"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, November 29, 2021

Islam and Greek Nationalism

The complicated relations between Eastern Christians and Muslims, especially in the long twilight of the Ottoman Empire, continue to fascinate me; so too does the question of nationalism. Both of these come together in a new book I'm looking forward to reading: Islam and Nationalism in Modern Greece, 1821-1940 by Stefanos Katsikas (Oxford University Press, 2021), 296pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

Drawing from a wide range of archival and secondary Greek, Bulgarian, Ottoman, and Turkish sources, Islam and Nationalism in Modern Greece, 1821-1940 explores the way in which the Muslim populations of Greece were ruled by state authorities from the time of Greece's political emancipation from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s until the country's entrance into the Second World War, in October 1940. The book examines how state rule influenced the development of the Muslim population's collective identity as a minority and affected Muslim relations with the Greek authorities and Orthodox Christians.

Greece was the first country in the Balkans to become an independent state and a pioneer in experimenting with minority issues. Greece's ruling framework and many state administrative measures and patterns would serve as templates in other Christian Orthodox Balkan states with Muslim minorities (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Cyprus). Muslim religious officials were empowered with authority which they did not have in Ottoman times, and aspects of the Islamic law (Sharia) were incorporated into the state legal system to be used for Muslim family and property affairs. Religion remained a defining element in the political, social, and cultural life of the post-Ottoman Balkans; Stefanos Katsikas explores the role religious nationalism and public institutions have played in the development and preservation of religious and ethnic identity. Religion remains a key element of individual and collective identity but only as long as there are strong institutions and the political framework to support and maintain religious diversity.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Mohammad and the Origins of Islam in a Byzantine-Slavic Literary Context

You come to this blog, dear reader, because you care about books in themselves, but do you also care--as I fondly do, and eagerly hope you do, too--about books about books? Do you care about the history of books, and about the history of bibliographies as well? Do you eagerly desire to know more about how books were shaped in the way they were, and what sources were influential upon them and their authors? If so, then early next year will be your time to order Zofia A. Brzozowska, Mirosław J.Leszka, Teresa Wolińska, Muhammad and the Origin of Islam in the Byzantine-Slavic Literary Context: A Bibliographical History (Jagiellonian University Press, February 28, 2022), 384pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this:

The presented publication is a type of bibliographic dictionary, compiled by an interdisciplinary team of authors (Byzantynists and Paleoslavists), containing an overview of medieval texts referring to the person of Muhammad, the Arabs, and the circumstances of the birth of Islam, which were known in the Slavia Orthodoxa area (especially in its eastern part, i.e. in Rus’). Therefore, it presents the works written in the Church Slavic language between the 9th and the mid-16th centuries. As the Old Rus’ discourse on Islam was shaped under the overwhelming influence of Byzantine literature, the majority of the presented sources are Byzantine texts from the 6th–14th centuries, translated into the literary language of the Orthodox Slavs. The reader will also find here a discussion on several relics, originally created in other languages of the Christian East (Syriac, Arabic) and the West (Latin), which – through the Greek – were assimilated on the Slavic ground.

This book aims to fill a gap in previous studies on inter-religious polemics in the Middle Ages, which has usually focused on Christian-Muslim cultural relations, analyzing Greek and Latin texts or the works written in one of the Middle Eastern languages, almost completely ignoring the Church Slavic heritage. It is worth noting that a number of the texts presented here (as well as Slavic translations of Byzantine sources) have not been published so far. The information on them, provided in this monograph, is therefore the result of research conducted directly on the manuscript material.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Early Christian Biblical Interpretation

Are there many phrases that quicken and gladden the bibliophile's impecunious heart like "new in paperback"? That will indeed soon be the case for an impressive, but hitherto expensive, collection, The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation, eds., Paul M. Blowers and Peter W Martens (Oxford UP, February 2022), 784pp. The eager reader will note the presence in this book of numerous Eastern Orthodox contributors. About this collection we are further told this by the publishers:

The Bible was the essence of virtually every aspect of the life of the early churches. The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation explores a wide array of themes related to the reception, canonization, interpretation, uses, and legacies of the Bible in early Christianity. Each section contains overviews and cutting-edge scholarship that expands understanding of the field.

