Monday, 4 February 2019

Anthony of Sourozh

Anthony Bloom

Andrei Bloom was born in Lausanne, Switzerland on 6 June 1914. He spent his early childhood in Russia and Persia because his father was a member of the Russian Imperial Diplomatic Corps. His mother was the sister of Alexander Scriabin, the composer.
     His family left Persia during the Bolshevik Revolution and, in 1923, settled in Paris, where Andrei was educated. He graduated in physics, chemistry and biology, then took a doctorate in medicine.In his own words, he met Christ when he was a teenager:
‘I met Christ as a Person at a moment when I needed him in order to live, and at a moment when I was not in search of him. I was found; I did not find him.
      ‘I was a teenager then. Life had been difficult in the early years and now it had of a sudden become easier. All the years when life had been hard I had found it natural, if not easy, to fight; but when life became easy and happy I was faced quite unexpectedly with a problem: I could not accept aimless happiness. Hardships and suffering had to be overcome, there was something beyond them. Happiness seemed to be stale if it had no further meaning.
      ‘As it often happens when you are young and when you act with passion, bent to possess either everything or nothing, I decided that I would give myself a year to see whether life had a meaning, and if I discovered it had none I would not live beyond the year.
      At the start of war in 1939, he secretly professed monastic vows in the Russian Orthodox Church, then left for the front as a surgeon in the French army. He was tonsured later (in 1943) and received the name of Anthony. He worked as a doctor during the German occupation of France and took part in the French Resistance.
      He continued to practise as a physician after the war until his ordination as a priest in 1948. He was sent to England as Orthodox Chaplain to the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, a society established to foster understanding and friendship between the Russian Orthodox and Anglican churches. He was appointed vicar of the Russian patriarchal parish in London in 1950, consecrated its Bishop in 1957 and Archbishop in 1962, when he assumed charge of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland (the Diocese of Sourozh). In fact, he founded the Diocese of Sourozh.
      Anthony was best known as a writer and broadcaster on prayer and the Christian life, but was also widely honoured by the academic world. For example, Aberdeen University gave him a doctorate of divinity ‘for preaching the Word of God and renewing the spiritual life of this country’.
His best-known books on prayer and the spiritual life are: Living Prayer, Meditations on a Theme, and God and Man, and were among the first to bring the riches of Russian Orthodox spirituality into the Christian mainstream.
      Anthony died on 4 August 2003. Today, many Orthodox Christians think of him as a saint.

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