"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, January 31, 2012

Thinking Through Modernity

The liturgical scholar Daniel Galadza, currently working on his dissertation at the Oriental Institute in Rome and serving this year as a junior fellow at the most prestigious institute of Byzantine studies in North America, viz., Dumbarton Oaks (under the aegis of Harvard University) will, no doubt, be this upcoming generation's version of Robert Taft. He recently and very kindly drew my attention to a new book published in Lebanon after a conference there in 2007 at the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology at the University of Balamand: Thinking Modernity : Towards a Reconfiguration of the Relationship Between Orthodox Theology and Modern Culture (2010, 230pp). 

Like many of the Institute's publications, this one is apparently available through their North American distributor, Alexia Publications.

You can read, in French, Arabic, and English, the list of presenters at the 2007 conference, and see pictures of the same, here

Later this month, the Institute is hosting another conference which sounds fascinating on the theme of exegesis and theology in the Antiochian schools of Edessa, Antioch, and Nisibis. Details here

While on this topic of Christian relations to modernity, and the intellectual and theological problems it poses, permit me to mention one of the most fascinating books I have ever read on this topic, by the Roman Catholic historian Louis Dupré: Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture

Now almost twenty years old (it was published by Yale University Press in 1993), it has lost none of its intellectual power, it seems to me, in the last two decades. 

Byzantine Empresses

Those who know the history of the East-Roman Empire are not unaware of the role that women played at court and elsewhere, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil, often for both. Judith Herrin's 2004 book Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium looked at three of them: Irene, Theodora, and Euphrosyne. Now a new book examines two of them: James Allan Evans, The Power Game in Byzantium: Antonina and the Empress Theodora (Continuum, 2011), 288pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
A fascinating exploration of the corridors of power in Byzantium of the time of Justinian (527-565), this book reveals how Empress Theodora and Antonina, both alumnae of the theatre, were remarkable examples of social mobility, moving into positions of power and influence, becoming wives of key figures. Theodora had three aims: to protect those Christians who would not accept the Chalcedonian Creed; to advance the careers of her family and friends; and to defend the poor and assist the defenceless and, in particular, women – a mission which she claimed publicly. Finally, there was the allure of power, and though the exercise of power cannot be qualified as an ‘aim’, there can be no doubt that Theodora loved authority: she made and unmade marriage contracts, and appointed men to office, or destroyed them if they got in her way. Antonina was both friend and agent, and equally ruthless. She managed her husband, Belisarius, and advanced his career, though she was unfaithful to the marriage bed, and would outlive the main players of the age of Justinian.
We are also given the table of contents:
Preface  1. The Background of the Story \ 2. The Scum of Society \ 3. The Rise to Power \ 4. The Remarkable Career of the Young Belisarius \ 5. Antonina in Love \ 6. Victory and Defeat in the Ecclesiastical Arena \ 7. Theodora’s Riposte \ 8. The Fall of John the Cappadocian \ 9. The Theodosius and Antonina Affair Continued \ 10. Plague and Intrigue\ 11. Theodora Helps to Found an Anti-Chalcedonian Church\ 12.  The Agony of Italy \ 13. Postlude: The Ending of the Era of Reconquest \ Appendix I: Two Contemporary Witnesses \ Sources \ Bibliography \ Index

Monday, January 30, 2012

Christians and Muslims Encountering One Another

As I have noted on here numerous times before, the encounter between Christians and Muslims, of such interest to so many today, first began 1400 years ago when Eastern Christians were the first to be conquered by, and have to live under, Islam in Syria, Egypt, Armenia, and elsewhere. A new book comes out in paperback to look at numerous aspects of that encounter today:

Stephen Goodman, ed., World Christianity in Muslim Encounter: Essays in Memory of David A. Kerr (T&T Clark, 2012).

As the title suggests, this is a Festschrift, about which the publisher tells us:
Global Christianity in Local Context and Muslim Encounter is a unique collection of essays in honour of David A. Kerr, well-known for his contributions in the areas of Christian-Muslim dialogue, Ecumenical Studies and Missions. With contributions from recognized experts in these fields, the book provides a platform for examining contemporary Christian-Muslim relations and critical issues facing twenty-first century Christianity.

Volume 2 is a veritable Who’s Who of renowned Christian and Muslim scholars that have shaped the course of Christian-Muslim dialogue over the last half century. Their contributions in this volume address contemporary and pivotal issues facing Christians and Muslims today, such as Islamophobia, Islamism, Religious Freedom, Inter-religious Challenges and Urbanism, Mission and Economic Globalisation, Suffering and Social Responsibility, and others.
The whole book looks interesting, but perhaps of especial interest to Eastern Christians will be two chapters: 
  • 5. Christian Muslim Relations in Ethiopia: Lessons from the Past, Opportunities for the Future, F. Peter Ford, Jr. (Reformed Church in America)
  • 6. Some Medieval Muslim Views of Constantinople, Carole Hillenbrand (University of Edinburgh, UK) 
The first volume of this Festschrift, World Christianity in Local Context: Essays in Memory of David A. Kerr, also contains two articles of interest to Eastern Christians:
  • 10. The Evolution of Nationalism within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, James L. Hopkins (United Theological Faculty, Bulgaria) 
  • 12. The Immediacy of Presence in the Experience of God: An Indian Christian Perspective, Geomon Kizhakkemalayil George (New York Divinity School, USA)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pan-Orthodoxy in North America

The Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is hosting a fascinating symposium in March on ecclesiological questions facing Eastern Christians in North America: "Pan-Orthodoxy in North America: Towards a Local Church." Held Friday March 16 and Saturday March 17, it promises to be a fantastic two days.

The organizers, including the theologian and Orthodox deacon Nicholas Denysenko, tell us this about the symposium:
The 2012 Huffington Ecumenical Symposium presents Pan-Orthodoxy in North America: Towards a Local Church on March 16-17, 2012. Come to enjoy food and fellowship, and to hear Orthodox and Catholic experts explain the history of Orthodoxy in North America, discuss the problem of uniting several jurisdictions into one church, and introduce a clear view of North American Pan-Orthodoxy through liturgical music, social justice, and the parish.
If you are in the area, or feel like escaping the doldrums of March (late winter blahs combined with fasting-induced anemia), by all means come to hear some fascinating people including Peter Bouteneff from St. Vladimir's Seminary, Michael Plekon from Baruch College in the City University of New York, Susan Wood from Marquette University, and one especially obscure fellow, Adam DeVille, author of a book you may have come across: Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

Further details about the symposium, and registration, may be found at the Institute's website here.

The Ordination of Women

The question of whether Catholic and Orthodox women may be ordained to the diaconate and priesthood continues to be debated, as I noted last summer. This month T&T Clark released a paperback of a book they published in 2008: Ian Jones, Kirsty Thorpe, and Janet Wootton, eds., Women and Ordination in the Christian Churches: International Perspectives (2012, 256pp.)

