Fr Georges Florovsky: Are You Walking in the Steps of the Fathers?

Feast of St James, the Apostle and Brother of Our Lord

Florovsky_Square_5.jpegTHE TASK of a contemporary Orthodox theologian is intricate and enormous. He has much to learn still before he can speak with authority. And above all he has to realize that he has to speak to an ecumenical audience. He cannot retire into a narrow shell of some local tradition—simply because his Orthodoxy, i.e. the Patristic, tradition is not a local one, but basically an ecumenical one. And he has to use all his skill to phrase this ecumenical message of the Fathers in such a way as to secure an ecumenical, a truly universal appeal. This obviously cannot be achieved by any servile repetition of the Patristic letter, as it cannot be achieved by a Biblical fundamentalism either. But servility is alien both to the Bible and to the Fathers. They were themselves bold and courageous and adventurous seekers of the Divine truth. To walk truly in their steps means to break the new ways, only in the same field as theirs. No renewal is possible without a return to the sources. But it must be a return to the sources, to the Well of living water, and not simply a retirement into a library or museum or venerable and respectable, but outlived relics. Lex orandi is, and must be, not only a pattern or authority for the lex credendi, but above all a source of inspiration. It is, and ought to be, not so much a binding and restricting authority, as a life in the Spirit, a living experience, a communion with the Truth, with the living Lord, who is not only an authority, but the Truth, the Way and the Life. The true theology can spring only out of a deep liturgical experience. It must become once more, as it has been in the age of the Fathers, a witness of the Church, worshipping and preaching, and cease to be merely a school-exercise of curiosity and speculation. [. . .]

All reaches of the Orthodox tradition can be disclosed and consummated only in a standing intercourse with the whole of the Christian world. The East must meet and face the challenge of the West, and the West perhaps has to pay more attention to the legacy of the East, which after all was always meant to be an ecumenical and catholic message. We are perhaps on the eve of a new synthesis in theology—of a neopatristic synthesis, I would suggest. Theological tradition must be reintegrated, not simply summed up or accumulated. This seems to be one of the immediate objectives of the Church in our age. It seems to be the secure start for the healing of Christian disruption.

—Fr Georges Florovsky, The Legacy and Task of Orthodox Theology

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