Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

In Memoriam - Bishop Cassian (Bezobrazov)

† February 5, 1965

Bishop Cassian belonged to the generation of Russian intellectuals who chose to dedicate themselves entirely to the Church in the thunderstorm and the darkness of the Russian Revolution. Like his friends and colleagues on St. Sergius’ faculty: G. Fedotov, Father Cyprian Kern, L. Zander, C. Mochulsky, B. Vysheslavtzeff, his social roots were not "clerical." Born in 1892, he graduated from the University of St. Petersburg and joined the faculty as lecturer in the History of Christian Origins. Deprived of his position on account of his religious opinions, he taught in the short-lived Orthodox Theological Institute of Petrograd. Exiled from Russia, he went to Serbia and, in 1925, was one of the first to be appointed to the faculty of the newly-founded St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, where till his death, he held the chair of New Testament. In 1932, Sergei Sergeevich Bezobrazov took monastic vows, was given the name Cassian, and was ordained priest by the Metropolitan Eulogios. He was active in the Ecumenical Movement, in the work of the Russian Student Christian Movement and of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. During World War II he lived in the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos; it was then that he went through a family tragedy: his sister, her husband and son were massacred by Communist guerillas in Greece. He returned to St. Sergius in 1946 and in 1948 was consecrated titular Bishop of Catania and made Rector of the Institute. He wrote several scholarly books; among them The Johannine Pentecost (in French, 1939), and Christ and the First Christian Generation (in Russian, 1930). He prepared a new Russian translation of the New Testament. In 1947, upon presentation of his dissertation By Water, Blood and Spirit (in Russian, unpublished) he was granted a doctoral degree by St. Sergius Institute. A Doctorate of Divinity Honoris Causa was bestowed upon him by the University of Thessalonica in 1959.

Bishop Cassian was passionate and uncompromising in his convictions. But there was also a treasure of warmth and love in his heart, a gift for friendship and personal attachment. In the fall of 1963, I spent several weeks with him in Rome where we were both guest observers at the Vatican Council. We lived in the same hotel, walked together to the Council and on Sundays and feast days prayed together in the small Russian Church on Via Palestro. He was already very sick, clearly at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. And it was then that I felt what was at the very heart of his being: his deeply personal, almost childlike love for Christ, his longing for friendship, his simple piety. May God give him rest with His Saints.

– Alexander Schmemann

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 1965, Vol. 9, Number. 1, p. 3