"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, September 29, 2014

Married Eastern Catholic Priests

I am working like a madman to get my third book done and submitted to the publisher by October. I'm not being immodest when I say that it will be the single-best collection ever published on the topic of married Catholic priests. There is nothing else out there remotely close to what will be in this book. That is a simple statement of facts. The book reprints two very important essays from several decades ago, including one that was privately circulated in Canada; but even more important, it includes previously unpublished historical research on early canons and debates about clerical continence; it includes ecclesiological and ecumenical reflections from Catholics and Orthodox; and it will include singular pastoral and theological reflections from married priests as well as an outstanding essay by one presbytera reflecting on the vocation of being married to a priest. I have to say I'm especially pleased with how the essays cohere together. Often collections are very uneven, but many of these essays, even without intending it, build off one another and mesh together in a felicitous fashion.

We're still kicking around titles, though I'm leaning towards something like A Primer on Married Catholic Priests though it will probably end up with something more academic and solemn: Married Eastern Catholic Priests: Historical, Ecclesiological, and Theological Reflections. We'll see. Suggested titles would be welcome in the comments below.

The contents:

I) Introduction: Adam DeVille

II) Historical Reflections:

i) David Hunter (University of Kentucky), "Priesthood and Sexual Continence: the Origins of a Western Tradition."

ii) J.K. Coyle (†) (deceased professor of patristics and history at Saint Paul University, Ottawa), "Recent Views on the Origins of Clerical Celibacy: A Review of the Literature from 1980-1991."

iii) Patrick Viscuso (professor of canon law at the Antiochian House of Studies and past president of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America), "Later Byzantine Developments in Priesthood."

III: Ecumenical and Ecclesiological Reflections:

i) Victor Pospishil (†) (a deceased Ukrainian Catholic priest and canonist), "Compulsory Celibacy for Eastern Catholics in the Americas."

ii) James Dutko (protopresbyter of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the USA), "Mandatory Celibacy among Eastern Catholics: a Church-Dividing Issue."

iii) Peter Galadza (Saint Paul University, Ottawa; Ukrainian Catholic liturgical scholar and married priest), "Official Catholic Pronouncements Regarding Presbyteral Celibacy: their Fate and Implications for Catholic-Orthodox Relations."

iv) Adam DeVille (associate professor and chairman of the Dept. of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis), "A Married Priesthood is no Panacea."

v) David Meinzen (bi-ritual Ukrainian Catholic priest and RC university chaplain, formerly of the OCA), "Reflections from the Field: A Married Priest and His Family on Vocations and Pastoral Challenges."

IV: Theological Reflections:

i) Lawrence Cross (Eastern Catholic archpriest at the Australian Catholic University), "Married Clergy: at the Heart of Tradition."

ii) Basilio Petrà (Roman Catholic priest and ordinary professor of moral theology at the University of Central Italy), "Married Priesthood: Some Theological Resonances."

iii) Thomas Loya (Byzantine Catholic priest and pastor of Annunciation parish in Homer Glen, IL), "Celibacy and the Married Priesthood: Rediscovering the Spousal Mystery."

iv) Irene Galadza (retired Catholic teacher and vice-principal, catechist, and presbytera at St. Elias Parish, Brampton, Ontario), "The Vocation of the Presbytera: Icon of the Theotokos in the Midst of the Ministerial Priesthood."

Conclusion: Adam DeVille

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Aidan Hart on His Splendid New Book about Icons

I was both delighted and dismayed when I received Aidan Hart's newest book, Icons in the Modern World: Sprint, Matter and Beauty (Gracewing, 2014; 288pp.) in the mail: delighted because it is a fantastic book that immediately deserves a place in every library concerned about iconography; but dismayed because the irritating bureaucracy that now surrounds so much of our life made me order books for my fall course back in January. So I couldn't get my students to read this in my course on iconography, but I will definitely adopt it when I teach the class next--if, that is, the publisher finally gets its act together and gets more copies printed and available here in North America. I contacted Aidan for this interview several months back, and have held off running it here while I cajoled the publisher and others into trying to get some copies available on this side of the Atlantic. So far, Amazon.com is showing only one copy, but if you all flood Amazon and demand copies, perhaps that will finally rouse Gracewing from its torpor to get some shipped over here.

This book's virtues are several: there are, of course, dozens of lovely colour plates of his own icons as well as other artwork; and then the chapters are meaty, substantial theological reflections (e.g., on the renewal of sacred art, on beauty and the gospel, on theological anthropology, beauty and the grotesque, and the relationship between sacred and profane art) that would challenge any undergraduate with at least a basic background in theology.

I contacted Aidan, whom I interviewed here about his last book, about this new work of his and here are his thoughts:

AD: Tell us what led you from your last book, which we spoke about on the blog several years ago, to this one. What were you hoping to accomplish with this latest book? 

Aidan Hart: The last book, Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting, was primarily a technical manual for icon painters. I felt the need to write for a wider readership, and to explore contemporary issues as seen through the theology of the icon. For many years I have been very interested in the  way Orthodox theology unites matter and spirit, creation and Creator, and the implications that this has for our understanding of the human person. With its theological treasures, Orthodox Church is under the obligation of love to do all that it can to address contemporary issues, using the wisdom it has accrued over the centuries. So I set out to write a few words about subjects which deal with the relationship of matter and spirit, such as ecology, the nature of beauty, the nature of the human person, abstract art, the meaning of tradition, and the renewal of liturgical art.

AD: Your introduction mentions that in any initial discussions of icons, the worldview which proclaims matter to be good attracts the viewer's attention as it "resonates with our innermost being" (p.5). Tell us a bit more what you mean by that.

AH: Some of the Church Fathers distinguish between our being in the image and the likeness of God. They say that while likeness to God is acquired to the extent that a person walks in the way of Christ, every person, whether or not they believe it, is in God's image. This latter means that truth will resonate with every person's innermost being. How clearly it will resonate admittedly depends on the person's degree of purity - their likeness to God. But nevertheless, truth and virtue are natural to the human person because thy are made in God's image, while falsehood and vice are unnatural. Each person is a union of matter and spirit, soul and body, and our day to day experience shows us how intimately these are bound together.  

