"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).

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Bulgakov on the Eucharistic Sacrifice

Interest in the works of Sergius Bulgakov remains justly high, and consistently so for at least the last twenty years. Numerous publishers have brought out his works in English--Eerdmans is especially praiseworthy in this regard. In September we will have Mark Roosien's translation of Bulgakov's The Eucharistic Sacrifice (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021), 136pp. to look forward to. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

This first English translation represents Sergius Bulgakov’s final, fully developed word on the Eucharist.

The debate around the controversial doctrine of the Eucharist as sacrifice has dogged relations between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches since the Reformation. In The Eucharistic Sacrifice, the famous Russian theologian Sergius Bulgakov cuts through long-standing polemics surrounding the notion of the Eucharist as sacrifice and offers a stunningly original intervention rooted in his distinctive theological vision. This work, written in 1940, belongs to Bulgakov’s late period and is his last, and most discerning, word on eucharistic theology. His primary thesis is that the Eucharist is an extension of the sacrificial, self-giving love of God in the Trinity, or what he famously refers to as kenosis. Throughout the book, Bulgakov points to the fact that, although the eucharistic sacrifice at the Last Supper took place in time before the actual crucifixion of Christ, both events are part of a single act that occurs outside of time.

This is Bulgakov’s concluding volume of three works on the Eucharist. The other two, The Eucharistic Dogma and The Holy Grail, were translated and published together in 1997. This third volume was only first published in the original Russian version in 2005, and has remained unavailable in English until now. The introduction provides a brief history of Bulgakov’s theological career and a description of the structure of The Eucharistic Sacrifice. This clear and accessible translation will appeal to scholars and students of theology, ecumenism, and Russian religious thought.

Monday, April 26, 2021

More Solzhenitsyn Forthcoming

The fall catalogue from the University of Notre Dame Press is just out. They are, of course, the largest and finest Catholic academic publisher in the world, and have recently brought you Married Priests in the Catholic Church, of which you should at once order 100 copies for all your friends. 

In the fall, UNDP is releasing a paperback translation of Book I of Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. About this book the publisher tells us this:

Russian Nobel prize–winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) is widely acknowledged as one of the most important figures―and perhaps the most important writer―of the last century. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the first English translation of his memoir of the West, Between Two Millstones, Book 1, is being published. Fast-paced, absorbing, and as compelling as the earlier installments of his memoir The Oak and the Calf (1975), Between Two Millstones begins on February 12, 1974, when Solzhenitsyn found himself forcibly expelled to Frankfurt, West Germany, as a result of the publication in the West of The Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn moved to Zurich, Switzerland, for a time and was considered the most famous man in the world, hounded by journalists and reporters. During this period, he found himself untethered and unable to work while he tried to acclimate to his new surroundings.

Between Two Millstones contains vivid descriptions of Solzhenitsyn's journeys to various European countries and North American locales, where he and his wife Natalia (“Alya”) searched for a location to settle their young family. There are fascinating descriptions of one-on-one meetings with prominent individuals, detailed accounts of public speeches such as the 1978 Harvard University commencement, comments on his television appearances, accounts of his struggles with unscrupulous publishers and agents who mishandled the Western editions of his books, and the KGB disinformation efforts to besmirch his name. There are also passages on Solzhenitsyn's family and their property in Cavendish, Vermont, whose forested hillsides and harsh winters evoked his Russian homeland, and where he could finally work undisturbed on his ten-volume history of the Russian Revolution, The Red Wheel. Stories include the efforts made to assure a proper education for the writer's three sons, their desire to return one day to their home in Russia, and descriptions of his extraordinary wife, editor, literary advisor, and director of the Russian Social Fund, Alya, who successfully arranged, at great peril to herself and to her family, to smuggle Solzhenitsyn's invaluable archive out of the Soviet Union.

