"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Married Catholic Priests (Take 2)

In September I posted on here word of my forthcoming book, which I will (D.v.) submit to the publisher (the University of Notre Dame Press) tomorrow. After that initial report, several people contacted me on Facebook and via e-mail to suggest additional chapters, and I am grateful to them for their advice, which I happily took. Now the book is much richer, and I am delighted by that. Whereas previously it was almost entirely an "Eastern" book, focusing mainly on Eastern Catholic priests and their families, now it is a genuinely c/Catholic book, with a wide range of contributors: several Eastern Orthodox, a Russian Catholic, Ukrainian Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, two married Anglican clerics who are now married Catholic priests under the Pastoral Provision and later Ordinariate, further reflections from two presbyteras, and a chapter by the young son of a priest, Julian Hayda. With the volume thus strengthened and enriched, its focus is wider, and now the book--and its topic--can no longer be dismissed as merely or exclusively "an Eastern thing." There are now too many married ex-Lutheran and ex-Anglican clerics ordained to the Catholic priesthood to pretend that there are not married priests also in and for the Latin Church.
Fr.Roman and Presbytera Irene Galadza with Children and Grandchildren

A fortiori, then, I repeat what I said in September: this book will be the single-best collection ever published on the topic of married Catholic priests. There is nothing else out there remotely close to what will be in this book. That is a simple statement of facts. I have to say I'm especially pleased with how the essays cohere together. Often collections are very uneven, but many of these essays, even without intending it, build off one another and mesh together in a felicitous fashion.

We're still kicking around titles, though I'm leaning towards something like  Married Catholic Priests: Historical, Pastoral, and Theological Reflections. 

The contents:

I) Introduction: Adam DeVille

II) Historical Reflections:

1) David Hunter (University of Kentucky), "Priesthood and Sexual Continence: the Origins of a Western Tradition."

2) J.K. Coyle (†) (deceased professor of patristics and history at Saint Paul University, Ottawa), "Recent Views on the Origins of Clerical Celibacy: A Review of the Literature from 1980-1991."

3) Patrick Viscuso (professor of canon law at the Antiochian House of Studies and past president of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America, and author, translator, or editor of several important recent books), "Canonical Reflections on Clergy and Marriage."

III: Ecumenical and Pastoral Reflections:

4) Victor Pospishil (†) (a deceased Ukrainian Catholic priest and canonist), "Compulsory Celibacy for Eastern Catholics in the Americas."

5) James Dutko (protopresbyter of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the USA), "Mandatory Celibacy among Eastern Catholics: a Church-Dividing Issue."

6) Peter Galadza (Saint Paul University, Ottawa; Ukrainian Catholic liturgical scholar and married priest), "Official Catholic Pronouncements Regarding Presbyteral Celibacy: their Fate and Implications for Catholic-Orthodox Relations."

7) Adam DeVille (associate professor and chairman of the Dept. of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis), "Ending the Romanticism Around Marriage and Celibacy"

8) John Hunwicke (former priest and scholar of the Church of England, now in the Ordinariate, and author of this delightful blog)“Married Clergy in the Anglican Tradition”

9) Fr. David Meinzen (bi-ritual Byzantine and Roman Catholic priest, formerly of the OCA),  “Reflections on Two Vocations in the Two Lungs of the One Church"

10) Julian Hayda (undergraduate in Chicago and son of the late Fr. Pavlo Hayda), “Growing Up in a Fishbowl: Using Oikonomia to Answer the Tough Questions Posed by the Children of Priestly Families”

11) Christine Hayda (wife of Fr. Pavlo, mother of Julian), "Reflections from the Wife of a Priest."

12) Christopher Phillips (former Episcopalian and one of the first priests ordained in the 1980s under the Pastoral Provision; now rector of  the first parish erected under the PP), “The Peregrinations of a Pioneer of the Pastoral Provision”

III) THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS:

13) Lawrence Cross (a widowed Russian Catholic archpriest and scholar in Australia), “Married Clergy: At the Heart of Tradition”

14) Basilio Petrà (celibate RC priest and scholar in Florence; author of numerous works on marriage and priesthood), “Married Priesthood: Some Theological Resonances”

15) Thomas Loya (celibate Byzantine Catholic priest descended from a long line of married priests; pastor of the wonderful parish of the Annunciation Parish in Illinois),    “Celibacy and the Married Priesthood: Rediscovering the Spousal Mystery”

16) Irene Galadza (retired teacher and catechist, and presbytera at the incomparable St. Elias), “The Vocation of the Presbytera: Icon of the Theotokos in the Midst of the Ministerial Priesthood”

Conclusion:  Adam DeVille

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Rise of the Arab-Muslim Empire

When I review with my students the creation of Islam and rise of the Arabs in the early seventh century, and the latter's sweeping moves across Christian territories in Syria, Egypt, Armenia, North Africa, and elsewhere, I remind them that by any measure, ancient or modern, the Arab forces were making astonishing changes in even more astonishingly short a time. A new book from a respected scholar gives us a fresh and wider look at that history: Robert G. Hoyland, In God's Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire (Oxford University Press, 2014), 320pp.

