Presentation of the book of Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev): “Image of the Invisible. Art in the Orthodox Church”

Thursday, November 29 (at 17.00), after the symposium devoted to the theological inheritance of Vladimir Lossky, Mgr Hilarion (Alfeyev), Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and Rector of the School Graduate School and Doctorate of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, will present his book ” Image of the Invisible. Art in the Orthodox Church “, published in 2017 by Éditions Sainte-Geneviève in Épinay-sous-Sénart (The Russian Orthodox Seminary.

This book is the third volume of a series presenting various aspects of the Orthodox Church. The first two volumes (Orthodoxy, Volume I, History and Canonical Structures of the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy, Volume II, The Doctrine of the Orthodox Church), were published respectively in 2009 and 2012 by Editions of the Deer.

The book is well documented, it contains many illustrations and examples of orthodox spiritual art. The meaning of beauty is indeed inseparable from the Christian spiritual life. The latter, in fact, is intimately imbued with the idea that it is through beauty that we come to the knowledge of God, to communion with Him. Orthodox spirituality, especially Russian, intimately links faith to art.

Concert of two orthodox vocal ensembles: Choir of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and that of the Russian Orthodox Seminary of Epinay-sous-Senart

The presentation will be held on the evening of 29 November in the amphitheater of the Russian Orthodox Cultural and Spiritual Center (1 quai Branly, 75007, Paris) and will be followed by the concert of two orthodox vocal ensembles : choir of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the one of the Orthodox Russian Seminary of Epinay-sous-Senart (the concert will be given in the cathedral).

Composed of liturgical works and oratorio of Christmas, written by the Metropolitan Monsignor Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, the concert will be dedicated to the feast of the Nativity of Christ and to the second anniversary of the opening of the cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

The concert will take place on November 29th. Access is at 1 quai Branly, 75007, Paris (Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center).

Ecumenical Patriarchate Communiqué on the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in its session of November 27, 2018, decided to revoke the patriarchal tomos of 1999 by which he granted the pastoral care and administration of Orthodox parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe to his archbishop-exarch. This decision responds to the pastoral and spiritual needs of our time, with the greatest respect for canon law and our spiritual responsibility. Indeed, the historical circumstances that led to its creation of such a structure in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, just a hundred years ago, have changed profoundly. We thank God for the tireless courage your communities have shown over time in preserving the rich spiritual tradition that came from Russia in the aftermath of the bloody persecution of the new atheist regime. We are especially pleased that the Mother Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken the responsibility to offer its canonical protection to these communities and thus allow them to enjoy, in the respect of the ecclesial order, a freedom synonymous with life in the Holy Spirit.

Mother Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople

The purpose of today’s decision is to further strengthen the bond of the Russian tradition parishes with the Mother Church of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Each of these communities holds a spiritual heritage that has been established in the wake of a dramatic story of persecution and exile and prophetically participated in the theological revival of Orthodoxy in the 20th century. It is indeed through personalities, theologians, philosophers, artists, prominent, from Russian immigration that the orthodox faith has radiated in Western Europe and beyond.

Here we wish to reassure the pious faithful of the parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe and their communities. It is through pastoral solicitude that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided the integration and the attachment of the parishes to the various holy cities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the countries where they are located (part underlined by the editorial staff). Our Mother Church will continue to ensure and guarantee the preservation of their liturgical and spiritual tradition. The bond of filiation will be all the more close with the siege of Constantinople that the latter is desirous of continuing to show his pastoral leniency and his apostolic solicitude for the people of God for whom he is responsible. We pray fervently to the Lord, whose preparation we are preparing at this time for the divine nativity, that you will remain faithful to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the Mother Church of Constantinople is devoted to you.

Orthodox faith in Western Europe

We sincerely hope that you continue to be witnesses to the Orthodox faith in Western Europe through the practice of virtue and the fulfillment of the principles of the Gospel. We also thank His Excellency, Archbishop Jean de Charioupolis for having led his communities with love and loyalty to this new stage of their history, trusting in the grace of God who calls us to “be renewed by the spiritual transformation of the understanding and to put on the new man, created according to God in justice and holiness which come from the truth. “(Eph 4, 23-24) May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you, by the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God and of all the saints. Phanar, November 27, 2018 Source Previous notes on this topic: The Ecumenical Patriarchate has just dissolved the Archbishop-Exarchate of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe ; Communiqué from the Office of the Diocesan Administration of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe .



Review of Guillaume Cuchet’s book: “How our world ceased to be Christian. Anatomy of a collapse”

Catholicism in France

For half a century, many authors have noted the spectacular decadence of Catholicism in France and more widely in Europe, and have worried about it: Louis Bouyer in The Decomposition of Catholicism (1968), Serge Bonnet in À hue et à dia. The Avatars of Clericalism in the Fifth Republic (1973), Michel de Certeau and Jean-Marie Domenach in Christianity Exploded (1974), Paul Vigneron in A History of the Crises of the Contemporary French Clergy (1976), Jean Delumeau in Will Christianity die? (1977), Emile Poulat in The Post-Christian Era (1994), Bishop Simon in Towards a Pagan France? (1999), Denis Pelletier in The Catholic Crisis (2002), Danièle Hervieu-Léger, Catholicism: The End of a World (2003), Yves-Marie Hilaire in Will the Churches Disappear? (2004), Denis Pelletier, in The Catholic Crisis: Religion, Society, Politics in France (1965–1978) (2005), Emmanuel Todd and Hervé Le Bras in The French Mystery (2013), and Yvon Tranvouez in The Decomposition of Western Christianity (2013).

When Our World Became Christian

In this book — the title of which plays on that of Paul Veyne’s book When Our World Became Christian, yet announces the inversion of the process whose beginnings the latter analysed — Guillaume Cuchet, professor of contemporary history at the University of Paris-Est Créteil who specialises in the history of Catholicism, proposes to define the moment when this decadence began and to determine the reasons for it. One of the main scientific tools he uses is statistical analysis, and one of the objective criteria he considers is the rate of regular Sunday church attendance among the French population, which has declined from 27% in 1952 to 1.8% in 2017. This criterion can be challenged because, according to a recent article in the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, one can be a “practicing” Catholic with other commitments. True, in the absence of such a Sunday practice, a Christian culture can last for a while; but the loss of contact with liturgical life can only lead to its gradual weakening and eventual disappearance.

The first third of the book defines adherence to Catholicism as it appears from a mass of statistical data compiled by the clergy between 1945 and 1965, and in particular statistics carefully and regularly established over a wider period (1880–1965) by Canon Boulard, a sociologist and author of the four-volume work Materials for the Religious History of the French People, 19th–20th Centuries.

According to Cuchet, it is in the 1960s — more precisely in 1965 — that the rupture inaugurating the process of Catholic decadence in France can be dated. This break coincides with the Second Vatican Council, which is paradoxical, since this council was designed, by those who organised it, as an aggiornamento to vivify a Catholicism confronted with the modern world. Yet as the author, after examining various hypotheses, points out, “we do not see what other event could have generated such a reaction. By its mere existence, to the extent that it suddenly made possible the reform of the old norms, the council was enough to shake them, especially since the liturgical reform which concerned the most visible part of religion for most people began to be implemented as early as 1964.”

In the second half of his book, the author precisely analyses the causes, related to the council, of the rupture and process of decadence which continues today throughout the world.

The council caused the faithful to lose their bearings. The conciliar text published in 1965 on religious freedom, Dignitatis humanae, appeared “as a kind of unofficial authorisation to rely on one’s own judgment with regard to beliefs, behaviour, and practice, which contrasted strongly with the former system.” This occasioned Father Louis Bouyer’s sad remark: “Nobody believes anymore; everyone does only what they want.”

In the area of piety, notes Cruchet, aspects of the liturgical reform which might appear secondary, but which were not at all on the psychological and anthropological level, played an important role. This included the abandonment of Latin, the reception of Communion in the hand, and the relativisation of old ties. To this can be added the criticisms of solemn communion which increased starting in 1960 and especially in 1965, as well as the new pastoral practices around baptism (from 1966) and marriage (from 1969–1970), which tended to increase the level of access to the sacraments by requiring more preparation and personal investment on the part of those wishing to receive them.

In the area of beliefs, the very fact of there being a change in discourse was what mattered. Variation in official teachings made skeptics out of the humble faithful, who concluded that if the institution had been “mistaken” yesterday in declaring as immutable what had ceased to be, one could not be assured that the same would not occur in the future. A whole series of old “truths” suddenly fell into oblivion, as if the clergy themselves had ceased to believe in them or did not know what to say about them after having spoken of them for so long as something essential.

Another area in which this situation was able to destabilise the faithful, notes the author, is “that of the image of the Church, its hierarchical structure and the priesthood. The ‘Catholic crisis’ of the years 1965–1978 was at first a crisis of the clergy and Catholic militants. The abandonment of the cassock (from 1962) and the religious habit, the politicisation (towards the left) of the clergy, the departure of priests, religious and nuns, appeared to many as a real ‘betrayal of the clergy’ without equivalent since the French Revolution, which had had the same destabilising effects.”

