"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, May 31, 2011

Greeks and Bulgarians, Macedonians and Muslims

A priest I know, upon hearing that a particular parish was formed by Bulgarians and Macedonians, immediately crossed himself and thanked God he was spared the task of leading such a place composed, he thought, of people who would get along like oil and water. The Bulgarians, he said, would spend all their time trying to convince the Macedonians that the latter's language was but an illegitimate dialect of Bulgarian; while the Macedonians, in turn, would try to impress upon the Bulgarians the latter's inferiority in every way to the superior Greek heritage--linguistic and otherwise--of the Macedonians. The poor pastor, trying to get everyone to focus on the universal Word who is Jesus Christ, would be forever caught in the ethno-linguistic cross-fire.

But such is the often maddening world of Eastern Christianity, where "ethnicity" and "religion" (those highly suspect, polyvalent modern categories) are often so intertwined that the answer to either question is so often the same. This same priest once told me that, in asking his grandparents about their background, he expected them to say "I'm Romanian" or "We're from Serbia" but instead received the simple reply from the one, "Orthodox" and the other "Catholic." To many of us today in the West such answers would not be what we expected to hear, but to many, perhaps most, in the Christian East (and beyond) such answers would be unremarkable for most of history, especially prior to the invention of that modern pestilence known as nationalism.

Two new books come out to take a look at such issues: Theodora Dragostinova, Between Two Motherlands: Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900-1949 (Cornell University Press, 2011), 304pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In 1900, some 100,000 people living in Bulgaria—2 percent of the country’s population—could be described as Greek, whether by nationality, language, or religion. The complex identities of the population—proud heirs of ancient Hellenic colonists, loyal citizens of their Bulgarian homeland, members of a wider Greek diasporic community, devout followers of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, and reluctant supporters of the Greek government in Athens—became entangled in the growing national tensions between Bulgaria and Greece during the first half of the twentieth century.

In Between Two Motherlands, Theodora Dragostinova explores the shifting allegiances of this Greek minority in Bulgaria. Diverse social groups contested the meaning of the nation, shaping and reshaping what it meant to be Greek and Bulgarian during the slow and painful transition from empire to nation-states in the Balkans. In these decades, the region was racked by a series of upheavals (the Balkan Wars, World War I, interwar population exchanges, World War II, and Communist revolutions). The Bulgarian Greeks were caught between the competing agendas of two states increasingly bent on establishing national homogeneity.

Based on extensive research in the archives of Bulgaria and Greece, as well as fieldwork in the two countries, Dragostinova shows that the Greek population did not blindly follow Greek nationalist leaders but was torn between identification with the land of their birth and loyalty to the Greek cause. Many emigrated to Greece in response to nationalist pressures; others sought to maintain their Greek identity and traditions within Bulgaria; some even switched sides when it suited their personal interests. National loyalties remained fluid despite state efforts to fix ethnic and political borders by such means as population movements, minority treaties, and stringent citizenship rules. The lessons of a case such as this continue to reverberate wherever and whenever states try to adjust national borders in regions long inhabited by mixed populations.
The second such book is by Mary Neuburger, The Orient Within: Muslim Minorities and the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria (Cornell University Press, 2011), 242pp.

Originally published in 2004, and here reissued in paperback, this book concerns itself with
Bulgaria as a Slavic nation, Orthodox in faith but with a sizable Muslim minority. That minority is divided into various ethnic groups, including the most numerically significant Turks and the so-called Pomaks, Bulgarian-speaking men and women who have converted to Islam. Mary Neuburger explores how Muslim minorities were integral to Bulgaria's struggle to extricate itself from its Ottoman past and develop a national identity, a process complicated by its geographic and historical positioning between evolving and imagined parameters of East and West.

