WEEK_1 WEEK_2 WEEK_3;   WEEK_4;   WEEK_5;   WEEK_6;   WEEK_7
 WEEK_8;  WEEK_9 WEEK_10 WEEK_11;   WEEK_12;   WEEK_13 WEEK_14


  WEEK 1: August 31, 2008





THE religious and spiritual teachings of the ancient Mediterranean world were powerfully influenced by the towering figure of Plato, whose mystical and philosophical teaching provided both the underlying concepts and the language that would later be employed by the Fathers of the Church to describe their experience of beholding The Divine.  In these first three lectures and texts we will discover Plato, the mystical theologian who longs for union with “The One” [God] and who believes that this union is both facilitated and anticipated by contemplation: that is, by seeing through and beyond superficial appearances into the deeper realities and truths hidden within ordinary circumstances and objects.
    Please read Louth, chapter 1, pp. 1-17, “Plato”, in conjunction with these lectures and texts.

FIRST an introductory lecture will present several fundamental concepts:
 1) Introd. to Plato: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN We will turn to Plato's Republic for two stories that were constantly read and extensively commented throughout classical antiquity and into the medieval and renaissance periods:
2) The Parable of the Caves:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
3) The Myth of Er:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 1) - 3) of Part One, please share in the Moodle discussion forum your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) Which elements in Plato's parables would be most appealing for Christian seeking to understand and practice “contemplation”?

b) What in Plato's thought could be problematic or misleading?

 Week 2

  WEEK 2: September 7, 2008





THE influence of Plato on early Christianity would be felt through the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish “Middle Platonist” who recommended monastic withdrawal and the allegorical interpretation of scripture. A second important influence on the primitive church was the Jewish apocalyptic tradition, represented here by selections from the Book of Enoch.
    Among the earliest (non-biblical) primary sources of the first-century Christian church are the Letter to the Corinthians by Clement of Rome and the so-called Letter of Barnabas.
    Please read Chadwick, pp. 9‑31 (“the Jewish and Gentile Churches”); and Louth, pp. 18-35 (“Philo”), in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will review part of the history of Judaism relevant to our texts: then, Philo of Alexandria will recommend the allegorical interpretation of scripture; and the Book of Enoch will introduce the Jewish apocalyptic tradition:
4) Judaism and the Early Church:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
5) Philo on the Essenes and Therapeutae: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
6) The Book of Enoch: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN The Letter to the Corinthians, by Clement, Bishop of Rome, and the Letter of Barnabas will offer insights into so-called “Jewish Christianity”
7) Clement:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
8) The Letter of Barnabas AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 4) - 8) of Part Two, please share in the Moodle discussion forum your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) What role do the scriptures play in Philo's understanding of the spiritual life?

b) Is the imagery of the Book of Enoch familiar from other biblical (New and Old Testament) sources?

c) What orders of leadership and service in the Christian church are attested in the Letter of Clement?

 Week 3

  WEEK 3: September 14, 2008





THE Roman vision of truth and virtue is well depicted in Cicero's Dream of Scipio, where he retells Plato's Myth of Er in a Roman idiom.  Cicero's text was widely-read n the Christian West, where it significantly influenced Christian philosophy and theology. Another aspect of Roman tradition and religion is illustrated by the correspondence between the Emperor Trajan and Pliny the Younger (governor of Bythinia 111-114) concerning the arrest and prosecution of Christians.
    An early effort to reconcile pagan and Christian learning is found in the writings of Justin Martyr, who attempted to explain the Christian vision of truth to both philosophers and political leaders of his day.
    Please read Chadwick, pp. 32‑54, 72-79, in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will review Roman history and consider's Cicero's Republic and the letters of Trajan and Pliny:
) Rome, Republic and Empire: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
10) Cicero, The Dream of Scipio:
11) Trajan and Pliny, Correspondence:   

THEN we will consider Justin Martyr’s attempt to present Christianity as the fulfillment, rather than the foe, of Roman virtue and justice.
) Justin Martyr, Apology AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 9) - 12) of Part Three, please share in the Moodle discussion forum your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) How has Cicero adapted and reinterpreted Plato's Myth of Er for use in his own (Roman) culture?

b) What are the respective goals of Trajan and Pliny in establishing legal precedents for the persecution and execution of Christians?

c) How successful is Justin's attempt to reconcile Christianity with Roman philosohpy and politics?