Part One examines the material text transmitted, translated, and invested with authority, and the very conceptualization of sacred Scripture as God's word for the church. Part Two looks at the culture and disciplines or science of interpretation in representative exegetical traditions. Part Three addresses the diverse literary and non-literary modes of interpretation, while Part Four canvasses the communal background and foreground of early Christian interpretation, where the Bible was paramount in shaping normative Christian identity. Part Five assesses the determinative role of the Bible in major developments and theological controversies in the life of the churches. Part Six returns to interpretation proper and samples how certain abiding motifs from within scriptural revelation were treated by major Christian expositors.

The overall history of biblical interpretation has itself now become the subject of a growing scholarship and the final part skilfully examines how early Christian exegesis was retrieved and critically evaluated in later periods of church history. Taken together, the chapters provide nuanced paths of introduction for students and scholars from a wide spectrum of academic fields, including classics, biblical studies, the general history of interpretation, the social and cultural history of late ancient and early medieval Christianity, historical theology, and systematic and contextual theology. Readers will be oriented to the major resources for, and issues in, the critical study of early Christian biblical interpretation.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Byzantine Art and Architecture

Set for release later this month--and presumably in time to order for all the Byzantinists, artists, historians, and architects on your Christmas lists--is The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Art and Architecture by Ellen C. Schwartz (OUP, December 2021), 664pp. + 150 illustrations. About this book the publisher tell us the following: 

Byzantine art has been an underappreciated field, often treated as an adjunct to the arts of the medieval West, if considered at all. In illustrating the richness and diversity of art in the Byzantine world, this handbook will help establish the subject as a distinct field worthy of serious inquiry.

Essays consider Byzantine art as art made in the eastern Mediterranean world, including the Balkans, Russia, the Near East and north Africa, between the years 330 and 1453. Much of this art was made for religious purposes, created to enhance and beautify the Orthodox liturgy and worship space, as well as to serve in a royal or domestic context. Discussions in this volume will consider both aspects of this artistic creation, across a wide swath of geography and a long span of time.

The volume marries older, object-based considerations of themes and monuments which form the backbone of art history, to considerations drawing on many different methodologies-sociology, semiotics, anthropology, archaeology, reception theory, deconstruction theory, and so on-in an up-to-date synthesis of scholarship on Byzantine art and architecture. The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Art and Architecture is a comprehensive overview of a particularly rich field of study, offering a window into the world of this fascinating and beautiful period of art.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Demonic Bodies in the Christian East

The Coptic tradition, and the venerable city of Alexandria, are both well represented in this forthcoming book from Oxford early next year: Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture by Travis W. Proctor (Oxford UP, February 2022), 280pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us this: 

Drawing insights from gender studies and the environmental humanities, Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture analyzes how ancient Christians constructed the Christian body through its relations to demonic adversaries. Through case studies of New Testament texts, Gnostic treatises, and early Christian church fathers (e.g., Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian of Carthage), Travis W. Proctor notes that early followers of Jesus construed the demonic body in diverse and sometimes contradictory ways, as both embodied and bodiless, “fattened” and ethereal, heavenly and earthbound.

Across this diversity of portrayals, however, demons consistently functioned as personifications of “deviant” bodily practices such as “magical” rituals, immoral sexual acts, gluttony, and pagan religious practices. This demonization served an exclusionary function whereby Christian writers marginalized fringe Christian groups by linking their ritual activities to demonic modes of (dis)embodiment. The tandem construction of demonic and human corporeality demonstrates how Christian authors constructed the bodies that inhabited their cosmos--human, demon, and otherwise--as part of overlapping networks or “ecosystems” of humanity and nonhumanity. Through this approach, Proctor provides not only a more accurate representation of the bodies of ancient Christians, but also new resources for reimagining the enlivened ecosystems that surround and intersect with our modern ideas of “self.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Glories of Ethiopian Christianity

When I teach Eastern Christian iconography, I always reserve my favourite tradition, the Ethiopian, to the end, after we have been utterly exhausted by the seemingly endless surfeit of Byzantine images, and only moderately sobered up by the Coptic tradition. I tell my students to keep an eye on the Ethiopian tradition for its academic study is only now coming into its own.

That study will be greatly edited by three recent books, highly praised by the venerable and eminent historian Peter Brown in a recent NYRB essay I read with great delight. Here is the choicest bit:

In 1441 Ethiopian monks visited Rome. They told Pope Eugenius IV...that the Ethiopians were somewhat surprised that they had received no word from any pope in eight hundred years. It was time for that negligence to be remedied. However, they reassured Eugenius that they would report back to their master that the pope seemed to be a good Christian!

