"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

Seeking Oriental-Byzantine Orthodox Unity

I have for years held Gorgias Press  in very high esteem.


They have an enormous collection of fascinating works in all aspects of Eastern Christian studies, and much else besides. One of their recent publications is

Kenneth F. Yossa, Common Heritage, Divided Communion: Advances of Inter-Orthodox Relations from Chalcedon to Chambésy (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009), x+272pp.

The Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has recently posed a deeply troubling question: why is it that “every serious ecumenical engagement between the Orthodox and Catholic communions reveals depth upon depth of substantial agreement, and yet always fades upon the midnight knell”? That question perforce applies, mutatis mutandis, to the ongoing efforts to find unity between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, a process very carefully detailed and analyzed here by the Romanian Catholic priest Kenneth Yossa in this superb and important book, which is based on his doctoral dissertation at Marquette under the Jesuit ecumenist Michael Fahey. This book is very cogently and lucidly written, and has none of the “dissertationese” or other weaknesses one sometimes finds in such texts. 

Yossa begins with two chapters that tell the history of doctrinal definitions and divisions in the early Church. These two chapters are an impressive synthesis of a vast body of literature dealing with complex issues and a diversity of personages over the course of several centuries. This part of the book would function well on its own as an introduction to the first four ecumenical councils and their aftermath.The rest of the book is a survey of attempts in the 20th-century to heal the breach between the Oriental and Byzantine Orthodox. It is fascinating reading, but also agonizing: the progress has been incredible, and we are incredibly close to healing this division, but for some reason seem to be stalled right at the finish line.....

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