About this book the publisher tells us:
The growth of women’s ordained ministry is one of the most remarkable and significant developments in the recent history of Christianity. This collection of essays brings together leading contributors from both academic and church contexts to explore Christian experiences of ordaining women in theological, sociological, historical and anthropological perspective.  Key questions include: How have national, denominational and ecclesial cultures shaped the different ways in which women’s ordination is debated and/or enacted? What differences have women’s ordained ministry, and debates on women’s ordination, made in various church contexts? What ‘unfinished business’ remains (in both congregational and wider ministry)? How have Christians variously conceived ordained ministry which includes both women and men?  How do ordained women and men work together in practice? What have been the particular implications for female clergy? And for male clergy? What distinctive issues are raised by women’s entry into senior ordained/leadership positions?  How do episcopal and non-episcopal traditions differ in this?
Chapter 3 will be of especial interest: "The Ordination of Women from an Orthodox Perspective" by Katerina Karkala-Zorba.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Empire

I am delighted to learn of the recent publication of a new book chronicling the treatment of non-Muslims in the early Islamic empire, a problem that has either been shamefully ignored by too many scholars for ideological and political purposes or otherwise misunderstood, and sometimes tendentiously manipulated, by the few people who have paid recent attention. The new book is Milka Levy-Rubin, Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Empire: From Surrender to Coexistence (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, 2011)

About this book the publisher tells us:
The Muslim conquest of the East in the seventh century entailed the subjugation of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and others. Although much has been written about the status of non-Muslims in the Islamic empire, no previous works have examined how the rules applying to minorities were formulated. Milka Levy-Rubin's remarkable book traces the emergence of these regulations from the first surrender agreements in the immediate aftermath of conquest to the formation of the canonic document called the Pact of 'Umar, which was formalized under the early 'Abbasids, in the first half of the ninth century. What the study reveals is that the conquered peoples themselves played a major role in the creation of these policies, and that these were based on long-standing traditions, customs, and institutions from earlier pre-Islamic cultures that originated in the worlds of both the conquerors and the conquered. In its connections to Roman, Byzantine, and Sasanian traditions, the book will appeal to historians of Europe as well as Arabia and Persia.
I hope to feature an interview with the author on here in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

About That Neo-Patristic Synthesis....

wrote an interesting article in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies (vol. 41-42 [2000-01]), "Towards an Analysis of the Neo-Patristic Synthesis of Georges Florovsky." It provided an excellent overview of Florovsky's life and work and the influences on and trajectories of the same. Gudziak ended by noting three problems with Florovsky's approach: the questions of inculturation, interpretation (of the fathers in a new age), and ideology. Gudziak concluded his study by arguing that "on a methodological level, many of the questions avoided by Florovsky remain unanswered by his followers. It remains for the future to show whether a 'neo-patristic synthesis' in the form advocated by Florovsky or along modified categories will provide Orthodoxy with a comprehensive and integrated vision of divine-human reality."

Florovsky's notion of a neo-patristic synthesis continues to be discussed and debated. One such discussion takes place in a book that was originally published in 2008 in hardback, and is this month just released in paperback: Alexi Nesteruk, The  Universe as Communion: Towards a Neo-Patristic Synthesis of Theology and Science (T&T Clark, 2012), 300pp. 

About this book, one of several recently released (as I have been noting) to treat the science-religion debate, the publisher tells us:
In this book a new and distinctive approach to the science-religion debate emerges from a synthesis of the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition with phenomenological thought. Developing ideas of Greek Patristics the author treats faith, with its sense of the Divine presence, and knowledge of the universe, as two modes of communion which constitute the human condition. The modern opposition between science and theology (which is historically paralleled with the Church’s split between East and West, and monasticism and Christianity in the world), is treated as the split between two intentionalities of the overall human subjectivity. The human person, as a centre of their reconciliation, becomes the major theme of the dialogue between science and theology.
It is argued that the reconciliation of science and theology is not simply an academic exercise; it requires an existential change, a change of mind (metanoia), which cannot be effected without ecclesial involvement. Then the person who effectuates the mediation between science and theology is raised to the level of “cosmic priesthood” while the mediation acquires the features of a “cosmic Eucharist” in which all divisions and tensions in creation and humanity are removed. It is through this existential change accompanied by phenomenological analysis that scientific theories can be subjected to a certain “vision” through which the hidden ultimate goal (telos) of scientific research (as the explication of the human condition) shows its kinship to the saving telos advocated by Christian faith. The opposition between theology and science is thus being para-eucharistically overcome.
The publisher also helpfully provides us with the table of contents:
Introduction: The Delimiters of the Dialogue Between Theology and Science
Chapter 1: A Neo-Patristic Ethos in the Dialogue between Theology and Science
Chapter 2: Neo-Patristic Synthesis and Existential Phenomenology: The Lines of Convergence
Chapter 3: Theology and Phenomenological Attitude: the Human Condition, Existential Faith and Transcendence
Chapter 4: The Dialogue between Theology and Science: Human-Centered as opposed  to Nature-Centred
Chapter 5: The Universe as Communion:  from Cosmology to Personhood and  Teleology of  Reason

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dionysius Between Orthodoxy and Heresy

2012 will see at least two new studies that I am aware of on the person, work, and legacy of that mysterious character known to history as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Another was released in November of last year: Filip Ivanovich, Dionysius the Areopagite Between Orthodoxy and Heresy (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), 187pp.

The publisher provides the following overview of this book:
Dionysius the Areopagite between Orthodoxy and Heresy aims to explore the thought of one of the most controversial characters of Christian history, Dionysius the Areopagite, and put it in a correct context, between pagan (namely Neoplatonic) philosophy on the one side, and Christian theology, on the other. In significant part, the book examines Dionysius Neoplatonic sources, but it also offers insights into the original points of his philosophy and theology, thus showing how he managed to achieve a masterful integration of pagan thought and newly revealed faith. The chapters of the book, taken together, try to offer a broad insight into the Areopagite s thought, through examining not just his intellectual background and milieu, but also some of the crucial features of his work, such as notions of hierarchy, deification, apophatic and cataphatic theologies, icon, and others. This work is of a multidisciplinary character, since Dionysius thought has been studied from different points of view, so the contributions range from philosophy and theology to history and art history. Dionysius the Areopagite between Orthodoxy and Heresy is intended for both specialists and non-specialists. Apart from being a collection of specific studies, it can also serve as an introduction to the Areopagite s thought, and will be useful to all those interested in late antique and early Christian philosophy and theology, patristics, and cultural studies in general.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Uriel Simonsohn on Law and Justice Under Islam

Earlier I mentioned a new book by Uriel Simonsohn, A Common Justice: The Legal Allegiances of Christians and Jews Under Early Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). As anyone who knows anything about early Islamic treatments of minorities knows, the fate of Eastern Christians was often the same as that of the Jews. A great deal of the book treats Eastern Christians, especially Arabic and Syriac Christians, and so I asked the author for an interview. Here are his thoughts. 

