Ways of Russian Theology

Theology in the Reformed Ecclesiastical Schools

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Theology in the Reformed Ecclesiastical Schools.

Filaret was one of the most influential and prominent representatives of the new “theology of the heart” taught in the reformed ecclesiastical schools. The aim of this instruction was “the education of the inner man,” by imparting a living and well-founded personal conviction in the saving truths of faith. “The inner education of youths for an active Christianity will be the sole aim of these schools” (Ukaz of 30 August 1814). One might recall Neander's 154 aphorism which was so popular in those days: pectus est quod facit theologum, “the heart makes the theologian.'' However, in the Russian schools this theology of the “heart” was not the only current. We can detect and distinguish two divergent tendencies from the outset. One was the “theology of the heart.” The other it was usual at that time to call “neologism,” a moral-rationalistic school of Christian interpretation Neologism was introduced by Ignatius Fessler 155 in the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.

In 1819, Filaret was replaced as rector by Grigorii Postnikov a student of the first graduating class at the new academy. (Subsequently he became metropolitan of Novgorod; he died in 1860). Grigorii was a continuator, follower, admirer, and even friend of Filaret of Moscow. Although he was a man of very alert and clear thought, he possessed no inner animation. He had none of Filaret's restless searching mind, nor did any of that dizzying panorama, before which Filaret was so accustomed to live, ever unfold before him. One never feels a tension even in Grigorii's sermons. Everything was limpid, his voice was even and calm. He disliked dogmatic themes and preferred action. His moralism was very measured and annoying, although it is impossible not to feel his great moral strength. “Simplicity, dignity, and truthfulness,” reports Fotii, who did not like him. Grigorii's character was reflected in his language. There are no rhetorical devices, no ornamentation, only a certain heaviness, coarseness, and plainness. Grigorii, especially in his later years, did not like to write “for the people.” Still, one always senses the influence of those often read and reread English instructional books and brochures from the beginning of the century. His thought was formed and disciplined in the reading of foreign authors, especially English ones, and it seems that at one time Grigorii studied English with the students.

He was a great bibliophile and stimulated reading among the students. He regularly offered the students money for translations, in order to compel them to read. As a teacher and lecturer, Grigorii was very popular and well liked. He taught in Russian, and in his lectures he investigated Holy Scriptures in Russian translation, not Slavonic. In general he was a zealous defender of the Bible in Russian until the end of his days. He gave preference in the Old Testament to “Hebrew truth,” underscoring the fact that it was hardly possible to construct with precision an exact translation of the Septuagint from its varied renderings. But he approached the Massoretic punctuation critically and with reserve.

In 1822, Grigorii ,published several chapters of his theology course. They were examined, approved, and, of course, corrected by Filaret. There is very little that is original in them. But what was important was the very lively voice and manner of the author. Much later Grigorii wrote his famous book against the schismatics or Old Believers, The truly ancient, truly Orthodox Church [Istinno-drevniaia i istinno-pravoslavnaia Tserkov', 1855] . Again, it contains very little that is new, yet the elevated, calm, benevolent tone is arresting. The author was truly attempting to persuade and convince. Tolerantly and cautiously, he tried to succeed “through the word of truth.” Grigorii was a sincere defender of religious independence and a zealot for education. He possessed a genuine pastoral interest and persistence.

Metropohtan Grigorii's special service at the St. Petersburg

Theological Academy was the founding of a journal with the characteristic title Christian Reading [Khristianskoe Chtenie] . It began in 1821. 'The first aim of the journal was to provide instructional reading — Russian reading — for all bibliophiles and churchmen. The Biblical tendency was clearly indicated by the choice of epigraph; “built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). In any case, subsequently, during the “return to the time of scholasticism,” this approach seemed pretentious and dangerous. Because it was a danger, it was replaced by another epigraph. After 1842, I Timothy 3:15 was used in its place: “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” Subsequently both epigraphs were combined.

In its first year, Christian Reading was reminiscent of the Messenger of Zion [Sionskii Vestnik] both in the selection and character of its articles. A special section was included as a “mystical chronicle.”

In our Fatherland only very rarely do the beneficient actions of the Holy Spirit on men's hearts become known. Therefore all lovers of Christianity, especially people of the religious calling, are invited to report on these actions to the editors in order that they might be shared as manifestations of the glory of God.

