06 April 2016

Patristics (2016): 6, The Legacy,
especially for Anglicans

‘The Cambridge Triumvirate’ ... Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort are commemorated side-by-side in the Ante-Chapel in Trinity College Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Introduction to Patristics,

Brown Room,

Wednesdays, 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

Outline of Module:

10.30 a.m., 23 March 2016: Introducing Patristics

2, 11.30 a.m., 23 March 2016: The Apostolic Fathers

3, 10.30 a.m., 30 March 2016: The Greek Fathers

4, 11.30 a.m., 30 March 2016: The Latin Fathers

5, 10.30 a.m., 6 April 2016: The Desert Fathers

6, 11.30 a.m., 6 April 2016: The Legacy, especially for Anglicans

Wednesday, 6 April 2016:

6, 11.30 a.m.: The Legacy, especially for Anglicans

Traditional Anglican theology and Patristics:

Fenton Hort … the Dublin-born member of the ‘Cambridge Triumvirate’

There was a time when a course in Patristics would have been one of the core First Year modules for ordinands in Anglican theological colleges. Scholars like Bishop Joseph Lightfoot (1828-1899), Bishop Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) and Professor Fenton Hort (1828-1892) – known as the ‘Cambridge Triumvirate’ – placed Patristics at the heart of Anglican theology from the late 19th century on, for many generations.

Anglican theology has traditionally sought to be rooted in the writings of the Early Fathers and the Early Church.

But how did the Patristic writers and writings comes to play an important part in the development of Anglican theology?

Patristics, Byzantines and the Renaissance

Saint Catherine’s Church, Iraklion ... at the centre of the Cretan School of Iconography (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The discovery or rediscovery of Patristic writings is a contributing factor in the Renaissance and the Reformation. The renaissance ushered in an urge to rediscover the writers of antiquity, including Patristic writings. The monastic libraries of Italy, Germany, France and England, were combed in the search for works by once-known but long-forgotten writers.

A group of scholars, known as the Florentine humanists, including Niccolò Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini are key figures in this development in the 15th century. Another key factor in the rediscovery of Patristic texts at that time is the Council of Constance (1414-1418).

In 1416, Poggio visited the monastery of Saint Gall with Bartholomeus Montepolitianus and Cencius Romanus, and Poggio returned in 1417 to look for more manuscripts, and his discoveries included a volume of Tertullian. Later, he found more works by Tertullian in Cluny, while others found collected works by Tertullian in other monastic houses, and Niccolò Nicholi copied many of these manuscripts in Florence.

Within a few decades, the migration of waves of Byzantine scholars and émigrés following the Ottoman sack of Constantinople and the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, contributed to the revival of Greek and Roman studies that led to the development of the Renaissance humanism and science. These émigrés included grammarians, humanists, poets, writers, printers, lecturers, musicians, astronomers, architects, academics, artists, scribes, philosophers, scientists, politicians and theologians.

They brought to Western Europe the preserved and accumulated knowledge of Greek civilisation, they taught Greek in universities or privately, and they helped to spread ancient texts.

The island of Crete remained a Byzantine outpost and a stronghold of Byzantine scholarship. Crete was under Venetian rule, and so Crete was a source of another outpouring of Byzantine learning into Northern Europe, especially notable through the Cretan School of icon-painting.

After 1453, this became the most important centre of scholarship in the Greek world, and its students who moved to northern and western Europe included Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco. By 1500, there was a Greek-speaking community of about 5,000 in Venice.

Patristics and the Reformers

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer … draws extensively on Saint Ambrose of Milan and introduces the Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

The discovery or rediscovery of Patristic writings in the decades that came after this Byzantine exodus must be considered in any effort to understand the intellectual factors that contributed to the Reformation.

Martin Luther is heavily indebted to the writings of Augustine. Alister McGrath argues that the distinctiveness of John Calvin’s theology may lie in his rediscovery and close reading of Augustine’s writings. For the young Calvin, reform entailed a rediscovery of the Scriptures – and a rediscovery of the theology of the patristic writings from the first five centuries, so that he believed Saint John Chrysostom’s sermons should be available in the vernacular French.