The Orient Within examines the Slavic majority's efforts to conceptualize and manage Turkish and Pomak identities and bodies through gendered dress practices, renaming of people and places, and land reclamation projects. Neuburger shows that the relationship between Muslims and the Bulgarian majority has run the gamut from accommodation to forced removal to total assimilation from 1878, when Bulgaria acquired autonomy from the Ottoman Empire, to 1989, when Bulgaria's Communist dictatorship collapsed. Neuburger subjects the concept of Orientalism to an important critique, showing its relevance and complexity in the Bulgarian context, where national identity and modernity were brokered in the shadow of Western Europe, Russia/USSR, and Turkey.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe

Central European University Press has recently published a collection of articles edited by Bruce  Berglund, Brian Porter-Szűcs, Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe (CEUP, 2010), 380pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Religious history more generally has experienced an exciting revival over the past few years, with new methodological and theoretical approaches invigorating the field. The time has definitely come for this “new religious history” to arrive in Eastern Europe. This book e xplores the influence of the Christian churches in Eastern Europe's social, cultural, and political history. Drawing upon archival sources, the work fills a vacuum as few scholars have systematically explored the history of Christianity in the region.
The result of a three-year project, this collective work challenges readers with questions like: Is secularization a useful concept in understanding the long-term dynamics of religiosity in Eastern Europe? Is the picture of oppression and resistance an accurate way to characterize religious life under communism, or did Christians and communists find ways to co-exist on the local level prior to 1989? And what role did Christians actually play in dissident movements under communism? Perhaps most important is the question: what does the study of Eastern Europe contribute to the broader study of modern Christian history, and what can we learn from the interpretative problems that arise, uniquely, from this region? 
The whole volume looks fascinating, and will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, but several articles stand out:
  • Competing Concepts of “Reunification” behind the Liquidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Natalia Shlikhta)
  • From Bottom to the Top and Back: On How to Build a Church in Communist Romania (Anca Şincan)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Christos Yannaras, Orthodoxy, and the West

In my adamantine conviction that no one can consider oneself educated in theology unless one know both Eastern and Western traditions, I have my graduate students in moral theology read several texts, including Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality 
which, in my judgment, is a felicitous counterpart to one of the others we read, viz., Servais Pinckaers' The Sources of Christian Ethics.

Yannaras is one of the most interesting theologians of our time. He has written, inter alia, books on anthropology (Person and Eros), on metaphysics (Postmodern Metaphysics and, one of his first, On the Absence and Unknowability of God: Heidegger and the Areopagite), a scriptural commentary (Variations on the Song of Songs), and an introductory text (Elements of Faith: An Introduction to Orthodox Theology).

To my mind, two of his most important works remain The Freedom of Morality, originally written and published in Greek in the 1970s and first introduced to anglophone audiences in a 1984 translation from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, and recently reprinted by them. It is not the easiest text in some ways, and were I the editor of it I think I would have re-arranged several chapters differently and cut out some of the breezier parts; but nonetheless it remains a deeply challenging and important book, especially for Western Christians still struggling--as Pinckaers, one of the most important Catholic moralists of our time, and, many believe, a ghost writer for Veritatis Splendor, convincingly argued--with the legacy of scholasticism and the manualist tradition of casuistry and looking for a way forward to genuine renewal of moral theology as called for by the Second Vatican Council.

More recently, Yannaras has authored Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age, a book we had reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies by Brandon Gallaher of Oxford.

For those accustomed to hectoring Athonites and their often jejune disciples in North American Orthodoxy bleating about ecumenism as a "pan-heresy" and "the West" as the source of all errors, this book must be at least somewhat disconcerting. Yes, Yannaras is critical, as he was in The Freedom of Morality, of many things he sees in the West--and rightly so--but he also realizes that such criticism can only be reflexive: "the West" is everybody today. (A member of the international Orthodox-Anglican dialogue, some years ago, came back from one of their meetings and told me that, according to the other great Greek theologian of our time, John Zizioulas, "There's no such thing as 'the West' today: we're all Western.")

