Monday, May 3, 2010

Living Icons, Chapter 6

Fr Michael Plekon’s sixth chapter is dedicated to the lay theologian Paul Evdokimov, who is rather less well known than the figures treated in earlier chapters. Fr Plekon writes:
As rich as Evdokimov’s theological work is, it nevertheless faces resistance and rejection today, despite his effort to encounter the modern reader. Such is the case of theologians who choose to remain within the Church and the world while at the same time eschatologically moving beyond them, the mark, some would say, of authentic and classic theological work. All the aspects of his thought we will inspect here can be gathered together in what is the central motif of this essay, his stance and vision within and beyond Church and world.
Indeed, if there is a leitmotif to Fr Plekon’s treatment of Evdokimov, it is how the latter ever went “beyond” Tradition (my italics throughout). Fr Plekon writes:
Living the Church’s faith and then reflecting on it in view of the complexity of our time seems to have put these individuals beyond ordinary ecclesiastical and theological categories, although faithfully still within them. This is precisely where one has to locate Paul Evdokimov. In an apparently contradictory manner, he remains within the Orthodox ecclesial and theological experience yet moves beyond it, not only in ecumenical work, but also in thinking and writing in a decidedly creative and wordly way that never abandons the Church’s Tradition. Thus he speaks from within the Church. Yet in the actual targeting of his writing and his own activity, he is beyond ecclesial parochialism and situated within the social realities of our time, where the authentic ecclesial mission should be taking place.
We are told, for instance, that he worked “within and beyond” Tradition when offering a Spiritugue to accompany the Filioque as a manner of solving this impasse. It’s a pity that the only alternative to such work “beyond” Tradition is to be labeled a “hypertraditionalist rigorist” and that the only alternatives to Evdokimov’s “Interiorized monasticism” are “eccentric, nostalgic flights backwards in time.”

Fr Plekon notes that Vladimir Lossky labeled Evdokimov “Orthodoxy’s Protestant.” What is more surprising is Plekon’s comment:
Evdokimov’s deep regard for the Reformation’s rediscovery of the freedom of the gospel would have made him proud of such a label, I suspect.
In Evdokimov we are once again faced with a sympathetic and congenial personality, someone whose life was clearly dictated by the Gospels. But his forays beyond Tradition leave me deeply ill at ease, “hypertraditiionalist rigorist” though I may be.

3 comments:

protov said...

"Ill at ease"! It brings a storm of memories. It's exactly how I felt when reading Evdokimov in the communist Romania in the 70's. Orthodox writings were devoured (mostly because it was viewed as an act of defiance to the atheistic regime, they were smuggled into the country). Nevertheless something was putting me "mal a l'aise" (I was reading in the original French). Something was not in tune with what we were seeing in the Churches that fortunately remained open and where people still stubbornly went. Fortunately also people were reading the Sbornic of Valaam (in Samizdat). Sooner or later serious people were making their way to Sihastria to Father Cleopa or to the Monastery Antim in Bucuresti to Father Sofian.

Brandon G. said...

Ah, Fr S. I see by these blogs you have a computer again... But there must be something you like in Fr M's book?

Brandon G. said...

Ah, Fr S. I see by these blogs you have a computer again... But there must be something you like in Fr M's book?