Markus Vinzent's Blog

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Studia Patristica 51 - Abstracts-

As the publication of Studia Patristica 51 is approaching, I am glad to be able to present already the abstracts of this new volume:



Marcela Andoková, Bratislava: Tolera infirmitatem, si desideras perfectionem: The notion of tolerantia in relation to Christian perfection in Augustine’s Sermones ad populum
This study focuses on the presence and treatment of the theme of the relation between Christian perfection and the understanding of the term tolerantia as presented mainly in Augustine’s sermones ad populum, paying specific attention to the sermones which deal with the question of patience and Christian hope and to those referring to his polemic with the Donatists where tolerance appears to get slightly a new meaning. In this paper, however, we do not limit our research exclusively to the sermons related to the anti-Donatist controversy, but we examine this topic in a broader context of Augustine’s preaching activity with a particular emphasis on those sermons and related treatises touching the topic of forbearance and treatment of sinners in the Church. So we analyse mostly the following sermons: Sermo 61A, Sermo 359A on patience, and a particular attention is being paid to two sermones ad populum: Sermo 47 and Sermo 4 where the verb tolerare is used with a person (tolerare peccatores / malos, the word connection which was not commonly employed either in classical or in late Latin). With regard to this topic we have also observed in the selected sermons a certain predilection for a particular set of scriptural quotations used both as an argument or illustration to support Augustine’s thoughts concerning the question of tolerance (2Cor. 12:7-10 in particular). At the same time, Augustine makes a constant reference to biblical images, especially to the ones regarding the tolerance of sinners within the Church taken from the Gospel of Matthew. Moreover, the image of Christus Medicus is frequently used in these sermons, mainly in those passages dealing with the treatment of sin. In his preaching, Augustine invites the faithful, while pursuing the way of Christian perfection and following the example of Christ, to love and tolerate even the sinners who are mixing with them until the time of harvest comes at the end.

George C. Berthold, Manchester NH: Free Will as a Partner of Nature: Maximus the Confessor on the Our Father
Familiarity with the Lord’s Prayer and its widespread use by Christians in prayers public and private from the dawn of Christianity should not conceal its vast theological store. The prayer, in fact, is a compendium of the dynamic of Christian discipleship. When the Lord told his disciples, ‘This is how you are to pray’ (Matth. 6:9), he did more than give them a liturgical directive. Rather, he is to be seen as inviting them to a relationship of adoptive sonship with him. In his commentary, Maximus makes clear that the petitions are to be understood in a Trinitarian context as a challenge to follow the Master in his radical redefinition of what it means to be human. His pre-Monothelite emphasis on the pivotal role of the will and human freedom in ascetical and spiritual striving shows how he was well poised to recognize the destructive potential of the heresy when it eventually appeared. His commentary is a veritable summary of Christian doctrine and spiritual teaching.

Sebastian P. Brock, Oxford: Some Paths to Perfection in the Syriac Fathers
After considering the terminology of some New Testament passages that were to prove influential, this study concentrates on two early Syriac writings in particular, the anonymous Book of Steps, and the works of John of Apamea. These also serve as influential models for, respectively, a bipartite and tripartite schema of the development of the spiritual life, some examples of which are treated more briefly. In a final section attention is paid to the use in this connection of some distinctive imagery.

Thomas Cattoi, Berkeley: Salvific asymmetry: anhypostasy and icon veneration in Theodore the Studite’s Antirrhetici
The purpose of this paper is to explore the theology of the sacred image developed by Theodore the Studite (759-826), a Byzantine monastic reformer who played a pivotal role during the second iconoclastic crisis. The paper highlights the inner congruence between Theodore’s understanding of the icon and his Christological vision, which is grounded in the Chalcedonian paradigm, but also incorporates elements from later authors such as Leontius of Byzantium and John Damascene, as well as unexpected Antiochean echoes in its emphasis on Christ’s humanity. In his three Antirrhetici (also known as Refutations of the Iconoclasts), Theodore retrieves the traditional teaching of the communication of the idioms to adumbrate the mutual exchange of properties between the two natures of the eternal Word, thereby ensuring that our common humanity is not dissolved in the divinity, and simultaneously asserting the enduring quality of humanity’s eschatological deification. While the event of the incarnation preserves a perfect symmetry of natures, Theodore follows Leontius of Byzantium in postulating a fundamental asymmetry at the level of the persons: the divine hypostasis of the Son of God is the subject of the actions of Christ, while Christ’s own humanity rests anhypostatically in the Second Person of the Trinity. In the three Antirrhetici, it is this Christological asymmetry that guarantees the concreteness of Christ’s humanity, offering Theodore a conceptual springboard in support of the legitimacy of Christian iconography. While Christ’s humanity is not that of a “mere man” (ψιλὸς ἄνθρωπος), the fact that it is enhypostatised by the Logos ensures that it is invested with specific characteristics – as opposed to being a mere abstract concept, – and as such it can be the subject of pictorial representation. 