If one has not read his books, especially Orthodoxy and the West as well as the Freedom of Morality, one will not perhaps fully understand Yannaras' recent commencement address in Brookline at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology/Hellenic College. I really encourage the entire reading of it, but here are some key passages which clearly and strongly echo concerns--first raised nearly forty years now in Freedom of Morality--with not turning Orthodoxy into a "system":
The "Zealots" of Orthodoxy, as our own fundamentalists are called, are as a rule fanatically anti-Western: they regard the Christian churches and confessions of the West as opponents of the Orthodox camp, as a real threat. They proclaim that the West is steeped in error and at the same time has evil designs on Orthodoxy. Thus for the Zealots any attempt at Orthodox "dialogue" with Western Christians, any participation in the "ecumenical movement" signifies a betrayal of Orthodoxy, a surrender to error, an abandoning of the conviction that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
But this Zealotry certainty does not constitute a defence of the decisions of the Councils; it does not derive from a conciliar expression of catholic ecclesial experience. It is an individual choice and conviction, based usually on the opinion of some geron, or elder, also chosen individually, who is lent "objective" authority by his hagiorite, or other, monastic affiliation. The defense of Orthodoxy by the "conservatives" is conducted on the basis of their individual choices and judgements, not on the basis of the Church's conciliar expression. It is therefore a defense that manifestly undermines the coherence of the ecclesial body. It invalidates the conciliar system; it denies the episcopal ministry.

Thus the individualistic character of Zealotry-Fundamentalism and the accompanying idolization of formalism - of "dogmas" and "canons" rendered independent of ecclesial experience - assimilate the "Orthodoxy" of conservative Christians to every other ideological "orthodoxy": to that of conservative Marxists, conservative Freudians, etc. All these "orthodoxies" have the same characteristics in common:
As he goes on next to note, one of those characteristics is precisely an obsession with "sources." This is, of course, not a new or original criticism: Georges Florovsky made it in "St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers," first published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review in 1959-60; and it was also made later by Alexander Schmemann in his essay “Liturgical Theology, Theology of Liturgy, and Liturgical Reform,” in Liturgy and Tradition: Theological Reflections of Alexander Schmemann (originally published in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly in 1969). Even earlier, the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar made a strikingly similar argument in a 1939 essay published in German and translated into English in 1997 as "The Fathers, the Scholastics, and Ourselves." All three note that fetishizing "sources" like the Fathers is a failed method that overlooks their phronema and fails, moreover, to take account of the fact that we cannot "return" to the past (a past which, in any event, was not nearly so golden, as Robert Taft has shown).

Yannaras continues by noting that this mindset of the zealots is not a theological, traditional, or spiritual one: it is, rather, "the specific product of the post-Roman West that we call 'ideology,'" an ideology that is "individualist'' in nature.

The answer to this and other problems is twofold, and here we see Yannaras and Zizioulas both working on common themes, as anyone who has read either will immediately recognize:
The ontology of the person and eucharistic ecclesiology implement criticism of the West as Christian self-criticism, because they were both born from a consistent grappling with the impasse to which the West (and now also the East) has been led by intellectualism and legalism - the rendering of Christian "religiosity" independent of the ecclesial event.
In any event, as I say, the whole thing very much merits close reading, as do his books.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sexual Difference in Paul

The well-known Orthodox theologian Thomas Hopko has suggested in Women and the Priesthood that "the most critical issue of our time [is] the issue of the meaning and purpose of the fact that human nature exists in two consubstantial forms: male and female." Along comes a new book to help us explore this most critical of issues.
Benjamin Dunning of Fordham University's theology department has written a fascinating and closely argued book: Specters of Paul: Sexual Difference in Early Christian Thought (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), x+252pp.

Dunning, the author of Aliens and Sojourners: Self as Other in Early Christianity, here looks at how St. Paul's famous text in Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus") has been interpreted, both within Paul's own day, and down the centuries since then. At every step, Dunning argues, such interpretive efforts have never been final or definitive, never able to resolve all the problems and tensions of sexual difference. There is, he says, a "constitutive instability at the heart of Paul's project that resists any final resolution" (2).