Between Two Millstones is a literary event of the first magnitude. The book dramatically reflects the pain of Solzhenitsyn's separation from his Russian homeland and the chasm of miscomprehension between him and Western society.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Married Priests and Sex Abuse

On my sabbatical in 2018, I put the finishing touches to my newest book, Married Priests in the Catholic Church

But before doing that, I had also used the time to write a second book from start to finish: Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power. This latter book's final chapter focuses on the question of married clergy, including a married episcopate. Loathe though I was to include such a chapter, I felt I had to because of the grossly simplistic "thinking" one sometimes hears proffered to the effect that the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church today could be dramatically decreased by allowing priests to marry. The quickest way to disprove this claim is to look at every other Christian tradition with married clergy to see they too have problems with sexual abuse; so do married Jewish rabbis, Islamic imams, etc.

That said, what I did in the 2019 book was to look at how, in some limited and circumscribed ways, having a predominantly married presbyterate in the Catholic Church might help make it more difficult for abusive clergy to escape unnoticed (not least by their wives!) or to be shuffled around (shuffling married clergy can be a significantly more complicated task than with celibates, and requires wider discussion). I also noted, in raising the question of married bishops, that a man who has children of his own is, on average, going to be much more adverse to treating abused children in the bloodless, cold, ruthless way so many celibate bishops do today. In too many cases it seems an unspoken qualification for the episcopate is a complete lack of empathy for the most vulnerable human beings in the Church. Celibacy, then, can be deeply psychologically damaging to some people, especially when lived (as it should be) outside a monastic community of some depth. 

But a married clergy will not "solve" the abuse crisis, nor any other. It may help, but this has to be carefully considered. Thus the new book, Married Priests in the Catholic Church, aims in significant degree to de-romanticize, de-mythologize some of the idealistic notions people might have about this venerable tradition and its challenges. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Byzantine and Balkan Historiographies

I have made no secret of my view that much of the problem of Christian (and other cultural and theological) division, especially between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, is historiographical in nature: how the doleful tales of our division are told, and retold, with tendentiousness formed in the present moment. A new book looks at these issues in a wide context: Byzantium after the Nation: The Problem of Continuity in Balkan Historiographies by Dimitris Stamatopoulos (Central European University Press, June 2021), 330pp. About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Dimitris Stamatopoulos undertakes the first systematic comparison of the dominant ethnic historiographic models and divergences elaborated by Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Albanian, Romanian, Turkish, and Russian intellectuals with reference to the ambiguous inheritance of Byzantium. The title alludes to the seminal work of Nicolae Iorga in the 1930s, Byzantium after Byzantium, that argued for the continuity between the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires. The idea of the continuity of empires became a kind of touchstone for national historiographies. Rival Balkan nationalisms engaged in a "war of interpretation" as to the nature of Byzantium, assuming different positions of adoption or rejection of its imperial model and leading to various schemes of continuity in each national historiographic canon.

Stamatopoulos discusses what Byzantium represented for nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholars and how their perceptions related to their treatment of the imperial model: whether a different perception of the medieval Byzantine period prevailed in the Greek national center as opposed to Constantinople; how nineteenth-century Balkan nationalists and Russian scholars used Byzantium to invent their own medieval period (and, by extension, their own antiquity); and finally, whether there exist continuities or discontinuities in these modes of making ideological use of the past.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Married Priests in the Catholic Church--including a Married Bishop!

My book that was just published this month, Married Priests in the Catholic Church, began life a decade ago as a collection focused solely on Eastern Catholic experiences--the longstanding Roman harassment and Latin chauvinism around married clergy, the fetishization of celibacy as some kind of "superior" state and with it the concomitant denigration of marriage as a second-class sacrament for the "weaker brethren," and the bogus historicizing that has gone on around the "apostolicity" of celibacy. These and other issues were to be taken up, along with an ecumenical examination of the costs of this approach to Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement. Almost all of this would be focused on a European, and especially East-Slavic, context for the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, having the largest number of married clergy. 