Furthermore, “the council paved the way for what might be called ‘a collective exit from the obligatory practice on pain of mortal sin,’ which occupied a central place in ancient Catholicism. […] This ancient culture of obligatory practice was mainly expressed in the area of the ​​‘commandments of the Church,’ which children learned by heart at catechism and the guarding of which had to be verified during the examination of conscience when preparing for confession. This also included the duty of keeping Sundays and feast days holy, of confessing sins, and of receiving Holy Communion at least once a year; [and] of fasting on Fridays, on the eves of great feasts, and during the so-called “Four Seasons” of Lenten periods. All these requirements were relaxed to the point of disappearing with the exception of Communion, which became systematic and was received without any preparation, since confession and fasting had practically disappeared. The easing of the Eucharistic fast, however, had been accomplished in several preliminary stages: in 1953, Pius XII, while maintaining the obligation of fasting from midnight on before communion, decided that the intake of water would no longer break it; in 1957, the motu proprio entitled Sacram communionem reduced fasting to three hours for solid food and one hour for liquids; in 1964, Paul VI decreed that one hour sufficed in both cases, which meant in practice the disappearance of the Eucharistic fast, since one hour is the time of travel to church and the duration of the Mass before communion.

During this conciliar and post-conciliar period, “it is striking,” notes the author, “to see to what extent the clergy voluntarily removed the old system of norms which they had so much difficulty putting in place,” inevitably creating in the people the feeling that one had “changed their religion,” and provoking amongst some of them an impression of generalised relativism.

The author dedicates two whole chapters to the causes of decadence which seem to him fundamental: the crisis of the sacrament of penance and the crisis of the preaching on the Last Things.

1) According to Cuchet, “The crisis of confession is one of the most revealing and striking aspects of the ‘Catholic crisis’ of the years 1965–1978.” “The decline of confession is in itself a major sociological and spiritual fact that historians and sociologists probably have not taken full measure of: nothing less, in fact, than the overwhelming transformation by massive abandonment, in the space of only a few years, of a practice which over a long period of time had profoundly shaped Catholic attitudes. In 1952, 51% of Catholic adults admitted going to confess at least once a year (at Easter, it had been obligatory since the promulgation of Canon 21 of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215); in 1974, this had decreased to only 29%, and in 1983, to 14%. According to the author, the breaking point is around 1965–1966, when confession ceased to be presented as the “sacrament of penance,” and began to be presented as the “sacrament of reconciliation.” This went hand in hand with the following:

– the end of the aforementioned “obligatory practice” and a decriminalisation of the abstention from religious practice, previously considered as a sin inasmuch as this was a breaking with the commandments of the Church, which were presented as duties one was compelled to fulfil;

– a loss of the sense of sin in the conscience of many faithful, but also among the clergy who now feared to evoke this notion, as well as that of the Last Things. The author notes in this regard: “The clergy have quite abruptly stopped speaking on all these delicate subjects, as if they had stopped believing in them themselves, while at the same time a vision of a Rousseau kind of God carried the day: the “Love God” (and no longer merely “God of love”) of the years 1960–1970.” As one old Breton peasant summarised in the early 1970s in an interview with the sociologist Fañch Élégoët, “The priests have paved the road to heaven.” Once narrow and steep, it was now a highway used by almost everyone. With such a road at hand, if there were no longer any sin or hell, or at least some serious sin that could deprive you of heaven, the usefulness of confession, in its traditional definition, was actually less obvious”;

– a disconnect between confession and communion. “In the old system, we confessed more than we communed, and confession was first perceived as a sort of purification ritual conditioning access to the Eucharist.” The development of frequent communion, accompanied by the loss of a sense of sin, as well as the idea among some clergy — influenced by psychoanalysis — that it was necessary to liberate the faithful from feeling guilty and to “free them from the confessional” had as a consequence that the faithful were now invited to communion without needing to confess. Communion then became trivialised, while the very possibility of confession practically did not exist any more, the regular individual confessions being replaced, starting in 1974, by “penitential ceremonies” celebrated once a year before Easter. At these gatherings, the faithful did not confess anything (the author calls these ceremonies “forms of penance without confession”) but received a collective absolution after listening to a vague speech in which the notion of sin was most often bypassed. And when the possibility of confessing remained in some parishes or was later restored, “the faithful did not know very well how to confess, or even if it was still useful to do so.”

2) The last chapter is devoted to a cause of decadence which seems equally fundamental to the author: the crisis of the preaching on the “Last Things.” In the chapter’s title, the author wonders whether that might not mean in the background “the end of salvation,” and he notes that in ancient catechisms and theological treatises, an important place was given to death, judgment, and the two final destinations of the hereafter, hell and paradise. Worried as early as December 1966 at seeing them disappear from teaching and preaching, the bishops of France noted: “Original sin […], as well as the Last Things and Judgment, are points of Catholic doctrine directly related to salvation in Jesus Christ and whose presentation to the faithful actually makes it difficult for many priests to teach them. We do not know how to talk about them.” Shortly before this, Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had noted that original sin had almost completely disappeared from contemporary preaching. Cuchet remarks that it was not only a pastoral and pedagogical problem of presenting dogma, but also that “in reality, it was indeed a problem of faith and doctrine, and a discomfort shared between the clergy and the faithful. Everything happened as if, quite suddenly, at the end of a whole work of underground preparation, whole parts of the ancient doctrine considered hitherto as being essential, such as judgment, hell, purgatory, the devil, had become unbelievable for the faithful and unthinkable for theologians.” The author situates this crisis (although it had had some warning signs for some time) in the 1960s, along with the crisis of confession, noting that the former is closely related to the latter: “The collapse of the practice of confession follows an identical chronology, in particular the virtual disappearance in a few years, or even a few months, of the group that once was so common among those who confessed frequently. The relationship is directly, if not exclusively, linked with the erasure of the notion of mortal sin (in the sense of sin making one liable to damnation). But it also had implications on other sacraments related to the Last Things. In the new ritual of baptism, the exorcisms were considerably reduced (because it did not seem desirable to insist on the role of Satan, in whose existence some clergy no longer believed and who seemed to belong to a mythology from which the faithful, judged to be naive, were to be freed); there was also a clear mocking of original sin, from which [baptism] was supposed to deliver so as to secure eternal life.”

As far as baptism is concerned, another reform was to cause the disaffection of many of the faithful: beginning in December 1965, “a new pastoral ministry of baptism, whose primary concern until now was to have children baptised as soon as possible, on the contrary, [strove] on the contrary to put off the date so as to involve the parents more in the preparation.” It should be added that a certain number of priests went so far as to discourage the baptism of children on the pretext that it must be a free, voluntary, and fully conscious act, and advocated postponing the discussion of baptism until they had reached adolescence.

Approaching his conclusion, the author emphasises again the catastrophic effects of the crisis of the 1960s on the dogmatic conscience of the faithful, which in a way had become Protestantised: “The consecration of the freedom of conscience by the council has often been interpreted in the Church, unexpectedly at first, as a new freedom of the Catholic conscience, implicitly allowing it to distinguish between dogmas and practices of obligation. The very notion of dogma (as obligatory belief in conscience) then became problematic. This major decision of the council, coupled with the notion of a “hierarchy” of truths, seems to have operated in the minds of many as a kind of official decriminalisation of the “DIY believer” which contrasted greatly with the previous system, where the truths of the faith were to be taken as a whole and not by pick-and-choose. It was to be expected that the most disagreeable of these [tenets], or those most counter-intuitive to common sense, would pay the price, and this did not fail to occur.”

Whatever the external factors might have been that could have played a role in the collapse of Catholicism (modern attitudes, social pressure, etc.), the internal factors are what appear to be decisive according to the author of this book.

Catholicism itself bears a heavy responsibility in the dechristianisation of France (and more broadly of Europe, because an analysis made for other countries would lead to identical conclusions). The aggiornamento realised by the Second Vatican Council, and which had proposed to face the challenges of the modern world, did nothing but adapt itself to the latter; thinking to bring the world to its side, it ended up giving in to the world, and despite wanting to be heard in the secular sphere, Catholicism has instead become secularised. Fearing to assert its identity, it became relativised to the point that a large number of faithful no longer found in it the signposts to which they had been accustomed or that they expected, and no longer saw the point of seeking in Catholicism what the world already offered them in a less roundabout way.

