In watching the discussion of Scripture, Tradition, and Authority unfold on the Orthodox-Lutheran Dialogue, I have frequently found myself calling to remembrance a theologian-hierarch who, perhaps more than any other, has been influential on the manner in which I think about these, as well as so many other, issues; indeed one whom the brilliant Florovsky often called "probably the greatest theologian of the Russian Church in modern times": our father among the Saints Philaret (Drozdov), Metropolitan of Moscow and All-Russia.
I will not here give the standard hagiography; such exist here and here. The focus of this presentation is on the character and views of St. Philaret, for which I present below Fr. Florovsky's excellent summary from Ways of Russian Theology. Let the reader be warned: it is somewhat lengthy, but then, in order to capture an adequate picture of this great hierarch and teacher it must be; in some ways it is, perhaps, not long enough.
Filaret (1782-1867) had a long life, literally from the annexation of the Crimea to the "Great Reforms." But he was a man of the Alexandrine age. He was born in sleepy, oblivious Kolomna and studied in a pre-reform seminary where students were taught in Latin from Latin books. However, at the Holy Trinity monastery seminary, where he finished his studies and became a teacher, the spirit of Protestant scholasticism was mitigated and moderated by the winnowing of that churchly pietism so typically exemplified in Metropolitan Platon Levshin.
Archimandrite Evgraf (Muzalevskii-Platonov), the rector, taught from Protestant texts. Filaret recalled that "Evgraf would assign selected passages to be copied from Hollatius." Lessons consisted of translating and commenting on these dictated passages. "Those doctrines which Orthodox and Protestants have in common, such as the Holy Trinity, Redemption, and so on were studied systematically, but others, for example, the doctrine of the Church, were not read at all. Evgraf did not receive a systematic education, although he recognized the necessity for studying the church fathers and he studied them." Evgraf typifies a generation in transition. He loved mystical interpretations of the Bible and would become quite transported by such explanations. "The Kingdom of God is contained not in the word, but in strength." He attempted a transition to Russian language instruction. Subsequently he served as rector of the reformed St. Petersburg Theological Academy, but he died soon after his appointment.
Filaret did not judge him too harshly when he said that: "An inexperienced teacher instructed us in theology, but he did so with great application." Filaret's personal recollections of the "pre-reform" seminary were wholly negative. "What was there to admire?" Filaret himself acquired a brilliant command of classical languages and a sound preparation in stylistics and philology from such a school. As a consequence he knew ancient languages better than modern ones and never studied German at all. For the rest, he could thank his personal talents and dedication to hard work. Thus, in an important sense, there was some basis for his fond description of himself as a self-educated man.
In 1809 the newly tonsured hierodeacon Filaret was summoned from the quiet refuge of a Holy Trinity Monastery bathed in the spirit of pious reverie to St. Petersburg "for inspection" and for service in the newly reformed ecclesiastical schools. For Filaret the startling contrast and the sudden transfer gave St. Petersburg a strange appearance: "The course of affairs is entirely incomprehensible to me," he admitted in a letter to his father. He could recall those first impressions of St. Petersburg for the rest of his life. The Synod greeted him with the advice to read "Swedenborg's Miracles" [Shvedenborgovy chudesa] and learn French. He was taken to court to view the fireworks and attend a masquerade party in order to meet Prince Golitsyn, the Over Procurator of the Holy Synod, quite literally "amidst the noise of the ball."
Then a short man, his breast adorned with stars and medals, entered the room and began threading his way through the hall. He was wearing a three-cornered hat and some sort of silk cape over an embroidered uniform. Then he ascended to the balcony where the clergy were decorously seated. He mingled politely with the members of the Synod, nodding to them, shaking their hands, briefly murmuring a word or two first to one, then to another. No one seemed surprised either at his attire or his familiarity.
This was Filaret's first masquerade ball, and he had never before seen a domino. "At the time I was an object of amusement in the Synod " Filaret recalled, "and I have remained a fool."
Filaret received a cool welcome in St. Petersburg, and he was not immediately permitted to teach at the academy. But by early 1812 he had become the academy rector and an archimandrite, with the task of supervising the Iur'ev Monastery in Novgorod. He advanced primarily through his ardor, his distinguished "preaching of the Word of God " and his "edifying and eloquent homilies on the truths of faith." Filaret had already attracted attention as a stylist and a preacher while at the Holy Trinity Monastery. He truly did have a gift and feeling for words.
