"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).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Galician Realities

Many if not most Ukrainian Catholics who came to North America, and many who came out of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to found the OCA and ACROD, were immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. Galicia has increasingly come in for scholarly study lately. E.g., in December 2005, Christopher Hann and Paul Robert Magocsi edited a wonderful book, Galicia: A Multicultured Land. This was reviewed in Logos in 2007.

Now today I have received a new book by Larry Wolff, a professor of history at New York University: The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (Stanford U Press, 2010, xi+486pp.

Serving in the Church Today

The life of those in parish ministry today is not an easy lot. I have many friends who are priests, and have seen their struggles up close. I also worked for two years in a small parish doing all kinds of administrative work as a volunteer. I am thus regularly put in mind of an anecdote told of Wilfred Knox, less famous Anglican brother to the more famous Roman Catholic convert Ronald: Wilfred once proposed writing a two-volume series on Christian ethics. The first volume would be "Respect for the Clergy." The second would be simply called "Other Virtues."

William Mills, the prolific Orthodox pastoral theologian and himself a parish priest, has recently produced a very useful anthology which should be required reading for all students in Orthodox and Eastern Catholic seminaries:

Called to Serve: Readings on Ministry from the Orthodox Church (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2010), xiv+231pp.

This volume has excerpts from the writings of many of the "greats" of 20th-century Orthodoxy: Afanasiev, Schmemann, Bulgakov, Ware, Florovsky, Behr-Sigel, and others.

Long Live Robert F. Taft

The great--greatest--Byzantine liturgical historian Robert F. Taft is one of those people whom I could read and listen to non-stop. The erudition pours forth from him so effortlessly and elegantly that he makes it seem easy when in fact he is an enormously hard-working scholar's scholar whose CV has over 1000 items on it. I also love his unvarnished bluntness. He has an essay in this new collection, devoted to another liturgical scholar, Bryan Spinks of Yale:

Melanie Ross and Simon Jones, eds., The Serious Business of Worship: Essays in Honor of Bryan D. Spinks (London and New York: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2010), 256pp. 

This book has not only Taft's essay, but in fact  the entire first section, consisting of five chapters, is devoted to Eastern traditions, with essays on Chrysostom, Armenian rites, and East-Syrian anaphoras, inter alia. It will be reviewed by Fr. Mark Morozowich (a student of Taft's) in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2011.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jonathan-Riley Smith on the Crusades

The great Cambridge historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, the dean of Crusades scholars, has said that he despairs of the state of debate about the Crusades today, especially in the media, because the Crusades are invariably portrayed as gratuitous Christian violence against poor besotted Muslims. Almost no Muslim, until the 19th century, regarded the Crusades--if he knew of them at all, which most did not--as anything other than a footnote in Muslim-Christian relations. And no Christian of the time regarded the Crusades with the sanctimonious disdain that many of the bien-pensants do today. Today's that's all changed, of course: discussion about the Crusades is regularly abused for political reasons--almost always to bash Christianity and to give an apologia for Islamic violence against the West--and the historiography is subjected to all kinds of tendentious abuse. Additionally, many Christians disdain the Crusaders for not having been the pacifists today's Christians assume one must always be.

Smith's most recent attempt to cut through the nonsense is The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America) (Columbia U. Press, 2008), 136pp. It will be reviewed by a medieval historian in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2011. 

This is a short work, based on a lecture he gave at Columbia. As an introductory text to the Crusades, it is a very fine and accessible book. For those with more advanced background, they will not find a lot here, but as I say this is a good place to begin. There are several other recent works on the Crusades, and I will discuss these once I've had a chance to read them.

Biblical Interpretation in the Russian Church

From a German publisher comes a new book devoted to an Orthodox approach to hermeneutical and exegetical questions:

Alexander Negrov, Biblical Interpretation in the Russian Orthodox Church (Mohr Siebeck, 2008), xv+348pp. 

Danylo Kuc will review this for Logos next year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yalta and the Post-War Treatment of Eastern Christians

In another life I think I would have been a military historian. As it is, the two world wars of the past century continue to raise all sorts of fascinating questions. E.g., did the Allies--Britain in particular--"fail" in WWII not merely in the sense that Britain lost her empire after the war, and emerged broke and shabby, but in the sense that the express aim in 1939 was the liberation of Poland. In 1945 Poland merely moved from being Nazi-occupied to being Communist-run as a result of the "deals" made at Yalta between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, the latter often being portrayed as the mendacious and ruthless statesman who played the other two off against each other, taking advantage of the fact that Roosevelt was a very ill man. One of the many results of Yalta, according to recent research of Serhii Plokhy, was the freedom Stalin had even during the Yalta negotiations to move in to destroy the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. (For more detailed study, see here and here.)

Serhii Plokhy's historical research previously has done much to shed light on religion in Ukraine and Russia in books that Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies has reviewed over the years. His latest book is Yalta: The Price of Peace (Viking, 2010), 480pp.

The publisher tells us that based on unprecedented archival research, Plokhy unearths a much more complicated picture, and shows that Roosevelt was not duped the way it was often believed. The publisher further says that if you enjoyed Margaret Macmillan's Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World (and I did--immensely) you will enjoy this.