The Catholic authorities seek to minimise the collapse described in this book by various arguments (a large number of French remain Catholic and have their children baptised; religious practice is measured by commitments other than Mass attendance; quality has replaced quantity, etc.). Yet they struggle to convince. John Paul II is often presented as having engineered a recovery from the excesses that followed Vatican II, but it must be noted that Sunday religious observance in France declined from 14% at the time of his election to 5% at the time of his death in 2005. If it is true that living communities existing in cities can provide a false example (as was also the case with the few churches open during the Communist period in the Eastern Bloc, crowded on account of others being closed), as well as the spectacular gathering of young people during the World Youth Days, the French countryside nevertheless shows the reality of a dramatic desertification: the multiplication of disused churches (that is to say, churches no longer acting as place of worship); priests having the care of twenty or even thirty parishes and celebrating every Sunday a “regional” Mass for a small group of faithful, mostly elderly and sometimes coming from several dozen kilometres away; the disappearance of burials celebrated by priests due to the lack of available celebrants; the lack of contact between priests and faithful because of their mutual distance and the unavailability of the former, who are more occupied with clerical meetings than with pastoral visits …

The sad evolution of the post-conciliar Catholic Church, as described in Cuchet’s book, should serve as a warning to the Orthodox bishops and theologians who have dreamt and still dream of calling for a “Great Orthodox Council” similar to that by which the Catholic Church wanted to accomplish its aggiornamento, but whose main effect was to provoke its internal disintegration and the dramatic haemorrhage of a large number of its faithful.

Marriage from an Orthodox perspective – Part 2

In May 2018, the program Orthodoxie on France-Culture Radio was on the theme of Marriage from an Orthodox Perspective.

After the voice of John Meyendorff, let’s listen to an excerpt from his book Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective.

An Orthodox Perspective

“It is beyond the author’s competence and the size of the present essay to discuss all the issues involving marriage and sexuality raised by the developments mentioned above. Our only topic is marriage as sacrament, i.e., an aspect which enters neither the field of psychology nor that of physiology nor that of sociology. It is the author’s belief, however, that the Orthodox understanding of the sacrament of marriage suggests the only possible Christian attitude towards most of the issues raised today. This understanding is clearly different from those which traditionally prevailed in Western Christianity; and, thus, it may give different openings to practical solutions.

The very notion of marriage as a sacrament presupposes that man is not only a being with physiological, psychological, and social functions, but that he is a citizen of God’s Kingdom, i.e., that his entire life -and especially its most decisive moments-involves eternal values and God Himself. For Orthodox Christians, this essential involvement is best realized in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, or “Divine Liturgy,” is the moment and the place when and where a Christian should realize what he truly is. In the Eucharist, the Kingdom of God -whose citizen he is by baptism- becomes available directly to his spiritual senses. The Divine Liturgy actually starts with the exclamation: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In the Liturgy, the Church, being concretely a gathering of people, ceases to be a human organization and becomes truly the “Church of God.”

Then Christ Himself leads the assembly, and the assembly is transformed into His Body. Then all partitions between concrete historical happenings and eternity are broken. The true meaning of marriage as a sacrament becomes understandable in the framework of the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy. In our contemporary practice the connection of marriage with the Eucharist is not obvious. Marriage appears to us primarily as a personal or a family affair. It may be blessed in Church and thus acquire a comforting flavor of both legitimacy and sacredness; but its relation to the Liturgy of the Church remains unclear for most of us. The actual church ceremony has no obvious relation to the Eucharist, and only a circle of invited relatives and friends take part in it. However, as we will try to show in this essay, it is impossible to understand either the New Testament doctrine on marriage, or the very consistent practice of the Orthodox Church, without seeing Christian marriage in the context of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, and the discipline which our communion in the Eucharist presupposes, is the key which explains the Christian attitude toward “church marriage” as well as toward those marriages which were or still are concluded outside the Church.

Many practical difficulties which we face come from a misunderstanding of this basic connection of marriage with the Eucharist. The misunderstanding must be corrected if we want to face our responsibilities in our modern, secular society, and if we desire an articulate Orthodox Christian answer to the challenges of the day. Actually, the “eucharistic” understanding of marriage clearly illustrates what is the essential Christian claim for man -an image of God, destined to participation in divine life itself. Psychologists and sociologists, on the basis of their respective limited fields of inquiry, may reach a foretaste of this truth, but certainly not affirm it in its entirety. The Christian experience of “God becoming man, so that man may become God” (St. Athanasius of Alexandria), is alone able to make the claim in all its daring significance. Of this, Christian marriage is also an expression.”


Marriage from an Orthodox perspective – Part 1

In May 2018, the program Orthodoxie on France-Culture Radio was on the theme of Marriage from an Orthodox Perspective.

“Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective”

This is the first of two programs entitled “Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective”, a book by Father John Meyendorff written in English and published in 1975 by Saint Vladimir Press. I was translated into French, published by YMCA Press in 1986 is reissued in 2017 by Apostalia. It is a study on the theological meaning of Christian marriage, accompanied by a series of patristic, canonical, and liturgical texts.

Before talking about the content of this book, let’s present in a few words the life and work of Father John Meyendorff, one of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the twentieth century.

John Meyendorff was born in France in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1926, from parents of Germanic origin who belonged to the Russian nobility. He studied in Paris, literature at the Sorbonne and theology at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute, where he was taught by most of the great representatives of Russian theological thought of the time. He was ordained a priest in 1959, then with a great erudition and a true theological research, Meyendorff presented his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne on the work and theology of Saint Gregory Palamas, thus contributing significantly to the renewal of the studies on this great Byzantine theologian of the 14th century. Meyendorff taught at the St. Sergius Institute before leaving for the United States, invited by Father Alexander Schmemann. He taught at the Saint Vladimir Institute in New York, where he was also the dean. He left a considerable work in the fields of dogmatic theology, the history of the Church. He was also a very committed precursor in the dialogue with Western Christians, and a true witness of Christ as a pastor and a celebrant. Father John died in 1992 in Montreal at the age of 66. Many of his books were written or translated into French from the English. As examples, we mention here his major syntheses on Orthodox dogmatics, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought and Introduction to Byzantine Theology, as well as his study on Gregory Palamas entitled Saint Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality.

This program is devoted to Father John Meyendorff’s book on marriage in the Orthodox perspective. I will read a few excerpts of it, followed by comments on marriage made by Father John himself. Indeed, thanks to the valuable archives of our program found recently, we were able to hear Father John Meyendorff’s voice, when he gave an interview to my predecessor at this microphone Father Stéphane, currently the Metropolitan of Estonia, and the producer of Orthodoxy for several years.

The main idea of ​​this book on marriage recurs constantly in the words of Father John. It is the connection between marriage and the Eucharist, which gives it a sacramental dimension that goes beyond the limits of earthly life and its needs. Thus marriage is set in the perspective of eternal life in God.

Let’s now listen to the first extract of archives. John Meyendorff introduces the subject of marriage, considering it in relation to the current society and the moral crisis that we are going through.

sense of morality

“The world and the society we live in are going through a very deep crisis in the whole area of ​​sexuality and family. Is it legitimate to say that our society today has lost all sense of morality, and to take things tragically? It is legitimate to try to know if in the old days, people were more moral than today. We can say undoubtedly that the principles which used to guide our society in this domain are no longer accepted. Therefore, from this point of view, there is a definitely a crisis. In my opinion, what is most important from the point of view of the Church, is to maintain a perspective and a vision of human nature, a positive vision which is that of Scripture, that of the Church Fathers, that of the Christian tradition as a whole. And all this tells us that man is called to commune with God, that what is essential in the life of man is the ascent towards what is above him, towards God himself. The Orthodox tradition speaks of deification on the one hand, and on the other hand, by affirming that marriage is a sacrament, it declares that sexuality and relations between men and women are not only compatible with the Christian vision of man, but that they must and can be saved, transfigured, sanctified. This is the meaning of marriage as a sacrament.”

November 19th (old calendar) / December 2nd (new)

November 19th (old calendar) / December 2nd (new)
Lent of the Nativity

St. Obias, prophet (9th century BC); St. Barlaam, martyr in Antioch (about 304); saints Severin, Exupere and Felicien, martyrs at Vienna (170); St. Heliodorus, martyr in Pamphylia (273); Saint Cydroine, martyr (3rd century); saints Barlaam, monk, and Joasaph, prince of the Indies, and future king, his father (4th century); St. Azas of Isauria, miracle worker, martyr with his companions, 150 soldiers (about 304); St. Theodemir, abbot (585); Saint Eudes, first abbot of Monestier, in Auvergne (v. 720); Saint Houadon Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon (7th century); St. Hilarion the Georgian, miracle worker (875); St. Barlaam, abbot of the Kiev Caves (1065); St. Philaretus, Metropolitan of Moscow (1867); St. Porphyry the Kavsokalybite (1991); Holy Neo-Martyrs of Russia: John Vishnevsky, Priest (1920), Porphyry, Bishop of Simferopol, Joasaph, Bishop of Chistopol, Serge (Makhayev), Michael (Dmitrev), Alexander (Michutin), John (Malinovsky), Constantine (Mihaylovsky ), Alexander (Serebrov), Ignatius (Tesline), John (Piramidin), Simeon (Krivoyev), John (Florovsky), James (Briliantov), ​​Dimitri (Kuklin), James (Peredery), priests, Joasaph (Krymzin), Gennade (Rebeza), Peter (Mamontov), ​​Gerasim (Sukhov), Michael (Kvanin), monks, Valentin (Kornienko), Peter (Antonov), Leonid (Salkov) and Timothy (Kutcherov) (1937).