AD: You speak of icons as providing a "radical way of seeing" (p.2). Seeing what, and how, and why? 

I have always been enthralled by the story of Moses seeing the bush burning without being consumed, and of Christ's transfiguration. Although we know that this world is fallen, it is still 'upheld by the word of God's power'. Each thing is not only created by a word of the Word, a logos from the Logos, but is directed and sustained by that living word. To the degree that we are purified, we see and hear and feel this indwelling word within each thing. We see the world burning with God's presence yet not consumed. 'The pure in heart shall see God', not just in heaven but through creation. We have a foretaste of Paradise when we see the world imbued with this light and fire, hear the still small voice within each rock, tree and creature. That is the 'what' of your question. How do icons help us see in this radical way? They cannot of course compel us, but they can help. First, the fact that Orthodox kiss icons as a means of honouring the person depicted creates an attitude of veneration towards the whole material world, because we see it as a revelation of divine love, and not just as dead matter. This attitude of thanksgiving recapitulates the world in Christ; we see the cosmos as a garment, or even body, of Christ. Second, the way that icons are painted have a gradual effect on our vision of the world. They are a sort of infra-red camera, allowing us to see energies that are otherwise invisible to the natural eye. The way light comes from within things in an icon stimulate us to look for this light in real life.  

AD: You note that this book, a collection of essays, is concerned with several things including the "insight that icons offer on the contemporary liturgical renewal of art." Especially for Roman Catholics (and others) concerned about renewing their own liturgical tradition after 50 years of change, what iconographical insights would you offer them and others as especially germane? 

I think that the first thing that my Catholic brethren need to consider in relation to liturgical arts, is that it is not only important what is depicted, but how this theme is depicted. This 'how' often has more impact on our soul than the 'what'. From around the time of Italian the Renaissance western Christendom has tended to leave it to artists to decide how they will depict sacred themes. Consequently, the faithful have been at the mercy of current art trends, many of which have no aim to create an atmosphere and state of soul conducive to prayer and worship. I am not saying that the Byzantine way of painting - whatever that is! - is the only way to paint liturgical art. But I am saying that every formal, stylistic element of  liturgical art, be it visual, musical or architectural, must aim to show the world transfigured and to create the right state of soul conducive to prayer. Otherwise, is it worthy to be called liturgical art? This is to say that iconographer should endlessly copy existing works, but that until the Catholic Church establishes clear theological principles to guide its liturgical artists, then its current interest in icons will be a passing fad. The chapter in the book outlines what I think some of these essential principles are. The second related issue regarding the liturgical renewal of the visual arts is the question: What is reality? Liturgical art should be realistic in that it is truthful, but what is the true and highest state of the human person and the world that we are trying to depict in an icon? For the Orthodox this highest state for a human person is unequivocally to be deified, and the material world to be transfigured. Now, although this teaching is implicit in Roman Catholic teaching, I think it is fair to say that it is not so much in the forefront as it is for the Orthodox. This in turn has meant its liturgical art has tended towards naturalism; realism had been equated with naturalism. Or when there has been a reaction against this naturalism,  abstraction has lurched far in the other direction, away from the natural.  

AD: You argue that icons "challenge us and lay bare our inner state" (p.5). Tell us a bit more what you mean by that.  

The world view, the tradition, that produces well painted icons is the world view of the saints. For the icon tradition is prophetic in that it depicts the world seen from the divine perspective and not merely the human. Hence the variety of strange perspective systems that the icon uses, such as multi-view perspective in which an object is depicted seen simultaneously from many view points, as God 'sees' it. To a secular mind this vision of the world seems weird and unreal, to distort reality. But such a critique of the icon is in fact a critique of the critic. It says as much about their own world view as about the icon. Christ crucified, and icons, are 'a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles' (1 Cor. 1: 23).  

AD: You conclude your introduction with a charming story about people in a gallery trying to judge an icon, only to have them told that is in fact the icon which judges us. How is that so?

True judgement is simply reflecting back the truth, not condemning. The icon is like a saint, only in two dimensions. The saint is.  He or she just loves Christ. All his or her words and deeds come out of this inner state of  being, an attitude of adoration and worship. Like the saint, the icon just is. It depicts in its style as well as in its subject matter a world shoot through with the glory of God. It is a world in which both suffering and joy are affirmed, but in which joy has the final word. This paradisiacal life is divine, and as such cannot be comprehended by the rational faculty alone. It is not irrational, but it is certainly more than what the rational brain can comprehend. And so when someone rejects the icon's world as unreal, they are revealing in fact that they are operating merely as 'soulish' person and not a spiritual person. As St Paul writes, 'The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Corinthians 2:14). The original Greek usually translated as 'unspiritual man' or 'natural man' is 'psuchikos', which literally translated means 'soulish man'. Paul refers here to people who operate only in the realm of the soul, meaning just the rational faculty, body and emotions, and have not raised these faculties into the realm of the spirit to become what he calls in the next verse a 'spiritual man', a 'pneumatikos'. A natural man is not necessarily an evil or bad person, but one not yet deified, not yet illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

AD: Strikingly, you title your second chapter "The Fresh Air of Tradition," which is not, I daresay, how many people may conceive of it. Tradition, rather, is thought to be stultified, stale, stuffy, stifling. What is fresh here as you understand the role of Christian tradition?  

Without reference to something higher we are slaves to our limited world view. We are free from outside influences, so we think, but are in fact limited to ourselves. A broken branch is free from its mother tree, but it is going to die. Holy tradition, on the other hand, opens the individual to an expansive world, a world of holiness. Also, the human person, being made in the image of the Holy Trinity, is made for relationship. Tradition is merely a word for relationship with the saints who have gone before and who are well and alive in Christ.

Besides, everyone's world view is an extension of some tradition, and we delude ourselves if we think that we can create or act ex nihilo, in a vacuum devoid of any outside influences. The choice therefore is not between having a tradition or not, but which tradition we place ourselves under.  

