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Posts Tagged 'Fr. John Behr'

If you needed a gift idea for me…

So, because I know my loyal readers (both of them) are desperately wondering what in the world to get the man who always seems to buy everything well in advance of his birthday and/or Christmas, or are looking for a late nameday gift, I thought I’d pass this on:

The Case Against Diodore and Theodore: Texts and Their Contexts, edited with a translation and a historical and theological introduction by John Behr.

This is a landmark work, providing the first complete collection of the remaining excerpts from the writings of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia together with a ground-breaking study of the controversy regarding the person of Christ that raged from the fourth to the sixth century, and which still divides the Christian Church. Destroyed after their condemnation, all that remains of the dogmatic writings of Diodore and Theodore are the passages quoted by their supporters and opponents. John Behr brings together all these excerpts, from the time of Theodore’s death until his condemnation at the Second Council of Constantinople (553) – including newly-edited Syriac texts (from florilegium in Cod. Add. 12156, and the fragmentary remains of Theodore’s On the Incarnation in Cod. Add. 14669) and many translated for the first time – and examines their interrelationship, to determine who was borrowing from whom, locating the source of the polemic with Cyril of Alexandria.

On the basis of this textual work, Behr presents a historical and theological analysis that completely revises the picture of these ‘Antiochenes’ and the controversy regarding them. Twentieth-century scholarship often found these two ‘Antiochenes’ sympathetic characters for their aversion to allegory and their concern for the ‘historical Jesus’, and regarded their condemnation as an unfortunate incident motivated by desire for retaliation amidst ‘Neo-Chalcedonian’ advances in Christology. This study shows how, grounded in the ecclesial and theological strife that had already beset Antioch for over a century, Diodore and Theodore, in opposition to Julian the Apostate and Apollinarius, were led to separate the New Testament from the Old and ‘the man’ from the Word of God, resulting in a very limited understanding of Incarnation and circumscribing the importance of the Passion. The result is a comprehensive and cogent account of the controversy, both Christological and exegetical together, of the early fifth century, the way it stemmed from earlier tensions and continued through the Councils of Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople II.

About the Author

Fr John Behr is the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary and Professor of Patristics, teaching courses in patristics, dogmatics and scriptural exegesis at the seminary, and also at Fordham University, where he is the Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics.

His early work was on issues of asceticism and anthropology, focusing on St Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria. After spending almost a decade in the second century, Fr John began the publication of a series on the Formation of Christian Theology, and has now reached the fifth and sixth centuries. He has recently completed an edition and translation of, and introduction to, the remaining texts of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. He has also published a synthetic presentation of the theology of the early centuries, focused on the mystery of Christ.

If, perhaps, you’re looking for something a little less spendy, the book on Ss. Irenaeus and Clement would also work. There’s also the amusing anecdote in which I see somebody whom I think might be an usher at a Broadway musical who actually turns out to be Fr. John Behr (to whom I’m still quite grateful for his encouragement, I might add, even if I didn’t wind up going to St. Vlad’s and even if I decided to not go with his more specific research-related questions… yet).

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Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Days 2 (cont’d) & 3 (cont’d)

I am grateful that Eirenikon has seen fit to link to my rambling trifles on the Fellowship conference. Many thanks.

I got home at about two yesterday morning, distributed the spoils of the St. Vlad’s bookstore to The David and The Daniel (who were good enough to pick me up at the airport at half past midnight on a Sunday), and went to bed. Then I was up at 7am to go to work, and, well… yeah. Sleep? What’s that?

A couple of other things to highlight about Met. PHILIP’s talk — Dr. Dmitri Solodow, a lay delegate of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council from the Diocese of the West, made the wry observation, “The liturgy unites us as long as it is in our native language.”

Met. Kallistos had a number of comments for his brother bishop, beginning by saying, “I agree with far more of what you say than I expected to!” (Always an encouraging thing to hear.) He concurred with Met. PHILIP that “[t]he defining characteristic [of a local church] is territorial, not ethnic[.]” In noting the that idea of the local church is the faithful in a given city gathering around their bishop to celebrate the Eucharist, he further observed that “the Eucharist is not an ethnic event.” A very humorous moment was when Met. Kallistos insisted that “we must not be canonical fundamentalists,” and Met. PHILIP replied, as if they were singing a psalm antiphonally, “Alleluia.” My favorite Met. Kallistos moment of the morning was when he reminded the room, “‘Committee’ is not a canonical word.” Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon ended the session by suggesting that administrative unity might have unintended consequences; he would not, for example, want to end up under a bishop who had no interest in evangelism, observing that the Romanian patriarchal cathedral in Chicago has really nothing to do with anybody else, and that he would just as soon remain under Bp. MARK.