About this book we are told:
In just over a hundred years--from the death of Muhammad in 632 to the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750--the followers of the Prophet swept across the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. Their armies threatened states as far flung as the Franks in Western Europe and the Tang Empire in China. The conquered territory was larger than the Roman Empire at its greatest expansion, and it was claimed for the Arabs in roughly half the time. How this collection of Arabian tribes was able to engulf so many empires, states, and armies in such a short period has perplexed historians for centuries. Most accounts of the Arab invasions have been based almost solely on the early Muslim sources, which were composed centuries later to illustrate the divinely chosen status of the Arabs.

Robert Hoyland's groundbreaking new history assimilates not only the rich biographical information of the early Muslim sources but also the many non-Arabic sources, contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous with the conquests. In God's Path begins with a broad picture of the Late Antique world prior to the Prophet's arrival, a world dominated by two superpowers: Byzantium and Sasanian Persia. In between these empires, emerged a distinct Arabian identity, which helped forge the inhabitants of western Arabia into a formidable fighting force. The Arabs are the principal actors in this drama yet, as Hoyland shows, the peoples along the edges of Byzantium and Persia--the Khazars, Bulgars, Avars, and Turks--all played critical roles in the remaking of the old world order. The new faith propagated by Muhammad and his successors made it possible for many of the conquered peoples to join the Arabs in creating the first Islamic Empire. Well-paced, comprehensive, and eminently readable, In God's Path presents a sweeping narrative of a transformational period in world history.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas 2014 Recommendations

Thrice in as many years I have reviewed books from those years and done up a list for Christmas recommendations.You can link to last year's list here and from there to the two previous years. In looking back over 2014, there are many noteworthy studies to have appeared. Let us recap thus:

Russian Orthodoxy:

One of the most prominent Russian Orthodox thinkers of the postwar period, Georges Florovsky, was the object of a splendid and hugely important new study by Paul Gavrilyuk, which I reviewed first here, and then in much more detail discussed here (my notes from my presentation on the book in Boston at the annual Orthodox Theological Society of America conference).

The trouble with romantically imagining that Russia today is the one repository of "traditional Christian values" was noted here.

The fascinating question of Russian Orthodoxy and human rights was treated in an important new book whose author I interviewed here.

Orthodoxy in the Russian imperial era noted here and another study here.

It is a welcome achievement to have in English at last the study of Hyacinthe Destivelle on the Moscow Council of 1917, which was detailed here.

The resurrection of Russian Orthodoxy under the early communists was noted here.

Given Russian banditry in Crimea this year, Paul Magocsi's new book This Blessed Land: Crimea and the Crimean Tatars could not have been more timely. It was noted here.

Paradoxes in the Russian Orthodox Church were noted here.

A new and general overview of Russian history was published and noted here.

We have, for much of the last decade, been seeing a major surge in new studies on Sergius Bulgakov, thanks in part to Eerdmans's long-running campaign to translate all his works into English. A recent study on Bulgakov, modernity, and Russian Orthodoxy was noted here.

Iconography and Iconoclasm:

This year saw a new translation of Theodore the Studite on icons, noted here

An interesting new study linking hesychasm and iconoclasm was detailed here.

The Orthodox British iconographer Aidan Hart was interviewed here about his lovely new book on icons, Icons in the Modern World: Sprint, Matter and Beautywhich I greatly commend to your attention.

Icons and portraits in Byzantium noted here.

Iconoclasms ancient and modern noted here and here.

Finally, a much more affordable paperback version of an important and large study of Byzantine icons of the Theotokos was noted here

Orthodoxy and Identity:

I was greatly cheered when Orthodox Constructions of the West was published. I discussed it in three parts, including here, here, and here. It remains a landmark work that must have a place in every library.

There are now at least three books on the topic of Orthodox identity, including the one noted here and a second one here.

An important study on Orthodoxy and nationalism was noted here.

Another significant study, this time on Eastern Christianity and politics (still a relatively under-developed area), was detailed here

The identity, and especially contemporary history, of converts to Orthodoxy in North America were studied by Oliver Herbel's splendid new book, Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church. I first reviewed the book here, and interviewed him here. This wonderfully written book must have a place in every history of American Christianity.

