov taught. There were also other independent institutions, the most important for theology being Kondakov's Byzantine Studies Seminar, where Vladimir Losskii (1903–1958) began his studies.10 It was also in Czechoslovakia that the first meeting of the exiled Russian Christian Student Movement took place in 1923. Supported by the YMCA, it was initially shaped primarily by Bulgakov and Berdyaev, whose notions of political, intellectual, and spiritual freedom became vital both for coping with the situation in the motherland and for new ways of relating to the Western Christians.11
However, the major centre of Orthodoxy in the West by the end of the 1920s was Paris. Apart from the development of the two theological institutes, to which we will return below, a major feature of Orthodox life in Paris was the various seminars organised especially by Berdyaev. These were a development of what had begun in Berlin, but had in fact much deeper roots, going back to pre-Revolution Russian circles.12 In Paris, Berdyaev initially brought together Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic theologians in seminars meeting first in the Russian Centre, and then at his home in the suburb of Clamart. These seminars, attended by Catholics like Jacques Maritain (1882–1973) and Étienne Gilson (1884–1978) , or Protestants like Wilfred Monod (1867–1943) and Marc Boegner (1881–1970), saw, for example, some of the first presentations of Florovsky's thinking on Neo-Patristics that was to come to dominate 20th-century Orthodox theology in the West. Much of the theological thinking emerged, then, from highly contextual settings, where academic rigour was combined or confronted with the reality of a violently uprooted community struggling to find meaning and identity in a new world.
The Theological Heritage Brought to the West from Pre-Revolution Russia
The new theological development among Orthodox believers in the West can best be traced through the mission of the two theological institutes established in Paris, St. Sergius and St Denys. The renewal the professors at these institutions brought from their homeland included the fruits of Hesychast spirituality13 contributing – together with the Slavophile movement14 – to the recovery of the Church Fathers, providing not only access to their texts, but also a mentality infused with the same Spirit . The Patristic – or later Neo-Patristic – School in emigration, represented by Florovsky,15 Vladimir Losskii, Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921–1983), and Fr. John Meyendorff (1926–1992), was originally connected to these other currents of revival. From the Slavophile circles, another desire emerged, namely to find and share the specific Russian spiritual, philosophical, and theological contribution, as distinct from the Byzantine or Western approaches. Here, Ivan Kireevsky's (1806–1856) view of integral knowledge16 and Aleksei Khomiakov's (1804–1860) notion of sobornost'17 as the foundation of church life continued to have influence in the West, despite the fact that Slavophilism had been discredited by the idea of pan-Slavism and its political ambitions.
The specific Russian religious thinking was also expressed in Berdyaev's philosophy of freedom18 and in Sophiology,19 initiated by Vladimir S. Soloviev (1853–1900) and developed by Bulgakov in Paris. For its part, the Neo-Patristic School was largely isolated from other sources of renewal, and opposed the so-called "Russian Religious Renaissance".20 The last but not least important stream of revival, the desire for a social reform stemming from Christian principles,21 was perhaps most strongly discredited by the revolution which caused its former proponents, like the professor of canon law at St. Sergius, Anton Kartashev (1875–1960), to turn against it and regard it as an impossible and dangerous dream. This teaching was to influence succeeding generations. Nevertheless, the desire remained alive, and bore fruit in Maria Skobtsova's (1891–1945) social action and theological reflection before and during the Second World War.22
New Centres of Orthodox Theology in Western Europe
The first centres of Orthodox theology in the West emerged from the Russian Orthodox émigré communities. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia caused juridical splits in the western Russian Orthodox diaspora. In 1925 Evlogii (1868–1946), the Metropolitan of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe,23 strongly supported by the YMCA among others, founded the St. Sergius Theological Institute. Classes at the institute were in Russian, and its students were recruited exclusively from Orthodox circles.