 Week 4

  WEEK 4: September 21, 2008





    THE persecution of Christians during the first two-and-a-half centuries of the Church powerfully influenced Christian spirituality, theology, and political thought.  As we shall see, persecutions were generally sporadic and short-lived, often followed by decades of relative peace during which Christianity expanded. The form persecutions took and the vigor with which they were pursued depended on inconsistent imperial policy and on the attitudes of local governors and other officials.

    Early  martyrs were often bishops or other clergy, whose deaths were interpeted as a participation in Christ’s passion.  Lay martyrs, such as Perpetua and Felicity came to be regarded as heroes and visionaries, capable of interceding with God for both the living and the dead.
Please read Chadwick, pp. 54‑73 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST an introductory lecture will outline the history of martyrdom in the early church:
13) Overview of Christian Martyrdom: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN we will consider three classical approaches to martyrdom:
14) Ignatius of Antioch (1):  AUDIO_LECTURE_1 _:_ TEXT_FILE
15) Ignatius of Antioch (2):  AUDIO_LECTURE_2 _:_ TEXT_FILE
16) The Martyrdom of Polycarp:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
17) The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY, we will note the church’s concern that the intercession of martyrs and confessors was sometimes used as a way of evading the early discipline of penance and reconciliation:
18) Cyprian of Carthage on the martyr’s libelli  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 13) - 17) of Part Three, please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) How do the clerical orders mentioned by Ignatius differ from those we have seen in the letter of Clement of Rome

a) What do the descriptions of the martyrdoms of Polycarp, Perpetua, and Felicity tell us about the new role as intercessors and intermediaries these saints were believed to have acquired as a result of their sacrifice?

b) What is positive, and what is problematic in the developing Christian conviction that the prayers of intercessors, especially martyrs and confessors, could remit sin?


  WEEK 5: September 28, 2008





    CHRISTIAN identity, both as a religious institution and a way of life, was originally shaped and is attested by the external forms of Christian worship, particularly the liturgy of the Eucharist.  Among the earliest Christian liturgies are those described in the Didache and the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, which also bear witness to the developing ministries and theology of orders in the early church. Tertullian, one of the earliest Christian theologians to use Latin as a theological language, attests to the practice of private and public prayer at different hours of the day by lay Christians. By the fourth century the ministries familiar today in the Orthodox and Catholic churches were well established and are attested in the Apostolic Constitutions, which also attests to women's ministries in the church.
Please read Chadwick, pp. 84‑92 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will examine the liturgies attested in the Didache and Apostolic Tradition, and Tertullian’s prayer-precursors to the Liturgy of the Hours.  We will begin with an overall introduction to these four sources and the themes and trends they represent:
) Introduction: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
)  Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
21)  Tertullian:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN in the Fourth-Century Apostolic Constitutions will note the development of of a variety of different ministries, as well as a distinction between "ordination" through the laying on of hands and "institution" to a ministry of service:
22)  The Apostolic Constitutions AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 18) - 22) of Part Five, please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) What did you find of interest in the early eucharistic liturgies we have studied?  Were there any surprises or anything that made you uneasy?

b) The texts we have studied make clear a "development of doctrine" in regard to orders and ministries in the early church.  How would you describe this development?

c) Tertullian was convinced that the study of philosophy led Christians into heresy. Although the Church has rejected this part of his theological approach, are there any aspects of his concern that could be justified?

  WEEK 6

  WEEK 6: October 5, 2008





CHRISTIAN mystical theology is generally regarded as having first emerged as a recognizable discipline through the influence of the Alexandrian tradition represented by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and their famous pagan contemporary Plotinus, the father of "Neo-Platonism".  But before turning to these towering figures, it will be important to note an influential precursor to the tradition they represent in the person of Irenæus of Lyons. It is often stressed that Irenaeus' theology is different from that of the Alexandrians in that he particularly emphasizes the incarnation and the flesh of Christ.  However, as we shall see, he also anticipates the doctrine of theosis, "divinization", a cornerstone of Alexandrian soteriology and mystical theology.
Please read Chadwick, pp. 80-83, 94-115 and Louth, pp. 37-74 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will look at some key concepts in Irenæus (note that there are TWO lectures to use with the same text file.:
23-24) Irenæus Against Heresies: AUDIO_LECTURE_1 AUDIO_LECTURE_2;   _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN We will look at the cultural milieu of the city of Alexandria and observe how it was lived out in the writings of Plotinus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen:
25) Alexandria: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
26) Plotinus: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
Clement of Alexandria - Introduction and Theology:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
  28) Clement of Alexandria - Mystical Exegesis:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
29) Origen - Introduction and Theology: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
  30) Origen - Mystical Exegesis: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 23) - 30) of Part Six, please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) What is your reaction to Irenæus' theology of recapitulation and his early formulation of what will later be called theosis (divinization)? 

b) What in Plotinus' thought is attractive, and what is incompatible with Christian theology?

c) Both Clement and Origen regard the images of "Christ the Teacher" and "Christ the Physician" as central to the Gospel.  What are the implications of this for their (and our) models of spiritual growth?