AD: Tell us about your background

I graduated from the department for Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University in 2008. At present I am a post-doctoral fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  My academic interests pertain to the individual and shared histories of Mediterranean confessional groups from as early as Late Antiquity to as late as the Mamluk period. I am particularly interested in examining the ways in which individuals and groups sustained their confessional identity in the context of their affiliation to a plurality of social circles. Contrary to the very notion of discrete units, I seek to nuance the image that emerges from the social landscape of the medieval Near East and Mediterranean Basin and perceive it in terms of a constant evolution of partnerships, friendships, collegial ties, and even familial bonds among members of different religions. 

I am now pursuing two main research projects: the first is concerned with the historiographic tradition of the Byzantine Orthodox in the early Islamic period, through the work of the tenth-century patriarch of Alexandria, Eutychius or
Sa’id ibn Batriq. The objective of the project is to delineate and identity features of medieval Byzantine Orthodox communities by examining themes of narrative and memory in so-called Melkite (i.e. Byzantine Orthodox) historiography. The second is a study aimed at exploring the theoretical and practical meanings of conversion to Islam in the early Islamic period through an examination of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian legal sources from Mesopotamia
AD: What led to the writing of this book?

The topic was inspired by my interest in the social and religious history of Near Eastern communities in the early Islamic period and by my recognition that legal sources have been hitherto insufficiently exploited in modern scholarship for writing this kind of history.

AD: You open your introduction by referring to the "fragmentary remains of Christian and Jewish legal documents." Tell us a bit about the state of the literature--what is extant, what lost or corrupt, and what major lacunae--as well as the challenges this posed for you and how you overcame them.

Perhaps a good way to begin answering this question is by remarking that most of what has been written is not extant. In terms of the Near Eastern Jewish literature that has survived, I would say that its vast majority stems from the Cairo Geniza, an enigmatic depository, once mistakenly thought of as an archive, of documents found in a wall of the Ibn Ezra synagogue in old Cairo, i.e. Fustat. Most of the documents found in the Geniza were written/copied between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, though there is also some material from later centuries. The primary language used in these documents is Judeao-Arabic. The Jewish legal sources on which I work – geonic responsa – were mainly preserved either through the Geniza or collections which were transmitted to the medieval Jewish diaspora in Europe

As for the Eastern Christian legal literature, that which is extant was mostly gathered in edited volumes such as those listed in the bibliography of my book. It is hard to determine with certainty the reason for the preservation of these particular regulations in preference to others, though one would imagine that this has to do partially with their ongoing relevance for future generations of ecclesiastical administrations. The fact that not everything, perhaps most, of what has been put down actually survived is of course a major challenge for modern researchers. Unlike social scientists, for example, historians do not possess exact statistics or records as to the volume of circulation of these documents. At the end of the day, much of our conclusions should be accepted with caution and reservation. 

Some of the ways I tried overcoming this were by looking simultaneously at two religious groups rather than one. The common features that were shared by Christian and Jewish communities under Islamic rule allow a comparative analysis which helps to fill in historical gaps. Another way is to amplify the legal discussion through the inclusion of other forms of historical data, be it other literary genres or archeology. Last but not least, my approach has also been to implement some of the more recent discussions in legal anthropology dealing with legal pluralism, the plurality of judicial institutions, and the social dynamics this plurality entails.

AD: What led you especially to focus so much on the East-Syrian and West-Syrian Churches?

In contrast to the Byzantine Orthodox, Coptic, and Maronite Churches, these are the only churches for which legal materials of significant scope from the early Islamic period have survived. Also, it should be noted that the Jewish literary component of this study, geonic responsa, had originated from the very same region.

AD: Your introduction begins by noting the notion of dhimmitude, which is a notion that seems to attract a good deal of attention lately, some of it from rather tendentious or polemical sources. Briefly describe that concept as your research has disclosed it and you have analyzed it.

Actually I avoid referring to the term, which I believe was mainly inspired by Bat Ye’or’s work and which I don’t find very rewarding methodologically. The principal point which I try to make is that rather than considering the history of non-Muslim communities through questions related to their status under Islam, a more fruitful analysis can be achieved by taking into account their relations with their extra-confessional environment. These relations were not necessarily based on principles of communal demarcation or in the context of an exclusively hierarchically structured setting.

The application of the legal-anthropological paradigm of legal pluralism at the center of this book casts new light on the rich matrix of social commitments that had informed the lives of groups and individuals in the early Islamic period. The paradigm, which takes the existence of a plurality of legal orders as indicative of a plurality of social orders, has enabled me to revisit some of the older presuppositions in modern scholarship which tended to view Jewish and Christian communities through a paradigm of social autonomy, segregated by choice from their external environments.

AD: You refer at one point to the role of Arabic in coming to shape a shared cultural orientation. That was true--and still is true today--for many Eastern Christians (Melkites, Copts, and others), but was it equally true for Jewish communities as well?

Certainly, the documents found in the Cairo Geniza attest to this. Both private and formal correspondences were conducted in an Arabic dialect known as Judaeo-Arabic that was mostly written in Hebrew script. S.D. Goitein’s monumental study, A Mediterranean Society, is based on his close reading of thousands of such documents for writing the history of Near Eastern and Mediterranean Jewish communities in the High Middle Ages. Goitein’s studies, as also those of other Geniza scholars, make a very strong point about the shared linguistic and normative culture of Jewish communities under Islamic rule.  Combined with their close attachment to Jewish law and mores, these Jews (including those in Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula) were able to communicate with each other in the context of a Judaeo-Arabic culture that had transcended both physical and political boundaries.

AD: It is often said that many Eastern Christians take canon law far less seriously than Latin Christians did and do, the former often regarding canons more often as mere suggestions that can be ignored or applied at will. What evidence did your research unearth of Eastern Christian attitude towards canons and laws, and to following them?

To the best of my knowledge there is not much direct evidence indicating the attitudes of Christian laymen towards canon law. I’m inclined to believe, however, that the Christians discussed in this study did take ecclesiastical regulations quite seriously. My assumption is based on the considerable efforts on the part of ecclesiastical leaders to put down regulations, the high frequency of synodical assemblies in which canon laws were issued, and the vivid historical image which emerges from canon laws, suggesting that they were designed to address contemporaneous concerns.

In the introduction of my book I address this question to some extent, referring the reader to the conclusion of the acts of a West Syrian synod of 1153, where we find instructions as to who should be informed of its canons: 
“We determine and decree, we, all the bishops, and the synod that has been gathered . . . that for the renewing of the church every year in the Teshris [Oc­tober or November], these canons shall be read before the people. [This takes place] while all are gathered in the church and they shall hear the canons, and they shall renew these canons by the renewing of the church. There is no authority from God that bishops or priests or deacons may neglect them and leave them without reading.”