At St. Sergius, different theological directions present in pre-revolutionary Russia came together. Bulgakov, the first dean and head of the dogmatic theology department, worked on his Sophiology. Apart from this theological contribution, Bulgakov was also a very gifted pastor who gathered around him a wide-ranging group of spiritual children, including Mother Maria Skobtsova and Fr. Dimitri Klepinin (1904–1944), both later canonised. Florovsky, who initially trained as a lawyer, became professor of patristics, and inspired many of his students, including Schmemann and Meyendorff, through his interest in the works and lives of the Church Fathers, whom he saw as the only authentic source for the renewal of Orthodox theology. His programme of Neo-Patristic synthesis was accompanied by an attempt to reflect on the new forms of Orthodox mission in the West. Both Bulgakov and Florovsky will be given more detailed attention later in the text. Similar interests to those of Florovsky were pursued by Fr. Archimandrite Cyprian Kern (1899–1960), professor of patristics and liturgy, and Fr. Nicolas Afanassieff (1893–1966), professor of canon law.
Afanassieff also drew on the legacy of the Slavophiles, especially Khomiakov's ecclesiology. He insisted that the church was not primarily a legal institution whose life was to be determined by laws analogously to other institutions. Such an approach would go against the demand for a new life in Christ, which is indeed also organised in the church by canons, but which cannot be dominated by any other power than the "power of love". Afanassieff sought to show that an excessively strict jurisdictional and institutional conception of the church came from a failure to grasp its deeper sacramental-liturgical roots. On the basis of this he built his own Eucharistic ecclesiology.24 From the beginning of the 20th century, Kern had been following the renewal of the liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church, and he showed how closely it was linked to the Orthodox renewal movement.25
The weakest part of the Institute was its biblical studies department. In the syllabus, it was presumed that each of the theological disciplines should proceed from biblical roots, but this made it difficult to treat biblical studies as a separate discipline. Moreover, the members of the faculty felt the need to protect themselves from the historical criticism which dominated contemporary Western biblical studies.26 A synthesis of the two approaches was attempted by Anton Kartashev, who also taught Old Testament at the Institute.27 Fr. Cassian Bezobrazov (ca. 1892–1965), professor of New Testament studies, tried to apply the criticism and to show the new possibilities for theological reflection on tradition and ecclesiology.28
The other Orthodox theological centre in Paris was the Institute of St. Denys the Areopagite, which was founded in 1944 under the Moscow Patriarchate. Its aim was to offer theological training in French in order to address a broader audience of French intellectuals. Admittance to the Institute was not exclusively for Orthodox. Moreover, it placed an emphasis on dialogue with Western Christianity, since it was with Western Christianity and in the West that Orthodoxy was seeking to discover its new mission .29 Although St. Sergius has found a more prominent place in the subsequent developments of Orthodoxy in the West, St. Denys will receive equally detailed coverage here, since it marked another possible way for Orthodoxy to encounter the West, some aspects of which may still be an inspiration today.
Fr. Eugraph Kovalevsky (1905–1970), the first principal of the latter Institute, taught patristics, and Vladimir Losskii, the first dean, who taught dogmatics and church history, was not only an expert in both Eastern and Western mystical theologies, but also participated in the Hesychast renewal which found its way to France via a Romanian priest, Fr. André Scrima (ca. 1925–2000).30 Other members of staff included Archimandrite Alexis van der Mensbrugghe (1899–1980), who taught patristics and liturgy, and Léonide A. Ouspensky (1902–1987), who taught iconography. In the first two years, Schmemann and Constantin Andronikov (1916–1997) from St. Sergius were guest lecturers in liturgy and Byzantine Studies.31 There were also Roman Catholic and Protestant teachers, and the first registrar was Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973).32
Despite the juridical split that affected the two institutes, their work can be seen as complementary. While St. Sergius concentrated on priestly formation, and Bulgakov in particular, owing to his pastoral talent, gathered around him Russian émigrés from various circles, St. Denys offered an open dialogue with French intellectuals, interpretation of Orthodox theology in interchange with Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants, joint formation of clergy and laity. According to Olivier Clément (1921–2009), who converted to Orthodoxy in this environment, Hesychasm, too, was practised there, going beyond confessional borders.33 Another very interesting aspect of the life here was the attempt to adapt Orthodox liturgy to a Western, and specifically French, context. Along with the Kovalevsky brothers (Eugraph Kovalevsky, the talented composer Maxime Kovalevsky (1903–1988), and the historian Pierre Kovalevsky (1901–1978)), Fr. Lev Gillet (c. 1892–1980), and other members of the Brotherhood of St. Photius who were involved in St. Denys, Vladimir Losskii also sought new liturgical forms which would come out of the apostolic tradition and at the same time be incarnated in local culture. This led to the development of the Liturgy of St. Germain.34
Further splits took place within St. Denys which severely weakened it. In 1953, most of the staff left the Moscow Patriarchate, which led to Vladimir Losskii and Ouspensky severing their ties with the Institute. From this group the Orthodox Church in France was later formed, returning to Gallic roots. It passed through several different jurisdictions.35 The causes of these splits still await an unbiased revaluation. In its weakened form, St. Denys still exists in Paris today, offering only small evening courses. There is now practically no communication between St. Denys and the Institute of St. Sergius.
