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#77624 05/17/03 10:37 PM
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I hope there is someone out there that can answer my question. It is rather specific and deals with a very small issue.

During some recent reading, I came across a comment that has bothered me, primarily because I cannot easily verify or refute it. It was discussing the concept of sophiology and the statement was that this theology is well elucidated in the liturgical prayers of the Russian church especially on the feasts of the Theotokos.

I have reviewed our (Ruthenian) liturgical prayers (Festal Menaion, etc.) and I can't say that I see anything that relates Sophia (Wisdom)to the Mother of God. Do the Russians utilize a different prayers for these feasts? If so, when and by whom was it written?

I guess I just assumed that the more ancient the tradition, the more universal the prayers and the practice.

John

#77625 05/18/03 12:39 AM
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Fr. Deacon John,

Mary is the Seat of Wisdom, whereas Christ is true Wisdom. We chant this in the stichera at Psalm 140 for the Feast of Mary's Nativity:

"Today God who dominates the spiritual thrones of heaven welcomes on earth the HOLY THRONE [emphasis mine] which He prepared for himself. In his love for the human race, He who established the heavens in WISDOM [emphasis mine] has fashioned a living heaven ..." (p. 13, FM)

Mary is that "holy throne" or seat of Wisdom, which is prepared for Himself, the true holy wisdom (hagia sophia). Through Mary we are directed to Jesus Christ, our Lord. In our iconography, she points to Him. For we sing after Psalm 50 during Matins:

"She is the only one who introduced Christ, and Christ alone, into the world." This theme is reflected in our iconography.

Again, in the Sessional Hymns of Matins, we sing:

"... for the Virgin who has come forth as the fruit of my loins, now gives birth to the Creator, Christ the New Adam. He is the King who sits upon my THRONE [emphasis mine]." (p. 15, FM)

We see other icons of Mary seeted on a throne with the Christ child on her lap. Her lap is definitely a seat for Christ.

On the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God Into the Temple, we sing at Psalm 140:

"... let us leap for joy today, singing psalms and hymns of praise in honor of Mary, his mother, the holy Tabernacle and ARK [emphasis mine] ..." (p. 122, FM)

The Ark of the Covenant was considered the "throne" of God's presence in the Old Testament:

"And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD , God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth." (2 Kings 19:15)

This imagery was also applied to Mary the Theotokos. At the Feast of the Annunciation, we sing:

"Tell me then, how am I to become a holy temple for the Infinite One, the Lord who rides on the Cherubim?"

God sat on the Cherubim, who in turn, sat on the Ark.

At the Litija for the same feast, our church hymns read:

"Rejoice, O THRONE [emphasis mine] of fire which surpasses the chariot of the Lord in glory. Rejoice, O heavenly SEAT of our King." (p. 340, FM)

So what do we make of all this seat-throne talk in regards to Wisdom? Quite naturally, Christ is that True Wisdom and Mary is the seat or throne of that Wisdom.

Our New Testament Scriptures neatly ties in Mary with the Ark. Compare the following:

Luke 1:35 // Exodus 40:34,35

And also:

Luke 1:3 // 2 Samuel 6:2
Luke 1:43 // 2 Samuel 6:9
Luke 1:56 // 2 Samuel 6:11

Luke really knows how to make his point.

I should also note the close resemblance of Luke 24:4, where the Spice Girls (Mary et al.) are met by "two men in dazzling clothes" near the place where Jesus' body was laid out (mercy seat?). Any connection with the two Cherubim on opposite sides of the Mercy Seat of the Ark? Hmmmmm.

In the West, it was Augustine who first used the term "Seat of Mercy." It is also in a number of Marian novenas.

The relationship between Wisdom and Mary is there also in the Byzantine East, especially in the theology of Sergius Bulgakov.

I hope this helps.

Joe Thur

#77626 05/18/03 12:31 PM
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The book written by Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944) is, "Sophia, the Wisdom of God: An Outline of Sophiology," (in English) and can be ordered from Amazon.com or any other favorite book dealer of yours.

His other sophia-based theology can be found in the now English translation, "The Bride of the Lamb." I found a copy at Borders.

Sergius may not particularly agree with the idea that Mary was just the Seat of Wisdom.

#77627 05/18/03 01:03 PM
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Joe

I agree with your analysis above, but it seems to me, as you have outlined, that the concept of Sophia, or Mary as the seat of Wisdom is implied but not so stated.

I was left with the impression that the Russian liturgical prayers used for these feasts are different than ours and are more recently authored. This would fit since, as you know, Sophiology is a more modern theological development.

Do you have access to their Menaion, etc?

Joe, Thanks for posting "our" liturgical prayers for these feasts. Perhaps someone from the Orthodox persuasion can compare them to theirs.