Saint Obias, prophet (9th century BC)

We do not know the exact origin of the holy prophet Obadiah, whose prophecy, the shortest of the Twelve Little Prophets, contains threats against the proud Edom and the announcement of the proximity of the Day of the Lord, where the Nations will be punished in the fire and Israel will shine with the light of God from the top of the mystical mountain of Zion. According to some, Obadiah would be the steward of King Ahab who, when Jezebel slaughtered the prophets of the Lord, hid a hundred of them in caves, fifty by fifty, and supplied them with bread and water (2 Kings 18 Heb. ). Sent by the king in search of fodder for the hungry cattle because of the drought that Elijah had unleashed, he met the great prophet, who commanded him to go and announce to the king his visit. Afterwards, Obadiah gave up his service to the king and became a disciple of Elijah. It was then that he wrote his prophecy.


St. Barlaam was a wise and prudent old man, but full of ardor for piety. He lived in Antioch, probably at the time of the great persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian Galerius. Delivered to the governor of the city, he confessed Christ and refused to sacrifice to idols. After being subjected to flogging, he was tormented with iron nails. A few days later, he was released from prison to submit to further torture. Suspended from a gallows, he was stretched to dislodge his bones. Before the unshakable constancy of the martyr, the governor imagined an ordeal still unusual: he stretched his hand over an idolatrous altar, holding a burning coal on which incense had been placed, so that, forced by the pain of pouring him on the altar, he seemed to have sacrificed voluntarily. But the love of Christ was more burning in the heart of Barlaam than all the braziers of this world. Although devoured by suffering and seeing his flesh burn, the holy martyr firmly held his hand over the impious altar without pouring incense into it. He himself became a sacrificer, an altar, and a sacrifice. He offered himself as a holocaust to the only eternal God, raising to him, in the place of incense, the bitter odor of his burnt flesh. His charred hand eventually fell to the ground, so St. Barlaam surrendered his soul to God.

(From the Hieromonk Macarius Syntax of Simonos Petras)


Sunday Tropar, 2nd tone

When You descended into death, You, immortal Life, You destroy hell with the brightness of Divinity. When you raised the dead from the underground dwellings, all the powers of heaven cried out, “O Christ, Source of Life, our God, glory to You! “

Tropea of ​​the holy martyr Barlaam, your 4

Your martyr Barlaam, Lord, by his fight, received from you, our God, the incorruptible crown. With Your strength, He has defeated tyrants and broken even the impotent audacity of demons. By his entreaties, O Christ God, save our souls.

Troparium of Saint Philaretus, your 4

Having acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit, O hierarch Philaretus, you preached truth and justice to men through your enlightened spirit; you showed peace and mercy to those who suffered and you kept the flock of Russia, as a master of faith and a watchful watchman, by the rod of righteousness. Also, having freedom from Christ God, ask him to grant the Church and our souls salvation.

Troparium of Saint Porphyry Kavsokalybite, your 8

Room of the divine light and receptacle of the gifts of the Spirit, splendor of the presbyters, true stallion of the monks, oh wise Porphyry, resplendent with the gift of miracles and discernment, our venerable Father, pray the Christ God to save our souls.

Kondakion of the holy martyr Barlaam, your 4

You were admired by the power of your holocaust, you offered yourself as a pleasant incense as a sacrifice to Christ, and you received the crown of honor, Barlaam, always pray for us, you who have suffered.

Kondakion of Saint Philaretus, your 2

Like a real imitator of St. Sergius, you have loved virtue since your youth, O blessed Filaret in God. As a righteous pastor and an immaculate confessor, you suffer the outrages and insults of atheists after your holy death; but God has glorified you with signs and wonders and has made you a protector of our church.

Kontakion of Saint Porphyry the Kavsokalybite, your 8

You who since childhood have dedicated yourself to the love of Christ, cultivating the joy of renouncing ephemeral pleasures, you have adopted the Athonite rule, and while undressing yourself from the old tunic of skin, you made you the interior of the Holy Trinity, praying incessantly, Father venerable, for our salvation.

Sunday Kondakion, your 2

Almighty Savior, You have risen from the Tomb: hell, seeing this wonder, is seized with astonishment and the dead are resurrected. At this sight, creation rejoices with you; Adam shares the gladness, and the world, O my Savior, does not cease to praise You!

Episode of the day

Eph. VI, 10-17

strengthen yourself in the Lord and in the power of his strength. Put on the armor of God, that you may resist the devil’s maneuvers; for it is not against the adversaries of flesh and blood that we have to struggle, but against the principalities, the powers, the princes of this world of darkness, the spirits of evil spread in the air. That’s why you have to put on the armor of God, so you can resist the day of evil and stand firm after you have overcome everything. Stand firm then, having for your belt the truth, for armor the justice, for your shoes the zeal to spread the Gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, thanks to which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the Evil one; take at last the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God.


Lk XII, 16-21

The lands of a rich man had yielded a lot. And he reasoned within himself, saying, “What shall I do? because I have no place to squeeze my crop. Behold, he says, what I will do: I will bring down my barns, and build greater ones, and there will I gather all my harvest and all my goods; and I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods in store for many years; rest, eat, drink, and rejoice. “But God said to him,” Fool! this night even your soul will be required again; and what have you prepared, who will it be? “So is he who amasses treasure for himself, and is not rich for God.

The image of Jesus, hidden in the Negev church, is one of the oldest in Israel

The image of Jesus, hidden in the Negev church, is one of the oldest in Israel

The image of Jesus, hidden in the Negev Church, is one of the oldest in Israel.

Translation of an article published in The Times of Israel .

A young man, “the short, curly hair, long and oval face, big eyes and long nose”, represented in a tarnished paint found in the Byzantine church of the sixth century of the ancient village of Shivta.

One of the first representations of Jesus was recently discovered in a Byzantine church dating from the sixth century in the heart of the Negev Desert, Israel. Dr. Emma Maayan-Fanar identified the portrait of the Christian Messiah from a few vague outlines using a combination of conditions that was almost miraculous. Along with archaeologists and conservation specialists from Haifa University Prof. Guy Bar-Oz, Yotam Tepper and Ravit Linn, art historian Maayan-Fanar is involved in a multi-year interdisciplinary research project called The Byzantine Bioarchaeological Research Program of the Negev at UNESCO World Heritage Site Shivta. Its stated purpose is to examine “the reasons for the collapse of a complex society in an ecologically hostile region 1,500 years ago.”

Two weeks ago, Maayan-Fanar told The Times of Israel that during a recent visit to the North Church, one of three churches on the site, she took a look at the apse of the baptistery above her and immediately saw the face of Jesus who was staring at her. “I was under the apse in the right place at the right time. It’s so hidden – it’s impossible to see – but the light conditions were perfect, “says Maayan-Fanar.

In an article published in the August issue of Antiquity , the research team writes that the face, placed in a broader representation of Jesus’ baptism, is “the first scene of Christ’s baptism dating from the pre-iconoclastic period to be found in the Holy Land “.

Unlike the flowing dresses and hair usually encountered in Western depictions, the Jesus we see here is young, short-haired and curly.

In the report presented in the journal Antiquity , the researchers write: “Despite its fragmentary state, it reveals the face of a young man represented on the upper part of the apse. The figure has short, curly hair, a long oval face, large eyes and an elongated nose. “

“The face of Christ in this painting is an important discovery in itself. It belongs to the iconographic scheme of a Christ with short hair, particularly prevalent in Egypt and Syro-Palestine, but disappeared from later Byzantine art. The texts of the early sixth century include controversy over the authenticity of the visual appearance of Christ, including his hairstyle. Based on the iconography, we believe that this scene was also painted in the sixth century AD, “the authors write.

For the layman who has not received training, the fuzzy lines captured by Dror Maayan, his professional photographer and husband, look a bit like the iron stains often found after a rain in the desert. As Professor James Davila, an intellectual / blogger, has said, “to my inexperienced eyes, the new mural depiction of Jesus looks like one of those images of” Jesus on a piece of toast “that constantly appear on the Internet “.

The key, however, is to look at the contours with a seasoned eye. In his publication, including the Haaretz article behind the revelation, Davila added, “But I’m sure art history specialists who look at the original wall can see it better than me. “.

For the article published by the journal Antiquity , Maayan-Fanar made a reconstruction of the pencil image on a high-resolution photograph taken by her husband. With the contours she drew, the small spots become the portrait of a young man.

But is it Jesus?

