The Bulgakov Blog Conference
hosted by The Land of Unlikeness
blog is currently underway through October 13, 2008. This is significant contemporary discussion for anyone interested in the life and work of Sergius Bulgakov
The following is an excerpt from an address by Rowan Williams
, Archibishop of Canterbury, given at the Hereford Diocesan Conference, Sharing the Story
. This address, concerning the relevance of our stories to theology, is dated Thursday, June 5, 2008.
The twentieth century was a terrible century in many ways, especially on the continent of Europe. Those of us who've grown up in Britain probably still don't quite understand what the corporate trauma of twentieth-century Europe meant to many people on the continent. And it's worth bearing that in mind. Millions of people in Europe lived through the end of their world and millions of people lived through that not once, but twice. In the tearing up of the map of Europe that followed the First World War: in the massive displacements as well as the unspeakable suffering and slaughter that characterized the Second World War and the years immediately afterwards. Jesus' preaching and the first witness of the early Christians took place in a world where the end of all things was expected. And a great deal of what Jesus teaches is about how to live through the end of the world, when all that you think familiar, controllable and reliable disappears. And that's why it's not surprising that so many figures of spiritual and intellectual depth in the twentieth century rediscovered Christian faith at a completely new level of depth as they lived through the ends of worlds. ( Read more...Collapse )
The following new writing by Madonna Sophia Compton
is placed here by kind permission of the author
. We have previously called attention to Ms. Compton's Wisdom-Sophia and the Role of Mary in the Early Church
. A forthcoming book by Sophia Compton, More Glorious Than the Seraphim
, which relates to Theotokos, is being prepared for publication.The Burning Bush and the Glory of God:
The Feminine Dimension in the Kataphatic Theology of Sergius Bulgakov
By Madonna Sophia Compton (all rights reserved)
It has been noted that Sergius Bulgakov’s sophiology was not a doctrine or even his personal theory, but the light “in which he sees the transcendent and immanent aspects of Divine Being.” (1) Bulgakov once said, “The calling of our time is a neo-Chalcedonian theology, which would resurrect for us and continue the creativity of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, with all the fullness of their problematics, which may be generalized in one, indeed Chalcedonian, problem: Divine-humanity.” (2) For Bulgakov, the Chalcedon formula gave only apophatic parameters for talking about Christ as Logos, and the challenge for theologians of our age is to express a more kataphatic or positive side to this dogma; in essence, this is what I perceive his sophiology to be all about. Kataphatic theology can and must talk about God, because God is simultaneously an Absolute and an Immanent Divine Being.
There are numerous approaches to discussing the dimensions of Bulgakov’s kataphatic approach, but my focus in this paper is on the feminine dimension of the Immanent Spirit as embodied in Mary, Theotokos; that is, in Bulgakov’s Mariology. In order to understand Mary’s intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, I will briefly trace the historical development of pneumatology in the early Church, and contrast that with the understanding of the Spirit in the Old Testament. I will then examine Bulgakov’s emphasis of the Holy Spirit’s movement in the world, and his notion of the Mother of God as Spirit-bearer. I will conclude with a short symbolic analysis of the icon called, Mother of God, Burning Bush.