AD: As you may know, reform of Eastern Orthodox canon law--including its codification--in the modern period has been a desideratum for at least a century, but has not happened. As a result, many canons are out of date, ignored, or irrelevant--but never updated. In the periods you were researching, was there such a sluggish and "conservative" approach to law, or was there more dynamic openness to finding creative legislative solutions to current problems?

My point about the incorporation of civil law into the ecclesiastical legal system, I believe, suggests a rather bold endeavor on the part of ecclesiastical jurists to reform it. While regulations of a civil legal nature are attested in East Syrian records dating back to the fifth century and on, the extant evidence should allow us to conclude that a serious and comprehensive effort of this sort took place only after the Islamic takeover, specifically in the eighth and ninth centuries. As I argue in the book, church leaders were concerned with the fact that Christians were taking their lawsuits outside the church. They realized this was partially triggered by the absence of regulations pertaining to such matters as matrimonial and divorce arrangements, inheritance, business transactions, and so forth. Consequently, a broad set of legal principles, which, to some extent, can be identified as being of Sasanian and Roman background, were placed alongside religious regulations within a uniform legal codification. This was clearly a very dramatic shift, which no doubt is to be accounted for by a very dramatic social change.

AD: You note that in Palestine, the Transjordan, and Egypt, it seems that Eastern Christian communities carried on relatively unscathed after the Arab conquests. When and how did this begin to change?

On the long run, Islamic rule entailed quite a few dramatic consequences for the Eastern Churches. To begin with, the Byzantine Orthodox (so-called Melkites) could no longer enjoy the state patronage to which they were accustomed under Late Roman rule. In addition, the withdrawal of the Roman state and its emperor from the scene of inter-denominational affairs signaled the final pull out of the Miaphysites (Syrian Orthodox and Copts in particular) from the ongoing endeavor to bring about Christological unity, thus laying down the foundations for independent ecclesiastical hierarchies. In other words, the submission of Eastern Christians to the nascent Islamic state served as an important trigger for furthering ecclesiastical divisions throughout the Near East.

Conversion to Islam, although gradual and slow, is likely to have had the ultimate effect of decline in the size and vitality of Christian communities. What may have encouraged this process and should be seen as a significant development in itself was the fact that church officials and monasteries were no longer able to enjoy the privilege of evading taxation. Consequently, not only did the churches suffer from a diminished capacity to offer social services to their laity, but they also opened their doors to individuals of questionable reputation who were able to gain access to ecclesiastical ranks through material means. These developments are attested in the legal and historiographic sources early on in the period after the conquest, yet the materialization of their effects was not immediate or total.

AD: You recognize differences in laws, noting that Islamic and Jewish laws "encompass religious as well as civil questions [whereas] Christian law, at least in its formative stage, was restricted to religious concerns." What does that tell us about the similarities and differences in these three faiths?

It is worth recalling that unlike Judaism and Islam, Christianity did not emerge as a theocratic system, but rather as one which gradually became that of an existing empire. It is in this context that we ought to understand “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21). Under the Christian Roman Empire, at least at first, temporal affairs were to be brought before secular judges. Only later, most notably beginning in the fifth century, episcopal courts were entrusted by the state with an overlapping jurisdiction, yet nonetheless, the law was Roman not ecclesiastical. Once Christians fell under non-Christian rule, as was initially the case of the Church of the East (so-called Nestorians), and later also that of other churches falling under Islamic rule, there became a need for developing ecclesiastical regulations in the realm of civil law. The background, then, should be seen from a historical perspective rather than a theological one.

AD: You note that for some Eastern Christians under Islamic domination the Church comes to be perceived as "an administrative cog meant to serve the needs of an Islamic bureaucracy, rather than an autonomous entity dominated by the saints" (117). Was that a widespread perception?

To an extent, this perception may have sprung already before the Islamic takeover. As is well known, an important aspect of the Christianization of the Roman Empire was the gradual rise in power of bishops as civil administrators. It is hard to measure the popularity of such perceptions, yet it would seem that it was precisely this nature of the episcopal office which was exploited by its adversaries within Christian communities. One may think in this context about those church regulations that emphasize the holy office of the bishop along others which seek to invalidate the authority claimed by monks and holy men.

AD: Sum up the main themes of the book for us

The book offers a new approach to the study of the history of Christians and Jews under Islamic rule. Rather than focusing on the question of non-Muslim status and Islamic tolerance, it seeks to sidestep these questions and present an alternative historiographic approach. According to this approach, Near Eastern societies should be perceived in a much more dynamic fashion, reflecting a complex matrix of interpersonal ties which transcended confessional circles. Historiographically, it brings to the fore issues of direct relevance to late antique and medieval Near Eastern religious communities. At the same time, by looking at the manner in which Christian and Jewish religious elites responded to the appeal of their coreligionists to extra-confessional judicial systems the book also treats questions of wider scale, namely elite agendas and the means for their advancement, legal pluralism in pre-modern societies, and the merging of Islamic rule and Near Eastern social cultures. Broadly speaking, the book argues that under Islam the corporate features of the late antique Graeco-Roman world and of the parallel agnatic Sasanian system gradually dissolved. Instead, it was the non-corporate character of Islamic rule that cleared the way for a pre-existing complex social environment in which the individual was tied to a multiplicity of social affiliations.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ecclesiology in Our Time

I maintain, of course, an active interest in all matters ecclesiological, having authored a study in the area which, if you somehow managed to escape 2011 without reading it, you will want to be sure not to allow one more day in 2012 to pass before rectifying this lapse: Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

Ecclesiology is often considered the youngest of the so-called theological sciences. In their The Theology of the Church: A Bibliography, Avery Dulles and Patrick Granfield noted that the twentieth century was often called the "century of the Church" because it was during this time that ecclesiology came to be studied more widely (and, for some, "systematically") than it had in previous centuries.

We have therefore seen an outpouring of works in ecclesiology, some of which I have noted on here in the past. The best such book released in 2011 was, as I argued at length here, was Radu Bordeianu's work on Dumitru Staniloae. (I interviewed Bordeianu here.)

Later this spring, Ashgate tells me that they are set to bring out a big collection entitled appropriately enough A Reader in Ecclesiology (Ashgate Contemporary Ecclesiology). Under the editorship of E. Stanley Jones, this volume, projected to run to 256pp., covers a wide sweep of history and personages. The publisher provides the following overview:
This Reader presents a diverse and ecumenical cross-section of ecclesiological statements from across the twenty centuries of the church's existence. It builds on the foundations of early Christian writings, illustrates significant medieval, reformation, and modern developments, and provides a representative look at the robust attention to ecclesiology that characterizes the contemporary period. This collection of readings offers an impressive overview of the multiple ways Christians have understood the church to be both the 'body of Christ' and, at the same time, an imperfect, social and historical institution, constantly subject to change, and reflective of the cultures in which it is found.