According to Maayan-Fanar, there is little doubt. Primitive Christian art and iconography follow well-known formulas, she says. “Those who know the iconography of early Christianity can recognize such an image even from almost nothing,” she says. The location of the image, in the baptistery where there are still remains of the baptismal basin in stone in the form of a cross, increases its certainty.

Maayan-Fanar also identified a second, larger character, as being John the Baptist. This combination of a great John the Baptist and a young Jesus is common in Christian art. “Traces of painting in the apse suggest that these faces were part of a larger scene, which could contain additional characters,” the researchers write. The discovery of this painting is “extremely important,” they write. “Until now, it is the only scene of the baptism of Christ in situ (note: in his environment of origin) found in the Holy Land dating with certainty of the pre-iconoclastic period. Therefore, it can shed light on the Byzantine Christian community of Shivta and primitive Christian art throughout the region. “

More research on the horizon

Around the face of Jesus, in the center of the stage, are additional details hidden under an accumulation of dust and mud. According to the researchers, the dirt layer protected the underlying paint from further deterioration.

The team plans to use a variety of techniques and technologies to gather as much information as possible about the painting, according to conservation expert Linn. The trick is to see the invisible without touching the paint and without causing further deterioration. What is revolutionary about archeology, she says, is that much of this work can now be done in the field, rather than taking samples to take to the laboratory. “We try to spread as much information as we can on the spot, but there is not much to do, it’s true,” says Linn. According to her, viewing the image as representing Jesus is much more than an “enlightened guess” based on parallel examples found elsewhere in early Christendom.

Last year, the team has released another image of Jesus: a scene of the Transfiguration church found in the south of the site from the mid-fourth century AD. AD, which is only one of two figurative examples of the scene of the beginning of the Christian period, according to the researchers.

The dating of the painting of Jesus can not be given with absolute certainty, but an inscription engraved on the ground of the church dates the renovation of the structure in 640 apr. AD Armenian graffiti indicate that the church was not abandoned until the ninth century.

Using Visible Induced Luminescence Imaging (VIL), the team mapped the distribution of the Egyptian blue pigment in the painting and discovered radiant stars of unseen lights emanating from the bodies of Jesus and other figures that are there.

“Although this motif is an important part of the Transfiguration story and appears in most of the scenes depicted elsewhere, it was not previously identified in this painting because it was not detectable by any other technique. inspection, “the researchers write.

Linn said the research and conservation plan for the new painting found this year in the North Church is still in formation. The team plans to examine each block of stone individually and as a whole.

“Before we do anything, we need to know what we are going to do and what with,” she said, adding that the image is only a small part of the much larger bioarchaeology project. course.

A 360 ° approach to archaeological study

The project is based at the Zinman Institute of Archeology of Haifa University and led by Bar-Oz, but includes scientists from a wide range of disciplines. Previous publications have focused on agriculture and animal husbandry in the desert, as well as other archaeological discoveries. “Shivta is the focal point of our current project to explore the strengths and processes that allowed a burgeoning urban and agricultural society to flourish during the Byzantine period in the arid Negev, as well as to understand the which led to its decline, “the researchers write.

Located in the heart of the Negev desert, Shivta was colonized, potentially by the nomadic Nabataeans, at the beginning of the Roman era. According to archaeologists, “The colony was established for the first time by the Nabataeans in the first century AD. BC, before the Roman annexation of the region (105/106) “. The few signs of a Nabataean colony are a handful of potsherds, which could have been brought by others in Roman times, says Tepper.

The town reached its peak in a slightly distant colony Nabataean village in the Byzantine period (V-VI th th c. AD.). It was finally abandoned shortly after its cultural transition and transformation at the beginning of the Islamic period (middle of the seventh -.. The middle of the VIII th century AD), only to be rediscovered by archaeologists in the Holy Land in the nineteenth century, wrote the research team in a recent report entitled “Probing the transition from the Byzantine period / the early Islamic period in the Negev Shivta new excavation, 2015-2016.”

There have been previous excavations on the site, including one that “briefly lifted up” the face of Jesus recently discovered in the late 1920s, writes Maayan-Fanar in the August issue of Antiquity . But the documentation of the excavations was partial – if any – and the Haifa University team felt the field was sufficiently open to accommodate further research.

It is interesting to note that, perhaps because of the chain of multicultural colonies, there is an urban legend that promotes the site as a center of interfaith coexistence. This is not really confirmed by the archaeological footprints, according to the authors.

“The presence of three large churches indicates that Shivta was a prosperous Christian community. In comparison, the single mosque is much smaller than previous monuments, indicating a decline in the population on the site, “they write.

It seems, they write, that although the mosque is centrally located, next to the South Church and public reservoirs, there has been a sharp decline in the village population during the early Islamic period. According to the findings of the team, these early Muslims were mainly found in “abandoned and destroyed Byzantine structures”, which could indicate population replacement rather than coexistence. The coexistence, the agriculture and even the face of Jesus are just some of the pieces of the puzzle examined by the 360-degree multidisciplinary team. “We are continuing research and we expect there to be many more interesting projects in the near future,” Linn said.


Banjska (Kosovo): the martyred monastery

The site of the Association Solidarité Kosovo, dedicated since 2004 to the help of Serbs in Kosovo, published this presentation:

On the outskirts of Kosovska Mitrovica, the mountain range of Rogozna is home to a unique history, that of the Banjska Monastery. With its experience of the major events that marked the history of Serbia –from the Ottoman occupation to the anti-Christian pogroms in 2004– it has had a turbulent and sometimes tragic past, but also an extraordinary destiny and fidelity.
Solidarité Kosovo has had the honor to contribute to the restoration of this Christian building, a jewel of medieval Europe.

Where West and East meet: Gothic style with a Byzantine interior

Built between 1312 and 1316 at the request of the Serbian king Stefan Milutin who wanted to be buried there, the majestic monastery of Banjska stands on the green backdrop of the Zvečan Valley, in the north of Kosovo, bordered by the Ibar river. Built in a Gothic style of French origin and characteristic of Western Europe, the Banjska Monastery is one of only two of its kind in Kosovo. The second is none other than Visoki Dečani Monastery.

The construction works were led by the prior Danilo II, who later became patriarch of the Serbian Church. In addition to the church dedicated to Saint Stephen, the Christian site originally consisted of dormitories and a refectory, as well as of the enclosure walls and towers. Another architectural feature is the facade of the church, adorned with tricolor stones (white, red, and blue), unique in the region.

In contrast to the Western-inspired exterior architecture, the interior of the church was fully adapted to the Orthodox rite, with its majestic frescoes and unique dome adorned with the overlooking Christ Pantocrator. This style, unique in Europe and representing an architectural syncretism at the crossroads of Roman Catholic and Orthodox influences, is called the Raška school.

Razed to the ground, demolished, burned, converted into a mosque, and revived in 1939

The history of Banjska Monastery is emblematic of the vicissitudes of History in the Balkans, and more precisely in Kosovo.

Seventy years after its construction, King Milutin’s resting place, a symbol of the rise of the medieval Serbian state, did not resist the decline inaugurated by the Turkish invasion. After the Battle of Kosovo at Kosovo Polje in 1389, marking the defeat of Serbian troops against the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan ordered the monastery to be razed to the ground. The destruction was trumpeted by the wreckers to morally weaken the Christians of the region who had fallen under their servitude.

Rebuilt by the Orthodox faithful of the surrounding villages, the monastery was demolished again in the 16th century by the Ottoman occupiers. As the ultimate sign of the Moslem domination, the Saint Stephen church, by then almost completely destroyed, was converted into a mosque in the 17th century. Confiscated from the Christians, the site was used for Muslim worship until the First World War. The church became the theater of clashes during the Austro-Hungarian war and the Balkan wars, and was again severely damaged by a fire.

It was not until 1939 that the first restoration work was undertaken. This explains that there is almost nothing visible of the richness of the frescoes that used to adorn the church, except a few traces on the dome. Interrupted during the communist period, restoration work resumed in 1990.

Solidarity Kosovo Association started in this symbolic place and in moving circumstances, through a chance meeting with the parish priest. We had already bumped into him a few days earlier in Mitrovica. Banjska was the first monastery visited by the French volunteers of Solidarité Kosovo, more than 14 years ago, in particularly moving circumstances, as the following will show.

At a crossroads, with Solidarité Kosovo

Friday, January 7, 2005
In the early morning, the cold was biting. The snow had covered the monastery property with a thick layer, without concealing the stigmata of past pogroms. The silence conducive to recollection was interrupted by the Saint-Stephen church bells pealing. Christmas Mass is celebrated there following the Gregorian calendar.
Shouts of joy instilled life and color into the ruined building. The children from Banjska were running to the church square. They were dressed poorly, wore woolen socks and plastic sandals. With a straightforward smile and sparkling eyes, they nodded at six slightly older French youths. A line of boxes was separating them, containing what had been collected in Grenoble, Paris and elsewhere to help Serbs in Kosovo. Arnaud Gouillon knelts down, found a pretty doll with rosy cheeks, and offered it to little Marija. She delicately took it in her arms. This was the first toy in her whole life. She already seemed in love with it. Then the humanitarian distribution began. The bells were still pealing. Solidarité Kosovo was born.