Liturgics and Sacraments:

The scholarly proceedings of a conference on liturgies East and West was noted here.

An interesting study on the Eastern monastic psalter was noted here.

My prolific friend and Orthodox liturgical scholar Nicholas Denysenko published an important book I was only too happy to adopt for my graduate students next semester: Chrismation: A Primer for Catholics. I interviewed Nick about the book here.

East-West Relations:

The Italo-Greek monastery of Grottaferratta remains a fascinating place of East-West encounter. A recent scholarly collection that focuses on it in part was published as Monastic Tradition in Eastern Christianity and the Outside World: A Call for Dialogue. I interviewed the editor here.

The dialogue of love between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, begun in the 1960s, was discussed here

Is the Latin definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception a totally sui generis definition at odds with the East? Or is it in fact deeply grounded in quintessential Eastern sources? Christiaan Kappes argued the latter proposition in my interview with him here about his book The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary.

The Centenary of the Great War:

2014 being the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, we saw a flood of books devoted to the topic, some of which were noted here.

Of those many books, Philip Jenkins' singular and fascinating study retains pride of place: The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade, which I reviewed briefly here.

A new study on Rafael Lemkin on genocide was noted here while Turkish resistance to acknowledging the Armenian genocide was noted here. What, nearly a century after that genocide, can be said about the state and future of Armenian Christianity? A new book seeking answers to those questions was noted here.

Ecclesiology:

Pope Francis continues to surprise in many ways. I noted some recent scholarship on the papacy here.

Patrology:

Two major studies of Cyril of Alexandria were noted: one on Trinity and the Scripture noted here and the second on Cyril's Christology here.

The Fathers and Mothers of the desert studied by Benedicta Ward were noted here.

Newly translated works of Maximus the Confessor were noted here.

An interview with the author of a new study on John Moschos can be found here

Augustine Casiday's very important Remember the Days of Old: Orthodox Thinking on the Patristic Heritage, a work that helps in the crucial task of rescuing the Fathers back from the fanatics and fundamentalists, was reviewed in depth here.

Casiday was also interviewed here about his new and important study, Reconstructing the Theology of Evagrius Ponticus: Beyond Heresy.

A Festschrift for one of the great patrologists of our time, Andrew Louth, Celebration of Living Theology: A Festschrift in Honour of Andrew Louth was noted here.

Eastern Christian-Muslim Encounters:

Practical advice for Christians living under Islam was noted here in a translation from Patrick Viscuso: Guide for a Church under Islam: The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions Attributed to Theodoros Balsamon.

A landmark collection in a grossly understudied area of great importance was edited by Sam Noble and Sasha Treiger as The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 - 1700: An Anthology of Sources. I interviewed the editors here.

What happened to Coptic Christians during the campaign of gradual Arabization was noted here.

The Christians of Jerusalem under Islamic rule were studied here.

The Crusades, of course, continue to fascinate and madden one in about equal measure. A new book on Islamic views of the Crusades was noted here while a study on Byzantium and the Crusades was mentioned here.

One of the early and landmark works in treating Jewish and Christian realities under the Ottomans (the "millet" system and all that) has long been out of print, but an abridged version was published this year, as I ntoed here, and belongs in every library devoted to the topic:

A recent study (one of several) on the connections between the Quran and the gospels was noted here.

A recent monograph on Muslim-Christian debate on whether God is one was noted here.

From the catalogues I have been sent for 2015, there will be no let-up in the new studies on all aspects of Eastern Christianity emerging from a variety of presses. Stay tuned in the new year for those!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Politics and War in Lebanon

Lebanon remains a fascinating place: a country with substantial Eastern Christian (especially Maronite) and Muslim populations whose lives alongside one another are in some ways similar to, but in other ways vastly different from, comparable relations across the border in Syria and places further afield. The messiness of religion and politics that we see across the region is especially magnified in Lebanon, making it ripe for misunderstanding. Transaction Publishers just sent me their spring catalogue, and one title that stood out will be published in May and aims to help clear up some of the misunderstandings: Mordechai Nisan, Politics and War in Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma (Transaction, 2015), 237pp.