Boudewijn Dehandschutter, Leuven: On the Way to Perfection: ‘Lust’ as a factor in early Christian Anthropology. With an Outlook on the Syrian Fathers
The first part of this paper will give an overview of the problem of the passions, mainly that of ‘lust’, in early Christian literature, in order to discover the importance of their regulation or suppression (by asceticism etc), in comparison with the concepts of the philosophical currents of Late Antiquity. Through the study of a selection of texts contemporary to the New Testament, and relevant passages from the Apologists, Christian apocrypha, Gnostic sources, leading to an analysis of Clement of Alexandria, the threefold orientation in the solution of the question will be indicated: the philosophical-anthropological approach (soul-body), the theological one (fall of Adam) and the biblical one (creation of humanity as male and female). This inquiry will serve as a background for the second part, which is devoted to some comments on Syrian sources: Aphrahat who sees in the ‘Sons and daughters of the covenant’ the anticipation of perfection through the fact that they, by their fight against ‘lust’, evoke the future world without the male-female division. According to Ephrem Syrus, Adam’s sin creates the necessity to regain an original perfection and purity, though with respect to human freedom. The author of the Book of degrees devotes a complete ‘memra’ to Adam’s desire, his fall and the need to practice virginity in order to be free from ‘all desires and lusts’, which can be achieved up to several ‘degrees’ of perfection.

Mariya Horiacha, Leuven: The Image of the Perfect Christian in the Writings of Pseudo-Macarius
The paper deals
with the idea of perfection in the writings known as the Corpus Macarianum. The teaching of the anonymous author of the corpus usually identified in scholarship as Pseudo-Macarius is presented against the background of his general idea of a perfect human being, that is, composed of two natures: human and divine. This teaching is considered on the basis of the Macarian teaching about the former Adam’s state in Paradise and his idea of a new creation in Christ. The examination of the author’s  discussion with false views, circulating among ascetics in the Syrian monastic milieu, specified in the paper as the opinions of ascetics, pneumatics, and charismatics, has brought to the fore the important aspects of his anti-enthusiastic approach to the question of perfection and his focus on the growth in grace and humility. The two contradictory statements of Pseudo-Macarius, namely his firm belief in the possibility of perfection, on the one hand, and the lack of true witnesses to this reality in the world, on the other, is reconciled through the analysis of the Macarian doctrine of grace, which clarifies that perfection is given in this world only partly and for a certain time as a foretaste of the future transcendent reality. The paper also concerns major characteristics of perfect Christians such as their insatiability for the Lord and tirelessness in good deeds, their humility and greatness before God, their participation in divine glory and sufferings of Christ. Finally, it shows that, in view of Pseudo-Macarius, the fulfilment of perfection belongs to the eschatological reality.

Taras Khomych, Leuven/Lviv, Perfection in the Didache: Ethical Objective or Eschatological Hope?The concept of perfection plays a key role in the Didache. Altogether it occurs four times in crucial places at the beginning (Did. 1.4 and 6.2), in the middle (Did. 10.5) and at the end of this text (Did. 16.2). Most of the studies dealing with this notion tend to focus on its first two occurrences, assuming that the last two have basically the same meaning. The purpose of this contribution is to challenge this scholarly tendency by emphasising distinctive features of the notion of perfection in the second part of the Didache, as compared to its first two occurrences. Drawing on parallel expressions in early Christian literature, especially the Fourth Gospel, this contribution shows that in the second half of the Didache the notion of perfection might best be explained against its contemporary Jewish or Judeo-Christian backdrop. It is closely related to the idea of the eschatological ingathering of the holy ones with the Lord, as the ultimate restoration of Israel. Notwithstanding the differences, these various meanings of perfection should not be juxtaposed, given that ethics and eschatology are not contrasted but rather well integrated in the Didache.

