Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Adam de Ville, editor of LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, and blogger at Eastern Christian Books, has provided a wonderful summary of points of interest for Eastern Christians in the Pope’s newest book-length interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World.  Most of the points have to do with the nature of the Roman Papacy.

These points show, I think, that Benedict XVI truly understands Eastern Christian concerns about papal authority, and more than that, is sympathetic to them. I might even venture to say that this Holy Father appears to have a much “lower” (dare I say more Orthodox?) doctrine of the Roman Primacy than many of his ardent conservative and traditionalist Catholic supporters.

(Recently I had a discussion with a theology professor at one of the most “traditional” Roman Catholic seminaries in the States. He informed me that the Holy Father no longer believed the foolish things he wrote about the Orthodox as a young professor, i.e. “the Ratzinger Formula”. Not too long after this discussion, the Pope’s new man at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Koch, referred to this formula as a position, not just of young Professor Ratzinger, but of Benedict XVI.)

DeVille’s excellent post can be found here.

Read Full Post »

Abbot Nicholas, on Holy Resurrection Monastery’s Practical Ecumenism blog, continues his thoughts on Pope Benedict’s “Reform of the Reform” here and here.  We discussed the first part of Abbot Nicholas’s thoughts here.

(Pictured above: The dome of St Isaac’s Cathedral, Petrograd)

————–

I’m continuing my reflection on Cardinal Ratzinger’s (as he then was) 2000 book, The Spirit of the Liturgy.

In The Spirit of the Liturgy Cardinal Ratzinger is not only speaking of ‘image’ in the narrow sense of an icon. He is including in this understanding all Christian sacred symbolism, all liturgical action, including space and time and also sacred music. Celebration of the eucharistic prayer ad orientem or ad populumwould be included in this discussion of the image or the symbolic. Ratzinger says that we need sacred space and sacred time, mediating symbols so that precisely through the image, through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. Surely, it is to heaven, to the Father that the eucharistic prayer is addressed. This symbolism has a long history in all the Apostolic Churches. It is always the Risen Christ, even His image on the Cross to whom the community looks as the true Oriens.

Cardinal Ratzinger asks: “Is this theology of the icon, as developed in the East, true? Is it valid for us (in the West)? Or is it just a peculiarity of the Christian East?” (p. 124.)

He goes on to say that the West in the first millennium emphasized, almost exclusively, the pedagogical function of the image. This is born out in such great Western Church Fathers as St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great. The so-called Libri Carolini, as well as the synods of Frankfurt (794) and Paris (824), came out against the poorly understood Seventh Ecumenical Council. This was partly due to faulty translations of the Greek text of the Council’s decrees into Latin. But the problem went deeper, touching on the theological function of symbols which in turn speaks to their anthropological function. In the East, the defeat of iconoclasm was the triumph of a vision of human life materially linked with the Divine through the Incarnation. Ratzinger certainly does not claim that the West rejected this vision—indeed it did not. It was not rejected, because it was not fully understood.

One suspects that the full consequences of this disconnect did not emerge for centuries, as long as it was submerged beneath the obvious similarities between the art of Christians on both sides of the Latin/Greek divide. At least until the thirteenth century the fundamental orientations of iconography remained essentially the same in East and West. But the Renaissance did something quite new. “Sacred art” now became merely “religious art.”

Now we see the development of the aesthetic in the modern sense, the vision of a beauty that no longer points beyond itself but is content in the end with itself, the beauty of the appearing thing. (p. 129).

Ratzinger sees Baroque art, in its Christian form, as an attempt to recapture the sacred. However, it is here that we see most clearly the ancient tendency of the West to regard art and symbols as pedagogical tools.

In line with the tradition of the West the Council [of Trent] again emphasized the didactic and pedagogical character of art, but as a fresh start toward interior renewal, it led once more to a new kind of seeing that comes from and returns within. (Ibid.)

In short, what was missing from the western Baroque was precisely its iconic, which is to say liturgical function. Religious art did not seek to effect union between humanity and divinity, but merely to encourage, or describe, the inner experience of a highly individualized spirituality. Baroque art was capable of an intense emotionality (Ratzinger speaks of it as an “alleluia in visual form”, p. 130), but it was not itself a sacrament making possible the participation of human emotion—indeed, any aspect of human experience—in divine reality. We have here the old problem that the West, especially after Augustine, could never quite overcome: how can material creatures participate in immaterial life? The Baroque is, in many ways, the traditional Western solution expressed in a new way: we participate in God’s life through an inward adjustment of our emotional and intellectual capacities. We feel, we think like God, but we cannot be gods. And this means the world we inhabit, however beautifully it might reflect, by analogy, divine power, cannot be drawn up with us into divinized life.

Here, I have to inject my own observation that this problem that I have called “Western” penetrated deeply into the Greek, Arabic, Slavic and Balkan churches of this same period. The adoption by Orthodox Churches of Baroque styles of visual and musical art is well known. However, it would not be true to say that the more ancient, patristic view of the image as sacrament was entirely lost. The forms changed, and to some extent this inevitably obscured the theology of image, but not entirely. Icons retained their specifically liturgical function. Instrumental music was never accepted in the East. However powerful the enticements of Counter-Reformation Catholic vitality, the Orthodox retained an instinctive sense that art was more than a way of seeing within, but rather pointed outwards, beyond itself to the divine heart of reality itself.