Platon and Anastasii Bratanovskii among Russian preachers influenced him. In St. Petersburg he became acquainted with seventeenth century French sermonists, especially Massillon, Bourdaloue, and most of all, Fenelon. But the influence of the eastern fathers, Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian, whom Filaret always particularly loved and valued, is quite pronounced. Filaret chose contemporary themes for his sermons. He spoke about the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, the mystery of the Cross, "a voice crying in the wilderness"-the favorite topics of pietism and quietism. He frequently preached in Prince Golitsyn's chapel, even on weekdays. Grigorii (Postnikov), a former student and friend, commented rather unfavorably on these early sermons. He wrote to Filaret, frankly saying that these sermons displayed "a studied concern for wordplay, ingenuity, and circumlocution, which could truly vex a heart seeking the unalloyed and edifying truth." In fact, during those first years, Filaret spoke with an overly intense and ornamental style. Later he became calmer and more cautious, but his language always remained complex and his phrases were always arranged as if in counterpoint. Such features do not diminish the expressiveness of his sermons. Even Herzen admitted Filaret possessed a rare control over language. "He masterfully commanded the Russian language, skillfully interweaving it with Church Slavic." This "mastery" of language provides the principal reason for his powerful style: he writes with the living word, a word which seems to be thinking, an inspired and vocal pondering. Filaret always preached the Gospel and never tried to achieve mere rhetorical effect. Precisely during those early St. Petersburg years, he produced his original and exemplary sermons on Good Friday (in 1813, and especially in 1816). Filaret's scholarly and pedagogical duties during those years display a still greater intensity. A burdensome and severe ordeal awaited him. "I had to teach what I had never been taught." In the short time from 1810 to 1817, he had to prepare himself and construct practically an entire course in theology in all of its branches, including exegetical theology, canon law, and church antiquities. It was not surprising that he complained of extreme exhaustion. Nor is it surprising that these first attempts did not always succeed or represent complete originality. They often produced diverse and overly fresh impressions. "Influences" would be too strong a word. Filaret's first books, An Outline of Church-Biblical History [Nachertanie tserkovnobibleiskoi istorii, 1816] and Notes on the Book of Genesis [Zapiski na knigu Bytiia, 1816], were modelled on Buddeus. He also borrowed Buddeus's scholarly apparatus. Such borrowing was simply unavoidable given his deadline and the haste of the work. The students had to be given textbooks and other manuals in order to take the examinations.
Filaret was an inspiring and brilliant professor.
He spoke distinctly with an incisive, lofty, and intelligent manner; but [he spoke] more to the intellect than to the heart. He freely expounded Holy Scriptures, as if the words simply flowed from his mouth. The students became so taken by him, that when the time came for him to stop teaching, a great desire always remained to go on listening without regard for food or drink. He produced a powerful impression through his lessons. Those lessons seemed truly pleasing and perfect to everyone. During class, he appeared as a wise and eloquent speaker and a skillful writer. Everything indicated he devoted much time to scholarship.
This is Archimandrite Fotii's own assessment. He adds that Filaret strongly advocated monasticism "and was very compassionate." Fotii had an opportunity to experience that compassion during his difficult and troubled year at the academy. As Sturdza noted, at that time Filaret was "agitated by the promptings of many quite diverse influences." Along with everyone else, he read Jung-Stilling, Eckartshausen, Fenelon, and Guyon, as well as Kerner's The Seer of Prevorst. Traces of such reading unquestionably remained an indelible part of his spiritual and intellectual make-up. Filaret could find a common language not only with Golitsyn, but also with Labzin and even with itinerant Quakers. Every dimension of religious life interested him and attracted him. However, for all such interests, Filaret stayed squarely within the church and inwardly remained untouched by this mystical awakening. Because he was always so impressionable, Filaret inclined toward suspicion: he noted everything and probed and reflected deeply on each detail, a discomforting habit for those around him. But he preferred a certain reserve, while subduing and disciplining himself above all others. Even Fotii, who in his memoirs reproached Filaret for many things and strongly disliked him, admitted that, while a student "living under the sharp eye of Archimandrite Filaret," he "never noticed, or could have noticed, even the slightest blemish on the teaching about the church, either in classes at the academy or in private." Fotii furiously attacks Filaret for only one thing: his excessive patience and extreme taciturnity.
Innokentii Smirnov advised Fotii to pay Filaret frequent visits, where he might learn what silence means. Such a trait actually was one of Filaret's characteristics. He appeared secretive and evasive. In is memoirs, Sturdza writes that there was "something enigmatic" in his entire being. Completely open only before God, and not before men-at least not indiscriminately-"Filaret never allowed himself moments of unguarded confidences." With partial justification, he might be accused of excessive timidity and caution, for he did not wish to risk challenging powerful authority. ("We two archimandrites of the Iur'ev and Pustynsk monasteries will not save the Church, if it contains some defect," Filaret told Innokentii.) But Filaret's caution had another dimension. He had no faith in the utility or reliability of harshly restrictive measures, and he was in no hurry to meddle or pass judgment. Always able to distinguish the error from the person making it, he looked benevolently on every sincere impulse of the soul. Even in the yearnings of the mystics he sensed a true religious thirst, a spiritual restlessness which stumbled along errant paths, only because "the rightful path had been poorly constructed." Thus, for polemical purposes, prohibitions alone would not be sufficient. Above all, education was needed. For that constructive and creative struggle with error which Filaret wished to wage, one must teach, reason, and refrain from impatient quarrels.