Thomas Cranmer draws extensively on Patristic sources and uses them confidently for his liturgical reforms. Although he downplays realist language in his translations and interpretations of Justin Martyr and Hilary, he appropriates Saint Ambrose of Milan in articulating his understanding of the ‘real presence’ in the Eucharist. In relying on Ambrose, he uses the newly-published four-volume collection of his works prepared by Erasmus in 1527.

Throughout his writings, Cranmer refers consistently to the Early Fathers and their texts, not as Patristic sources but as “the authors” and “the authorities.” He draws not only on Ambrose of Milan, but also on Cyprian and John Chrysostom, introducing the “Prayer of Saint Chrysostom” into Anglican liturgy.

The Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer appeals to the “ancient Fathers,” and the 1552 Act of Parliament speaks of The Book of Common Prayer and appeals to the “Word of God and the Primitive Church.”

Archbishop Matthew Parker at the entrance to the chapel of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge … devoted himself to Scriptural and Patristic studies (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

The Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, devoted himself to Scriptural and Patristic study, going through all the orthodox fathers and decrees of all the councils.

Later, in the late 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII, who gives his name to the Gregorian Calendar, founded the College of Saint Athanasius (San Athanasio) in Rome in 1577 for Greek scholars and refugees.

By then, the Fathers of the Church and the Doctors of the Church were shaping Anglican theological understanding.

When Queen Elizabeth I addressed the Spanish Ambassador through Lord Cecil as an intermediary in 1561, she informed him that the English would attend the Council of Trent if the Christian princes decided the place of meeting, the Pope presided as head of the Council but not as “universal Bishop”, and that any dogmatic definitions should be drawn from Scripture, the consensus of doctors and the rulings of the ancient councils. She also demanded that all the English bishops be granted an equal voice and vote with the other bishops in the proceedings.

It is Elizabeth who said: “We and our people – thanks be to God – follow no novel and strange religion, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the most early Fathers.”

John Jewel (1522-1571) ... the first Anglican apologist and the ‘worthiest divine Christendom hath bred’

John Jewel (1522-1571), who is known as the first Anglican Apologist, acted as notary for Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley at their trials in Oxford, and later became Bishop of Salisbury (1560-1571). Throughout his sermons and writings, Jewel appealed regularly to the following sources of authority:

● old Catholic Doctors;

● the Fathers;

● the General Councils;

● the Holy Scriptures of God;

● the example of the Primitive Church.

John Jewel wrote in his Apology: “What, have Christ and his Apostles, and so many Fathers all erred? What, are Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Gelasius and Theodoret Apostates from the Catholick Faith? Was the Consent of so many Bishops and Learned men, nothing but a Conspiracy of Hereticks? or that which was commendable in them, is it now blameable in us?”

His implied answer is obvious – he clearly thinks that this would be self-evidently false.

In the Apology, Jewel claims the Church of England is in the true line of succession from the early Church Fathers, and claims that the Catholicity of the Church of England is provided by its doctrinal succession from the Apostles. Evidence for this claim of Catholicity is gathered through comparing the Church of England’s doctrine with that of the Church of the first six centuries.

In the year Jewel died, the Elizabethan Canons of the Church of England (1571) stated of the clergy: “But chiefly they shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe, and believe, but that which is agreeable to the doctrine of the old Testament, and the new, and that which the catholic fathers, and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that doctrine … He that doth otherwise, or troubleth the people with contrary doctrine, shall be excommunicated.”

This Elizabethan canon of 1571 has since been regarded as having the highest importance. It is quoted by Richard Bancroft (1544-1610), Archbishop of Canterbury (1604-1610), who ordered Jewel’s Apology to be placed in all parish churches throughout England in 1609.

In his preface, Bancroft quoted the Elizabethan canon to show that “this is and hath been the open profession of the Church of England, to defend and mainteine no other Church, Faith, and Religion, than that which is truly Catholike and Apostolike, and for such warranted, not only by the written word of God, but also by the testimonie and consent of the ancient and godly Fathers.”

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes by the high altar in the Church of Saint Mary Overie, then in the Diocese of Winchester but now Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), who had oversight of the translation of the Authorised Version or King James Version of the Bible, summarised the sources of Anglican theology, saying: “One Canon of Scripture which we refer to God, two Testaments, three Creeds, the first four Councils, five centuries and the succession of the Fathers in these centuries, three centuries before Constantine, two centuries after Constantine, draw the rule of our religion.”

