Unité en division. Les lettres de Lev Gillet

The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies has just co-published the book Unité en division. Les lettres de Lev Gillet, ‘un moine de l’Eglise d’orient’ à Andrei Cheptytsky (Unity in Division. The letters of Lev Gillet, a monk of the Eastern Church, to Andrey Shpetytsky) by the Institute’s professsor, Fr. Peter Galadza.

Unité en division: Les lettres de Lev Gillet (“Un moine de l’Eglise d’Orient”) à Andrei Cheptytsky – 1921-1929

Rédaction et introduction par Peter Galadza avec une réflexion par Antoine Arjakovsky

Andrei Sheptytsky (Cheptytsky, Szeptyckyj) (1865-1944), Greco-Catholic bishop of Western Ukraine, and Lev Gillet (1893-1980), “the monk of the Eastern Church,” were two of 20th century Eastern Christianity’s more important, yet underappreciated, figures. For example, in 1990, in the introduction to Lvov Ghetto Diary, Erich Goldhagen, lecturer in Jewish Studies at Harvard University, wrote of Sheptytsky: “No other ecclesiastical figure of equal rank in the whole of Europe displayed such sorrow for the fate of the Jews and acted so boldly on their behalf.” As for Gillet, the noted French Orthodox theologian, Olivier Clément, has written that he was a singular exemplar of “limitless Love in life and service.”

The book, Unité en division: Les lettres de Lev Gillet (“Un moine de l’Eglise d’Orient”) à Andrei Cheptytsky – 1921-1929, is the annotated transcription of almost 100 letters of Lev Gillet to Archbishop Sheptytsky. The letters remained inaccessible for almost 50 years in the Soviet archives of Western Ukraine. They cover the period when Gillet went from being a Benedictine novice in England, to Greco-Catholic (“Uniate”) Studite in Ukraine, to Orthodox priest in France. During this same period, Sheptytsky went from being the “darling” of those hoping to “convert Russia,” to a giant “imprisoned in his own diocese.” The letters shed light on key elements of the biographies of these two celebrities. They also clarify various aspects of interwar Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church history. Gillet frequently wrote to Sheptytsky of matters that were of a confidential or semi-confidential nature. Thus we learn details, for example, of Vatican curial intrigues, prisoner exchanges with the nascent USSR, and theological arguments that did not always make their way into print. All of these events and ideas are explained in copious annotations, which make the book an excellent source for micro-history.

The book will also fascinate those interested in Christian spirituality. Gillet became known first and foremost for his profound writings in that area (with almost ten titles to his name). These letters shed intimate light on the way in which a spiritual master coped with the challenges confronting him during a period of profound personal crisis.

Finally, from the perspective of present-day East-West relations and Eastern Church life, the book demonstrates how in spite of major changes in the ecumenical climate and dramatic developments in the former USSR, many of the religio-cultural and ecclesiological problems there have remained unchanged for four generations (if not longer). The present-day discrimination against Eastern Catholics by Roman Catholics in Russia, the controversies surrounding Eastern Catholic identity in Eastern Europe, and the psychological issues raised by “revolving-door” Catholic vs. Orthodox church membership (and vice-versa) – all of these emerge in pungent form in these letters.

Table of Contents (Translated into English for the purposes of the present description)

  1. Introduction to the Correspondence, by Peter Galadza – 25 pages
  2. An Ecumenical Reflection by Antoine Arjakovsky – 13 pages
    The Actual Correspondence with almost 500 annotations
  3. 1921 to 1925: Unionistic Euphoria – 86 pages
  4. 1926 to 1927: The Worker Monk – 120 pages
  5. 1928-1929: The Mortal Blow of Mortalium animos – 106 pages
  6. Epilogue by Peter Galadza – 4 pages
  7. Photos
  8. Index