Behind the facade of mystical seductions, Filaret could recognize a vital need for religion, a thirst for religious instruction and enlightenment: hence his enthusiastic participation in the work of the Bible Society. The work attracted him, for he believed that the church should expend its energies on translation of the Bible, "so that the bread might not be taken from the children." He firmly believed in the power of renewal found in the Word of God, and forever linked his name with and his selflessly dedicated life to, the translation of the Russian Bible. His labor on behalf of the Bible is difficult to value at its true worth. For him personally the work meant great personal trials and humiliations. At the height of the "uprising" against the Bible in St. Petersburg, Filaret, in Moscow, replied that "such a desire to read the Bible, is already a sign of moral improvement." If some prefer to live on roots rather than pure bread, the Bible cannot be held responsible. To the anticipated question: "Why this innovation in a matter so ancient and unneedful of change as Christianity and the Bible?" Filaret replied,
Why this innovation? What is new? Dogmas? Precepts living? But the Bible Society preaches none of these things but instead places into the hands of those who desire it a book from which the truths of the Church always have been drawn, and from which Orthodox dogmas and also the pure precepts for living continue to be derived. The Society is a new one? Yet it introduces nothing new into Christianity or produces the slightest alteration in the Church . . . .`Why this innovation of foreign origin?' they continue. In reply to that question, one might point out for our worthy compatriots many things and ask a similar question: `Why are they not only of foreign origin, but even entirely foreign'? . . .
As one contemporary put it, "some of the most devout people held the unfortunate belief that people would go mad from reading this sacred book." For a time students in the military schools were officially forbidden to read the Bible, ostensibly as a precautionary measure, for two cadets had already become addled. Many others "regarded it as a book only for use in church and suited solely to priests." From fear of mystical errors and excesses, people suddenly began to shun the writings of Macarius of Egypt and Isaac the Syrian, whose "wise prayer of the heart has been destroyed and derided as a pestilence and a ruination."
Somewhat later Filaret had to prove that it was permissible to write new commentaries on St. Paul's epistles, despite the fact that Chrysostom had long ago provided explanations. "Smoke consumes one's eyes, arid they say `the light of the sun consumes them.' Choking from the smoke, they gasp, `how poisonous is the water from the spring of life.'"
Such a spirit of timid theological endeavor always disturbed Filaret, wherever and whenever it appeared. "Human nature contains a strange ambivalence and contradictory tendencies," he. once said.
On the one hand exists a sense of need for the Divine and a desire for communion with God; on the other hand, there is a mysterious disinclination to occupy oneself with Divine matters and an impulse to avoid any discourse with God. . . .The first of these tendencies belongs to man's original nature, while the other derives from a nature blemished by sin.
Possession and preservation of faith are not sufficient: "perhaps you have doubts you actually possess faith, or how you possess it. . . ." Filaret continues.
As long as your faith resides in the Word of God and in the Creed, then your faith belongs to God, His prophets, Apostles, and Fathers of the Church and not to you. When you hold your faith in your thoughts and memory, then you begin to acquire it as your own; but I still fear for your acquisition [of it], because the living faith in your thoughts is, perhaps, still only a token of that treasure you have yet to receive, that is the living power of faith.
In other words, faith, in the fullness of its dogmatic content, must become the vital principle or focus in life. Each person must not merely remember the content of that faith, but acquire it with the labor of the mind and with the entirety of the soul. Filaret was not afraid to awaken thought, although he knew temptations could only be overcome and conquered by the creative act and not by frightened concealment. Subsequently he wrote: "The necessity to do battle with enemies and with teachings contrary to dogma is quite a sufficient task. What purpose is served by combatting options which are not inimical to any dogmatic truth?" Filaret always emphasized the necessity to engage in theology as the single and immutable foundation for a complete religious life. "Christianity is not being a fool for Christ's sake [iurodstvo], nor is it ignorance, but it is the wisdom of God." Hence no Christian dares halt at the beginning or remain only at an elementary stage. Christianity is a path or a way. Filaret constantly recalls that "[we] should consider no wisdom, even that which is secret and hidden, to be alien and unrelated to us, but with humility we should direct our minds toward contemplation of God." Christian personality is shaped only through such reasoning and understanding; only in this manner is the "perfect man of God" shaped, and formed. Filaret's favorite aphorism, "theology reasons," is a commandment "to reason" given to everyone and not to the few. He considered overly detailed textbooks harmful, and for quite characteristic reasons. "A student having before him a large textbook, that he cannot absorb even that which had been prepared for him Consequently, the possibility of constructing something for himself seems impossible. Thus the mind is not stirred to activity and the memory retains the words rather than the ideas from the pages of book." What is actually needed is to arouse and exercise the "mind's ability to function," and not simply to develop the memory. Herein lies the solution or explanation for the fervor with which Filaret all of his life fought on behalf of the Russian language, both for the Bible and for theological instruction. He wished, and strove to make theology accessible to everyone, and for that reason he seemed terrible and dangerous to his opponents. General accessibility is just what they did not want. "Translation of the New Testament into the simple dialect left a permanent and indelible stain upon him," wrote Fotii.
