Ways of Russian Theology

Church and State Under Nicholas I

Download 1.17 Mb.
Size1.17 Mb.
1   ...   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   ...   34

Church and State Under Nicholas I.

The fall of the “Ministry of Religious Affairs” in 1824, the overthrow of that “Egyptian yoke,” as Metropolitan Seraphim put it, did not alter the general character of Church-state relations. Fotii vainly hastened to announce that “in the glory of God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ alone is our minister,” for a “secular man” still held power in the Church. Shishkov, even though not a minister of a “combined ministry,” continued to interfere in the affairs of Synodal administration on the questions of the Catechism and Biblical translation. The process of converting Church administration into a “department” was actually speeded up under the Over Procurator S.D. Nechaev (1833-1836). 211 Without preliminary permission, without hesitating to decide matters automatically, without consulting the Synod and even altering Synodal decisions while closing off the path of retreat by imperial confirmation of his reports, the Over Procurator concentrated all Synodal affairs and relations in his hands. Nechaev, a Mason, was contemptuous of both the clergy and the hierarchy.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, police reports began to appear against the hierarchs and members of the Holy Synod. These reports largely turned out to be lies. Our chancellery suspected that the Over Procurator assisted in these reports, in order to humiliate Church administration in Russia. Hierarchs and members of the Synod justified themselves as best they could. The Synod was greatly agitated, while the Over Procurator, giving the appearance of agitation and encouraging the dissatisfaction of the members, declared that the regime of police surveillance did more harm than good.

This is how Ismailov, a contemporary bureaucrat in the Synodal Chancellery, recounted these events in his “memoirs.” Even Filaret of Moscow fell under suspicion. In an official report he was goaded into the incautious remark that “the right of the police to report rumors without the least responsibility for false information impedes the freedom of administration and disturbs, in word and deed, the tranquility of Russian subjects.” This was an outright condemnation of the gendarme principle. During Nicholas' reign such remarks were not forgotten, even in the case of metropolitans. Once again during the cholera of 1830 Filaret appeared disloyal, when in his sermon he spoke too frequently about the sins of kings and about Divine punishments. Finally, it would seem at Filaret's insistence, the idea to appoint the Tsarevich, the future Alexander II, to a seat in the Synod in conformity with his inclusion in the Senate and other higher state bodies was rejected. With a surprising lack of delicacy, Filaret referred to the internal autonomy of the Church. Even to catch sight of Filaret became an unpleasantry for the Emperor Nicholas.

Filaret had his own theory about the state, a theory of the Holy Kingdom. He certainly did not conform to the official and officious doctrine of state sovereignty. “The Sovereign receives his entire legitimacy from the Church's anointment,” that is, in the Church and through the Church. And only the Sovereign is anointed, not the state. Therefore the organs of state power possess no jurisdiction in Church affairs. Filaret's cast of mind was utterly foreign to the state bureaucrats of the Nicholaitan era. For them Filaret was a dangerous liberal. Sideline observers held the same opinion. “Filaret was very clever in humiliating the temporal power; in his sermons there was the light of that vague Christian socialism which beamed from Lacordaire 212 and other far-sighted Catholics” (This was Herzen's estimate in My Past and Thoughts [Byloe i dumy].).

Dissatisfaction with Nechaev reached such a pitch that the Tsar was asked to appoint a more workable Over Procurator. The assistant to the Over Procurator, A.N. Murav'ev, played a decisive part in this plan. Count N.A. Pratasov was appointed. He turned out to be even more powerful than Nechaev. He had a completely elaborated system of reform, and he possessed the ability to gather shrewd and able executors of his designs. Pratasov faithfully promoted the Nicholaitan establishment or regime in Church politics. State integration of Church administration was completed precisely in this period. Hence-forth the Church was known as the “Department of the Orthodox Confession.” The clergy and the hierarchy were included. The office of Over Procurator was transformed by means of a “Synodal Command” from an organ of state surveillance and supervision into an organ of real power. This was entirely in harmony with the spirit of Peter's reform. In those same' years Speranskii was minting precise formulae in the Petrine spirit.

As a Christian sovereign the Emperor is the supreme defender and guardian of the dogmas of the ruling faith and observer of orthodoxy [pravoverie] and all good order in the Holy Church. In this sense, the Emperor, in the law of succession to the throne (April 5, 1797), is called the Head of the Church. The Autocratic power is implemented in Church administration by means of the Most Holy Governing Synod which it has established. (Fundamental Laws [Osnovnye zakony] , articles 42 and 43 of the 1832 edition.).