From 1954, the Moscow Patriarchate organised various theological and pastoral courses in Paris. For example, Ouspensky, who had also left the Institute of St. Denys, gave courses on the theology of icons. After the fall of communism, the Moscow Patriarchate worked on founding its own theological school in Paris. This finally took place in 2008, with the opening of a Russian Spiritual Seminary.36
Themes and People
The major figures and themes of Orthodox theology in the West, despite the domination of the Neo-Patristic School, further developed the pre-revolutionary Russian heritage and also drew on other inspirational sources.
Freedom and Wholeness
The experience of the revolution and the subsequent Bolshevik regime in Russia emphasised, especially for the first generation of émigré theologians, the value of freedom. Berdyaev, part of whose story has been mentioned, characterised himself as a philosopher of existence and freedom.37 Formerly a Marxist intellectual, for whom materialism and Marxist ethics became inadequate, he embraced Soloviev's Christian universalism and especially his emphasis on freedom and creativity. Drawing on Kireevsky and Khomiakov, he offered a cosmic interpretation of resurrection and salvation, in which freedom understood as anarchy played a vital role.38
Freedom and wholeness became two of the key themes of Orthodox theology in the West, and influenced how the relationship between God and his creation, and especially humanity, was understood. To Berdyaev, the human being was free not despite his union with his creator but because of it, and this freedom was the chief reflection of the image of God which moves towards eschatological likeness. Berdyaev also influenced Western theology through the way in which his ideas were taken up by and supported the personalism of thinkers like Emmanuel Mounier (1905–1950) and others.39
Besides Berdyaev, who despite his immense activity and influence was quite a solitary figure, the theme of freedom and wholeness was developed in Orthodox theology in several forms, but most evidently in Bulgakov's sophiological writings, which applied Soloviev's ideas to questions about the nature of the Trinity and the relation of the Trinitarian God to creation and to the Church. Unfortunately, his Sophiology has tended to be reduced to discussions about a fourth divine hypostasis,40 but there is more to it, especially its emphasis on the inherent and necessary unity of theological and mystical life.41
Tradition as a Source of Renewal
The broken continuity which became part of the life of the Orthodox émigré theologians was an important but not the sole impetus for turning their attention to the roots. In this they followed the pre-Revolution patristic renewal in Russia. The Neo-Patristic school, however, as a dominant current of Orthodox theology, was shaped in the West by people like Florovsky, Schmemann, or Meyendorff. Although all three of them eventually left for America, they continued to exercise a strong influence on European theology. At the First Congress of Orthodox Theology, held in Athens in 1936, Florovsky called for a return to the tradition of the Fathers. In his interpretation, the creative journey to the roots was to lead the way forward.42 In his own works on patristics43 as well as in his criticism of conservative restorationism, he was aware of the danger of the reification of tradition, though his own attacks on other currents of theology, especially Sophiology, as futile novelties and, in contrast, the permanent value he ascribed to Christian Hellenism may render him liable to be charged with this, too.