But as the book went through the University of Notre Dame Press's superlative peer-review and editorial processes, the reviewers' recommendations came to me asking to expand the focus of the book in both "cultural" and ecclesial terms. I grasped the logic of this at once, and set out recruiting chapters from non-European married clergy (Melkites, Copts, et al), and from Orthodox clergy as well as former Anglicans who remained married clergy in the relatively new ordinariates around the world. All this made for a much richer collection.

In the coming weeks I want to feature excerpts and insights from the various sections of the book. Today we start with an essay from the third section, "Ecumenical Considerations." The essay comes from England bearing the title "The Gift to the Church of Married Clergy" by Edwin Barnes. 

Barnes was a bishop in the Church of England, mother-church of the Anglican Communion (in which I was baptized) from 1995 to 2002. He and his wife Jane converted to Catholicism a decade ago and spent the last few years of his life ordained a priest, and later designated a monsignor, in the Latin Church before his death in early 2019. 

His chapter is short but lovely, and it talks about how the ministry of married clergy is very much a ministry of the married couple. He gives moving tribute to how much unsung and unpaid work was done by his wife, and how no parish--if it is to be a genuine community of concern and pastoral care and not just a sacramental gas station--can function without the whole couple, together and singly, working in their various spheres. 

In saying this, his chapter joins nicely with others, including that of Irene Galadza, the matushka of the most important and influential Ukrainian Greco-Catholic parish in North America, St. Elias in Brampton, Ontario, where she and her husband, Archpriest Roman, have been since they founded the parish in 1976. Irene, too, recognizes not just how much parish ministry depends on the labours of husband and wife alike, but also--and importantly--how much a strain such ministry can put on the marriage. Hers is a welcome note of realism and restraint of those romanticized fantasies some have of how great it must be to have a married priesthood, and how that will apparently "solve" the so-called vocations crisis in the Latin Church. 

Irene's is not a counsel of despair, however, but very much a sober and cheerful reflection on how the wives of clergy can undertake the responsibility for the careful welfare (psychological and physical, but also spiritual) of herself and their children. Though she does not use such terminology as "self-care," that is very much the import of what she writes.

In this regard, her chapter is likewise joined to that of another: Bill Mills, a long-standing priest in the Orthodox Church of America, and author of any number of wonderful books, including his frank and funny memoir I discussed in my interview with him here. He, too, is well aware of the psychic costs of married life in a manse or rectory, and discusses those in his charming and amusing chapter, "Marriage and Ministry: an Eastern Orthodox Perspective." If you like that chapter, you'll love his many other books I have noted on here over the years. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Post-War and Cold War Catholicism

I had a wonderful dinner with the author of this forthcoming book when I invited him to campus to give a lecture in 2019. He told me he was working on this history, and given the quality of his scholarship from his other works I have read and heard, I know this forthcoming book will be first-rate and absolutely fascinating when we can get our hands on Joseph P. Chinnici's American Catholicism Transformed: From the Cold War Through the Council (Oxford University Press, April 2021), 480pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

Situating the church within the context of post-World War II globalization and the Cold War, American Catholicism Transformed draws on previously untapped archival sources to provide deep background to developments within the American Catholic Church in relationship to American society at large. Shaped by anti-communist sentiment and responsive to American cultural trends, the Catholic community adopted "strategies of domestic containment," stressing the close unity between the Church and the "American way of life." A focus on the unchanging character of God's law as expressed in social hierarchies of authority, race, and gender provided a public visage of unity and uniformity. However, the emphasis on American values mainstreamed into the community the political values of personal rights, equality, acceptance of the arms race, and muted the Church's inherited social vision. The result was a deep ambivalence over the forces of secularization.