The arc of the essay is to point out what a formidable cultural stronghold Ethiopia was, far surpassing all the patronizing nonsense later talked about it by Roman and European Christians and historians, including that execrable old fool Gibbon. Ethiopian Christianity, in Brown's mind, must be counted at least as strong and important a tradition as the Latin, Greek, or Syriac. He advances an interesting thesis, worthy of debate by theologians, that perhaps Ethiopia's being miaphysite or monophysite (he uses the terms interchangeably, which is not without problems) is what abled them to form such a stronghold of Christianity that was never swallowed up by Islam. 

In any event, Brown draws our attention to three recent publications, all of which he praises. The first of these is A Contextual Reading of Ethiopian Crosses Through Form and Ritual: Kaleidoscopes of Meaning by Maria Evangelatou (Gorgias Press), 382pp. Brown praises this as a "book of stunning beauty." About it the publisher further tells us this:

Ethiopia is unique among Christian lands for the incomparable prominence of the cross in the life of its people and for the inexhaustible variety and intricacy of decorative patterns on cross-shaped objects of all kinds. Crosses of wondrous diversity and sophistication are extensively used in religious and magic rituals, as well as in the daily social interactions and personal experiences of people in a variety of contexts. This book explores the ways in which Ethiopian crosses reflect and shape a broad range of ideas, from religious beliefs to interrelated socio-political values, and from individual notions of identity and protection to cultural constructs of local and universal dimensions. Thus the cross of the Ethiopian tradition emerges as the sacred matrix that encompasses the life of the world in both its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions; and as the social and cultural nexus through which and with which people interact in order to shape and express personal and communal identities and hopes.The investigation includes textual and visual evidence, as well as aspects of Ethiopian history and cultural tradition, and highlights elements of both continuity and change. Special attention is given to religious rituals in which crosses guide the participants to internalize abstract ideas central to their culture, through sensorial experience and interaction. A main objective of this analysis is to contribute to an understanding of visual creations as interactive depositories and therefore also generators of ideas, with an influential role in identity formation, socio-cultural interactions and the construction of power relations.

The second book he notes, and praises equally highly, is Samantha Kelly, A Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea (Brill, 2020), 606pp. About this book the publisher tells us this:

A Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea introduces readers to current research on major topics in the history and cultures of the Ethiopian-Eritrean region from the seventh century to the mid-sixteenth, with insights into foundational late-antique developments where appropriate. Multiconfessional in scope, it includes in its purview both the Christian kingdom and the Islamic and local-religious societies that have attracted increasing attention in recent decades, tracing their internal features, interrelations, and imbrication in broader networks stretching from Egypt and Yemen to Europe and India. Utilizing diverse source types and methodologies, its fifteen essays offer an up-to-date overview of the subject for students and nonspecialists, and are rich in material for researchers. 

Contributors are Alessandro Bausi, Claire Bosc-Tiessé, Antonella Brita, Amélie Chekroun, Marie-Laure Derat, Deresse Ayenachew, François-Xavier Fauvelle, Emmanuel Fritsch, Alessandro Gori, Habtemichael Kidane, Margaux Herman, Bertrand Hirsch, Samantha Kelly, Gianfrancesco Lusini, Denis Nosnitsin, and Anaïs Wion. 

The third and final book is Medieval Ethiopian Kingship, Craft, and Diplomacy with Latin Europe by Verena Krebs  (Palgrave, 2021), 325pp. About this book the publisher has this to say: 

This book explores why Ethiopian kings pursued long-distance diplomatic contacts with Latin Europe in the late Middle Ages. It traces the history of more than a dozen embassies dispatched to the Latin West by the kings of Solomonic Ethiopia, a powerful Christian kingdom in the medieval Horn of Africa. Drawing on sources from Europe, Ethiopia, and Egypt, it examines the Ethiopian kings' motivations for sending out their missions in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries - and argues that a desire to acquire religious treasures and foreign artisans drove this early intercontinental diplomacy. Moreover, the Ethiopian initiation of contacts with the distant Christian sphere of Latin Europe appears to have been intimately connected to a local political agenda of building monumental ecclesiastical architecture in the North-East African highlands, and asserted the Ethiopian rulers' claim of universal kingship and rightful descent from the biblical king Solomon. Shedding new light on the self-identity of a late medieval African dynasty at the height of its power, this book challenges conventional narratives of African-European encounters on the eve of the so-called 'Age of Exploration'.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Glories of Syriac Christianity

