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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fritz West on Anton Baumstark

Anton Baumstark (1872-1948)
Anybody who knows anything about the study of liturgy in the last sixty years and more knows the name of Anton Baumstark, who died in 1948. He was one of those brilliant polyglot Germans whose erudition and range of publication make the rest of us look like jejune slackers by comparison. He has exercised an enormous influence over all subsequent scholarship, especially in the Christian East through Baumstark's most influential and prolific "disciple," the great Robert Taft, now retired (but still, thankfully, publishing) from the Oriental Institute in Rome.

Baumstark's great work, On the Historical Development of the Liturgy (Liturgical Press, 2011), 256pp. was recently translated by Fritz West, who has previously published on Baumstark. Here is the publisher's blurb about the book:
Anton Baumstark's On the Historical Development of the Liturgy (1923) complements his classic work, Comparative Liturgy. Together they lay out his liturgical methodology. Comparative Liturgy presents his method; On the Historical Development of the Liturgy offers his model. This book was written for one audience and valued by another. Written to lead adherents of the nascent German liturgical movement to a deeper religious appreciation of Catholic worship, its methodology and scope have won the appreciation of liturgical specialists for nearly a century. In describing the organic growth of the liturgy, its shaping and distortion, Baumstark s reach extends from India to Ireland, Moscow to Axum, Carthage to Xi an. He discusses the influences of language, literature, doctrine, piety, politics, and culture. While his audacity can be breathtaking and his hypotheses grandiose, his approach is nevertheless stimulating. In this annotated edition, Fritz West provides the first English translation of this work by Anton Baumstark.
I asked West for an interview about his work, and here are his thoughts:

AD: Tell us about your own background.   

FW: I am a Protestant minister (now retired), ordained in the United Church of Christ, with a doctorate in liturgical studies from the University of Notre Dame.  My dissertation was entitled The Methodological Thought of Anton Baumstark in its Intellectual Milieu. I summarized the findings of my dissertation in The Comparative Liturgy of Anton Baumstark.

I have contributed to the study and practice of worship in the church through seminary teaching and organizational work as well as writing.  My published work generally falls into three categories: liturgical methodology, lectionary studies, and worship in the Reformed tradition.

AD: Tell us, if you would, a bit about the background of Anton Baumstark and why he remains so important today.  

FW: Anton Baumstark was a lay Roman Catholic scholar of Christian art, literature, and liturgy, who came from an intellectual German family with roots in Baden and strong political interests. As a young man, Baumstark entertained thoughts of entering the priesthood and/or a religious order.  Apart from specific findings, his major contribution to the field of liturgical studies lies in the area of methodology. Even as a university student of philology in the 1890’s, he showed an interest in method. Early in the twentieth century, under the influence and example of the art historian Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941), Baumstark conceived comparative liturgy, a method for the study of the liturgies of the Church, particularly focused on the East.  His method became more widely known twenty years later, when the liturgical apostolate of the Abbey of Maria Laach sought to shape an approach to the study of the liturgy appropriate to its nature.  Along with other methods the Abbey enthusiastically embraced comparative liturgy, which afforded Baumstark opportunities to publish both comparative liturgical studies and reflections on methodology, including Vom Geschichtlichen Werden der Liturgie, translated under the title On the Historical Development of the Liturgy.  Comparative liturgy is important yet today for being the first attempt to articulate a coherent methodology for the study of liturgical history and an inspiration for the Mateos School of Oriental Liturgiology.

One aspect of Baumstark’s biography continues to generate particular interest: his politics. From the defeat of Germany at end of World War I, he was involved in conservative nationalist German politics and in 1932 became active as a member of the National Socialist Party. This is of relevance to his intellectual biography in that both his methodology and his political thinking reflect an organic understanding of culture.  This line of thinking was widespread in the Germany of Baumstark’s day, found among both liberals and conservatives, in both scholarly and political circles.  In this framework  the identity of the individual was thought to derive from an organic relationship to the community.  While on the one hand this was used analytically as a sociological insight (e.g. Ferdinand Tönnies), it was also embraced by conservative Germans (völkisch thought) to further nationalistic and political ends. The former finds resonance in Baumstark’s understanding of the church at prayer, the latter in his treatment of the influence upon the liturgy of language and nation. While one despairs of finding a causal relationship between Baumstark’s political and methodological thought, they both stem from an organic understanding of culture with roots in nineteenth-century German romanticism.

AD: Your introduction notes that On the Historical Development of the Liturgy was "written for a segment of the German Roman Catholic reading public of the early twentieth century, those supportive of the German liturgical movement." How were you, a member of the United Church of Christ in twenty-first century America, first drawn to him? 

FW: I first became interested in the comparative liturgy of Anton Baumstark when exploring the broader question of the use of linguistic models for the study of the liturgy.  Specifically, I wanted to explore the possibility of using structural linguistics to define and analyze the “liturgical tradition” underlying (my own) Free Church worship.  By studying similar transfers of method from the study of language to that of liturgy, that of comparative liturgy from comparative grammar and semiological analyses from structural linguistics, I hoped to better understand this move theoretically.

AD: Baumstark, of course, has been greatly influential in Orthodox and Catholic liturgical studies, but I am less familiar with his influence on your own tradition in particular, and on Protestant liturgical scholarship more widely. Tell us a bit about that if you would. 

FW: The comparative liturgy of Anton Baumstark is of use in studying liturgical traditions marked by the continuous use of liturgical texts.  This is not the case for Protestant worship of the Free Church in which structure is central, while text is occasional and variable.  For this reason, scholars of these traditions, including my own, have disregarded comparative liturgy almost entirely. On the other hand, Baumstark’s method has had appeal and application in the Anglican tradition. See David H. Tripp, "Comparative Method in Liturgical Study," Modern Churchman, n.s. 13(1970): 188-197 and more recently Hans-Jürgen Feulner, “The Anglican Use Within the Western Liturgical Tradition: Importance and Ecumenical Relevance from the Perspective of Comparative Liturgy.” 