Thursday continued with Bp. Keith Ackerman, a self-professed “cradle Anglo-Catholic” and ECUSA bishop of Quincy, Illinois. I think I have to post a couple pictures of him to truly convey why I was confused when I was told he was ECUSA — there’s this one:

And then there’s this one, showing him from the rear (just because that’s really the only other picture I have of him):

Get the idea? HIs Grace couldn’t be more Roman looking without a mitre. (Well, he mitre he might not.)

(Say it aloud and you’ll get it.)

(I’ll stop now.)

Anyway, he made several points which I truly appreciated; an important one, I think, is that unification of outer order can never move faster than the growth of the inner life. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? To that end, he said, Eucharistic discipline — which, to him, includes fasting, prayer and meditation, and thanksgiving — is absolutely vital to unity, and because truth is the nature of the Church, unity of the “outer order” can only be achieved through doctrinal unity. (This is in remarkable contrast to the thoughts a later speaker, but I’ll talk about that when I get there.)

A very important point, I thought, related to the teaching office of the episcopacy; that is, “tactile succession” is not enough without orthodoxy.

He concluded by saying that we must be fully Catholic (and I don’t think I am misreading his intent for that to be an upper-case C), fully Orthodox, fully confessional, and fully renewed — and while I’m not sure I could put my finger on why I got this impression, but I rather got the sense that for him, Orthodoxy would be a no-brainer if we had our administrative house in order. It might very well be something that I read into his words, but I will nonetheless note that this was my impression.

Following Bp. Ackerman’s lecture, I was running around a bit. I was trying to touch base with Fr. John Behr, who had told me that morning, “Find me this afternoon and we’ll set up a time to talk.” Alas, we kept missing each other, and having plans in the city that night, I ultimately had to leave around 4pm to catch my train to Grand Central. (This also meant I was going to miss Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s talk (originally scheduled for the afternoon), but there wasn’t anything I could do about that at that point).

My previously mentioned friend Matthew Murray is a theatre critic and a Tony voter, so every time I’ve been in New York he’s made sure I’ve gotten to see something. My first time out it was Phantom of the Opera, and last time it was Fiddler on the Roof with Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell.

Playing a married couple.

Let’s pause to contemplate this for a moment.

But I digress.

This time it was the current revival of Sunday in the Park with George, a production which dares to ask the question, “Is it live or is it PowerPoint?” Anyway, we arrive at the theatre, and I take notice of a very tall, bearded, and ponytailed man wearing a dress shirt and slacks standing in the doorway to the lobby, looking for all the world like an usher. And I think to myself, Wow, that guy looks a lot like Fr. John. No, really, it’s uncanny how much that looks like Fr. John. It could be his twin.

Wait.

That’s Fr. John.

What in the world is he doing being an usher? Doesn’t he make enough money as dean that he doesn’t have to moonlight?

But then his wife walked up to him and they entered the lobby, answering that question very quickly.

I walked up to him, saying, “Fr. John?” He did a double-take when he saw me, chuckled, and said, “So, you decided to take the evening off as well, eh?” He introduced me to his wife, who said, “Oh, Richard Barrett? I’ve read your book, I think.” I assured her that she hadn’t. We were able to arrange to meet for breakfast the next morning (“Lunch and dinner usually finds me eating with bishops, so let’s do breakfast,” he said), and that was that. What were the odds?

It turned out that a friend of theirs had won the tickets in a radio call-in contest, had given them the tickets and offered to babysit. Sometimes you just want to think (and this was not the last time I thought this over the course of the conference), there are no coincidences.

The hierarchical Divine Liturgy the next morning was celebrated by Bp. Hilarion. Rather at the opposite extreme from Met. Kallistos, his homily was short and pastoral, reminding us that as Christians, we need the Holy Spirit for anything we do to be successful — it is not the priest who makes the sacraments efficacious, or the worker of any ministry for that matter who may take credit for it, but the Holy Spirit, period. To that end, he concluded, as Christians, we should always be praying that the Holy Spirit is with us. Short and to the point, but well worth hearing.

Talking with Fr. John was fruitful; we discussed how a St. Vlad’s education might prepare me for further graduate work, and he was very encouraging, even having a couple of concrete suggestions regarding areas of research I might think about given my interests, and how I might make them more marketable. As with everybody there, he was very approachable and easy to talk to; one remarkable thing he said was that it took him all of two weeks write The Mystery of Christ — when he finished writing the three volumes of The Way to Nicaea, he realized there was a whole underlying, unexpressed argument to what he was saying, and that he needed to get that down on paper as well.