AD: As a teacher I was especially taken with the aptness of your argument that university students are often "suspicious of tradition in art yet embrace it in science." Why do you think that is? Why do we praise the "cutting edge" artist but think that if you are following, say, Orthodox conventions safeguarding the making of an icon that you are somehow "stifled"?

This is a very important point. I think it is rooted in the fact that loss of faith in God has led to heresy regarding the nature of the human person. Post Modernism has lost faith in absolutes regarding anything but the material world, hence the hegemony of science. And so the artist, who is in a real sense a philosopher expressing his world view in matter rather than writing, is left with no objective truth to seek and reveal. He or she is subsequently only allowed to explore but not to find, experiment but not to conclude, challenge but not to suggest alternatives. If, on the other hand, one has a clear vision of deified man in Christ as the highest end of humankind, then as an artist you know what you are trying to achieve. And so, like a scientist, you experiment but with an objective. And a good iconographer will experiment with new designs, colour combinations and so on. But he or she will measure the results against the objective reality of Christ. Does this or that colour combination accord with life in Christ?  If so, I will use it. If not, I will discard it. The wonderful thing with iconography is that the realities that we are trying to indicate happen to be infinitely glorious and wonderful. They provide endless scope for creative new expression. We are slaves to a magnanimous Master! Every sensible person, be they scientist, craftsperson or artist, wants to learn all they can from their forebears. You then add your bit, like a shoot springing from a big tree.  

AD: I greatly cheered your noting how often East-West discussions of art and iconography degenerate into polemics and caricature, and was very glad your book is free of that. Equally I was glad you did not romanticize the tradition, but instead openly acknowledged that "the icon tradition does in fact change and adapt all the time" (p.71). Give us some examples of healthy change and adaptation you are seeing today in the icon tradition.  

My iconographic muse is Archimandrite Zenon (Teodor). Although we have never met (though we did correspond once), I have been following his work since 1989. He is constantly, even restlessly, searching for new inspiration from different Christian cultures and epochs as well as his indigenous Russian tradition; early Christian, Roman, Romanesque, early Byzantine, Armenian. And he adapts his style and designs to the place for which he paints. Father Gregory Krug is another example of someone entirely within the tradition and yet unique. His unusual personality  (he suffered most of his life from depression) and natural artistic gift, was transfigured by his monastic life to create compassionate, modern iconography which was fearless yet humble. Sadly I have seen few examples of church architecture which have, to my mind, successfully drawn on the best of modem architecture. This is  a field to be developed yet. In general, I think that we Orthodox need to be more intelligent and thinking about how we live out our lives in the 21st century. Having armed ourselves with a deep knowledge of the timeless principles of the faith and the tradition, we need to be more confident. One need only look at the vast range of work within Byzantium and across Russia to see how confident past Orthodox cultures have been in learning from what is around them, then adapting and affirming. As Archimandrite Vasileios of Iviron monastery used to tell me, there are epochs where it is difficult to get this wrong, and there are others where it is difficult to get it right. We are definitely in the latter category, but we need to try our best.  

AD: Tell us a bit about the connections you see, especially in your fourth chapter, between iconography and ecology.  

In Christ 'it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him' (2 Cor 1:19). I think that if a culture the Church is trying to address worships an idol them start with that idol and make it transparent to God. Our materialistic age adores matter, so we need to make matter transparent for it, show that what a materialist loves in the material world is in fact an image of God's love, beauty, wisdom, and expansive creativity. Ecology is a case in point. Because Christianity is based on the incarnation - the creator becoming creature- it cannot but have a tremendous amount to say about ecology. I think ecology is to the 21st century man what the inscription to an unknown God was the Athenians at the time of St Paul. When he was at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34), despite his indignation at all the idols he saw, Paul began his preaching by affirming the partial good that the Athenians believed in, the inscription to an Unknown God, and then proceeded from there.  Although secular ecology doesn't acknowledge our dependence on God, it does at least acknowledge the interdependence of everything on earth and of earth with the rest of the cosmos.

The icon is micro-ecology, in that the icon painter takes representatives of the whole of creation and transforms them into a bearer of divine grace. He or she takes pigments form the mineral kingdom, wood from the vegetable kingdom, and egg for the animal. As a priest, king and prophet of the creation, the iconographer then transforms these things, respecting each material's unique character but lifting it also to a higher plane, making it more articulate in the praise of God. As such, this making process is both industrial and affirmative, conservationist but also transformationist. As an icon painter I love to use natural pigments. I need to listen to each pigment, know what it can and cannot do. I have learned to look before I make. This attitude of contemplation is fundamental to our ecological crisis. Because we in our consumerist society have forgotten how to feed our souls through contemplation of nature, we effectively treat the cosmos as dead raw material to be fodder for factories. Consumerism is the inevitable disease of  a non-contemplative society. A soul deprived of spiritual food will seek the temporary titillation of buying something new. Until we make our society more contemplative it will have an aching belly and try to satisfy itself by consuming ever more. The icon can help to nurture this contemplative spirit.  

AD: Your sixth and longest chapter is on "beauty and the gospel." Tell us a bit about the connections you see between those two.  

When I was an evangelical Christian I was very struck by Don Richardson's book Peace Child: An Unforgettable Story of Primitive Jungle Treachery in the 20th Century. He and his wife with their child went to live among the cannibalistic Sawi tribe of  what was then Dutch New Guinea. Having learned the language, Don and his wife Carol discovered how extremely difficult it was to communicate the gospel to the Sawi because betrayal was a virtue for them, so much so that in the Gospel story Judas was the hero and Jesus the dupe to be laughed at. But eventually they discovered one tradition among the otherwise warring tribes that provided a way in. The one trust Sawifs would never betray was the exchange of a child between tribes. As long as this freely offered 'peace child' lived, the two tribes would not fight. On this basis, Don began to teach Christ as the peace child, and eventually many of the Sawi people converted. Richardson came to call this principle of incipient truths in each culture 'redemptive analogies'. 

