"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).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Congar's Ecclesiology

If you read my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity
as all right-thinking people will want to and will encourage their friends to do, you will discover my indebtedness in there to people like Yves Congar, especially to his True and False Reform in the Church, which only this year finally appeared in English; it has been in French since 1950 but somehow neglected. In Vraie et Fausse Reforme dans lÉglise, Congar writes of his "grande loi" of Catholic reform, which was a guiding method in my exploration of the papacy. Congar was a hugely important figure in not merely Catholic, but also Orthodox and Protestant theology, especially ecclesiology, from World War II onward. Congar was author of many important books, both influenced by and influential upon Orthodox theology, beginning with his After Nine Hundred Years: The Background of the Schism Between the Eastern and Western Churches and going on to include The Meaning of TraditionI Believe in the Holy Spirit,  and Tradition and Traditions: The Biblical, Historical, and Theological Evidence for Catholic Teaching on TraditionIn addition, his diaries of World War I as well as his Journaux d'un théologien, 1946-1956 and his still more famous Mon journal du Concile, coffret de 2 livres show the costs of pushing for Christian unity in a time when the Catholic Church had tied herself into knots with the soteriological exclusivism of Mortalium Animos.  

There has been something of a recent revival in Congar studies, led in the last 18 months by small volumes such as Yves Congar: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters) as well as a new collection of essays by Congar, At the Heart of Christian Worship: Liturgical Essays of Yves Congar . In addition, Douglas Koskela's study Ecclesiality and Ecumenism: Yves Congar and the Road to Unity should be read by Eastern and Western Christians as a welcome contribution to that topic.

Later this month, we will have another publication devoted to Congar's ecclesiology: Anthony Oelrich, A Church Fully Engaged: Yves Congar's Vision of Ecclesial Authority (Liturgical Press, 2011), 176pp. 

About this book the publisher says:
The French Dominican, Fr. Yves Congar, was deeply convinced that in the church’s ongoing tension with the secular world “it was led to adopt very much the same attitudes as the temporal power itself, to conceive of itself as a society, as a power, when in reality it was a communion, with ministers and servants.” It was Congar’s lifelong theological project to help restore to the church a more evangelical, gospel-based understanding of her life. From the vast corpus of this great expert of the Second Vatican Council, this book gathers his efforts as they pertain specifically to the issue of authority in the church. The often hot-button nature of any discussion on how authority is exercised in the church will only benefit from the retrieval of the theological tradition on this issue brought forth by Congar. Congar’s vision ultimately demands that our understanding of authority must flow from our understanding of God as a Trinity of Persons and, therefore, be practiced in the mutuality of relationship and always be directed at growth in authentic relationship.

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