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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Alexander Schmemann

6. Russian Orthodoxy (41 pages)













From Schmemann's A History of the Orthodox Church
Page 39

Russian literature was born from the “Western injection” and began as an imitation of Western literature; but it became a great world literature, and more than just a literature of modern Christian thinking, only when it ceased to be either Western or Eastern. The more clearly its Christian root was revealed, the more it became simply Russian.

In some mysterious way, not yet thoroughly explored, Russia’s primitive Christian Orthodox inspiration turned out to be the soul, the conscience, the profundity of this upper-class Western culture. More than that, what Eastern Orthodoxy alone revealed, sensed, and perceived in the world, in man, and in life became the source of new depths and discoveries in Russian literature. The man of whom this literature speaks and to whom it is addressed is the Christian man, not in the sense of moral perfection but in the sense of the depth and illumination used to perceive and describe him. Thus G. P. Fedotov calls The Captains Daughter by the lucid, classical Pushkin the most Christian of all literary works. It was not by chance that for Russians themselves, in the nineteenth century, literature gradually came more than mere literature. In no other country did the writer pay so frequently for his art by his blood and his life as in Russia.

Russian thought, also, was born from Western roots. It has long been known that in Russia not only the Westernizers but the Slavophiles, too, were the fruit of German idealism, of Hegel and Schelling. But here again it was transformed into something more than merely imitative philosophy by what came out of the depths of Orthodox memory, and the Western patterns were suddenly filled with new content and new force. From Khomiakov, whom Samarin called “a teacher of the Church,” to the Russian philosophers and theologians of the twentieth century, its themes more and more clearly emerged as the universal truth of Orthodoxy — not of Byzantinism, not of the East, but of an all-embracing, final Christian synthesis. These were not only mental patterns; behind them the light of spiritual resurgence in the Church itself glows more and more brightly — the return within the Church’s own consciousness to the vital and eternal sources of its faith.


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