The Worlds of Eastern Christianity 300-1500

I am very delighted to learn from Ashgate today of a new series they are starting, "The Worlds of Eastern Christianity 300-1500." Nothing has been published in this series yet, but three works are lined up for release late next year:

Doctrine and Debate in the East Christian World, 300-1500

Languages and Cultures of Eastern Christianity: Georgian

Languages and Cultures of Eastern Christianity: Ethiopian

Each of these volumes, and others as they appear, will be discussed here and reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

Communist Iconoclasm

The prolific Fr. Michael Plekon of Baruch College in the CUNY has a review coming out in Logos of a new book about the struggle to save Russian icons from communist destruction:

Irina Yazykova, Hidden and Triumphant: the Underground Struggle to save Russian Iconography, trans. Paul Grenier (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2010), xi+194pp. 

Coptic-Muslim Relations

Stanford University Press has a new book out that will be expertly reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in the next year or so:

Rachel M. Scott, The Challenge of Political Islam: Non-Muslims and the Egyptian State (SUP, 2010), 296pp.

Coptic-Muslim relations are far from straightforward, and trying to get an accurate, current, and unvarnished account of what is going on is not easy. There have been studies written over the years, but many of them are now dated, and the situation on the ground in Egypt is so volatile, that it is hazardous to rely too heavily on material even from a few years ago. Compounding the problem is that Copts in Egypt often have a different perspective on the same events than Copts do outside Egypt. It is easy for non-residents to denounce what look to be clear violations of Coptic rights in Egypt, but sometimes, I'm told, such denunciations, however well meaning, create more problems or worsen existing ones as resident Copts must bear the brunt of the backlash. I look forward to seeing if Scott is up to the task of sorting through these many issues in all their complexity.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Married Priesthood

William Sametz, My Father the Priest (Toronto: Hypertext, 2008), x+262pp.

It is a commonplace that Eastern Christians have married priests. If people know nothing else about the Christian East--and most do not--they usually have filed this fact away from some source or other.

This book, which came to me via a curious route involving a Canadian cabinet minister, tells the story of one such married priest, Fr. Peter Sametz (1893-1985), who was born in Galicia and immigrated to Western Canada in 1910. He became one of the first priests of the newly founded Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and spent the rest of his life in her service in various parishes across the country. This is a charming book with many fascinating pictures and plates that tells a common story about immigration, struggles on the prairies, and then the flourishing of those new communities.

It is also, alas, a story about nationalism, and how it strangled, and continues to strangle, Eastern Christianity. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was born in Canada in part because of nationalist issues in the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, much of whose story is told in a recent book by Paul Laverdure, Redemption and Ritual: The Eastern-Rite Redemptorists of North America, 1906-2006 (which I reviewed in 2008 in the Canadian Catholic Historical Association Bulletin, and which Peter Galadza reviewed in the Catholic Historical Review. Part of his review is available here. We both reached the same verdict: Laverdure's is a splendid book.) These are issues across Eastern Christian traditions today. I've had many conversations with Orthodox priests who report the same problems among Russians, Greeks, Serbians, Bulgarians, Macedonians, and others. Nationalism has helped preserve the faith in some places like Armenia and Galicia, but it has also helped to kill it in North America in many places, and that is a great sadness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ethno-Phyletism and Nationalism

Nationalism and ethno-phyletism are, of course, besetting sins among Eastern Christians of all traditions. (For a very useful recent theological analysis, see Peter Galadza's article, "The Structure of the Eastern Churches: Bonded with Human Blood or Baptismal Water" in Pro Ecclesia 17 [2008]: 373-86.) But for all Christians the question is raised as to how we are to regard our earthly loyalties in view of the fact that, as St. Paul says, we have here no lasting city. Can a Christian be patriotic at all? Is patriotism different from nationalism?

The great Catholic moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre began some time ago to explore these questions not in theological terms but in philosophical ones in his "Is Patriotism a Virtue?" in: R. Beiner, ed., Theorizing Citizenship (State University of New York Press, 1995), pp. 209-228; and in his really crucial article "Poetry as Political Philosophy: Notes on Burke and Yeats" in Verene Bell and Laurence Lerner, eds., On Modern Poetry: Essays Presented to Donald Davie (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt U Press, 1088) where we read this very acid comment:

The modern nation-state, in whatever guise, is a dangerous and unmanageable institution, presenting itself on the one hand as a bureaucratic supplier of goods and services, which is always about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money, and on the other as a repository of sacred values, which from time to time invites one to lay down one’s life on its behalf… [I]it is like being asked to die for the telephone company.
Now we have a number of new books out that are attempting to ask and answer some of these questions theologically:

Dorian Llywelyn, Toward a Catholic Theology of Nationality (Lexington, 2010), 342pp.

Next year in Logos, we will feature reviews of Llywelyn and the Barker volume below by Andrew Bennett, an Eastern Catholic scholar whose doctoral dissertation several years ago examined different nationalist movements, of two new publications treating various aspects of nationalism.

Philip W. Barker, Religious Nationalism in Modern Europe: If God Be For Us (Routledge, 2008), 210pp. 