Pratasov looked upon Church affairs solely from the point of view of state interest as “the teaching to which our Fatherland has lent its moral authority.” He built an Empire and put a church on it. Educated by a Jesuit governor, surrounded by assistants and advisors taken for the most part from the former Polotsk Uniate College, Pratasov was the epitome of a self styled and profane bureaucratic Latinism. The urge toward precise definitions was linked to the barracks-like and reactionary spirit of that epoch. Pratasov had no sympathy toward Rome. But Romanized books on theology and canon law corresponded to his own personal tastes. Not only did he wish to rule the Church administration, Pratasov wanted to reorganize and reconstruct it in harmony with the fundamental principles of an absolute confessional state. This design constitutes his historical significance. Prior to his appointment to the Synod, precisely during the period when the “University Statute” and the “Statute on School Districts” was revised in 1835, Pratasov was Uvarov's assistant in the Ministry of Education. 213 In that ministry a plan to reform the ecclesiastical schools had been prepared which fully conformed to the minister's anti-clerical and pedagogical views. Was not the very existence of a special ecclesiastical school network simply the manifestation of a dangerous class egoism, “an extraordinarily harmful vocational egoism?” Was not the entire Statute of 1814 antiquated? The Ministry sternly criticized the entire educational system based on fear. It underscored the insufficient and deficient texts as well as the failings of the entire educational program, especially the harm philosophy might do when applied to theology. Would it not reduce to myth that which is beyond human understanding? Parish and district [uezd] schools were to be combined and transferred to the Ministry of Education.

Once more Filaret defended the ecclesiastical schools and the class accused of harmful egoism. The question of transferring or eliminating the schools was dropped. Pratasov insisted on reforms, but the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools was unwilling either to expand the question or contemplate reforms. It was satisfied to reexamine merely the textbooks and course plans submitted by the various seminaries.

Pratasov decided to circumvent the Commission and even the Synod. In 1839, on the strength of his own Imperial Report, the Commission was dissolved and replaced by a special Ecclesiastical-Educational Administration. Such a step was logical, since the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools was organically linked with the previous school structure which was now to be substantially altered. Discussion centered precisely on the change of principles, ideals, and goals. The principle of social development and cultural growth placed at the foundation of all the educational measures of the Alexandrine period seemed dangerous, disintegrative, artificial, and useless to Pratasov. He wanted to turn back once more to the eighteenth century with its service professionalism. The former statute openly declared “learning” to be the special aim of these schools. This was exactly what Pratasov did not want. It was precisely this self-contained and “dead learning” which it was above all necessary to eliminate, particularly that “disreputable and godless science” philosophy. According to Pratasov's estimate, previously “in many respects the education of Russia's clerical youths rested on an arbitrary, non-Orthodox foundation which had something in common with various Protestant sects.” This was an obvious rebuke of the Alexandrine period. The former statute explicitly proposed to “adhere directly to the latest discoveries and achievements.” This meant that “non-Orthodox” and “arbitrary” study. Here Pratasov invoked the words of Chrysostom: “Good ignorance is better than poor knowledge. . . .” At any rate, what was needed was a scientific course and instruction suitable to the conditions of village life.

The students leave the seminaries to become village priests. They must know village life and be able to assist the peasant even in his daily affairs. Thus, what use is all this theology to a village priest? Why does he need philosophy, that science of freethinking, nonsense, egoism, and boasting? What are trigonometry, differentials, and integrals to him? It would be better to strengthen his knowledge of Catechetics, Church statutes, and singing. That is enough. Let the higher sciences remain in the academies.

This was how Archimandrite Nikodim Kazantsev, a former teacher at the Moscow Academy, interpreted Pratasov's instructions. Nikodim was at that time rector of Viatka Seminary and had been summoned by the Over Procurator in order to compose new statutes. 214 Pratasov and his intimate assistant, Karasevskii, 215 did all they could to inculcate this narrow principle of professionalism in Nikodim. “Every cadet among us knows his weapons and how to march; a sailor knows the name, place and strength of every last nail in the ship; an engineer gauges every conceivable crowbar, hook, and rope. But we clergy do not know our clerical business.” By “clerical business” Pratasov understood not only the “statute” and “singing,” but also the ability to speak “with the people.” It was this pretentious “populism” which gave the projected reform its polemical character. Pratasov merely developed and applied the ideas of Kiselev. 216 Cadres of elementary teachers who could teach morality to the people must be created. The clergy was to be adapted to that end.