AD: Robert Taft's foreword notes that Baumstark's German was "not always pellucid." How onerous was your task as translator? 

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Winkler once joked that Germans would welcome my translation, for they could then finally understand what Baumstark was trying to say.  Baumstark’s “akademisches Deutsch,” prolix and turgid, can be daunting.  He uses long sentences, containing elaborate participial clauses, nestling semantic units within semantic units in a linguistic version of a Russian doll. His Latinate style, favoring nouns and nominal phrases, including neologisms such as “das Sichauswirken,” is laborious to unpack. Some passages, such as the final paragraph of the book, are simply opaque. After producing a rough translation, I went through the German and English four more times, twice with readers fluent in German, working with me sentence by sentence.  At the point when I had not only translated the work but largely internalized it, I was able to massage it into readable English, referring to the German original only on occasion.  The process of translation stretched over twelve years, eight while serving as pastor of a congregation.

AD: Taft's foreword notes, as he has done in many places over the years, that Baumstark was a pioneer in comparative liturgiology, a method that has solved problems in liturgical history better than other methods. Explain, if you would, the significance of that approach as a scholarly method. 

FW: As a scholarly method comparative liturgy is significant for studying liturgies or aspects of them in terms of the liturgy, the parts in terms of the whole. For this move he used the organic model, asserting that the liturgy is an organism and that in two ways: ontologically and structurally.  For Baumstark the liturgy was ontologically an organism that grows.  He also thought it to be structurally organic in that it contains structurally analogous units, notably liturgical and heortological.  The significance of the move that regards the parts in light of the whole becomes clear when contrasted to standard historiography.  That is a method that builds a synthesis of what is known directly upon two kinds of sources, primary and secondary.  Here one works not with a whole containing parts, but with pieces of evidence that are material in so far as they pertain to the historical phenomenon under study, be it the French Revolution or Andrew Jackson. These two approaches are distinguished by the warrants they use to reach conclusions.  Standard historiography uses purely referential warrants; its conclusions refer directly to the available evidence and go no further. If there is no evidence, there can be no reference; gaps in the evidence necessarily result in gaps of knowledge.  By contrast the warrants used in the organological approach are  inferential.  Understanding the parts in terms of the whole, it ventures to infer what the whole implies when direct evidence is scant or lacking.  In actual practice, Baumstark used both referential and inferential reasoning, supplementing the former with the latter.
Paleontology offered the model for this latter approach.  Here the whole is animal life, an organic realm, whose genetic regularity is visibly evident in the structure of animals, shaped to insure survival. Georges Curvier (1769-1832), the father of comparative anatomy and paleontology, thought himself able to construct the whole of the animal from but a part or evidence thereof (e.g., a fossil). If the various systems of every organism function together for survival, then physical evidence from any single system within it would imply the whole. This kind of inferential reasoning captivated scholars of culture increasingly over the course of the nineteenth century. The comparative sciences of culture applied it to realms of culture, most successfully that of language.  A language family is a structurally organic whole. Comparative grammar also held that language families were ontologically organic, that is, that they grew like organisms according to laws. Emulating paleontology, comparative grammar set reconstruction as a goal, notably that of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) by comparing immediate linguistic descendants: Sanskrit, Latin, and Classical Greek.
Baumstark makes the same move in regards to the liturgy.  He saw it as a unity, both as an organism that grew and as a whole containing analogous structures.  He held it was governed by laws, as evident in the regularity of liturgical development.  In this framework, he dared to venture reconstruction. He thought it possible to fill in gaps in the evidence for the liturgy by supplementing the referential reasoning of standard historiography with the inferential reasoning of the organological approach. Notably he thought the comparative method could be used to infer (no longer extant) earlier liturgical forms from (still extant) later ones. With Baumstark, however, one must handle the move from theory to practice with care.  In his historical writings Baumstark was renowned for drawing conclusions that overreached his evidence and his laws point to this extravagance. While Baumstark does articulate laws, one is hard put to find instances where he applies them directly to solve a problem in liturgical history. Their force is as much metaphorical as descriptive.  They express his conviction that the liturgy—as a whole exhibiting regular development in stable structures—is amenable to inferential reasoning. All this notwithstanding, the central contribution of comparative liturgy remains: it assigned a methodological role to the whole of the liturgy.

AD: Taft takes some pains to insist that even if not all of Baumstark's factual conclusions are today accepted, nonetheless that does not impair the validity of his comparative methods and the "laws" derived therefrom. If Baumstark were writing today, what do you think he would write differently?

FW: It is impossible to know how Baumstark would write differently if he were alive today. A “what if” question such as this lies beyond the scope of history.  We can, however, relate Baumstark’s method to the “climate of opinion” found in his day and that in play today.  How did the comparative method and his “laws” look then?  How do contemporary scholars handle similar issues today?

First, the comparison. Baumstark was shaped by the positivist climate of opinion that prevailed around the turn of the twentieth century, which transferred models and understandings of the natural sciences whole hog into the social sciences.  In the study of cultural phenomena this approach claimed the certainty (understood to be) within the epistemological grasp of the physical and life sciences.  Notably these sciences were thought to employ laws with predictive powers equal to those at work in the physical world.  Things lie differently today. No longer do natural and social scientists think that they are studying the “Ding an sich (thing-in-itself).” Rather they construct models to organize what they know and help them explore what they don’t.  Furthermore, both natural and social scientists handle models with circumspection, regarding them as heuristic devices to organize data into coherent patterns. Every model is true only insofar as and so long as it stands the test. Just as the necessity to subject models to testing is a tacit recognition of their conditional status, the same holds true for laws. Rather than being regarded as ironclad predictors, laws are now understood to describe behavior with a high degree of probability.  This probability may be so high as to appear to be without exception, as the Law of Gravity once did … until the work of Albert Einstein demonstrated that it pertains only under certain conditions.

