Monthly Archives: July 2012

John Chrysostom: On the Priesthood 1.3

I returned from Boston yesterday and found myself sitting in a coffee shop this morning, looking forward to reading a little more of Chrysostom in Greek. I think I’m getting the “tempo” of his Greek after having read a little of him now.

Greek Text:

Πλὴν  ἀλλ’  ἀγαθός τε ὢν καὶ πολλοῦ τὴν ἡμετέραν τιμώμενος φιλίαν, ἁπάντων ἑαυτὸν ἀποστήσας τῶν ἄλλων, ἡμῖν τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον συνῆν, ἐπιθυμῶν μὲν τούτου καὶ πρότερον, ὅπερ δὲ ἔφην, ὑπὸ τῆς ἡμετέρας κωλυόμενος ῥαθυμίας. Οὐ γὰρ ἦν τὸν ἐν τῷ δικαστηρίῳ προσεδρεύοντα καὶ περὶ τὰς ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ τέρψεις ἐπτοημένον συγγίνεσθαι πολλάκις τῷ βίβλοις προσηλωμένῳ καὶ μηδὲ εἰς  γορὰν ἐμβαλόντι ποτέ. Διὰ τοῦτο πρότερον διειργόμενος, ἐπειδή ποτε ἡμᾶς ἔλαβεν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τοῦ βίου κατάστασιν, ἀθρόως ἣν πάλαι ὤδινεν ἐπιθυμίαν ἀπέτεκε τότε καὶ οὐδὲ τὸ βραχύτατον τῆς ἡμέρας ἡμᾶς ἀπολιμπάνειν ἠνείχετο μέρος, διετέλει τε παρακαλῶν ἵνα τὴν οἰκίαν ἀφέντες ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ κοινὴν ἀμφότεροι τὴν οἴκησιν ἔχοιμεν· καὶ ἔπεισε καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἦν ἐν χερσίν. Ἀλλά με αἱ συνεχεῖς τῆς μητρὸς ἐπῳδαὶ διεκώλυσαν δοῦναι ταύτην ἐκείνῳ τὴν χάριν, μᾶλλον δὲ λαβεῖν ταύτην παρ’ ἐκείνου τὴν δωρεάν.

 

My translation:

In addition to being a better man than most, and honoring our friendship, he separated himself from all the others, he associated with us all the time, wishing for how it was before – but just as I said before, he was hindered by our indifference.  For it was not possible for the one regularly attending the law court and excited by the delights of the stage to associate with the one ever fastened to books and never going into the market.  After this was removed, and when he had received us into his state of life, he all at once brought forth the desire which he had long anguished over, and he could not stand to leave us even for the smallest measure of time, and so he persevered calling on each of us to give up our own home in order that we both might have a common home.  He persuaded me and the matter was in hand. But the continuous wailing of my mother hindered me from giving this kindness to him, or rather to receive this gift from him.

 

Issues:

This was fairly straightforward. I’m getting a little less wooden as I become more comfortable with reading Chrysostom. If you find something you think I’m being a little too loose with or if I’ve just misread Chrysostom entirely, please let me know.

Chrysostom’s use of ὤδινεν and ἀπέτεκε is interesting. ὠδίνω means to be in pains due to childbirth, and τίκτω (from which we get ἀπέτεκε) means to give birth to a child. It’s interesting that Chrysostom uses this sort of language before mentioning his own mother whose “continuous wailing” (αἱ συνεχεῖς ἐπῳδαὶ) hindered Chrysostom. Chrysostom’s biological mother is hindering the birth of his friend’s “child”, the desire for a communal life and Christian friendship.

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Noah’s First Attempt

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The Filioque

Here at the Pappas Patristics Institute I’m having the chance to help with a course on the Filioque. The institute is held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, though many of the participants come from a variety of religious backgrounds. It’s great to see such an interest in the Fathers.

In our Filioque course this morning we read some excerpts from Gregory Nazianzus’ oration on the Holy Spirit (31). He states that his purpose in writing this section is:

ἵνα τὸ ἀσύγχυτον σώζηται τῶν τριῶν ὑποστάσεων ἐν τῇ μιᾷ φύσει τε ἀξίᾳ θεότητος

“In order to safeguard the distinction of the three hypostases in the single nature and dignity of the Godhead.”