In a recent review essay (about which more later) in the New York Review of Books, the eminent and venerable Peter Brown draws our attention to a forthcoming volume he praises highly: Invitation to Syriac Christianity: An Anthology, eds. M.P. Penn, Scott Johnson et al. (University of California Press, February 2022), 450pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:

Despite their centrality to the history of Christianity in the East, Syriac Christians have generally been excluded from modern accounts of the faith. Originating from Mesopotamia, Syriac Christians quickly spread across Eurasia, from Turkey to China, developing a distinctive and influential form of Christianity that connected empires. These early Christians wrote in the language of Syriac, the lingua franca of the late ancient Middle East, and a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Collecting key foundational Syriac texts from the second to the fourteenth centuries, this anthology provides unique access to one of the most intriguing, but least known, branches of the Christian tradition.

Incidentally, I interviewed one of the editors, Scott Johnson, here about an earlier publication. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Mark Roosien on Bulgakov and the Eucharist

Just a month ago now, I was able to interview an author about his newly translated collection of Sergius Bulgakov's works. You may read that wonderfully fascinating interview with Roberto de la Noval here

Now we have another translation of another work of Bulgakov: The Eucharistic Sacrifice, trans. Mark Roosien (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021). 140pp. I wrote to Mark to ask about his work, and his thoughts follow. 

AD: Tell us about your background

MR: I was born and raised in West Michigan and attended North Park University in Chicago where I majored in philosophy. After studying Russian for a year in the city of Cheboksary, Russia, I attended the University of Notre Dame where I received an MTS and PhD in theology, focusing on liturgical studies and early Christianity. I was ordained as a deacon in the Orthodox Church in America in 2018. I am currently Lecturer in liturgical studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School.

AD: How did you get into the world of theological translation, and specifically the Russian tradition?

MR: I’ve had an interest in Russian literature since making an extended visit to Moscow in 1999 when I was 12 years old. Those were interesting times in Russia, to say the least. In college I acquired an interest in Russian religious thought, and when I studied Russian intensively between college and grad school I would spend evenings reading Berdyaev with a dictionary.

The Eucharistic Sacrifice is my first published foray into translation. I discovered the book somewhat by accident (I had never seen anyone write about it—it was published in Russian only in 2005), as I was doing research for a question on Bulgakov for my doctoral candidacy exams. The translation project began simply as a way to keep up my Russian, but I soon realized that it was an important text that deserved wide readership.

AD: Interest in Bulgakov has been on a steady upward trajectory for the better part of two decades now. What lies behind this do you think?

MR: The “material cause” for this, I suppose, is the steady stream of English translations that have appeared since the turn of the century, especially by Boris Jakim, Thomas Allan Smith and Catherine Evtuhov, and more lately Stephen Churchyard and Roberto De La Noval

But more importantly, I think Bulgakov was simply ahead of his time. I have a few (debatable) pet theories as to why it is only now that he has acquired such status. I may as well lay them out here. The world needed to pass through the gauntlet of World War II, the stagnation of the American and European empires, and the fall of the Soviet Union to appreciate his prophetic critique of modernity in its capitalist and communist incarnations. 

The theological academy needed to wrestle for some time with the likes of Barth, Rahner and von Balthasar, especially on the question of the relationship between nature and grace, to appreciate the originality of Bulgakov’s theological interventions. Western culture needed to exhaust the possibilities of modern art to see Sophiology as more than just another version of romanticism. 

Finally, as Celia Deane-Drummond has shown, rising awareness of climate change has proved Bulgakov to be an important conversation partner in eco-theology, a relatively recent subfield in theology. 

AD: Let's get right to the title and focus: eucharistic sacrifice. Here I am taken back immediately to my Anglican childhood, reading the Thirty Nine Articles, and being sternly lectured that "Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits." Bulgakov would obviously have a different take on this, so give us a brief overview of his ideas.