Practitioners of the Mateos School of Oriental Liturgiology, who self-consciously trace their method to Baumstark’s comparative liturgy, subsist in today’s climate of opinion.  Robert F. Taft, SJ, its leading practitioner, speaks of models, hypotheses, and heuristic devices.  For this reason, he rejects Baumstark’s ontological claim that the liturgy is an organism, while affirming the methodological claim that it is structurally organic.  He further observes that these structures exhibit regular development; sometimes this regularity is apparent in—or between—the structures (“the soft points in the liturgy”), sometimes in developmental patterns (variety to uniformity). Taft wrestles with the term “law,” not in the positivist sense found in Baumstark, but rather as observable developmental regularities found repeatedly (although not without exception) in the history of the liturgy. With his understanding of the liturgy as a structural unity, along with his recognition of developmental regularity, he allows for the use of inferential reasoning in the analysis of historical data.   However—once again—he does so only heuristically, to venture hypotheses of what might have been.  To determine whether the hypothesis stands—whether it is the case in fact—can only be done through referential reasoning.

The difference, then, between Baumstark’s day and our own lies in “the climate of opinion,” notably in regard to the use of models and the understanding of “laws.”   Whereas Baumstark claimed the liturgy to be an organism ontologically, scholars of the Matos School of Oriental Liturgiology use it as a model for understanding the liturgy. Whereas for Baumstark laws inexorably led to conclusions he claimed to be sure, members of the Mateos School use them to describe tendencies and likelihoods apparent in the history of the liturgy.

AD: Taft also defends Baumstark's use of the metaphor of "laws" against many modern academics who remain suspicious of such terms. In general do you think that modern historiography has gone too far in its suspicions of "meta" theories and generalizable observations?  

FW: It has become commonplace to observe that the writing of history is now oriented to the particular and away from the general.  Historians focus on narrower and narrower questions; they are loath to write general histories, much less project “meta” theories.  Several factors contribute to this.  The post-modernist tenor of the times is suspicious of generalizations and theory. Beyond that the sheer quantity of historical data now available makes it daunting for an historian to move with confidence from the particular to the general.  Finally, the multiplication of methods allows the same data to be seen in various ways, rendering quaint the surety once gained by a single-minded approach.

Robert F. Taft, SJ.
Paul Bradshaw
According to Baumstark and Taft, however, the character of liturgical history mitigates this orientation toward the particular. For them both the liturgy is an internally coherent whole, similar to the way that a language is marked by analogous structures and generated by grammar.  The difference in the organic models used by Baumstark and Taft notwithstanding, this move to conceptualize the liturgy as a coherent whole allows them both to dare higher levels of generality. The ongoing (cordial) difference between Robert F. Taft and Paul Bradshaw turns in part on their historiographical orientation.  Taft works with the liturgy as an historical unity; Bradshaw works from liturgical data toward a historical synthesis.  Bradshaw reflects the post-modern temper of our times; Taft paints with a broader stroke.

AD: Baumstark's first law of liturgical development, of course, is that liturgies go from diversity to uniformity. But could it be said, do you think, that perhaps the reforms to the Latin liturgy following Vatican II reversed that law--that the Roman Church went from increasing uniformity following Trent to an explosion of diversity, at least in practical terms, following Vatican II and the reformed Missale Romanum of 1970?  

FW: The conciliar reforms of the Second Vatican Council are analogous to those of Trent: a conscious attempt to conserve the Roman tradition.  Like Trent, Vatican II produced liturgical books (each with its Latin editio typica) to be used throughout the Roman Church and interpreted by a central authority.  True, editio typica are now translated into various languages, for use in the liturgy and to be inculturated in various settings, but that does not modify the uniformity of the Roman Rite.  It simply becomes more nearly analogous to its eastern sister.  Although the Byzantine Rite is celebrated in different cultures and languages, it is—as Baumstark himself observed—no less uniform as a rite.

AD: If Baumstark were alive today, what do you think he would make of the attempt, since the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, to have the so-called ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite exist alongside one another? Would he see it as a violation of his understanding of "organic" development, an artificial wrenching of the process of liturgical development first one way and then another? 

FW: The organic development of the liturgy—“quietly and stealthily”—was interrupted in the 16th century, when the conscious exercise of will interrupted (in the case of the Protestants) and curbed (in the case of the Roman Catholics) the organic growth of the liturgy.  In terms of organic development, there is no difference between the liturgies produced by Trent and Vatican II.  Both are conscious attempts (which are, by definition, antithetical to organic growth) to conserve the Roman liturgical tradition, subsequently maintained by a centralized liturgical administrative authority.  Neither stands fully in organic continuity with that which preceded it.

One might see an analogy between the celebration of the Tridentine Missal and the persistence of various older liturgies in a limited orbit: the Mozarabic Rite in Toledo, Spain; the Ambrosian Rite in Milan, Italy, and a few surrounding dioceses; the Liturgy of St. James on the island of Zakynthos, Greece and Jerusalem, Israel.  Each of these liturgies, however, is the direct product of organic development and their celebration, the preservation of an ancient form.  The Tridentine Missal on the other hand is a conscious product and discontinuous with ancient practice.  Only the Mass of the Roman Church prior to Trent, the Mass of the late Middle Ages, could make such a claim.