According to Schmemann, the texture of Christian existence is permanently captured in the Greek Church Fathers of the second and third centuries. They are not to be adapted, but rather we are to adapt to be able to enter into their experience.44 While sharing the same methodological weakness as Florovsky, Schmemann rediscovered in the Fathers a holistic participatory manner of understanding. They relate to the world, the church, and the Kingdom of God in a non-dualist manner. This offered an alternative to those theologies which separated out divinely marked parts of life, such as sacraments, from the rest of reality, which thus remained impoverished and secularised.45 Schmemann also applied an eschatological understanding of liturgy to tradition, as will be seen below. Thus tradition was seen as coming not from the past, but from the eschatological future. This further strengthened its unchangeability.
Meyendorff explained the permanent reference point of Byzantine theology historically.46 He derived its value from the fact that for over a thousand years Byzantium formed a setting in which a particular religious-political synthesis was formed, one which together with Early Christianity has given their character to Orthodox liturgy, theology, and spirituality, "historically consistent with the Apostolic faith itself".47
Florovsky's and Schmemann's positions were complemented by others, such as Meyendorff or Jaroslav Jan Pelikan (1923–2006), who provided more finely nuanced approaches to the balance of variety and unity, change and continuity.48 However, the subsequent generations of Orthodox Neo-Patristic scholars derived from them the inclination to evaluate current development in Orthodox theology not so much as an authentic continuation but rather in terms of a "pseudomorphosis" of Christian tradition.
Paradoxically, one of the less attractive elements present among the Slavophiles, namely the conviction of the superiority of their position over Western theology, was also present in the Neo-Patristic school.49 They claimed that their notion of tradition, inherited from the Greek or Byzantine Church Fathers, was the ultimate one and did not result simply from history, but derived from the realm of the Resurrection, where the Fathers reigned with Christ. This led to the rejection of the category of development and turned tradition into mythology, thus making it normative over history.50
Thus, while we can say that rediscovering a creative way to the roots and to the living tradition represented by the Greek Church Fathers of the early centuries and by the Byzantine Fathers was one of the main achievements of Orthodox theology in the 20th century, at the same time it has led the Orthodox Church in diaspora to a curious position. Leaving behind what the Neo-Patristic theologians called "Western or Babylonian captivity",51 in other words, dependence on 17th and 18th century Catholic and Protestant neo-scholastic theological language and categories, it claimed superiority over the West, while seeking for new and authentic ways of living in the West, and finding its mission amidst Western political, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual traditions.
Goodness and Beauty: The Church, Liturgy, Sacraments, and Icons
The émigré theologians referred to the church's celebration of the liturgy as a time of interruption in their lives filled with hardship and loss. Alexander Schmemann saw the holistic vision of the Church Fathers rooted in liturgy where, he says, all our existence is included in the "all embracing vision of life".52 Schmemann's liturgical and sacramental theology was indebted to the eucharistic theology of his Paris teacher, Fr. Nicolas Afanassieff, who transposed Khomiakov's notion of sobornost' to the new context, in which the Orthodox Church was a minority and had to search for its identity as independent of the political, social and cultural Orthodox milieu.53 For Schmemann, theology grows from the liturgy, in which he finds the unifying principle of faith and life. Liturgy celebrates the symbolic unity between the world and Christ and reveals God's plans for creation. The church is rooted in and bound up with the world throughout history, in the created goodness, in the fall, and in the rising. At the same time it is a passage to the new creation, to the Kingdom of God.