A missionary needs to find and then speak through such analogies. These are images and realities that the people already believe in and which are types of the gospel. I think beauty is one such redemptive analogy for the modern man. For too long in the West discourse about God, sin and redemption has been expressed in legal terms: God sets laws; mankind transgresses them and so must be punished; Christ is punished in our place, and so on. Besides being a very limited view, this Satisfaction Theory of atonement, as it is called, presents a rather ambiguous picture of God the Father. I believe a more accurate, more Orthodox and more communicative image is provided via beauty: Mankind is made in the beautiful image of God and is called to be transfigured, together with the whole material world of which it is priest; man tries to go it alone and so looses much of this beauty and the opportunity of deification; the Logos unite Himself to our fallen nature and thereby reinvigorates it with His divinity and conquers death; through faith and repentance, mankind can be restored to its ancient beauty and become even more radiant still with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  

AD: I was glad to see your next chapter on "beauty and the grotesque" so that Christians are not mistakenly thought to be "mere aesthetes." Why was this an important chapter to include after the previous one? What message were you trying to convey?  

The grotesque operates on many levels. If beauty has any role in the spiritual life it is to awaken us and thereby open our eyes to see more deeply. The grotesque can awaken us by its shock value.  The sublime and awe value of beauty can be lessened if we know nothing but elegant proportion. But, by its marked contrast, occasional encounter with the grotesque reminds us of beauty’s specialness. The grotesque also reminds us that beauty is achieved and is not easy; one adjustment to proportion and things loose their balance of form. The grotesque also hints at the beauty of content independent of the beauty of outer form. In the film The Elephant Man, and I believe too in real life, the physically deformed Joseph Merrick is grotesque in outward form but beautiful of spirit in his inner man. The beauty of his character shines all the more brilliantly in the face of his grotesque outward deformity. Another aspect of the grotesque in nature, I believe, is that it is an expression of divine humour and playfulness. It is an example of the vast variety within God's scheme. The sloth and the gazelle are brethren, and the slug and the swan are in the same drama. God loves to surprise us by both joy and mirth, the yes and the question, the clear and the perplexing.
AD: Sum up your hopes for Icons in the Modern World: Sprint, Matter and Beauty

I hope that its essays, which are more excursions into territory than detailed mappings, will encourage others more bright and informed than myself to make more in-depth explorations into the fields that it touches on. It is my little attempt to prod the Orthodox Church to engage in a more positive, frank and nuanced way with contemporary issues than it is tending to. We need to avoid uninformed generalisations. We need to seek out all that is good or partially good in our secular society, and on the other to seek deeper causes for the malaise that assail it. If we are to bring the Gospel to more people, we need to find appropriate mediums and images which strike a chord. We can't be lazy and parrot great truths using moribund terminology or metaphors.  So I hope that this book will help in some little way to stimulate  more of this work.  

AD: Any projects you are at work on now--icons, books, articles?  

Chapel of Gonville & Caius, Cantab.
There is always a pile of commissioned work to complete, about two years ahead at present. I now have a full-time assistant and apprentice, and have trained some others to help in other aspects, such as icon panel making and gilding, so this helps a lot. I have recently finished a large Annunciation icon for Caius College, Cambridge, and am working on two large icons to go on a splendid hand wrought iron screen for an Anglican church in London. I am designing and having made furniture for the Catholic chapel in Cambridge University. 

Earlier this year, my assistant and I completed a seven foot high stone carving of the Mother of God for Lincoln Cathedral. The aim was to make this fully modeled three dimensional sculpture work like an icon, rather than be merely a work of art. Judging by the response it seems to be working! It is polychromed, and for the design I drew on both the Byzantine icon tradition (particularly the icon type, 'Our Lady of the Sign') and on the Romanesque carving tradition. 

I am hoping to have confirmed soon two large mosaic commissions for an Orthodox church in Texas. I am toying with ideas for a third book. Any ideas from yourself!? I like the essay tradition, in part because writing essays fits comfortably into the demands of my icon work. But more importantly, the compactness of an essay has affinities with the icon. An essay can evoke an image, a wholeness, without collapsing under the weight of detail. The trick is to have enough substance for the argument to have gravitas, but not zoom into detail so much that the picture is lost in pixels seen too close. One area that interests me a lot is the relationship of science, particularly physics, and religious vision. This may well be one subject explored in the next book. Many of the more 'esoteric' discoveries in science, such as Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum field theory, have been intuited in religion, albeit evident only in hindsight. If, for example, Christians believe that time is created, which we do, then time must be relative. Only God is not relative. We should not therefore be surprised to find that under certain conditions (movement close to the speed of light, and extreme gravitational force) time slows down. And if man, and indeed all creation to some extent, is made in the image of God the Holy Trinity, then relationship must be at the heart of creation, and therefore of all scientific models. It is not therefore surprising that there appears to be no single subatomic particle, but rather a community of them: quarks, leptons, neutrinos, bosons, and the graviton, gluon, and photon. And regarding the relationship of nature and person and the character of theological discourse we see some parallels with quantum field theory. This theory says that all particles arise out of fields, be it the electromagnetic field, gravitational field, the Boson field or whatever other field. Quantum mechanics says that particles are tiny vibrations or waves in these fields. Whether a particle appears as a particle or a wave depends on how, or rather if, we look. As one writer, Aatish Bhatia succinctly put it: 'Don't look: waves. Look: particles.' In other words, the essence of reality is waves, but when we try to observe them they appear as particles. This is the guts of quantum mechanics.

