"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, September 27, 2011

Symeon of Thessalonika's Liturgical Commentaries

The Pontifical Medieval Institute Press has now sent me a copy of Steven Hawkes-Teeples, ed. and trans., The Liturgical Commentaries: St. Symeon of Thessalonika (PIMS Press, 2011), viii+301pp.

This volume, the publisher tells us:
contains an edition and facing English translation of Explanation of the Divine Temple and “On the Sacred Liturgy,” the two commentaries on the pontifical (hierarchal) Byzantine Divine Liturgy by St. Symeon of Thessalonika (†1429). This edition is based on MS Zagora 23, which contains extensive corrections and additions apparently added to the text by the author himself. The book opens with a historical and theological foreword on liturgical commentaries and mystagogy by Archimandrite Robert Taft. The introduction surveys the life and career of St. Symeon, analyzes the structure and theology of the commentaries, and concludes with an account of technical and editorial questions. The index includes references to names, places, and topics in Symeon’s text and in the introduction and traces key terms in the commentaries in both Greek and English.
In his foreword, Taft notes that this volume "fills a gaping hole in the scholarly literature," a hole that is surprising when one realizes that "St. Symeon is an author of the first importance." From here Taft mounts a defense of the genres of "mystagogy" or "liturgical commentary" that some have sometimes derided as mere "allegory." After reviewing briefly the hermeneutical and exegetical theories and methods of Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, and the liturgical commentaries of St. Germanos I of Constantinople, Taft argues that "what St. Symeon does at the sunset of Byzantine eucharistic theology is return to a more spiritualistic Alexandrine-type liturgical mystagogy inherited from the works of Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximos Confessor" (8). Such a theological-spiritual vision will in turn influence Kievan Christianity after the conquest of Thessalonika in March 1430, just after Symeon's death--and only twenty-three years before the fall of Constantinople which destroyed forever the last vestiges of Byzantium. But, Taft argues, notwithstanding those dolorous events, Symeon continues to live onas Peter Hammon notes in his The Waters of Marah--an example of Byzance après Byzance.

After this foreword, Hawkes-Teeples begins with a lengthy and detailed introduction and then an outline of the commentaries before turning to the commentaries themselves, which are presented in facing columns, Greek on the left and English on the right.

Look for this handsome book to be expertly reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2012.

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