Perceptions of the Mother of God have always reflected theological and pastoral concerns of Orthodox theologians and thinkers in Byzantium and beyond. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, one of the em-blematic figures of the Russian Diaspora, treats the Virgin in a way that reflects the main concerns of his generation, marked by the political developments in Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century and the subsequent movement of the Russian Diaspora. The hardship of the loss of their homeland and the harsh reality of poverty, as well as the two world wars, greatly influenced the theological approach of Metropolitan Anthony and his generation. In his talks and homilies, Anthony of Sourozh focuses on the human person cut off from the community and its rituals. He speaks about the encounter of the individual with God on a one-to-one basis. He refers extensively to the agony man experiences when faced with the silence of God. He sees the Virgin as the model of the obedient but not passive disciple, the model of the dynamic surrender to God in freedom and sorrowful joy. Anthony’s approach to the Mother of God is paralleled and compared to that of Gregory Palamas, who in the fourteenth century saw Mary as the model of perfect Hesychast.
Throughout Christian history, the Mother of God has been the vehicle for the expression of various aspects of Christian theology, formulated in literature, homiletics, and art. Her reception from the early Christian era down to our times reveals aspects of contemporary concerns and approaches to Christian doctrine. A great figure of the Russian Diaspora, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, is one of the eminent personalities who have marked Orthodox theology with their work in the 20th century. His approach to Patristic theology has been very different from the approach of other theologians of his era, like Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Christos Yannaras, Fr Andrew Louth, and others. Each of the aforementioned figures contributed a distinct understanding of Christianity that enriched Orthodox theology and its reception in modern times.1
* This paper was originally written for the conference, Unwedded Bride: The Mother of God in the Hymns of the Eastern Churches (University of Winchester, 18th-20th August, 2015), organized by Sarah Jane Boss and Andreas Andreopoulos. It was revised for publication in Analogia.
1. Andrew Louth, an eminent figure of Eastern Christian Studies himself, is the author of the book Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2015. Most of the names mentioned above are included in this book, whose focal point is the Russian Diaspora and the thinkers influenced by this current of thought. Interestingly enough, Fr Andrew does not include Metropolitan Anthony in his book, although he is an integral part of the Russian Diaspora.