News about spiritual signs and miracles was even taken from foreign publications. After 1825, however, the format of this journal became more cautious and more translations were provided from the Fathers. From the outset of publication, Christian Reading enjoyed an unexpected success, with 2,400 subscribers in the first faw years.

Kirill Bogoslovskii-Platonov 156 followed Grigorii's example at the Moscow Theological Academy. He taught in Russian, disliked modern philosophy, and read books in an ascetic spirit.

The quality of Gospel teaching consists in quieting hearts stricken with grief and fear of heavenly judgment; it consists in looking into the depths of one's spiritual condition. But how can one who has not experienced this love of the Cross, whose heart is not filled with that grief for God which leads to salvation, achieve or explain this power and soothing quality of the Gospel?

During Kirill's tenure as rector of the Moscow academy, each student was obliged to keep a personal journal of his activities and thoughts. Kirill was close to the disciples of the Moldavian Elders. 157 While archbishop of Podolia, he became interested in the Baltic priest Father Feodosii Levitskii, 158 arid in his reports portrayed him with complete sympathy and approval as a truly spiritual man. He climaxed his course at the academy with a treatise on the traditions of the Church.

At the Kievan academy the representatives of the new theology were Moisei Antipov-Platonov, who died in his office as Exarch of Georgia in 1834, and Meletii Leontovich, later archbishop of Kharkov (he died in 1840). 159 taught in Russian, and both belonged to the first graduating class of the St. Petersburg Academy. Several others among the brightest in this first class still must be mentioned. V. I. Kutnevich was sent at once as baccalaureate of philosophy to the Moscow Academy, where he immediately found a student and successor in Golubinskii. Kutnevich soon left the service of the academy and subsequently became the Grand Chaplain [ober sviashchennik] and a member of the Synod. He died in 1865. He expended great effort on translations from the Greek Fathers. Aleksei Malov (d. 1855), the archpriest of St. Isaac's Cathedral and priest in the Invalid Home (Invalidnyi dom], was praised as an outstanding and powerful preacher. He was a typical seeker of “spiritual” and “universal Christianity.” During his meeting with William Palmer, 160 the latter was greatly confused by Aleksei's amorphous views on the structure and limits of the Church. In his day, Father Malov had been a participant in the “spiritual” gatherings of Madame Tatarinova, and, it seems, he was the confessor for several members of this circle. 161

Among the other early graduates of the St. Petersburg Academy, the most inspired exponent and preacher of these new moods was Makarii Glukharev (1792-1847), one of the most remarkable men of that era. While at the academy, Glukharev was completely under Filaret's influence. “He gave up his will to Rector Filaret, and did nothing or undertook nothing without his advice and blessing. Nearly every day he confessed his thoughts to him.” The spiritual tie between teacher and student lasted his lifetime. Glukharev was exclusively impressionistic and introspective. It was difficult for him to work under ordinary conditions. At the academy he read many mystical books — Johann Arndt above all. 162 He adopted from such books the idea of a renaissance and renovation of the inner man who is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Once he attended a gathering at Madame Tatarinova's apartment, but he ran away frightened. Upon finishing the academy, he went to Ekaterinoslavl as a teacher. There he became acquainted with the local bishop, Iov Potemkin, 163 who had been tonsured by the Moldavian Elders. Through Iov, he became close to two monks from Moldavia, Father Liverii and Father Kalinnik, under whose influence Glukharev decided to become a monk. During this phase of his life, he was entirely consumed by a restless searching. Soon he was transferred as rector to the Kostroma Seminary, but he suffered not only as an administrator, but also as a teacher. At the earliest opportunity Makarii quit and went to live first at the Monastery of the Caves and then at the Glinskii Monastery, which at that time was a center of a contemplative renaissance. He read a good deal there under the direction of the Elder [Starets] Filaret, 164 and translated St. Augustine's Confessions, the Ladder [of St. John Climacus], the discourses of St. Gregory the Great, and the declamatory sermons of St. Theodore the Studite. “The school of Christ is one of those bright points on the globe which may be reached only by placing oneself on the level of Christ's infancy.” He translated St. Macarius as well as the works of Teresa of Spain from the French. He intended to translate Pascal. 165