About this book we are told:
Lebanon is an exceptionally misunderstood country; its religious politics are typically misrepresented and denigrated in Western political commentary. Politics and War in Lebanon offers a lucid examination of Lebanese society and politics. Mordechai Nisan examines Lebanon in its own terms, on its own cultural turf. He then points to the causes of political disintegration in 1975 and explores the capacity of Lebanon to recover and retain its unique national poise.
Avoiding disorienting Western stereotypes, Nisan presents Lebanon in its own native frame of reference, as a multi-ethnic country that operates according to its immutable and enigmatic political forms. Lebanon is different from other Arab countries, as demonstrated through its very complex electoral system, its tradition of cross-elite cooperation, and its special sense of Lebanese national identity that differentiates it from its overbearing Syrian neighbor.
Nisan explores intra-Maronite Christian feuds, identifies Syria’s occupation strategy, analyzes the violence of the Palestinians, and studies Israel’s failed policy strategy and the role of Hezbollah in the Lebanese power equation. Lebanon is caught between its special historical identity as a country with poise, creativity, and liberty and the interminable warfare in the streets and villages of the country. Although its future appears dim, its resilience enabled it to prevail in the past, and may yet do so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immaculate Conception and the East

Today for Latin Catholics is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here in the United States, it is the country's patronal feast. I take the liberty of directing you to the interview I did earlier this year with the priest and scholar Christiaan Kappes about his new book, The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary.

Petrine Ministry and the Malankara Syrian Church

Having said a few things about the papacy and the East in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, I maintain an active interest in the topic. Thus I am looking forward to a new academic study recently released: Biju Mathew, The Role of the Petrine Ministry in  the Ecumenical Relationship between the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Catholic Church (Peter Lang, 2014), 451pp.

About this book we are told:
This work deals with the role of the Petrine ministry in the ecumenical relationship between the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Catholic Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church traces her origin to the Church of St Thomas Christians, founded by St Thomas, the Apostle who reached the south Indian state of Kerala in 52 AD. The book explores the Ecclesiologies of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the St Thomas Christians of India and the Catholic Church from a dogmatic-juridical-historical perspective. The author tries to mediate between the two Churches in order to support them in the reviewing process of their history and Ecclesiology and re-establishing the unity for which Jesus Christ prayed: «Holy father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one» (Jn 17, 11). The author in his role as mediator makes a few suggestions for solving the problems related to the concept of the Petrine ministry on a universal level in the light of the Communion Ecclesiology of Vatican II, the studies of the various unofficial ecumenical dialogue commissions and the analysis of the experience of the Syro Malabar Church, one of the 22 sui iuris Churches in the Catholic Church.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Friend Uncle Joe

It has been nearly a decade since the last major biography (at least in English) of Stalin appeared. I read with great interest Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar when it came out in 2005, followed, in 2006, by Robert Service's Stalin: A Biography. Shortly before that, I had read William Taubman's fascinating 2004 biography of Stalin's successor, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. All three are worth your time.

And now we have another study, a hefty first volume no less. This book has already generated a number of fascinating reviews that I have read. I am looking forward even more to reading the book itself. Nobody interested in the fate of the largest Orthodox Church in the world, the Russian, can understand her recent history without understanding Stalin. Stephen Kotkin, Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (Penguin, 2014), 976pp.

About this book we are told:
It has the quality of myth: a poor cobbler’s son, a seminarian from an oppressed outer province of the Russian empire, reinvents himself as a top leader in a band of revolutionary zealots. When the band seizes control of the country in the aftermath of total world war, the former seminarian ruthlessly dominates the new regime until he stands as absolute ruler of a vast and terrible state apparatus, with dominion over Eurasia. While still building his power base within the Bolshevik dictatorship, he embarks upon the greatest gamble of his political life and the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted: the collectivization of all agriculture and industry across one sixth of the earth. Millions will die, and many more millions will suffer, but the man will push through to the end against all resistance and doubts.

Where did such power come from?  In Stalin, Stephen Kotkin offers a biography that, at long last, is equal to this shrewd, sociopathic, charismatic dictator in all his dimensions. The character of Stalin emerges as both astute and blinkered, cynical and true believing, people oriented and vicious, canny enough to see through people but prone to nonsensical beliefs. We see a man inclined to despotism who could be utterly charming, a pragmatic ideologue, a leader who obsessed over slights yet was a precocious geostrategic thinker—unique among Bolsheviks—and yet who made egregious strategic blunders. Through it all, we see Stalin’s unflinching persistence, his sheer force of will—perhaps the ultimate key to understanding his indelible mark on history.

Stalin gives an intimate view of the Bolshevik regime’s inner geography of power, bringing to the fore fresh materials from Soviet military intelligence and the secret police. Kotkin rejects the inherited wisdom about Stalin’s psychological makeup, showing us instead how Stalin’s near paranoia was fundamentally political, and closely tracks the Bolshevik revolution’s structural paranoia, the predicament of a Communist regime in an overwhelmingly capitalist world, surrounded and penetrated by enemies. At the same time, Kotkin demonstrates the impossibility of understanding Stalin’s momentous decisions outside of the context of the tragic history of imperial Russia.

