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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

23 - Book Review: "The Life of Saint Basil the Younger: Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the Moscow Version"


The Life of Saint Basil the Younger:
Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the Moscow Version

By Denis F. Sullivan, Alice-Mary Talbot and Stamatina McGrath

Dumbarton Oaks Studies, 45

Reviewed by Andrew Louth
(Durham University)

The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
(Volume 67, Issue 3, July 2016 , pp. 629-630)

The Life of Saint Basil the Younger (or the New) is a probably tenth-century vita that became enormously popular in Eastern Orthodox circles in the Middle Ages: twenty-two Greek manuscripts are known to survive, plus a further thirteen in demotic Greek; there are also medieval translations into Slavonic languages. Its popularity is not connected with any cult of the saint (indeed it is not clear if he was a historical figure at all), but rather the result of two visions, disclosed to and related by the author of the vita (who himself may be fictional), which take up nearly two-thirds of the text. It is the first vision that is particularly important, especially for popular Orthodox beliefs about the afterlife: it contains the most detailed account of the so-called aerial "tollhouses" (telonia), twenty-one in number, through which the departed soul has to pass after death. At each tollhouse, the soul is examined in respect of a series of sins, beginning with slander and ending with heartlessness and cruelty, demons accusing, angels defending. The vision concerns Theodora, a slave woman who looked after the saint, which she relates in the vision to reassure Gregory, the author, as to her fate. In her case, it is evident from the beginning that she will make it through the tollhouses, assisted not only by her acts of kindness, but by "spiritual gold" provided by the saint from his abundant virtue. Once the soul has passed the tollhouses, it is introduced to the other world, passing through the gates of heaven and visiting the abodes of the saints and the patriarchs, as well as making a visit to Hades. The soul then settles in the "place of repose": it is remarked that this takes place forty days after the soul has been separated from the body in death. This period of time, therefore, corresponds to the period during which services of prayer (Trisagion, Pannykhida) for the deceased take place - on the third, ninth and fortieth day - though in the vita it is only the fortieth day that is remarked. The notions set forth in colourful detail in the vision can be traced back to the fourth or fifth century, the treatise corresponding most closely to the account of the Life of St Basil immediately after the Mother of God, seems to me to reflect the anaphora of the Byzantine rite. These are, however, scarcely even blemishes in a painstakingly careful edition.



Friday, September 27, 2019

22 - Book Review: "Christian Thought from Erasmus to Berdyaev"


Christian Thought from Erasmus to Berdyaev

By Matthew Spinka,
Englewood Cliffs, N. J., Prentice-Hall, 1962. 246 pp.


Reviewed by Georges Florovsky,
Harvard Divinity School

Church History,
Volume 31, Issue 4
December 1962 , pp. 470-471

In the preface to his new book Dr. Spinka acknowledges his debt to Nicholas Berdyaev. Berdyaev has helped him to find the way between liberalism and Karl Barth. The pattern of interpretation is derived from Berdyaev. "The Era is dying: let it die!" The Era of Humanism has come to its end. The new synthesis is not yet available. We are in the stage of crisis, of critical transition, of desperate search. It is in this perspective that Dr. Spinka narrates the story of Christian thought in modern times - up to Berdyaev! His selection of topics or of sign-posts in this adventure is fair and judicious. His exposition of individual systems is competent and reliable. One can but welcome the inclusion of Russian thinkers in the general survey of the history of Christian thought.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

21 - Book Review: "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity"


The Church Impotent:
The Feminization of Christianity

By Leon J. Podles

Reviewed by Fr. Geoffrey Korz

In the age of political correctness, one has become accustomed to reading about gender issues, at all levels. From campaigns to increase the number of women in legislatures, to special science programs for girls, to treatises condemning the dominance of patriarchy in religion, revolutionary feminism has succeeded in capturing the North American mind. In the process, it has also captured the North American political, social, and religious reality, and affected major changes in the landscape in which we live.

Friday, July 19, 2019

20 - Book Review: "The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople. Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire"


The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople
Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire

By Paul J. Alexander,
Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1958. 287 pp.

Reviewed by Georges Florovsky,
Harvard Divinity School

Church History,
Volume 28, Issue 2
June 1959, pp. 205-206

This book was conceived as an essay in the history of the Iconoclastic Controversy. The aim of the author was to define the role played by Nicephorus in the struggle and his contribution to the theology of Icons. The main merit of the book is in the use of the unpublished work of Nicephorus, Refutatio et Eversio, which, as Professor Alexander rightly observes, is a kind of summa of the whole controversy. In the Appendix to the book a summary of this treatise is given, with a few passages in translation (242-262). It is gratifying to learn that a critical edition of the original text is in preparation (X). The present book is better documented than another recent study on the same subject by Dr. A.J. Viser, Nikephoros und ber Bilderstreit, 1952.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

19 - Book Review: "Athonite Flowers" by Monk Moses of Mount Athos


Athonite Flowers: Seven Contemporary Essays on the Spiritual Life
By Monk Moses of Mount Athos
Translated by Fr. Peter A. Chamberas
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Press
2000, Pp. 100.

Reviewed by Constantine Cavarnos

This beautiful and very edifying book is comprised of seven essays. All of them will serve, as Father Peter Chamberas aptly remarks in his eloquent Foreword, "as a testimony to the ever vibrant and ever rejuvenating spiritual tradition of Mount Athos, a bastion of Christian Orthodoxy." They will serve also as a testimony that their author, the monk Moses, "is not only a contemporary representative of this spiritual tradition, but also an eloquent and dynamic exponent of it throughout Greece."