In addition to considering other Pauline texts that bear on this one (including I Cor. 12:13 and I Cor. 14), Dunning also looks at such important Eastern Christian figures as Clement of Alexandria (ch. 2) and Irenaeus of Lyons (ch. 4).

Dunning's stated goal in the book is to "explore the ghosts engendered by the tensions and aporias in Paul's reflections on what it means to be an embodied human being" (3). Such tensions existed already in Paul's day, and have led some recent scholars such as Daniel Boyarin to claim that "'On the issue of gender...Paul seems to have produced a discourse which is so contradictory as to be almost incoherent'" (6). Part of Dunning's task will be to see if Paul is indeed so incoherent and if so how that incoherence has become part of the Pauline legacy handed down to be grappled with by different succeeding generations. Dunning treats Paul, and other patristic, scriptural, and deuterocanonical sources, with the same balanced engagement that he brings to modern psychoanalytic and feminist authors. His tone throughout is consistently respectful but engaging. Most commendably, he is able to describe well what others have said without imposing his own agenda on them. This is a finely crafted work of scholarship.

Before getting into his arguments, Dunning takes time to deal with some crucial terminological issues, echoing the work of such well-known writers as Judith Butler who attempt to distinguish between "sex" and "gender." Dunning will use "sexual difference" most often as a term that "slides fluidly between sexually marked bodies, their psychic representations, and their constitution in historically variable cultural imaginaries" (15). He notes that this term "sexual difference" remains fraught with ambiguity and difficulty, not all of it problematic. Indeed the term's fluidity manifests what Dunning, quoting Butler, recognizes as "'the permanent difficulty of determining where the biological, the psychic, the discursive, the social begin and end'" (16). 

From here, Dunning's first chapter looks at the "disappearance" of the female into the male in some early Christian discourse: sexual difference here was merely one of gradations along a scale of "masculinity."

Chapter 2 takes us into more familiar "eschatological" territory by looking at the thought of Clement of Alexandria. Clement, believing that sexual difference antedates the fall, clearly holds that "the difference between male and female is a temporary element of human existence to be shed at the eschaton" (51)--an idea in Clement other scholars, including John Behr, have noted. And yet this idea sits uneasily, Dunning demonstrates, with Clement's other notions, similar to those discussed in chapter 1, of the centrality of the masculine. Dunning puts the question thus: "How can Clement maintain an autonomous masculine in an eschatological economy in which desire has been eradicated? The solution he offers to this dilemma is the eradication of sexual difference in all its aspects (female and male) at the resurrection" (55).

Clement, perhaps surprisingly, is able to envisage a fundamental equality between male and female, arguing in the Paedagogus that "'the same virtue (ten auten areten) is characteristic of both man and woman'" (68). In the end, Dunning concludes, Clement does not resolve what Dunning later calls "the intractable problem... of assigning a stable and theologically coherent significance to the sexually differentiated body" (153).

Skipping over chapter 3, which, in my judgment fits unclearly and uneasily with the rest of his argument, we come to chapter four and another important Eastern figure to tackle this problem. Irenaeus of Lyons, takes, Dunning shows, a very different approach. Irenaeus's eschatological vision is the opposite of Clement: "At the resurrection sexual difference will not fall away....Indeed there is something unthinkable for Irenaeus about an eschaton that elides or erases sexual difference" (106).