  WEEK 7: October 12, 2008





CHRISTIAN culture and theology changed irrevocably during the reign of Constantine the Great. A religion that had formerly been proscribed now found itself the favored religion of the emperor, and thus the necessary prerequisite for high public office. Constantine considered the peace of the church as essential to the peace of the empire; so he took an active role in investigating and proscribing heretics, a role subsequent emperors would embrace with alarming eagerness.  The early growth and spread of Arianism illustrate both the necessity for clarity in defining and teaching Christian doctrine, as well as the increasingly complex interrelationship between the Christian Church and the newly-Christianized Roman Empire.

     Please read Chadwick, pp. 116-136, and Louth, pp. 75-80 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.  Part of the webpage texts are taken from Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, ch, 1-2, which may be downloaded in full as an MS-Word document from Course Documents

FIRST we will look at Diocletian's vision of a new empire, a vision that would endure in the West in the form of feudalism  throughout the Middle Ages:
)  Diocletian, Constantine, and the Shape of Empire (Davis):

NEXT we will consider Arianism and the Council of Nicæa
)  Arius and the Trinity (Davis):    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
)  The Council and Canons of Nicæa AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
4)  The Story and Significance of Nicæa (Davis) AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY We will consider the contribution of Athanasius, the great champion of Nicene orthodoxy and the implacable foe of Arianism in all its forms:
)  Athanasius on theosis: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
 The Life of Antony (Pt.1-a model for Christians) AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 31) - 37) please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) Why did Athanasius object to the term homoiousios as a way of describing the relationship between Christ and God the Father?

b) Why was Arianism so attractive to so many theologians and bishops in the newly-converted Christian Empire of the fourth century?

c) Are the principles of spirituality depicted in the Life of Antony exclusively monastic, or can they also be applied to the lives of the Christian laity?



  WEEK 8: October 19, 2008





THE fourth century was an incredibly rich epoch in the history of the Christian Church, from every religious perspective, but especially in the disciplines of dogmatic and mystical theology. We will look at the broad movements of history and theological development that demonstrate how the newly-Christianized Roman Empire could be transformed by its Emperors: first, into an almost-completelyArian Church; then be purged of all Arian elements.  We will particularly note the contributions of the Cappadocian Fathers to both dogmatic and mystical theology.  
Please read Chadwick, pp. 136-173, and Louth, pp. 80-97 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will review the complex evolution of Nicene orthodoxy and the variants of Arianism to which it was opposed, culminating in the Second Ecumenical Council.:
38) Shades of Arianism and Orthodoxy (Chart & Davis): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) The First Council of Constantinople (The Second Ecumenical Council):

THEN we will look at selections from the Cappadocian fathers.  They are most widely known for their contribution to theology of the Trinity.  However, we will highlight here their contributions to the Christian mystical tradition. Gregory Nazianzen will employ the theology of theosis to explain the Feast of Christmas.  Basil will provide us with models of community and solitude.  Gregory of Nyssa will introduce us to the mystery of psalmody:
0) Gregory Nazianzen: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
41) Basil the Great: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
 Gregory of Nyssa AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 38 - 42 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) The resolution of the Arian controversy was hard-won and gradual.  What, if anything, does the story of this controversy tell us about the development of doctrine in the Church?

b) The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa) are often remembered for the important contributions to systematic theology.  What is your impression of the interrelationship between these insights and their contibution to the theology of prayer and Christian mystical experience?



