"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, August 4, 2015

Divinization through Icons and Liturgy

The literal and utterly infuriating iconoclasm recently going on in a Roman Catholic church in New York at the behest of its "pastor" and seemingly with the approval of its bishop is a vile and wicked act of anti-incarnational (and therefore at least quasi-heretical) philistines. It is also as perfect an illustration as one could hope for of the fact, as Joseph Ratzinger argued fifteen years ago, that Nicaea II's teaching on iconography has never been received at all adequately in the Latin Church, and in Western Christianity more generally. (I analyzed Ratzinger's thought on this issue here.)

This puts me in mind of a book just released two weeks ago by a young Dominican theologian whom I briefly met at a conference four years ago. Here he introduces to a Roman Catholic audience the central notion of divinization understood in terms of what could be called a "liturgical iconology":  Andrew Hofer OP, ed., Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy (Hillenbrand, 2015), 164pp.

About this book we are told:
Written as an accessible introduction to the Catholic teaching of divinization, Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy explains the startling claim, so often overlooked, that God transforms the Christian people through the Church’s liturgy to share in his divine nature. Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy is a short collection of essays that serves as an excellent introduction to the Catholic theology of divinization, which means that human beings are raised to be “partakers in the divine nature” (cf. 2 Pet 1:4) through the work of the Liturgy. Although different in authorship and in focus, the essays in this work form a coherent introduction to how God makes the faithful in the pews partakers in his divine nature through the action of the liturgy.

This remarkable book offers an accessible and systematic organization of essays on different aspects of divinization—liturgical theology, scripture, pastoral teaching, liturgical renewal and evangelization—contributed by theologians with much experience in teaching in the classroom and parish settings.
The book also bears the blurbs of two people whose views I respect enormously, one Catholic:
“Our life in Christ, according to Blessed Columba Marmion, is ‘constituted by the fact of being sons of God—a participation, through sanctifying grace, in the eternal filiation of the Incarnate Word….The whole of Christian life, holiness itself, consists in being, by grace, that which Jesus is by nature: Son of God.’  This splendid collection of essays unfolds the many facets of the profound mystery of divinization at the core of the Christian life, according to which our transformation in Christ is nothing less than a conformation to him.”--Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei; Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,Vatican City.
And the other Orthodox:
“Eastern Christian theology celebrates divinization as the divine telos for all human beings, that we might become God’s fellows and partakers. Now we have a much-needed book that celebrates divinization in the Roman Catholic tradition! Andrew Hofer’s team of theologians presents an intriguing explanation of divinization by drawing from the treasury of Catholic tradition. In a writing style accessible to the Catholic in the pew, the authors establish the biblical roots of divinization, show how people and communities receive the gift of divinization in liturgy, and connect divinization to the urgency of the new evangelization. I highly recommend this sophisticated and theologically-rich book for clergy, theologians, students, and general readers.”--Nicholas Denysenko, PhD, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies and Director, Huffington Ecumenical Institute, Loyola Marymount University.

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