Makarii always maintained an inquisitive and favorable attitude toward the beliefs of others. In Ekaterinoslavl' he prayed with the “Spiritual Children” (the Molokans), and found that the light of God's illumination glowed in their warm faith. The Quakers Grellet and Allen, while traveling in Russia in 1819, 166 visited Ekaterinoslavl' with a letter of introduction from Filaret, and found in him a mutual spiritual bond. Later in life, Makarii dreamed of constructing in Moscow a cathedral with three wings — for Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants. Makarii did not remain long in monastic isolation before he began to thirst for some work. He found it in preaching among the Siberian tribes. He also found himself. Filaret of Moscow called him a “Romantic missionary,” and, in fact, Makarii took to missionary work enthusiastically and with great animation. As a first step, he acquired two Tobolsk seminarians as assistants and composed a model instruction for the first missionary outpost:

We desire that all will be in common among us: money, food, clothes, books, and other things; such measures will aid our efforts toward one accord.

The mission worked under conditions of extreme hardship and poverty. The mission was a true apostolic labor for Makarii. He gave himself up to it with all the intensity of his soul. A less dedicated missionary might attest that “this flame did not burn for Christianity.” Makarii's reply to such doubt was decisive: “Who in my position can judge the immaturity of these people for the universal faith in Jesus Christ? He shed His Immaculate Blood on the Cross and tasted death for the salvation of all men.” . . . “There is no people whom the Lord would not know as His own, no depth of ignorance and darkness into which the Son of God, having bowed heaven down, would not descend, into which He Himself would not bend down.” Makarii sets forth his general views in a special work: Thoughts on the means for a successful extension of the Christian faith among the Jews, Mohammedans, and pagans in the Russian Empire [Mysli o sposobakh k uspeshneishemu rasprostraneniia khristianskoi very mezhdu Evreiami, Magometanami, i iazychnikami v Rossiiskoi derzhave, 1839] . Makarii proposed to form a missionary center in Kazan', a special missionary-institute monastery, governed by a strict communal statute, yet including a sufficiently variegated educational program in both its general curriculum and theology. He wished to acquaint his colleagues with the system of Lancastrian schools, the fundamentals of medicine, and the basics of agriculture. Obviously contemplative dreaminess did not kill Makarii's sense of realism. The Altaic mission under his guidance is one of the most heroic and saintly episodes in our history.

A new idea was born during Makarii's apostolic labors, and it became an all-consuming passion. It was a plan to translate the Bible. As early as 1834, Makarii presented to the Synod through Metropolitan Filaret a note entitled On the necessity for the Russian Church of a translation of the entire Bible from the original texts into contemporary Russian language [O potrebnosti dlia Rossiiskoi tserkvi prelozheniia vsei Biblii s original nykh tektsov na sovremennyi russkii iazyk]. Filaret concealed this letter in order to protect the “Romantic missionary” from the wrath and punishment of the higher authorities who considered beneficial the translation of the Scriptures into the languages of half civilized and completely uncivilized peoples, but not into Russian.

Makarii neither heard nor understood the arguments. In 1837, he presented to the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools the first part of his own translation, the Book of Job, along with a letter addressed to the Emperor. Again the matter remained without result. In 1839, Makarii presented the Emperor with a translation of the Book of Isaiah and a new letter. The following year he resubmitted the two books for examination and comparison with Pavskii's translation. the existence of which Makarii had not known earlier. At that point Makarii moved from arguments and persuasion to threats and dire prophecies. Earlier he had expounded on the necessity and usefulness of the Word of God in a living language. “The Russian people are worthy of possessing a complete Russian Bible.” Makarii bemoaned the fact that “Russians remain indifferently without a complete Russian Bible, while at the same time they possess a full Russian translation of the Koran.” He was convinced the time was ripe “to create from the purest, most valuable materials of the Russian language a literary cathedral of the Wisdom of God written with such simplicity, correctness, and exactness that it will be the most beautiful in the world, the true glory of our Orthodox Church before the peoples of all churches, and the joy of heaven.”