The product of a decade of intrepid research, Stalin is a landmark achievement, a work that recasts the way we think about the Soviet Union, revolution, dictatorship, the twentieth century, and indeed the art of history itself.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Polish Orthodox Church

Though Poland is of course an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, its position in Eastern Europe, and its shifting borders over the years, has meant that at times it has greater and lesser populations of Eastern Christians living within her borders or very nearby. A new book examines one such group: Edward D. Wynot,The Polish Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Prisoner of History Lexington Books, 2014), 158pp.


About this book we are told:
The Polish Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Prisoner of History shows the adaptability of an Orthodox community whose members are a religious and ethnic minority in a predominantly Roman Catholic country populated by ethnic Poles. It features a triangular relationship among the Orthodox and Catholic hierarchies and the secular state of Poland throughout the changes of government. A secondary interrelationship involves the tense relationship between ethnic Poles on one hand, and minority Ukrainians and Belarusans on the other. As a “prisoner” of its own history and strangers in its own land, the Polish Orthodox Church faces a constant struggle for survival.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia

Given the explosion in scholarship, over the last quarter-century especially, on Russian Christianity, it is becoming increasingly untenable to portray Russian society as entirely backwards and filled with nothing but unlettered peasants let by superstitious monks and clerics until the dawn of the twentieth century. Moreover, even more recent scholarship is helping us to appreciate how intellectual, theological, and religious life continued even under the Soviets in various guises--that it was not all violently stamped out, though much was, and not for want of trying on the part of the regime. A new book helps us to appreciate this intellectual and theological life at the end of the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries: Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, eds., Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia: Culture, History, Context (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014, 316pp.).

About this book we are told:
Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia illuminates the significant role of Russian Orthodox thought in shaping the discourse of educated society during the imperial and early Soviet periods. Bringing together an array of scholars, this book demonstrates that Orthodox reflections on spiritual, philosophical, and aesthetic issues of the day informed much of Russia’s intellectual and cultural climate.
            Volume editors Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt provide a historical overview of Russian Orthodox thought and a critical essay on the current state of scholarship about religious thought in modern Russia. The contributors explore a wide range of topics, including Orthodox claims to a unique religious Enlightenment, contests over authority within the Russian Church, tensions between faith and reason in academic Orthodoxy, the relationship between sacraments and the self, the religious foundations of philosophical and legal categories, and the effect of Orthodox categories in the formation of Russian literature.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why Deny a Genocide Took Place?

Last month, on Remembrance Day, I gave a lecture on the several massacres of Eastern Christians during the First World War. The Armenian genocide is the best known of them, but they were comparable slaughters of Pontic Greeks, Assyrian Christians, Aegean Greeks, and others, not least when the war ended and the forced population exchanges began in 1922/23 with the destruction of Smyrna. Though the 1915 genocide of Armenians has been increasingly well publicized and studied, many do not realize that 1915 did not fall from the sky one day like a new idea. Mass slaughter of Armenians under the Ottomans had a long history, a history still controversial today in Turkey itself, where denial of a genocide as such is still official policy. Why is it still denied? A recent book attempts to shed light on this question: Fatma Muge Gocek, Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009 (Oxford UP, 2014), 684pp.

About this book we are told:
While much of the international community regards the forced deportation of Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, where approximately 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians perished, as genocide, the Turkish state still officially denies it.
In Denial of Violence, Fatma Müge Göçek seeks to decipher the roots of this disavowal. To capture the negotiation of meaning that leads to denial, Göçek undertook a qualitative analysis of 315 memoirs published in Turkey from 1789 to 2009 in addition to numerous secondary sources, journals, and newspapers. She argues that denial is a multi-layered, historical process with four distinct yet overlapping components: the structural elements of collective violence and situated modernity on one side, and the emotional elements of collective emotions and legitimating events on the other. In the Turkish case, denial emerged through four stages: (i) the initial imperial denial of the origins of the collective violence committed against the Armenians commenced in 1789 and continued until 1907; (ii) the Young Turk denial of the act of violence lasted for a decade from 1908 to 1918; (iii) early republican denial of the actors of violence took place from 1919 to 1973; and (iv) the late republican denial of the responsibility for the collective violence started in 1974 and continues today.
 develops a novel theoretical, historical and methodological framework to understanding what happened and why the denial of collective violence against Armenians still persists within Turkish state and society.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reforming Ottoman Governance and Killing Ottoman Christians

In talking with my students about Eastern Christian encounters with Islam, both ancient and modern, I find they struggle (as perhaps only idealistic Americans can) with recognizing that reform efforts (or, worse, revolutions) do not always work, and in fact as often as not end up not merely failing, but making things worse. In recent examples, we look at Egypt post-Mubarak, at least under Morsi; we look at Iraq post-2003; and we look at Syria, and what will likely happen there if Assad is ever overthrown. But the paradox holds true for earlier examples, as we continue to learn with numerous new studies out on the sunset of the Ottoman Empire, including Fuat Andic and Suphan Andic, Reforming Ottoman Governance (Gorgias Press, 2014), 186pp.