This comprehensive survey of historical ecclesiologies is helpful in pointing readers to the remarkable number of images and metaphors that Christians have relied upon in describing the church and to the various tensions that have characterized reflection on the church as both united and diverse, community and institution, visible and invisible, triumphant and militant, global and local, one and many. Students, clergy and all interested in Christianity and the church will find this collection an invaluable resource.
Of interest to Eastern Christians in particular will be the many chapters on the early patristic sources as well as the Didache; and then, in the modern period, chapters on Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulas.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Science and Orthodoxy: From the Greek Fathers Onwards

Johns Hopkins University Press, which focuses primarily on medicine and science, has recently released a new work by Efthymios Nicolaidis (translated by Susan Emanuel): Science and Eastern Orthodoxy: From the Greek Fathers to the Age of Globalization (Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context) (JHUP, 2011), 288pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

People have pondered conflicts between science and religion since at least the time of Christ. The millennia-long debate is well documented in the literature in the history and philosophy of science and religion in Western civilization. Science and Eastern Orthodoxy is a departure from that vast body of work, providing the first general overview of the relationship between science and Christian Orthodoxy, the official church of the Oriental Roman Empire.

This pioneering study traces a rich history over an impressive span of time, from Saint Basil's Hexameron of the fourth century to the globalization of scientific debates in the twentieth century. Efthymios Nicolaidis argues that conflicts between science and Greek Orthodoxy—when they existed—were not science versus Christianity but rather ecclesiastical debates that traversed the whole of society.

Nicolaidis explains that during the Byzantine period, the Greek fathers of the church and their Byzantine followers wrestled passionately with how to reconcile their religious beliefs with the pagan science of their ancient ancestors. What, they repeatedly asked, should be the church's official attitude toward secular knowledge? From the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century to its dismantling in the nineteenth century, the patriarchate of Constantinople attempted to control the scientific education of its Christian subjects, an effort complicated by the introduction of European science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Science and Eastern Orthodoxy provides a wealth of new information concerning Orthodoxy and secular knowledge—and the reactions of the Orthodox Church to modern sciences.
I hope to have this expertly reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies later this year. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Byzantine Music on Mount Athos

Mount Athos, as I noted last year (see here and here), continues to occupy a very considerable place in what could be called the Eastern Christian imaginary. I have just received a new work from Scarecrow Press (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield), the thirteenth volume in their Europea: Ethnomusicologies and Modernities series.  In this new book, a Danish ethnomusicologist takes a look at the musical revival on the holy mountain: Tore Tvarn Lind, The Past is Always Present: The Revival of the Byzantine Musical Tradition at Mount Athos (Europea: Ethnomusicologies and Modernities) (Scarecrow Press, 2012), 224pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
In The Past Is Always Present, Tore Tvarnø Lind examines the musical revival of Greek Orthodox chant at the monastery of Vatopaidi within the monastic society of Mount Athos, Greece. In particular, Lind focuses on the musical activities at the monastery and the meaning of the past in the monks' efforts at improving their musical performance practice through an emphasis on tradition.

Based on a decade of intense fieldwork and extensive interviews with members of Athos' monastic community, Lind covers a vast array of topics. From musical notation and the Greek oral tradition to CD covers and music production, the tension between tradition and modernity in the musical activity of the Athonite community raises a clear challenge to the quest to bring together Orthodox spirituality and quietude with musical production.
The Past Is Always Present addresses all of these matters by focusing on the significance and meaning of the local chanting style. As Lind argues, Byzantine chant cannot be fully grasped in musicological terms alone, outside the context of prayer. Yet because chant is fundamentally a way of communicating with God, the sound generated must be exactly right, pushing issues of music notation, theory, and performance practice to the forefront.

Byzantine chant, Lind ultimately argues, is a modern phenomenon as the monastic communities of Mount Athos negotiate with the realities of modern Orthodox identity in Greece. By reporting on the musical revival activities of this remarkable community through the topics of notation, musical theory, drone-singing, and spiritual silence, Lind looks at the ways in which Athonite heritage is shaped, touching upon the Byzantine chant's contemporary relationship with practice of pilgrimage and the phenomenon of religious tourism.

Offering unique insights into the monastic culture at Mount Athos,
The Past Is Always Present is for those especially interested in sacred music, past and present Greek culture, monastic life, religious tourism, and the fields of ethnomusicology and anthropology.
This book also includes a CD with fifteen pieces on it, including several plagal chants from the Divine Liturgy and all-night vigil. We are having this expertly reviewed later this year for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, to which you will want to subscribe here

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

50 Years Since Vatican II

As we move into 2012, Catholics--and many others--will begin to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of that landmark ecclesial and ecumenical event of our times, viz., the opening of the Second Vatican Council. (I am beginning to sketch out in my mind a public lecture I am to give in the fall on how much relations between Catholics and Orthodox have changed thanks to Vatican II.) I think any fair assessment of it must recognize that its legacy is very mixed indeed. (Tracey Rowland's book Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II rightly recognizes some of the problematic assumptions built into such conciliar documents as Gaudium et Spes. And I have long maintained that many of the problems implementing the council's liturgical reforms could have been mitigated or avoided by a close reading of Mary Douglas' important anthropological work, including especially Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology.) But for Eastern Christians, the legacy can surely be seen only as positive: Unitatis Redintegratio and Orientalium Ecclesiarum were wonderfully revolutionary documents from which Catholics (especially Eastern Catholics) and Orthodox alike continue to benefit. For that our continued response can and should be: Deo gratias. 

One recent book treating the legacy of the council will be reviewed in the spring 2012 issue of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies: Ladislas Örsy, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates (Liturgical Press, 2009), 161pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
Bearing in mind that Vatican II was the conclusion of one era and the opening of another, Ladislas Orsy insists that the task of the church is to continue--with both creative insights and critical debates. Receiving the Council is a gift from a highly renowned and deeply respected canon lawyer and theologian who was an eye witness to Vatican II. It is filled with well-articulated questions and intelligent insights as well as prudent proposals for good structures in the "house of God" that is the church.
Our reviewer, the canonist W.L. Daniel, notes that "this book is successful in continuing the...deeper reflection on the ratio iuris and the promotion of a more refined translation of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council into juridical terms in all areas of the Church’s life."