Besides Schmemann's liturgical and sacramental theology there were other approaches, such as Léonide A. Ouspensky's theology of icons or Paul Evdokimov's (1901–1970) sacramental theology and theology of beauty related to icons.54 They also drew on the Church Fathers, but with different emphases. Ouspensky, who had been a soldier during the civil war and later become an icon-painter, sought to establish how the divine life is revealed and how it can be testified by icons, and how the faithful can learn from good icons how to pray.55 Evdokimov, a pupil of Berdyaev, did not share Schmemann's polemical attitude towards the West nor Florovsky's zeal against other currents of renewal. As a lay theologian, he connected prayer and experience of the spiritual world not primarily with liturgy, but with all experience of love and beauty, symbolised in icons and art, which, according to him, had a mission to cultivate humanity, and a prophetic function.56
Hesychast Religious Epistemology and Spiritual Practice
One of the fruits of the Neo-Patristic renewal was the rediscovery of the theology of St. Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), and in particular his religious epistemology. Florovsky, but also later in particular Meyendorff and the Romanian theologian Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae (1903–1993) saw in Palamas a viable alternative to neo-scholasticism, with its metaphysical order of mediating the divine. The distinction between the inapproachable divine essence and approachable divine energies helped them to see how a Palamite position could help in defending the direct experience of the uncreated glory and the ontological participation in God.57 While Stăniloae practised the Jesus Prayer and other aspects of Hesychast spirituality he found in Palamas and in the Philokalia, which he also translated into Romanian, this was not true of the Neo-Patristic scholars living in the West, including Florovsky and Meyendorff. To them, liturgical spirituality was the only viable option, and in fact, they regarded attempts to revive the Hesychast practices with suspicion. They appreciated more what they saw as the historical importance of Palamism, namely that it saved Orthodox theology from the victory of nominalism and, as a result of that, from secularism.
A slightly different position was taken up by Vladimir Losskii. He had a deep interest in medieval mysticism, and thus was less inclined to polarise the "spiritual" East and the "speculative" West. Moreover, Losskii was familiar with Hesychast practice, and he did not isolate Palamas from Dionysius the Areopagite and other spiritual and theological sources of Orthodoxy. In his works, he drew on these sources together and introduced Orthodoxy to Western readers as a mystical theology that integrates both apophatic (negative) and kataphatic (positive) ways of knowing and participating in God. While the kataphatic way, relying on symbolic knowledge of the type found in Schmemann's liturgical theology, allows us to say something about God and is communal, the apophatic way, or as Losskii says, "the apophatic attitude" draws on Hesychast insights. It is a way of personal conversion, a change of heart. It includes relinquishing idols, our partial images of reality that claim completeness but cannot deliver it, and makes space for the Holy Spirit, instructing us towards ever greater plenitude of life.58
Losskii was criticised by other Neo-Patristic scholars for introducing an element of agnosticism into Orthodox theology that could relativise the Church's dogmatic teaching. This criticism, however, was largely based on a misunderstanding of his works. On the other hand, it can be said that his theology was an important counterpoint to the tendencies to historical reductionism in the Neo-Patristic movement. Perhaps also for this reason, he influenced subsequent generations of theologians, either directly or through his disciple Olivier Clément.
The Call to Deification: Anthropological and Cosmological Perspectives
The anthropological and cosmological questions have been part of Orthodox émigré theology since its beginnings. They are present in Berdyaev's existentialism and in his concept of freedom, in Bulgakov's Sophiology, in the Neo-Patristic balance of salvation with deification, in Afanassieff's eucharistic ecclesiology, Schmemann's liturgical and sacramental theology, Evdokimov's theology of beauty, as well as in Hesychasm. Each movement represented a different facet of, and help in understanding, the human being's place in the world and participation in God, solidarity with and responsibility for other humans as well as for the rest of the created world.