About this book the publisher tells us:
Reforms in the Ottoman Empire began in 1718 during the period known as the Tulip Era, which ended in 1730 with a bloody janissary uprising. Sultan Selim III, who reigned from 1789 to 1807, tried to engage with domestic reform, but was most interested in reforming the military. This conflicted with the interests of both the janissaries and the religious leaders and made the sultan a victim of another janissary uprising. In the nineteenth century the Empire was plagued with internal revolts and suffered from the unending imperialist appetites of European powers. Mahmud II, successor to Selim III, strove to change the paradigm of governance with his personal administration. His most daring action was the eradication of the unruly janissary organization. In the nineteenth century internal turmoil again created havoc in the Ottoman Empire. The concept of a constitutional monarchy penetrated the Empire, first in the form of Tanzimat in 1839, and subsequently with the issuance of a constitution in 1876. The sultan of the time, Abdülhamid II, became convinced that he could run the Empire alone and suspended the constitution. He was dethroned by a military coup in 1909. The janissaries had disappeared from the Empire, but their mentality had not. A new constitution was declared by amateur politicians and military officers, members of a revolutionary committee known as 'Union and Progress', also known in the West as the 'Young Turks'. They were well intentioned, but faced two disastrous wars, one in Libya, the other in the Balkans. Their administration quickly degenerated into a dictatorship and they had hardly enough time to carry out any meaningful reforms. In 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War together with Germany, the death knell of an empire that had lasted seven hundred years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ines Angeli Murzaku on Grottaferrata and East-West Monasticism

Quite unexpectedly within about a week of each other, two books, both devoted to the monastic community of Grottaferrata, showed up on my desk. The first was  The Greek Abbey at Grottaferrata, published a number of years ago now (and seemingly out of print). It is a short book with plenty of pictures, giving a general overview of the community. Then a new scholarly collection showed up, and I was able to interview its editor, Ines Angeli Murzaku, about her recent collection,  Monastic Tradition in Eastern Christianity and the Outside World: A Call for Dialogue (Peeters, 2013), 302pp. Here are her thoughts:

AD: Tell us about your background: 
 
IAM: I am a professor of Ecclesiastical History and Chair of the Department of Catholic Studies, Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. My research focuses on Ecclesiastical History, and particular, Byzantine and Catholic Church History. I have been awarded several grants for my work, including the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers - Germany, the Dumbarton Oaks Research Grant – Harvard University, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant (SSHRC) - Canada, and have been awarded three times Fulbright Research Scholar Grants. My other publications include Returning to Rome: The Basilian Monks of Grottaferrata in Albania, Quo Vadis Eastern Europe? Religion, State and Society after Communism (2009), and Catholicism, Culture and Conversion: The History of the Jesuits in Albania (1841-1946), published by Orientalia Christiana Analecta Series (2006). Currently, I am co-authoring a translation and critical edition of the Life of St. Neilos of Rossano (1004) for Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University (2014). Also, I am working on two projects: Monasticism in Eastern Europe, Russia and the Former Soviet Republics for Routledge (2015) and Italo-Greek Monasticism, from St. Neilos to Bessarion for Ashgate (2015). I was the vice-president of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) (2007-2013) and a United Nations (NGO) Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe accredited representative.
 

AD: What led to putting this collection together?
Fascination with and love of monasticism Eastern and Western; the history of monasticism; exchanges and interactions between Eastern and Western monks their dialogue and ecumenism. I am most interested in Italo-Greek or Italiot monasticism, which is probably the least known form of monasticism, a monasticism with which I am very well acquainted. Southern Italy/Magna Graecia of the Occident is a real treasure in providing a home and “accommodations” to Italo-Greek hermits, the cenobites, those living in-between the cenobitic and hermetic.
   

AD: Give us a sense of the significance of Grottaferrata in both monastic and ecumenical terms.

Grottaferrata is a “survivor” (p. 118); as my colleague, Enrico Morini pointed out in his contribution, Italy had a tremendous number of Italo-Greek monasteries and Italo-Greek saints whose lives have come down to us through the ages.  Grottaferrata is one of the last of these monasteries, and has such a distinctive relationship with the papacy in Rome and has borne witness to these Western Christians of the importance and vibrancy of the Eastern Monastic life.  Much of this tradition has been lost over the centuries in the rest of Italy, or at least severely diminished, but at Grottaferrata, there is both the old tradition of Italo-Greek practice and the new tradition of being on the forefront of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. 