Demonic Possession

If the number of recent movies is anything to go by, interest in demonic activity and the rite of exorcism is high today. Along comes a new book from the prodigious publisher Brepols, treating this topic in the second and third centuries: A. Nicolotti, Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica tra II e III secolo (Brepols, 2011, 808 p., 1 colour ill.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
Il libro contiene un’approfondita analisi della pratica dell’esorcismo e del trattamento della possessione diabolica nell’antichità cristiana. Vengono riprodotte, criticamente esaminate, tradotte e commentate tutte le occorrenze scritte esistenti – più di duecento, in sette lingue – in cui compare qualche menzione o anche solo qualche allusione al tema. La provenienza dei testi è varia: autori cristiani, autori pagani che descrivono gli usi dei cristiani, scritti giudeocristiani, gnostici, apocrifi, ordinamenti ecclesiastici, etc. L’arco cronologico preso in considerazione va dall’inizio del II secolo (Elcasaiti) alla metà del III (Cornelio di Roma). La parte analitica è preceduta da un’antologia dei testi antecedenti giudaici (Antico Testamento, Qumran e Giuseppe Flavio) e protocristiani (Nuovo Testamento), e delle testimonianze pagane coeve (Luciano di Samosata e Filostrato). Una lunga introduzione indaga in generale sui presupposti teologici dell’esorcismo, sui modelli biblici, sulle sue implicazioni apologetiche e propagandistiche, sulla sua funzione nell’ambito del conflitto interreligioso, sulla terminologia adoperata, sui formulari e le pratiche attestate, sulle caratteristiche, prerogative e qualità morali dell’esorcista, sul progressivo stabilirsi dell’esorcistato come ordine sacro e sull’istituzione del rito dell’esorcismo dei catecumeni. La bibliografia scientifica utilizzata supera i 1000 titoli. Al termine del libro è a disposizione un riassunto in lingua inglese.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eastern Monasticism

Brepols sent me today their newest catalogue with a number of interesting books in it, including this one treating Eastern Christian monasticism: Florence Julien and Marie-Joseph Pierre, Monachismes d'Orient: Images, échanges, influences: Hommage à Antoine Guillaumont (Brepols, 2012, 347pp + 25 b/w illustrations). 

This volume is a collection of papers given at an international colloquium on the topic. The publisher further tells us:
L’année 2007-2008 a marqué le cinquantenaire de la création de la chaire des « Christianismes orientaux » à la section des sciences religieuses de l’École pratique des Hautes Études (Paris, Sorbonne). La direction d’étude et le Collège de France ont voulu commémorer cet événement en organisant un colloque scientifique international sur la question des monachismes d’Orient. Ce sont les actes de cette manifestation qui sont ici réunis. Cet ouvrage s’inscrit dans l’hommage particulier qui fut rendu à cette occasion aux travaux de M. Antoine Guillaumont, premier titulaire de la chaire, grand spécialiste de l’Orient chrétien et des milieux monastiques de Syrie et d’Égypte.
Ce volume, dans un souci de transversalité, met l’accent sur les jeux d’influences réciproques que cristallise le phénomène monastique dans les différentes aires culturelles de l’Orient chrétien : Sinaï, Liban et Palestine, Égypte, Éthiopie, Mésopotamie, Perse, golfe Persique… Il s’adresse à tous ceux qu’intéresse l’histoire du Proche et Moyen-Orient dans l’Antiquité tardive et à l’époque médiévale.
M. Antoine Guillaumont entra au CNRS en 1946. Il fut ensuite directeur d’études à la section des sciences philologiques et historiques de l’École pratique des Hautes Études (« Hébreu et araméen ») de 1952 à 1974, et occupa la chaire des « Christianismes orientaux » à la section des sciences religieuses depuis sa création en 1957 jusqu’en 1981. Élu au Collège de France en 1977, il devint membre de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres en 1983.

Byzantine Hagiography

Interest in all things Byzantine remains high today. And, among scholars at least, the question of hagiography also continues to attract a good deal of critical scrutiny. Along comes a new collection of essays to marry both interests: Stephanos Efthymiadis, Hagiography in Byzantium: Literature, Social History and Cult (Ashgate Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2011), 360pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Involving a vast number of texts, saintly heroes and authors, Byzantine hagiography stands out as a field of scholarly research highly rewarding for both the philologist and the historian. The studies reproduced in this volume cover a chronological range from late antiquity to the Paleologan era. They bring together annotated editions of specific texts and discussions of their contexts, complemented by comprehensive surveys of saintly and monastic cult. Having appeared over the last twenty years, they also illustrate and reflect upon the significant development and re-orientation which has marked the study of hagiography in recent decades.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Biblical Canon

Vahan Hovhanessian, to whom I have previously drawn attention, has a new edited collection published: The Canon of the Bible and the Apocrypha in the Churches of the East (Peter Lang, 2011), 122pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:  
The Canon of the Bible and the Apocrypha in the Churches of the East features essays reflecting the latest scholarly research in the field of the canon of the Bible and related apocryphal books, with special attention given to the early Christian literature of Eastern churches. These essays study and examine issues and concepts related to the biblical canon as well as non-canonical books that circulated in the early centuries of Christianity among Christian and non-Christian communities, claiming to be authored by biblical characters, such as the prophets and kings of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament.
We are also provided the table of contents:

  • Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou: The Canon of Scripture in the Orthodox Church

  • Daniel Alberto Ayuch: The Prayer of Manasses: Orthodox Tradition and Modern Studies in Dialogue

  • Slavomír Céplö: Testament of Solomon and Other Pseudepigraphical Material in Ahkam Sulayman (Judgment of Solomon)

  • Anushavan Tanielian: The Book of Wisdom of Solomon in the Armenian Church Literature and Liturgy

  • Nicolae Roddy: Visul Maicii Domnului («The Dream of the Mother of the Lord»): New Testament Romanian Amulet Text

  • Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou: Banned from the Lectionary: Excluding the Apocalypse of John from the Orthodox New Testament Canon

  • Vahan S. Hovhanessian: New Testament Apocrypha and the Armenian Version of the Bible.
  • Friday, January 13, 2012

    St. Mark of Alexandria

    Francis Dvornik's 1948 study The Idea Of Apostolicity In Byzantium And The Legend Of Apostle Andrew was one of the most important to help us understand the process by which the early Church gradually shifted the argument from the "principle of accommodation" to the importance of "apostolicity" when arguing over the pre-eminence of patriarchal sees. More recently, Susan Wessel's fascinating and very important study has shown in great and convincing detail how this process was really accomplished in the fifth century under Pope Leo I: Leo the Great and the Spiritual Rebuilding of a Universal Rome.

    Now another recent publication has examined the role of the apostle Mark in shaping the Church of Alexandria: Thomas C. Oden, 
    The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition (IVP, 2011, 279pp).

