"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).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Who Doesn't Like a Good Feast?

As a Chestertonian of the strict observance, following as I do his dictum that "Catholicism is a thick steak, a frosted stout, and a good cigar," I am always scrupulous about observing the feasts of the liturgical year even if there is not a commensurate level of fastidiousness about the fasts! But the whole logic of feasting and fasting makes Christianity incredibly attractive precisely for its domesticity and the clear links between home and Church--to say nothing of cult and culture, which Josef Pieper has explored so wonderfully in his masterful Leisure: the Basis of Culture

All this is by way of preface to a notice about a new book released this year: Fritz Graf, Roman Festivals in the Greek East: From the Early Empire to the Middle Byzantine Era Cambridge UP, 2016, 380pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This study explores the development of ancient festival culture in the Greek East of the Roman Empire, paying particular attention to the fundamental religious changes that occurred. After analysing how Greek city festivals developed in the first two Imperial centuries, it concentrates on the major Roman festivals that were adopted in the Eastern cities and traces their history up to the time of Justinian and beyond. It addresses several key questions for the religious history of later antiquity: who were the actors behind these adoptions? How did the closed religious communities, Jews and pre-Constantinian Christians, articulate their resistance? How did these festivals change when the empire converted to Christianity? Why did emperors not yield to the long-standing pressure of the Church to abolish them? And finally, how did these very popular festivals - despite their pagan tradition - influence the form of the newly developed Christian liturgy?

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