The Catholic community entered a transitional stage in which "those on the right" and "those on the left" battled for control of the Church's vision. International networking, reform of religious life among women, international congresses of the laity, the institutionalization of the liturgical movement, and the burgeoning civil right movement positioned the community to receive the Vatican Council in a distinctly American way. During the Second Vatican Council, the American bishops and theological experts gradually adopted the reforming currents of the world-wide Church. This convergence of international and national forces of renewal -- and resistance to them -- says Joseph Chinnici, will continue to shape the American Catholic community's identity in the twenty-first century.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Orthodoxy in Cyprus

I have fond memories of my (so far) only trip to Cyprus in October of 1993, and would dearly love to go back some day. I thought of that trip in seeing that next week will give us a paperback edition of a book published a few years ago: Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191–1571: Society, Spirituality, and Identities by Chrysovalantis Kyriacou (Lexington Books, 15 April 2021), 354pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Medieval and Renaissance Cyprus was a fascinating place of ethnic, cultural, and religious encounters. Following almost nine centuries of Byzantine rule, Cyprus was conquered by the Crusaders in 1191, becoming (until 1571) the most important stronghold of Latin Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean—first under the Frankish dynasty of the Lusignans, and later under the Venetians. Modern historiographical readings of Cypriot identity in medieval and early modern times have been colored by British colonialism, Greek nationalism, and Cyprocentric revisionism. Although these perspectives have offered valuable insights into the historical experience of Latin-ruled Cypriots, they have partially failed to capture the dynamics of noncoercive resistance to domination, and of identity preservation and adaptation. Orthodox Cyprus under the Latins, 1191–1571 readdresses the question of Cypriot identity by focusing on the Greek Cypriots, the island’s largest community during the medieval and early modern period. By bringing together theories from the fields of psychology, social anthropology, and sociology, this study explores continuities and discontinuities in the Byzantine culture and religious tradition of Cyprus, proposing a new methodological framework for a more comprehensive understanding of Cypriot Orthodoxy under Crusader and Venetian rule. A discussion of fresh evidence from hitherto unpublished primary sources enriches this examination, stressing the role of medieval and Renaissance Cyprus as cultural and religious province of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine Orthodox world.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Married Priests in the Catholic Church

If you go here, you will be able to read a brief interview I did about my just-released book Married Priests in the Catholic Church.

In the weeks ahead, I will try to feature excerpts from the book, or discussion of its chapters, to whet your appetite further about it. In the meantime, the publisher tells us this about the book:

These essays offer a historically rigorous dismantling of Western claims about the superiority of celibate priests.

Although celibacy is often seen as a distinctive feature of the Catholic priesthood, both Catholic and Orthodox Churches in fact have rich and diverse traditions of married priests. The essays contained in Married Priests in the Catholic Church offer the most comprehensive treatment of these traditions to date. These essays, written by a wide-ranging group that includes historians, pastors, theologians, canon lawyers, and the wives and children of married Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox priests, offer diverse perspectives from many countries and traditions on the subject, including personal, historical, theological, and canonical accounts. As a collection, these essays push especially against two tendencies in thinking about married priesthood today. Against the idea that a married priesthood would solve every problem in Catholic clerical culture, this collection deromanticizes and demythologizes the notion of married priesthood. At the same time, against distinctively modern theological trends that posit the superiority, apostolicity, and “ontological” necessity of celibate priests, this collection refutes the claim that priestly ordination and celibacy must be so closely linked.

In addressing the topic of married priesthood from both practical and theoretical angles, and by drawing on a variety of perspectives, Married Priests in the Catholic Church will be of interest to a wide audience, including historians, theologians, canon lawyers, and seminary professors and formators, as well as pastors, parish leaders, and laypeople.

Contributors: Adam A. J. DeVille, David G. Hunter, Dellas Oliver Herbel, James S. Dutko, Patrick Viscuso, Alexander M. Laschuk, John Hunwicke, Edwin Barnes, Peter Galadza, David Meinzen, Julian Hayda, Irene Galadza, Nicholas Denysenko, William C. Mills, Andrew Jarmus, Thomas J. Loya, Lawrence Cross, and Basilio Petrà.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Christianity in South and Central Asia

This month we have a more affordable paperback edition of a book first published in 2019 by Edinburgh University Press as part of their series Edinburgh Companions to Global Christianity: Christianity in South and Central Asia, eds. Kenneth R. Ross, Daniel Jeyaraj, and Todd M. Johnson (April 2021), 512pp. 