MR: As is typical of Bulgakov on many theological questions, he would say, “yes and no.” As my dear friend and fellow Bulgakov translator Roberto De La Noval likes to say, never has a thinker wanted so much to have it both ways. 

Bulgakov would say this: There is danger in a narrow focus on the eucharist as sacrifice, which is evident in certain liturgical abuses. He sees such an abuse in the practice of votive masses, where, at least in the Western Middle Ages, one could pay a priest to say a mass for someone—to make a sacrifice on their behalf—and not even show up for the mass oneself. Bulgakov would certainly agree that Christ is not sacrificed “again” in the liturgy in the way that might be implied by this practice, since Christ cannot be crucified more than once. 

Following the Epistle to the Hebrews, he holds that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the sole sacrifice for sins, made “once and for all.” But he takes it a step further–and this is the main thrust of The Eucharistic Sacrifice. The crucifixion of Christ, his sacrificial offering on the cross, is but the pinnacle of a larger, all-encompassing sacrifice: the eternal, sacrificial love that is God. The cross, which sums up Christ’s entire cruciform life, is the manifestation in time of an eternal reality. That reality is the sacrificial love of God in the Trinity which is poured out in the creation of the world and the Incarnation of the Word (including His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, etc.)

This threefold exitus—trinitarian kenosis, the creation, and the Incarnation–is the sacrificial work of Divine love and salvation. The eucharist is Jacob’s Ladder, the means for the world’s reditus up into the divine life of the Trinity. The eucharist is how that salvation is made real for us, how human beings participate in the divine-human sacrifice. The eucharist manifests the eternal sacrifice of God through God’s kenosis made available to human beings on any altar at any time and any place. In other words, it is a “repetition”—but not a “re-crucifixion.” It is the endless sacramental presence in time of one single, salvific reality of sacrifice that is both temporal and eternal, heavenly and earthly.

AD: More recently, Terry Eagleton has taken up the topic of sacrifice, and argues that we misunderstand it if we only see it as self-renunciation and self-denial. How might Bulgakov respond to this?

MR: Bulgakov would agree. For him, sacrifice is above all life-giving, not life-abnegating. It is an act of creativity—as every artist knows. It is inevitable that in humanity’s fallen state we cannot help but see sacrifice in terms of denial of the good and beautiful. What, after all, is uglier than blood sacrifice? 

In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, however, Bulgakov takes apart the act of sacrifice and unveils the ways in which, in its essence, it is about the gift of life. For him, the ultimate meaning of sacrifice is found in God’s kenotic, creative love, which is revealed on the cross. While the crucifixion is indeed ugly and terrifying, it is also, in a profound sense, beautiful. As one of the texts for Sunday Vespers in the Byzantine reads, “When you appeared, O Christ, nailed upon the cross, you altered the beauty of created things.” Through the “life-giving cross” (as we say often in Byzantine liturgy), we see the beautiful, creative nature of sacrifice.

AD: You note in your introduction that Bulgakov's 1930 essay "The Eucharistic Dogma" grew out of his "love affair with Roman Catholicism a decade earlier." Tell us more about this.

Bulgakov was ordained a priest in 1918, just in time to witness firsthand what he perceived as the collapse of the Russian Orthodox Church under Bolshevik pressure. By 1921 or so (as revealed in his letters and diaries), he had concluded that the reason the Russian Church collapsed so quickly was because of its rotten ecclesiology. In order to restore the church and stand firm against the winds of modernity, the Orthodox Church needed to unite with the Roman papacy

To make a long story short, he abandoned this position by 1924 for both personal and theological reasons, but was forever grateful that he passed through what he later called the “fires” of Catholicism, because it purified his own ideas. In the “The Eucharistic Dogma,” he lays out his case against the Thomistic formulation of transubstantiation and in so doing levels a critique against the metaphysics and method of scholasticism that he had earlier so admired (and in many ways continued to admire, but from greater critical distance). 

AD: You mention a 1933 essay on the connection between the Eucharist and social problems and its ecumenical application to the Orthodox-Anglican relationship. Tell us how and why, as you say, Bulgakov "advocated for (limited) eucharistic intercommunion  between Anglicans and Orthodox." Did he also hold such views with regard to Catholics?

