03 January 2009

Florensky on ecclesiality

"Ecclesiality (tserkovnost)--that is the name of the refuge where the heart's anxiety finds peace, where the pretensions of the rational mind are tamed, where great tranquillity descends into our reason. Let it be the case that neither I nor anyone else can define what ecclesiality is! Let those who attempt such a definition dispute one another and mutually refute one another's formulas of ecclesiality. Indeed, do not its very indefinability, its ungraspableness by logical terms, its ineffability prove that ecclesiality is life, a special, new life, which is given to man, but which, like all life, is inaccesible to the rational mind?...

Where there is no spiritual life, something external must exist as an assurance of ecclesiality. A specific function, the pope, or a system of functions, a hierarchy--that is the criterion of ecclesiality for Roman Catholics. On the other hand, a specific confessional formula, the creed, or a system of formulas, the text of the Scripture, is the criterion of ecclesiality for Protestants. In the final analysis, in both cases what is decisive is a concept, an ecclesiastical-juridical concept for Catholics and an ecclesiastical-scientific concept for Protestants. But by becoming the supreme criterion, a concept makes all manifestation of life unnecessary...

The indefinability of Orthodox ecclesiality, I repeat, is the best proof of its vitality. Of course, we Orthodox cannot point to any one ecclesial function about which it can be said that it sums up all of ecclesiality, for what would be the sense of all the other functions and activities of the Church? Likewise, we cannot point to any one formula or book which could be taken as the fullness of ecclesial life. And if such a formula or book did exist, what would be the sense of other formulas or books, of all other activities of the Church? There is no concept of ecclesiality, but ecclesiality itself is, and for every living member of the Church, the life of the Church is the most definite and tangible thing that he knows. But the life of the Church is assimilated and known only through life--not in the abstract, not in a rational way."--Fr. Pavel Florensky


Eric said...

I've been reading Vladimir Solovyov lately (whom Florensky was influenced by) and I would think that Solovyov would say just the opposite about the "indefinability of Orthodox ecclesiality" being a benchmark of the true Church. I'm not sure how I feel about it though.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Hi, Eric! As I understand it, Solovyov's legacy is rather mixed in the Orthodox communion. He certainly has a cool beard, though. :-)

Francis said...

I will have to look up more about what Fr. Pavel is referring to...what Ecclesiality is. It seems he means the "life of the Church" and I wonder how this differs from what and other Ecc* words.

Anyway, my experience of the Orthodox understanding of Ecclesialness is what is described above and also in many cases something that is defined in good detail.

My experience of my own Church is as it is defined above and much more. Ecclesial existence for the Church is the whole deal. Catholics speak of this "Church Life" from the books to the pews... and from the Pope to the 'refuge' for one experiencing a "dark night."

Fr. Pavel, at least from this quote, seems to me to simplify things a bit.

Soloviev did indeed convert to Catholicism and some Orthodox Churches have deemed him as unorthodox.

Francis said...

I was e-mailed my post and noticed some bad language. In the first paragragh at the end I wondered "how this differs from Ecclesial words." I have never seen someone use Ecclesiality before but I like it.

Sorry, I was quickly responding before going to work. I hope you, Fr. or Eric will still see the post as I am just reading it for the first time.

Christine Erikson (aka Justina) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Erikson (aka Justina) said...

I wrote this in response to a youtubber, it might be of use here.

any unorthodox panentheism of the sort you are worried about, can probably be traced to
Pavel Florensky. http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i6223.html who brought symbolism
into Orthodox theology, made an aesthetic issue out of truth and with the help of a
monastic elder apparently in prelest, decided that God and Creation are one in the same
way God and man are one in Christ. sounds like the creation is the incarnation so to speak
of God, not in the sense that an artist is shown forth or METAPHORICALLY incarnated in his
art, but in a more direct sense if I understand this character right. and he talks about
the Church encountering the other world instead of encountering Christ. Russia had a
problem in those days, one priest in the (I think late) 1800s wrote that a dreamy state
had come on Russia for the past 200 years which was bad. some of what is said in this
article as being what Florensky thought and taught sounds like a formula for producing
prelest, or at least being susceptible to it more than the usual fallen human needs to be.
Russia also produced Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky who aside from his many merits as a leader
of ROCOR during the Bolshevik days, and as a confessor and pastor, was weak in the head
theologically and transferred the redemption from Golgotha to Gethsemane, denied that
Christ could have felt fear or anything anticipating His Crucifixion and death, and
denied atonement altogether as any part of the redemption positing moral redemption
(a masochistic wallow in sympathetic pain conducted in Christ's case supposedly as a
shaming effect attempt on everyone else), which he supposedly discovered for the first
time but obviously plagiarized substantially from Abelard's ideas, and came close to
facing a heresy trial by the Holy Synod of ROCOR. This nonsense still haunts us.