dimanche 11 mars 2012

Official Video of the John Meyendorff Conference on French National Channel France 2

Broadcasting Orthodoxie on France 2 (French television), Sunday, March 11th at 9:30 am, titled “Hommage au Père Jean Meyendorff (1926-1992)is dedicated to the International Conference: “The Legacy of Fr. John Meyendorff, Scholar and Churchman (1926–1992), held at St. Sergius Institute in Paris, from 9–11 February, 2012. This transmission presented by Fr. Nicholas Ozolin can be viewed on the following link.

vendredi 24 février 2012

Official Report of the Conference on the Legacy of Fr. John Meyendorff

From 9-11 February, 2012, an International Conference was held at Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, France, to honour the 20th anniversary of the passing away of the theologian and Church historian Protopresbyter John Meyendorf, was Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1983 until 1992. The four sessions, with 24 speakers, devoted to the work of one of the most renowned Orthodox Christian theologians of the last century, attracted the attention of nearly one hundred participants. 

The Conference, titled “The Legacy of Fr John Meyendorff, Scholar and Churchman (1926-1992),” began with words of welcome by the Rector of the Institute, His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel, and by the Dean, Archpriest Nicholas Cernokrak. His Eminence Kallistos, Metropolitan of Diokleia, transmitted a message from the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew. Then Dr. Joost van Rossum, Professor of History and Theology of the Byzantine Church at the Institute (and alumnus of St Vladimir’s Seminary) delivered the keynote lecture, entitled “Fr. John Meyendorff: A Life Dedicated to Scholarship and to the Church.”  

Fr. John Meyendorff was first of all known for his studies on the Byzantine theologian St. Gregory Palamas (14th century), whose theology can be considered as a true patristic synthesis. For this reason, the initial lectures were dedicated to the notion of “neo-patristic synthesis,” which had been introduced for the first time by Fr. Georges Florovsky, and which had been resumed by Fr John Meyendorff. The initial lectures included: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, “Father John Meyendorff and ‘Neo-Patristic Synthesis’ ”; Fr. Nikolaos Loudovikos, “John Meyendorff and the Possibilities of a Modern Patristic Exegesis”; Dr. Ivana Noble, “Patristic Synthesis or Non-Synthetic Dialectics ? A Critical Evaluation of John Meyendorff’s Contribution’’. 

The main theme of the scholarly discussions on Gregory Palamas in the last century had been the relationship between the theology of the hesychast theologian and the system of the “hierarchies” of Dionysius the Areopagite (or the “Pseudo-Dionysius”, the anonymous author of some writings which date from the end of the 5th century). In his Doctoral Dissertation, submitted at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), A Study of Gregory Palamas (Introduction à l’étude de Grégoire Palamas), Fr John Meyendorff, therein following the intuition of Fr. Georges Florovsky, had upheld the thesis that Palamas has applied a “Christological corrective” to the writings of Dionysius on the “Celestial Hierarchy” and the “Ecclesiastical Hierarchy,” the language of which is marked by a Neo-platonic flavour. 

Some Orthodox theologians have disputed this interpretation  by Fr. Meyendorff, in particular Fr. John Romanides. Some of the speakers in the next set of lectures shared the opinion of Romanides: Fr. Andrew Louth, “Dionysius, Maximus, Palamas–and Meyendorff?”; and Pantelis Kalaitzidis, “John Meyendorff and John Romanides: Two Different Approaches to Palamite Theology.” However, Mr. Goran Sekulovski, lecturer in Patristics at the Institute, in his talk entitled, “Fr. John Meyendorff, Reader of Dionysius the Areopagite”, underlined the importance of Fr. Meyendorff’s study, in which the author points out that Palamas had replaced the mysticism of Dionysius within the context of the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, which underlies all Christian spirituality and mysticism. For this reason, Mr. Sekulovski argued, there is no doubt that this study of Fr. Meyendorff   still remains the basic study on this Byzantine theologian.
Two more lectures were dedicated to the theology of St. Gregory Palamas: Dr. Serge Horuzhy treated the relation between Palamite theology and ancient and modern philosophy (“Energy and Personality in the Theology of John Meyendorff and in Contemporary Philosophy”); and Dr. Stoyan Tanev, reflected on the notions of “Sophia” and “Energy” in Byzantine and modern theology (“Divine ‘Sophia’ and ‘Energeia’ in 14th and 20th Century Orthodox Theology”). 