By the time of the Enlightenment an impoverished view of the image deprived the Church of a stronger defense against the secularization of cultural and intellectual life. This in turn was the foundation for a fully developed “iconoclasm.”

The Enlightenment pushed faith into a kind of intellectual and even social ghetto. Contemporary culture turned away from the faith and trod another path, so that faith took flight in historicism, the copying of the past, or else attempt at compromise or lost itself in resignation or cultural abstinence. The last of these led to a new iconoclasm, which has frequently been regarded as virtually mandated by the Second Vatican Council. (p. 130.)

In the end the “new iconoclasm” of which Ratzinger speaks is not simply the abandonment of images, although it may at times involve this. Sometimes the kind of iconoclasm to which he refers could even take place within an explosion of images in a quantitative sense (as may be seen in many places in the 19th century, for example, with the embrace of kitsch). What matters is not so much the number of images and other symbols, nor even their form, but rather the theological and anthropological vision that determines how they are seen and experienced, either solely as expressions of individual spirituality or as means of communion. Cardinal Ratzinger says:

The Church in the West does not need to disown the specific path she has followed since about the thirteenth century. But she must achieve a real reception of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II, which affirmed the fundamental importance and theological status of the image in the Church. The Western Church does not need to subject herself to all the individual norms concerning images that were developed at the councils and synods of the east, coming to some kind of conclusion in 1551 at the council of Moscow. Nevertheless, she should regard the fundamental lines of this theology of the image in the Church as normative for her. (pp. 133-4.)

In any discussion involving the broad generalizations of “West” and “East” there is often the danger of making out distinctions in expression to amount to differences in faith. In ecumenical, or anti-ecumenical, polemics this danger is often eagerly embraced. I would hate to think that my reflections, and still less Ratzinger’s thought on which they are based, should seem to fall into the category of polemic.

The basic faith of the universal Church is, and has always been, that Jesus Christ unites in Himself all things in heaven and on earth (cf Ephesians 1:10). This is a fact, the fact of the Incarnation, and it forms the irreducible content of Christian hope. There are certain consequences of this faith in terms of the way in which Christians have access to the Incarnation as a historical and trans-historical fact: notably the sacraments, of which the Church herself is the first. This basic theological truth, and the practice it enlivens, form the common patrimony of the Eastern and Western Churches. It unites at the deepest level.

What divides, or at least distinguishes East and West, then, is not so much a matter of faith or practice, but of ways of explaining this faith and practice. What really divides us, then, is theological language.

I think that this is at least what Ratzinger thinks (and I certainly agree with him). What he is seeking to do in The Spirit of the Liturgy is not to make Roman Catholics adopt oriental icons or liturgical forms. Not at all! What he is trying to do is point out something that Roman Catholics already know is missing from their theological language, including their non-verbal, their iconic, language. The fact that they can sense that it is missing is a sign that they belong to the ancient Church, not that they are excluded from it. What Ratzinger sees in the Seventh Ecumenical Council is a way of giving back to Catholics something they have always known, but have never been able to completely express within the parameters and limitations of their own theological discourse. He seeks to give them a language to help explain what they have always tried to see within the “way of seeing” that is sometimes revealed, sometimes obscured, in the symbolic arrangement of their worship and devotional lives.

In short, it is not only Eastern Christians who are convinced that, in Christ, heaven and earth are mingled together (as one of the hymn writers of the Byzantine tradition puts it). Western Catholics believe this also. They know it; it informs their attitude to the world, to nature, to care for the poor, to the construction of Christian community, to the role of natural law and in so many other different aspects of the genius of the Roman Catholic tradition. What Ratzinger wants to do is strengthen this tradition by introducing, or re-introducing to it, a way of seeing that it will recognize with joy, because it already corresponds to its deepest insights and longings.

This is ecumenical work at the highest level. I am deeply grateful for it.

Read Full Post »

A. Edward Siecienski

Oxford University Press (April 2010)
ISBN13: 9780195372045
ISBN10: 0195372042
Hardback, 368 pages

Description

Among the issues that have divided Eastern and Western Christians throughout the centuries, few have had as long and interesting a history as the question of the filioque. Christians everywhere confess their faith in the ancient words of the Nicene Creed. But rather than serve as a source of unity, the Creed has been one of the chief sources of division, as East and West profess their faith in the Trinitarian God using different language. In the Orthodox East, the faithful profess their belief in “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father.” In the West, however, they say they believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father “and the Son”-in Latin “filioque.” For over a millennium Christendom’s greatest minds have addressed and debated the question (sometimes in rather polemical terms) in the belief that the theological issues at stake were central to an orthodox understanding of the trinitarian God. To most modern people, this may seem like a trivial matter, and indeed most ordinary Christians would be hard pressed to explain the doctrine behind this phrase. In the history of Christianity, however, these words have played an immense role, and the story behind them deserves to be told. For to tell the story of the filioque is to tell of the rise and fall of empires, of crusades launched and repelled, of holy men willing to die for the faith, and of worldly men willing to use it for their own political ends. It is, perhaps, one of the most interesting stories in all of Christendom, filled with characters and events that would make even the best dramatists envious.