It was necessary to wage war on two fronts in order to achieve the use of Russian in school instruction. First, one had to combat the civil authorities (and during Nicholas I's reign all "thought" was regarded as the embryo of revolution). The so-called Committee of 6 December (1826-1830) completely opposed the proposal for instruction in Russian, arguing that the necessary addition of new Russian language textbook editions for dogmatic and hermeneutical theology might attract the attention of unenlightened people to questions about faith: "Providing an opportunity for unfounded explanations and conjectures." Second, one had to debate with the represeritatives of the old learning about the use of Latin in theological instruction. Very many such representatives still survived. After Golitsyn's departure, Metropolitan Evgenii of Kiev had been summoned to the Synod. He was entrusted with a new construction of the ecclesiastical schools, "for the establishment of ecclesiastical schools on the firm and steadfast foundation of Orthodoxy," as Metropolitan Seraphim wrote. Fotii recommended Evgenii and openly counterposed him to Filaret as "wiser than Filaret and at the same time an Orthodox and great man and a pillar of the Church: ' (Fotii gave Evgenii a solemn greeting.) However, once in St. Petersburg, Evgenii became too preoccupied with his personal and archeological interests to be able to devote much attention to the large questions of church politics. Nevertheless, a reactionary spirit could be felt quite strongly among the new membership of the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools. Filaret of Moscow did not attend the sessions of the Synod during those troubled years (if one does not count the brief session of the Synod in Moscow at Nicholas's coronation). He occupied himself with the affairs of his diocese, and only in 1827 did he return to St. Petersburg. During the first weeks after his arrival, he was called upon to discuss the question of church reform. Someone had presented the emperor with a proposal for fundamental reforms aimed at "saddling the Church with a kind of Protestant consistory composed of clergy and laymen," in Filaret's understanding of the proposal's intent. Apparently General Merder, Nicholas's former tutor, had transmitted the proposal. Filaret believed the author to be A. A. Pavlov, the cohort of Fotii and Shishkov during the "uprising" of 1824. The Synod struggled to compose a reply to the substance of the proposal. Filaret also presented a personal note, which was submitted by the Synod as the opinion of one of its members. The Emperor wrote the word "just" [spravedlivo] on this report, in which Filaret had once again raised the question of Biblical translation. But Filaret's suggestion could make no further progress in view of Metropolitan Seraphim's unqualified opposition. Filaret did not insist. "I do not wish to produce a schism in the Church."
In the next few years, Filaret had one other opportunity to set forth in detail his views on the question of church schools. Once again the opportunity came in connection with those same proposals for reform. He roundly condemned the scholastic schools, and still more emphatically castigated the belated attempts to return to such superannuated models.
Before the reform several ecclesiastical schools were distinguished by a knowledge of Latin. . . .As a result, priest knew Latin pagan authors well, but hardly knew religious and Church writers. They could speak and write in Latin better than in Russian. With their exquisite phrases in a dead language, they were more able to shine in a circle of scholars than illuminate the people with the living knowledge of truth. Only dogmatic theology was taught, and then in the school manner. The result was a dry, cold knowledge, a lack of a sufficiently practical capacity to inform, a forced tone, fruitless teaching, and an inability to speak to the people about the truths which seem so familiar in the schools. Since the reforms of the church schools in 1814, instruction in practical theology [deiatel'noe bogoslovie] has been introduced, thereby making the study of theology closer to the demands of life. . . .The Russian language was permitted in teaching theology. Knowledge of Latin became weaker, but at the same time the school terminology began to give way to a purer and cleaner exposition of truth. The extension of true knowledge was strengthened and its communication to the people made easier. . .
Filaret emphasized that: "Theological understanding, crushed by the great weight of school terminology taught in Latin, did not freely act on the mind during the period of study, and after study only with the greatest difficulty was it transposed into Russian for communication to the people." He then criticized the latest directives from the Commission on Ecclesiastical Schools. True, he agreed, not all teachers constructed their courses successfully, but should teaching from "one's own lectures" be totally prohibited for that reason? Must Latin once again become compulsory and Feofilakt's theology textbook, "copied from Buddeus's Lutheran theology," be assigned once again? Filaret once more adduced an argument based on effectiveness. "Return to Latin scholasticism from instruction in a comprehensible native language cannot facilitate the improvement of education. It is surprising that a time which is being praised for its zeal for Orthodoxy should prefer a return to Latin."
Another Filaret, the archbishop of Riazan' and later metropolitan of Kiev, responded to this determined note. Without quarrelling directly with Filaret of Moscow, he insisted upon preserving Latin for various reasons: as a defensive measure for scholarship, but more importantly as a precaution, so that errors and heresies refuted in dogmatic theology would not gain public attention through Russian books. Nevertheless, he did agree with certain points, and proposed that catechisms, particularly the Orthodox Confession, be published for popular use in Russian and Church Slavic. He also admitted that practical theology could best be taught in Russian. Finally, he thought it desirable to organize the translation of patristic writings into Russian from Greek and Latin. Filaret of Moscow had to give way. The final report did not include a proposal for theological instruction in Russian.