AD: Taft recently retired to Boston at the age of 80, though he is still actively publishing. In addition to your own work, who today is continuing to draw on and be influenced by Baumstark? Are there up and coming younger liturgists or theologians we should watch out for? 

Hans-Jürgen Feulner
Sr. Vassa
Robert F. Taft represents the Mateos School of Oriental Liturgiology, which consciously traces its method back to Anton Baumstark and Juan Mateos. Gabriele Winkler, who had Taft for her Doktorvater, is a well-known representative of this school. Though now retired from the University of Tübingen, she continues to pursue her scholarly interest in the Armenian liturgy.  A student of Winkler’s, Hans-Jürgen Feulner is Professor for Liturgical Studies and Theology of the Sacraments at the Catholic Faculty of the University of Vienna and the Director of the Institute for Liturgical Studies at the University of Vienna. Having worked comparatively with liturgies of the East, Feulner is now turning those insights to modern liturgical forms, in particular those of the Anglican Communion. His assistant in Vienna, Sister Vassa (Barbara) Larin, also trained by Taft, has undertaken a study of the Byzantine Liturgy of the Word, building on the work of Juan Mateos. In this way the Mateos School of Oriental Liturgiology (and through it the legacy of Anton Baumstark) continues to exercise its influence.

AD: Sum up for us the significance of this book and its lasting relevance for us today. 
FW: Baumstark’s work challenges us to think about the methodology of the liturgy.  Specifically, it moves us to consider 1) whether the liturgy is a coherent entity, and, if so, 2) whether one can ascribe methodological import to that entity. Colloquially we use “the liturgy” as a substantive noun (sometimes written as “the Liturgy” or even “The Liturgy”); we speak of the worship of the church (or certain strains of it) as a whole.  Is this merely a manner of speech?  Or does it refer to something real or essential?  And, if so, does it provide a context for studying liturgy? Baumstark and the Mateos School share this methodological move; others reject it.  Let the reader judge.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Theologia Prima

Next after virtually any one of Alexander Schmemann's books, David Fagerberg's Theologia Prima: What Is Liturgical Theology? (Hillenbrand) remains my favorite book in the area. It is a wonderfully written book, full of great insights from the ancient and modern Church, and from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox sources--chiefly Schmemann himself, to whom a good portion of Fagerberg's book is dedicated. My students consistently and uniformly react very favorably to Fagerberg's work, and rightly so.

First published several years ago now, it was this month released in electronic form by the publisher, who tells us this about the text:
"Liturgical Theology" is often a convenient label for any theology that has loosely to do with worship or Eucharist. In this innovative book, David W. Fagerberg distinguishes liturgical theology from a general theology of worship. He proposes two defining attributes of liturgical theology:
(1) "lex orandi": It is manifested in the Church's historical rites.
(2) "theologia prima": It is theology done by the liturgical community.

By this understanding, liturgical theology can be adequately defined as the faith of the Church in motion, and as such is the basis of the Church's "lex credendi". To see liturgical theology (to witness lex orandi), one must go to the deep structures of the rite. Liturgical asceticism gives us the capacity to participate in the liturgical response.

Theologia Prima: What Is Liturgical Theology? is a thorough revision of Dr. Fagerberg's groundbreaking What Is Liturgical Theology? (The Liturgical Press, 1992). It has been reorganized for easier reference and contains new examples as well as more anecdotal material derived from Dr. Fagerberg's extensive experience as a teacher and theologian.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Electronic Epiclesis

First published in 2008, and now this month released as an e-book, is the important study of John McKenna, The Eucharistic Epiclesis: A Detailed History from the Patristic to the Modern Era (Hillenbrand). The epiclesis, as I noted before, is one of those issues that certain Eastern apologists sometimes make into a major issue even though they have little to no factual basis for doing so.

About this book the publisher tells us:
For centuries the Eucharistic epiclesis, one of the gems of the early Christian anaphoras, has become a point of controversy rather than a bond of unity between various Christian traditions. The Eucharistic Epiclesis: A Detailed History from the Patristic to the Modern Era, seeks new avenues in exploring this question.

A healthy theology must rest on solid historical and liturgical foundations.  The first part of this study, presents the data of the early liturgical texts on the epiclesis as well as a brief history of the prayer's entanglement with the "moment of consecration question." Part II focuses on the interpretations of modern liturgists and theologians of the Eucharistic epiclesis. Finally in a synthesis, John McKenna suggests new approaches to this discussion in Eucharistic theology and draws out the implications from this prayer which is so central to the ancient anaphoras.
John H. McKenna's classic study examines the interpretations of the Eucharistic epiclesis by modern theological writers.  This thorough text will deepen the appreciation, understanding beauty of the theology of the epiclesis. 
And the greatest liturgical historian of our time, Robert Taft, has this to say about McKenna's work:
Some issues in the history of theology never go away. John McKenna's 1965 book Eucharist and Holy Spirit, of which the present update is more precisely entitled The Eucharistic Epiclesis, tackles one such intractable problem. Along with Edward Schillebeeckx's 1963 Christ, the Sacrament of the Encounter with God, McKenna's study remains one of the most important liturgical publications in English to emerge from that heady, immediate post-Vatican II fallout that changed Catholic sacramental theology for the better and-dare we still hope?-forever. McKenna's deceptively simple discourse and clear language, like that of Schillebeeckx, results from the clarity, not the simplicity, of his thinking on a still disputed and more often than not misunderstood topic in eucharistic and ecumenical theology: in the eucharist who offers what, to whom, when, and how? Every professor of liturgical and ecumenical theology should  have this book in his or her library.
Robert F. Taft, S.J
Professor Emeritus of Oriental Liturgy
Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome

Monday, September 24, 2012

Extra, Extra! World Scoop on New Orthodox Books!

