"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, June 13, 2011

The Holy Spirit: Lord and Giver of Life

On this Holy Spirit Monday, as it is often called in the Byzantine tradition, and during this octave of Pentecost, I thought I would draw attention to three recent books, already briefly mentioned earlier, about the third Person of the Trinity. 

It has long been a commonplace that Pneumatology remains weak, especially among Western Christians, though Eastern Christian understandings of the Holy Spirit are not always as they seem. And the West's Pneumatology is not nearly as flawed as was often alleged by those whose familiarity with the facts (as Robert Taft likes to say) is less than adequate.

Three books on the Holy Spirit for Christians to consider:

John Oliver, Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition (Paraclete Press, 2011), 164pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
Delving deep and subtly into Orthodox tradition and theology, The Giver of Life articulates the identity of the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity as well as the role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of the world. Written with a poetic sensibility, Fr. Oliver begins with Pentecost, an event uniquely celebrated in Orthodoxy as a time when greenery of all kinds is brought into churches. "The splash of green foliage calls to mind not just life, but a special kind of life. It is the life that transcends biological existence and flows from the very Godhead Itself; it is life that's a state of being—immortal, everlasting, changeless. Ferns and flowers fade and die, but souls filled with this ‘life from above' flourish forever."

Reflecting on the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Church, to the world, and to the human person, Giver of Life looks to the impressive biblical and liturgical tradition of Orthodox Christianity. This is a book weighty in content but accessible in tone, not an academic study of the mind, but a lived experience of the heart.
Next up is a recent volume in the ongoing and welcome Popular Patristics series from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press: Stephen M. Hildebrand, trans., On the Holy Spirit: St. Basil the Great (SVS Press, 2011), 128pp.

As the publisher says:
This volume presents a new translation of St Basil s On the Holy Spirit, a classic expression of the Church's faith in the Spirit, and a lasting testimony to the author's Christian erudition. In the words of St Gregory the Theologian, St Basil's treatise was written by a pen borrowed from the Spirit's store.

This work sets forth the distinction of the divine Persons, and their perpetual communion and conjunction. It talks also about the nature of theological language, and the theological significance of the Church s tradition of worship and proclamation. Although the book was written for St Basil's fourth-century contemporaries, its message is valid for all ages.
Finally, we have a recent and splendid treatment of the filioque, that one issue that has long bedeviled East-West relations: A. Edward Siecienski, The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology) (OUP, 2010).

In the current issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, we have a long review of this book by the Orthodox historian Robert Haddad.

In his review, Haddad, himself a member of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, and so one of the participants in their drafting and publishing a statement in 2003 on the filioque, calls Siecinski's book a "tour de force" and praises, for reasons he discusses in detail, the importance of this book, concluding "We are all in his [Siecinski's] debt."

You will want to read the long review in the journal later this spring.

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