"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).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Reality of the Church Today

Every semester I tell my students that they must remember that the Church, like Christ, has two natures: divine and human. It is sometimes easy for some people to get light-headed in the stuffy air of Byzantium (to borrow a phrase from Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory) and to imagine the Church as an exalted, transcendental body--the Body of Christ--free from spot or wrinkle, as indeed she is. But that overlooks the fact that the Body is also full of human bodies--human beings in all our sinfulness. Treatments in ecclesiology that hold both of these natures together are often harder to come by than one would imagine. Along comes a new book by a scholar who certainly knows the human side of the Church. I met the author, Cyril Hovorun, briefly in Chicago at the AAR conference in 2012. He is a highly respected Orthodox scholar and theologian from Ukraine whose works on the ecclesial situation there, and on the theological implications of the Russian war against Ukraine, make for must-reads.

I am eagerly awaiting my copy of his newest book, which I shall read with great interest. It has just been released: Cyril Hovorun, Meta-Ecclesiology: Chronicles on Church Awareness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 260pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Aphrahat, the Syrian poet who lived in the fourth century, described the church of Christ as a colored bird. What does this bird see when, flying above the surface of the ever–changing sea, it looks at its own reflection? This book considers how the church has permanently reimagined itself over the course of its historical journey. Far from being a constant, the self-awareness of the church has varied in relation to theological and philosophical trends together with social and political circumstances. Any theory of the church based on a single snapshot of its self-perception is incapable of catching the invariable 'self' of the church and describing it without reduction. By examining the church's self-perception at different periods, from the first century through to the present day, this book offers a framework through which the church can be better comprehended in our time. On the basis of his historical survey of the evolution of the church's self-perception, Cyril Hovorun distinguishes between changeable and unchangeable components of the church. He also identifies a permanent system of coordinates that help us to trace and evaluate the trajectories of the church's self-awareness.
I hope in the coming weeks to be able to arrange an interview with the author. Stay tuned! 

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