Initially, however, in order to better understand Bulgakov’s kataphatic approach, I will first sketch a brief overview of apophatic theology, using the examples of three theologians and spanning the historical development of the Church (both East and West) from the 4th century to modern times. ( Read more...Collapse )
The Burning Bush
Courtesy of Sophia Compton
In the following, David J. Goa
reports on presentations last year at the Chester Ronning Centre, University of Alberta (Canada), by Clinton Timothy Curle. The presentations were based on Dr. Curle's recent book, Humanité: John Humphrey’s Alternative Account of Human Rights
(University of Toronto Press, 2007). This book is an important resource for anyone concerned with the philosophy of human rights. David Goa is Director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus.Ronning Lecture Explores the Roots and Meaning of the Human Rights Movement
by David J. Goa
In 1980, the esteemed literary critique, Sir Geoffrey Elton, wrote in an article about the great medieval humanist Thomas More, author of Utopia:
"Anyone so deeply conscious of the unhappy state of mankind in the mass is always likely to do what he can for particular specimens of it. Believing that man has cast away grace does not necessarily make the believer into a misanthrope; and in his courteous and considerate behavious towards all and sundry More was only testifying to the compassion of his conservative instincts. Genuine conservatives despair of humanity but cherish individuals, even as true radicals, believing in man's capacity to better himself unaided, love mankind and express that love in hatred of particular individuals. To avoid any rash inferences touching the author of these remarks, I had better add that most of us oscillate between those extremes most of the time. More was more consistent."1
Rewind thirty-two years, to heady 1948, and you will see players on the world stage--still reeling from the realities of Hiroshima--seeking out a path that would transcend "conservativism," and "radicalism," for one of consistency. If totalitarianism, ultimately, could only be defeated by wholesale destruction, what would the future hold? Under such circumstances, could a meaningful "future" even be imagined? Such were the questions posed as the fledgling United Nations envisioned a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the topic of this year’s Ronning Centre Distinguished Lectures, given October 10-11, 2007 by Dr. Clinton Timothy Curle. ( Read more...Collapse )
Fr. Deacon Gregory Wassen, at his On First Principles
blog, has called attention to the following by Sergius Bulgakov. Freedom of Thought in the Orthodox Church
by Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
I do not wish to consider the actual question of my own particular case. I will only try to explain to you the general principles of freedom in the Orthodox Church. Can freedom of thought exist in a Church which has obligatory formulae? Is there not a contradiction between free seeking for truth and the revealed dogma dispensed by the Church? I am convinced that no such contradiction exists. The dogmatic teaching of the Church must become real in in the personal thought and experience of everybody, for dogma does not only represent an abstract doctrinal statement; it is primarily a fact of our inner mystical life; apart from that it is dead. But this personal experience is impossible without freedom of thought, and freedom of the spirit. We have to comprehend dogma within the general context of our thinking, of our spiritual life, of our scientific development. ( Read more...Collapse )
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
The following is an excerpt from An Impossible Ideal: The Transformation of the Divine Sophia into a Russian Symbolist Mytho-poetic Concept
, a paper by K. Alexandra Nevarez that appeared in the (University of Alabama) McNair Journal
, Volume 8, Spring 2008. Krysten Alexandra Nevarez, from Seabrook, Texas, is an English major at the University of Alabama.
Alexandra Nevarez summarizes her paper this way: "The Divine Sophia is a religious icon that can be traced back to the pages of the Bible as a representation of God’s wisdom. The writers of the Russian Symbolist movement used her likeness in their nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels and poetry, allowing her to become a cultural symbol of wisdom, piety, and femininity. This study seeks to identify the characteristics that persist in the journey from a holy female figurehead to the role of an impossible ideal in literary works and, ultimately, secular culture."
The Divine Sophia in Philosophy and Theology
The Russian philosophers Sergius Bulgakov and Vladimir Soloviev are decisively the most influential philosophers of the Symbolist movement. Their works regarding the Divine Sophia explore the concept of the Divine Feminine and her controversial association with God and the Holy Trinity. One symbolist researcher describes Soloviev as “the spiritual father of the mystic trends in Russian modernist literature” (Maslenikov 28). His Lectures on Divine Humanity
and his collection of essays entitled The Meaning of Love
elucidate the concept of the Divine Sophia and provide a philosophical foundation for the characterizations of her in the works of the poets and novelists. Like the Symbolist authors, Sergius Bulgakov was influenced by the writings of Soloviev, although he went one step further and developed Sophiology in order to provide a theological understanding of Sophia. Bulgakov’s detailed explanation of the Divine Sophia eventually incriminated him within the Orthodox church, but his doctrine continued to serve as a reference point for authors and contemporary researchers. ( Read more...Collapse )
Both Frs. Sergius Bulgakov and Alexander Men are referenced in this 1999 essay by Georgia Jansson Williams (Moscow).A Dispassionate Guardian of Church Unity
by Georgia Jansson Williams
“Predaniye” in Orthodox Theology
Fr. Sergei Bulgakov wrote that “Pharisees of all times have wanted to turn ‘predaniye’ into either dead archaeology or superficial laws — dead letters which jealously demand respect for themselves.” Below is an attempt to explain how Orthodox theology views the work of the Holy Spirit in the era of the Church of Christ – the era of the New Covenant.
