Ks. Rościsław Kozłowski
Koncepcja Kościoła w myśli teologicznej Mikołaja Afanasjewa. Warszawa 1990.
THE CONCEPT OF THE CURCH IN THE THEOLOGIA THOUGHT OF NICOLAS AFANASSIEFF
In the present paper was examined the problem how is represented the idea the Church in the theological thought of Nicolas Afanassieff. So the aim of this paper was systematic presentation of his ecclesiology, an attempt .to assume an attitude towards the main of its assumptions and to present its latest trend in contemporary orthodox ecclesiology. After outlining of setting of an epoch in which lived and worked Rev. N. Afanassieff (1893— 1966) and acquaintance with his theological output, it was proved that .the keynote of his ecclesiology is the idea of the Church as eucharistic gathering of New Testament People of God under the leadership of their leaders bishops and presbyters. Confirmation of assumption of his idea Afanassieff found in the teaching of New Testament and also in ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Cyprian of Carthage. The great influence on Afanassieff was brought by Russian Orthodox theology (among others S. Bulgakov) and also partly by protestant theology (R. Sohm).
According to Afanassieff Christian Church is a continuation of Old Testament people of God, was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and empirically actualized at the Pentecost, in the first eucharistic gathering, which was the basis of existence of the Church. The Eucharistic gathering implicates the existence of the leader of the local Church, whose service is the origin of its hierarchic structure.
With the nature of the Church is closely connected the question of its marks. Afanassieff examined, in detail only some of the marks of the Church namely catholicity (sobornost’) and unity in connection with question of unity of Church. According to Afanassieff councils are not infallible as such, infallible is the whole body of the Church.
Therefore there is a necessity of acceptance and reception of decisions of council by the whole people of the Church. The Church can not be divided in considering of its nature. As far as the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are concerned, there exists “separation” of these Churches. Restoration of unity of the Church is possible by Love (1 Cor. 13:4) which is realized the best way in Eucharist, validly celebrated in both Christian Churches. With unity of the Church is connected the problem of primacy, which in the Orthodox Church as the function of service, grace but not the law.
The structure of the Church has pneumatic-charismatic character. The principle of the life and action constitutes the Holy Spirit, whose gifts of grace are received by all members of the Body of Christ for the service in the Church. Hierarchic structure of the Church comes out not only from its eucharistic nature, but also from the nature of a royal priesthood of members of people of God. Organized Church is expressed in eucharistic gathering. Threefold hierarchy possesses an apostolic succession, through which is assured charismatic identity and unity of the Church. An import ant place in the structure of the Church is occupied by the laity i.e. all members of People of God.
From the pneumatic-charismatic nature of the Church comes out its various services. In the Church existed (and still exist) at the same time specific services (apostles, evangelists, prophets, teachers) as well as hierarchic (bishops, presbyters, deacons) which have charismatic and diaconal character. The Service of the laity in the Church is manifested mainly in three directions: 1) in sacramental-liturgical life, 2) in sphere of administration and 3) in- the teaching of the Church. In the first sphere the laity are “co-servants” (russ. soslužiteli) of their leaders in the eucharistic gathering. Sacraments and divine services are celebrated by the whole People of God, under the leadership of their leader.
In administration the laity take part through consideration, learning by experience and bearing witness to everything what is performed in the Church. The teaching in the Church at present belongs mainly to bishops and presbyters. Sacerdotal People of God experience and bear witness to the truth preached by them.
Ecclesiology of N. Afanassieff found a living response n the orthodox and heteroorthodox theology.
Prominent spokesmen of Afanassieff’s doctrine were his disciples and collaborators: J. Meyendorff, A. Schmemann, P. Evdokimov, O. Clement, bp Peter L’Huiller and also bp Kallistos (Ware), J. Zizioulas V. Kesich and others who in many points developed further his thought concerning among others theology of the local Church and theology of the laity. In Afanassieff’s theology were interested also Roman Catholic theologians: B. Schultze, L. Bouyer, E. Lanne, P. Plank, W. Hryniewicz and others who not only highly appreciated it, but in many ways took over its elements. Among protestant theologians one should mention K. Ch. Felmy who shared many views of Afanassieff’s ecclesiology.
Afanassieff’s ecclesiology may be treated as a very important attempt to overcome institutionalism, juridism, hierarchalism and individualism in the teaching of the Church.
Through acceptance of the central meaning of Eucharist and also eucharistic gathering as a local Church, Afanassieff helped to move the main emphasis on charismatic, sacramental, communal and diaconal nature of the Church. He stressed quite strongly the role pf the laity in the church and reminded that the service of hierarchy in the Church has a charismatic nature.
So the contribution of Afanassieff’s theological thought to the modern theological scholarship is undeniable.