In the end, Dunning concludes this fascinating and closely argued book (only some of which I have described above) by arguing that "a necessary instability in the very categories that constitute theological anthropology" is not a bad thing. Indeed, he puts it more strongly than that: "these cracks need not be construed as an ethical failure....Precisely the failure to produce a definitive story for sexually differentiated theological anthropology has the potential to force open the space for other kinds of stories" (155). He ends Specters of Paul: Sexual Difference in Early Christian Thought by citing the familiar words of Luce Irigaray : "'Sexual difference is probably the issue in our time that could be our 'salvation' is we thought it through'" (156). Dunning is to be congratulated for his cogent and compelling contribution to just that very thinking through, a contribution that, rightly, does not answer all the questions, but knows which questions to raise and helps us see how earlier generations of Christians dealt with them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Russian Geography: Sacred, Real, and Imaginary

Anyone who knows anything about relations among Eastern Christians in the former Soviet Union, and relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches since 1991, will have heard the phrase "Russian canonical territory" repeated more times than anyone would care to count. That phrase, of course, has been invoked tendentiously to assert that the Russian Orthodox Church is the sole legitimate ecclesial presence in Ukraine. Neither the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, nor the Roman Catholic Church, nor any of the other three (of four) Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are legitimately allowed to be there according to this Russian mindset: only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is said to be legitimate. All others are illegitimate interlopers. (Some of these assertions have been examined and debunked by others, as I noted previously.)

It seems, then, that in the absence of empire, geographical boundaries and territory have become paramount concerns in buttressing post-Soviet Russian identity. Such an idea is given fresh examination in a new book by Edith W. Clowes, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Cornell University Press, 2011), 200pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russians have confronted a major crisis of identity. Soviet ideology rested on a belief in historical progress, but the post-Soviet imagination has obsessed over territory. Indeed, geographical metaphors—whether axes of north vs. south or geopolitical images of center, periphery, and border—have become the signs of a different sense of self and the signposts of a new debate about Russian identity. In Russia on the Edge Edith W. Clowes argues that refurbished geographical metaphors and imagined geographies provide a useful perspective for examining post-Soviet debates about what it means to be Russian today.

Clowes lays out several sides of the debate. She takes as a backdrop the strong criticism of Soviet Moscow and its self-image as uncontested global hub by major contemporary writers, among them Tatyana Tolstaya and Viktor Pelevin. The most vocal, visible, and colorful rightist ideologue, Aleksandr Dugin, the founder of neo-Eurasianism, has articulated positions contested by such writers and thinkers as Mikhail Ryklin, Liudmila Ulitskaia, and Anna Politkovskaia, whose works call for a new civility in a genuinely pluralistic Russia. Dugin’s extreme views and their many responses—in fiction, film, philosophy, and documentary journalism—form the body of this book.

In Russia on the Edge literary and cultural critics will find the keys to a vital post-Soviet writing culture. For intellectual historians, cultural geographers, and political scientists the book is a guide to the variety of post-Soviet efforts to envision new forms of social life, even as a reconstructed authoritarianism has taken hold. The book introduces nonspecialist readers to some of the most creative and provocative of present-day Russia’s writers and public intellectuals.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Orthodox Ecclesiastical Structures

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America just sent me a press release about the latest session of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, photos of whose meeting in Chicago you may view here. I am encouraged (though very cautious in any expectations) by these new assemblies and wish them every success. Eastern Christians in North America--Orthodox as well as Catholic--waste an absurd amount of time and money duplicating efforts because of the silly idea that every (or nearly every) "jurisdiction" must have, inter alia, something that is nash. Thus each must have its own seminary, publishing house, publications, bishop, and all manner of diocesan office (etc.), and all this for tiny populations without financial resources to spare. 

What is this assembly moving towards? Ultimately the goal is one united jurisdiction for the whole continent, but that, I think, is some ways off. What will that jurisdiction look like? Here we see the marvelous diversity of Orthodox polity, a diversity I display and discuss in detail in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

As I show in the book, the structures of each Orthodox Church in the world--especially the Churches headed by a patriarch--have certain things in common, but there is also such wide diversity among them that it is impossible to speak of "the" Orthodox model for how patriarchs operate or how a synod functions. The Armenian Church, for example, has a wholly sui generis structure, which is very different from the Russian. The Copts differ greatly from the Syrians, who are in turn different than the Romanians--and so on. There is great flexibility in Orthodox ecclesial practice, and for those interested in such things, you will find no more detailed or comprehensive survey of structures than what I do in the book.