    About this book, the publisher tells us:
    We often regard the author of the Gospel of Mark as an obscure figure about whom we know little. Many would be surprised to learn how much fuller a picture of Mark exists within widespread African tradition, tradition that holds that Mark himself was from North Africa, that he founded the church in Alexandria, that he was an eyewitness to the Last Supper and Pentecost, that he was related not only to Barnabas but to Peter as well and accompanied him on many of his travels. In this provocative reassessment of early church tradition, Thomas C. Oden begins with the palette of New Testament evidence and adds to it the range of colors from traditional African sources, including synaxaries (compilations of short biographies of saints to be read on feast days), archaeological sites, non-Western historical documents and ancient churches. The result is a fresh and illuminating portrait of Mark, one that is deeply rooted in African memory and seldom viewed appreciatively in the West.
    One of the "blurbers" draws out the Coptic implications:
    "The African Memory of Mark honors the way the Coptic Church has been the faithful, preeminent carrier of the Markan tradition in the church, and does that by weaving the different genres of sources into a narrative whole. Oden is not unaware of standard depictions of Mark and the Gospel that bears his name in which the African note is rather marginal--where it is acknowledged at all--but he challenges established scholarship by marshaling the evidence and refocusing it on the continuity of the Coptic memory of Mark. Whether or not the reader agrees with the argument of the book, Oden has raised the bar of scrutiny and challenged many of the unstated assumptions of conventional scholarship. From critic and fan alike, Oden deserves credit." (Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity, Yale University )

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Eastern Christian Doctrine and Debate

    Earlier I drew attention to the advent of an exciting new series from Ashgate. I have just this week received the first volume: Averil Cameron and Robert Hoyland, eds., Doctrine and Debate in the East Christian World, 300-1500 (The Worlds of Eastern Christianity, 300-1500) (Ashgate, 2011), liv + 415pp.

    About this book, the publisher tells us:
    The reign of Constantine (306-37), the starting point for the series in which this volume appears, saw Christianity begin its journey from being just one of a number of competing cults to being the official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. The involvement of emperors had the, perhaps inevitable, result of a preoccupation with producing, promoting and enforcing a single agreed version of the Christian creed. Under this pressure Christianity in the East fragmented into different sects, disagreeing over the nature of Christ, but also, in some measure, seeking to resist imperial interference and to elaborate Christianities more reflective of and sensitive to local concerns and cultures. This volume presents an introduction to, and a selection of the key studies on, the ways in which and means by which these Eastern Christianities debated with one another and with their competitors: pagans, Jews, Muslims and Latin Christians. It also includes the iconoclast controversy, which divided parts of the East Christian world in the seventh to ninth centuries, and devotes space both to the methodological tools that evolved in the process of debate and the promulgation of doctrine, and to the literary genres through which the debates were expressed.
    In their preface, the editors tell us that the rationale for this series centres on the fact that "Eastern Christianity is much less known and studied than its Western counterpart...and it is the principal aim of this series to redress this deficiency and to provide a foundation for new research.....This series seeks to...mak[e] available some of the most influential research published to date....The series as a whole will, it is hoped, serve as a starting point for a more holistic approach to Eastern Christianity."

    This solid, handsome volume brings together articles by some of the world's leading scholars including Sebastian Brock, Sidney Griffith, Peter Brown, Averil Cameron, and others. It is divided into five sections:

    I) The Formative Period: with articles on Origen, the Manichaeans, the Syrian Orthodox under Justinian (Brock's article), and anti-Jewish polemics.
    II) The Encounter with Islam: with four articles, including the first of two by Griffith.
    III) Iconoclasm: with two articles including Brown's article.
    IV) Anti-Latin Texts: with one article by Tia M. Kolbaba, author of a book favourably reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies several years ago: Inventing Latin Heretics: Byzantines and the Filioque in the Ninth Century.
    V) Tools of Argument: with five articles, including a second one by Griffith on a "summa theologiae" in 9th-century Christian Arabic.

    This is a very impressive start to a series that belongs in every serious library. 

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Saints as They Really Are

    It was, if I recall correctly, Cardinal Newman who once objected to making saints into mere "clothes-racks for virtues," hanging on them all our conventional and bourgeois projections of "correct behavior" and "pious living." The humanity of such figures is thus subsumed in a revolting mass of treacle, resulting in little more than a caricature and thereby proving the truth of Ambrose Bierce's aphorism: a saint is just a dead sinner well edited.

    To counteract all this, we have for some time now been in the debt of the Orthodox priest, scholar, and professor at Baruch College in the City University of New York, Michael Plekon, whom I interviewed last summer about his many publications and ongoing work on hagiography and much else besides. Now I am delighted that the University of Notre Dame Press is soon to bring out the latest volume in his acclaimed trilogy on real saints: Saints As They Really Are: Voices of Holiness in Our Time (UND Press, May 2012), 288pp.

    About the book, the publisher tells us:

    In his new book, Saints As They Really Are, priest and scholar Michael Plekon traces the spiritual journeys of several American Christians, using their memoirs and other writings. These “saints-in-the-making” show all their doubts and imperfections as they reflect on their search for God and their efforts to lead holy lives. They are gifted yet ordinary women and men trying to follow Christ within their flawed and broken humanity—“saints as they really are,” as Dorothy Day put it.
    Saints As They Really Are is the third book in Plekon’s critically acclaimed series on saints and holiness in our time. He draws on the autobiographical work of Dorothy Day, Peter Berger, Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris, and Barbara Brown Taylor, among others, as well as from his own experiences as a Carmelite seminarian and brother. Plekon shares the power of these individuals’ stories as they unfold. The book offers a strong argument that our failings and weaknesses are not disqualifications to holiness. Plekon further confronts the institutional church and its relationship to individuals seeking God, focusing on some of the challenges to this search—the destructive potential of religion and religious institutions, as well as our personal tendencies to extremism, overwork, pious obsessions, and legalism. But he also underscores the healing qualities of faith and the spiritual life. Plekon’s insights will help readers better understand their own spiritual pilgrimages as they learn how others have dealt with the trials and joys of their path to everyday holiness.
    You can be sure that we will be discussing the book on here, and also featuring another interview with the author to discuss this work. The book will be reviewed in 2013 in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.  

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Author Interview: Radu Bordeianu

    Last year I wrote a long and very appreciative review of a splendid new book in ecclesiology from the pen of the Orthodox priest and theologian Radu Bordeianu. It is, as I concluded, a book that nobody interested in ecclesiology, ecumenism, or Romanian theology in the person of Dumitru Staniloae can afford to ignore. I have been able to talk to the author about his work, and here are his thoughts:

    Please tell us about your background

    I was born and raised in Romania, where I went to seminary and undertook Master’s studies. I obtained a second Master’s degree from Duke University, and my Ph.D. from Marquette University. An ordained Orthodox priest since 1998 and father of three children, I am in my sixth year teaching at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.
    My research focuses on ecumenical ecclesiologies—especially the dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic churches—the relationship between the Trinity and the Church, theology of creation, and environmental issues. I am particularly engaged with the ecclesiology of the Romanian Orthodox theologian Dumitru Staniloae, placing special emphasis on Staniloae’s contribution in ecumenical discussions on the Church.
    My Dumitru Staniloae: an Ecumenical Ecclesiology has been published by Continuum. My other works appeared in Pro Ecclesia, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Downside Review, Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, Theological Studies, and in book chapters, etc. I have presented numerous academic papers and was have lectured nationally and internationally. I have also been interviewed on television, radio, and in newspapers.