One particularly important element that is distinctive to Grottaferrata, which I tried to give a sense of in my chapter, is its willingness to help both the Italo-Greek monks and the Western monks feel comfortable at the monastery, feel a sense of belonging and Grottaferrata’s incredible hospitality, a kind of hospitability that only monks can provide.  From the time of its founder, Neilos of Rossano from Calabria, until the present day there has been a comfort with communicating with both traditions, particularly in using rituals that incorporate Greek, Latin, Italian and on special occasions Arbëresh – the language and ritual of the Italo-Greeks or Italo-Albanians who since the fifteenth century have been living in Southern Italy: Calabria and Sicily. A good number of the monks of Grottaferrata have come from these Byzantine communities.

AD: Your introduction mentions Hubert van Zellers idea that both the monk and the man in the world are on the same path, seeking grace and a rule of life. This strikes me as similar to Paul Evdokimovs idea of “interiorized monasticism.” What can those living “in the world” learn today from some of the monastic communities surveyed in the book?  

Here, I think that Gregory Glazov’s very personal and intimate account is really helpful.  His family, living in such close proximity with the monks and sharing in their communal life, is an example of Evdkimov’s interiorized monasticism. Here is a family that is really living with monks and whose family life is a kind of monasticism — which seems to be what Evdokimov is advocating in Struggling With God.

AD: Your introduction mentions the importance of hospitality in monastic life. Tell us more about that.
In terms of how the monks themselves understand hospitality and generosity, it is nothing less than a Biblical virtue that figures prominently throughout Scripture — in the story of Lot and the angels that became central to the famous Holy Trinity Icon by Andrei Rublev, Christ first appearing as a stranger who dined with the apostles at Emmaus, and in many other important moments in Acts, Genesis, and elsewhere. That is why it figures so heavily in the monastic rules — both East and West.  In terms of historical practice, hospitality functioned as a way of maintaining strong networks among monastic communities and cultivating bonds with the broader society. It also functioned as a major way of doing outreach and charity — something which we see today.  All of these characteristics of monastic hospitality have continued to the present day, though now the community is much broader and more global, and the communities face many new challenges. 

Presently, monastic hospitality — particularly at Grottaferrata, but also in other monastic communities I have visited — is functioning in a missionary and ecumenical way. It is still a way of building networks and forging relationships, but it is also an invitation to gather together and share; this invitation goes out to other Catholics from the Western rite, Protestants, and especially the Greek-Orthodox, with whom Grottaferrata has an inherent connection.  As you can see in John Radano’s contribution to this volume, monastic communities have done tremendous work in terms of opening up dialogue with other Christian groups.  The publications that they have put out, like Irenikon and Eastern Churches Quarterly, are the fruits of monastic hospitality — the monks, freely and hospitably giving their time and sponsorship to these publications, are in a sense inviting their readership communities into their monastic life and sharing their patrimony with them.  It is even more explicit in the case of liturgical movements like the Taize communities in the Western Christian tradition.

At Grottaferrata in particular, hospitality also takes on a more directly educational function; when I have taken my Seton Hall students there, they have not only had the opportunity to experience the historical practice of Eastern monasticism, but they also have come to meet the Abbot Emiliano Fabbricatore and monks-members of the community and see them as people whose lives and concerns are not that different from their own, even though they had a different vocation. My students had the opportunity to sense the warmth of monastic practice and the monastic lifestyle, even if they did not always understand everything that was going on! The service was in Italiote-Greek!!!

AD: You note (p.11) that a “monastic community is an eschatological community.” What do you mean by that, and what is the significance of its eschatological focus?

Frequently, the monks saw their lifestyle as the fulfillment of Matthew 19’s commandments to give up all that they had in order to fulfill Christ’s will, and as a foretaste of what Christ told his followers in Mathew 22:30 about the way that they will live in heaven at the end of time — as people who neither marry nor are given in marriage.  We are also told that in the life of Christ — that is to say the resurrected life — the things that divide us, the barriers and walls, like nationality, language, and even confessional differences, cease to exist.

More theologically, Eastern monastics saw their practice as part of how they became people who could participate in theosis.  As Athanasius of Alexandria explained the Incarnation, “God was Incarnate so that we might be made god.” That process, theosis or divinization, required that the monks become as Christlike as possible in order to participate in this understanding of the bodily resurrection. Monasticism for these Eastern monks emphasizes this paradigm of becoming like Christ and also welcoming Christ in the form of the visitor, the outsider, and the stranger.  The practice also emphasizes being like Christ in perfection and representing with fidelity the doctrine that they have received, and communicating that doctrine to others.