I proposed that theology be taught in Russian at the seminaries in order that its study and its transmission to the people might be made easier and so that those who are distrustful will not ask why we conceal the Holy Gospel in a non-Orthodox language. I stated that it is strange and crippling to give sway to Latin in the Greek Church and that Feofan Prokopovich, by doing so, had disfigured our learning, contrary to the general opinion of the Russian hierarchy at that time, and contrary to the example of all Eastern antiquity; but I had to be silent, in order to end those disagreements which could impede our work.
However, Filaret did achieve one thing: a special point was added to the Synodal resolution; "in order that instruction conducted in the ecclesiastical schools might be more fruitfully directed toward the goal of popular education in faith and morality by means of an educated clergy, to that end capable people should be encouraged to prepare theology textbooks which expound truths in a precise way, unobscured by scholastic subtleties, and which modify [theology] to suit the circumstances of the Eastern Greco-Russian Church."
The dispute over the language of instruction was decided with out preliminary debate. Despite the prohibition, in a short time Russian became the language of the schools everywhere. Filaret had already lectured in Russian at the St. Petersburg Academy, as did his successor Grigorii (Postnikov). Kirill (Bogoslovskii-Platonov) did so in Moscow. Both Grigorii and Kirill were graduates in the first class at the St. Petersburg Academy. Moisei, the rector at the Kiev Academy, l44 had already taught in Russian. Meletii (L.eontovich), and later Innokentii, followed his example. Gradually Latin fell by the wayside in the seminaries so that by the 1840's scarcely any school still taught, theology in Latin. Nevertheless, the transition to Russian still did not signify a genuine liberation from the captivity or slavery of scholasticism. In the 1840's Russian theology had to suffer still another relapse of Latin scholasticism. Once again the initiative belonged to the vising Over Procurator.
Filaret wrote very little. The circumstances of his life were unfavorable to writing. Only in his youth could he give himself to scholarship without too much interference. But he was compelled to work hastily. These years were actually more devoted to study than to independent creativity. Soon called to serve in the upper hierarchy, Filaret thereafter had neither the freedom nor the leisure to systematically investigate and study theology. And in his mature years, Filaret was able to be a theologian only as a preacher. In fact, his Sermons and Addresses [Slova i rechi] remains his principal theological legacy. Filaret never constructed a theological system. His sermons are only fragments, but they contain an inner wholeness and unity. It is not a unity of system, it is a unity of conception. These fragments reveal a living theological experience tormented and tempered in an ordeal of prayer and vigil. Filaret of Moscow was the first person in the history of modern Russian theology for whom theology once more became the aim of life, the essential step toward spiritual progress and construction. He was not merely a theologian, he lived theology. From the ambo or his episcopal seat in the cathedral, he firmly and judiciously taught the lessons of faith. Filaret was a disciplined speaker. He never simply spoke, but always read or followed a written text, an oratorical requirement from his school days.
As a theologian and teacher he was above all a Biblicist. His sermons dwelled most frequently on the Word of God. He did not consult Holy Scriptures for proofs: he proceeded from the sacred texts. In Bukharev's apt phrase, for Filaret Biblical texts "were the thoughts of the Living and All-wise God emanating from his unknowableness for our understanding." His thoughts lived in the Biblical element. He pondered aloud while sifting the nuances of a Biblical image or story. Filaret, notes Bukharev, never allowed his theology to become a "legal investigation governed by a dogmatic code of laws," as was usually the case before Filaret's time and as too often recurred during the epoch of the "return to the time of scholasticism."
During his first few years of teaching, Filaret worked out a general plan for a course in theology, A Survey of Theology [Obozrenie bogoslovskikh nauk, 1814]. It was a very characteristic plan, for it was a course in Biblical theology. In Filaret's view, the aim of a theological system was to "link in their proper order" the individual facts and truths of Revelation. A "system" of theology was something fully dependent and derivative. History came before system, for Revelation was given in history and events.
The formalism of the "old Protestant" theological school in which Filaret was raised and educated exercised a strong influence on him, especially in his younger days. He did not at once formally break with the Russian tradition of Prokopovich. A great deal in his definitions and manner of expression was suggested by, or he simply copied from, Protestant books. He refers to such books in his Survey; hence the incompleteness and scholastic imprecision of Filaret's early formulations. He had the habit of referring to Holy Scriptures as "the sole pure and sufficient source of teaching about faith" and added that "to grant the unwritten Word of God equal weight with the written, not only in the functioning of the Church, but in its dogmas is to subject oneself to the danger of destroying God's commandment for the sake of human tradition: ' This was said, of course, in the heat of polemics. But it does seem that if he did not deny it, then Filaret minimized the importance of Tradition in the Church. He shared and reproduced the Protestant idea of the so-called "self-sufficiency" of Holy Scripture. In his early work, An exposition of the differences between the Eastern and Western Churches in the teaching of faith [Izlozhenie raznostei mezhdu Postochnoi i Zapadnoi tserkvi v uchenii very] written in 1811 for the Empress Elizabeth Alekseevna and even in the early editions of the Catechism, Filaret says very little about Tradition or traditions. And in the final redaction of the Catechism during the 1830's, the questions and answers about Tradition were added at the prompting of others.