    I am the director of the annual Holy Spirit Lecture and Colloquium, an ongoing series intended to encourage the exploration of ideas pertaining to the theology of the Holy Spirit within an ecumenical context and in dialogue with contemporary issues. I am also the director of the des Places Libermann Award in Pneumatology, which honors the individual who has made the most significant scholarly contribution to the area of pneumatology in the preceding five-year period.
    I especially honored to serve as president of the Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA). 

    Tell us why you wrote this book:

    I wrote this book for two reasons. First, Staniloae is one of the most important Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century, if not the most important. He is certainly the most important Romanian theologian of all times. And yet, his theology is largely unknown in the West because he was isolated by the Communist regime and because of a lack of translations. He provides a significant alternative position to other Orthodox authors such as Lossky, Zizioulas, or Florovsky. 

    Second, Staniloae has been highjacked by anti-ecumenical rhetoric that portrays him in a very polemical way. True, his theology is not always consistent and he is not up to date with Western theologies, but it is an unfortunate misunderstanding to consider him anti-ecumenical, based on marginal comments. He wrote explicitly in favor of ecumenical dialogues and he was involved in dialogues--once the Communist regime reluctantly allowed him to have contacts in the West. I mention other reasons in the book, but these are the two most important reasons for writing the book.

    For whom was the book written—did you have a particular audience in mind?

    The book is intended for an academic audience, for use in graduate classes, as well as for those involved in ecumenical dialogues. I hope to take Staniloae’s conclusions and present them in a book for a larger public later on.

    What about your own background led you to the writing of this book?

    Since 1999, when I began studying ecumenical ecclesiologies at Duke University, I have been interested in the limits of the Church, and thus in the relationship between Orthodoxy and other churches. At Marquette I added another interest--namely the relationship between clergy and the people (laity). I have also studied before ecological issues and Trinitarian theology. All these come together in my book, but they do not explain why I wrote it on Staniloae. I must admit that, like most Romanians, I saw Staniloae as a myth, even though I was largely unfamiliar with his works. This is a paradox: many Romanians speak about Staniloae, but few read him. When my mentor, Michael Fahey, insisted that I write on Staniloae, I was instantly captivated by his thought and I am still enthusiastic a decade later.

    Were there any surprises you discovered in your writing?

    I was surprised to see how relevant Staniloae’s theology still is for contemporary problems. Many times I had to show that relevance in a creative way, and yet still true to Staniloae’s spirit. Other times, however (and most surprisingly), I discovered how Staniloae dealt explicitly with issues that are still ecumenically very relevant, at a time when it was pioneering to do so.

    Are there similar books out there, and if so, how is yours different?

    While there are other studies of various aspects of Staniloae’s theology, none of them deals explicitly and extensively with his ecclesiology and its ecumenical relevance as my book does.

    Sum up briefly the main themes/ideas/insights of the book

    In answer to your question, here is an excerpt from the conclusion to my book:
    Communion ecclesiology has the potential to bridge the divide between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Staniloae contributed to the discussion of the relationship between the universal and local aspects of the Church, and various local churches among themselves, as an application of his trinitarian approach to ecclesiology. The unity of the trinitarian persons is reflected in, and imprinted upon, the unity of the local churches that make up the Una Sancta. Each of these local eucharistic assemblies possesses the fullness of the Church as long as it remains in communion with the other local churches. They are all united through mutual identity, since the same Christ is present in each one of them, through the Spirit, in a new filial and sacrificial relationship with the Father. This unity presupposes other elements related to, but also distinct from, the Eucharist. Local churches find themselves in relationship with other churches through their bishops, who are in communion of love and teaching with each other, and thus all the members of the local church are in communion with the baptized faithful in other local churches.
    Sharing in the same faith and being united by the bond of love, local churches also manifest the communion between the clergy and the people, all sharing in the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. Thus, the bishops gathered in a council do not stand above the Church, but their teaching ministry is complemented by the prophetic office of all baptized Christians: the bishops represent the faith of their communities at the council and their decisions are then subject to reception by the faithful. The communion between the clergy and the people is also manifested as they both exercise their kingly office by having dominion over their passions and by participating in the administration of the Church communally, while maintaining the distinctions between their specific gifts. The same holds true as the entire community celebrates the Eucharist. In the Liturgy, heaven and earth praise God in unison, and the entire Church is gathered in worship: Virgin Mary, the saints, the angels, the living and the dead, clergy and the people— all surround the Lamb of God, all join in his sacrifice to the Father, and all are united in the same Spirit.
    The liturgical life of the Church encompasses all creation, which was made to praise God in a cosmic Liturgy. The Church fulfills the natural priesthood of all human beings, who were created to manifest the sacramentality of the world and give voice to the praises of the entire universe.
    In a general sense, all human beings are adoptive children of the Father, all share in Christ’s restored humanity, and all are filled with the Spirit. In a special sense, however, the Church is fully united with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, acting as the sacrament of the Trinity in the world. The baptized are the People of God, manifesting the Kingdom of God as much as possible on this side of the eschaton, while knowing that at the end of time the Kingdom will extend to the rest of the universe. Christians also form the Body of Christ, extension of the incarnation, an organism endowed with various charisms—some ordained and some not. These charisms are empowered by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church, for missions ad extra, while simultaneously the Spirit empowers creation to become fully Church. Staniloae’s theology becomes fully ecumenical (understood etymologically as household) to include not only the universe of the Church, but the entire cosmos.
    These relationships among the trinitarian persons as they are manifested in the economy of salvation (the world and the Church) are the same as immanent, intratrinitarian relationships. At the basis of the example described above stands the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father to the Son, resting in the Son as the love of the Father, and also shining forth from the Son back toward the Father as the Son’s response of love. To arrive at the conclusion that the same relationships are manifested both in the Trinity and the Church, I have systematized Staniloae’s trinitarian ecclesiology into four models: the Church is a reflection of the Trinity, establishing an analogical relationship between them; icon of the Trinity, where the Church is a presence of the Trinity by grace, pointing toward the Trinity; the “third sacrament,” as instrument and revelation of the Trinity; and the ecclesiological consequences of Staniloae’s understanding of theosis. As an ecumenical application of these models, I addressed the ecclesiological consequences of the Filioque (or lack thereof), especially concerning the papacy. This is just one among many instances in which I presented Staniloae’s ecumenical relevance.
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