Two weeks.

The morning session was Fr. John Erickson’s talk, and I have to say I missed most of him; the pretense of “minimal impact” on the participation in the conference by us volunteers was dropped fairly quickly, and as a result there were a few sessions where I missed some amount of the presentation. I can’t complain — after all, they were doing us a favor, not the other way around. What I did hear was Fr. John suggestion that there might be a way for East and West to acknowledge each other’s differences as theolegoumena; he cited Pope Benedict’s oft-referenced statement that “Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium,” further saying that somehow the Orthodox could find a way to nuance Vatican I so that it was understood as a legitimate development for the West.

In response to a question about the possibility of redistributing the responsibilities of the Ecumenical Patriarch among several people, he gave the amusing response that “to be governed by a committee is worse than being governed by a tyrant.” I vote we have that printed on a t-shirt.

My friend Paul Bauer arrived during Fr. John’s lecture — I gave him a membership in the Fellowship as a Christmas present a few years ago, and he lives in New Jersey, so it was fairly easy for him to be there as a day participant.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus gave the first of the afternoon sessions, entitled “Reconciliation between East and West: Eschatological hope and temporal urgency.” He was a wonderfully engaging speaker, and it was a boon to the conference that he could be there. He spoke of an “ecumenism of conversion,” saying that this is far more of what’s needed than the modern warm-and-fuzzy ecumenism. The modern ecumenical movement, he claimed, is quite dead, noting that where it is today represents a major decline from its status in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, he claimed, the National Council of Churches was the religious establishment in America, akin to Harvard University or the AMA — raising the question, at least for me, if that might not have been why it failed. He also told a story about Fr. John Meyendorff, who upon Ut unum sint being released, said “For a thousand years we have been waiting for a pope to say this, and the great tragedy is that we have not found a way to respond.”

Fr. Neuhaus also said a couple of things which I found troubling. First off, he said that the Catholic understanding of unity is full communion; fair enough, but I did not feel he adequately addressed the question of how doctrinal unity functions within this framework — that is, does doctrinal unity proceed from full communion, or vice versa?

He also spoke of the church having two aspects, communion and institution — but, vis-à-vis Bp. Ackerman the day before, where does the teaching office of the episcopate fit into that? Is orthodoxy part of the communion, or the institution? I wanted to ask him what he thought the proper relationship was between doctrinal agreement and full communion, but the Q&A was over by the time I was able to actually formulate the question.

Bp. Hilarion was next on the docket, speaking on “Catholicity in the Orthodox tradition.” His was a very basic lecture, in a lot of respects; all he did, really, was to lay out the Orthodox understanding of the episcopate and primacy in fairly irreducible terms. This was, however, given the nature of the gathering, a much-needed reminder of where we are, as opposed to where we might like to be. Catholicity is found in the local church, with the “universal” church as the totality of local churches. Characteristic of the local church is the presence of a single Eucharistic gathering presided over the bishop, who occupies the place of Christ in the Eucharistic assembly. There is not a single local church, he said, which has supremacy; a patriarch’s primary administrative role is to govern with the synod of bishops between council. In terms of a framework for reunion, he said, recognition of the primacy of Rome must be preceded by unity of faith. “We cannot simply invent an ecclesiology,” he said repeatedly.

My thought on this is that Bp. Hilarion, more than anybody else, rooted the proceedings very firmly in reality. For this reason I suspect he will not be remembered favorably by some of the participants, including some Orthodox, but much like Pope Benedict’s statement last year regarding the Christian bodies not in communion with Rome, I think it’s important that these things get said so that they may be dealt with directly and honestly. To put it another way, I think it might be important that we try to understand these kinds of statement prophetically rather than pessimistically.

That said, I was not always certain about what Bp. Hilarion understood in terms of questions from the floor. I asked what, in his view, the role of love was in the matter of primacy; he looked bewildered and said that love didn’t have anything to do with primacy. He recovered himself a little bit and said that he supposed that primacy was, ideally, exercised in love, but I still didn’t get the impression he understood what I was getting at.