The Barker volume looks at nationalism primarily in Western Europe, but does have a chapter on nationalism in Orthodox Greece that deserves attention.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eastern Christian Genocides

Eastern Christians have known their share of genocides. In fact, Armenians in 1915, and Ukrainians in the Holodomr or Great Terror Famine of 1932-1933, were among the first to experience this uniquely appalling modern phenomenon, years before the Holocaust, Rwanda, and other horrors.  (The definitive study on the Ukrainian slaughter remains that of Robert Conquest: The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine. But see also, more widely, Conquest's The Great Terror, originally published in 1968 by Oxford University Press, and reissued not long ago in an updated 40th anniversary edition, for which Conquest had a very colourful suggestion of a new title. ) The Armenian Genocide has been much discussed lately, but there were other Ottoman-generated mass killings in Asia Minor in the same time-frame. Within the last decade, more and more scholarly attention has turned to the whole phenomenon of genocide understood not merely in difficult contexts, but via different scholarly methods.

Now we have a new book that has just been published that looks at the killing of not only Armenian Christians but also Aegean Greeks, Assyrians, and others:

Dominik J. Schaller and Jurgen Zimmerer, eds., Late Ottoman Genocides: the Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Young Turkish Population and Extermination Policies (London: Routledge, 2010), 116pp.

This will be reviewed in Logos next year by Barry Jackish, chair of the history department and a scholar of genocide at the University of Saint Francis.

The Christians of the Middle East

In the last 12-18 months alone, at least four major books have appeared on the fate of Christians in the Middle East, and an earlier volume, freshly updated, is set to be released later this year. All five will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in the next year or so by competent scholars in the field, and I will have more to say about each later. The first to be reviewed is

R.B. Ter Haar Romeny, ed., Religious Origins of Nations? The Christian Communities of the Middle East (Brill, 2009), 366pp.

Most of the articles actually focus on Syrian/Syriac realities, and so I asked the great Syriac scholar of Oxford, Sebastian Brock to review this for Logos, and his review will appear in 2011.

Receptive Ecumenism

Of the thirty-two articles in this volume,

Paul D. Murray, ed., Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning (Oxford UP, 2008 [hb], 2010 [paper]), 570pp.
five are of particular interest to Eastern Christians. The first is by Paul McPartlan (“Catholic Learning and Orthodoxy – the Promise and Challenge of Eucharistic Ecclesiology”), which sums up the advances in eucharistic ecclesiology in both Catholic and Orthodox circles in recent decades.

The second, by Denis Edwards, “The Holy Spirit as the Gift,” argues for “re-receiving” Vatican I through four hermeneutical principles Walter Cardinal Kasper (to whom the volume is dedicated) outlined in 2004: to interpret primacy within ecclesiology as a whole; to integrate Vatican I within the entire history of ecclesiology, allowing it to interpret the past, but the past to interpret it also; to understand the historical context of the council and that context’s understanding of key concepts like “sovereignty”; and “to interpret the Petrine ministry according to the Gospel” (207).

The third article follows on from the second thematically (but is not in the same section in the book): Hervé Legrand, “Receptive Ecumenism and the Future of Ecumenical Dialogues – Privileging Differentiated Consensus and Drawing its Institutional Consequences.” Legrand rightly cautions that Kasper’s proposal for a “rereading and  re-reception of the First Vatican Council’s doctrine on primacy … will be insufficient for the Orthodox Church” and will have “no chance of taking place unless the Roman Catholic Church first clarifies those dogmas for herself, reaching in this way, with the Orthodox, a renewed understanding of them” (389–390).

The fourth article is Joseph Famerée, “What Might Catholicism Learn from Orthodoxy in Relation to Collegiality?” Famerée notes that Catholicism still has much to learn about the practices of synodality and regional primacy, and on this he's absolutely right. I deal at length with synodality in my book on the papacy forthcoming from UND Press. On the other hand, the author gently but rightly chides the Orthodox for frequently giving in to “the autocephalic temptation of phyletism” (214). The problem for Orthodox ecclesiology especially, but for Catholic ecclesiology of the 19th century as well, is that both were not merely influenced by, but I would argue corrupted by the models of the 19th-century nation-state, that "most dangerous and unmanageable institution" as Alasdair MacIntyre has rightly called it.

The fifth and final article is Andrew Louth’s, “Receptive Ecumenism and Catholic Learning – an Orthodox Perspective.” Louth commendably begins by saying that his “remarks are primarily self-critical, that is critical of the way … eucharistic ecclesiology is worked out in the life of the Orthodox Church” because the ecclesiology is one thing but “the reality is, I fear, rather different” (362). Thus Louth notes that “the great Orthodox proponent of eucharistic ecclesiology, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, is himself simply a suffragan to the Patriarch of Constantinople, with no community over which he could preside.” This is but one example in Orthodoxy where “in practice, not only is there little trace of any kind of ‘eucharistic’ ecclesiology, there is often enough little trace of the communio or koinonia … characteristic of the ecclesiology of the first millennium” (366). It is clear, then, that Orthodox and Catholics both need to engage in receptive ecumenism in order to continue learning from each other and their shared tradition.