John

#77628 05/18/03 10:37 PM
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Fr. Deacon John,

I don't know how many "modern theological developments" would actually show up in old hymns. I was only trying to give references where such developments might find a link.

Joe Thur

#77629 05/19/03 07:58 AM
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Bulgakov, should not be thought of as representative of Russian theological thought in the realm of Sophia. The text of the service to the Holy Wisdom is intensely Christological and far removed from Bulgakov's thought.He was a heretic and condemned as such.

Spasi Khristos -
Mark, monk and siner.

#77630 05/19/03 10:54 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Fr Mark:
Bulgakov, should not be thought of as representative of Russian theological thought in the realm of Sophia. The text of the service to the Holy Wisdom is intensely Christological and far removed from Bulgakov's thought.He was a heretic and condemned as such.
Fr. Mark,

First, Sergius Bulgakov was a Romanian.

Second, I mentioned him because his writings on such are so popular, not necessarily representative of Orthodoxy. His name keeps coming up in articles about Sophiology and Orthodoxy. His condemnation and heresy are rarely, if ever, mentioned.

Third, can you explain what the service to the Holy Wisdom is? I'm left guessing.

Fourth, can you share with us what you know about the realm of Sophia within Orthodox thinking? You seem to imply that there is this realm of Sophia that may be out there that you can help us come to know if you only commented on it. I did what I can do in my reply to Fr. Deacon John. Our liturgical texts bespeak of Mary as a 'seat' or 'throne' of Wisdom, thus keeping her relationship to Christ Christological. It would certainly benefit us if you can share what you know.

It seems that many exiles that went to Paris are today considered heretics.

God bless!
Joe Thur

#77631 05/19/03 12:28 PM
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Dear Joe,

There is a Slavonic manuscript text of a service to 'the Holy Wisdom'. It was only found recently in an Old Believer hermitage and is yet to be published. However, those who have read the service and have copies have commented that the imagery and wording is Christological in nature, reflecting the sophiology of early Christian texts such as apocryphal 'gospel of Thomas', in which Christ not simply the Incarnate Logos, but Sophia Incarnate. Such texts also interpret the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament in a Christological way. This fits in with your excellent points regarding the Mother of God as the seat of wisdom.

Sophiology is present within the thought of traditional Russian Orthodoxy, but it was never magnified to the point where it became a philosophy like Bulgakov's. Rather it is an aspect of the mystic experience of God in noetic prayer.

Regarding Bulgakov, I referred to Russian religious thought not to ethnicity.

Sadly, many of the Parisian theologians did not look for a renaissance of patristic Orthodoxy, firmly rooted in the Inspired Tradition of the Church, but sought to reappraise Orthodox from alien viewpoints. Yes, they may have been struggling to present Orthodoxy to a non-Orthodox society, but clothed in the language of protestantism and disected with western critical methods their faith became unrecognisable to most of the faithful, who like them had fled their Orthodox homelands for refuge in Westen Europe.

We should bear in mind that Bulgakov fell foul, not simply of the bishops in exile, but also of the Moscow patriarchate.

Spasi Khristos -
Mark, monk and sinner.

#77632 05/20/03 01:35 PM
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Dear Friends,

As an aside, St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic parish in Toronto has a number of Sophia icons of the Mother of God, as Fr. Bohdan Lypsky used to comment on, such as the icon of the Dormition.

In the Chapel near the Choir, there is a copy of the Icon of St Sophia of Kyiv, representing the Mother of God in the Oranta posture, with seven pillars and other "wisdom" symbolism.

Fr. Lypsky also taught that the icon of St Nicholas was also a "Sophia" icon.

Alex

#77633 05/20/03 02:48 PM
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I've never heard of the icon of St Nicholas as a Sophia icon, but the icon just showing his face is very much a hesychastic icon.

Most of the so-called Sophia icons, such as 'Wisdom hath built herself a house' are not actually part of traditional Russian iconography, but a product of the Westernisation of Russian religious painting and the growth of allegorical art.

Spasi Khristos -
Mark, monk and sinner.

#77634 05/20/03 03:37 PM
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Bless me a sinner, Father Mark,

Yes, the icon of St Sophia of Kyiv does have that inscription "Wisdom hath built herself a House."

That icon, already Westernized as it stands in St Sophia's Cathedral, does have much more ancient examples.

http://www.days.ru/Images/im1144.htm

Alex

#77635 05/24/03 03:24 PM
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Dear Fr. Mark;

Why would Bulgakov be considered a heretic?

I will concur that Bulgakov, like most if not all 20th century Russian theologians were, what I would call, "synthesizers." They took modern Western Philosophy and re-packaged it in theological terms.

While I would not consider their views as Patristic, or even neo-Patristic, I also would not consider them heretical.

John


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