When Evdokimov was writing his essay "Eschatology: On Death, the Afterlife, and the Kingdom: 'The Last Things'” (found in the collection Michael Plekon edited, In the World, of the Church: A Paul Evdokimov Reader) one of the themes that he addresses is the idea of healing as salvation— not as a bodily healing or a full restoration, but rather as a deliverance from disturbance into a feeling of ease or peace.  The monks embody this in some important ways: the rules laid out in the Typikon of the monastery reduce strife and conflict, the management of a wise elder or abbot helps individual monks to deal with temptations and support the group to adjust to new situations, and the prayer practices foster metanoia or repentance which helps heal the wounds from sin.  Essentially, the monks are working to put themselves into a state of equilibrium, like Evdokimov describes, so that they can provide an example of that equilibrium to the world.  Are these communities perfect? Of course not. But they are doing their best to serve as an example of what the afterlife is going to look like, or as my good friend and colleague Dr. James McGlone would say, “a little piece of heaven on earth.”

AD: Your chapter as well as a couple others focus on “holy silence” and its importance in monastic life. But arguably silence is important for everyone, yes? It seems to me a particularly acute struggle today for many of us, tethered as we are to devices (phones, tablets, etc.) that never leave us alone, never give us opportunities for silence. Why does the monastic tradition so emphasize the importance of silence, and what can we learn from that today?

For monks, silence was about apathy, being without passions that could distract you from God.  It was a state of prayer and a state of perfect practice.  It also was hard to achieve, which is why there was so much literature.  However, it is important to note that there were two kinds of silence that fell under the title of hesychia — the first was the freedom to be able to withdraw from worldly affairs for reflection and the second was the state of reaching passionlessness through prayer and reflection (which is what we conventionally associate with the word).  Not all of us can withdraw to the extent that a monk can — as laypersons we are often called to have jobs in the secular realm and to raise families, but all of us can find ways of withdrawing from technology at certain points during our day and using that withdrawal as a time to be in relation with God and each other and as a time to reflect.  One thing that we can learn from the lives of the saints is that you do not wait to be given an opportunity to withdraw from the world — you create that opportunity, or better, seize that opportunity. This peaceful space can be created.

AD: Many of the chapters in the book focus on the role of monastic communities as places of encounter and dialogue—between Eastern and Western Christians, and between Christians and monks. Is Grottaferrata still playing that role today? What other communities do you see as especially adept at such dialogue?

Yes, I think so. Grottaferrata and its monks are at the vanguard of dialogue. The newly appointed Abbot Michel van Parys is a scholar and man of prayer and dialogue. Besides Grottaferrata is the Monastère de Chevetogne, Niederaltaich Benedictine Abbey, Abbey of Gethsemani in the USA  and several others.

AD: Sum up your hopes for this book and who should read it.

This book is part of a much broader project, which is to make Eastern monasticism a much bigger part of our scholarly conversation in the West — where it is often overlooked.  For instance, the book I am currently editing and contributing to addresses the history of Eastern monasticism in Eastern bloc countries and the former Soviet Union. The suppression of religion in these countries has created a gap in scholarship, and all of these countries had a rich history and very much to offer in monastic practice before the state shut down religious institutions and ended religious practice. It is my hope that this particular book inspires students, fellow researchers, and interested laypersons and clergy members to explore a heritage that has been highly influential in our civilization, or better, has laid the foundations of our civilization.  These articles are great starting points for further investigations, in addition to being unique contributions to this broader conversation.

AD: Having finished this collection, what projects are you at work on now?

Currently, I am working on a translation and critical edition of the Life of St. Neilos, and I will be pursuing another contract for a translation of the Life of St. Elias the Younger otherwise known as St. Elias of Enna.  These two Italo-Greek saints’ lives are interesting because they describe real people and important historical situations at a time when Sicily and Calabria were being transformed by their interactions with the Arabs, the Byzantines, and the West.  By putting these important primary sources into English and into the hands of new scholars who have been impeded by a lack of English-language resources, I am hoping to inspire future generations of scholars in the field.  There is also the collection I mentioned earlier, Monasticism in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Republics, which will be published by Routledge in 2015. Additionally, I am working on an edited volume entitled Italo-Greek Monasticism, from St. Neilos to Bessarion for Ashgate which is scheduled to appear in December 2015. My projects on Italo-Greek monasticism are long overdue projects and will do much justice to a forgotten page of Byzantine history: Suum Cuique Tribuere, Ea Demum Summa Justitia Est.
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