The Byzantine Pre-Sanctified Liturgy

In the forthcoming issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, Peter Galadza, titular of the Kule Family Chair in Eastern Christian Liturgy at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, has a long review of a new book from Peeters in Belgium:

Stefanos Alexopoulos, The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite: A Comparative Analysis of its Origins, Evolution, and Structural Components (2009), xvi+355pp.

Fr. Peter notes that this work will be the scholarly standard for years to come.

Images from Byzantium

Books on icons continue to pour forth from all kinds of presses around the world. Interest in icons has never been higher, and it has become an ecumenical interest also. I started teaching a course on icons this fall to meet some of this interest, making use of a little known but quite extensive collection of icons in the possession of the University of Saint Francis in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The university was given the icons from two local families, neither of them, to my knowledge, Orthodox, but both nonetheless interested in iconography. In the last several years I can think of exhibitions of icons having been held in major museums in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. The most recent exhibit that I saw was at the Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan in July, "The Glory of Ukraine," featuring icons from primarily from the Kyivan Caves Lavra and the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky Museum in Lviv, both of which I visited in 2001. (During that summer I was also able to visit the unforgettable Pochaev Monastery in central Ukraine, whose very famous icon recently toured across Canada to be venerated by crowds of people in every city on its itinerary.)

Now we have yet another book just published from Yale University Press:

Thomas F. Mathews, Byzantium: From Antiquity to the Renaissance (Yale U Press, 2010), 176pp. + 16 b/w and 106 color plates.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Highlights of the Fall Issue of Logos

The fall issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies is being proofed and finalized now before going to the printer soon, and it includes these articles:

  • John Jillions on Nicholas Zernov's Ecumenical Thought Reconsidered
  • Šimon Marinčák on Byzantine Matins in Fourteenth-Century Akolouthiai
  • Stephen Need on the Plight of Middle Eastern Christians Today
  • Jack Turner on Western-Rite Orthodoxy as a Canonical Problem
  • Daniel Larison on the Politics of the Latins and Ottomans in Byzantium
In addition, there are dozens of book reviews, including those by Lois Farag, Lucien Frary, Peter Galadza, Edith Humphrey, Nadieszda Kizenko, Athanasius McVay, Stephen Need, Theodore Pulcini, Myroslaw Tataryn and others.

What are you waiting for?  Subscribe today!

Cyril of Alexandria's Christology: the Debate Continues

The Coptic Orthodox nun and scholar, Lois Farag, whose own doctoral dissertation a number of years ago was on St. Cyril of Alexandria, has, in the forthcoming issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, a long and critical review of a new book from Brill:

Hans van Loon, The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria (Brill, 2009), xvi+632pp.

The issues are too complicated to summarize briefly here. Much turns, as Farag so lucidly notes, on philological and etymological, as well as Christological, issues surrounding such terminology as Οὐσία, ὑπόστᾰσις, and φύσις, which she very carefully and painstakingly elucidates in her critical review.

Theological Anthropology

Some of the most controverted questions in both Church and society today are anthropological in nature. Two in particular stand out: can women be ordained to the priesthood in the Orthodox Churches, and can same-sex relationships be recognized and affirmed, even considered as "marriages" by Christians? Two new very interesting works from Orthodox scholars have just been published on the topic of theological anthropology:

Nonna Verna Harrison, God's Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation (Brazos Press, 2010), 224pp.

Her book, with a foreword by Met. Kallistos Ware, will be reviewed by the scholar and Hieromonk Irenei (M.C.) Steenberg, himself author of a recent book in the same area, also with a foreword from Met. Kallistos:

M.C. Steenberg, Of God and Man: Theology as Anthropology from Irenaeus to Athanasius (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2009), xii+208pp.

Steenberg's book, also to be reviewed next year in Logos, is published by T&T Clark (Continuum), which is a very important publisher that has for some time now been putting out a lot of works in theological anthropology--but an enormous number of books in other areas as well. They are also the official English publishers for Met. John Zizioulas's books.

Evagrius Pontus

Interest in Evagrius of Pontus has exploded. Over a dozen books--and hundreds of articles and reviews--have been published in the last decade alone, and in English alone--with still more works in French and German, inter alia. Andriy Chirovsky wrote a long and lovely review essay on many of these new books, which was published last year in Logos. There he very helpfully looked at the whole controversy that has sometimes attended Evagrius--was he an "Origenist" or not? And was he therefore under the same cloud that some have said hangs over Origen from the Fifth Ecumenical Council onward? (The increasing scholarly consensus is "no" to both questions, based on analysis not merely of the works of Origen and Evagrius, but also of the critical editions of the acta of the council. One good treatment of this question is Augustine Casiday, "On Heresy in Modern Patristic Scholarship: the Case of Evagrius Ponticus, Heythrop Journal 49 [2008].) The books continue pour forth about Evagrius, not merely because of his influence in shaping monasticism and spiritual practices, but also because of his astute and penetrating insights into human psychology 1700 years before Freud et al. (e.g., Evagrius's work on the logismoi).

Now we have yet another book about Evagrius. This one, somewhat oddly titled, comes from one of the great patristic and monastic scholars of our time, Gabriel Bunge:

Gabriel Bunge, Dragon's Wine and Angel's Bread: the Teaching of Evagrius Ponticus on Anger and Meekness (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2009).