MR: Bulgakov’s failed attempt at reunion with Rome in the early 1920’s soured him somewhat on Catholicism. Many of the Roman Catholics with whom he shared his ideas on church reunion met them with bewilderment and, as he tells it, simply tried to convert him to Roman Catholicism. He resented this. It is perhaps for this reason he didn’t pursue Orthodox-Catholic reunion again. But Bulgakov always appreciated Western Christianity a great deal. He simply found the Roman papacy in its post-Vatican I form to be too great a theological obstacle for church reunion. Yet he saw an opening for ecumenical relations with the Anglicans in the early 1930’s, especially because they did not have a papacy and thus in theory might have fewer obstacles to church reunion. Unfortunately, the talks failed and intercommunion was not established.

Clearly, Bulgakov, believed in the necessity of the eventually reunion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Here’s what Bulgakov wrote about Catholicism in the 1940s, toward the end of his life: “The time for a relationship based on mutual recognition and respect for one another’s individual character has not yet come for Eastern and Western Christianity…It is the task of love which is the life of the church to bridge the chasm by working together, and thus prepare the ground for the reunion of the churches”(Autobiographical Notes, [Russian edition], YMCA Press, 1946, pp. 48-49). 

I wonder what he would say today. Have we gotten any closer to such a relationship based on mutual recognition that could form a groundwork for reunion? While I find some hope in the mutual appreciation and, it seems, genuine affection between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, there are also many reasons for pessimism. 

AD: At the end of your introduction you very briefly discuss the interaction between, and only partial influence of Bulgakov on Schmemann as these two differed in some important respects. Describe where they differed.

MR: For one thing, Schmemann was not very interested in metaphysics and definitely not in theological systems. He was basically averse to Bulgakov’s Sophiology, though perhaps more in form than in content. Schmemann, in my reading, attempted to communicate plainly and almost artlessly the experience of the Kingdom that Bulgakov expressed using the more abstract language of Sophiology. 

I suspect that the passages in Bulgakov’s books that Schmemann liked best were the autobiographical ones in which his former teacher painted lyrical, vivid pictures of the experience of God in the here and now. This is precisely what Schmemann was trying to do in his books on liturgical theology. So, I tend to see them in continuity more than others do, at least in terms of content, even though their style and theological mood is very different. 

AD: Having finished this translation, what are you at work on now?

I mentioned my brilliant friend Roberto above—he and I are working together on a translation of Bulgakov’s Spiritual Diary written in 1924-5 while he was in Prague, just before he moved to Paris to found and lead the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute. I know that Rob described the book already on this blog, but I will just add this. I believe that it was in these years that Bulgakov became the Bulgakov that we know from his great trilogies, which were all written after this time. What is revealing, and perhaps surprising, about the Spiritual Diary is that it shows that Bulgakov did not see his calling as fundamentally a theological or academic one. The many personal and professional tragedies that he had experienced until that point humbled him in some of his grand ideas for church reunion or theological renewal. Rather, by this time, he saw his mission primarily as a pastoral one. How might it change the way we read Bulgakov’s theology when we keep in mind this fundamental orientation? Although we tend to see Bulgakov’s theology as highly complex and abstract, he was, I believe, getting at something that resides at the core of the life of faith in its concrete experience. To me, that is why Bulgakov still speaks. 

I’m also plugging away at the endless project of turning my dissertation into a book. The book will be on theological and liturgical responses to natural disasters—especially earthquakes—in Byzantine Constantinople. It is a historical/theological study that unites liturgical and environmental history. In addition to being a contribution to the field of liturgical studies, I hope that it will also be a resource for those (like myself) who are interested in critically wrestling with the tradition as the church finds ways to boldly and faithfully respond to climate change.

AD: Sum up your hopes for the book, and who especially would benefit from reading it. 

MR: At roughly 120 pages, this book is a great short introduction to Bulgakov’s thought. As one of his final writings, it touches on and summarizes nearly every major aspect of his ideas in their most mature form. I hope that it will serve as an entry-point for those who are interested in Bulgakov but don’t know where to start. 

It’s also an important text for 20th century sacramental theology, in that, more than any other thinker that I know of, Bulgakov articulates the connection between the eucharist and the Trinity. So this book will certainly appeal to anyone who is interested in sacramental theology, systematic theology, and Orthodox theology. 

Finally, I hope this book will help make some headway in ecumenical discussions on the fraught notion of the eucharistic as sacrifice, which has been divisive issue among the churches since the Reformation.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...