Perhaps there is a parallel between this quantum field theory and the reality of human nature and human personhood? Personhood is specific, 'compressed', particular, like a particle. And yet the particular person can only exist because there is a single human nature (a human 'field'). And, like quantum mechanics, what we need to emphasize in a particular human circumstance depends on what we are trying to achieve - do we  emphasise nature/fields or person/particles. A totalitarian regime denies the value of the individual against the state, and therefore personhood needs to be emphasized. An individualistic society, on the other hand, will need to hear more about the one human nature that unites everyone, that makes the person possible, and inspires compassion. If I am right, that there is a certain reflection of spiritual realities in physical laws, then might it be possible to speed up scientific discoveries if scientists were to look for insights within the teachings of tried and tested spiritual traditions? And, conversely, might not we Christians find fresh ways of articulating spiritual truths by looking within newly discovered theories of physics? Christ often illustrated His teachings using agricultural experiences that were familiar to his listeners. Today, as more lay people become familiar with modern scientific discoveries, might not the Church fruitfully use these to illustrate spiritual truths?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Syrian and Ottoman Saints

Emerging scholarship is helping (if I may be forgiven for an infelicitous bit of academic jargon) to "problematize" popular narratives of religious practice and conflict. We have seen this for more than a decade now as real historians finally, slowly, help us gradually overcome the almost entirely fallacious popular narrative about, e.g., the Crusades. We are seeing it more recently as scholars take a fresh look at late-Ottoman history, as I have noted several times on here, especially in places such as Anatolia as well as Crete, Palestine, Turkey, and Greece

The further we delve into the history of this fascinating but defunct empire, the more we realize that real lives of real people did not and do not divide nearly so neatly as many of us may like to think. Neat categories of tightly delimited and delineated "secular" and "sacred" did not exist then (and do not exist now if John Milbank and others are to be believed); nor did discrete departments of "religion" and "nation" or even of "Christian" and "Muslim." The boundaries between them were much blurrier and messier, and this seems especially evident when it comes to local festivals and heroes. In other words--then as now--if there's a block party or a neighborhood festival, or the local boy makes good in some form or other, everyone comes out to celebrate. 

A book just released this week gives us further details of this happening in Syria and Palestine: James Grehan, Twilight of the Saints: Everyday Religion in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (Oxford UP, 2014), 360pp.

About this book we are told:
In this study of everyday religious culture in early modern Syria and Palestine, James Grehan offers a social history that looks beyond conventional ways of thinking about religion in the Middle East. The most common narratives about the region introduce us to the separate traditions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, highlighting how each one has created its own distinctive traditions and communities. Twilight of the Saints offers a reinterpretation of religious and cultural history in a region which is today associated with division and violence. Exploring the religious habits of ordinary people, from the late seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, when the region was part of the Ottoman Empire, Grehan shows that members of different religious groups participated in a common, overarching religious culture that was still visible at the beginning of the twentieth century. 
Most evident in the countryside, though present everywhere, this religious mainstream thrived in a society in which few people had access to formal religious teachings. This older, folk religious culture was steeped in notions and rituals that the modern world, with its mainly theological conception of religion, has utterly repudiated. Indeed, the people of Syria and Palestine today would hardly recognize religion as it was experienced in the not-so-distant past. Only by uncovering this lost lived religion, argues Grehan, can we appreciate the largely unacknowledged revolution in religion that has taken place in the region over the last century.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cyril of Alexandria

However unpleasant a person Cyril of Alexandria is said to have been (Robert Taft calls him a "thug" while Cardinal Newman more delicately put it that Cyril's holiness could not be deduced from his actions), there is no disputing his importance in Christological and other debates. A new study, forthcoming next month by Matthew R. Crawford, shows us Cyril's significance in early exegesis also: Cyril of Alexandria's Trinitarian Theology of Scripture (Oxford 2014, 304pp.)

About this book we are told:
  • More exegetical literature survives from the hand of Cyril of Alexandria than nearly any other Greek patristic author, yet this sizable body of work has scarcely received the degree of attention it deserves. In this work, Matthew R. Crawford reconstructs the intellectual context that gave rise to this literary output and highlights Cyril's Trinitarian theology, received as an inheritance from the fourth century, as the most important defining factor. Cyril's appropriation of pro-Nicene Trinitarianism is evident in both of his theology of revelation and his theology of exegesis, the two foci that comprise his doctrine of Scripture. Revelation, in his understanding, proceeds from the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit, following the order of Trinitarian relations. Moreover, this pattern applies to the inspiration of Scripture as well, insofar as inspiration occurs when the Son indwells human authors by the Spirit and speaks the words of the Father. Although Cyril's interpretation of revelation may consequently be called "Trinitarian," it is also resolutely Christological, since the divine and incarnate Son functions as the central content and mediator of all divine unveiling. Corresponding to this divine movement towards humanity in revelation is humanity's appropriation of divine life according to the reverse pattern--in the Spirit, through the Son, unto the Father. Applied to exegesis, this Trinitarian pattern implies that the Spirit directs the reader of Scripture to a Christological interpretation of the text, through which the believer beholds the incarnate Son, the exemplar of virtue and the perfect image of the Father, and accordingly advances in both virtue and knowledge. This process continues until the final eschatological vision when the types and riddles of Scripture will be done away with in light of the overwhelming clarity of the Christologically-mediated Trinitarian vision.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Christians Living Under Islam

Perhaps now more than ever, the world is aware of the plight of Eastern Christians under Islam. But scholarship is still emerging on those many and varied encounters between Christians and Muslims over the last 1400 years. Recently published is a book that sought to provide answers to Christians of its own day on how to relate to Islam. Translated by the leading Orthodox canonist Patrick Viscuso, and with a forword by Sidney Griffith (author of the invaluable studies The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam and The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam) is a short new work, Guide for a Church under Islam: The Sixty-Six Canonical Questions Attributed to Theodoros Balsamon (Holy Cross Press, 2014),155 pp.

About this book we are told:
In the Christian East, the pastoral manuals of the Church took a literary form known as "Questions/Answers." The authors of these canonical works were bishops and priests who usually wrote to guide clergy in addressing issues arising from diocesan and parish life. Unlike any of these other guides, in the present work an entire church subject to Islamic persecution sought the counsel of its sole Eastern sister church that was free from Muslim conquest. This pastoral guide for a church under Islam sets forth a pattern meant for a patriarchate to apply in addressing issues arising in a society under the domination of an alien religion that regarded itself as superior by nature.

In addition to the main issue, the twelfth-century document has a number of interesting features relevant for Church history, including its record of ancient Christian practices regarding liturgy, fasting, preparation for the Eucharist, burial of the dead, deaconesses, and the internal life of Arabic Christians living in what would become modern Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. The translation as well as its annotations and introductory history represent a time capsule of the Church's history in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East and just before the taking of Constantinople in 1204 by the Latin Crusaders.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Canon Law: the Dark Side of the Good News?