Thirteen years later, the children of Banjska have grown up. Solidarité Kosovo as well. The bonds of brotherhood and solidarity with the Kosovo Serbs have been strengthened, as well as those between the association and the Banjska parish priest. Father Danilo is one of the first liaison of the NGO. He has since become a loyal friend, and regularly receives visits.
During his last meeting with Arnaud Gouillon [the current chairman of the association], Father Danilo asked for the association to help him restore the medieval walls of the monastery. Solidarité Kosovo  felt honored to contribute to this project, as this heritage place is a symbol of protection and resistance to the vicissitudes of History in Serbia and more broadly in Europe. In all, 60,000 euros were devoted to the restoration of the fortifications. Remaining faithful to the original beauty and style required a meticulous and qualified work.

The restoration work was completed early November 2018. The faithful of the Saint-Stephen parish thus received their Christmas present ahead of time! But Santa Claus promised to come again this year, after the Nativity, on the occasion of his traditional convoy established seventeen years ago, to give toys coming from France to Banjska’s children. The children of the children first met in 2005 and who have now become parents.

“Christmas is the spring of the spirit. It is a promise”  Alain (Seasons of the Spirit, published in 1937)


Review: Sainte-Odile: The Mount and its Graces, by Patrick Koelher

Patrick Koelher, Sainte-Odile. Le mont et les grâces, Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 2018, 240 p.

Father Patrick Koehler, the rector of Mont Sainte-Odile since 2010, has just published a book to introduce the Jubilee which will celebrate in 2020 the 1,300th anniversary of the death of Saint Odile (also known as Odilia or Ottilia), the patroness saint of Alsace.

Patrick Koelher

At the beginning of each chapter, the author offers excerpts from the Vita sanctæ Odiliæ virginis and refers as well to scenes depicted in a 15th century tapestry hanging in the buildings where the relics of the saint are preserved. He also uses situations to share some of his pastoral experiences in relation with the relics, at Mont Saint-Odile and in the places where he previously exercised his priesthood.

In the Catholic style, it is a book full of testimonies and “emotions”, as noted by a critic. The life of the saint is considered in the light of current experiences.

This book gives us the opportunity to recall the importance of saint Odile in the Orthodox world, as she was an Orthodox saint of the first millennium. Father Makarios of Simonos Petra wrote a notice on her in his Synaxarion for December 13/26, when she is commemorated. Her life and troparion were published in Russian, for the many pilgrims from Russia who go nowadays to Mont Saint-Odile to venerate her relics, where a monastery founded by the saint was built.

This beautiful place, located near the town of Obernai on a hill overlooking the plain of Alsace, also attracts Orthodox pilgrims from France, Switzerland, and other European countries, including Greece, where a complete liturgical service (Little Vespers, Vespers, Matins, Divine Liturgy) was composed for this saint. Relics of saint Odile are venerated in several Orthodox churches, among others that of the Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos, and icons representing her are found in many Orthodox sanctuaries.

Many Orthodox faithful have been cured of ophthalmic diseases, sometimes very serious, by the intercession of the saint who was born blind and recovered her sight in her childhood thanks to a miracle. These miracles often imply applying some of the water that flows from a miraculous spring located below the sanctuary, at the edge of a forest road leading to Niedermunster, a second monastery founded by the saint and now in ruins. In connection with one of these miracles, a very beautiful akathist to the saint was composed in French by Claude Lopez-Ginisty.

Jean-Claude Larchet is the author of this review, written originally in French.

Life of Saint Odilia as found in Butler’s Lives of the Saints:

ST ODILIA, or OTTILIA, Virgin (c. a.d. 720)


There lived in the time of King Childeric II a Frankish lord of Alsace named
Adalric, married to a lady named Bereswindis. To them was born, near the end
of the seventh century, at Obernheim in the Vosges Mountains, a daughter who
was blind from her birth. This was a matter first of irritation and then of un-
reasoning fury to Adalric ; he regarded it as a personal affront to himself and a
reflection on the honour of his family, in which such a misfortune had never
happened before. In vain did his wife try to persuade him that it was the will of
God, decreed in order that His almighty power might be made manifest in the
child. Adalric would have none of it, and insisted that the babe should be slain.
Bereswindis was able at length to turn him from this crime, but only on condition
that the child should be sent away and nobody told to whom it really belonged.
She fulfilled the first part of this condition, but not the second, confiding the baby
and its history to a peasant woman who had formerly been in her service. When
this woman’s neighbours asked awkward questions, Bereswindis arranged for her
and all her family to go away and live at Baume-les-Dames, near Besan^on, where
there was a nunnery in which the girl in due course could be brought up. Here
she lived until she was twelve years old, without, for reasons not explained, ever
having been baptized. Then St Erhard, a bishop at Regensburg, was warned in
a vision that he was to go to the convent at Baume, where he would find a young
girl who had been born blind ; her he was to baptize, giving her the name of Odilia,
and she would receive her sight. St Erhard thereupon consulted St Hidulf at
Moyenmoutier, and together they went to Baume. They found the girl and
baptized her, giving her the name of Odilia (Ottilia, Othilia, Odile), and when he
had anointed her head St Erhard touched her eyes with the chrism and at once
she could see.

Odilia continued to serve God in the convent, but the miracle of which she had
been the subject and the progress she now made in studies raised up the jealousy
of some of the nuns and they began to indulge in petty persecution. So Odilia
sent a letter to her brother Hugh, of whose existence she had been told, asking him
to do for her whatever his kind heart should suggest. St Erhard meanwhile had
acquainted Adalric with his daughter’s recovery, and that unnatural parent was
more angry than ever, flatly refusing Hugh’s request to have Odilia home and
forbidding the mention of her name. Hugh nevertheless sent for her, and it so
happened that he was standing with his father on a neighbouring hill when Odilia
arrived in a wagon, surrounded by a crowd of people. When Adalric heard who
it was and how she came to be there, he raised his heavy staff and with one blow
stretched Hugh dead at his feet. In his remorse he turned to his daughter and
was as affectionate to her as he had before been cruel. Odilia lived at Obernheim
with a few companions who joined her in her devotions and charitable works
among the poor. After a time her father wanted to marry her to a German duke,
whereupon she fled from home and, when she was closely pursued, a cliff-face at
the Schlossberg, near Freiburg in Breisgau, opened to admit and conceal her. To
get her home again Adalric promised her his castle of Hohenburg (now called the
Odilienberg) to turn into a monastery, and here she became abbess. Finding that
the steepness of the mountain was a discouragement and inconvenience to pilgrims
she founded an auxiliary convent lower down on the eastern side, called Nieder-
miinster, with a hospice attached.

It is said of the holy foundress that some time after the death of her father she
received a supernatural assurance that her prayers and penances had released him
from the state of Purgatory, and that St John the Baptist appeared to her and in-
dicated the site and dimensions for a chapel which she wished to build in his
honour. Other supernatural visitations and a number of miracles are also attributed
to her. After ruling the convent for many years St Odilia died on December 13,
about the year 720.

Such, in brief, is the legend of St. Odilia about whose life the truth is as elusive
as the popular veneration of the saint is definite. Her shrine and her abbey were
the objects of a great devotion throughout the middle ages ; they were favoured by
the emperors from Charlemagne to Charles IV, and among those who were drawn
to Hohenburg by devotion were St Leo IX, while he was still bishop of Toul, and,
it is said, King Richard I of England. The pilgrimage was no less popular among
the common people, and St Odilia was venerated as the patroness of Alsace before
the sixteenth century. Tradition pointed to a spring as having been by her
miraculously called from the rock for the convenience of the nuns and their pilgrims,
and its waters were (and are) used for bathing unhealthy eyes while invoking the
intercession of the once blind saint. The same custom is observed by pilgrims to
the Odilienstein in Breisgau, where the rock opened to receive her. After under-
going many vicissitudes the shrine of St Odilia and the remains of her monastery
came into the possession of the diocese of Strasburg, and since the middle of last
century the Odilienberg has again become a place of pilgrimage. Her relics are
preserved in the chapel of St John the Baptist, a medieval building on the site of
the one above referred to as built by St Odilia herself : it is now more commonly
called by her name.