Now Makarii grieved and threatened, “O, sorrow! The Royal Doors are shut through which the Evangelists one after another came to us from the sanctuary, and each with his Gospel blessed the Russian Church in the name of Jesus Christ. Now everything is concealed and dark. . . . We learn that all of the Pentateuch of Moses was already translated into pure Russian from the Hebrew and printed in abundant copies, and has lain for many years in some empty warehouse — that holy and awesome book of the Law of God, which lay in the ark of Noah's covenant, in the holy of holies, and which was read aloud before the Israelites, not excluding women, children, and strangers. Will the Word of God in the raiment of Slavonic letters cease to be God's Word if it is in Russian raiment?”

With simple naivete Makarii was touching on the sorest and most painful points. He even enumerated the signs of God's wrath: the flood of 1824, the uprising of 1825, the cholera of 1830, the fire in the Winter Palace. . . .167 This time he was given an answer. By an ukaz, the Synod explained to Makarii how egotistically and pretentiously he portrayed himself as a “self-appointed exegete of Divine Judgment,” and .how audaciously “he has exceeded the limits of his calling and his duties.” Therefore, he was commanded to undergo a “penance of prayer” at the residence of the bishop of Tomsk. Filaret of Chernigov 168 writes about this penance: “they compelled him to conduct the liturgy for six weeks in succession, but he understood this as God's mercy and was very well pleased with the penance.” Undoubtedly, he misunderstood why in St. Petersburg daily conduct of the liturgy was considered a punishment for a priest. In Makarii's service record it was noted that “he carried through a forty day purification penance before presenting the government his thoughts and desires for a complete Russian Bible translated from the originals.” Soon afterward Makarii requested his release from the mission. He was appointed superior of the Bolkhovskii Monastery in the Orlov province, where he was able to recover heart, although he stayed there only a short while. He did not cease translating.

He began to dream of going to the Holy Land, and settling, if possible, in the Bethlehem cave of Jerome 169 in order to finish and perfect his translation of the Old Testament. It was said that he planned to visit Leipzig on the way and arrange for printing. Not without difficulty did he receive permission for the journey. But on the very eve of his departure he fell ill and died.

Makarii was a man of saintly uprightness and purity. “An actual living Gospel,” Archbishop Smaragd 170 said of him. He interwove the best traditions of contemplative monasticism, his own personal experience, and the Biblical lessons of the schools. Makarii was a man of great knowledge and an outstanding Hebraist. In his work on the Bible he usually followed most closely the work of Rosenmueller, 171 without, however, being captivated by the latter's skepticism. And at the same time he was a man of spiritual simplicity and transparent soul. “Makarii was a true servant of Christ God,” Filaret of Moscow wrote after Makarii's death in 1847. “And of course it is remarkable that during a time of peace he prophesized that there would be sorrow for neglecting the extension of God's Word; that sorrow later came to pass.”

The isolated position of the Moscow Theological Academy in its wooded retreat or, more accurately, backwater in the St. Sergius suburb at the Holy Trinity Lavra decisively contributed to the fact that in this academy the guiding moods of the new era took flesh. Of course the preparations and habits of Metropolitan Platon's time were conducive. In his memoirs, Rostislavov 172 accuses Filaret for attempting to transform the St. Petersburg Academy into a kind of “semihermitage.” The Moscow Academy actually became such a “semi-hermitage,” a kind of learned monastery “of the heart.” A common style took shape there which is easy to distinguish in everything. For example, take the lists of books given to the students for rewards or encouragement: even in 1833 these were the French Bible in the translation of De Sacy, the works of Fenelon or Francis de Sales, or even John Mason. 173 Or take the themes for semester compositions: “On the yearning of creatures [tvari] “; “On the lack of differentiation of religious confessions; or is it possible to be saved in any faith?”; “On the inner and outer Church” (Themes for 1826). “On the conditions of the so-called spiritual dehydration, or on the periodic impoverishment of the spiritual man in beneficient consolations”; “Why there were more possessed people during the lifetime of Christ and the Apostles than either before or since” (Themes for 1832).

In Moral Theology for 1817-1818 a young baccalaureate recommended not only that the students read Macarius of Egypt and St. Augustine, but also Arndt, Thomas a Kempis, Hornbeck, and even the anonymous History of those regenerated [Istoriia vozrozhdennykh].174 He taught from Buddeus' textbooks. In 1820 and 1821, the students translated Joachim Lange's Mysterium Christi et christianismi. 175 Of course the most characteristic teacher of the period was Fedor Golubinskii, 176 a graduate of the first class after the reform of the schools. He was a typical representative of the epoch.