Later, the Caroline Divine, John Cosin (1594-1672), Bishop of Durham (1660-1672) and the principal reviser of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, wrote: “We are no more followers of Luther or Calvin than of the Pope, where either they or he fall away from Holy Scripture, or cease to walk in the footsteps of the old Fathers who consent in the Catholic Faith.”

John Bramhall (1594-1663), Archbishop of Armagh ... portrait in the Old Library in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His contemporary and another Caroline Divine, John Bramhall (1594-1663), Bishop of Derry (1634-1661) and Archbishop of Armagh (1661-1663), wrote in 1654:

“We do not only admit oral traditions in general, as an excellent introduction to the doctrine of saving truth, and a singular help to expound the holy Scriptures, but also particular unwritten traditions, derived from the Apostles, and delivered unto us by the manifest testimony of the primitive Church, being agreeable to the holy Scriptures. The Apostles did speak by inspiration, as well as write; and their tradition, whether by word or writing, indifferently, was the Word of God, into which Faith was resolved ... St Augustine setteth us down a certain rule, how to know a true genuine Apostolical tradition: ‘Whatsoever,’ saith he, ‘the universal Church doth hold, which has not been instituted by Councils, but [nevertheless] always received, is most rightly believed to have been delivered by Apostolical authority’.”

And again, in his Answer to Théophile Brachet de la Milletière, he wrote: “We receive not your upstart suppositious traditions, nor unwritten fundamentals: but we admit genuine, universal, Apostolical traditions; as, the Apostles’ Creed, the perpetual Virginity of the Mother of God, the anniversary Festivals of the Church, the Lenten Fast … We believe Episcopacy to an ingenious person may be proved out of Scripture without Tradition; but to such as are froward, the perpetual practice and tradition of the Church renders the interpretation of the text more authentic, and the proof more convincing.”

Bramhall also wrote: “No, sir, we cannot pin our Faith upon the sleeve of any particular man: as one used to say, We love no isms, neither Calvinism, nor Lutheranism, nor Jansenianism, but only one that we derive from Antioch, that is, Christianism.”

As he lay dying, Thomas Ken (1637-1711), the most eminent of the Non-Juring bishops, declared: “I am dying in the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; and, more particularly, in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from both Papal and Protestant innovation, and adheres to the Doctrine of the Cross.”

In the 20th century, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher of Canterbury said: “The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practise, creed, or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”

The Four Councils

The “Four Councils” are:

1, Nicaea I (325): the Defeat of Arianism
2, Constantinople I (381): definitive teaching on the Holy Spirit
3, Ephesus (431): the defeat of Nestorianism
4, Chalcedon (451): the triumph of orthodox Christology

What about three later ecumenical councils?

5, Constantinople II (553): the victory over Monthelitism
6, Constantinople III (680-681): boycotted by the Pope, but forced to accept it
7, Nicaea II (787): ends the Iconclastic controversy, ‘The Triumph of Orthodoxy’

Anglican writers usually affirm these three later councils as orthodox to the degree that they are consistent with, while adding nothing to, the substance of dogma defined by the first four councils.

The Elizabethan Act of Supremacy of 1559 makes the first four Ecumenical Councils the standards for judging heresy, while the Homilies, which were authorised at a secondary level, and a consensus of the later divines reaffirm the universal acceptance of the first six councils.

The rejection of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II (787), was initially based on a Latin translation that actually misrepresented a key teaching of the Council and supported λατρεία (latreía) being given to icons or images, rather than dulia (Greek δουλεία). Did the council mean honour, veneration or worship?

At the seventh session of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II, on 13 October 787, the Church decisively affirmed the pace of icons within worship. Icons were recognised as an integral part of liturgical worship and of the historic Christian Faith.

Indeed, iconoclasm was never the official Anglican policy, either in theory or in practice. The Elizabethan Injunctions of 1559 only demand the removal from houses of “abused images, tables, pictures, paintings, and other monuments to feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition” (emphasis added).

We know many images in the Church of England were not destroyed, and certainly every church still had a table – the Lord’s Table. The condemnation in 1571 of the “Worshipping and Adoration” of images is a very strong phrase that corresponds with the very latreia that Nicaea II also condemns if directed towards images.