The text of what has been proved to be a tenth-century Life of St Odilia has been edited
by W. Levison in MGH., Scriptores Merov., vol. vi (1013), pp. 24-50 ; and cf. Analecta
Bollandiana, vol. xiii (1894), pp. 5-32 and 113-121. But even here in the judgement of
Levison hardly anything can be accepted as reliable history. At the same time St Odilia
continues to be one of the most popular saints not only in Alsace but also in Germany and
France. There is a considerable literature concerning her, of which an idea may be formed
from the references in Potthast, Wegzveiscr, vol. ii, p. 1498, and in DAC, vol. xii (1936),
cc. 1921-1934. Much information may be gleaned from different volumes of the Archiv /.
elsdssische Kirchengeschichte, as for example an article in vol. viii, pp. 287-316 on ” Das
Odilienlied in Lothringen “. For the most part the devotional lives of St Odilia, such for
example as that of H. Welschinger in the series ” Les Saints “, are historically unreliable.
This last even treats as a serious document the forgery of Jerome Vignier which was exposed
by L. Havet in the Bibliotheque de l’£cole des Chartes y for 1885. On St Odilia in art see
Kunstle, Ikonographie, vol. ii, pp. 475-478, and C. Champion, Ste Odile (1931). At the
time of the battles of Verdun during World War I, St Odilia became very celebrated in
France through the attribution to her of a completely apocryphal prophecy. It was again
current, though less widely, during 1939-1945.

Review: Gregory of Nyssa, “Homily on the Lord’s Prayer”

Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Our Father . Text, translation and notes by Christian Boudignon and Matthieu Cassin, translated by Josette Seguin (†), Christian Boudignon and Matthieu Cassin. Collection “Christian Sources” No. 596, Cerf, Paris, 2018, 570 p.

The Homilies on the Our Father of Saint Gregory of Nyssa are one of his most important works, as indicated by the importance of the manuscript tradition, its ancient insertion in the florilèges, and the appreciations on it by the patrologists, including Lenain de Tillemont, who saw it as “one of his finest works”.

The five homilies contained in the collection most probably date from between 385 and 390 and were probably pronounced at Nyssa, Cappadocia, where Gregory was the bishop.
It seems that they were addressed to an audience made up of all types of faithful: beside very simple considerations on the activity of the farmers or the shopkeepers probably speaking for a part of the audience (beginning of the Homily I ) or a commentary that prefers to consider “bread of today” rather than “supersubstantial bread”, there is a high theological passage on the Trinity.

The first homily is devoted to considerations of prayer in general. It explains why most men neglect prayer and why, however, they would need to pray; why without prayer sin invades the life of man; how prayer protects from sin; why it is appropriate to give thanks to God for His gifts. It also explains what one should not do when one prays: to multiply the vain words, to ask for things in accordance with the passions, to make demands against the enemies (except when it comes to the devil and the demons), to ask for material things rather than spiritual goods.

The following four homilies comment on the words of the prayer, but it is not a rigorous commentary of the text: some terms are freely reformulated, the digressions are numerous, and the comments are sometimes surprising. The reason is that the homilies are essentially intended to provide the faithful with spiritual guidance, and that exegesis is at the service of this mainly pastoral purpose.

Gregory’s teaching is entirely directed towards the transformation of man, whose vocation is to acquire a resemblance to God who unites him to Him, makes him an adopted son of God and deifies him. The Christian, for that reason, must detach himself from the world, remove from him the powers of evil, purify himself from passions, and acquire the virtues, which results from his efforts, but also from the grace that God gives him in answer to his prayer.
A vast introduction of almost 300 pages presents, in a first part due to Matthieu Cassin, the dating, the circumstances and the aim of the text (pp. 11-36); in a second part, due to Christian Boudignon, an analysis of the content of the homilies – structure, sources, themes, reception (pp. 37-184) – and in a third part, due to Matthieu Cassin, the history of the text ( pp. 184-270). The translation is the joint work of the two authors who took as their basis a dissertation by Josette Seguin (†).
This volume first proposes a new critical edition of the Greek text, which, based on a larger handwritten base, improves, on more than two hundred points (listed on pages 261-270), that which was published in 1992 by JF Gallahan in the Gregorii Nysseni Opera vol. VII.2 and which until now was authoritative.

All the corrections made here to this last edition, however, are not indisputable and do not render it obsolete, as is shown by a passage from the Trinitarian discourse contained in Homily III which, opposed to pneumatomaques, deals with the divinity of the Saint- Spirit, whose central part concerns more particularly the hypostatic properties of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (pp. 422-427 in this volume):

“The peculiarity of the Father is not to exist from a cause: it is not proper in the case of the Son and the Spirit. For the Son came from the Father, according to what the Scripture says, and the Spirit is from God and proceeds from the Father (ὅ τε γὰρ υἱὸς ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐξῆλθε, καθώς φησιν ἡ γραφὴ, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται). But as the fact of existing without a cause, since it belongs only to the Father, can not adapt to the Son or the Spirit, so, on the contrary, the fact of existing from a cause, which is proper to the Son and the Spirit, can not be recognized in the Father as to nature. On the other hand, as it is common for the Son and the Spirit not to be ungendered, so that no confusion is found about the substratum, we can again discover that the difference between their properties is unmixed, so that and what is common is saved, and what is clean is not confused.

For the monogenous Son is named from the Father by the divine Scripture and the Word stops his property to this point, while the Holy Spirit, the Scripture and the said from the Father, and further testifies that he is [from] the Son (Ὁ γὰρ μονογενὴς υἱὸς ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς παρὰ τῆς ἁγίας γραφῆς ὀνομάζεται καὶ μέχρι τούτου ὁ λόγος ἵστησιν αὐτῷ τὸ ἰδίωμα, τὸ δὲ ἅγιον πνεῦμα καὶ ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς λέγεται, καὶ [ἐκ] τοῦ υἱοῦ εἶναι προσμαρτυρεῖται). Indeed, if someone does not have the Spirit of Christ (πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ), it is said, it is not of him. So the Spirit that is from God is the Spirit of Christ (τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ὂν καὶ Χριστοῦ πνεῦμά ἐστιν). Whereas the Son, who is from God, is not and is not said further from the Spirit, and this consequence of the relation is not convertible as if we could equivalently convert the proposition into bringing it back to the previous one and, as we say the Spirit of Christ, also name the Christ, “the Spirit” (ὥσπερ Χριστοῦ τὸ πνεῦμα λέγομεν, οὕτω καὶ τοῦ πνεύματος Χριστὸν ὀνομάσαι). Therefore, since this property distinguishes them from each other clearly and without confusion, while their identity as to activity (κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν). testifies to the community of their nature, the righteous conception about the divinity is affirmed on both sides, so that the Trinity is enumerated by the hypostases without being broken up into elements of different natures. “

In his introduction, Christian Boudignon devotes a long comment to this passage (pp. 155-168), animated from the beginning by the idea that we find an expression of the Filioque in the sentence: “For the monogenous Son is named after of the Father by the divine Scripture and the Word stops his property to this point, while the Holy Spirit, the Scripture and the said from the Father, and further testifies that he is [from] the Son (καὶ [ἐκ] τοῦ υἱοῦ εἶναι προσμαρτυρεῖται) “. The publishers have decided to publish the text and the translation without the square brackets we have put here following the edition of Callahan (in GNO VII-2, p.43) for the preposition ἐκ and for its French translation ( from). Callahan had put these hooks because the preposition ἐκ is here problematic in several respects. On the one hand, it is present in some manuscripts and absent in others. In some manuscripts where she was present, she was erased or crossed out. One can certainly suppose that this is the intervention of unscrupulous copyists, unfavorable to the Latin doctrine of Filioque, who wanted to eliminate what could appear to his supporters as a patristic attestation of it. It is true that the preposition is present in the oldest manuscripts, including the archetype (of the 9th century) and also in a quotation in the anthology entitled Doctrina Patrum (late 7th century), at a time when the quarrel Filioque was not yet engaged. The editors of this volume have chosen to favor this old certificate, and to avoid brackets, which, moreover, are not part of the signs used in their critical edition. That said, the problem is not so simple. The majority of publishers (including Callahan) and previous commentators of this text, including Catholics and Protestants (including D. Petau, K. Holl, Jaeger W., C. Moreschini, Brugarolas Brufau), implementing the principles of internal criticism, have noted that the presence of the ἐκ (from) about the Holy Spirit in relation to the Son (in the place where we put the brackets) is incoherent with respect to Gregory’s context and thought of Nyssa, and therefore can not be of his hand. Thus its effacement by some copyists would not result from a theological position hostile to a content likely to support the doctrine of Filioque, but the concern to restore the text its consistency with the thought of Gregory, not such that ‘it is’ dreamed’, as C. Boudignon very slightly asserts (p.160), but as it can be induced from the context, but also found in other similar texts appearing in other works of the great Cappadocian. The presence of the preposition in the archetype (the oldest known manuscript, from which all the others derive, copied nearly five centuries after the writing of the work) would be the result of an error of a copyist, which would have been reproduced in the manuscripts of the same family (and can be borrowed from older manuscripts). This error would not result from a lack of thought, but from the desire to establish in the second segment of the sentence a textual equilibrium with the first segment. The previous editors of the text have thus taken the position that, like Krabinger or Oehler, the preposition is to be deleted, or, like Callahan, to put it in brackets to indicate both its presence in many manuscripts (whose archetype itself and the dubious character of his attribution to Gregory of Nyssa himself (see the preface of Callahan to his edition, GNO VII-2, pp. X-XIV, and especially his remark, p. As regards the tradition of the text itself, it must be concluded that the ἐκ belongs to the text insofar as we can be guided by strictly palaeographic proofs, but, secondly, it is very difficult to justify its presence in the text. from the point of view of Grégoire’s argumentation, as Jaeger has pointed out: This is true, it seems to me, even if we carefully exclude the later doctrinal meaning of ἐκ and consider, as it should, a sense q Gregory himself could give it to him. I have therefore concluded that the ἐκ does not belong to Gregory’s original text, despite the paleographic evidence, and I placed it in square brackets in this edition “).

