"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, December 24, 2013

He Came That We May Have Life

As we get ready to celebrate the nativity of Christ, we are reminded that God did not send an idea into the world or a philosophical system or series of propositions, still less a mere moral code for achieving virtue. He sent, of course, a person, and that person calls other persons not to a "religion" or an "institution" directly, but to a relationship (one that is, of course, ecclesially and sacramentally mediated). For this reason, and long before I had ever begun to read the controversial Greek Orthodox polemicist Christos Yannaras, I have always found myself resistant to describing Christianity as a "religion," a term that I still avoid whenever possible because of its hugely problematic connotations--to say nothing of the fact that sociologists, philosophers, and other scholars find it notoriously difficult to define with any coherence. In many of his earlier works, Yannaras hints at problems with this term, but in his new book he attacks it directly and fully: Against Religion: the Alienation of the Ecclesial Event, trans. Norman Russell (Holy Cross, 2013), 217pp.

About this book (which I'm reviewing for the newly founded Catholic Review of Books) we are told:
What is religion? In this book Christos Yannaras argues that it is a human construct, the product of our instincts of self-preservation and self-perpetuation, which bolsters our sense of securty as individuals, promising us eternal happiness. Against this, Yannaras sets the commitment of faith, defining it as an act of trust, self-offering and self-transcendence. For a Christian, faith is lived within the ecclesial events, that is to say, within a mode of relations of communion embodied in Christ.
And with this, I shall sign off until after the feast. See you at the end of the month. Znamy boh! 

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