I have returned from the annual meeting of the Orthodox Theological Society of America (OTSA). It was a chance to meet some thoroughly lovely people and listen to their edifying and enjoyable papers, re-connect with some friends, and hit up Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, New York's real little Italy for all the gustatory delights unavailable in the Mid-West.

Speaking of delights, you will doubtless be pleased to read here for the first time of books that OTSA members are working on, or shortly to publish. Here is the scoop:

Paul Gavrilyuk, author of such well-received studies as The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought (Oxford Early Christian Studies), and co-editor of the recent collection I discussed here, has a forthcoming book also from Oxford, Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance. Watch for more details as they are forthcoming.

The lovely Edith Humphrey, whom I interviewed here, has a forthcoming book out from Baker Academic in the spring of 2013: Scripture and Tradition: What the Bible Really Says. About this book the publisher says:

In some of the church's history, Scripture has been pitted against tradition and vice versa. Prominent New Testament scholar Edith Humphrey, who understands the issue from both Protestant and Catholic/Orthodox perspectives, revisits this perennial point of tension. She demonstrates that the Bible itself reveals the importance of tradition, exploring how the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles show Jesus and the apostles claiming the authority of tradition as God's Word, both written and spoken. Arguing that Scripture and tradition are not in opposition but are necessarily and inextricably intertwined, Humphrey defends tradition as God's gift to the church. She also works to dismantle rigid views of sola scriptura while holding a high view of Scripture's authority.
Fordham's Aristotle Papanikolaou, author of Being With God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion, and co-editor of such important works as Orthodox Readings of Augustine and Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars, has a new book just released:  The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), 232pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Theosis, or the principle of divine-human communion, sparks the theological imagination of Orthodox Christians and has been historically important to questions of political theology. In The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy, Aristotle Papanikolaou argues that a political theology grounded in the principle of divine-human communion must be one that unequivocally endorses a political community that is democratic in a way that structures itself around the modern liberal principles of freedom of religion, the protection of human rights, and church-state separation.
Papanikolaou hopes to forge a non-radical Orthodox political theology that extends beyond a reflexive opposition to the West and a nostalgic return to a Byzantine-like unified political-religious culture. His exploration is prompted by two trends: the fall of communism in traditionally Orthodox countries has revealed an unpreparedness on the part of Orthodox Christianity to address the question of political theology in a way that is consistent with its core axiom of theosis; and recent Christian political theology, some of it evoking the notion of “deification,” has been critical of liberal democracy, implying a mutual incompatibility between a Christian worldview and that of modern liberal democracy.
The first comprehensive treatment from an Orthodox theological perspective of the issue of the compatibility between Orthodoxy and liberal democracy, Papanikolaou’s is an affirmation that Orthodox support for liberal forms of democracy is justified within the framework of Orthodox understandings of God and the human person. His overtly theological approach shows that the basic principles of liberal democracy are not tied exclusively to the language and categories of Enlightenment philosophy and, so, are not inherently secular.
Nicholas Denysenko, whose book on the blessing of waters on Theophany was just released, is next turning his attention to Chrismation in a work he is preparing for Liturgical Press. More details as they are forthcoming--and also an interview with him about the Theophany book in the coming weeks.

John Behr, author and translator of many studies in the Fathers (especially Irenaeus), including most recently, The Case Against Diodore and Theodore (Oxford Early Christian Texts), has two works forthcoming: another book on Irenaeus with Oxford, and a book with St. Vladimir's Seminary Press on theological anthropology. More details as they are known.

Pantelis Kalaitzidis, the director of the prestigious Volos Academy for Theological Studies in Greece, has just released a book Orthodoxy and Political Theology.

About this book the publisher tells us:
A trenchant critique, a hopeful vision - Features: * The first sustained treatment of political theology in Orthodox settings * A critique of traditional and contemporary practices of the churches - and of theologians * A vision for engaged Christians Why have the Orthodox churches not developed a full-throated political theological voice? While known for their robust ecclesiology and rich doctrinal and liturgical identity, the Orthodox churches have not strongly advanced political theology. Yet, for our time of momentous change and tumult, maintains Pantelis Kalaitzidis, such a vision is crucial. For the first time, here is a careful analytical assessment, well informed by historical insights, of the theological stance and public witness of the Orthodox churches in the political arena. Key to developing a distinctive political theology and public witness, Kalaitzidis maintains, is eucharistic community and renewed eschatology - that is, a deep faith in and expectation of God's active re-creation of individual, social, and even cosmic possibilities. A faith grounded in the risen Lord, he says, can offer a powerful religious vision, distinctively Orthodox in its deepest roots, not reducible to a nostalgic idealization of a theocratic past nor to a simple modern programme of social betterment.
I will have more details about some of these as they are forthcoming, as well as reviews in due course and, where possible, interviews with their authors. The bottom line is that Orthodox thought in the anglophone world is really flourishing, and new publications are appearing at a healthy clip. These are all greatly cheering events greatly to be encouraged. 