I well remember being taken aback in reading various books on Italian culture and its relationship to the law (including Luigi Barzini's The Italians, Beppe Severgnini's La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind and then, for a more focused study on law and Catholicism, John Allen's All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks; for a longer historical overview of some of these issues, John Pollard's book, splendid in so many other ways, is valuable here, too: Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950). There is, it seems, a pronounced contrast between Italian ideas of law and those, broadly speaking, in the Anglo-American world. In the former, law would seem to be a nice ideal, but strict conformity to it cannot be realistically expected of fallen human beings always and everywhere, and thus behind the scenes, a certain toleration of non-conformity may be expected. This--since I'm hazarding generalizations here--would seem to be a more Catholic approach. But in the largely Protestant Anglo-Saxon world, especially in the United States, there is an almost puritanical and highly (indeed disturbingly) authoritarian approach to law-breakers as witnessed, e.g., in the fact that the US incarcerates more people than any other comparable country (and attempts to execute some of them also), and was the origin of the absurd "war on drugs," which should be abolished forthwith.

If I was taken aback by seeing these cultural differences, I was all the more so in seeing ecclesial differences in the approach to canon law. The West, above all the Latin Church, seems to have a much more vigorous approach to canon law, and it always strikes me that when Latins refer to "law" they do so solemnly, clearly understanding it to be non-optional and having binding force: the law says X and therefore we do X; the law forbids Y, and therefore we do not commit Y. The East, however, seems to hear the words "canon law" and think "possible suggestions we may or may not heed depending on whose ox is being gored--ours or the other guy's." Thus, if the law forbids X, we will likely heed it only if it's to our advantage. If the law refers to Y, and Y is some totally absurd, anachronistic thing that nobody today thinks about, we will likely ignore it. But don't you dare suggest we should change or update those canons! Say what you want about the Latins, but you have to give them credit: twice in one century, they cleaned up their codes of canon law and tried to weed out stupid things like not going to Jewish doctors, or forbidding the Eucharist to menstruating women. The East would seem to prefer to hang on to outdated texts, perhaps because there is no one centralized mechanism for making changes across the board. (Whether the "great and holy synod" even meets in 2016, let alone addresses canonical issues, remains to be seen.)

It has often been said that in any comparable area, Eastern Christian studies are decades behind comparable Western studies--whether liturgical history, biblical studies, or canon law. Until recently, the people working, at least in English, on canonical issues could be counted on one hand, and the leader among them is of course Patrick Viscuso: see, e.g., his Orthodox Canon Law: A Casebook for Study: Second Edition. But see also his fascinating earlier study, which I reviewed in Studia Canonica, A Quest For Reform of the Orthodox Church: The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress, An Analysis and Translation of Its Acts and Decisions.This latter book should surely be required reading for anyone contemplating the 2016 "great and holy synod" to have some idea of the problems that cropped up the last time a reforming council of Orthodoxy was convoked.

Other recent works in this genre must surely include works by prominent Greek Orthodox scholars, including An Overview of Orthodox Canon Law and Spiritual Dimensions of the Holy Canons. But now, happily, we are seeing additional works from Orthodox canonists and scholars. Published in May of this year by Holy Cross Press was Vasile Mihai, Orthodox Canon Law Reference Book (2014, 467pp.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
In one manageable volume, Orthodox Canon Law Reference Book makes the canons of the Orthodox Church, which were written and complied over centuries, searchable and accessible to current inquirers. In his preface, Fr. Mihai explains the place of canons in relation to revealed faith and the personal experience of God s presence. A most valuable introduction distinguishes between Canon Law and secular law, and not only discusses how to interpret canons, but also offers several examples demonstrating the interpretive process of analysis and application. Alphabetized topics organize the pertinent canons, which are then listed chronologically under each topic. Numerous footnotes offer explanations for terms and understandings from historical contexts. Three appendices discuss the meaning of the word canon, the priest-penitent relationship, and Byzantine legislation on homosexuality.
Finally, early next year, we can look forward to a forthcoming book from a Canadian legal scholar: David Wagschal, Law and Legality in the Greek East: The Byzantine Canonical Tradition, 381-883 (Oxford UP, 2015), 368pp.

About this book we are told:
Byzantine church law remains terra incognita to most scholars in the western academy. In this work, David Wagschal provides a fresh examination of this neglected but fascinating world. Confronting the traditional narratives of decline and primitivism that have long discouraged study of the subject, Wagschal argues that a close reading of the central monuments of Byzantine canon law c. 381-883 reveals a much more sophisticated and coherent legal culture than is generally assumed. Engaging in innovative examinations of the physical shape and growth of the canonical corpus, the content of the canonical prologues, the discursive strategies of the canons, and the nature of the earliest forays into systematization, Wagschal invites his readers to reassess their own legal-cultural assumptions as he advances an innovative methodology for understanding this ancient law. Law and Legality in the Greek East explores topics such as compilation, jurisprudence, professionalization, definitions of law, the language of the canons, and the relationship between the civil and ecclesiastical laws. It challenges conventional assumptions about Byzantine law while suggesting many new avenues of research in both late antique and early medieval law, secular and ecclesiastical.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Plekons, Nooks, and Kindles

The University of Notre Dame Press e-mailed me the other day to say that many of their books are now available in Nook and Kindle formats, including at least two of interest to readers of this blog. So for those of you who prefer to do your reading on a tablet rather than in paper form, here's your chance. The first is authored by Michael Plekon, the second edited by him: Saints As They Really Are: Voices of Holiness in Our Time (UND Press, 2012).

For those of you who missed the book the first time round, the publisher sums it up for us thus:
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.
I interviewed Plekon two years ago about this splendid and delightful book, and you may read that here.

The second book now available in electronic form is from the famed Orthodox canonist and ecclesiologist Nicholas Afanasiev, who was enormously influential at Vatican II. This book appeared in English translation in 2007, and I read it as I was finishing my own dissertation (which you still must read in paper form as UND has no nooks for me!), which became Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity. You will see Afanasiev's influence on my book especially in the conclusion. It remains an indispensable work in modern ecclesiology: The Church of the Holy Spirit. 