The next speaker was Fr. Warren Tanghe of the Society of the Holy Cross, a “Catholic Anglican” group which grew out of the Tractarian movement of the nineteenth century. His lecture, frankly, was depressing; he painted a picture of traditional Anglicans being horribly marginalized (he used the word “outlaws” at one point), and on a ship which is sinking more and more quickly by the day. Still, he said, their belief is that as a “daughter church” of Rome, the proper order of healing requires the Anglican Communion to re-establish communion with Rome first, and to do so corporately rather than individually. To that end, he said, while he could not criticize those who have gone back to Rome (or to Orthodoxy) individually, his belief for himself at least was that he could not simply abandon his flock to the wolves. The question I wanted to ask was, “At what point do you have to change your mindset from not abandoning your flock to telling them they need to run for the lifeboats?” Feeling that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the conference, however, I asked it so that it had to do with the qualitative difference between returning individually and doing so as a body. His answer, it seemed to me, mostly restated the above, although he did say he wasn’t sure what his threshold would be for returning to communion with Rome as an individual.

After dinner was a panel discussion, with the panel consisting of (as pictured, in order) Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Prof. William Tighe, Bp. Ackerman, Archimandrite Kyril Jenner, Fr. Arnold Klukas of Nashotah House, Met. Kallistos, and Bp. Hilarion. Fr. Patrick opened by saying that, in terms of primacy, “Rome has it hands down.” The tombs of Ss. Peter and Paul are there, he said, and that has to mean something, even if there has to be some work to understand exactly what it means.

This really was met with very little disagreement; even Bp. Hilarion agreed that primacy is clearly Rome’s, it is simply a question of what that means.  He quoted a friend of his as saying that the second and third Romes both fell, but the first one is still there, and that’s the reality we have to struggle to understand. Met. Kallistos put it this way — if Christ willed that there should be universal primacy in His church, it cannot be anyplace other than Rome. The question, then, is what kind of primacy, given that the definition as set forth in Vatican I is unacceptable to the Orthodox.

There were a number of genuinely moving moments during the panel; Fr. Klukas expressed that it was a relief as an Anglican to come to this gathering and find that the Orthodox have problems “just like us.” Bp. Ackerman appeared close to tears when he described the last time he was able to celebrate the Eucharist with Fr. Patrick before he became Orthodox, grabbing Fr. Patrick’s wrist as he did so.

An issue which came up during the panel was reception — to put it one way, how do we make the things we’re discussing here have an impact at the local level? When we speak of the various joint statements and conferences, are people at the parish level even aware that these things are happening? Met. Kallistos, in response to this question, asked how many of us had read either the Cyprus Anglican-Orthodox statement, The Church of the Triune God, or the Ravenna statement — and the reality was that maybe ten percent of us had done so. His point was, if even us highly-interested parties aren’t reading these statements, then we can hardly question lack of awareness at the local level, and it’s up to us to try to do something about that. I found that to be a very convicting thing to say, and my response was to order a print copy of The Church of the Triune God when I got back to the dorm.

By this session, Canon Jonathan Goodall had arrived, and was sitting in the front row. He made a statement that he felt that the proceedings seemed rather “anxious and North American,” and didn’t have as much bearing on worldwide Anglicanism as many might think. I spoke with him a bit afterwards; it turned out he remembered, and very well, meeting me on the streets of Oxford last summer, and it further turned out that he was an old school friend of my roommate’s. (This prompted my roommate to tell me, “There are no coincidences.”) Canon Goodall said that there is a problem with assuming that because certain problems exist in North America that they are representative of what’s happening in worldwide Anglicanism. “That just ain’t so,” he said.

Thus endeth the day. The report on Day 4 will come shortly.

By the way, I do exhort you all to listen to the talks, and to do so in order; I can’t (and do not set this forth as the aim) provide a transcript of the conference, and as such there are many important things which were said in the sessions which I won’t necessarily talk about here.

Coming soon…

Three Hierarchs Chapel, St. Vladimir\'s Seminary, Crestwood, NYTomorrow morning, at the ungodly hour of 5:57am, I will depart Indianapolis for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius Conference. I will note that it is by no means too late to give to the tip jar (as in “tip jar, baby, tip jar“). I will have my laptop and my brand-spankin’-new camera, so I will be providing updates as regularly as I am able.

I’m looking forward to any number of things; I am of course looking forward to getting to hear (and possibly meet) people such as Met. Kallistos Ware, Met. PHILIP, Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev, and so on. I hope that I’ll actually get to hear a particular priest (nameless for the moment but identifiable once you read the quote) say “Back when I was studying at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute…” with my own ears. I’m looking forward to the Divine Liturgy for the Ascension in the Three Hierarchs Chapel. I’m looking forward to meeting the eclectic group of people one usually meets at conferences. I’m looking forward to seeing how New York’s public transportation matches up to England’s and Germany’s.