  WEEK 9: October 26, 2008





CHRISTIAN monasticism evolved its own historiography and foundation-myths: these usually centered on the First-Century Jerusalem Community as a model for cenobitic (communal) monasticism; while St. Antony of Egypt was regarded as the founder and prototype of hermits.  As we shall see, the reality is much more complex.  Celibate women’s communities probably existed from the earliest years of the Christian church; however their histories are almost completely unknown and unwritten.  In the Syrian Church celibate communities of young men and young women existed well before organized monasticism appeared in the late third and early fourth centuries.  We will look in this section at the development of Christian monasticism, primarily from the perspective of the larger and more famous foundations, but taking note of the earlier and more obscure roots of this movement.
Please read Chadwick, pp. 174-183, and Louth, pp. 98-113, 125-131 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will look at the origins of Christian monasticism, together with two representatives of the Syrian Christian tradition:
) Early Christian Monasticism: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Ephrem the Syrian: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Isaac of Ninevah: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

HAVING already looked at the first part of the Life of Antony, we will turn now to his evolution into a classic hermit.  Then we will look at Pachomius, founder of a successful form of Egyptian cenobitic community: we will note the origins of his conversion in an experience of compassion.  We will consider the “mixed” monastic communities of Nitria, Kellia, and Scetis, near the Nile Delta. Finally, a modern monk-scholar will offer reflections on the origins and contemporary practice of hermit-monasticism in the Christian East.
) The Life of Antony (Part 2): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Nitria, Kellia, and Scetis: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
49) Kallistos Ware on the Hermit Life: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 43 - 49 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) What are your reactions to the different “modes of catechesis” or “ways of doing theology” we have encountered in this section, such as the poetry of St. Ephrem, Athanasius’ biography of Antony, and Isaac of Ninevah's ascetical discourses.  Are some modes more apt for communicating certain kinds of ideas than others?

b) The contrast (and even rivalry) between community and solitude we see in the early Church continues in our own day.  Did you discover any insights in the readings that could be of value to people struggling with their relationship to community and their call to deepening prayer?

  WEEK 10


  WEEK 10: November 2, 2008





AMONG other attributes, early Christian monks and nuns were regarded as the successors of the martyrs.  At a primitive level this was because their austerity and ascetical practices were popularly viewed as a fascinating form of heroic self-sacrifice.  But at a deeper, mystical level, monks and nuns were regarded as the continuation in a new age of spiritual charisms we have already encountered in Saints Perpetua and Felicity: the power of intercessory prayer and the gift of spiritual vision.  Monks and nuns quickly came to be regarded as spiritual advisors who had learned to apply the “medicine” of the scriptures and prayer to the “wounds” of sin.
The readings are the same as last week: Chadwick, pp. 174-183, and Louth, pp. 98-113, 125-131.

FIRST two lectures will introduce the person and writings of Evagrius Ponticus, the most prolific writer of all the Desert Fathers. Then, we will consider Evagrius’ disciple John Cassian.  Cassians’s Institutes and Conferences made available to the Latin-speaking West the insights and traditions of the monastic East.
) Evagrius Ponticus -  importance and controversy: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
51) Evagrius Ponticus - life and works:  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
52) John Cassian: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN We will take an all-too-brief glimpse at sayings and stories concerning the desert fathers and mothers.  Recalling our earlier theme of community and solitude in monastic tradition, we will note sayings in the Apophthegmata Patrum that illustrate the interrelationship between these poles.  We will note how monastic founders were often regarding as having possessed a form of spiritual vision analogous to what we saw in the story of Perpetua.  Finally, two famous abbas, Barsanuphius and John, will provide examples of the kinds of questions the desert fathers and mothers were asked, and the answers they provided.
) The Apophthegmata (Sayings) of the Fathers: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Visions of Ascent in the Lives of Monastic Founders: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Barsanuphius and John: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 50 - 55 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) The Lives and Sayings of the desert fathers and mothers have been described as a Christian form of "wisdom literature".  Does this seem apt?  Do the examples we have considered suggest possible reasons why this literature is proving increasingly fascinating in our own day to those interested in Christian spirituality?

b) Does the notion of the monks and nuns as successors of the martyrs ("white" rather than "red" martyrs) seem exaggerated or apt?