Among the representatives of the older generation who studied in the pre-reform schools but who belonged to this “theology of the heart” were Metropolitan Mikhail, Archimandrite Evgraf (Filaret's teacher), and Innokentii Smirnov. 177 Innokentii enters the history of Russian theology as the composer of An Outline of Church-Biblical History [Nachertaniia tserkovno-bibleiskoi istorii, 1816-1818]. The book was hastily written, and its author is not at fault if after his death it was forcibly retained in the schools as a textbook even until the 1860's when it was clearly out of date, inadequate, and unsuitable. (The posthumous editions were reworked by Archdeacon Kochetov). O The History, compiled from Weismann, Spanheim, Baronius and the Magdeburg Centuries, 179 was very dry, factual, and formal. Surmounting the scholastic routine was not easy even for such a lively person as Innokentii. At the St. Petersburg Seminary, where he was rector, Innokentii taught in Latin (after his death, his notes on active theology [deiatel noe bogoslovie] based on his Latin outlines were published in Russian translation).

Such a combination of “piety of the heart” and scholastic “erudition” is found among many of this older generation. The best example was Filaret Amfiteatrov, subsequently the well-known metropolitan of Kiev (1779-1857).180 He was a man of warm piety, a large heart, and a true spiritual life; an upright and saintly man. But in his teaching he remained an uncompromising proponent of the scholastic past. He taught, but not for long, in the reformed schools, first in St. Petersburg and then in Moscow (as inspector and rector). He always taught in Latin. He was emphatically against teaching theology in Russian. He followed Irinei Fal'kovskii 181 in his lecture plan, and in his explanation of Scripture 'he was guided most of all by the exegesis of Vitringa. 182 His audience noted the thorough precision in his exposition, a “mathematical precision,” and deft argumentation. But at the same time these were more like sermons than lectures in the strict sense, “something in the way of an announcement of good tidings.”

Filaret was hostile to the “mystical” current. “During my professorate at the Moscow Academy there was a general trend toward mysticism and I, with all my might, combatted it.” He was even less reconciled to philosophy. “Not only were philosophical formulas foreign to him, but so were the very names of Spinoza or Hegel.” Even Filaret of Moscow, whom he dearly loved, seemed to him too learned and wise: did such a thing correspond to monastic vows and humility? In his early years Filaret Amfiteatrov participated in the Bible Society, and even in 1842 supported Filaret of Moscow and was compelled to leave the Synod at the same time. Still later he became much more cautious and began to protest sharply against the renewal of Russian Biblical translations.

There were many dedicated people in the ranks of the older generation. One example was the influential and well-known Muscovite Father Semen Sokolov. “He was famous in Moscow as a strict and instructive confessor, as a cautious guide for those confused by doubts and rumors in days of sorrow and temptation, and as a profound and spiritually impregnated mystic” as it was phrased by one of those whom he confessed (N.V. Sushkov in his notes on Filaret). He studied at the Holy Trinity Lavra seminary and was connected with the members of the “Society of Friends.” He had a long life (1772-1860). For the education of his “spiritual children” he translated and published (in 1834) Thomas a Kempis' famous book with an appended instruction about how such books should be read. In later Years he loved to read and reread the Messenger of Zion [Sionskii Vestnlk], and he did not prohibit the reading of Eckartshausen. Such was the power of “Europeanization” in post-Petrine Russia that it was possible to return to the traditions of spiritual life only along a western route and by western example. Arndt was known earlier than the Philokalia. 183 And for many Arndt remained a long while their first love in illumination. True, very early the reading of the Greek Fathers, and the Father-ascetics in particular, were added. But only with the establishment of contemplative monasteries in Russia, with their living return to the Orthodox traditions of spiritual life, did the wave of western mystical enthusiasms begin to subside.

In the ecclesiastical schools the influence of the Alexandrine epoch was long and lasting. In those circumstances of theological “sensitivity” the characters of men such as Filaret Gumilevskii or A. V. Gorskii 184 might flow together. Only by reference to the spirit of the Alexandrine age is it possible to understand the tragic fate of Archimandrite Fedor Bukharev. . . , 185

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