Controversial Controversies

Set for October release from Fortress Press are reprinted editions (with new covers, not shown here) of two slender volumes originally published more than 30 years ago which introduced generations of students to some of the most important debates of early Christian history: William G. Rusch, ed. and trans., Trinitarian Controversy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) and its companion volume (one of several in the original series), Richard A. Norris, ed. and trans., The Christological Controversy

About the latter volume, the publisher tells us:
This book is a collection of texts designed to illustrate the development of Christian thought about the person of Christ in the patristic era. The earliest text translated comes from the latter half of the second century, when the ideas and problems which were to dominate Christological thought in this period were first crystallized. The latest is the well-known "Definition of the Faith" of the Council of Chalcedon, which generally has been accepted as defining the limits of Christological orthodoxy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Global Religiosity

"Identity" is all the rage today in much of the academy. A new book just out takes an expansive look at identity in a global context: Patrick James, ed., Religion, Identity, and Global Governance: Ideas, Evidence, and Practice (University of Toronto Press, 2011), 336pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In the wake of 9/11, and with ongoing wars and tensions in the Middle East, questioning contemporary connections between and among religion, identity, and global governance is an exercise that is both important and timely. This volume, edited by Patrick James, addresses essential themes in international relations today, asking how we can establish when religious identity is a relevant factor in explaining or understanding politics, when and how religion can be applied to advance positive, peace-oriented agendas in global governance, and how governments can reconsider their foreign and domestic policies in light of religious resurgence around the world.
Exploring topics such as Pope John Paul II's Just War, the role of religious NGOs in relation to states, and religious extremism among Muslims in India, the contributors highlight the central role that religion can play in foreign policy. Taken together, these essays contend that global governance cannot and will not improve unless it can find a way to coexist with the powerful force of religion.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Philokalia

Released just a few weeks ago, a new collection treats one of the oldest and most important texts in Orthodox spirituality: Brock Bingaman and Bradley Nassif, eds., The Philokalia: A Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality (Oxford UP, 2012), 384pp.

About this book the publisher tells us that it is the first volume of scholarly essays to treat the Philokalia. Further:
The Philokalia (literally "love of the beautiful") is, after the Bible, the most influential source of spiritual tradition within the Orthodox Church. First published in Greek in 1782 by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Macarios of Corinth, the Philokalia includes works by thirty-six influential Orthodox authors such as Maximus the Confessor, Peter of Madascus, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas. Surprisingly, this important collection of theological and spiritual writings has received little scholarly attention. With the growing interest in Orthodox theology, the need for a substantive resource for Philokalic studies has become increasingly evident. The purpose of the present volume is to remedy that lack by providing an ecumenical collection of scholarly essays on the Philokalia that will introduce readers to its background, motifs, authors, and relevance for contemporary life and thought.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Late Antiquity

Oxford University Press continues to publish important and useful books in their "Handbook" series. One of the most recent comes under the editorship of Scott F. Johnson, whom I interviewed here. Johnson has put together The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity (Oxford UP, 2012, 1296pp.)

About this book the publisher tells us:
The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity offers an innovative overview of a period (c. 300-700 CE) that has become increasingly central to scholarly debates over the history of western and Middle Eastern civilizations. This volume covers such pivotal events as the fall of Rome, the rise of Christianity, the origins of Islam, and the early formation of Byzantium and the European Middle Ages. These events are set in the context of widespread literary, artistic, cultural, and religious change during the period. The geographical scope of this handbook is unparalleled among comparable surveys of Late Antiquity; Arabia, Egypt, Central Asia, and the Balkans all receive dedicated treatments, while the scope extends to the western kingdoms, Ireland, and Scandinavia in the West. Furthemore, from economic theory and slavery to Greek and Latin poetry, Syriac and Coptic literature, sites of religious devotion, and many others, this handbook covers a wide range of topics that will appeal to scholars from a diverse array of disciplines. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity engages the perennially valuable questions about the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval, while providing a much-needed touchstone for the study of Late Antiquity itself.
As an editor myself, I can tell you that corralling even a small number of authors in a given issue of a couple hundred pages is a challenge, but to have done it in a tome of this size is in itself an impressive achievement made all the more remarkable by the caliber of the scholars who contributed, including Stephen Shoemaker, whom I interviewed here, and Phillip Wood, whose book was noted here

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Councils of the Church

There are certain scholars who justly acquire the reputation of being figures whom one must read even if they are offering a recitation of the phone-book set to Galician chant or Louisiana jazz or whatever. One of those is Paul Valliere, author of such widely and highly received studies as Modern Russian Theology: Bukharev, Soloviev, Bulgakov: Orthodox Theology in a New Key (Eerdmans, 2001), 453pp. He is the author of a recently released study Conciliarism: A History of Decision-Making in the Church (Cambridge UP, 2012, 302pp.), about which the publisher informs us:
Conciliarism is one of the oldest and most essential means of decision-making in the history of the Christian Church. Indeed, as a leading Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann states, 'Before we understand the place and the function of the council in the Church, we must, therefore, see the Church herself as a council.' Paul Valliere tells the story of councils and conciliar decision-making in the Christian Church from earliest times to the present. Drawing extensively upon the scholarship on conciliarism which has appeared in the last half-century, Valliere brings a broad ecumenical perspective to the study and shows how the conciliar tradition of the Christian past can serve as a resource for resolving conflicts in the Church today. The book presents a conciliarism which involves historical legacy, but which leads us forward, not backward, and which keeps the Church's collective eyes on the prize - the eschatological kingdom of God.
I've just recently finished reading this excellent book, and will have more to say about it soon. But in the meantime if you are a Christian of any tradition--Protestant (most especially Anglican), Catholic, or Orthodox--you will want to read this book to deepen your understanding of Christian history in general, and in particular the nature and history of councils in the Church. Those who follow the current conflicts in the Anglican Communion will also find this a cogently written book that attends to current debates while it is also immersed in the relevant conciliar history which Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all share. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Church in the Middle East

It's not a book exactly, but at nearly 90 pages it's certainly longer than an e-mail, letter, or blog post: the recent document on the Church in the Middle East, issued after a synod in Rome of Catholic leaders on that topic: Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. Written by the current bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, and released on the occasion of his recent visit to Lebannon, it addresses issues of concern to all Christians, but Eastern Christians above all for we are on the front-lines of the encounter with Islam.

