Encounter by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, Damon, Longman & Todd €10 This Holy Man: Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony by Gillian Crow, Darton, Longman & Todd £17.95
The late Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, for many years head of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Church in Britain, was the bestknown Orthodox hierarch in the West. He brought the Eastern Church to the attention of Western Christians as being more than an obscure sect. He made his mark as a great spiritual figure in the early Sixties, when there was talk of God being dead and of the need to secularise the Gospel because it no longer spoke the same language as the contemporary world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had already spoken about a "religionless Christianity" and had clearly struck a chord, but the search for relevance in worship did nothing to alleviate the discontent of those wanting change or to reassure those who feared for the survival of what they thought was traditional belief
and worship. t To those in either predicament, the Metropolitan seemed God-sent, partly due to his traditional appearance but also because he was an exceptionally gifted speaker, multilingual and with a beautiful voice, who could sustain a line of thought, taking it ever deeper into the realms of eternal truths while remaining simple. As well as traversing denominal boundaries, he appealed to anyone in search of a more authentic life. Everything he said centred on what it meant to really live, but the measure of life, always, was to be found in Christ and in his victory over death.
People remember him with love without realising, perhaps, the fullness of his impact. Anthony demonstrated the Western churches' inability to solve their problems with reference solely to their own theological traditions something the present Pope clearly understands.
In Encounter, a collection of interviews and hitherto unpublished talks, the Metropolitan speaks about his early life with that immediacy, earnestness and fluency which characterised all he said.
Gillian Crow's book will be welcomed by all who want to know more about the man. It includes details of his early life and we benefit greatly from her having been the archbishop's secretary. More importantly, she is theologically minded, reliable in her understanding of Orthodoxy, and fair in her judgments. She does not allow her admiration for the Metropolitan, her spiritual father, to get in the way of a rounded picture. Her book will not be bettered.
It is true that Metropolitan Anthony disliked the Keston Institute, but he was wrong to see it as politically motivated, as is here implied. Miss Crow is also wrong to say of Keston's Founder, Canon Michael Bourdeaux, that he was unable to see the Liturgy as a means of conversion.
Justice is not done either to the part played in Metropolitan Anthony's life by military discipline seen here as involving obedience only. The archbishop learnt otherwise, having seen it flower into a discipleship by which men gave their lives for others in the absence of any religious consolation, something no monk is required to do. This deeply impressed him and it is a pointer to his true greatness.
Metropolitan Anthony saw 2,000 people a year, not all Orthodox or even believers. All were enabled to see more clearly where they stood. Many became more Christian through knowing him while others were enabled to remain Christian within their own denominations.
His enduring significance is not that he consolidated an Orthodox presence in the United Kingdom, for his importance does not lie in his having been a churchman. The seeds he sowed have taken root and will flower in whatever soil makes sense to the person involved. "Preaching was his glorious vision of the Gospel which he proclaimed, not as a Prince of the Church ... but as a servant of the living God" writes Miss Crow in her epilogue to this outstanding book and she is spot on.