In the early 1600s, James I specifically denied being an iconomachus, and said: “I quarrel not with the making of images, either for public decoration or for men’s private uses.” In same decade, the Dean of Gloucester, Richard Field (1561-1616), stated that “there are but Seven General Councils that the whole Church acknowledgeth called to determine faith and morals.”

Various Caroline Divines used better translations of the Council to defend it as legitimate in itself, although they still decried the way its teaching had been applied or even ignored in the West. Andrewes, Cosin, Laud and others upset the Puritans with their increased use of images, crucifixes, candles and incense and imagery never disappeared from the Church of England, especially in stained glass windows. So, Archbishop Bramhall could say succinctly of the decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils: “I know of none we need to fear.”

What about later councils and Anglican acceptance of them? Dean Field in his early 17th century defence of the Anglican position, Of the Church (1606, 1610), said of the Catholic Church that “we hold it never falleth into any heresy.” He also noted that later Western Councils were not ecumenical because they lacked participation by Eastern bishops.

These Anglican divines of the 17th century held the Fathers of the Church in special Esteem. Archbishop Michael Ramsey points out:

Whereas the Edwardian and Elizabethan divines had been interested in the Fathers chiefly as a means of proving what had or had not been the primitive doctrine and practice, the Caroline divines went farther in using the thought and piety of the Fathers within the structure of their own theological exposition. Their use of the Fathers had these two noteworthy characteristics. (1) Not having, as did the Continental Reformers, a preoccupation with the doctrines of justification or predestination they followed the Fathers of the Nicene age in treating the Incarnation as the central doctrine of the faith. Indeed a feeling of the centrality of the Incarnation became a recurring feature of Anglican divinity, albeit the Incarnation was seen as S. Athanasius saw it in its deeply redemptive aspect. (2) Finding amongst the Fathers the contrast of Greek and Latin divinity, the Anglican divines could be saved from western narrowness, and were conscious that just as the ancient undivided Church embraced both East and West so too the contemporary Catholic Church was incomplete without the little known Orthodox Church of the East as well as the Church in the West, Latin, Anglican and Reformed. The study of the Fathers created the desire to reach out to Eastern Christendom. Thus did Anglican theology find in the study of the Fathers first a gateway to the knowledge of what was scriptural and primitive, subsequently a living tradition which guided the interpretation of Scripture, and finally a clue to the Catholic Church of the past and the future: in the words of Lancelot Andrewes, ‘the whole Church Catholic, Eastern, Western, our own.’ [AM Ramsey, ‘The Ancient Fathers and Modern Anglican Theology,’ Sobornost, Series 4:6 Winter-Spring 1962.]

Later Anglican developments

Bishop John Jebb of Limerick … extolled adherence to the Catholic Faith as received in the primitive and purest ages of Christianity

The liturgies of the Patristic period were of interest to a small group of Anglican theologians in the 18th century, including Hamon L’Estrange and Edward Stephens, and the Nonjuror Thomas Brett, who studied the Jerusalem Liturgy of Saint James and the Syrian Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII.

The influence of the Nonjurors’ understanding of Patristic liturgical texts passed through the Scottish Episcopal Church to the Episcopal Church in the US, and informed many 20th century Anglican liturgical reforms.

Although there was a decline in Patristic studies among 18th century Latitudinarian theologians, there was a new appeal to Patristic sources by Anglican theologians. In 1833, Dean Burgon spoke of the “residuum of the altar-fires of a long succession of holy and earnest men.”

They must include John Jebb (1775-1833), the Bishop of Limerick(1823-1833), who claimed that this adherence to the Catholic Faith as received in the primitive and purest ages of Christianity is what especially characterises Anglicanism and distinguishes Anglicanism from every other reformed communion.

This is what Jebb describes as her “peculiar character” in that it derives all “that is to be believed for necessity of salvation,” from the Scripture alone but resorts to the concurrent sense of the Church catholic, for assistance in the interpretation of the sacred text and for guidance in those matters of religion, which the text has left at large: and herein she differs from every reformed communion.”