About this book the publisher reminds us:
The Church of the Holy Spirit, written by Russian priest and scholar Nicholas Afanasiev (1893–1966), is one of the most important works of twentieth-century Orthodox theology. Afanasiev was a member of the “Paris School” of émigré intellectuals who gathered in Paris after the Russian revolution, where he became a member of the faculty of St. Sergius Orthodox Seminary. The Church of the Holy Spirit, which offers a rediscovery of the eucharistic and communal nature of the church in the first several centuries, was written over a number of years beginning in the 1940s and continuously revised until its posthumous publication in French in 1971. Vitaly Permiakov's lucid translation and Michael Plekon's careful editing and substantive introduction make this important work available for the first time to an English-speaking audience.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Can We Still Speak of "Holy War"?

Much confusion has existed since at least the 2003 Iraq war over the conditions of what constitutes a "just war," a notion with a long and venerable intellectual pedigree in the West. Now with conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq, inter alia, and the rise of the rebarbative ISIS, fresh talk is emerging about how to handle these groups, and what justification, if any, countries such as the US and UK have for doing so militarily. These debates are not new, of course, and a book set for publication in paperback in early 2015 reminds us that the debates go back hundreds of years: Patrick Provost-Smith, Holy War, Just War: Early Modern Christianity, Religious Ethics and the Rhetoric of Empire (I.B. Tauris, 2015), 256pp.

About this book we are told:
The catastrophe of Iraq has forced us to revisit the validity of what constitutes a supposedly 'just war'. In such critical circumstances, a sustained re-examination of the basis for contemporary just war theory is desperately urgent and required. This is what precisely Patrick Provost-Smith offers in this powerful and original re-evaluation of the topic. The author recognises that a coherent account of the ethics of modern warfare can only begin with history. He therefore explores the great sixteenth century debates about the nature of conflict, focusing on the Spanish conquistadors and their evangelisation of Mexico and Peru.He then shows how these debates were later appropriated by Spanish missionaries in the Philippines with a view to the conquest of China. In assessing previous discussions over 'just wars', and the shifting sands of the various logics that were applied to such conflicts, Provost-Smith puts a wholly new complexion on how current moral theory about war might be understood.
This is history in the best sense: the book makes a decisive contribution to current affairs through a profound grasp of how past ideas and rhetorics about conquest have shaped ongoing notions of western Christian superiority. It will be essential reading for all serious students of religious ethics, the history of ideas, and the history of politics and empire.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Armenian Christianity Today

In this centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War, I'm giving a lecture on Remembrance Day in November on massacres of Eastern Christians during that war, beginning with the best known, viz., the Armenian Genocide, but covering also the attacks on Assyrian and Greek Christians, inter alia--to say nothing of what transpired in Russia thanks to the war and the Bolshevik revolution.

From last century to this, much has changed in Armenia and in her national church. A forthcoming book brings us up to date: Alexander Agadjanian, Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice (Ashgate, 2014), 240pp.

About this book we are told: 
Armenian Christianity Today examines contemporary religious life and the social, political, and cultural functions of religion in the post-Soviet Republic of Armenia and in the Armenian Diaspora worldwide. Scholars from a range of countries and disciplines explore current trends and everyday religiosity, particularly within the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), and amongst Armenian Catholics, Protestants and vernacular religions. Themes examined include: Armenian grass-roots religiosity; the changing forms of regular worship and devotion; various types of congregational life; and the dynamics of social composition of both the clergy and lay believers. Exploring through the lens of Armenia, this book considers wider implications of "postsecular" trends in the role of global religion.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Portraits and Icons

With students in my iconography class this semester, I'm finishing up Leslie Brubaker's useful and accessible Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm and she concludes in there by noting that we can finally understand the defeat of Byzantine iconoclasm by returning once more to a theology of the Incarnation, but also to attending carefully to Byzantine understandings of representation, and the "middle place" they occupied. A recent study picks up on this central notion of representation: Katherine Marsengill, Portraits and Icons: Between Reality and Spirituality in Byzantine Art (Brepols, 2013), 463pp.

About this book we are told: 
This book examines the phenomena of portraits and icons from late antiquity until the end of the Byzantine period, and the cultural and theological perceptions that guided its reception. This book examines the phenomena of portraits and icons, and spans from late antiquity through the end of the Byzantine period. Engaging a wide range of material, it addresses persistent themes in the creation of a distinctly Christianized portraiture while analyzing the cultural and theological perceptions that guided its reception. Christian Rome inherited from antiquity its traditions and beliefs regarding portraits. Though altered for its new Christian context, these perceptions did not disappear. This study proves that within Christian portraiture, the icon is not reserved for saints alone. Instead, one must imagine the Byzantine world as one where sacred and secular art intermingled, and portraits of Christ and the saints, emperors, bishops, and holy men existed side by side in visual messages of hierarchal authority. Indeed, in the portrayal of power and holiness, there existed a range of images that can be classified as icons. Certain individuals of high-ranking status, though not saints, were portrayed in ways that recall images of saints because their spiritual or divine authority ranked them closer to God. Their positions further up the hierarchy enabled them to help others in their spiritual ascent and daily needs. Viewers in turn understood these elevated members of their community to be efficacious intercessors and their portraits to be worthy of veneration.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Honour of Benedicta Ward, Mother of the Deserts of Today and Yesterday

You cannot have read in patristic literature in English today, especially monastic literature of the desert, without having come across the seemingly indefatigable translation work of Benedicta Ward. Author or editor of such collections as  The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection and
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, she also authored the strikingly titled Harlots of the Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources, all of which treat prominent figures in the Christian East. Moreover, she has cooperated with such prominent Orthodox scholars as Kallistos Ware and John Chryssavgis on books such as In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers;
with the late Russian Orthodox Archbishop Anthony Bloom on The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers; and with the brilliant translator of theological Greek, Norman Russell, on The Lives of the Desert Fathers: Historia Monachorum in Aegypto. She is, in sum, by any reckoning one of the leading scholars, editors, and translators of our time on this vast corpus of desert literature.