I hope to see this reviewed in Logos next year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Old Testament in Byzantium

Dumbarton Oaks, a research centre of Harvard University, has for decades been in the forefront of scholarship on Byzantium, and not merely its religious aspects but much else besides. Now we have a new book that will be reviewed by Danylo Kuc in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies next year. Fr. Danylo is both newly ordained to the priesthood and newly graduated from MASI in Ottawa with a doctorate on the uses of the Septuagint in the Eastern Churches.

Paul Magdalino and Robert Nelson, eds., The Old Testament in Byzantium (Harvard U Press, 2010), 310pp. 

The Dormition of the Theotokos

Brill has a new book coming out at the end of the year--part of their well-known scholarly series Vigiliae Christianae Supplements--devoted to studies of the Dormition/Assumption traditions of the Theotokos: Simon Mimouni, Les traditions anciennes sur la Dormition et l’assomption de Marie: Études littéraires, historiques et doctrinales.  As a trilingual journal, Logos publishes scholarly essays and reviews in French and Ukrainian as well as English. We hope to have this reviewed in 2011.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

East Meets West in Flannery O'Connor's Yurodivy?

I just got a new book in the mail:

Lorraine Murray, The Abbess of Andalusia (Charlotte, NC: St. Benedict's Press, 2010), xxxiii+233pp.

There have been several studies of O'Connor, none of them entirely satisfactory. The most recent, Brad Gooch's Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, which I read last Christmas, is good in most respects but it signally fails in the most crucial: O'Connor's Christian--and specifically Catholic--faith, which Gooch rather severely downplays, perhaps finding it de trop for his tastes. Earlier studies were much worse. I shall see if this new book is any better. Admittedly she's not an easy person to describe, much less to pigeonhole. She deliberately and perhaps rather gleefully blows up "conventional" categories, both literary and theological.

It occurs to me--as I'm doing research for a paper for an academic conference in September of next year on literature and theology--that someone should do a study (if it's not been done already, and I don't think it has) of O'Connor's characters as, conceivably, a "Western" example of the well-known Eastern (and especially Russian) phenomenon of the "yurodivy," that is, the fools for Christ. Her characters are forever doing things whose outrageousness matches that of figures in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, figures whose paradigmatic examples include St. Simeon Salos, St. Andrew of Constantinople, and, more recently, St. Xenia of Saint Petersburg. These fools have been analyzed in a number of articles and books over the years, the best of which (according to Peter Bouteneff's review in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2008) is:

Sergey Ivanov, Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond, trans. Simon Franklin (Oxford UP, 2006).

One other very useful resource I have recently come across is the work of the scholar Svitlana Kobets, much of which is very helpfully available in Russian and English here.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers

Cistercian Publications has been doing quietly faithful and useful work in bringing out works on Eastern Christian theology and especially monastic spirituality. They are the publishers of David Bell's excellent book and have several new works on the Desert Fathers, including these two edited by Tim Vivian. The first is just being released this month:

The Holy Workshop of Virtue: The Life of John the Little by Zacharias of Sakha, eds., Tim Vivian, Rowan Greer, and Maged S. A. Mikhail (Cistercian, 2010), 328pp.  

The second was released in 2008, and I reviewed it for Logos

Tim Vivian, ed., Becoming Fire:  Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Cistercian, 2008), 555pp. 

This is an excellent collection arranged for each day of the year, with the feasts of the Coptic, RC, Anglican, and Byzantine sanctorals noted. It would make a very easy, profitable addition to one's daily meditation to take a passage each day--most are only a few lines long, true apophthegmata patrum (and a few matrum) that are wonderfully refreshing in their bluntness. In an age of euphemism, we are parched for straight talk, and the desert fathers and mothers give us that. In his foreword, the Benedictine Aelred Glidden quotes Thomas Merton's summary of the desert's wisdom: "Shut up and go to your cell!".

In October, Cistercian is bringing out

Cliff Ermatinger, Following the Footsteps of the Invisible: the Complete Works of Diadochus of Photikë (2010), 168pp.  

Diadochus's influence on Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas, and many other prominent figures in the development of Byzantine spirituality and liturgy is very pronounced. 

Finally, in November, the press is bringing out a collection about Abba Ammonas, successor to St. Antony the Great, father of desert monasticism:

Bernadette McNary-Zak, Nada Conic , Brother Lawrence Morey, ocso, Richard Upsher Smith, Jr.,  Useful Servanthood: A Study of Spiritual Formation in the Writings of Abba Ammonas (2010), 184pp.

Thomas Merton's Sophiology

Fr. Michael Plekon, in a forthcoming issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, has a long and very appreciative review of a new book by Christopher Pramuk, which has generated numerous scholarly plaudits:

Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton (Liturgical Press, 2009), 288pp. 
The book looks at the numerous East-Slavic sophiologists whose thought influenced Merton's Christology. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eastern Christianity and the Cold War

Lucien Frary of Rider University has a review in the forthcoming fall issue of Logos: A  Journal of Eastern Christian Studies of this new and important book from Routledge:

Lucian Leustean, ed., Eastern Christianity and the Cold War 1945-91 (London: Routledge, 2009), 384pp.

