The Cross of Loneliness presents the first English translation from Russian of the correspondence between Saint Sophrony and Archpriest Georges Florovsky from 1954 to 1963. Rev. Dr. Alexis Torrance, Associate Professor of Byzantine Theology at the University of Notre Dame, illuminates in his introduction the “cross of loneliness” to which St. Sophrony and Fr. Georges refer in their letters as they lament the loss of an Orthodox theological culture in which life and dogma are joined in a deep and conscious union. The letters themselves discuss the publication of the first English edition of Saint Sophrony’s book on Saint Silouan the Athonite (The Undistorted Image, 1958). He requests Florovsky’s assistance in finding a publisher and writing an introduction after the untimely death of their mutual friend, V.N. Lossky, who had originally been engaged for this purpose. Later in the correspondence they discuss the issue of the Filioque, the doctrine of the Trinity, church hierarchy, and “despotism” among other theological and ecclesiastical matters. The letters conclude with Fr. Georges’s reflections on his trip to India and the question of union between non-Chalcedonian and Orthodox Christians. Finally, Fr. Georges’s foreword to The Undistorted Image is included as an appendix.
Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press, 2021
Limited edition, paperback, 160 pages (hardback to appear mid-2021)
Available for preorder here:
IN MY ROLE as Managing Editor of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press, it has been a great joy to bring this monumental publication to print. The content of the letters provides a unique and intimate glimpse into the life and work of two of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. In subsequent posts, I will be exploring certain intriguing positions made during the course of this correspondence. For now, I include below the small foreword that I wrote for The Cross of Loneliness:
In the autumn of 2014, the late Reverend Dr. Matthew Baker intimated the need for a translation to be made of the correspondence between the renowned elder Sophrony (Sakharov) and the archpriest and Harvard professor Georges Florovsky. A publication in Russian had occurred in 2009, edited by Hieromonk Nicholas (Sakharov). Fr. Matthew’s sudden death on March 1st, 2015, seemed to jeopardize the realization of his proposition. However, wishing to honor the memory of his friend, Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak) approached St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press with Fr. Matthew’s proposal. The proposal accepted, a blessing was sought from the Community of St. John the Baptist, the monastery founded by Fr. Sophrony and publisher of the Russian edition. This granted, the Press arranged for its translation by Deacon Nicholas Kotar. Now, six years later, it seems providential that its publication coincides with the recent canonization and glorification of Fr. Sophrony.
Much of the correspondence in this volume pertains to Fr. Sophrony’s efforts to publish an English translation from Russian of his book, Staretz Silouan (Старец Силуан). After overcoming several obstacles an abridged version translated by Rosemary Edmonds and published by Faith Press appeared under the title The Undistorted Image in 1958. Fr. Georges, at Fr. Sophrony’s persistent request, provided a brilliant introduction. Not only has this introduction been included as an appendix to The Cross of Loneliness, but several additional elements of The Undistorted Image have been repeated here as well. The typeface, layout, and ornaments used in this book can all be found to hearken to the publication that formed the impetus for so much of the correspondence found within these pages.
It is with a great sense of gratitude that we include an introduction to the English edition by Dr. Alexis Torrance, who is a respected scholar of Fr. Georges Florovsky and was also a close acquaintance of Fr. Matthew Baker. We also wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to Archimandrite Kyrill, abbot emeritus of the Community of St. John the Baptist, for granting us the privilege of bringing this volume to print, together with Sister Magdalen, who carefully read through the text. We also thank Priest Jonathan Lincoln for his editorial assistance and Brenda Mikitish, who contributed many thoughtful clarifications and corrections to the translation.
Through the prayers of our newly canonized, venerable, and God-bearing father Sophrony, may this volume speak good things to the hearts of all who read it.
Priest Mikel Hill
Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press