About this collection the publisher tells us this:
Students, pastors, missionaries, and professors looking for key information about Christianity in South and Central Asia need look no further. This comprehensive reference volume covers every country in South and Central Asia, offering reliable demographic and religious information, as well as original interpretative essays by indigenous scholars and practitioners.

Combining empirical data and original analysis in a uniquely detailed way, it maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyzes key themes, and examines current trends. Readers will find profiles of Christianity through clearly presented statistical and demographic information. Also included are essays examining each of the major Christian traditions (Independents, Orthodox, United Churches, Protestants/Anglicans, Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals/Charismatics) as they are finding expression in South and Central Asia.

Those who are interested in studying key themes of this region--such as faith and culture, worship and spirituality, theology, social and political engagement, mission and evangelism, religious freedom, gender, interfaith relations, monastic movements and spirituality, displaced populations, and ecclesiology--will find highly detailed essays and information. Compiled by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Center for the Study of Global Christianity, this volume is unmatched in scope and detail.
The countries covered in this volume and their authors are as follows: 

Kazakhstan, Alina Ganje
Uzbekistan, Feruza Krason
Turkmenistan, Barakatullo Ashurov
Tajikistan, Barakatullo Ashurov
Kyrgyzstan, David Radford
Iran, Gulnar Francis-Dehqani
Afghanistan, Anthony Roberts
Pakistan, Mehak Arshad and Youshib Matthew John
North India, Leonard Fernando SJ
Western India, Atul Y. Aghamkar
South India, Daniel Jeyaraj
North-East India, Kaholi Zhimomi
Nepal, Bal Krishna Sharma
Bhutan, Tandin Wangyal
Bangladesh, Pradeep Perez SJ
Maldives, Kenneth R. Ross and Todd M. Johnson
Sri Lanka, Prashan de Visser

Major Christian Traditions:

Catholics, Felix Wilfred
Orthodox, Romina Istratii
United and Uniting Churches, Joshva Raja
Protestants and Anglicans, Arun W. Jones
Independents, Roger E. Hedlund
Evangelicals, Rebecca Samuel Shah and Vinay Samuel
Pentecostals/Charismatics, Ivan Satyavrata

Monday, April 5, 2021

Virgin Martyrs in Late Antique Byzantium

The ways in which we narrate the past almost always say as much about us in the present--and sometimes the future we wish to have--as they purport to do about the past. That seems no less true even in martyrology and hagiography as a new book once more reminds us:Narrating Martyrdom: Rewriting Late-Antique Virgin Martyrs in Byzantium by Anne P. Alwis (Liverpool University Press, 2020), 240pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

This book reconceives the rewriting of Byzantine hagiography between the eighth and fourteenth centuries as a skilful initiative in communication and creative freedom, and as a form of authorship. Three men - Makarios (late C13th-C14th), a monk; Constantine Akropolites (d.c.1324), a statesman; and an Anonymous educated wordsmith (c. C9th - each opted to rewrite the martyrdom of a female virgin saint who suffered and died centuries earlier. Their adaptations, respectively, were of St. Ia of Persia (modern-day Iran), St. Horaiozele of Constantinople, and St. Tatiana of Rome. Ia is described as a victim of the persecutions of the Persian Shahanshah, Shapur II (309-79 C.E), Horaiozele was allegedly a disciple of St Andrew and killed anachronistically under the emperor Decius (249-51 C.E), and Tatiana, we are told, was a deaconess, martyred during the reign of emperor Alexander Severus (222-35 C.E). Makarios, Akropolites, and the Anonymous knowingly tailored their compositions to influence an audience and to foster their individual interests. The implications arising from these studies are far-reaching: this monograph considers the agency of the hagiographer, the instrumental use of the authorial persona and its impact on the audience, and hagiography as a layered discourse. The book also provides the first translations and commentaries of the martyrdoms of these virgin martyrs.

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