The editor is also the author of another recent and related publication, which we hope to have reviewed for publication next year by Fr. Ron Roberson, a specialist in Romanian Orthodoxy:

Orthodoxy and the Cold War: Religion and Political Power in Romania 1947-65 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 288pp.

The Anointing of the Sick

Paul Meyendorff, the Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York, has a new book out:

The Anointing of the Sick (SVS Press, 2009).

Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies will feature a review of this next year from Mark Morozowich, a professor of liturgy at Catholic University of America. Fr. Mark wrote his dissertation under the great Byzantine liturgical historian Robert Taft at the Oriental Institute in Rome.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rethinking Orthodox Eucharistic Discipline (Updated)

The Franco-Russian Orthodox historian Antoine Arjakovsky, who is director of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, published a book in 2007 that has, sadly, gotten very little attention. A collection of articles, some of which were previously published in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, this book nonetheless put forward some creative and important scholarship, above all on the question of eucharistic hospitality between Catholics and Orthodox.

Church, Culture, and Identity: Reflections on Orthodoxy in the Modern World (UCU Press, 2007), 231pp.

As I said in my review in Logos (vol. 49 [2008]), Arjakovsky is someone who knows how to be at once faithfully Orthodox and fully ecumenical, not a common combination today, alas. In his essay “On Eucharistic Hospitality” Arjakovsky proposes that the ban on eucharistic hospitality between Catholics and Orthodox be re-examined and changed where possible. I confess that prior to reading this essay, I was in favor of maintaining the traditional position, but after reading and considering Arjakovsky’s arguments, I have changed my mind and can now see why eucharistic sharing between Catholics and Orthodox could be beneficial and could very well be justified. Arjakovsky is aware that some, perhaps most, of his fellow Orthodox will not agree with him, but he does cite as support the considered thought of such important figures as Olivier Clément and the Armenian Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, who in 1993 argued in favor of eucharistic sharing. The Armenians, in fact, I'm told, regularly give the Eucharist to Catholics who approach the chalice.
Perhaps the strongest argument Arjakovsky advances for revising the traditional ban on eucharistic sharing among Catholics and Orthodox is that first put forward by the Greek Orthodox Nikos Nissiotis in 1968. To the usual argument that one cannot share the Eucharist because one is not fully united on each and every detail of each and every doctrine, Nissiotis retorted that such an argument is historically unsupportable (divisions in the early Church did not prevent eucharistic sharing in most instances) and, moreover, is currently belied by the fact that certain Orthodox Churches, which do enjoy a unity of faith on doctrinal questions, nonetheless do not practice eucharistic hospitality among themselves. Michael Plekon in his preface to this volume, and Arjakovsky in his antepenultimate essay “Porto Alegre’s Redefinition of Ecumenism and the Transformation of Orthodoxy,” both note that at a recent WCC gathering in Porto Alegere, the Orthodox were unable to come together to concelebrate the Eucharist, instead having two separate liturgies of the Moscow and Ecumenical patriarchs. How can these Churches turn around and maintain that doctrinal agreements are the sine qua non for eucharistic hospitality when plainly they are not among the Orthodox themselves, whose lack of eucharistic sharing must be explained by other reasons? (This question has been noted with commendable candor and humility by the Orthodox theologian Andrew Louth in his essay criticizing Orthodox eucharistic ecclesiology in Paul Murray, ed., Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism [OUP, 2008].)
Nissiotis additionally notes that such an argument flies in the face of very traditional eucharistic theology and spirituality, which holds that the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality, the means of the healing of body and soul, the gift of the Divine Physician who binds all wounds and makes all whole. The Eucharist, according to Nissiotis, is not merely the fruit of unity but “also the God-given means of maintaining unity and of healing divisions if this unity is at stake or if the appropriate conditions for restoring it exist.” If that is the case, how much sense does it make to deny this most vital of all medicines to the most evangelically destructive of all diseases, viz., Christian disunity? 
Such questions acquire even greater force when one considers the arguments of another Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart. In his "The Myth of Schism," Hart asks pointedly: "not how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that would enable or justify reunion, but how we can possibly discover the doctrinal and theological resources that could justify or indeed make certain our division. This is not a moral question--how do we dare remain disunited?--but purely a canonical one: are we sure that we are? For, if not, then our division is simply sin, a habit of desire and thought that feeds upon nothing but its own perverse passions and immanent logic, a fiction of the will, and obedience to a lie." Hart's essay is in

Francesca Aran Murphy and Christopher Asprey, eds., Ecumenism Today: the Universal Church in the 21st Century (Ashgate, 2008), viii+222pp.

