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Afterword Met. Kallistos Ware The Church is one. Her unity follows of necessity from the unity of God; for the Church is not a multitude of persons in their separate individuality, but a unity of the grace of God. . . . Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God. —Aleksei Khomiakov, “The Church Is One,” in Russia and the English Church during the Last Fifty Years In this passage Aleksei Khomiakov, without actually using the term sobornost,1 indicates exactly the wide-ranging unity that the word signifies. In the present afterword, drawing on the abundant material contained in this collective volume, I shall seek to explore the deep 1. It seems that, while Aleksei Khomiakov frequently used the adjective soborny, he did not employ the abstract noun sobornost in his Russian works; but it does occur in the Russian translation (made some time after his death) of the works that he had written in French. But, even if not actually used by Khomiakov, the abstract noun sobornost is certainly appropriate as a defining characteristic of his ecclesiology. The abstract noun is of course frequent in writers of the twentieth century, such as Sergius Bulgakov and Nicholas Berdyaev. See J. H. Pain, “Sobornost: A Study in Modern Orthodox Theology” (DPhil thesis, Oxford University, 1967), chap. 3. 335 meaning and the many implications of this key term in modern Russian thought. What, then, is the understanding of sobornost that emerges from the various contributions contained in the preceding pages? “The word sobornost is untranslatable into other languages,” states Nicolas Berdyaev.2 As Vladimir Ilyin observes, “One cannot interpret the Russo-Slavonic word ‘sobornost’ by any one equivalent word or expression, for its stands for a whole complex of meanings.”3 In the words of Ashley Moyse, earlier in this volume, “Sobornost is a word of such complexity of meaning that it cannot be domesticated by any one particular definition.” The basic sense of the term, however, is sufficiently clear. It means togetherness, integral unity, the organic gathering of the “many” into “one,” “a free, mystical-ontological union of those who, though they differ in personal qualities and individual being, are nevertheless one in the Spirit of Love” (so Ilyin).4 It is “freedom and unity reconciled through love” (so Long and Barry). This “mystical-ontological union” signified by the term sobornost exists on three connected levels: creedal, ecclesial, and social. It denotes respectively catholicity, conciliarity, and fellowship. 1. Creedal. This is the first and most obvious reference of the word. In the Slavonic version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, at the clause “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” the Greek term καθολικός is translated by the adjective soborny. Moyse wisely leaves open the question whether this rendering was “accidental or genius.” Sobornost, then, can legitimately be translated “catholicity.” Its meaning here can be interpreted either quantitatively or, on a more profound level, qualitatively. Quantitatively it implies that the 2. Nicholas Berydaev, The Russian Idea (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1947), 162–63. 3. Vladimir Ilyin, “The Nature and the Meaning of the Term ‘Sobornost,’” Sobornost 1 (1935): 5. 4. Ibid., 6. CORRELATING SOBORNOST 336 church embraces, at least potentially, all regions of the world and all members of the human race. Qualitatively it signifies that the church upholds and teaches the whole of the truth: not only the truth revealed through Scripture and tradition (regarded not as two sources but as one) but also the truth disclosed outside the visible boundaries of the church in the non-Christian religions and even in the culture of the secular world. Sobornost therefore represents the integration of all truth, wherever it is to be found, whether explicitly religious or only implicitly so. As Vladimir Solovyev says, “There is a place for everything in the kingdom of God” (see Long and Barry). 2. Ecclesial. This is the main level of meaning within the term sobornost. “The word ‘sobornost,’” states Ilyin, “conveys the fundamental peculiarities of the structure of the Church of Christ”; it sums up “the spiritual atmosphere” in which the members of the church exist, “the spiritual oxygen . . . which they inhale.”5 In the words of Pavel Tulaev (quoted by Moyse), sobornost is nothing else than “the free aggregative-personal organic self-developing unity...


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