Judging by the first survey, it would seem that the village priest, having contact with people who are ready to accept in childish simplicity everything spoken by their pastor, has need not so much of a detailed and deep knowledge of science, as an ability to elucidate Christian truths and morality of the Gospels simply and clearly, phrasing those truths of the Gospel in such a way that they are suitable for the simple minds of the villagers and relating them to the circumstances of village life. . . .

Pratasov's entire design was nothing other than a “wager on simplicity” [stavka na oproshchenie] . In the “circumstances of village life” would it not be more useful to master daily and practical habits than acquire “a deep knowledge of science?” Would it not be better to know the rudiments of medicine and firmly understand the fundamental principles of agriculture? Should not these subjects be introduced and strengthened in the seminary programs at the expense of “cold learning?”

Pratasov proposed to strengthen the non-clerical class features throughout the school system and impart to all instruction “a direction consistent with the needs of village parishioners: ' Pratasov defined the aim of all ecclesiastical schools as “the education of worthy servitors of the altar and preachers of the Word of the Lord to the people.” His proposals were decisively opposed in the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools. Filaret submitted a point by point refntarion of them and asked how much these proposals were in harmony “with the spirit of Church law: ' Only during the summer absence of Filaret of Moscow and Filaret of Kiev was Pratasov able to push through the Commission a proposal for certain alterations in the textbooks and curriculum. The teacher of literature was reminded that “the direct aim of his work is to educate a person who can correctly, freely, expressively, and convincingly converse with the people about the truths of faith and morality.” Therefore, secular rhetorics, poetics, and so on might be passed over quickly. “Higher criticism in history instruction is to be avoided, for as a weapon in the hands of a one-sided logician it threatens to destroy historical monuments” (that is, their veracity), just as “arbitrary systemization” was to be avoided where nations or personalities are depicted as bearers of “some sort of ideas fatal for them.” Somewhat unexpectedly, a Latin program was proposed for philosophy: “Philosophy is accustomed to speak in Latin: ' Is not this preference for Latin more readily explained by the fear that to carry on a public discussion of philosophy in a readily understood language might be dangerous? Only the most general directions were given for teaching theology: let it be taught “so that the priest may easily adapt and apply it when he finds an opportunity to converse with a simple person born a Mohammedan or a pagan, or who has converted from Christianity.” One need not resolve questions and doubts “which the innocent mind does not even suspect: ' Peter Mogila's Orthodox Confession [Pravoslavnoe ispovedanie] was to be placed at the foundation of this instruction, and “the details of theology are to be confirmed by reference to it.” The Orthodox Confession was published in modern Russian by the Synod in that same year, 1838. In addition, a new subject was to be introduced in the seminary curriculum, the history of the Holy Fathers, for which it was still necessary to work out and compile a textbook.

At that time Pratasov was most concerned with the publication of reference texts which could be consulted as easily and unreservedly as if they were the teaching and injunction of the Church on every dimension of ecclesiastical life. In addition to Peter Mogila's Confession the Imperial and Patriarchal charters on the establishment of the Holy Synod, with an exposition of the Orthodox Confession of the Eastern Church [Tsarskaia i patriarshiia gramaty o uchrezhdenii Sviat. Sinoda, s izlozheniem Pravoslavnago ispovedaniia Postochno-Kafolicheskiia Tserkvi] was issued. 217 The translation and editorial work was undertaken by Filaret of Moscow, who introduced very important corrections in the text in an effort to eliminate Latinisms (e.g., the injunction to laymen against reading the Holy Scriptures and the term “transubstantiation” [presushchestvlenie] were eliminated). 218 Subsequently the Ecclesiastical-Educational Administration prescribed that copies of these “charters” be given to the students at the seminary when they attained the highest form, “so that upon finishing the school and leaving the seminary, they might keep this book for constant reference.” The question of the Catechism was once more raised by Pratasov in connection with the publication of these “Books of Symbols.” Pratasov, supported by Serbinovich, 219 the director of his chancellery, insisted on introducing new questions and answers on Tradition and predestination and omitting those about natural knowledge of God in visible nature. Filaret refused to include an exposition of the so-called “commandments of the Church” 220 in the Catechism, for he found them superfluous alongside God's Commandments. Instead, the commandments concerning the Beatitudes were included (as they had been in the Orthodox Confession). No substantial changes were made in the Catechism. The moment passed without incident. Filaret was satisfied with the new edition of his Catechism. After correction, together with its attendant additions, it was no longer merely a catechism, but a theological “system” in summation. “In as much as there is no book approved for theology, and our theologians do not always guide the word of truth correctly, I was moved to supplement the catechism.” However, Pratasov and Serbinovich were soon dissatisfied. In the next few years the question was several times raised of composing a new catechism by a new author. In the 1850's the name Makarii was selected. 221