But Ward is a genuinely "catholic" scholar who also turned her attention to prominent medieval Western figures and periods, including a study of Bede and the Psalter as well as a monograph on The Synod of Whitby 664 AD, which synod I've seen tendentiously and anachronistically used and abused by both Anglican and Orthodox apologists in their fantastic myth-making about a supposedly (take your pick) pure "Anglican" or pure "Orthodox" practice of faith among the Angles and Celts before those big bad (take your pick) Franks/Romans/Latins came along and hijacked it after Whitby, leading to darkness and damnation that culminated, of course, in the grossly, almost violently misunderstood Anselm of Canterbury - His Life and Legacy, whom Orthodox apologists invariably, tediously, tiresomely caricature in the most lurid, fact-free ways. Ward has, doubtless, forgotten more about Anselm in this book and in her other study, Anslem of Canterbury Monastic Scholar, than any Orthodox blogger has ever bestirred him/herself to read, let alone understand (I read Anselm in the Latin original more than 20 years ago, and wouldn't dare claim to be an expert on him).

All this is just an introduction (which by no means exhausts her lengthy lists of publications) to a new Festschrift published for her. Such publications, alas, are often not best-sellers, and so publishers feel the need to recoup costs with large sticker prices, but that detracts nothing from the larger "worth" of this collection: Santha Bhattacharji and Dominic Mattos, eds., Prayer and Thought in Monastic Tradition: Essays in Honour of Benedicta Ward (Bloomsbury, 2014), 368pp.

About this book we are told:
Prayer and Thought in Monastic Tradition presents a chronological picture of the development of monastic thought and prayer from the early English Church (Bede, Adomnan) through to the 17th Century and William Law's religious community at King's Cliffe. Essays interactwith different facets of monastic life, assessing the development and contribution of figures such as Boniface, the Venerable Bede, Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux. The varying modes and outputs of the monastic life of prayer are considered, with focus on the use of different literary techniques in the creation of monastic documents, the interaction between monksand the laity, the creation of prayers and the purpose and structure of prayer in different contexts. The volume also discusses the nature of translation of classic monastic works, and the difficulties the translator faces. The highly distinguished contributors include; G.R. Evans, Sarah Foot, Henry Mayr-Harting, Brian McGuire, Henry Wansbrough and Rowan Williams.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Religious Transformations in Egypt

The American University of Cairo Press just sent me their latest catalogue, and in between books about Ottoman cats and Egyptian earthquakes, there are two of interest to Eastern Christian studies. The first was released in the spring of this year, and is from a familiar author, Maged S.A. Mikhail, From Byzantine to Islamic Egypt: Religion, Identity and Politics after the Arab Conquest (IB Tauris, 2014).
About this book we are told:
The conquest of Egypt by Islamic armies under the command of Amr ibn al-As in the seventh century transformed medieval Egyptian society. Seeking to uncover the broader cultural changes of the period by drawing on a wide array of literary and documentary sources, Maged Mikhail stresses the cultural and institutional developments that punctuated the histories of Christians and Muslims in the province under early Islamic rule. From Christian to Islamic Egypt traces how the largely agrarian Egyptian society responded to the influx of Arabic and Islam, the means by which the Coptic Church constructed its sectarian identity, the Islamisation of the administrative classes and how these factors converged to create a new medieval society. The result is a fascinating and essential study for scholars of Byzantine and early Islamic Egypt.

The second will be released in the spring of next year: Gawdat Gabra and Hany Takla, eds., Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt (AUC Press, 2015), 352pp. 

About this book we are told:
Christianity and monasticism have long flourished along the Nile in Middle Egypt, the region stretching from al-Bahnasa (Oxyrhynchus) to Dayr al-Ganadla. The contributors to this volume, international specialists in Coptology from around the world, examine various aspects of Coptic civilization in Middle Egypt over the past two millennia. The studies explore Coptic art and archaeology, architecture, language and literature. The artistic heritage of monastic sites in the region is highlighted, attesting to their important legacies in the region.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Iconoclasms Past and Present, Christian and Otherwise

We are living in a time, as I've noted on here several times, when more and more scholarly attention is being paid to the phenomenon of iconoclasm in both its historico-Byzantine expressions, and also in other expressions, including the non-theological and non-Christian. Just last week in my class on iconography, we began reading about iconoclasm, using Leslie Brubaker's very accessible book, which I discussed here. The further we get into this burgeoning field, the more we realize that iconoclasm seems an almost universal phenomenon under the right conditions, and nobody is every totally exempt from the urge to destroy images for a variety of reasons--only a few of them properly theological. A recent collection helps us see the breadth of iconoclastic urges and outbreaks in pre-Byzantine imperial Rome, among the Lutherans, the French, the Waldensians, and the Carolingians, inter alia: Kristine Kolrud and Marina Prusac, eds., Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity (Ashgate, 2014), 231pp.

About this book we are told:
The phenomenon of iconoclasm, expressed through hostile actions towards images, has occurred in many different cultures throughout history. The destruction and mutilation of images is often motivated by a blend of political and religious ideas and beliefs, and the distinction between various kinds of 'iconoclasms' is not absolute. In order to explore further the long and varied history of iconoclasm the contributors to this volume consider iconoclastic reactions to various types of objects, both in the very recent and distant past. The majority focus on historical periods but also on history as a backdrop for image troubles of our own day. Development over time is a central question in the volume, and cross-cultural influences are also taken into consideration. This broad approach provides a useful comparative perspective both on earlier controversies over images and relevant issues today. In the multimedia era increased awareness of the possible consequences of the use of images is of utmost importance. 'Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity' approaches some of the problems related to the display of particular kinds of images in conflicted societies and the power to decide on the use of visual means of expression. It provides a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the phenomenon of iconoclasm.Of interest to a wide group of scholars the contributors draw upon various sources and disciplines, including art history, cultural history, religion and archaeology, as well as making use of recent research from within social and political sciences and contemporary events. Whilst the texts are addressed primarily to those researching the Western world, the volume contains material which will also be of interest to students of the Middle East.
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