Friday, September 14, 2012

OTSA 2012

If things are a bit quiet around here next week it's because I'm taking an overnight train to New York to present a paper at the Orthodox Theological Society of America's annual conference, this year being held at St. Vladimir's Seminary. I'm delighted to be going, not least for the other fascinating speakers who will be presenting. The list of talks can be had here.

The current president of the OTSA is the priest-scholar Radu Bordeianu, whom I interviewed here, and whose splendid book I reviewed at length here. I was on a panel with him in Los Angeles in March, and can readily affirm that he's not only a fine scholar but an extremely funny and very gracious and warm human being.

My own paper will focus on the influence of Joseph de Maistre on Orthodox and Catholic ecclesiology from the nineteenth century onward. I interviewed two Maistre scholars here.

Among the scholars speaking, many have been featured on here. Edith Humphrey, whom I interviewed here, will be speaking in part about a recent book by John McGuckin, whom I interviewed here.

The historian and priest Oliver Herbel, whom I interviewed here, is speaking.

Nicholas Denysenko, whose new book has just come out as I mentioned this week, will be speaking as well.

Numerous other speakers will be presenting as you can see from the first link above. And the dean of the seminary, the priest-scholar John Behr, whose recent book I noted here, will be offering a public lecture "Reading the Fathers Today."

All in all it should be rewarding not only for the papers, but also the fellowship with some fine people.

Quo Vadis Syria?

Set for release next week is a very timely book that treats a country much in the news, and of much concern to Eastern Christians worried about their confreres there in what had once been a relatively peaceful place with relatively amicable (though not problem-free) Orthodox-Muslim relations: Davis Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (Yale University Press, 2012), 288pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came to power upon his father's death in 2000, many in- and outside Syria held high hopes that the popular young doctor would bring long-awaited reform, that he would be a new kind of Middle East leader capable of guiding his country toward genuine democracy. David Lesch was one of those who saw this promise in Assad. A widely respected Middle East scholar and consultant, Lesch came to know the president better than anyone in the West, in part through a remarkable series of meetings with Assad between 2004 and 2009. Yet for Lesch, like millions of others, Assad was destined to disappoint. In this timely book, the author explores Assad's failed leadership, his transformation from bearer of hope to reactionary tyrant, and his regime's violent response to the uprising of his people in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Lesch charts Assad's turn toward repression and the inexorable steps toward the violence of 2011 and 2012. The book recounts the causes of the Syrian uprising, the regime's tactics to remain in power, the responses of other nations to the bloodshed, and the determined efforts of regime opponents. In a thoughtful conclusion, the author suggests scenarios that could unfold in Syria's uncertain future.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ethiopian Christianity

Ashgate this week put into my hands the second volume in their exciting and welcome series "The Worlds of Eastern Christianity 300-1500." I have earlier drawn attention to the first volume in the series here, and to the series as a whole here.

Now the next volume is out: Alessandro Bausi, ed., Languages and Cultures of Eastern Christianity: Ethiopian (Ashgate, 2012, 431pp.)

 About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume brings together a set of contributions, many appearing in English for the first time, together with a new introduction, covering the history of the Ethiopian Christian civilization in its formative period (300-1500 AD). Rooted in the late antique kingdom of Aksum (present day Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea), and lying between Byzantium, Africa and the Near East, this civilization is presented in a series of case studies. At a time when philological and linguistic investigations are being challenged by new approaches in Ethiopian studies, this volume emphasizes the necessity of basic research, while avoiding the reduction of cultural questions to matters of fact and detail.
Too many people may assume that "Eastern" Christianity means only the Middle East, or Eastern (especially Slavic) Europe, but the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a huge church, numbering over 30 million members by some counts, making it the largest Orthodox church on the African continent. It has a long and very venerable tradition, and their liturgical tradition (as this picture would suggest) in particular is incredibly rich, complex, and fascinating. This is not an inexpensive book but no serious scholarly library, whether personal or institutional, will want to be without this volume and the entire series. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Theophany's Water Blessing

Ashgate e-mails me today with the happy news that they are sending me a review copy of Nicholas Denysenko, The Blessing of Waters and Epiphany: The Eastern Liturgical Tradition (Ashgate, 2012, 198pp.). The book was just released at the end of August. About this book the publisher tells us:

This book examines the historical development of the blessing of waters and its theology in the East, with an emphasis on the Byzantine tradition. Exploring how Eastern Christians have sought these waters as a source of healing, purification, and communion with God, Denysenko unpacks their euchology and ritual context. The history and theology of the blessing of waters on Epiphany is informative for contemporary theologians, historians, pastors and students. Offering important insights into how Christians renew Baptism in receiving the blessed waters, this book also proposes new perspectives for theologizing Christian stewardship of ecology in the modern era based on a patristic liturgical synthesis. Denysenko presents an alternative framework for understanding the activity of the Trinity, enabling readers to encounter a vision of how participants encounter God in and after ritual.
I hope in the coming weeks to have more to say about the book and to feature an interview with the author whose scholarship Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies has been pleased to publish in the past. The jurors to whom we sent Denysenko's last article were unanimous in recommending publication and in praising his work as superlative scholarship. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Leningrad Codex and the Septuagint

Russian biblical scholars will be interested in a recent scholarly monograph authored by Bruce Harvey: YHWH Elohim: A Survey of Occurrences in the Leningrad Codex and their Corresponding Septuagintal Renderings (T&T Clark, 2011). 272pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

This study provides a survey of all occurrences of YHWH that are followed by an Elohim appositive in the Leningrad Codex and their corresponding Septuagintal renderings. Its primary purpose is to demonstrate how each occurrence of YHWH Elohim, where Elohim is undetermined, could have resulted from changes made to an earlier text.
It begins with a discussion of methodological issues. This is followed by a description of the Hebrew context of the 887 occurrences of YHWH Elohim in the Leningrad Codex. In addition to breakdowns according to book, syntactic function and speaker, a summary of corresponding variants in synoptic parallels, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Dead Sea Scrolls and mediaeval manuscripts is also provided. This is followed by a summary of corresponding Septuagintal renderings.