In his commentary, C. Boudignon could have kept to these remarks that a serious study of the Trinitarian doctrine of Gregory of Nyssa in its entirety would certainly have led to confirm. But in a development reminiscent of passionate positions and the biased argumentation of Latinophrones in the hottest of the quarrel over the Filioque, he makes every effort to not only justify the text with the preposition but to give it a straightforward meaning. Filioque. On the one hand he grossly accuses his predecessors – whose scientific qualities are nevertheless recognized – of “blindness” and obsession (p.159), resorts to a psychological argument that should not find its place here (Callahan would have been “Impressed by the prestige of Jaeger” [160]), and trivial comparisons (the entry and exit of Avignon [p.161]) that are not up to the subject or the seriousness of the collection. Accusing Jaeger of having wanted to treat a philological problem theologically and claiming to treat it philologically himself, and noting that until then “the old Filioque quarrel has polluted debates” (p. a few lines later, without fear of contradicting oneself, not only in purely theological considerations but in abusive inferences which very clearly testify to a commitment in favor of the Filioque. On the other hand, he adds a dose to the meaning of the sentence in which, according to this edition, the ἐκ is written: Gregory according to him implies that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father in an immediate manner and from the Son in a mediate way, whereas nothing in the text allows to induce this. One finds certainly in another work of Grégoire, the Ad Ablabium , GNO III-1, p. 56, the affirmation of a mediation of the Son, but this claim has resulted in extensive comments (especially from Gregory II of Cyprus in his criticism of John latinophrone Bekkos positions) which show that the διὰ (τοῦ υἱοῦ ) is not identifiable with ἐκ (τοῦ υἱοῦ), and that it is not the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, but of its manifestation (in time and in eternity) by the Son. And especially the present text has no relation with that of the Ad Ablabium , the two contexts being different. In the passage of Homily III that we have in mind, most scholars who have studied the text are right to exclude the ἐκ (derived from) as not corresponding to the logic of the text and to the very position likely Gregory: should read “while the Holy Spirit, Scripture and the words from the Father, and further demonstrates that it is [Spirit] of the Son (καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ εἶναι προσμαρτυρεῖται)” because it is and refers clearly to the formula that Gregory quotes twice in this passage: “the Spirit of Christ” (formula found in Rom 8, 9, but also in an epistle of St. Peter [1 P 1, 11] , which publishers could have pointed out since Gregory mentions “the Scripture” and not specifically St. Paul). It should be noted, moreover, that in the beginning of the text we have quoted (as in several other passages of his works), Gregory clearly states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, without any mention of any intervention of the Son in this procession that gives him existence.

In his so-called demonstration, C. Boudignon multiplies the peremptory assertions and abusive inductions or deductions, as for example p. 163: “We are thus dealing with a schema of logical division, first between the cause and the cause, then within the cause of what comes immediately from the cause and what comes from it mediately. This is exactly the logic of the text of the context of this passage “; or p. 165: “the fact that one can not reverse the words” Spirit of Christ “and say” Christ of the Spirit “shows the anteriority of being of the Son over the Spirit, who is secondarily from the Son” ; or p. 166: “The relation of the Father to the Son is that of the Son to the Spirit. As the Father is the cause of the Son, the Son is the cause of the Spirit. Nevertheless it is always the Father who is the primary cause of the Spirit, while Christ is the cause, this second time, of the Spirit “; or ibid : “In being the cause of the Spirit, Christ acquires an ontological anteriority over the Spirit just as the Father had an ontological authority over the Son”. The author presents here statements which are entirely in keeping with the purest Latin theology of Filioquistism, but which are strictly unrelated to the Trinitarian doctrine of St. Gregory of Nyssa, and can not even logically be deduced or induced from the text itself. including ἐκ.

The comment of C. Boudignon still calls for other remarks:
– Contrary to what he asserts (pp. 161 and 167), Gregory’s thought in the text in question, whether or not the ἐκ is placed there, has nothing to do with the deployment of the Trinity that Gregory Nazianzen describes in his famous Speech XXIX, 2, SC 250 p. 180.

Very questionable also, is the following statement (pp. 167-168), based on the above abusive claims: “We are in a continuous movement that causes what is without cause to separate from what is caused, and that the cause then separates itself between what is directly attached to the cause and what is indirectly attached to it. This causality does not hinder the divinity of the one who is caused: the Father is the cause of the Son without the Son being less God. Likewise, the Son is the second cause of the Spirit, but the Spirit is none the less God. This presentation of the Spirit from the Son, himself from the Father, resumes a Neoplatonic-inspired pattern: the Soul of the World or third hypostasis in Plotinus is the pouring out of all the energy of the Intelligence or second hypostasis, itself spilling of all the energy of the One or first hypostasis. This is what Gregory says when he speaks about the Son and the Spirit, this energy identity or activity τῆς δὲ κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν ταὐτότητος τὸ κοι νὸν μαρτυρούσης τῆς φύσεως, “their identity, as to the activity, testifies of the community of their nature “, so that we can draw a pious understanding of the divinity. We do not understand this sudden reference to the energy or activity that is identical between the three hypostases if we are not precisely in this neoplatonic transmission of the activated between the hypostases. “

We can first contrast this with what V. Lossky wrote in 1944 against a lasting fashion, which consists in considering that the Trinitarian doctrine of the Greek Fathers is influenced by Neoplatonism: “The plotinian trinity comprises three hypostases. consubstantial: the One, the Intelligence, and the Soul of the world. Their consubstantiality does not rise to the trinitarian antinomy of Christian dogma: it presents itself as a decreasing hierarchy and realized thanks to the incessant flow of the hypostases which pass into each other, reflect each other. This shows us once again how false is the method of historians who wish to express the thought of the Fathers of the Church, interpreting the terms which it uses in the sense of Hellenistic philosophy “( Mystical Theology of the Church of Orient , Pais, 1944, 48).

Secondly, it can be noted that the Trinitarian thought of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa developed, in their controversy with Eunome, against Neoplatonism, which strongly influenced the thought of Neoplatonism, and not in the line of this current. philosophical.

In relation to the two preceding remarks, one can thirdly note that it is not by virtue of the transmission ( a fortiori Neoplatonic) of the activity between the hypostases that the identity of energy between them is affirmed. As Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea did before him, against the pneumatomaques who deny the deity of the Holy Spirit, Gregory of Nyssa, by affirming with reference to the Father, the Son and the Spirit that “their identity as to to energy bears witness to the community of their nature “, simply states that if the Spirit has the same energy as the Son and the Father, then it has the same power as them (energy being the manifestation of a power), and if it has the same power as them, then it has the same nature as them (the power being that of a nature), the sentence quoted previously (p. in connection with a preceding sentence of the same section (p.418) evoking Christ and the Spirit: “So one is their activity (ἐνέργεια) and their power (δύναμις). Because all activity is the realization of a power. therefore, if activity and power are one, how is it possible to conjecture a difference of nature in those in whom we find no difference of power or activity? […] Now it has been shown before […] that nature is the same for the Father and the Son […]. So that if the Son is united according to nature to the Father and it has been shown that the Holy Spirit is not alien to the nature of the Son because of the identity of their activities, therefore, he was demonstrated that the nature of the Holy Trinity is one. “

For more details on the positions of Eunome and the three Cappadocians, I refer to my study Theology of divine energies , Cerf, Paris, 2010, p. 145-232; p. 183-232 for Gregory of Nyssa) where I write in particular about Gregory of Nyssa: “The triad essence – power – energy meets several times in the reflections of Gregory on God. Gregory puts the divine energy (or the divine energies) in relation to the divine power and essence. He emphasizes that the essence and the power preexist the energies ( Contra Eunomium , II, 150), this preexistence having to be understood not in a temporal sense but in a sense logical and ontological, the essence being the foundation. This conception does not imply any hierarchical connotation in Gregory and can not be considered as related to neo-Platonic thought; on the contrary, Gregory affirms his conception by opposing that of Eunome, which, in relation to the notions of essence and energy, very clearly establishes a hierarchy between the three hypostases of the Trinity, and is related by this idea of ​​a degradation of divinity, to neo-Platonism. “

Jean-Claude Larchet