Oleh Kindiy, Lviv: The Christological Notion of Diakonos in Clement of AlexandriaHis theology also reveals some resemblance to the teaching of Thomas Aquinas (The Sum against the Heathens, Preface to the 4th book) on the three levels of knowledge of God accessible to man. Unlike the Angelic Doctor, our Metropolitan does not deem any kind of angelic mediation necessary for a person’s attainment of the highest forms of Divine revelation. In the centre of Theophanes’ theology of deification lies the three-staged pattern of salvation for a Christian. The stages in question are: practice, synergy, and interpenetration. Theophanes is one of the most prominent Palamite theologians to have elaborated a harmonious doctrine about the aim of a Hesychast’s (and every Christian’s) life as: a) the acquisition of the synergy of person’s own will with the grace of God; and b) the gradual reduction of synergy and attainment of interpenetration. The stage of synergy corresponds to the earthly experience of the Saints which is, in principle, accessible for every Christian. The highest peak of this experience is called ecstasis, or self-transcending through union with Divine grace. The temporal character of the ecstasis is disclosed by Theophanes at the example of the elect of the Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration. It cannot be regarded as equal to the interpenetration which is an everlasting participation of the just in the splendor of the Divine energy and glory in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why St Peter’s offer to the Lord to put up three tabernacles (Matth. 17:4 par.) was untimely. The basic example of a person who has reached the third stage of perfection is for Theophanes the Most Holy Theotokos. She is the only living creature who has been living in a certain Mariological interpenetration from Her miraculous birth onwards. The Virgin, like St Melchizedek in the interpretation of St Maximus, manifests only that Divine beauty which took possession of Her from the beginning and through which She can only be recognized. The works of Theophanes present us a brilliant example of late Byzantine spiritual exegesis of the Scripture, being at the same time a gem of Orthodox soteriology and Mariology.

Jan M. Kozlowski, Warsaw: Polycarp as a Christian GymnosophistIn the Martyrium Polycarpi pagans are depicted as special addressees of the testimony given by Christian martyrs. In accordance with the universal pagan ideal, the martyrs are characterized by uncompromising scorn for death and inflexible resistance to suffering. There are important indications that, when depicting Polycarp’s attitude during his fiery execution at the stake, the author of the Martyrium Polycarpi referred to the ideal represented by Indian gymnosophists, who in imperial times were revered as an unsurpassed example of unyielding tolerance to pain caused by fire. Such an allusion is all the more probable in the light of the possible reference that the author of the Martyrium Polycarpi made to Lucian’s De morte Peregrini.

Dimitry Makarov, Yekaterinburg: Some Notes on the Notions of Synergy and Interpenetration in Theopanes of Nicaea
This article deals with Theophanes of Nicaea (died c. 1381), who develops in his major works written between 1369 and 1376 a systematic and detailed theology of deification which is based mostly on the teaching of the previous Byzantine Fathers, especially St Maximus the Confessor and St Gregory Palamas. His theology also reveals some resemblance to the teaching of Thomas Aquinas (The Sum against the Heathens, Preface to the 4th book) on the three levels of knowledge of God accessible to man. Unlike the Angelic Doctor, our Metropolitan does not deem any kind of angelic mediation necessary for a person’s attainment of the highest forms of Divine revelation. In the centre of Theophanes’ theology of deification lies the three-staged pattern of salvation for a Christian. The stages in question are: practice, synergy, and interpenetration. Theophanes is one of the most prominent Palamite theologians to have elaborated a harmonious doctrine about the aim of a Hesychast’s (and every Christian’s) life as: a) the acquisition of the synergy of person’s own will with the grace of God; and b) the gradual reduction of synergy and attainment of interpenetration. The stage of synergy corresponds to the earthly experience of the Saints which is, in principle, accessible for every Christian. The highest peak of this experience is called ecstasis, or self-transcending through union with Divine grace. The temporal character of the ecstasis is disclosed by Theophanes at the example of the elect of the Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration. It cannot be regarded as equal to the interpenetration which is an everlasting participation of the just in the splendor of the Divine energy and glory in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why St Peter’s offer to the Lord to put up three tabernacles (Matth. 17:4 par.) was untimely. The basic example of a person who has reached the third stage of perfection is for Theophanes the Most Holy Theotokos. She is the only living creature who has been living in a certain Mariological interpenetration from Her miraculous birth onwards. The Virgin, like St Melchizedek in the interpretation of St Maximus, manifests only that Divine beauty which took possession of Her from the beginning and through which She can only be recognized. The works of Theophanes present us a brilliant example of late Byzantine spiritual exegesis of the Scripture, being at the same time a gem of Orthodox soteriology and Mariology.