The second focus of Fr. John Meyendorff’s theological interest was Christology. Mr. Jean-François Colosimo, lecturer in Patrology at the Institute and alumnus of St Vladimir’s Seminary, presented a paper on ‘‘The Paschal Christology of John Meyendorff,’’ in which he pointed out that Fr. John has corrected a certain tendency in Orthodox theology to ignore the factor ‘‘time’’ in the economy of salvation.
For Fr. John Meyendorff, theology was not merely a speculative matter, but linked to the life of the Church in all its aspects. Other presentations dealt with certain subjects which were not the specialty of Fr. Meyendorff’s scholarly work, but in which he nevertheless had taken interest. Dr. André Lossky, professor of Liturgical Theology at the Institute, presented a paper on ‘‘The Feast of the Transfiguration as Witness to the Light,’’ in which he pointed out the theological meaning of the liturgical texts of that feast and their relationship to the theology of Gregory Palamas. Fr. Nicholas Ozolin, professor of Iconology at St. Sergius, explained the link between the theology of the icon and Christology (“Fr. John Meyendorff, Theologian of the Icon”). Two more lectures concerning the icon, presented by two other alumni of St Vladimir’s, dealt with the Christian image in its cultural context: Fr. Stephan Bigham showed the link between Romanesque and Byzantine art (“Romanesque Art: the Last Western Art of Iconic Character”) and Dr. Alexander Dvorkin spoke about the influence of Western culture on the political and cultural life in Russia in the 16th Century (“Western Influences on Church Life in Muscovy in the First Half of the 16th Century”).
A special session was dedicated to the History of the Church, since Fr. John Meyendorff was a renowned expert on the history of Byzantium and the Slavs. Dr. Pavel Pavlov presented a paper on the relationship between Gregory Palamas and the Islamic world (Palamas’ View on Islam: Byzantine Insights for Contemporary Society). Dr. Marie-Hélène Congourdeau presented a paper on ‘‘Nicholas Cabasilas and his Defense of Gregory Palamas against the ‘trifles’ of Nicephoros Gregoras,’’ in which she showed that Cabasilas (14th century) defended the theology of Palamas, without however making an explicit reference to the theology of the hesychast theologian. Dr. Marie-Hélène Blanchet presented an analysis of the development of the use of the term ‘‘katholikos’’ in Byzantium (‘‘The Different Meanings of the Term ‘katholikos’ in Byzantium at the End of the Middle Ages: a Confessional Controversy”). Finally, Dr. Constantin Vétochnikov presented a paper on “The Patriarchal Missions in the Russian Lands during the 14th and 15th century.” 

Transitioning to the last section of the rich and diverse program, dedicated to the Church in the contemporary world, a young scholar from Yekaterinburg, Mr. Andrey Levitskiy, talked about the activities and publications of Fr. John in Russia (“Fr. John Meyendorff’s Publications in Russia: the Story of a ‘Memorial Festschrift’ ”) and the circumstances around the notorious “autodafé”burning of books of, amongst others, Fr. Meyendorff and Fr. Schmemann, which had been organized in this city by Church authorities in 1998. During the last section, the lectures touched on the role that Fr. John Meyendorff had played in the Ecumenical Movement: Fr. Nicolas Lossky (St. Sergius Institute), ‘‘Fr. John Meyendorff and the Ecumenical Movement”; Dr. Nicholas Kazarian (St. Sergius Institute), “Fr Jean Meyendorff and the WCC.” Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy, former Dean of St. Sergius, presented a paper on ‘‘Palamite Pneumatology in the Context of My Contacts with Fr. John Meyendorff,’’ in which he showed that Fr. Meyendorff had detected a possibile break-through in the deed-end, ancient controversy on the Filioque (without abandoning the patristic axiom of the ‘‘monarchy’’ of God the Father). 

The last lectures of the final section and of the conference itself were devoted to the jurisdictional situation of the Orthodox Church, in particular in America. Dr. Michel Stavrou, professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Institute, delivered a presentation on ‘‘The Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Ecclesiological Vision of Fr. John Meyendorff,’’. The final speaker, Dr. Paul Meyendorff, son of Fr. John Meyendorff, presented a talk on the role of his father in the establishment of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America, which until now has not been officially recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and other autocephalous Churches: ‘‘Fr. John Meyendorff’s Role in the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America”. Discussion on the paper underlined that, for Fr. Meyendorff, the primacy of a Patriarchate or the autocephaly of a Church were not ends in themselves, and that unity of the Church is of prime importance.
During a Round Table discussion, an interview between Fr. Nicholas Ozolin and Fr. John Meyendorff was shown, which had been broadcast on the French television in the eighties. Several participants then shared their memories of Fr. John. Dr. Paul Meyendorff remembered the last moments of his father's life: his last words before dying were ‘‘the Eucharist’’, and these words revealed that his theology and spiritual life were focused on the Eucharist and on eschatology. “At that moment,’’ Paul Meyendorff said, “my father was already there, in the Kingdom of God.”