Jebb is a pioneer of and anticipates the movement that includes the unbroken continuity of the Church and the via media character of Anglicanism. He was a great advocate of the rule of Vincent of Lérins, which he said had been received, extolled and acted upon by such theologians as Ridley, Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, Bramhall and Jeremy Taylor.

The 19th century Anglican recovery of Patristics

The University Church of Saint Mary, Oxford … John Keble’s sermon here marks the beginning of the Tractarian Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On his election as Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge in 1816, Bishop John Kaye (1783-1853), Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, became the first Anglican theologian in the 19th century to recall theological students to the study of the Fathers.

The publication of William Palmer’s Antiquities of the English Ritual with a Dissertation on Primitive Liturgies in 1832 is a chief factor in the preparation for the Tractarian movement. Palmer insisted on “the almost forgotten fact that the Prayer Book is mainly a translation from earlier office-books, and so represents the descent of the Reformed Church of England from the church of earlier days.”

The Tractarian Movement begins the following year, with John Keble's Assize Sermon in the University Church of Saint Mary, Oxford.

A copy of the portrait of Newman as a cardinal, by Sir John Everett Milais, in University Church Dublin … his theology is marked by a ‘rediscovery’ of Patristic writers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The theology of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) in particular is marked by a “rediscovery” of Patristic writers. Archbishop Michael Ramsey claimed that next to the Reformers in the 16th century and the Caroline Divines in the 17th century, it was the Tractarians who specially cherished the appeal to the Fathers.

The 19th century Tractarians built their theology on the Caroline Divines and so were led to Patristic sources. Their sought to focus on the doctrine and discipline of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and so they turned to both patristic theologians and to those 17th century theologians whose classical Anglican mind had been formed by them.

There they found that reading the Bible should be mediated not primarily through the secondary sources of post-Reformation manuals – what CS Lewis calls “new books” – but through the “old books” of the Fathers of the Church, who were the first to recognise and receive the Christian biblical canon, which is the spirit of the English Reformers.

The Tractarians represent either a rediscovery or new point of departure, and through their rediscovery of Patristic writings reclaim the continuity of Anglicanism with the ancient Catholic Church. In doing this they avoid the false division of theology and spirituality, of the mind and the heart, of thought and feeling – what TS Eliot describes as “a dissociation of sensibility” when he discusses the metaphysical poets of the 17th century.

Renewed Scholarship

Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort have changed how we now read the Greek text of the New Testament (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This engagement with Patristic sources also inspired a renewal in Biblical scholarship. The second half of the 19th century was an exciting time with discovery or rediscovery of Biblical and Patristic texts, bringing the increased availability of patristic texts.

The Codex Sinaiticus came to the attention of scholars in the 19th century after its discovery in 1859 in Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, and the Codex Bezae was edited in Cambridge in 1864.

The twin sisters Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920), who were born in Scotland and lived in Cambridge, captured the imagination of the world of academic theology with their discovery of the Syriac Sinaiticus on one of their many journeys to Mount Sinai. It was the most important manuscript find since that of the Codex Sinaiticus. Their contribution to “cataloguing the Arabic and Syriac manuscripts at Saint Catherine’s Monastery was literally incalculable.” Their exciting story is told by Professor Janet Soskice of Cambridge in Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels (London: Vintage, 2009).

In addition, the Didache, one of the earliest manuals of Christian morals, liturgy and practice, was found in 1875 in a library in Constantinople, and the Apostolic Tradition, attributed to the 3rd century Roman theologian Hippolytus, was published in 1900. The Apostolic Tradition contains the full text of a Eucharistic liturgy, and was highly influential in the decades that followed.

It was in this climate that Bishop Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) and the Dublin-born Professor Fenton Hort (1828-1892) – known with Bishop Joseph Lightfoot (1828-1899), as the ‘Cambridge Triumvirate’ – drew extensively on the Codex Vaticanus as they reshaped our knowledge and understanding of the Greek text of the New Testament. These three also placed Patristics at the heart of Anglican theology from the late 19th century on, for many generations.

