Seminarians Speak

In Pursuit of a Focusing of the Faith

Author: 
Nikita Andrejev

The Andrejev familyThe Andrejev familySo much of what we do is like chaff that will be burned away on the last day because of its non-essential character. I would venture to say that this Scriptural idea not only concerns the pointless aspects of our lives, such as when we are sitting aimlessly on the couch; it is also a reminder that those of our activities which by the name of it seem "good" or even "Christian" will all-too-easily be obliterated with time unless they possess a concrete foundation in Jesus Christ [cf. I Cor 3.10–15]. What is this foundation, more practically speaking? Perhaps it is a mature theological knowledge of Christ. Perhaps it is a motivation behind our actions which draws its power from the contemplation of the activity of God himself, nothing less, albeit in a small measure. But how can we in any sense be attuned to this divine motivational power if we have only vague and worldly notions concerning goodness, concerning meaningfulness, concerning beauty, concerning the divine?

My intentions in pursuing another cycle of studies in theology at St Vladimir's were perhaps a bit less "practical" than those of many of my fellow classmates. Through the mercy of God, things have already fallen into place concerning my vocation in life—that of iconographer and instructor. On the surface of it, I don't particularly need another degree. But I keep realizing that despite my religious occupation, despite four years of theological education at the Saint Sergius Institute in Paris (not to speak of the earlier years at college pursuing a BA in classics), my attention is seldom focused on Christ and his invisible working in an adequate, focused way. Despite being called men and women of the Church, most of us are still more or less beating around the spiritual bush. What is lacking is the convincing "measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" [Eph 4.13].

This is not to imply that a spiritual maturity will be guaranteed by theological education. At seminary, we are simply working through things, training the muscle which is our mind (as our Dean suggests). We remember that the "mind" is a key term in the anthropology of many of the Fathers. To "hold the mind in check" when stray thoughts attempt to seduce it, but also to train the "mind's eye" to be attentive to the manifestations of the divine Word—this is the path of Christian spiritual progress in a nutshell. What I will primarily take away from my studies at St Vladimir's is the discovery that these two rules apply just as much to the classroom and to readings as to personal ascetic discipline.

Simply put, an active sobriety of the mind is indispensible in the pursuit of theology. As facets of this idea, at St. Vladimir's, I have learned to read authors very closely, with sensitivity towards the original intentions and particular genius of each, to be attentive, on a basic level, to the way a written piece is organized, for example. I have learned to what extent considerations of context and literary style play a part in every single writing of the Church, including the gospels. I have begun to realize just how important a part rhetoric plays in the majority of ancient writings and even in the liturgical art of the Church. What my professors have offered are valuable insights concerning methodology, not ready-made dogmatic formulas for memorization.

My original intention in coming to the Seminary was simply to spend more time with the teachers and teachings of the Church. I come away with something perhaps even more important: cultivating the organ for perceiving these teachings is half the battle. Perhaps with the training of this faculty on all its levels our faith will have the chance of reaching a token of maturity that will be, in some respect at least, impressive.

Nikita Andrejev is a second-year MA Student at St. Vladimir's. He started on the path of icon painting with his father and has been painting and teaching for the past twenty years in the US and Europe. His wife Marrit is Estonian and a free-lance conference interpreter. They have three children and make their permanent home near Tallinn, Estonia, despite frequent travels.

 

Previous Seminarians Speak articles:

Title Author Date
In Pursuit of a Focusing of the Faith Nikita Andrejev March 16, 2015
To Lead, We Must Learn How to Serve Fr. Mark Vair February 10, 2015
At the National Festival of Young Preachers Tristan Gall January 9, 2015
The Saints John Mikitish December 16, 2014
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall... Lijin Raju November 19, 2014
Transfiguration Seraphim Long October 16, 2014
What I Did This Summer Dn. Theodor Svane September 23, 2014
Restoring the Western Rite Ian Abodeely August 14, 2014
"Delicately Perched": An Armenian Student's End-of-year Insights Kathryn Ashbahian May 7, 2014
The Vocation of Fatherhood Joshua Trant April 2, 2014
A Unique Orthodox Community Experience Dn. Shiryl Mathai March 10, 2014
The Festival of Young Preachers, 2014 Fr. Gabreil Alemayehu February 14, 2014
The Road to Hospital Chaplaincy Beryl Knudsen February 4, 2014
How Many are Your Works, O Lord! Bogdan Neacsiu December 5, 2013
Oregon and New York, Farm and Seminary Ashli Moore October 23, 2013
Reflections on a New Academic Year Sandro Margheritino September 24, 2013
Our Common Love Gabrielle Kushlan March 19, 2013
We Are Being Formed Daily Jabra Tannous November 26, 2012
Serving with His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch Richard Ajalat October 29, 2012
A Life in Christ Under Guard Harrison Basil Russin September 25, 2012
For a Monastic, Seminary Life Seems "Ideal" Monk James March 13, 2012
Embracing All Who Suffer Loss: Seminarians Train for Post-Abortion Counseling Seminarian Dn. David Wooten March 8, 2012
Marching Peaceably, Praying Mightily Seminarian Dn. David Wooten January 26, 2012
"I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matt 25:37) Adam Horstman March 14, 2011
Bless These Waters: Theophany at SVOTS David Wooten January 14, 2011
Feasting before the Fast, Thanksgiving at SVOTS Sarah Bracey-Johnson November 22, 2010
"It's Worth It": Reflection on "Ed Day" Andrew Boyd October 29, 2010
"I (used to) Play in a Rock Band" Jamey Bozeman September 16, 2010
St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the Upward Call Fr. Lucas Rice July 19, 2010
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