  WEEK 11


  WEEK 11: November 9, 2008





THE fifth and sixth centuries witnessed increasingly fervent (and progressively less successful) attempts to define orthodoxy and impose Christian unity through ever more precise definitions concerning the person of Christ.  The three ecumenical councils we shall review in this section represent both watershed moments in dogmatic theology as well as the sources of division that still persist in Christianity today.  The non-acceptance of the Council of Ephesus by the “Churches of the East” and the refusal to accept Chalcedon by the (monophysite) Christians of Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, and Armenia resulted in churches going their own ways: still today they are not in communion with either the Roman Catholic or the Orthodox churches.  These councils also raise the disedifying, but politically important, specter of enmeshed imperial and ecclesiastical politics, intertwined with jealousies between the great sees of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch.
    Please read Chadwick, pp. 192-212 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST an introductory lecture will describe the theological background to the controversies, particularly the contrasting poles of Antiochene and Alexandrian theology and exegesis:
56) The rival schools of Antioch and Alexandria: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT we will consider the texts and effects of the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils: the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon:
) Cyril, Nestorius, and The Council of Ephesus: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
8) The Council of Chalcedon and Leo I: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN we will note the largely unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation (and coersion) by the Emperor Justinian I, culminating in the Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Second Council of Constantinople. :
) Anathemas Against Origen: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Constantinople II: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 56 - 60 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following question:

Having considered the sometimes-bewildering spectrum of attempts to articulate the interrelationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ, what would you regard as the catechetical and pastoral implications of these controversies for us today?



  WEEK 12: November 16, 2008



 Praying, Preaching, and Teaching the Mysteries of Faith


WE now jump back somewhat to the fourth and fifth centuries to observe the development of catechetical instruction: that is, how bishops employed homilies as a means of instructing the faithful and teaching Christianity to catecheumens.  It is delightful and perhaps a little surprising to note the forthrightness of such famous preachers as Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, and Augustine in communicating what might be considered "advanced" spiritual doctrines in the context of public homilies.

Please read Chadwick, pp. 213-236, and Louth, pp. 132-178 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will note how the mysteries of faith, including the easily misunderstood doctrine of theosis formed part of the catechesis of three famous fourth- and fifth-century bishops who represent both the Greek and Latin theological traditions:
) Cyril of Jerusalem: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Augustine (lect.1): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Augustine (lect.2): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

ONE of the greatest and most influential Christian mystical / liturgical theologians was a monk who called himself Dionysius.  He presents the liturgy not only as a source of contemplative wisdom and vision, but also as a means of theosis - divinization. He wrote the most influential text in Christian tradition on apophatic theology, The Mystical Theology, given here in full.  Please read Louth, ch 8; pp. 159-178, in conjunction with these two texts and lectures.
65) Dionysius the (pseudo-) Areopagite:  (selections) AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) Dionysius the (pseudo-) Areopagite: The Mystical Theology AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 61 - 66 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) The catechesis of Cyril, Ambrose, and Augustine depends heavily on the what would now be called spiritual theology or contemplation.  Do you think this enhances or detracts from their presentation of basic Christian doctrine?

b) Until recently Dionysius the Areopagite was best known for the negative theology described in his Mystical Theology.  How could this be a disadvantage in understanding the broad sweep of his theological vision?



  WEEK 13: November 24, 2008





THE chaotic and shifting nature of secular authority in the West from the fifth through the eighth centuries dramatically increased the influence of monastic communities.  Monasteries became centers of hospitality, pastoral ministry, education, and health care.  Western monasticism found its most authoritative expression in the Rule of St. Benedict, whose author provides a fascinating paradox. For nearly fifteen hundred years after the time of St. Benedict the concept of "monastic reform" would usually mean return from lax observance to stricter, more literal interpretation of monastic ideals.  St. Benedict, however, did not institute a stricter form of monastic life: instead, he modified his principal source, the anonymous Rule of the Master, in the direction of greater compassion and gentleness.  This resulted in a flexible model that would allow for such seeming contradictions as monastic missionaries, bishops, and even popes.

    Please read Chadwick, pp. 237-257 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

WE will note first the Master's positive contributions, especially his notion of monasticism as a renewal of the baptismal covenant.  Then in a second lecture we will observe the more negative elements the Master emphasizes, such as an individualistic model of the monastery as a burdensome "school" of painful obedience.
) The Rule of the Master [Part 1]: Monasticism as renewal of baptismal covenant:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) The Rule of the Master [Part 2]: Monasticism as the burdensome School of suffering with Christ.   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE [note that this is the same text file as in the previous lecture]