Yet this was more a fault of the peculiar language of the period than an actual mistake or error. In any case, Filaret never looked upon Scripture abstractly or in isolation. The Bible is given to and is maintained in the Church. The Church gives it to the faithful for reading and guidance. Scripture is written Tradition, and as such it is a witness to the living knowledge and understanding of the Church. Scripture is the record of Tradition, not ordinary traditions of human recollection, but Holy Tradition. To put it another way, it is the sacred memory embodied in writing "for the uninterrupted and uniform preservation of Divine Words."
Scripture, as Filaret explained it, is "only the continuation of Tradition and Tradition's unalterably constructed form." When he spoke of Scripture as the "sole and sufficient" source of teaching about faith, he did not have in mind a book with leather covers, but the Word of God which lives in the Church, and awakens in each living soul that which the Church acknowledges and teaches. Scripture is Tradition. Furthermore, true and holy Tradition is not "simply the visible and verbal tradition of the teachings, canons, ceremonies, and rituals, but it is also the invisible and actual instruction by grace and sanctification." It is the unity of the Holy Spirit, the communion of the sacraments. And for Filaret the main thing was not historical memory, but the uninterrupted flow of Grace. Therefore, only in the Church is authentic tradition possible. Only in the Church does the Grace of the Holy Spirit pour forth revealed truth in an unbroken stream and admonish with it.
Filaret's intense Biblicism was intimately and deeply bound up with his conception of the Church. This was a return to the patristic style and habit in theology. At the same time Filaret emphasized that modern philological studies must provide a precise definition for the "formal meaning" of Scripture. Scripture is the Word of God, not merely the word about God spoken or recorded at one time. It is the efficacious word acting eternally through the ages. It is a certain Divine mystery, the unalterable appearance of grace and power. "Light is concealed in every trace of God's Word, and wisdom is heard in every sound." And Filaret added, "the authenticity of Holy Scripture extends beyond the limits of our reason." It is a kind of Divine treasury: the unceasing, creative, life-giving Word. And the Church is that holy treasury in which this word is preserved. It is a special construction of the Spirit of God.
Authentic and undoubted, Holy Tradition is the indisputable "source" of faith. But the question remains, how does one recognize and discern this "undoubted" tradition? How is the tradition of faith distinguished from the traditions of the schools? It was precisely this question which constantly occupied Filaret's attention. He was reluctant to discuss appeals to tradition, not what constituted Tradition. He protested against the scholastic custom and habit of establishing or proving doctrinal propositions with a simple selection of texts or authoritative testimony. He emphasized that it was impossible to equate any non-Biblical testimony with that of the Bible, and the realm of direct Divine inspiration is precisely described by the boundary of canon. "Is it possible to define precisely that moment when a church writer becomes a saint and is no longer simply a writer subject to the usual human weaknesses?" Filaret did not place limits on the educational authority of the Church. He only limited the authority of the schools.
Historical tradition, in any case, is subject to confirmation, and Filaret had a lively sense of history. It was this sense, which separated him from later scholastics with their logical pedantry and from the mystics such as Speranskii, Labzin, and Skovoroda earlier for whom the Bible became an allegory or a symbol. For Filaret the Bible was always and above all a book of history. It begins with a description of the creation of heaven and earth and concludes with the appearance of a new heaven and earth, "the entire history of the existing world ", Filaret remarked. And this history of the world is the history of God's covenant with man. It is also the history of the Church which begins even earlier. "The history of the Church begins simultaneously with the history of the world. The creation of the world in itself may be seen as a kind of preparation for the creation of the Church because the purpose for which the kingdom of nature was made resides in the kingdom of grace." The world was created for the sake of man, and with the creation of man came the original Church, founded in the very image and likeness of God. Man was introduced into the world of nature as a priest and a prophet, so that the light of Grace would reach out through him to all the created world. In freedom, man was called upon to answer this creative love, "and then the Son of God would reside in men and reign openly and triumphantly throughout the world. Heavenly light and power would pour down ceaselessly on earth until at last the earth was no longer distinct from heaven."
The heavenly Covenant with God was abrogated by the Fall; the original Church was destroyed. Man stifled within himself the eternal life-giving attention of Divine glory, and he likewise blocked the flow of grace to all the world. In the fallen world, however, creative Divine purpose continued to operate. It acts as a promise and a calling. And the created world (submerged beneath the abyss of Divine infinity and hovering above the abyss of personal non-being) preserves the Word of God.
