The Theology of Ritual and the Russian Old Rite: 'The Art of Christian Living'
Button, Robert William
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis is a study of the theology of ritual in the Russian Old Rite; in the characteristic worship and piety of the Russian Church prior to the Nikonian reforms in the mid-seventeenth century which led to the Great Schism in the Russian Church. In the context of the lifting of the anathemas against the Old Rite by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1971, this thesis sets out from the premise of the wholly Orthodox and salvific nature of the pre-Nikonian ritual and rite. It focusses on rite as not merely a specific mode of worship, but as a whole way of life, an existential-experiential phenomena, and it examines the notion of the ‘art of Christian living’ and the role of the rhythm of the ritual order in the synergistic striving for salvation. It argues that the ritualised and ordered Orthopraxis of the Old Rite represents, in principle, a translation of the notion of typikon or ustav into the life of the laity, and constitutes a hierotopic creativity with a distinctly salvific goal on both the collective and personal levels. Herein ritual is examined as an iconic mode which recapitulates, in its own fashion, the theological premises of the icon, furnishing a mode of ritual iconicity which can contribute to theosis - an argument related to the participatory nature of symbols. This thesis therefore relates ritual to iconicity and symbolicity and, more broadly, to the theology of image in its anthropological dimensions. In the context of the notion of iconicity, ritual is seen as a performative mode which facilitates an inspiriting of embodied action, thus ritual is looked at in a pneumatological way. Through these arguments this thesis contributes to contemporary understandings of the Russian Old Rite and Old Belief and, more generally, to the Orthodox theology of ritual.
MbyRes in Theology and Religion