In 1839, the Book of Laws [Kniga pravil] was published to replace The Rudder [Kormchaia kniga]. 222 Only Church laws were included in it; civil legislation was omitted. Unlike what was done for civil legislation under Speranskii, Pratasov found it untimely to publish a “complete collection” of Church laws in view of the “unseemliness” (as he justified it) of many laws of the Petrine era and the entire preceding century. Their publication might be somewhat awkward and perhaps even injurious. The Complete Collection of ecclesiastical legislation in Russia since the establishment of the Holy Synod [Polnoe sobranie dukhovnykh ukazonenii v Rossii so vremeni uchrezhdeniia Sviat. Sinoda] already compiled by Professor A. Kunitsyn 223 was therefore left in manuscript, just as the extensive canonical code of Avgustin Sakharov, Bishop of Orenburg, 224, was found unsuitable. Even the Spiritual Regulation 225 was not republished during this era of republication. A Statute on ecclesiastical consistories [Ustav dukhovnykh konsistorii] was newly composed and introduced for temporary use in the same year, 1838, and its final text was confirmed and republished in 1841. For Pratasov's edifice, two pillars were intimately connected: on the one hand, utility, order and discipline, and on the other hand, professional qualification and strict delineation of the entire order by written rules or laws. Pratasov did not like monasticism, which was logical from the state's point of view. He preferred to raise “clerical youths” in a more practical and secular way. He preferred the uniform to the cassock, as Rostislavov very interestingly relates in his memoirs (especially in the chapter “On the reform of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy primarily on the model of the battalion of military cantons”).

Only in 1840 were new course outlines for the seminaries finally worked out and approved. They were introduced in the Moscow and Kazan' districts in the fall of that year. For all of his stubbornness and persistence, Pratasov was forced to give way in a great deal. He had to be satisfied with a compromise. The new subjects which he wanted, “general medicine” and agriculture, were added to the seminary curriculum. But the general character of instruction femained unaltered. Only the Russian language was permitted for teaching all subjects, and Latin was treated as a separate discipline. Modern languages and Hebrew were electives. It was suggested that philosophy be confined to psychology and logic, while excluding other branches of metaphysics. These changes in instruction did not become “generalized.” But the logical coherence and core of courses which so fruitfully distinguished the schools under the Alexandrine statute was lost. An interesting innovation was the “preparatory course for the priesthood” for those who had already finished. This course was a morepractical program, which included visits to city hospitals in order to learn simple methods of healing. No substantial changes were included in the academy course outlines. Only the distribution of courses according to class was altered. New courses and even new chairs were established: patristics, “a theological encyclopedia,” pedagogy, Russian civil history, and so on. However, the most important thing — the spirit of the times — was altered.

Pratasov sought for the clerical robe new people who would be able to transcribe his designs into the more technical language of the Church and theology. After several attempts and failures, he found his man among the Moscow teachers: Afanasii Drozdov, then rector of the Kherson Seminary in Odessa. 226 “Count Pratasov found certain pet ideas in Archimandrite Afanasii and raised him upon his shoulders” (in the words of Metropolitan Filaret). He was transferred as rector to the St. Petersburg Academy.

