February 9, 2013

Letter of Prof. Vladimir Lossky on the controversy concerning the Name of God

"You await from me an answer concerning name-glorifying [imiaslavie]. I will attempt to answer your question very briefly and systematically, or more accurately – to outline only that which I would like to say (otherwise one would have to write volumes, so substantive is this theme). The (dogmatic) question about the Divine Name, about verbal-intellectual expressions (“symbols”) of the Divinity are as important as the question of icons. Just as then, the Orthodox formulation of the Truth about icons became a “triumph of Orthodoxy,” so too, now, the Orthodox teaching about names, as well as all the questions connected with it (the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas, forgotten by many – grace, prayer, authentic “anthropology,” teaching about the mind and heart, about the “inner man” and so on) – must lead to a new Triumph of Orthodoxy, to the appearance of new grace-filled strength and holiness. The question about “name-glorifying” stands somewhere in the depth of Church consciousness. It has not yet received an answer (a truer formulation: the Church always has an answer, but one needs to hear and express it). But the “name-glorifying controversies” outlined two currents in Russian theology, consciously or unconsciously being defined in relation to “name-glorifying.” One current – the opponents of name-glorifiers, rejecting the very question of the veneration of the Name: this is mere “iconoclasm,” rationalism, seeing in religion only a volitional aspect and blind to nature (Divine grace); such was Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky], as the most striking example. The other tendencies – not always openly and openly affiliated with name-glorifying – represent, nonetheless, an extreme, “name-worshiping” [“imiabozhnoe”] in its expression, where the very spoken matter, the “flesh” so to speak of the name becomes Divine by nature, a sort of natural power (just as if the opponents of iconoclasm began to affirm the Divine “uncreatedness” of the board and paint of the icon). This last tendency – in the broad sense – develops as Sophiology, where God and creation are confused. Both one and the other are false. The path to the Orthodox understanding of name-glorifying lies through the careful, still overly pale, formula of Archbishop Theophan (of Poltava): “In the Divine Name the Divinity is honored” (Divine energy). When there will be a clear formula, using spiritual experience and “obviously” spiritual – many questions will fall aside on their own, and many difficulties will become childishly simple."

January 6/19, 1937
(Cited in Sacred Mystery of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 205)