SAINT Benedict reforms and renews monastic observance, not by abolishing, but by carefully, respectfully adjusting and editing his primary source, the Rule of the Master.  A word or phrase inserted here, a phrase or whole chapter deleted there: this is his methodology. In this way the former observance is revered and at the same time energized in the direction of greater compassion and discretion. For Benedict the monastic "School" is a place where the whole community grows in "widened-hearted" charity and runs together into a transcendent, unspeakable encounter with the loving Father:
) The Rule of St. Benedict [The Prologue]: To run with widened heart: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE sometimes-stormy interrelationship between monastery and diocese is typified by the person and writings of Pope Gregory the Great, a former-monk and the author of the Life of St. Benedict.  He tries to make part of the monastic spiritual tradition available to diocesan clergy and laity.  Another important area of overlap and development may be seen in the application of the monastic model of the spiritual abba or amma to the developing penitential discipline of the Church in the nascent sacrament of penance and reconciliation.
70) Gregory the Great (Eucharistic Theology): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) The Early Penitentials and Celtic Christianity: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY the monk-bishop Maximus Confessor typifies the effort to take monastic spirituality and contemplative insight and make it available to the Greek-speaking laity.  We will look briefy here at his efforts to make comprehensible the mystical theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, including the conviction that liturgical prayer transforms those who participate in the liturgy:
72) Maximus Confessor: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 67 - 72 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) How can Benedict's reverent (yet effective) approach to the mixed monastic tradition he inherited serve as a model for us today in our own attempts to incorporate insights from our history and spirituality?

b) As we draw near the end of the patristic era we may sense a certain "coarsening" in the sensibilities of the authors we study.  Have you noticed this; and how, then, should we make use of these sources?



  WEEK 14: December 7, 2008





THE last council to be fully acknowledged in both the Christian East and West is the Second Council of Nicæa, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which met just after the patristic era (as it is usually defined) in 787.  This council reflects a strange and destructive period of iconoclasm, during which an entire epoch of Christian art was almost completely destroyed by zealous Christians.

    Please read Chadwick, pp. 258-284, and Louth, pp. 159-178 in conjunction with the following lectures and texts.

FIRST we will survey Christian imagery and iconography in the centuries that preceded the iconoclastic controversy, tracing the legend of the Icon "not made by human hands" and reviewing a summary of the spirituality of icons:
) Early Christian Images: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
74) The (Abgar) Legend of the Icon "Not Made by Human Hands": AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
75) Kallistos Ware on the Spirituality of Icons: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

 NEXT we will note the painful period of the iconoclastic controversy and the text of the Seventh Ecumenical Council:
76) The Iconoclastic Crisis:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) The Second Council of Nicea(selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

 FINALLY, we will allow the patristic era to reach forward into the middle ages and beyond by noting features of Christian iconography both characteristic of the Christian East and common to East and West:.
78) Christian Iconography After Iconoclasm: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
79) Eastern and Western Images of the Blessed Trinity, : AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 73 - 79 please share your reflections on the readings and lectures, using (but not necessarily restricting yourself to) the following questions:

a) We have attempte to trace a development of Christian doctrine and aesthetics through the use of sacred images and the Abgar legend.  How do you perceive this development continuing in our own day?

b) Hans Urs Von Balthasar emphasized the need for the Christian West to recover and learn to articulate a "sacred aesthetics", a theology of "the beautiful".  What role do you see the sources we have studied playing in such a quest?



An indispensable part of this course will be downloadable audio-lectures that you may download to your computer or play directly from the Internet, depending on the speed of your connection.  New texts and audio-lectures will become available about every week to ten days, and once posted will remain available for review throughout the course.

THIS is a link to the type of file (“.wma” for those who wish to know) that we will be using for audio lectures: AUDIO-FILE  (don't click on it quite yet). This is a music file consisting of the medieval prolix responsory Homo Quidam, and it will serve as a test of your computer's ability to play the kind of audio files we will be using in this course.

THIS is a link to a text-and-image file showing (at the bottom of the page) Gregorian notation of the Homo Quidam: TEXT-FILEThe navigation panel on the left will remain visible when you link to the text file, so you can return to this page at any time by clicking on “Lectures”

THE goal is: (1) to get the AUDIO-FILE playing; then (2) minimize the player so you can see this window again; then (3) click on the link to the Gregorian TEXT-FILE, so you can look at the notated music while you hear the music being sung.  If you are able to do this, all is well; and you will have no trouble with the materials that will begin to appear here next week.

If you have trouble doing this, I strongly urge you to spend this weekend obtaining the technical assistance you need. Be aware that the download time for these audio files on a very slow modem may be as long as five to ten minutes.  If you need a new version of Windows Media Player, it may be downloaded from the Microsoft Website (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=en&categoryid=4).  If your computer is so old that it simply cannot be induced to play the audio files, you will need to use another computer for this course. 

AS soon as you are comfortable listening to audio-lectures while reading the text files that accompany them, please begin working through the lectures and texts for Part One.

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