Herman Teule, Leuven: The idea of Perfection in the spiritual Works of Gregory Barhebraeus (1226-1286)
One of the more frequent terms in the spiritual works of Barhebraeus, Maphrian (representative of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch in Eastern Mesopotamia) and scholar (1226-86), is that of gmirē, the Perfect, or gmirutō, Perfection. The present article intends to explore the meaning of this concept and the related idea of šumlōyō (‘accomplishment’, perfection) as used in Barhebraeus’ two spiritual treatises, the Book of the Dove and the Book of Ethics or Ethicon. The latter work was composed in 1279 in Marāgha (Adharbaijan), Il-Khānid capital and centre of Islamic learning and one of the favorite places of residence of the author; the first probably a few years later, by the end of his life.
Krzysztof Tyburowski, Cracow: Ieiunium and eleemosyna / charitas as Important Elements on the Christian’s Way to Perfection according to the Sermons of St Leo the Great
Although the occasional Sermons to the Roman people of St Leo the Great are a precious source of his deep theological doctrine first of all about the Christological questions, we can find in them a great variety of practical problems concerning the daily life of Christians. Fasting and charity play a key role in it, and they are so important that the eternal salvation depends on them. Leo is convinced that these two elements of Christian life connected with the grace of God are a fundamental remedy for the salvation of human nature wounded by the sin of Adam. They are a main weapon in the fight against Satan and they play an important role in the social life of every Christian.

Oleksandra Vakula, Lviv, Spiritual progress and a disciple of Christ as a model of the perfect Christian in Origen
In the teaching of Origen the concept of perfection is closely connected with Origen's other important themes such as pre-existence of the souls, the fall from the original state, the salvation of the devil. He presents spiritual growth of every rational being as the returning back to the created, or similar to it, state (apokatastasis). This way of the return requires a common ‘cooperation’ of the divine Logos and an individual fallen soul. For the salvation of the world (or worlds) the divine Logos takes many characteristics (epinoiai). Origen divides them into higher and lower ones and speaks also about different forms of the body of Christ, more often about the form of a servant and the form of God. Human beings first have contact with Christ in his form of a servant and in his lower characteristics as a Healer, Redeemer, Shepherd. After a soul has been healed by Christ and made some spiritual progress, it may contemplate Him in His higher characteristics as Logos and Sophia, and in His form of God – transfigured and resurrected body. Spiritual progress begins with the self-knowledge. In this process a human being discovers in a very depth of the soul the image of the divine Logos and falls in love with Him. The result of the ‘spiritual marriage’ between the soul and Christ is the achievement of virtues. According to Origen, the achievement of virtues will have the end. But already in his lifetime he presumes that a rational being will never stop in the growth of the knowing of God. Therefore Origen cannot give a name to the people which make spiritual progress. Only the name ‘disciples’ of Christ may be applied to them. This name has always a positive meaning in the whole exegesis of Origen, indicating a spiritually mature person.

D. Zagórski, Toruń: The Model of the Perfect Christian in the Writings of Gregory of Nazianzus
Gregory of Nazianzus, in his writings showed the model of the ‘perfect Christian’ – the ideal, to the attainment of which the faithful should strive through the process of spiritual progress in holiness and immaculateness. The author did not however, depend only upon theoretical denotations, but complemented them with the knowledge gained from his own inner experiences. That way of showing the ideal - the model, gained an authenticity and even more so mobilized Christians to spiritual exertion.This work has as its goal the presentation of the main denotations of the Gregorian model of the perfect Christian, preceded by the discussion of the contexts of the authors life, flowing from his inner ‘longings’ and the road forming the discussed model of perfection. This study is also to present the wide range of subjects connected with the ideal of Christian perfection, being found in the contexts of the appeals of Gregory – calls to holiness, being an example of responsibility for the community and individual believers.



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