"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 9, 2010

Aidan Nichols and Eastern Christianity

The English Dominican Aidan Nichols is a formidable theologian who has written any number of excellent and important books. Nobody interested in ecclesiology or ecumenism should be without his latest, Rome and the Eastern Churches: a Study in Schism, rev. ed (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010).

Originally published in 1990, the book has been reissued with a new preface, a new conclusion, and much new material throughout, reflecting the changed status of Eastern Christians in general, and Eastern Catholics in particular, following the collapse of the Soviet Union right after the first edition was published. Nichols, a Cambridge Dominican, is author of previous significant works on, inter alia, Maximus the Confessor and Nicholas Afanasiev. The present book cogently covers an enormous terrain of history and we see Nichols ably citing ancient and modern, and Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sources in a half-dozen languages.
            Eastern Catholics will be especially heartened to read the new preface in which Nichols says his main purpose in updating the text was to “offer a more robust apologia for the existence of the—sometimes but not always—distinctly minoritarian Oriental churches in union with Rome” (19). That apologia, offered without condescension, romanticism, or triumphalism, manifests an understanding of Eastern Catholics that is marked by more generosity and imagination than I have seen from any other contemporary Roman Catholic theologian. At the same time, he is sympathetically and respectfully aware of the Orthodox objections to “Uniatism.”  

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