Saturday, 11 April 2015

Nikolai Lipatov-Chicherin: An unpublished funerary speech and the question of succession to St. Basil the Great

The paper is devoted to an apparently unedited record of a speech delivered by a new bishop at the funeral of his predecessor (CPG 2936). On the basis of information scattered in the text it tries to establish profiles of the speaker, the diseased and the audience in front of which the speech was given. This provides a basis for consideration of the possible authorship, date, place and circumstances of delivery. The manuscript attribution of the speech to St. Basil is impossible, since the information about the departed, his successor and their relationship is completely different from what is known about Basil and both of his predecessors. At the same time the connection to St. Basil is quite strong as the ideas and even specific key terms in the speech represent major points of discussion in the commemorative oration on Basil by Gregory of Nazianzus. Spontaneous and unpolished character goes against the text being a later rhetorical exersise imitating Gregory. Theological allusions in the speech (the Holy Spirit and the ascetical virginity) relate it to the topics discussed in the fourth century. The fact that the new bishop had to defend his claim to spiritual authority exercised by his predecessor demonstrates considerable tension between formal and informal aspects of episcopal succession. Several letters of Nyssen and Nazianzen present a situation similar to that which can be discerned from the speech.

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