An Endangered Sensibility

Toward the Endless Day
The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel
Olga Lossky, Translated by Jerry Ryan, Edited by Michael Plekon
University of Notre Dame Press, $35, 360 pp.

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel was an important Orthodox theologian with a particular interest in the place of women in the Orthodox Church. She also showed what it means to live in a truly ecumenical way. She died in 2005 at the age of ninety-eight. Her personal journey encompassed two world wars and major changes in every Christian church.

Toward the Endless Day, her story, was written by Olga Lossky, a novelist and the great-granddaughter of the Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky. Behr-Sigel had no interest in writing her own biography, but was happy to share many Saturday lunches talking with Lossky, who was also given access to her papers and letters. The result of the time Lossky spent with Behr-Sigel and with her written work is a fascinating account of a life that uniquely reveals a sensibility in danger of being lost to us, one we need to retain, or recover.

Behr-Sigel was the child of a French Lutheran father and a Jewish mother. Raised as a Protestant, she was drawn at an early age into ecumenical dialogue. Serving the church attracted her, and her theological studies brought her into contact with Orthodox theology, and with Fr. Lev Gillet, who often wrote under the pseudonym “A Monk of the Eastern Church.” (Behr-Sigel wrote his biography many years later and gave it that title.)

Gillet had been a Catholic Benedictine. He was...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.