Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Blessed Augustine’s View of Self

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 21 May 2010

It has been asserted that Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) has had enormous influence on the formation of Western thought and Western civilization.  Some, as F.J. Sheed, for example, have even argued for St. Augustine’s “towering importance in the history of mankind” (Augustine 323).  It is not my goal in this paper to examine whether St. Augustine’s importance was indeed towering in the history of all mankind.  Nor do I wish to examine Jasper’s assertion that St. Augustine is “by far the most important hermeneut of the early Christian church”[1] (Jasper 39) from the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Both issues, however, are of utmost importance to our discussion, but the authors’ statements and my implied questions are merely rhetorical.  One fact cannot be denied: St. Augustine indeed played a prominent role in the formation of the Western mind.   

Sheed notes that St. Augustine’s was “the one light that shone steadily” for the seven centuries between St. Augustine’s death and the twelfth century, when “first-rate thinkers were once more in action in the Church” (Augustine 324).  Despite the lack of an obvious reference to the Western Church, the context of Sheed’s remark leads me to believe that he would not challenge a hypothesis that the East was nourished by its own lights, while being somewhat shaded from the rays of St. Augustine’s “enormous intellect” (Augustine 324) by the cultural and ecclesiastical divide between the two parts of the Roman Empire.  Although, even in the West, such theologians as John Scotus Eriugena, whom Sheed apparently considers a second-rate thinker, were studying the Eastern Fathers (Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, the Cappadocians, and others, in Eriugena’s case), and were not blinded by the illustrious Augustine.  In his discussion on the issue of the filioque, the Irishman apparently was not convinced by the Doctor’s arguments and preferred to search for answers, alas!—self-admittedly, in vain, elsewhere.  

Herein lies the area of my interest: if the East and the West are different (and I choose to presuppose that they are), and if the ecclesiastical, cultural, theological, and even intellectual divides have not been healed, despite centuries of pontifical[2] efforts, then it may be possible to find some early signs, some symptoms of the early stages of the looming Great Divorce, in the persona of St. Augustine of Hippo who “single handed… shifted the center of gravity” for the West (Martindale, qtd. in Augustine 324).  I do not wish to imply that St. Augustine’s work was the sole source of the estrangement between the East and the West—this matter is too complex to be addressed in a short paper.  But if St. Augustine’s influence in the West was as great as it is touted to be, then “cut off from its intellectual sources” in the East (Augustine 324), cut off from the ecclesiastical life within the Grace of concensus patrum, the West may have inherited not only the greatness of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, but also his individuality, peculiarities, oddities, and (ready?!)… flaws (!).  Quite apart from looking for straws in St. Augustine’s eyes—thankless pursuit indeed—I shall embark on a voyage of celebrating some of the differences in his and “the Easterns’” (as Pius IX referred to us in his [in]famous epistle) view of self. (more…)

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Ascension of Our Lord

Posted in Sermons by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 12 May 2010

Russian: http://osergii.wordpress.com/

Today we celebrate one of the twelve great feasts of the Church, the Ascension of our Lord.  This feast, unlike immovable holidays, is directly related to Pascha and Pentecost.  Ascension crowns the celebration of Pascha and prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

All this time, from Pascha to Pentecost, listening to the words of the Gospel and of church hymns, we as if again and again recall and relive the joy which encompassed the holy apostles.  Forty days from Pascha to Ascension they rejoiced in communion with the risen Savior (Acts 1:3): He came to them (Luke 24:36), stayed with them, ate with them (Luke 24:43), taught them and explained scriptures to them (Luke 24:45).  We also, keeping our paschal joy like the flame of a small candle, feel the Savior’s presence, commune with Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist, listen to the holy scriptures and teachings. (more…)

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The Healing of the Man Born Blind

Posted in Sermons by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 8 May 2010

Русский: Исцеление слепорожденного

Christ is risen!

It is not for much longer that we will hear these marvelous words from the church ambo.  The all-Church celebration of this great solemnity, this salvific work of God is coming to an end.  Together with the angels in heaven, we sang the resurrection of Christ; together with Apostle Thomas, we called out, “My Lord and my God!” having met the Savior; together with the myrrh-bearers, we ran to the empty tomb, carrying our pain, our sadness, our sorrow and received the good news; like the paralytic, we were raised by Christ from the death of sin to pure life; and like the Samaritan woman who left her clay pot by the ancient well and ran to tell the people in the city about the coming of the Messiah, Christ urges us to leave the muddy waters of the worldly and the sinful and drink from the ever-flowing Divine source, leading us into eternal life. (more…)

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On The Parable of the Talents/Minas

Posted in Theology by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 5 May 2010

“He Put Before Them another Parable” (Matt. 13:24)

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. (Matt. 13:34)

Of all the passages in the Gospels, some of the best known and most often retold are probably the parables of Christ.  The stories of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich man and the Beggar Lazarus, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Talents and others have not only given rich homiletic material to preachers from across the full spectrum of Christian denominations, but have served as staples of Christian children’s education for many generations of the faithful and have become part of the collective cultural make up that has shaped the Christian world.

Perhaps due to this assimilation and acculturation of the Parables of Jesus within the Western mindset, many preachers and Sunday school teachers tend to forget the fact that Jesus was not an American televangelist and that his audience did not live in the American Suburbia.   Relatively recently scholars began the colossal work of putting many familiar stories into their proper first-century Palestinian context.  The shear amount of material uncovered by the historical social sciences will be enough for schools of theologians to sift through for years and decades to come.  Yet, as Richard Rohrbaugh writes in his recently published work The New Testament in Cross-Cultural Perspective (2007), very little work specifically on the parables of Christ “has taken into account recent efforts to use the social sciences in New Testament interpretations.  That is certainly the case with the parable of the talents…” (109) (more…)

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