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Zatvornik, Theophan


Russian Orthodox bishop, spiritual writer; b. Č ernavsk, the Orel Region of Russia, Jan. 10, 1815; d. Pushkin, 1894. Theophan Zatvornik, born George Vasilievič Govorov, son of a priest, studied in the minor seminary of Livny and the major seminaries of Orel and Kiev. He was ordained in Kiev in 1841, and in the same year he became a monk, taking the name Theophan. He was superior of an ecclesiastical school at Kiev for a year and then prefect of discipline and professor of philosophy in the seminary of Novgorod. In 1844 he became professor of moral theology in the seminary of St. Petersburg. He left Russia in 1847 to found a Russian center in Palestine, where he remained seven years studying Greek and grounding himself in patristic traditions.

Back in Russia, in 1855 he became rector of the seminary of Olonets, and two years later rector of the seminary at St. Peterburg. In 1858 he was consecrated bishop of Tambov, whence he was translated to Vladimir in 1863. He obtained permission in 1866 to retire to the monastery of Vyšenskaja Pustyn, where he remained until his death, devoting his time to prayer and writing. In 1872 he became a complete recluse, shutting himself up in a small apartment in the monastery and refusing to see anyone, even members of his family. He lived thus for 22 years.

The works of Zatvornik include many books on the moral and ascetical life, several volumes of commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul, and the five-volume Dobrotoliubie (a translation of the Greek Philokalia, with many of his own additions). He wrote also a monumental work on the monastic rules of Pachomius, Basil, Benedict, and Cassian. In addition, his letters of spiritual direction, published only in part, fill ten volumes.

His best moral work is Natchertanie Khristianskavo nravooutchenia (An Outline of Christian Moral Teaching ). As his sources he used the scriptures, the teachings of the Fathers, the examples of the saints, the moral teachings of the liturgical texts, rational speculation, and Christian psychology. A complementary work is his Pout'k spasieniou (The Way to Salvation ).

In his works Zatvornik approached the Catholic doctrine on frequent Communion, which was contrary to the ordinary teaching of the Orthodox church during his lifetime. Except for a few doctrinal errors inherited from his Protestanttinged professors, his general teaching is quite acceptable to Catholics. He did not copy from Catholic authors, but in his attempt to be faithful to patristic teachings he was close to Catholic doctrine drawn from the same sources, especially through the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. As to the dogmatic teachings of the church and his view of Rome in general, he repeated the prejudices of his environment. To him, the Catholic church was just another sect terrorized by the Inquisition and a despotic pope who attributed to himself divine qualities.

Zatvornik's works are thoroughly patristic in character. They contain the best traditional Orthodox teaching on the spiritual life and are, for the most part, also in harmony with the teachings of the Catholic church. He is an outstanding example of the best in Orthodox teaching in moral and ascetical theology, owing mainly to his dependence on the teachings of the Oriental Fathers.

Bibliography: t. f. bossuyt, Théophane le reclus: Sa doctrine sur l'oraison (Rome 1959), contains a complete bibliog. of his works. s. tyszkiewicz, Moralistes de Russie (Rome 1951) 110127; comp. and tr., Écrits d'ascètes Russes (Namur 1957). g.p. fedotov, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality (New York 1948). e. kadloubovsky and g. e. h. palmer, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart (New York 1952).

[g. a. maloney]

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