- Rus' Restored: Selected Writings of Meletij Smotryc'kyj 1610-1630
In the seventeenth century, the Ruthenian Orthodox church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was split between those supporting and those opposing the Union with the Roman Church concluded by their metropolitan and bishops in 1596. As layman, monk, and archbishop, the grammarian and polemicist Meletij Smotryćkyj (Meletii Smotrys´kyi) (1577?-1633) was among the most eloquent and prolific opponents of the Union. Then, around the age of fifty, he formally converted to Catholicism—first covertly, then openly—and became a leading proponent of the Union.
David A. Frick has published a number of articles on this enigmatic and controversial churchman as well the biographical-philological study Meletij Smotryćkyj (1995) and the introductions to the facsimile editions of his Collected Works and Jevanhelije ucˇytelnoje (Homiliary Gospel) (Volumes I and II of the Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature, Texts, 1987). The present work comprises nineteen translations (mostly from Polish) of selected [End Page 182] works and selections from works, most of which appear in the aforementioned facsimile volumes, to which references are provided. In addition to several letters (two of them to Pope Urban VIII), a number of Smotrytśkyi's writings are translated in their entirety: A Verification of Innocence (1621), A Justification of Innocence (1623), Apology (1628), A Protestation (1628), and Paraenesis (1629). In footnotes, Frick supplements incomplete biblical citations, supplies many that are missing, and provides historical and textual references. The 53-page introduction guides the reader through Smotrytśkyi's life and works. A brief but useful glossary is followed by a list of cited works, an index of biblical references, and an index furnishing valuable biographical information.
Most interesting historically as well as psychologically is the period from 6 July 1627 to mid-August 1628, when the secret Catholic convert remained an Orthodox archbishop seeking to bring together the Uniate and Orthodox sides. Based on a close reading of the texts of this time, Frick speculates that Smotrytśkyi may have felt most comfortable as "a man in the middle" (Introduction, p. lv). He is probably correct in suggesting that the hierarch "may have been pursuing a plan for a unified particular Ruthenian Church in somewhat looser union with Rome, perhaps under the immediate jurisdiction of a Ruthenian patriarch in Kyiv" (ibid.). Smotrytśkyi's vision of East-West unity was to some degree shared by the Uniate metropolitan Iosyf Veliamyn Rutśkyi as well as the Orthodox metropolitan Peter Mohyla, and in the twentieth century by the Greek-Catholic metropolitan Andrei Sheptytśkyi. In Smotrytśkyi's view, however, the Orthodox could only achieve union among themselves and with Rome by reforming their church and cleansing it of Protestant-inspired heresies. Without union, he feared, some might convert to Protestantism and the rest to Latin-rite Catholicism, leaving neither an Orthodox nor a Uniate Ruthenian church (see Paraenesis at p. 618).
Frick's translations flow easily and gracefully while preserving Smotrys´kyi's Baroque complexity and rhetorical verve. Perhaps the most absorbing reading is Smotrytśkyi's lively and immediate account in the Protestation of the dramatic events surrounding the Kyiv Orthodox council of August 1628, when the crypto-Uniate hierarch saw his Apology publicly condemned and, after Cossack threats, was compelled to sign a revocation, which he promptly withdrew.
Smotrys´kyi's writings leave an impression of a truth-seeker committed to rescuing the Ruthenian church first through reform and then, after much reflection, through union with Rome. Or does this impression merely testify to the success of his rhetorical strategies? The publication of these translations invites the historian, as well as the theologian and the philologist, to explore these and many other questions.