These context descriptions provide the foundation for an analysis of the 38 occurrences of YHWH Elohim where Elohim is undetermined. Since four of these occurrences are followed by Sabaoth, a survey of all compound designations containing Sabaoth as well as an analysis of the 18 occurrences of YHWH Elohe Sabaoth are also provided

Monday, September 10, 2012

History and Heresy

Those who subscribe to the fanciful notion that Christians are or are supposed to be "nice" have a hard time reconciling themselves to doctrinal conflicts in the Church, which have continued from apostolic times down to the present. Making things more complicated is the not uncommon hermeneutical problem of disentangling historical and contingent developments from eternal truths, and not mistaking the latter for the former and so having a basis to condemn someone. A new book helps to look at both history and heresy: Joseph F. Kelly, History and Heresy:How Historical Circumstances Can Create Doctrinal Conflict (Liturgical Press, 2012), 240. 

About this book the publisher tells us: 
Heresies, like doctrinal formulations, are products of history. They must be understood historically as well as theologically. When doctrinal issues become intertwined with historical ones, advocates of a new understanding have often run afoul of religious authorities. In History and Heresy, Joseph F. Kelly first describes how the concept of orthodoxy developed. Then he examines five heresies - Montanism, Monophysitism, Catharism, Catholic Modernism, and Protestant Modernism and Fundamentalism - in their historical contexts and the significant role that historical forces played in their designation as heretical. Finally, he suggests ways that religious authorities today can evaluate historical factors when making judgments about whether a particular idea is truly a heresy. Real heresy, Kelly contends, represents a clear and present danger to Christian teaching and demands a response from the church. But determining heresy is an exercise that must be undertaken with great wisdom and study.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eastern Christian Cultural Crossroads

In their wholly welcome series Eastern Christian Studies, the Belgian publisher Peeters continues to publish a number of interesting volumes. One of the most recent is Florence Jullien, ed., Eastern Christianity: A Crossroads of Cultures (Peeters, 2012), 380pp.

The table of contents is here as a PDF. Several of the articles treat Syriac realities and those derived from them, particularly in Ethiopia.

The publisher further informs us about this book thus:
Eastern Christianity is pluralistic. How might exchanges among Christians in geographic areas where different expressions of Christianity developed in the ancient Near and Middle East have been determining factors in the evolution of specific Churches? Encounters among Christians during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages resulted in fertile adaptations and enrichments leading, through mutations and cross-influences, to the emergence of new identities. Such interculturality provides a response to the challenges of the dominating Byzantine, Persian, and Arabic cultures, as expressed through intellectual currents, artistic influences, and constructions of traditions.
The selected articles presented here, several updated by their authors, have marked the field of Eastern Christian studies in recent decades. The comparative approach enables the reader to better grasp the exceptional impact of the cultural contacts among Christians in the East. This volume aims to be a useful tool by offering a synthesis of the research investigations and methodological approaches on Eastern Christianity as a crossroads of cultures.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Religious Roots of European Identity

Originally published in 2007, and re-issued again last spring is a collection of essays edited by Melanie Wright and Lucia Faltin, The Religious Roots of Contemporary European Identity (Continuum), 248pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume provides a coherent critical examination of current issues related to the religious roots of contemporary, i.e. post-1990 European identity, by analyzing the components of contemporary European identity, the presence of religion in the development of national identities, manifestation of religious roots in secular society, and the role of religion in further European integration and social inclusion.  The book involves a multi and interdisciplinary approach to the theme, by bringing together scholars in history, religious studies, sociology, cultural studies, European studies, and international relations. This rigorously edited volume provides a coherent analysis of the religious roots of Europe’s identity today, with particular attention to the secular context of religious communities. Europe is often perceived as secular by most of its citizens, regardless of their creed. Bearing this in mind, the authors build upon their expertise in different fields of arts and humanities to identify some of the key elements of European religious heritage and its manifestation in Europe’s identity, be it secular or otherwise perceived. The authors also indicate the role these elements play in further European integration. With this focused approach, the publication identifies a number of similarities across faiths and, more holistically, vis-à-vis Europe. This serves the readers to perceive their own identity in a wider context of shared values, reaching beyond a particular faith or non-religious framework.

There are two chapters in particular are of interest to Eastern Christians:

"Historical Memory: Blessing or Burden? Russian Orthodox Christians in the Modern World" by Irina Levinskaya; and

"The Russian Orthodox Church and the European Union: Constructing a Russian Orthodox identity in Europe" by 
Grant S. White

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lettered Christians

Those interested in the epistolary origins of early Christianity will welcome this recent publication: Lincoln H. Blumell, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (Brill, 2012), xxvi+428pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
With the discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri just over a century ago a number of important texts directly relating to ancient Christianity have come to light. While certain literary texts have received considerable attention in scholarship by comparison the documentary evidence relating to Christianity has received far less attention and remains rather obscure. To help redress this imbalance, and to lend some context to the Christian literary materials, this book examines the extant Christian epistolary remains from Oxyrhynchus between the third and seventh centuries CE. Drawing upon this unique corpus of evidence, which until this point has never been collectively nor systematically treated, this book breaks new ground as it employs the letters to consider various questions relating to Christianity in the Oxyrhynchite. Not only does this lucid study fill a void in scholarship, it also gives a number of insights that have larger implications on Christianity in late antiquity.
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