A brass on the north wall of the Ante-Chapel in Trinity College, Cambridge, recalls that Fenton Hort was born in Dublin; the inscription was composed by his son, Sir Arthur Hort (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Catholic and Orthodox rediscoveries

Georges Florovsky (top) and (bottom, from left): Vladimir Lossky, Metropolitan John Zizioulas with Archbishop Rowan Williams

Jacques Paul Migne (1800-1875) published editions of various early theological texts in two massive compilations: Patrologia Latina (1844-1855) and Patrologia Graeca (1857-1866).

Migne’s editions made many original texts available popularly for the first time, and contributed to a revival of Patristic studies among Roman Catholics in the 20th century.

Robert J Hurley (Hermeneutics and Catechesis, University Press of America, 1997) says the twin influences of Biblical renewal and the rediscovery of Patristic sources effected a metamorphosis of Roman Catholic theology in the 20th century.

In the mid-20th century, some French theologians, including Henri de Lubac, Jean Danélou, Henri Bouillard, Yves Congar, Louis Bouyer and Marie-Dominique Chenu, and the Swiss, Hans Urs von Balthasar, initiated a remarkable theological movement termed ressourcement theology. They shared a common belief that the writings of the Early Church are an incomparable source for the contemporary renewal of the Church. There they found sources for a deeper understanding of the Gospel in our world and for the renewal of liturgy and sustaining spiritual life.

These ressourcement theologians turned to the work of great patristic theologians and writers such as Origen, Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, John of Damascus, and Thomas Aquinas. In these Patristic writers, they recovered crucial sources for the revitalisation of contemporary theology and pastoral life.

It is often said that the Orthodox do not consider the Patristic era to be a moment of the past, but that it continues in an unbroken succession of enlightened teachers from the Apostles to the present day.

However, there has been an interesting reawakening of interest in Patristic theology in Orthodoxy from the early 20th century. A contributing factor was the flight of many Orthodox theologians from Russia after the Russian Revolution. They founded centres of Orthodox theology in the West, including the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris and Orthodox Seminary of Saint Vladimir in Crestwood, New York.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979) and Vladimir Lossky (1903-1958) in particular opposed the efforts of the Slavophile movement to identify a uniquely Russian approach to Orthodox theology. Instead, they advocated a return to the Greek fathers in what Florovsky called a “Neo-Patristic Synthesis,” and they set the course for Orthodox theology in the 20th century.

In the 1940s, Russian émigré theologians rediscovered the ascetic-theology of Saint Gregory Palamas. From this rediscovery, the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas became the basis for an articulation of an Orthodox theological identity apart from Roman Catholic and Protestant influences.

Lossky, who was the subject of Archbishop Rowan William’s doctoral work, argued (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1944) that Orthodox theologians maintained the mystical dimension of theology in a more integrated way than those of the Catholic and Reformed traditions because the Western traditions misunderstood Greek terms such as οὐσία (ousia), ὑπόστᾰσις (hypostasis), θέωσης (theosis), and θεωρία (theoria).

To illustrate his argument, he cites the Philokalia and Saint John Klimakos and the Ladder of Divine Ascent, as well as works by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory Nazianzus, and Saint Gregory Palamas.

Florovsky was particularly concerned that modern Christian theology might receive inspiration from the lively intellectual debates of the Patristic traditions of the undivided Church rather than from later Scholastic or Reformation categories of thought. Among his pupils is the theologian Metropolitan Bishop John Zizioulas. We see his influence too in the writings of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and others.

The impact of Florovsky and Lossky soon spread beyond the Slavic Orthodoxy, and as the first generation of Russian émigré theologians died out, their approach was taken up in the post-war years by Greek theologians.

Until the 1950s, Greek theology had tended towards a scholastic approach, which David Ford characterises as “doctrinal capita with patristic catenae added.”

This post-war re-engagement by modern Greek theologians with Patristic sources also drew on the work of diaspora theologians and Western patristic scholars. It led to a rediscovery by Greek theologians of Saint Gregory Palamas, and with a rediscovery, for example of the Hesychast theologians, and in particular of the practice of the Jesus Prayer.

This rediscovery of the significance of Patristic writings in the 19th and 20th centuries by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant theologians also contributed to fresh understandings of the Liturgy and informed the development of the Liturgical Movement in the 20th century. In particular, the Didache and the Apostolic Tradition helped to shape much of our present-day liturgical understandings.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 6 April 2016 concluded the Year I MTh module, Introduction to Patristics.

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