All history is the journey of God toward man and the journey of man toward God. This holy pulse of time and history especially can be felt in the Old Testament. That was a time of messianic expectations and preparations. Mankind awaits and expects the promised Savior, and God equally expects the exercise of human freedom and love. For that reason there is a tension in time: "the created world moves in definite cycles by necessity and cannot be hurried." The Old Testament was a time of prefigurations and premonitions; a time of multiple and multiform Epiphanies, and at the same time it was a returning of the chosen among men to an encounter with the approaching God. "The common ground of Epiphany, especially in its human dimension, is the Incarnation of the Son of God, for the root and foundation of His holy humanity is found in men from the time of the very first progenitors." In this sense, the Old Testament is a genealogy of the Savior.
The image of the Mother of God is sharply and clearly etched in Filaret's theological consciousness. And the Day of Annunciation was for him the most glorious day of all. With the Annunciation in Nazareth the Old Testament ends and the New Testament begins. The tension of expectation is dissolved. Human freedom responds in the Mother of God. "She unreservedly entrusted herself to the desire of the King of Kings, and the marriage of the Divine with mankind was consummated." And in the Birth of Christ the Church, destroyed forever by the disobedience of the earthly Adam, is recreated indestructibly and forever. The Kingdom of Grace is revealed and the Kingdom of Glory is already slightly visible.
In Filaret's view, the Church is the Body of Christ, "the unity of one life" in Him. It is not the union of all under one authority, even under the royal authority of Christ. Moreover, the Church is a continuing Pentecost: a unity in the Spirit of Christ. The sanctifying stream of grace as an unquenchable fount flows to the very threshold of the coming Kingdom of Glory. "When the mysterious body of the last Adam, composed and constituted by Him through the mutual linking of the members by the appropriate actions of each of them, grows in its composition and is perfectly and finally created, then, upheld by His Head, infused with the Holy Spirit, the image of God triumphantly appears in all its members and the great Sabbath of God and man ensues." The circle of time is closed. The Lord Pantocrator is enthroned and the marriage of the Lamb begins.
In his theological speculations Filaret always proceeded from the facts of Revelation and moved among them. He never departed from history in order hurriedly to ascend to "the exalted heights of contemplation" by means of abstract theology. He had no love for "cold philosophy" and was guided in theology not so much by logical conclusions as by historical phenomena. He was always conscious of the Divine Mysteries in their historical manifestations and actions. And all history is revealed before him as a single great unfolding of Divine Love and Divine Glory in the created world. The theme of his theology was always the Covenant of God and man, in all the complexity and multiform character of its historical fate.
Filaret's "system" was not constructed under "influences" and "impressions," for its inner structure is patristic (compare it especially with Gregory of Nyssa). He dwelled with particular attention on two themes: first, the mystery of the Cross, the mystery of Redemption. And second, the description of the life of Grace, the life in the Spirit Christ revealed to the faithful. Christ is the mysterious First Priest who is offered and who brings the offering. He is the Lamb of God and the Great Hierarch (see the Epistle to the Hebrews). It was the Cross of Golgotha he saw in the Gospels. It was the passion of the Savior he saw in the God-man. "The fate of the world is suspended from His cross, the life of the world lies in His grave. The Cross illuminates the weeping land of life; the sun of blessed immortality streams forth from His grave." The mystery of the Cross is the mystery of Divine Love. "Thus in the spiritual realm of mystery, along the entire dimensions of the Cross of Christ, contemplation is overwhelmed in the limitless love of God." On Good Friday Filaret once preached on the passage "And God so loved the world." He urged that the ultimate meaning of the Cross be grasped. "Behold! . . . There is nothing except the holy and blessed Love of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit toward a sinful and despairing mankind. The Love of the Father in the act of crucifying; the Love of the Son who is crucified; the Love of the Spirit which triumphs by the power of the Cross."
Filaret was completely free of any sentimental or moralistic misinterpretations of the love of the Cross. On the contrary, he emphasized that the Cross of Christ is rooted in the inscrutableness of Divine benevolence. The mystery of the Cross begins in eternity "in the sanctuary of the Tri-hypostatic Godhead which is inaccessible to the created world. Thus, Christ is spoken of in Scriptures as the Lamb of God, forewarned or even crucified from the time of the world's creation. "The death of Christ is the center of created being. The Cross of Jesus, built by the animosity of the Jews and the bloodthirstiness of the pagans, is the earthly image and shadow of this heavenly Cross of love." In his sermons, especially on days recalling the Passion, Filaret ascended to the heights of lyrical prayer; a trembling of the heart can be heard in these addresses. His sermons are impossible to paraphrase; it is only possible to reread and repeat them. We find no integrated system in Filaret, for he always spoke "on occasion." We do find something greater: a unity of living experience, a depth of intellectual conception, "a mysterious visitation of the Spirit." And this is the clue or explanation for his influence on theology. He had practically no direct disciples, nor did he create a school; he created something more important: a spiritual movement. Filaret was always reserved in his theological judgments and he urged others to exercise the same responsible caution. This unremitting sense of responsibility, in which pastoral and theological motives were intertwined, was always at work on him and gave him a stern countenance. It was rightly said that "he was a bishop from morning to night and from night to morning." This was a source of his caution. But he had another motive as well, an instinctive need to justify his every conclusion. It is precisely this need which explains all of his reservations. "Each theological thought must be accepted only in the measure of its strength." Filaret always opposed the transformation of private opinions into required ones which might restrict rather than guide perceptive and searching thought. That is why he was such an unpleasant and impatient censor and editor. His report on Innokentii's Passion Week [Strastnaia Sed initsa] is characteristic: "I wish that calm reason might accompany the labor of a lively and powerful imagination and cleanse this book." Filaret did not reject "imagination," but he subjected it to strict verification, and not so much verification by reason as by the testimony of Revelation.