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Joost van Rossum observed that Fr. John shared this common eucharistic and eschatological vision with his friend and colleague Fr. Alexander Schmemann,
The roots of this theological vision were given to them by their alma mater, St Sergius Institute,” Dr. van Rossum concluded.

mardi 4 octobre 2011

International Conference at St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris: The Legacy of Fr John Meyendorff, Scholar and Churchman (1926-1992)

From the 9th until the 11th of February, 2012, the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute will hold an International Conference to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the falling asleep in the Lord of Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, one of the most renowned Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century.

Born on February 17, 1926, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, in a family of the Baltic aristocracy, "Baron Ioan Theophilevich Meyendorff" grew up in the Parisian milieu of Russian emigrants. Having finished his secondary education, the young Meyendorff enrolled at St. Sergius in 1944. At that time the Institute was the center of theological renewal in the Orthodox world, counting among its professors major representatives of the Russian intelligentsia, such as Frs. Sergius Bulgakov, Georges Florovsky, Cyprian Kern, Nicholas Afanasiev, and Professor Anthony Kartachov. Among his fellow students at St. Sergius was his friend from early childhood, Alexander Schmemann. During his years of study at the Institute, John (Jean) Meyendorff began to take courses at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne).  Once he completed his coursework at St. Sergius, the Institute engaged him to teach Church History and Ancient Greek. His studies were crowned in 1958 with a doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne on the Byzantine theologian St. Gregory Palamas. The next year, he was ordained to the priesthood. He then left with his family for the United States at the invitation of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who had been teaching at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary since 1951. Fr. John taught Patristics and Church History at St. Vladimir’s, and Byzantine History at nearby Fordham University.

Fr. John's thesis on Palamas—the original French version of which was soon out of print and has never been re-edited—acquired for him a notable reputation in both ecclesiastical and academic circles. This book, which in French bears the modest title Introduction à l’étude de Grégoire Palamas (translated into English under the title A Study of Gregory Palamas [SVS Press, ), remains a classic which cannot be ignored by any student of Byzantine theology. Fr. John provided an important contribution to the rediscovery of this great and important Byzantine theologian of the 14th century, a rediscovery which had already begun with the works of  Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, Fr. (later Archbishop) Basil (Krivocheïn), Fr. Cyprian Kern and Vladimir Lossky. Father John further is widely considered to be one of the most important representatives of the direction in Orthodox theology known as the “Neo-patristic Synthesis” (the term is from Fr. Georges Florovsky); the word “neo” indicating that it is not simply a return to the study of the church fathers or a “theology of repetition,” but rather is representative of a creative rediscovery of the living tradition of the Church. The theological works of Fr. John are essentially shaped by an historical approach that left its profound mark on Orthodox theology in the twentieth century. In this regard, he turned out to be a student par excellence of Fr. Georges Florovsky, whom he had known both in person and through his works, though not having been formally his student at St. Sergius (at that time, Patristics was taught by Fr. Cyprian Kern).      

Fr. John’s activities were not limited to the academic world and to theological and historical studies. He was always actively engaged in church life. This is why he gained such great respect in the ecclesial world, both within and beyond the Orthodox Church. He was a co-founder and president of “Syndesmos,” the World Federation of Orthodox Youth Movements; and he was a member of “Faith and Order” of the World Council of Churches, a department over which he presided for almost ten years, from 1967 until 1976. It is due to his efforts, and to those of his friend and colleague Fr. Alexander Schmemann, that the Russian Orthodox Church in America, known then as “the Metropolia,” obtained autocephaly from its Mother Church in 1970, under the name of “The Orthodox Church in America” (OCA).

At the Conference in February 2012, the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute will honor its former student and teacher with lectures and a Round Table on the various domains in which he worked: theology (in all its aspects), Church History (Byzantium and the Slavic world), and the Orthodox Church today.

Among Father Meyendorff’s most important works the following stand out: Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1975), Byzantine Theology (Fordham University Press, 1974), Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions (SVS Press, 1989), and Byzantium and the Rise of Russia (Cambridge University Press, 1981).
The detailed program is available here and for a complete description of the international conference visit the website of St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, here.