Afanasii occupied no chair and taught no subjects at the academy. But he was entrusted with the supervision of all teachers, and he conveyed to them the correct ideas about their subjects. Moreover Afanasii was appointed to preside over a special committee on textbooks and course outlines. The entire blow was now concentrated on the educational program. The first theme around which debate swirled (both orally and in writing) was Holy Scripture. Afanasii was not content to distinguish two sources of knowledge about faith, Scripture and Tradition, as independent and separate subjects. He wished to diminish Scripture. One detects personal pain in the passion and irresponsibility with which Afanasii proved the insufficiency (actually the hopelessness) of Scripture. Afanasii frightened contemporaries with his arrogance. “It seems to me that the grace of the Spirit has recoiled from him, and he is often without peace and consolation in the Holy Spirit,” remarked Evsevii Orlinskii (later archbishop of Mogilev), 227 who replaced him as rector. “In such circumstances he tortures himself and does not know what to do with himself. He catches on some haughty dream and then forgets it; he is carried away or puts on airs, and then once more behaves pitifully.” The source of theological suspiciousness, not just caution, may be found in this inner uncertainty, or in his lack of firm faith. “Afanasii, yes, Afanasii alone and no one else preaches: `Mogila's Confession and The Rudder are all there is for me — and there is nothing else,' “ wrote Filaret Gumilevskii to A.V. Gorskii. One might add: and not even the Fathers or the Bible. Afanasii wanted to steer himself away with The Rudder from all doubt. As Gorskii records from these same comments of Metropolitan Filaret, Afanasii “believed in the Church books even more than in the Word of God. You cannot be saved by the Word of God, only the Church books can save you . . . . “ Afanasii was a convinced and consistent obscurantist, and his pessimistic obscurantism sprang from doubt and the lack of faith. Everything was in doubt. Nikanor of Kherson 228 sympathetically and with commiseration depicted Afanasii's sinister and tragic image. Afanasii was neither ignorant nor indifferent. He was a passionately inquisitive and curious man. “A sharp mind able to plunge to the depths of matters,” said Nikanor. But it was a proud and spiteful mind. Afanasii did not read Russian books even in the later years of literary awakening. “Absolute rubbish, my dear boy.” He read only foreign books, both old and modern. He was interested most of all in the Bible, and he was an excellent Hebraist. He was interested in the history of ancient religions, the epoch of early Christianity, and he reread all the Fathers to Photius. 229 He knew contemporary “German Christology” from Bauer to Strauss, 230 the natural sciences, and not just from books. He kept a herbarium and collected minerals. From such a surfeit of knowledge and interests he weakened and fell to doubting. He became frightened and doubted himself. As an older man he wrote voluminously, “he wrote enormous, thorough, and substantial investigations, which were of systematic importance.” But he burned everything. “He wrote and burned.” Yet something was saved from this destruction. The manuscript of the book The Believers in Christ and Christians [Khristovery i Khristiana] , on which Afanasii labored in his later years was preserved. The book is about the origins of Christianity. The chapter headings are very curious. The author distinguishes “the believers in Christ” from “Christianity without Christ” and before Jesus Christ. He studied the history, teachings, and tradition of this Christianity. He sought among the apologists for “organic remains” of it (“not that Christianity which takes its beginnings from Jesus Christ, but a different one which preceded it”). The Essenes, Therapeutae, and Philo are the links in the chain of facts he studied. 231 “The effort by writers among the believers in Christ to efface from the historical monuments all the evidence about Christians long in advance of the Christian faith” did not completely succeed. The “Gospel of Marcion” 232 occupied a prominent place in this process of transformation of Christianity into a “Catholic Christian belief.”

In Nikanor's account, Afanasii was “subject to the most oppressive inner grief, and subjected by a sick mind, but not as one who is the product of simple insanity, rather his sickness flowed from a surplus of knowledge, from the impossibility of reconciling intellectual antinomies, from a temporary and passing turbulence, from the principles imbibed with his mother's milk which began to grow in his soul.” This is that sinister “turbulence” of heartfelt beliefs; it is the grief of a heart which doubts everything, and Afanasii's reactionary anxiety grew in this quaking soil. “That man will burn people on a bonfire, he will hand over holy vessels for desecration, yet he will remain half convinced that he does so for the benefit of mankind,” wrote Filaret Gumilevskii, condemning Afanasii's policies. The cooperation between Afanasii and Pratasov — that union of profound doubt and powerful presumption — could not last long. These two men agreed only on practical conclusions, not on premises. Within five years; Afanasii was sent to distant Saratov as bishop.

Afanasii began his career of reaction at the St. Petersburg Academy when he forbade Karpov 233 to lecture from his own notes, and compelled him to lecture strictly according to Winkler. 234 True, Karpov began to lecture “critically” according to Winkler, that is, unsparingly refuting him and then turning with a passion to the history of philosophy. During the first year of his administration at the academy, Afanasii presented his own textbook, A concise hermeneutic [Sokrashchenaia germenevtika], to the Holy Synod through the Academic Conference. In it, he set forth his theological principles. Filaret of Kiev absolutely refused either to discuss or review the book. Therefore Filaret of Moscow was asked to comment on it. Filaret gave a sharp and detailed reply. Afanasii was humiliated and upset by Filaret's response and wished to bring him to judgment before the Eastern Patriarchs. Filaret was profoundly worried and disturbed by the attempt to elevate Tradition so high that it would cast a shadow on Scripture, as though Scripture “does not serve as a model for general education” and does not contain “all of the dogmas.” Afanasii was too clever in trying to show the insufficiency, incomprehensibility, contradictoriness, or ambiguities, and even intentional vagueness of Scriptural texts. “The Holy Spirit spoke Holy Scripture in order to illuminate, not obscure,” Filaret objected. Afanasii considered the disagreements and different readings to be irreconcilable and hopeless. Filaret replied:

If the judgment of the Hermeneutic under examination were to be accepted, we would know for certain which word is the Word of God and which word is the word of man both in the Old and the New Testaments. It is terrible even to contemplate such a thing. Praise God that the view of this hermeneutic is false.