Hart argues that the so-called East-West Schism no longer exists, if it ever did. Hence he can ask: are we really sure that we are really and truly divided? He's not being flippant, either, but notes the serious canonical questions in support of his position: first, it was a "local" issue insofar as it was 2 hierarchs (Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch Cerulerius) excommunicating each other, not formally confecting a division between two churches. Second, there is extensive evidence of communicatio in sacris down through the ages, including into the 20th century. Third, the mutual lifting, in 1965, of the excommunications by the pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch should have resolved any lingering question. In the end, then, Catholics and Orthodox are (to use a Freudian heuristic) divided on a manifest level, but not at a latent level. (Hart does not deny that there are outstanding issues, including the papacy and the filioque, but the former is capable of resolution, and the latter, since 1995, has no longer been seen as a church-dividing issue. In proof of this, see the Roman statement, in L'Osservatore Romano in 1995, the 2003 statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and the relevant section in John Zizioulas's Lectures on Christian Dogmatics.) And if that is so--and I think it is--then there is nothing (except, as hart notes, the historical "identity" of separation, which must be confessed as sin and healed) to stop each from sharing the Eucharist with the other. One of the reasons Florence failed was that it did not have the people onside. Perhaps it is time for the people to push the hierarchs towards finally healing this division, and to do so by simply disregarding any sacramental-eucharistic distinction between Orthodoxy and Catholicism (as many Melkite Catholic and Antiochian Orthodox do all the time today, both in North America and also in Lebanon and Syria), and instead receiving the sacraments in both. This is what I would call the Lev Gillet solution, and I think Orthodox and Catholics who are serious about unity should start availing themselves of this whenever and wherever possible. In a rebarbative world we can no longer afford the luxury of division.

Ukrainian Realities

Northern Illinois Press has been bringing out more and more books on East-Slavic and Eastern Christian realities. Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies will feature reviews of several next year, including one from the Ukrainian historian John-Paul Himka , who has a long and appreciative review of this new book from Barbara Skinner of Indiana State University:

Barbara Skinner, The Western Front of the Eastern Church: Uniate and Orthodox Conflict in 18th-Century Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia (2009), 311pp.

The Holy Incorporeal Powers

Eerdmans tells me that the final work, in their ongoing efforts to translate Bulgakov into English, is due out by month's end. As I've noted before, this Protestant publisher has done great work in bringing the greatest Russian theologian of the 20th century back into wider circulation thanks to skillful translations done by Boris Jakim and T.A. Smith. Soon we will be able to read Sergius Bulgakov, Jacob's Ladder: On Angels, trans. T.A. Smith (2010), 184pp.

We will have this expertly reviewed for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2011.

Christopher Lasch

I first began reading Christopher Lasch as an undergraduate nearly 20 years ago now. He died early in 1994 of cancer, but his influence before and since remains considerable. Now at long last we have the first biography of him written by the historian Eric Miller of Geneva College and published by Eerdmans: Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch.

Lasch was a tough read at first. As a psychology major who was seriously contemplating training as a full-blown psychoanalyst, I was attracted to his use of psychoanalytic categories to understand culture, done most famously in his Culture of Narcissism, which became an unexpected best-seller. He was not an easy man to pin down or to pigeonhole, but this sympathetic and crisply written biography helps us to understand him. He was not a theologian, and struggled with a vague Protestant background, but he offered, and still offers, some extremely penetrating insights into the culture of North America in which so many Eastern Christians today find themselves, and to which they are struggling to preach the gospel. Lasch along with Alasdair MacIntyre was perhaps more acutely aware than most others of the unique pitfalls that the liberalism of modernity puts before Christians. As MacIntyre has said, if Pope Pius IX genuinely understood liberalism, he would have been right to condemn it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Icons of the Mother of God

Orbis Books just put into my hands a very interesting new volume, featuring both traditional and "modern" icons of the Mother of God alongside prayers to her. I will have more to say about this when I've read it.

Mother of God Similar to Fire: Icons by William Hart McNichols and Reflections by Mirabai Starr (Orbis, 2010), 128pp.

Sacred Geography

For nearly 20 years now, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Orthodox in Eastern Europe--above all in Western Ukraine but also in Romania--have been (as Fr. Andriy Chirovsky commented in 2001) Goebbels-like in cranking out an endless series of calumnies and complaints about supposed violators of their so-called canonical territory. Those violators are, of course, said to be the Greco-Catholics in both countries, Ukraine especially. When pressed, neither the Russians nor the Romanians have ever once been able to produce credible evidence justifying the charge that, inter alia, Catholics are "proselytizing" on their "canonical territory," a bogus notion hypocritically asserted by Orthodox who have what--five Orthodox bishops in New York, and a hierarch in Vienna, Oxford, and elsewhere, all places historically in the "canonical territory" of the Roman patriarchate. Again and again responsible scholars who have investigated these charges have reached the only rational conclusion--viz., that the charges are a fictional invention for propagandistic purposes by Orthodox Churches who are still mad that the Greco-Catholic Churches they assisted in suppressing (the evidence of which is in print and is incontrovertible) in the postwar Stalinist era have in fact come back to life. Among such studies, the most effective is, to my mind, that of Andriy Yurash, “Orthodox-Greek Catholic Relations in Galicia and their Influence on the Religious Situation in Ukraine.” Religion, State & Society 33 (2005): 185-205. Yurash shows just how baseless these charges are in Galicia--that is, Western Ukraine (more or less). (On Galicia, see the splendid book of Christopher Hann and Paul Robert Magocsi, Galicia: A Multicultured Land [University of Toronto Press, 2005].) Additionally, see Michael Mates article, "Politics, Property Restitution, and Ecumenism in the Romanian Orthodox Church" in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 46 (2005): 73-94: 