The Church of the East

Only very recently have we seen, at long last, some decent scholarly attention being given--at least in the anglophone world--to the Church of the East. Some of that attention may have been motivated by the fact that after Iraq was invaded in 2003, Assyrian Christians there, when they were not being slaughtered in great numbers, fled in greater numbers still.

In 2004 we had not new scholarship but a reprint of a 1909 book by W.A. Wigram, An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church. Wigram represented the archbishop of Canterbury on his mission, reflecting a long-standing fascination with, and relationship between, the Anglicans and Assyrians.

In 2006, we had Christoph Baumer's The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity. It was favorably reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

In 2008, we had Daniel Benjamin's The Patriarchs of the Church of the East: Translated by Youel Baaba, which I reviewed in Logos.

And also in 2008 we had a book that was just given to me: Mar Bawai Soro, The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox (San Jose, CA: Adiabene Publications, 2008), v+ 294pp. 

This book carries a number of very impressive commendations from leading scholars in the field, including:

Robert Taft calls this study "the first serious, modern, scholarly, historico-critical presentation by an Assyrian from the Church of the East. It will be of inestimable value....This book will force other Churches to abandon the clichés by which they have judged the Church of the East and its venerable tradition."

Dietmar Winkler calls this an "extraordinary well-written and exciting book" that is "thorough and systematic," an "important historical and patristic study" by an author whose "scholarship is tightly reasoned and marked by the utmost clarity."

Oxford's Sebastian Brock notes that this book "is of considerable ecumenical significance and importance" and is written "in an admirably clear and well-informed way."

I look forward to seeing this discussed on here and reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

Christology's Bad Boys?

At the end of this month, in their wholly welcome and important series "Oxford Early Christian Texts," Oxford University Press will publish a new volume by the Orthodox theologian and dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary, John Behr: The Case Against Diodore and Theodore (OUP, 2011), 432pp.

About this book, OUP tells us:
This is a landmark work, providing the first complete collection of the remaining excerpts from the writings of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia together with a ground-breaking study of the controversy regarding the person of Christ that raged from the fourth to the sixth century, and which still divides the Christian Church. Destroyed after their condemnation, all that remains of the dogmatic writings of Diodore and Theodore are the passages quoted by their supporters and opponents. John Behr brings together all these excerpts, from the time of Theodore's death until his condemnation at the Second Council of Constantinople (553) - including newly-edited Syriac texts (from florilegium in Cod. Add. 12156, and the fragmentary remains of Theodore's On the Incarnation in Cod. Add. 14669) and many translated for the first time - and examines their interrelationship, to determine who was borrowing from whom, locating the source of the polemic with Cyril of Alexandria.

On the basis of this textual work, Behr presents a historical and theological analysis that completely revises the picture of these 'Antiochenes' and the controversy regarding them. Twentieth-century scholarship often found these two 'Antiochenes' sympathetic characters for their aversion to allegory and their concern for the 'historical Jesus', and regarded their condemnation as an unfortunate incident motivated by desire for retaliation amidst 'Neo-Chalcedonian' advances in Christology. This study shows how, grounded in the ecclesial and theological strife that had already beset Antioch for over a century, Diodore and Theodore, in opposition to Julian the Apostate and Apollinarius, were led to separate the New Testament from the Old and 'the man' from the Word of God, resulting in a very limited understanding of Incarnation and circumscribing the importance of the Passion. The result is a comprehensive and cogent account of the controversy, both Christological and exegetical together, of the early fifth century, the way it stemmed from earlier tensions and continued through the Councils of Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople II.
Behr, whose work I have always enjoyed as being marked by great scholarly care, is the editor of several patristic studies and the author of several other important studies works, including his first book on St. Irenaeus of Lyons, and continuing through his recent series on the formation of Christian faith: The Way to Nicaea (The Formation of Christian Theology, V. 1) (Vol 1) and The Nicene Faith: Formation Of Christian Theology, 2 Volume Set (Pt. 1 &2). He has also written a Christological-eschatological study: The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death.