Would attacking the reliability of Scripture be “sufficiently cautious?” Would it not also put the reliability of Tradition under attack? “The obligation of fidelity before God and His Holy Word and His Holy Church compels one to testify here that a judgment of Holy Scripture based on excessive attention to incidental defects in it, without at the same time any indication of its true perfection, is not only inconsistent with divinely inspired Scripture, but it is also dangerous for Orthodoxy....

Not only Filaret responded so sharply and with such agitation. In 1845, Archpriest V. B. Bazhanov, 235 the Tsar's confessor, in his capacity as member of the Academic Conference, happened to read the student examinations. In one of them — the examination of Tarasii Seredinskii 236 — he encountered something, which perplexed him. Seredinskii placed the Gospels and the writings of the Fathers under the single rubric, the Word of God, with the distinction that the Gospels were called the written Word of God, while the works of important Church writers were the Word of God transmitted orally. Such modernism runs completely counter to the teachings of the Orthodox Church and touches on one of its important points. Bazhanov considered it his obligation to direct the Conference's attention to where the student Seredinskii might obtain such an incorrect understanding of the Word of God. Was the error his own or the fruit of outside prompting? Immediately Bazhanov was compelled to leave the membership of the Conference. Partisans of the “return to the time of scholasticism” attempted to remove the Bible even further than from this secondary position. They spoke persistently about completely forbidding laymen to read the Word of God in order to avoid false commentaries. “The thought of forbidding simple Christians to read the Holy Scriptures terrifies me,” wrote the archbishop of Tver, Grigorii Postnikov, to Filaret of Moscow. “I cannot conceive from where such an opinion could come. Is it not a contrivance of Latinism's secret agents? Or is it an opinion bred by the increased freethinking of our age, so that later we might be laughed at as earlier were the clergy of the Western Church?” The question was raised about publishing the Slavonic text of the Bible on the model of the Vulgate (“exclusively self-sufficient”) and sanctioning it for required and exclusive use in cathedral, school, and home.

It is easily imagined how untimely and misplaced Makarii Glukharev's repeated and indiscreet efforts to attract sympathy for a new Russian translation (and one from the Hebrew at that) must have appeared at that moment. Such reminders only increased suspicion and obduracy. The circulation of Professor G. P. Pavskii's Biblical translation, lithographed by the students at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, aroused even greater excitement. The Pavskii affair began with an anonymous letter sent to the three metropolitans from the city of Vladimir. As was soon discovered, this letter was composed and sent by Hieromonk Agafangel Solov'ev, the inspector of the Moscow Academy. 237 Agafangel was certainly not an opponent of Russian Biblical translation. He was busy with translations of his own, and subsequently he published Russian translations of the Book of Job and the Book of Jesus son of Sirach (1860 and 1861). Hence he was alarmed by the surreptitious circulation of a translation sanctioned by the authority of a scholarly name, but which was inaccurate from the doctrinal and theological points of view. “And when the authority of his scholarship and the glory of his great knowledge threaten translation by wide circulation, then there is no propriety in silence and no salvation in toleration.”

The author of the letter, produced samples of false commentary on the Prophets and noted an unwarranted but hardly unintentional coarseness in the translation. He sharply criticized the translation as a whole: “This is the work of a new Marcion, it is not the words of the living and true God, but the vile speech of the ancient serpent.” However, the author concluded that a better translation was needed. There is no need to confiscate copies of the Russian translation. Such a measure might only arm a Christian against the authority of the Church. The circulation of this translation is not prompted by readers desiring to share the views of the translator, but by a commonly felt need for a translation . . .The Christian cannot be satisfied with an obscure and unreliable Slavonic translation which in many places conceals the truth from him. Since he has no other translation, he must from necessity go to muddy waters in order to quench his thirst. People who receive a secular education have not read the Slavonic translation for a long time, but turn to foreign translations. . . .

The letter was circulated at the end of 1841. The author naively did not consider who would investigate the matter and discuss his report and advice. With innocent carelessness he provoked the power of the opulent partisans of the “return to the time of scholasticism.” He insisted on the publication of a Russian Bible. “Is it just that it is impossible to escape the chiding of superstitious people and those who stubbornly remain in the depths of ignorance? But in what way are those souls at fault who; seeking truth, are refused food for fear of disturbing the peace of superstition and ignorance?” Strangely, the author completely forgot that the metropolitan of St. Petersburg, the Over Procurator of the Holy Synod, and many others on the commanding heights of the Synod stood among the ranks of “those who stubbornly remain in the depths of ignorance.”

