Remembering Robert Taft

2 Nov died scientist liturgists Archimandrite Robert Taft is a Jesuit, Archimandrite of the Eastern rite, Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, one of the largest modern specialists in the field of Eastern Liturgy. About father Archimandrite says the nun Vassa (Larin), who wrote under the guidance of taffeta doctoral work.

I studied at the Institute of Orthodox theology of the University of Munich and wrote a magisterial thesis on the topic of Royal origin (dupille) Matins. I received the highest rating, but this topic was far from the research interests of our professors and one of them told me to show the work of Robert Taft, which I did not know. Only remembered that he had seen the name on the book in the Russian translation of the Byzantine synthesis.

Robert Taft in his youth

In the end, I called my father Robert to Italy. I was struck by what he said from himself that he has no Secretary. For some reason I began to talk to him in Russian, and he began to answer in Russian. Later I heard its free beautiful German and American English. Even then, the first conversation I felt that talking to a giant of culture and spirit.

Father Robert, if I may say so, was an American aristocrat, he was a descendant of President Taft – 13th President of the United States. Niece father Robert is currently a candidate for Senator of Arizona, his brother was the mayor of a large city in Rhode island.

Young Robert Taft with his mother and sister

I asked Taft to read my work. He agreed and asked to send it and I sent by mail in printed form. Looking forward to a few months and received a detailed response in electronic form – on five-six pages. He has made many criticisms, including that the whole first third of the work is not necessary and should be omitted, and at the end of his review wrote that when I fix it, he would like to publish this work: it seemed interesting to him, and that he would like me to invite to speak at the conference of liturgists in Eichstedt.

Sister Vassa and Robert Taft

Having received the blessing of his argyria later I went to this conference brought together established names, well-known scholars in the Byzantine Liturgy.

Among them, I, an unknown nun, was lost, and Taft strongly supported me during lunch or dinner several times brought his tray to my table where I was sitting alone.

Father Robert was respected, even famous professors, when he appeared in the room, all of a sudden started to talk quieter, backs straightened.

He even came to my little report, which was not designed for wide circle of listeners, because it was about a young scientist and it was a great honor for me.

“What will you do next?” he asked me one day of the conference. I told my Bishop thinks that it would be good for me to write a doctoral thesis on Canon law. “Why the Canon law? – he answered. Taft believed that I have a gift to engage in liturgical science, and offered to help me find a topic and even to assume the leadership of my work. “Go and tell your Bishop that the Church Abroad is renowned for its excellent services,” he noted, “and it would be good to have someone you understand them from a scientific point of view.” Although, as I managed to learn, he no longer took students and are not supervised his doctoral work. So I was his last student. And he promised to arrange everything so I could live in Rome and write there PhD under his guidance.

Taft got up at three in the morning

Of course, I received the blessing, came to Rome and moved in with a widow, leased a small apartment for students, which Taft will suit me.

By the time I knew a little something in science, and really work was taught to me by father Robert.

Every morning I came to the library, to the opening and sat down at his study. Went to closing. Father Robert came a little later – he served the mass, then had Breakfast and read the papers.

According to taffeta I know, what was his daily routine. He rose every day at three o’clock, as a soldier, took a shower, made the bed and sat behind the rule. His rule consisted of the first hour, in Slavonic. I was always surprised because in practice we are not attentive to the Clock, and the first hour is probably the favorite hour for all: this is the end of the vigil, when everyone is tired, it is often cut from “Mercy and judgment”, etc. and Taft read it every morning, i.e. at a time when it was meant to read.

His life was deeply and is liturgical; prayer.

Then he watched his diptychs is a very old calendar, where for many years he was entered each day the names of those who on this day died. Over the years these names have accumulated a lot. He opened his diptychs each morning, watched the list of names, prescribed names of today and with a little note went to Church: every day he served the divine Liturgy, when he wasn’t traveling. How to tell the seminarians of the Russicum, their duty was to light the lamps in the temple, but when they came, it turned out that it already did Taft.

The relatives of the dead on this day, wrote e-mails with words of consolation. Remember he came up and asked: “did You remember that died today, your aunt Tatiana?”. It was about my daddy’s sister. Still remember how he reminded me, “died Today, your Metropolitan Laurus…”. Taft all remembered.

For Breakfast he always ate the same thing and after be sure to read the newspaper, the most ordinary, everyday. He believed that it is necessary to know about the state of the world economy, about the state of the industry, the problems of geopolitics…

Then went down to the library.

When I did, it gave father Robert last part of the work done, it printed out and write your comments, giving me back two or three pages. Remember his handwriting, notes with a red pen, where that can be corrected, where possible, to make. But he never imposed anything on, and especially not impose any ideology. The main ideology of the taffeta to be an honest scholar and not to do what he called religious propaganda. Because he could in his works from a critical point of view, for example, to talk about some aspects of the history of the Jesuit order, and not only on this topic.

He did not seek to be popular, and was just doing his job.

Taft asked occasionally to look at what he wrote. I am not surprised. When I met him I realized that some of his sharpness, ease of communication – all this speaks not of pride, but of openness of heart, because he was sincerely interested in even the opinion of the students. There was no arrogance, and there was a serious focus on the study material. Because he asked my opinion and took notes. Remember, for example, recently noticed something about his excessive “christocentricity”; that is not true, speaking of the Byzantine Liturgy, speaking of the crucifixion, the Resurrection, the brackets leave the Pentecost, not to speak about the Holy Spirit. Taft and such comments received and made changes. All Catholics are able to accept criticism, and very self-critical, unlike us.

The balance between scientific work and prayer

I learned a lot from his father Robert. Especially important to me was the knowledge that it is possible to combine a life of prayer with serious science and not a hindrance. Early in my monastic journey, I felt like I was doing science (or studies), donate a prayer. But Taft showed me an example of what can work for the good of his Church, including in science, and finding the balance between scientific work and prayer. When asked: “How did you get so much to write, because you don’t have a Secretary?”, he replied: “Chastity is a gift of real workers”.

Remember when he came to visit my parents, loved them, celebrated with us old calendar Christmas, January 7. My dad, a priest of ROCOR, also got up early, and loved the morning read of St. John Chrysostom. And early in the morning in the living room at our house it was possible to see such picture: you sit two elderly priest, each in his place – the priest of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia and the Jesuits. One reads St. John Chrysostom, and the other of the First hour.

Father Robert was in love with Russian culture. He knew many Russian folk songs that most of the Russian is not even singing. For example, “Lived 12 robbers”.

I saw father Robert three weeks before his death, he was in quite a bad condition. But he took communion every day — every day mass is celebrated in the beautiful home of the Jesuits, where he was. My Church is good to take as an example, taking such good care of the old priests. We have nothing like this, even retired priests…

The last visit by the nun Vassoi Robert Taft in a nursing home. Sister read aloud to him the First hour

At Taft, as I said, it was not the Secretary, was not in his office. In the room where he lived during the rains the roof was leaking. Such is the modest way of life. And he had accumulated a sufficient amount of money from book sales and teaching. Father Robert is very worried that his money is not gone, as he said, on spaghetti. He wanted these funds were used to support young scientists. And at the end of life due to his efforts and means in the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome had such a system of support for young scientists not older than 35 years.

He was an honest scientist and an honest believer. Don’t pretend to be anyone, not forge anybody, and did not try to like. He just lived and studied science, helped others to do science, while not crossing any borders. May his memory be eternal!

Recorded By Oksana Golovko

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