Watch for The Case Against Diodore and Theodore (Oxford Early Christian Texts) to be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Papacy in History

To write about the Roman papacy, as I have done in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011)  is to write about a topic without end.

It is a simple fact of history that the papal office is the oldest institution of continual governance in the Western world. If I may be forgiven for quoting a famous purple passage from the English Protestant historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay:
The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable....Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all.
Given this longevity and utterly fascinating history, books about the papacy are almost numberless, perhaps never more than in our day. To confine oneself just to historical treatments alone, and in English alone, would be enough to occupy a person for years. Among the many I have read, I have little hesitation in recommending Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Third Edition (Yale Nota Bene). Duffy, an excellent Cambridge historian and author of several other influential and important works, has managed, in Saints and Sinners, the near-impossible: he has been able to write about all the popes and do so in a very engaging, fair, balanced style in one volume. What has taken others--including, perhaps most famously, Leopold von Ranke--dozens of volumes to do, Duffy manages to do in one. Now, of course, he has to be utterly sparing of detail, but never in a way that omits what is truly crucial. For those who cannot go deeper, I always recommend Duffy as the place to begin.

There are many other one-volume treatments of the papacy, some good, many bad. In July of this year, we shall add another such volume to an already formidable collection: John Julius Norwich,  Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (Random House, 2011), 528pp. 

Norwich is a well-known historian and author of books on Venice, the Mediterranean, and several books on Byzantium.

About this book, the publisher fatuously repeats the wholly discredited suggestion of a "pope Joan"and rather breathlessly tells us:
With the papacy embattled in recent years, it is essential to have the perspective of one of the world’s most accomplished historians. In Absolute Monarchs, John Julius Norwich captures nearly two thousand years of inspiration and devotion, intrigue and scandal. The men (and maybe one woman) who have held this position of infallible power over millions have ranged from heroes to rogues, admirably wise to utterly decadent. Norwich, who knew two popes and had private audiences with two others, recounts in riveting detail the histories of the most significant popes and what they meant politically, culturally, and socially to Rome and to the world.
Given the importance of the papacy today in general, and especially, as I demonstrated in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, to Orthodox-Catholic unity, I look forward to reviewing this book for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Byzantine Liturgical Art

Studies of Byzantine liturgics continue to emerge. One recent study examines an especially under-studied area: liturgical art.  George Galavaris, Colours, Symbols, Worship: The Mission of the Byzantine Artist (Pindar Press, 2010), 440pp. with 370 illustrations.

About this book and its author, the publisher tells us:

Trained as an archaeologist and art historian and being a practising painter, Professor Galavaris has been able to relate diverse disciplines in his work, as shown by the wide range of his numerous publications. He moves from the early history of the eucharistic bread in the Orthodox Church, the dramatic impact of the Liturgy on illuminated Byzantine manuscripts, to the role of the icon in: the life of the Church, the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke and the European painting of the 20th century. He is a leading authority on the study of the relationship between worship, Liturgy and art. Whether it is the cult of the Byzantine Emperor or the Eucharistic Liturgy, manifested in numismatics, illuminated manuscripts, icons, church lights (candles and oil lamps) - all witnesses of the creative forces of the Byzantine artist - Galavaris' interests are symbols, forms and their meaning. He investigates their contribution to worship, to the visual shaping of the Liturgy and how they reveal the freedom and the mission of the artist in realizing the Unseen in everyday life.
The 31 studies in the present volume, published over 40 years (5 of them appear in English for the first time) are brought together with an introduction, annotations and an index. The volume contributes essentially to our knowledge of the spirituality of the Eastern Church.
I look forward to seeing this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.
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