Filaret of Moscow tried to prevent the report's circulation, but he was too late. Filaret of Kiev, upset by the erratic translation, had already put his copy of the anonymous letter in Pratasov's hands. At a preliminary hearing in the Synod, Filaret of Moscow expressed his decided conviction that a Russian translation of the Bible should be publicly resumed and issued under the authority of the Holy Synod. Pratasov suggested that he put his proposal in writing. Then, without recommending discussion of it in the Synod, Pratasov ordered that a categorical refutation of Filaret's opinion be composed in the name of the aged Metropolitan Seraphim (most likely Afanasii composed it). Pratasov submitted both opinions for imperial consideration, and without the slightest difficulty once more received imperial approval of Metropolitan Seraphim's intolerant and unyielding judgment. Nicholas I detested disputes and differences of opinion, especially in Church affairs, where everything should be decided in complete harmony and unanimity and be based “not on argument and explanations, but on the precise meaning of dogmas.”

Strictly speaking, in his note Filaret took the same point of view as the author of the unfortunate report. More accurately, Agafangel, who studied and worked at the Moscow Theological Academy, expressed an idea, which had come from Filaret and was shared by everyone in the Holy Trinity Lavra Academy. He had merely acted carelessly. (Filaret. said of Agafangel, “The eccentric workings of his mind were unpredictable and incomprehensible to me.”) Filaret underscored the fact that “suppression by itself is not very promising, when the love for knowledge, which spreads wider every day, hurls itself hungrily in every direction, and tears most strenuously along illegal paths where the legal ones are not sufficiently well built.” Filaret proposed a series of positive measures: gradual publication of a series of commentaries and the books of the Bible, beginning with the Prophets of the Old Testament, in accordance with the Septuagint text, but taking into account “Hebrew truth,” relying on the self-explanatoriness of the Old Testament in the New, and the clarifications of the Holy Fathers. Filaret did not envision learned commentaries ladened with the “weight of scholarship,” but instructive explanations directed “toward the confirmation of faith and toward the guidance of life. . .” Then Filaret proposed to make a new edition of the Slavonic Bible, jettisoning all unnecessarily ancillary articles and accounts of the text's accuracy included in the Elizabethan Bible, 238 but appending notes of clarification to the text in those places where they were demanded. This would provide an understanding of unfamiliar words or expressions, which might give rise to false interpretation. Most importantly, a brief survey of each chapter's content was to be included. The metropolitan of Kiev fully agreed with these proposals. Filaret's note made no mention of a Russian translation. Yet even this modest suggestion seemed positively dangerous to Pratasov and Metropolitan Seraphim. “In the Orthodox Church the preservation and extension of the saving truths of faith is guaranteed by a class of pastors to whom, with this aim in view, the gift of teaching was imparted and who are eminently qualified for it in the ecclesiastical institutions.” “If this translation is the fruit only of a love of knowledge, then the love of knowledge should be given another direction more in keeping with the purposes of the Church.” Thus, the “love of knowledge” of believers toward the Word of God was declared superfluous and not corresponding to the “purposes of the Church:” But this was the least of the matter. Publication of the commentaries was also rejected. The commentaries of the Fathers, it is true, were acceptable and permissible, but juxtaposing the individual patristic commentaries was declared dangerous: “it might undermine the veneration the Orthodox nourish for the Holy Fathers and transform the subjects of faith into sources of arid research.” Notes appended to the Bible only provide grounds for quarrels and disputes, thereby “implanting the thought in the mind that the Word of God needs human justification and that ordinary people might be judges in matters of faith:' The Pavskii investigation quickly produced an unsettling impression, for Pavskii was actually too free in his theological views. During the questioning, however, he preferred to disavow everything. For Pavskii the matter ended with a pastoral reprimand, his recantation, and enforced retirement.

Much more important was the uproar caused by the wide circulation of the lithographed translation. The translation was confiscated and those who possessed copies were sternly interrogated. Very few had the courage to openly refuse the return of their copies. Among that very small number was Professor M.I. Bogoslovskii 239 who taught at the Uchilishcha Pravovedeniia 240 and who subsequently published his Sacred History (Sviashchennaia istoriia] in two volumes. In his official statement he explained that the copy of the translation was his property, and that he was “required to read the Word of God.” Others declared that they misplaced or even destroyed their copies. The net result of this inquest was the intimidation of the faculties in the Church schools, seminaries, and academies, and further disposed them to silence. Somewhat later Zhukovskii wrote to his confessor, Archpriest Bazarov, in Weimar, that: “In Germany self-exegesis produced a loss of faith. For us a dead faith proceeding from non-exegesis is nearly identical with loss of faith. A dead faith is worse than the' loss of faith. Lost faith is a raging, living enemy. It fights, but conviction can overcome and conquer it. Dead faith is a corpse. What can be done with a corpse?” Immediately after the Pavskii investigation, both Filarets left St. Petersburg and the Synod under such circumstances that they would not return again, although they retained their titles as members of the Synod. A.N. Murav'ev left the service of the Synod at the same time. In the next few years the membership was selected primarily from among the zealots of the “return to the time of scholasticism.” During the shipment to Moscow of Filaret's trunks (“whose locks had been mutilated”), a “search had been made in order to discover if some heresy was not concealed in those chests,” as Filaret said about the affair. In St. Petersburg during those years, “they thirsted for slander” against Filaret. He left for Moscow in great anxiety about the consequences for the Church.

Filaret Gumilevskii, in his letters to Gorskii at the time, very openly and clearly describes the tense situation in St. Petersburg. Only just promoted from among the rectors of the Moscow Academy and consecrated bishop of Riga, Filaret was compelled to remain several months in St. Petersburg at the end of 1841 until he could travel to Riga. He was in St. Petersburg throughout all the debates in the Pavskii affair. He was able to follow matters on each side, both through his metropolitan (whom he sincerely respected and resembled in several respects), and through the “shaved schismatics,” as he cleverly dubbed the courtiers and bureaucrats under the Over Procurator's supervision. Pratasov and Serbinovich sought to use him for their ends, although, as he ironically put it, “they had long ago put him in the lists of intractable Lutherans.” Filaret's general impression was gloomy: “a difficult time — a time which compels one to watch vigilantly each step.” Were these not shadows rambling and swirling around? He spoke directly and openly about persecution. “Today they seek out our sins, so that they might draw administrative matters into their own hands because of them and make the Church into an arena for their egotistical careers.” The Church besieged; such was Filaret's impression.

On the surface it seems as if they are fussing over matters of faith and Orthodoxy; but this could seem true only for a person unacquainted with or foreign to the words Orthodoxy and faith. In the language of their hearts it all means: our concern is politics, all other concerns are marginal . . . . How strange to live among such people. You are afraid and alarmed for your soul, lest the storms of intrigue blow it into the deadly abyss of worldly vanity. Today, tomorrow, at this moment, in the next hour, you ponder how to judge and even condemn intriguers who would exchange faith and sanctity for some ribboned decoration or often merely a smile from higher ups.

At the end of 1842, in his November 14th report to the throne, Pratasov summarized the results of the newly won battle, and outlined a program for further skirmishes. Pratasov bluntly charged the entire Church school system with errors and heresy; more precisely, with Protestantism. If up to this point schoolroom Protestantism had produced no irremediable misfortune, it was only because the graduates of these schools, while serving at the altar, in their parishes, in the rituals and under the laws of the Church — in the very life of the Church — encountered principles and an understanding utterly different from that of the schools. Under the influence of life, they abandoned such harmful ideas.

The author of the report traced the history of this heresy in the schools back to Feofan Prokopovich. He dwelled with particular detail on the events of the recent past when the Bible societies were active and had distributed books on theosophy and mysticism along with the Bible. Now, however, decisive measures had been taken against foreign interference, “so that the garden of religious knowledge will always be illumined by the beneficient light of Apostolic and Catholic teaching which saves the Orthodox East, along with our Fatherland, from all the deadly errors of the West.” There was much that was true in this critique. Only the conclusion was false. For it was impossible to overcome western errors by simple supression. The Report [Zapiska] was most likely once again composed for Pratasov by Afanasii. In any case, Afanasii was of like mind. “While rector of the St. Petersburg Academy,” Filaret of Moscow said, “Bishop Afanasii maintained that all Russian theologians before him were not Orthodox.”

In keeping with Pratasov's design, a hasty edition of a new theological “system” was produced for immediate use as a “textbook” at the very least. At one time “they even demanded in the Emperor' s name” that Filaret of Moscow compile the textbook. He did not do so because of poor health. Pratasov then proposed that Filaret Gumilevskii should take up the task. Filaret found this suggestion “flattering; to one's ego, but not very flattering to the intelligence of anyone aware of the actual state of affairs.” He declined. Only much later, in 1864 did Filaret fully rework and publish his course in dogmatic theology.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   ...   34

The database is protected by copyright ©dentisty.org 2019
send message

    Main page