The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy is the first complete English language history of the filioque written in over a century. Beginning with the biblical texts and ending with recent agreements on the place and meaning of the filioque, this book traces the history of the doctrine and the controversy that has surrounded it. From the Greek and Latin fathers, the ninth-century debates, the Councils of Lyons and Ferrara-Florence, to the twentieth- and twenty-first century-theologians and dialogues that have come closer than ever to solving this thorny problem, Edward Siecienski explores the strange and fascinating history behind one of the greatest ecumenical rifts in Christendom.

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: The Procession of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament
Chapter 2: The Greek Fathers
Chapter 3: The Latin West
Chapter 4: Maximus the Confessor
Chapter 5: The Filioque from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century
Chapter 6: The Filioque from the Eleventh Century to the Thirteenth Century
Chapter 7: The Council of Lyons to the Eve of Ferrara-Florence
Chapter 8: The Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-39)
Chapter 9: From Florence to the Modern Era
Chapter 10: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

Reviews

“The tragic schism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity has for more than a millennium centered on the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son (Filioque), and in particular on the Western addition of the phrase Filioque to the creed. It is a long and tangled controversy which is traced in all its twists and turns with admirable clarity by Edward Siecienski in this fine book. Siecienski explores the past and looks to the future. One of his more astonishing revelations is that it is one of the earliest attempts at an irenical approach to the question-by the seventh-century monk and theologian, St Maximus the Confessor-that holds out the best hopes in the present for a final resolution of this controversy.”

–Andrew Louth, Author of Greek East and Latin West: the Church AD 681-1071

“At last we have the history of the Filioque controversy from beginning to end, free of confessional bias, engaging with both the theology and the historical context. An admirable presentation of the blend of Trinitarian theology, ecclesiastical rivalry, and historical events that sustained (and sometimes still sustain) the controversy, Siecienski’s book should be required reading for interested historians, theologians, and ecumenists. I have wanted this book for a long time and am thrilled to have it on my desk at last.”

–Tia Kolbaba, Author of Inventing Latin Heretics: Byzantines and the Filioque in the Ninth Century

“Siecienski excavates the intricacies of the Filioque controversy with magisterial ability in this excellent study. He is equally adept in telling us why the argument arose, and why it still matters. This is a book that is bound to become an authoritative classic on the subject.”

–John A. McGuckin, Author of The Orthodox Church: Its History and Spiritual Culture

About the Author

Assistant Professor of Religion and Pappas Professor of Byzantine Culture and Religion, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Read Full Post »

From Ignatius Press

Available February, 2010

In the second edition of this major work, Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols provides a systematic account of the origins, development and recent history—now updated—of the relations between Rome and all separated Eastern Christians.

By the end of the twentieth century, events in Eastern Europe, notably the conflict between the Orthodox and Uniate Churches in the Ukraine and Rumania, the tension between Rome and the Moscow patriarchate over the re-establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in the Russian Federation, and the civil war in the then federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, brought attention to the fragile relations between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, which once had been two parts of a single Communion. At the start of the twenty-first century, in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, a papal visit to Russia—at the symbolic level, a major step forward in the ‘healing of memories’— appears at last a realistic hope.

In addition, the schisms separating Rome from the two lesser, but no less interesting, Christian families, the Assyrian (Nestorian) and Oriental Orthodox (Monophysite) Churches, are examined. The book also contains an account of the origins and present condition of the Eastern Catholic Churches—a deeper knowledge of which, by their Western brethren, was called for at the Second Vatican Council as well as by subsequent synods and popes.

Providing both historical and theological explanations of these divisions, this illuminating and thought-provoking book chronicles the recent steps taken to mend them in the Ecumenical Movement and offers a realistic assessment of the difficulties (theological and political) which any reunion would experience.

Aidan Nichols OP is the John Paul II Memorial Lecturer in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oxford, and a member of the Dominican community at Blackfriars, Cambridge. He is the author of many books on theology and spirituality including Lovely Like Jerusalem, Looking at the Liturgy, and Hopkins: A Theologian’s Poet.

Read Full Post »

From reader Darrin Roush comes news of an interesting new book: His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches by Father Laurent Cleenewerck, a Ukrainian Orthodox priest and professor. You should be able to peruse most of the book here, thanks to Google Books. Fr Laurent’s study appears to be comprehensive, constructive, fair to both sides, and non-polemical. I plan to buy the book and, time permitting, write a review for this blog.

Read Full Post »

The entire text of After Nine Hundred Years: The Background Of The Schism Between The Eastern And Western Churches by Yves Congar, OP (1959), is available online in several different formats. As some may recall, I posted excerpts from the second chapter of this work over at Cathedra Unitatis (part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers