"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, June 1, 2015

Orthodoxy and Catholicism in Asian Perspective

More than a decade ago now I wrote several articles on the concept of the "healing of memories," a phrase that Pope John Paul II picked up and began using from the earliest months of his pontificate. As the years of his papacy wore on, he began using that phrase (and variations of it--e.g., "purification of memory") with greater urgency and with greater focus on East-West divisions. The phrase itself is a curious mix of psychology and theology and it's never been entirely clear to me how practicable such an approach is beyond the individual-clinical context: that is to say, I may be able, lying on my analyst's couch, to talk through painful memories of some trauma or other from my childhood ("remembering, repeating, and working through," to use Freud's phrase for the analytic process), and so find some measure of healing of those memories, allowing me to move on with my life. But how do entire churches or whole ecclesial communities do that? To put this in concrete terms, how do Greek Orthodox Christians (inter alia) who still harbor (one knows not how) bad memories of, say, the Fourth Crusade, experience healing of those memories as a Church?

Anyway that is a question to continue to ponder for another time. In the meantime, and along these lines, we have a new book that looks promising and interesting: Ambrose Mong, Purification of Memory: A Study of Orthodox Theologians from a Catholic Perspective (James Clark and Co., 2015), 232pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

Among the major Christian denominations, the Orthodox Church is the least known and widely misunderstood. This is more serious in Asia where the Orthodox Church is a minority and is perceived as an exotic branch of Christianity. But in fact, the Eastern Church has been in China since the seventeenth century. The purpose of this work is to acquaint lay people, theological students and seminarians with the teaching of Orthodoxy through a study of important modern Orthodox theologians. Mong argues that in spite of the differences and painful clashes between the Eastern and Western Churches, there is a lot that they share in common. Key topics like ecclesiology, ecumenism, catholicity, traditions and liberation theology are explored in the works of Jaroslav Pelikan, Nicolas Berdyaev, Nicolas Afanasiev, Georges Florovsky, Sergei Bulgakov, John Meyendorff, John Zizioulas and Vladimir Lossky, together with their Catholic counterparts like Joseph Ratzinger, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar. This study highlights their striking similarities and suggests, that from an ecumenical point of view, their common heritage and concerns in the world can be a basis for dialogue and the healing of memory.

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