By "Oriental Theology" is meant the theology of the Orthodox Churches, which are the Oriental Churches of the Byzantine tradition.

Let us consider, how important Don Divo Barsotti was for the introduction of the Russian Orthodox world to Italy and the world, so as to shed some light on the relevance to the Orthodox spiritual life, an insight which has been a deep influence on the development of Don Divo Barsotti's spiritual experience.

Writers agree that Don Divo Barsotti was first and foremost in spreading the knowledge of "the treasures of Oriental spirituality and, in particular, of the Russian tradition" in Italy. Nevertheless, we have, today, even on the basis of testimonials of Don Divo Barsotti himself, the ingredients for a more thorough understanding of the path through which he became the promoter of Russian Spirituality, both in and outside Italy. His encounter with Dostoyevsky had been decisive for him as a young man. It was this great Russian writer whose "passion for Christ awoke Don Divo Barsotti from sleep". In a certain sense, Dostoyevsky was for Don Divo Barsotti the gateway to Russian spirituality.

There had been signs of this event even before he moved to Florence, in October 1945. He writes that he had heard of Russian Saints, such as Sergio of Radonez and Seraphim of Sarov and that he had started writing about Russian Christianity even before moving to Florence.

In the Spring of 1945, something happened which was sensed by Don Divo Barsotti as the formation of an unbreakable bond between himself and Russia, her poets and her saints. The inspiration came to him in a dream in which he saw St Serge of Radonez open a gate with a glycine plant in full bloom; as their eyes met, a song was heard coming from the back of the house: the Canticle of St Serge. He recounts, "It was two o'clock in the morning. I sat down at a table and dictated what I had heard word for word". He would identify this house ten years later as the villa of Settignano where he would eventually end up living.

Living in Florence gave Don Divo Barsotti the chance to form a direct rapport with the Russian religious world: he knew the Archbishop of the Russian Church, Prince Kurakin, and the Burvikov family. Don Divo Barsotti received as a gift, a precious text from Prince Kurakin which was a rare Italian edition of the dialogue between Seraphim of Sarov with Motvilov. This was of great importance to him because this dialogue introduced to him "the most popular Saint of Russia" and this, perhaps, gave him the idea of an interior monasticism, of a monasticism in the world.

While living in Florence, Don Divo Barsotti received confirmation and further stimulus to spread knowledge of the Russian spiritual world. In 1948, he published a book devoted precisely to Russian Christianity. The book 'Cristianesimo Russo' (Russian Christianity) was a dense and impassioned book, an introduction to both priests and lay faithful. It is not by chance, that even today, the commonly accepted interpretation of Russian spirituality in Italian theology is based on this work of Don Divo Barsotti, on the power of his language and clarity of his vision. It was defined by Y. Congar as the language of the "two lungs", that is the idea that the Latin West and Greek Orient were like "two civilizations, two distinct mindsets destined to complete one another in the Church".

Don Divo Barsotti, would now no longer write general books on Russian Christianity; he would however continue to introduce spiritual Russians. He wrote the first Italian anthology on Russian mystics; he published articles on the life of St Tichon of Zadonsk. He is also recognized for putting together the first Italian edition of the texts of Silouan of Mount Athos.

There can be no doubt about the importance of Don Divo Barsotti in spreading knowledge of the Russian spiritual world in Italy and elsewhere. There is however, another aspect of his relationship with Russian Christianity, in addition to the fact that he was a pioneer in this field.

He seized upon the essentialities of the liturgy in oriental spirituality: the liturgy is, according to oriental spirituality, an objective communication of the divine life and the divinization of the created order. The spiritual, mystical and sacramental life, are all objectively inseparable in the oriental liturgy. He was able to see several ambiguities connected to this.

But it is evident that it struck him deeply. He writes in 'Cristianesimo Russo', quoting 'Verbe Incarne' of Bulgakov, "The Church possess the divine life because Christ lives in the Church, because Christ Himself is the Church; through the sacraments and especially through the Eucharist. Christ effects the divinization of the Christian and the world". And again, "Oriental mysticism does not accept the divorce of the spiritual from the sacramental life: in oriental mysticism, all of Christian life is immersed in the liturgy. All of Christian life depends on the objective action of Christ in the sacraments. At the heart of Eastern Orthodoxy is the Christ of the liturgy, the Christ of the resurrection who lives in the Church and continues in the Church and extends through her, the mystery of the incarnation".

The paschal mystery is at the centre of Eastern Orthodoxy. Christ, having become the "vivifying spirit", penetrates the entire universe with His light and transfigures and draws it in the flow of His charismatic and divine life. One passes not brusquely from the ascetic motivation of the return of Paradise, a return which unfolds as a painful search, to the mystical return to the paradisal life characterized by the inmost feeling of the divine presence realized in prayer, and especially in liturgical prayer.

His prayer, (that is the prayer of the Eastern Christian) is much more a liturgy than the prayer of the Western Church; the prayer of the former is in fact exclusively the liturgical service to which Eastern Orthodox monks devote large parts of the day and night - and, during certain solemnities, these monks may devote up to eighteen hours per day to the liturgy. The liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church is always more solemn and longer than that of the Western Church - it is always an end in itself and puts the soul in the presence of God, before His throne. It's theophanic (meaning, permitting to the manifestation of God) character; the sacred rites are not a simple commemoration or symbol of great dogmatic or historical truths of Christianity, but rather the appearance, the direct, even transparent vision of God."

Don Divo Barsotti not only appears as someone who has introduced in Italy the Russian spiritual world but also one of the greatest fruits of the oriental spiral fecundation in Italy. Certainly, in Don Divo Barsotti's thoughts, there is more than this; that in his thought, the heritage of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is happily appropriated, a heritage which Don Divo Barsotti, precisely in his book 'Cristianesimo Russo', held to be a legitimate move on the part of the Catholic Church. "The Catholic Church not only never renounced that part of truth and the spiritual experience which form the most solid and sacred heritage of Oriental Christianity, but also, through the study of the Fathers common to both traditions, the Catholic Church seems to have become increasingly aware of a heritage which was also hers".

This is a re-appropriation which has taken the form of a true "spiritual" blood tie with spiritual men, with the Russian saints to be sure, but in a particular and unique way, with St Sergius of Radonez. Russian mysticism has become part of Don Divo Barsotti's blood and of the innermost part of his identity and spiritual legacy; he has begun an inner dialogue with this spiritual world brining to it, all at once, his typically Western unrest, his intuitions nurtured by his infinite readings and inner dialogues, and his originality.

'Cristianesimo Russo' is a precious document in which he assimilates Russian Spirituality and defines the limits and extensions of such an assimilation. For this reason, Don Divo Barsotti's bond with the spiritual legacy of Russia cannot be broken even by certain bitter and unexpected experiences he had in his real-life contact with Orthodox Russia of today. He makes note of this explicitly in his travel diary, "I pray that my esteem, veneration and love for the Eastern Orthodox Church might not dwindle. I feel that already now my communion with Russian Saints, with Sergius of Radonez, Seraphim of Sarov and Tychon of Zadonsk, is perfect.

Don Divo Barsotti not only introduced Russian spirituality in Italy; he is also the first Italian spiritual author - if not the first Catholic author - to live and interpret one's own experience in full communion with the spiritual lifeblood of Russian Christianity, and to do so in a harmonious way and with inexhaustible fecundity. In this sense, Don Divo Barsotti was perhaps the first to have represented - and he still represents - conscious spirituality of "the two lungs", or said in a better way, "a conscious spirituality of the one Church, which breathes anew with full lungs".
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