In this final section, we still need to mention two important contributions, that of Mother Maria Skobtsova and that of Olivier Clément. Already in the first generation of Orthodox emigration, Mother Maria demonstrated a unique ability to concentrate on the here-and-now rather than on the life left behind, and on the call to cultivate the virtue of non-possession. This emphasis was immensely helpful in circumstances marked by loss. Kenosis as a way of theosis, in other words "letting go" (in the sense of "becoming free from all attachments") as a way of participation in God always takes place for her in the actual circumstances we find ourselves in, and always together with others, first the poorest of the émigrés, later, during the War, the persecuted Jews.59 Two symbols played a special role for her: motherhood as a way of relating to others, and liturgy of life. To her, liturgy was celebrated in the world, and taking part in it did not mean entering the safety of the sacred, but the realm of the Spirit. There a person would learn "to accept the new, to comprehend it, to make out precisely what it demands of us."60
Olivier Clément, who was one generation younger and converted to Orthodoxy from agnosticism, at first perceived anthropology also existentially, from "the noise of absence".61 By this he means loss of the sense of mystery of God by secularised people when, paradoxically, it still can be encountered in nature,62 which can remind us of the lost grounds of our relational existence. These grounds are best seen embodied in the person, free from self-centredness, whose knowledge comes from the union of heart and head, and who becomes an unlimited place where God is. Clément himself found this with the Hesychast startsy.63 He admired their refusal to cling to the self. Later he elucidated that a transformed humanity was possible because God descended in Christ to our utmost poverty, and by bearing our flesh he enabled us to become bearers of the Spirit, and in this way fully human.64 For this purpose, we were created in the image of the Holy Trinity, an integral unity calling for unity with the creation in God.65 Deification and humanisation thus become one movement, and in this movement humans are also reconnected with the rest of the world. Like Mother Maria Skobtsova, Clément seeks the practical expression of this journey. Theology, spirituality, and ethics are for him three different ways of speaking about one reality, each of their contributions being vital.
Challenges Left for the 21st Century
The end of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s has had an obvious effect on the life of Orthodox communities in Western Europe. Churches have seen the arrival of new people coming from Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and other Orthodox backgrounds, and there have been both successes and tensions. The old theological centres face the challenge of finding their vocation in a changed world, and new centres are being established in Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands,66 for example. Despite the waves of newcomers, it is possible to say that the Orthodox presence in the West is changing from that of a diaspora to that of a local church, even if juridically divided, and this has an impact on theology.
Those who teach and study Orthodox theology are no longer émigrés. Nevertheless, in some countries, such as Germany, those who teach Orthodoxy as well as the majority of the believers are new immigrants, who live in very different circumstances with much greater freedom of movement and of communication with home churches. In other parts of Europe, however, such as France or Britain, Orthodox believers are either of the third or fourth generation, having already been born and raised in the West, or increasingly often converts to Orthodoxy, as well as those who are interested in Orthodoxy but remain part of other Church communities.
The practice of Hesychasm has become more established, helped by the legacy of Archimandrite Sophrony (1896–1993), and the Monastery of St John the Baptist he founded in England.67 Orthodox theology and spirituality in particular continue to reach far beyond the Orthodox communion, due to figures like Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia (born 1934) or Fr. Andrew Louth (born 1944), professor at Durham University.
The presence of such people is also a reminder of the importance of the interaction with other branches of the Christian Church which have occurred as a result of Orthodoxy's move to the West. Sergej N. Bulgakov was a participant in the very first meeting of Faith and Order at Lausanne in 1927, and later Florovsky was to take an active part in the meetings of Faith and Order and was a key founding member of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Both of them were also regularly involved in the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, founded in 1928, which brought together especially Anglicans and Orthodox.
There were also contacts with Roman Catholics, as mentioned above, with Berdyaev playing a leading role.68 These encounters were to have a significant effect on Roman Catholic theology, especially in France. Many of the representatives of Nouvelle Théologie had contacts with Orthodoxy – most noticeably Yves Marie-Joseph Congar (1904–1995) and Jean Daniélou (1905–1974).69 This influence was also greatly to affect the Second Vatican Council. There was also at least an indirect link with Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) through Emmanuel Mounier, for whom the contact with Berdyaev was so important. This mutual interaction shows no sign of coming to an end, and the exchange of gifts between the various denominations, at least on a theological level, continues to bear fruit.
Apart from the ecumenical dimension, there is also more dialogue with Orthodox theologians in America, current Greek Orthodox theologians and others living in the traditionally Orthodox countries. Both the ecumenical dialogue and these intra-Orthodox encounters broaden the scope of Orthodox theology and may gradually lead towards overcoming the monopoly of the Neo-Patristic Synthesis, while keeping its best contribution alive.
To do so will require a recognition of the limitations of what the theologians presented here did and the need to recover some of the undererstimated traces of the pre-revolutionary plurality, not at the expense of what is there but in an open dialectic that is itself part of the on-going journey towards fullness of life in God.70