The Existential and Anthropological Semantics of the Word in Late 17th-Century Sermons
Keywords:sermon; handwritten collection Statir; 17th-century literature; word concept; image of the author; Simeon Polotsky
This article describes the semantics of the word concept, which is represented in late 17th-century homiletic texts. It is defined by the topics of sermons in terms of their ontological and anthropological content, which is characterised by specific features depending on the author. The article mostly focuses on Statir, an extensive and little-studied collection of sermons written by an anonymous author on the Stroganov patrimonial estate. The text is of considerable scholarly interest because of its high artistic level and the author’s fresh view on the traditional aspects of religious life. His sermons actualise the concept of the word on three levels: the Divine Word – the word of the Church Fathers – the sermon word of the clergyman. The three levels are arranged in a hierarchical chain, whose first link is the Word spoken by God the Father (God the Son) and the Gospel, while the next is represented by the teachings of the Holy Fathers. Each new link is the priest’s word, which is reflected in sermons addressing the parish and readers of the collections. These levels are fully represented in the sermon Word 35. Teaching for the Day of the Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. Praise of their Care for the Flock. And about the False Shepherds, and on Heretics, and on the Existing Schismatics. The reader joins in the praise of the three hierarchs and theologians to whom the sermon is devoted. It dwells on the topics of the teaching word, the transformative word, and the role of the clergyman in the process of relaying the truth and criticism of tendencies deviating from the Church and offering an alternative interpretation of its dogma. The word concept is also studied in Food for the Soul (Rus. Obed Dushevnyi), a sermon collection written by Simeon Polotsky, which was familiar to the author of Statir as can be seen from the references. The author of the article carries out comprehensive text analysis and examines the historical and cultural content of the preaching texts. Features of the thematic content of the sermon are examined through the rhetorical structure of a separate work. The study demonstrates that for the author of Statir, the semantics of the multi-level word concept is primarily associated with the categories of continuity, transmission of true knowledge, and transformation of reality. The word is a key to salvation capable of confronting the unrighteous word and directing believers’ lives (in contrast to the word in Food for the Soul where it appears as a resource, a specific fuel required for the spiritual development of the recipient). In the sermon Teaching for the Day of the Three Hierarchs, the author builds a complex system of arguments designed to convince the readers of the need to learn the word of truth through sacred texts and curb the spread of false teachings. Using extensive metaphors and creatively processing sources, the author engages the recipients in the space of teachings and convinces them to adopt his point of view. The sermon resembles a fluent multidimensional conversation, whose themes form a network and are combined into an integrated system by the word concept.
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