"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).

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (3)

I noted earlier the very happy arrival of The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, edited by John McGuckin.

I continue to pluck entries at random to sample, and they are all--so far--of a consistently high quality in very smoothly edited English. Here are two to consider:

McGuckin's own entry, "Patristics." If you are challenged, as I often am, in trying to provide a succinct overview of the Fathers, especially to students who have never heard of them and whose grasp of Christian history is almost non-existent, then you could simply send them to the library to read this entry. He cannot, of course, go into a lot of detail, but he does provide a good overview--though the list of "References and Suggested Readings" at the end is rather too short and dated.
Of course, one of the first places I turned was to the essay on the papacy, written by Augustine Casiday, a prolific scholar and author of such notable works as a recent book on Evagrius, another on Cassian, and, most interesting of all, editor of a forthcoming collection from Routledge, The Orthodox Christian World (Routledge Worlds), a 672-page work that looks like it might give the McGuckin encyclopedia a run for its money (if one may be forgiven the vulgarism.)

Casiday's essay is a very good historical overview but its focus is very much on the first millennium. He writes with great cogency and dispassion, treating that complicated and controversial period very fairly, but his treatment of the second millennium is short, and his treatment of the post-Vatican II period virtually non-existent. He refers the reader to John Meyendorff's The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church, even though the original version of that book dates to the early 1960s, and much work has been done in the aftermath of Vatican II's reforms and the arguably even more revolutionary initiative of Pope John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint.  For a complete survey of the literature of Orthodox thinking on the papacy, from 1962 onward, the work to consult, of course, is Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

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