More than anything, however, I guess I’m very much hoping to get a sense about whether or not St. Vlad’s is the place for me. I will have a chance to talk with Fr. John Behr at some point over the course of the trip, so hopefully that will be a fruitful conversation. I know I don’t belong at Indiana University, but that is not the same thing as actually having a meaningful direction.

If there’s something to which I’m not looking forward, it’s coming home Sunday night. It’ll be an empty house, and that’s what’ll be greeting me for the next six weeks.

Well — more from the road.

“…how dare we think we can do better?”

I think I’ve dealt with some of my funk. I think. I’ll still feel a lot better once Friday rolls around, but I don’t feel quite so much like the world ended anymore.

Jeffrey Tucker over at The New Liturgical Movement posted a link to Google Books’ digitization of the 7th century Gelasian Sacramentary. He has some choice words for those who might find it, shall we say, not quite in the spirit of Vatican II:

Just looking through it, one is touched by how close a connection we have to history in the Roman Rite. Humbling, isn’t it? How dare we litter this pious masterpiece with our own pop music and pop theology, and how dare we think that we can do better by making up our own words and importing our own sensibility to the liturgy?

Standard disclaimers—I’m not Roman Catholic, and I am really less than qualified to deal with issues of theory and theology. (Let’s be honest; I’m really not qualified to deal with much of anything at this point, which is why I’m trying to get into grad school.) Still, even as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, the Gelasian Sacramentary is part of the spiritual patrimony of the undivided Church, and therefore as much a part of my liturgical heritage as it would be for a Roman Catholic.

With that in mind, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment. What do you mean, “how dare we”? They’re just words men wrote, after all, somebody had to make them up at some point, somebody had to import their own sensibility into the liturgy somewhere along the line, and surely we can make a case, even for a late antique liturgical book, that it is not much more than a product of what would have been the pop culture of its day. All worship styles were “contemporary” when they were first put into practice, right? How dare we not put these things in the language, context, and culture of our own day?

In The Mystery of Christ, Dr. Fr. John Behr speaks about the difference in how truth is thought of between the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern minds. For the pre-modern, truth is found in what something means. If we want to understand this in terms of grammar, this is the Greek present tense—present time, progressive/repeated aspect. In other words, what does it mean right now and on an ongoing basis?

For the modern, truth is found in what something meant—aorist tense, so past time, simple aspect. What did it mean at the point in the past when it was relevant, and then how do we transplant that to today?

For the post-modern, per Fr. Behr, truth is located in what something will have meant—future perfect tense; future time, completed aspect. Real meaning is somehow always something that hasn’t happened yet, but even once it does it will be something looked back upon, not something occurring on an ongoing basis.

I suggest, therefore, that part of the problem Mr. Tucker describes comes from a modern way of looking at the problem and an attempt at a post-modern solution. The “return to the sources” approach is certainly nothing new, but it seems to me that it what one finds there will depend on one’s assumptions. If you begin with the assumption that an old liturgical practice as received today is somehow beyond the comprehension of the average person in the pews (which already cuts off the possibility of talking about what it might mean here and now), then in looking at the historical context for the development of that practice, you’ll find the reasons to justify your point of view—“See? They had that, that, and that happening, and we don’t, which is why this, this, and this practiced in today’s world makes no sense.” A break from the received tradition now having been justified, something can be inserted which will hopefully take hold and become the received tradition down the road.

“Returning to the sources” doesn’t necessitate a lack of continuity, however; sometimes what it can generate is a reminder of of what something means when many people have forgotten. Many Christians in this country have no idea what an Easter basket actually means, for example, since there’s no fasting or abstention during Great Lent to put it into context.

To reclaim what something like the Gelasian Sacramentary means, however, takes effort—no doubt about that. I suspect that for many who would rather insert contemporary-sounding praise songs, it’s an effort that isn’t worth it; “It won’t reach today’s people the way our music does,” I suspect many would say. In other words, it won’t have meant what contemporary music will have, from their point of view, and I also suggest that the problem is exacerbated by the perception that people will go where they hear what they like, and if one church won’t do it, another will. (Which suggests to me that the biggest threat to cohesion among church communities is the automobile, but that’s a different topic altogether.)

What effort would it it take to reclaim what it means, present tense, here and now? Well, I’ll humbly suggest that if people would dare to think they can do better, then it’s up to those who would hold fast to the received tradition to dare to teach them why they won’t do better.


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