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Toward the Endless Day

The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

Olga Lossky

Publication Year: 2010

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (1907–2005) was one of the most important Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century. For seventy years she helped her church, dispersed and uprooted from its cultural heritage, adapt to a new world. Born in Alsace, France, to a Protestant father and a Jewish mother, Behr-Sigel received a master's degree in theology from the Protestant Faculty of Theology at Strasbourg and began a pastoral ministry. It lasted only a year. Already attracted by the beauty of its liturgy and by its characteristic spirituality, Behr-Sigel officially embraced the Orthodox faith at age twenty-four. During World War II her family (husband André Behr and their three children) lived in Nancy, France, where Behr-Sigel taught in the public school system. She later referred to this time as her real apprenticeship in ecumenism, when people of different traditions came together in opposition to Nazism, hiding Jews, and providing escape routes. After the war she took advantage of courses at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, where she later joined the faculty. Behr-Sigel also taught at the Catholic Institute of Paris, the Dominican College of Ottowa, and the Ecumenical Institute of Tantur near Jerusalem. She wrote and published books in Orthodox theology, spirituality, and the role of women in the Orthodox Church. In her retirement she continued to work on behalf of women and of the ecumenical movement.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

When I was attempting to become a Christian, one of the first witnesses to the Gospel whom I met was Elisabeth Behr-Sigel. Despite our long friendship and work together on numerous initiatives, I never had fully realized the breadth of her life and work until I read...

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pp. ix-x

This biography was indeed a collective effort, with its origins coming from the urging of François Cousin. Many people have participated in its preparation, and I would like to mention here the most important of them...

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Acknowledgments to the English Translation

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pp. xi-xii

While Olga Lossky has expressed gratitude to many who made possible her work in writing this wonderful biography of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, there are some others who deserve recognition and thanks for the appearance of this English language...

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pp. xiii-xvi

“God writes straight with crooked lines.” Elisabeth Behr-Sigel liked to cite this Portuguese proverb in her writings and conversations. The crooked lines of our lives sometimes trace meanderings that, from a human point of view, can be thoroughly...

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1. The Encounters of the Formative Years, 1907–1932

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pp. 1-51

It was in the heart of Alsace, in Schiltigheim, that Elisabeth was born on July 21, 1907. This village bordering on Strasbourg and affectionately called Schilick by its inhabitants, still conserves its rural charms, with its half-timbered peasant houses, its farms flanked by stables and...

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2. The Years in Nancy, 1933–1969

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pp. 53-178

While to the east of the Rhine, Hitler became chancellor of the Reich, André and Elisabeth were married on February 19, 1933, at Plessis- Robinson on the outskirts of Paris. Father Lev officiated, assisted by André’s uncle, Fr. Nicolas Behr, a former diplomat then living in...

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3. Paris as a Turning Point, 1969–1980

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pp. 179-232

The choice of settling in Paris was to prove decisive for Elisabeth. By getting closer to the Orthodox circles there, she was be able to dedicate herself more fully to the planting of a local Church through the different initiatives in which she was already involved...

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4. The Radiance of Maturity, 1980–2005

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pp. 233-294

For Elisabeth, the death of Fr. Lev marked the end of a restless period in her life, which had been dominated by the unpredictable reactions of the monk toward her. His demise led her to experience another kind of relationship, exempt...

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pp. 295-299

As the elevator goes up to the tenth floor, I feel a knot in my throat. I’m recalling all those Saturdays when Elisabeth would greet me at the door of her apartment, with a twinkle in her eye and with her arms wide open: “Oh, there you are! Come in, come in!” I’m thinking of...


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pp. 300-314

Bibliography of Works by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

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pp. 315-334


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pp. 335-344

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780268085766
E-ISBN-10: 0268085765
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268033859
Print-ISBN-10: 0268033854

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights.
Publication Year: 2010