September 13, 2019

The Relationship and Correspondence Between Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the repose of the great theologian Fr. George Florovsky, various conferences and lectures will be organized to study his work. For such a conference being organized by the Panhellenic Association of Theologians I am preparing a proposal, in which I will demonstrate the great relationship between Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides. In fact, Florovsky considered Romanides the most astute of his students.

In a book I wrote in the past titled Fr. John Romanides: A Leading Dogmatic Theologian of the Orthodox Catholic Church (published by the Sacred Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos - Pelagia, Holy Metropolis of Thebes and Levadeia), I published twenty-five (25) letters Romanides wrote to Florovsky, which I discovered and analyzed to reveal this continuous relationship and communication between them.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find the letters of Florovsky to Romanides, which would have been interesting, but from the letters of Romanides that I published there appear also the views upheld by Florovsky.

Whoever reads these twenty-five (25) letters and the analysis it brings will find autobiographical elements of these two great men, the environment in which they lived, and their views regarding various theological and ecclesiastical issues. You will find the great relationship they had with each other and how Romanides was truly his student.

Here I will include the major portion of my conclusions after I presented these letters and analyzed them. I wrote, among other things, the following:

"The preserved letters of Romanides to Florovsky are important, because they present the relationship and the communication between these two great theologians of the twentieth century. Anyone reading these letters will understand that Romanides was a student of Florovsky, who guided him in his initial theological studies and research, while Romanides respected him exceedingly and informed him about everything. This is important, because until now the theological relationship between Romanides and Florovsky has been disputed. Even worse is that, while some contemporary theologians praise the theological work of Florovsky, the same disdain the theological work of Romanides.

Of course, when one compares the theological work of these two men, it is understood that they have common points, because they speak of the value of the Holy Fathers, the meaning of the neptic tradition of the Church, about the timeless importance of Hellenism - in reality the Christianization of Hellenism, about the Babylonian captivity of the Orthodox tradition to the western tradition, about the alteration of some parts of Orthodox tradition by Russian theology, about the value of the Philokalia, and other things. Romanides however progressed on these matters emphasizing the value of empirical experience, as we encounter it in the hesychast tradition, as well as in the unity of the Roman Fathers of the Church, because he considered the Roman Empire as becoming de-Hellenized before it became Christianized, and the early Fathers had a unity of faith which became obscured with the descent of the Franks.

In particular, Florovsky gave great importance to the Greek Fathers of the Church, evident in his criticism of the theory of Alexis Khomiakov and the Russians, which said that scholastic theology was higher than patristic theology and that Russian theology was higher than both of these theologies. Florovsky also attached great importance to the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and emphasized the value of the books of the Philokalia. Romanides had all three of these points in his own theology, but he progressed on these issues deeper. He emphasized the value of the Roman Fathers of the Church, in order to show the evil brought to the unity of the Church by the Frankish theologians. He also saw the great value of the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas and the value of the Philokalia, further analyzing the essence of hesychasm, which consists of purification, illumination and glorification. He spoke about hesychasm, noetic prayer, and theoria - the vision of the glory of God. This means that he progressed and expounded upon the positions of Florovsky in seeing the practical dimension of the Orthodox tradition in the path of humanity towards theosis....

The point of the matter is that these letters reveal the close communication between these two great and leading theologians of the twentieth century and the Orthodox Church, namely Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides, both of whom through their works helped to liberate Orthodox theology from its Babylonian captivity to the scholastic, moralistic and idealistic mentality of the West."

I think that all those who are ignorant of the theological relationship between Fr. George Florovsky and Fr. John Romanides are at the same time ignorant of a great portion of the teachings of Fr. George Florovsky.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.