Over the centuries traditions and predaniye have formed the backbone of the inexpressible riches that can be found in Orthodox worship. But we must not stop with pleasantries; the paragraphs below discuss why the Orthodox believe it a theological necessity to recognise the significance of predaniye as the Spirit lead tradition of a living organism — the Christian Church. Several Orthodox fathers and theologians have expressed this view with unmatched eloquence and are therefore heavily drawn upon for purposes of explanation. ( Read more...Collapse )
A short version of this article by Alexander Negrov was presented in a paper read at the annual meeting of the New Testament Society of South Africa, held from 9-12 April 2002, at the North West University (Potchefstroom Campus). Dr. Alexander Negrov is Rector of St. Petersburg Christian University (Russia) and a research associate of Professor Jan G. van der Watt, Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. Footnotes have been omitted from the text as displayed below.An Overview of Liberation Theology in Orthodox Russia
by Alexander I. Negrov
The aim of this article is to demonstrate the presence of a theological system of socio-critical and socio-pragmatic strands within Russian Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century. The political and social situation in Russia at that time was reflected in a reading of the New Testament that went far beyond the more customary ecclesiastic, dogmatic and ethical issues that had traditionally concerned Russian Orthodox theology. Among the Orthodox thinkers there were two camps that focused on anti-oppression issues. Some combined these issues with the liberationist ideology of the Russian Marxists and Socialists; while the other regarded these liberation movements as an anti-Christian way of interpreting Christianity. This article further claims that certain modern developments in Liberation Theology can be found in the period during which the Russian religious thinkers attempted to develop a theological perspective which paid attention to the social and political dimensions inherent in social democracy (Marxism). ( Read more...Collapse )
Valery Badakva: Trinity Sunday
Available for Amazon pre-order: Sergius Bulgakov, The Burning Bush: On the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God
(Eerdmans, November 2008) as translated by Thomas Allan Smith
, St. Michael's College, University of Toronto
The following paper by Margaret Barker
was delivered as one of the Lincoln Cathedral lectures in March 2004. Mrs. Barker is a former President of the Society for Old Testament Study and is author of numerous books, including The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy
. She has concentrated on the study of the Jerusalem Temple and what this implies for understanding Christian origins. This paper is both begun and concluded with reference to Sergius Bulgakov.Wisdom and the Stewardship of Knowledge
Bishop’s Lecture Lincoln 2004
by Margaret Barker
‘Happy is the man who finds Wisdom’, wrote one of the wise ones of Israel: ‘She is the tree of life to those who lay hold of her (Prov.3.13, 18). The benefits of Wisdom are then listed: she is better than silver and gold, more precious than jewels, she gives long life and ‘all her paths are peace’. In fact, had our wise ones known Cecil Spring-Rice’s hymn ‘I vow to thee my country’, they would have recognised the last lines as a hymn about Wisdom.
And soul by soul and silently, her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.
We know these lines as a description of the Kingdom of God, but Wisdom, as we shall see, is a closely related idea.
What, or rather Who, is Wisdom? Many of the great cathedrals of the Orthodox Christian world are dedicated to The Holy Wisdom, and yet she has become a stranger to the theological discourse of the West. In the ikons of the East she is depicted as a fiery angel, crowned and enthroned, surrounded by great rings of light, and with the foundation of the earth beneath her feet. But who is she? Bulgakov, the controversial Russian theologian who died in 1944, observed that since these ikons had been accepted by the Church, their meaning must have been clear when they were made. ‘The time has come’, he wrote in 1937, ‘for us to sweep away the dust of ages… and to reinstate the tradition of the Church, in this instance all but broken, as a living tradition.’ (‘The Wisdom of God’, reprinted in A Bulgakov Anthology
ed. J Pain and N Zernov, 1976, p.146.). It was time, he believed, to rediscover the Holy Wisdom. ( Read more...Collapse )