What we have needed has been a study of this whole notion of "canonical territory." It has only been done piecemeal to date, and often for tendentious purposes. Now, however, we have a good study of it: Johannes Oeldemann, "The Concept of Canonical Territory in the Russian Orthodox Church." Oeldemann's study is one of the few pieces in an otherwise overpriced and underwhelming (and in some cases hilariously inept) collection: Thomas Bremer, ed., Religion and the Conceptual Boundary in Central and Eastern Europe

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Christianity in India

Last year, in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, the Paulist ecumenist Fr. Ron Roberson--author of the magisterial The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey (the sixth edition of which is available here: http://www.cnewa.us/default.aspx?ID=3&pagetypeID=9&sitecode=US&pageno=1)  while reviewing the Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, noted that for all the comprehensiveness of that volume, the one lacuna in it was India. He was right. But now, Oxford University Press has begun to fill that lacuna with a new paperback version, published in 2010, of a book originally published in 2008:

Robert Eric Frykenberg, Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present (OUP, 2010) 600pp.

OUP's website, one of the best out there, is loaded with very helpful details about this book, which is part of OUP's longstanding and excellent series Oxford History of the Christian Church, under the general editorship of the formidable Chadwick brothers, Owen and Henry. This volume will be reviewed next year in Logos by an Eastern Christian scholar of Indian background.

Christian Armenia

Armenia has long held a special place in my heart not merely because her history is so gripping and so grief-stricken, with millions of Armenian Christians slaughtered by Muslims from the seventh century through to the 1915 Genocide. Armenian Orthodoxy is fascinating because it develops in its own unique way quite distinct from either the East- or West-Romans, from whom nonetheless certain borrowings are made. Additionally, as an ecclesiologist, I am utterly fascinated by the structure of the Armenian Church, which is singular in the entire world, having two patriarchs within a catholicosate, and two catholicosates within one Church. No other church in the world has anything even close, managing only one patriarch at most. The multi-layered Armenian structures are a function of her complicated history and peregrinations over Asia Minor as a result of persecution.

Today Ashgate Press, which is an excellent academic publisher, informs me of a new work that Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies will review next year:

Nina Garsoian, Studies on the Formation of Christian Armenia (Ashgate, 2010), 310pp.

Further details here: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409403661

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Newman and the Fathers

As noted below, Pope Benedict XVI is going to England this week. He is there in part to beatify the greatest man of English letters of the 19th century, John Henry Cardinal Newman.  I have said many times over the years that even if one cannot or will not read Newman for theological reasons, one should nonetheless read him simply for the beauty of his prose style.

Newman has been well studied in the West and by the West, and continues to be, but what is not as well known is just how much he was shaped by the patristic patrimony of Eastern Christianity. In an article in 1976, "Cardinal Newman and the Eastern Tradition" (Downside Review 94: 83-98),  the Oratorian historian and editor of Newman's diaries and letters, C.S. Dessain, first picked up on this. More recently, in a 1995 article in Communio ("The Significance of Newman's Conversion") the greatest Newman scholar alive today, whom I had a long and very profitable conversation with at a conference in 2004, Ian Ker, author of the definitive biography of Newman, also noted the patristic influence. But  perhaps it is most clearly evident in recalling something the Greek Orthodox theologian George Dion Dragas has noted: Newman is alone among all 19th and early 20th-century Western  theologians in being translated into modern Greek for study by Greek theologians. Already by 1890, Newman's work The Arians of the Fourth Century was translated into Greek.  (See Dragas's two studies: "John Henry Newman: A Starting-Point for Rediscovering the Catholicity of the Fathers Today," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 25 [1980]: 273-285; and “Conscience and Tradition: Newman and Athanasios in the Orthodox Church,” Newman-Studien [1980]: 73-84.) 

Now we have a new volume out that documents this patristic influence in wonderful detail:

I am happy that Fr. Dragas is reviewing this for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

The Coptic Papacy

The world's attention is focused on the trip to Great Britain of one bishop who happens to have the title "pope" (viz., Benedict XVI of Rome) but the world forgets--if it ever knew--that there is another bishop, of equally impeccable apostolic lineage, whose use of the title "pope" actually predates the Roman usage. I refer, of course, to the pope and patriarch of Alexandria, descendant of St. Mark. The current Coptic incumbent is His Holiness Shenouda III--who, unlike his Latin brother, claims neither infallibility nor universal jurisdiction, but governs his church together with his synod:

For centuries, scholars have studied the West-Roman papacy. Indeed, of the writing of books about the papacy there is no end. As a scholar of the papacy and the Orthodox Churches, with my own book on the topic coming out next year, I remain very interested in the topic of course. I was therefore overjoyed when, in 2004, the first volume of a projected trilogy on the Coptic papacy was published by the American University in Cairo Press. I reviewed that book in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. Now at long last we have the second volume forthcoming, and I am eagerly awaiting it from the AUC Press. I will have more to say about it when it arrives.

Mark N. Swanson, The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 611-1517 (AUC Press, 2010), 192pp. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...