On the Eschatological View of the Third Rome Theory

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The first traces of the famous “Third Rome Theory” are sketched out precisely in…perspectives of apocalyptical unrest. The theory is intrinsically an eschatological one, and the monk Filofei sustains its eschatological tones and categories. “For two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there cannot be.” The pattern is a familiar one taken from Byzantine apocalyptical literature: it is the translatio imperii, or more accurately, the image of the wandering Kingdom — the Kingdom or city wandering or straying until the hour comes for it to flee into the desert.

…For a “Josephite”, the “Third Rome” meant that great and newly constructed Christian kingdom of Muscovy. By contrast, for Maxim, [St. Maxim the Greek] the “Third Rome” signified a City wandering in the wilderness.

“Journeying along a wild road filled with many dangers, I came upon a woman kneeling with her regal head held in her hands, moaning bitterly and weeping inconsolably. She was dressed entirely in black, as is the custom for widows. Around her were wild animals: lions, bears, wolves, and foxes… ‘Basileia [Empire] is my name…’ ‘Why do you sit alongside this road surrounded as it is by wild animals?’ And again she answered me: “O traveler, let this road be the last one in an accursed age.’ ” (The Ways of Russian Theology)

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