Not much may be expected by relying on one's own philosophical reasoning for those subjects not found in life on earth. It is more fitting to follow Divine Revelation and the explanations of it given by people who have prayed, labored, cleansed their inner and outer lives more than we. The image of God is more apparent and the sight is clearer in those whose spirits here on earth border more closely on heaven than our own.
Obviously, Filaret was not so preoccupied with authority as with inner reliability.
Filaret appeared too pliable or excessively timid to others in direct proportion to his own demands and caution. Some accused Filaret of "Jacobinism in theology" because he always demanded "proofs" and very cautiously distinguished between "opinion" and "definition." "The people did not love him and called him a Mason" (Herzen). Others considered him a dark reactionary and (strangely enough) preferred Count Pratasov (this applies not only to Nikanor Brovkovich but also to Rostislavov). Still others were confused because Filaret would not condemn the Latin faith as heresy or even as a schism, but instead he argued that it was only an "opinion" and not a ruling of the Church. In particular he tried to guard against exaggeration: "Placing the Papal Church on the same level as the Armenian Church is cruel and useless." He seemed too cautious when he argued that the Eastern Church "does not possess an autocratic interpreter of its teachings who might give the weight of dogma to his explanations." It seemed that he left too much to the "individual judgment and conscience" of the faithful, even though it was "assisted by the teachers of the Church and was under the guidance of the Word of God."
Some could not find adequate words to describe Filaret's oppressive tyrannical character. In this connection, the hostile autobiographical "notes" of the historian S. M. Solov'ev were especially typical. In Solov'ev's description, Filaret was a sort of evil genius, who smothered the least inkling of creativity and independence in his subordinates. Solov'ev insisted that Filaret destroyed any creative spirit in the Moscow Theological Academy. Something must be said about this later. Here it is enough to note that Solov'ev's calumny can be countered by considerable contrary evidence. One example, which is supplied by a person whom it is difficult to suspect of partiality toward Filaret, must be enough. This was the statement of G. Z. Eliseev, the famous radical and editor of Notes of the Fatherland [Zapiski otechestva]. He was a student in the Moscow Academy at the beginning of the 1840's and then a baccalaureate and professor in Kazan'. In Eliseev's estimation, there was too much freedom and an exceptional environment of heartfelt warmth, softness, and camaraderie at the Moscow Academy.
Solov'ev was shortsighted and partial in his judgments. He was not able, nor did he wish, to find any redeeming qualities in those who did not agree with him. He was particularly irritated by people of a "restless mind," who offended his cozy night-Hegelian worldview. Filaret was not the only one whom Solov'ev condemned in this fashion. He found only harsh and foul words for Khomiakov. But Solov'ev was unfair to Filaret even as an historian. He could not and would not understand that Filaret's outward severity sprang from grief and anxiety. "This man has a hot head and a cold heart." This characterization is a deceptive half truth. It is true that Filaret's mind was fervent and hot, and restless thoughts left a deep impress on his withered face. But it is simply nonsense and a lie that Filaret's heart was cold. It flowed sensitively and impressionistically. And it burned in an uncanny and terrible anxiety. His obvious achievements and obvious integrity could conceal this grief and anxiety, this inner suffering, only from a shortsighted observer. Filaret's difficult and courageous silence hardly concealed or quieted his uneasiness about what was happening in Russia. "It seems that we no longer live even in the suburbs of Babylon, but in Babylon itself," he declared one day.
Khomiakov once noted that Filaret was compelled to travel by "devious routes" in order not to provide a pretext for being attacked. "Submission required detours, while his exactness perhaps made it less likely that they would be on the watch and inflict an unexpected blow," wrote another contemporary. Filaret once wrote to Grigorii [Postnikov] : "It is a great misfortune if those against whom they seek an opportunity to attack provide that opportunity. . . ."
Filaret did not like easy and safe paths, for he did not believe that easy paths could lead to truth - the narrow path could hardly turn out to be an easy one. "I fear only that joy on earth which thinks it has nothing to fear. . . ."