Thus, for Gregory, the issue is protecting the individual hypostases from Sabellianism, which he identifies in the same passage.  He stresses John 15.26’s use of “procession” as a hypostatic quality of the Holy Spirit.

We also read a bit from Hilary of Poitiers in Book VIII of De Trinitate. Throughout he stresses the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. He makes the point that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son in Jn 16 and is said in 15.26 to proceed from the Father. Does the Spirit receive from the Son alone? Of course not. This would be absurd to Hilary. Likewise, does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone? Hilary would say no. Proceeding is like receiving in that both Son and Father participate.

The issue seems to be where one’s theological emphases are. For Hilary, he has to argue against Arianism. Arianism tried to say that the Son was of a different nature than the Father, overstating the distinction between the hypostases, so Hilary works to show the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. What the Father does, the Son does. Gregory, on the other hand, is dealing with Sabellians (Modalists) for whom there was absolutely no distinction between the hypostases, thus he has to stress the particular hypostatic qualities of each person within the Trinity. Therefore when he comes to Jn 15.26, he cannot say that proceeding (τὸ ἐκπορευτὸν) is like sending, giving, or any other term the Latins use, because that would wreck his argument. He has to find something in Scripture to keep the Holy Spirit hypostatically unique in order to fend off Modalism.

The instructor for the course made a good point concerning these texts: we’re essentially looking at a train wreck that won’t happen for another 400 years. The beliefs of each are wholly orthodox, but the trajectories of these texts point to future problems.  As a Catholic, I’m quite happy to be here discussing these ideas with others, particularly my Orthodox brothers and sisters. We’re far from gathering around the altar and singing  Te Deum, but it never hurts to truly understand the position of another.

 

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A koinonikon: Not as Judas did

I mentioned in a previous post that next week I will be in Boston for the Pappas Summer Patristics Institute, which is held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. One thing I’m looking forward to is getting to attend Vespers while there. A practice that I think my friends in the West have a hard time getting into is venerating icons when one walks into a church. When you enter, you ought to kiss an icon, but do so on the hands or feet and never the face as Judas did. This reminded me of a communion hymn (κοινωνικόν) commonly used in the East:

Greek Text:

Τοῦ δείπνου σου τοῦ μυστικοῦ
σήμερον, ὑιὲ θεοῦ,
κοινωνόν με παράλαβε.
οὐ μὴ γὰρ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς σου
τὸ μυστήριον εἴπω,
οὐ φίλημα σοι δώσω
καθάπερ ᾿Ιούδας,
ἀλλ’ ὡς ὁ λῄστης
ὁμολογῶ σοι
μνήσθητί μου κύριε
ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ σου.

My Translation:

Receive me today as a companion of your mystical meal, O Son of God,

I have not spoken the mystery to your enemies

I will not give kisses to you as Judas did,

But as the thief I speak in agreement:

‘Remember me, Lord, in your Kingdom’

 

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Norman Russell and “one like a son of man”

I started reading Norman Russell’s The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Interestingly, the first three chapters don’t really deal with the Patristic tradition at all, but provide background information on Roman/Hellenistic and Jewish ideas of deification.

Concerning the various theories on the identity of the “one like a son of man” from Daniel 7, Russell states:

The simplest explanation, however, is the most satisfactory. The ‘one like a son of man’ is an angel, probably Michael, entrusted with the protection of the people of Israel. Only later, in Christian tradition and in the Book of Parables (I Enoch 37-71) does he become a Messianic figure, the Elect of God.  (p. 67)

I don’t know 2nd Temple Judaism’s literature, so I was wondering: are angels ever called “sons of men”? The identification of the ‘one like a son of man’ as an angel seems wrong to me, but I’m open to hearing evidence for such a theory.

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Translations of the new Origen homilies

A friend of mine, Alex Poulos, a soon-to-be graduate student in the Greek and Latin program at Catholic University is working his way through the recently discovered Origen homilies. Hop on over to his blog and check out his stuff.

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John Chrysostom: On the Priesthood 1.2

This is the second installment of my little translation of St. John Chrysostom’s De Sacerdotio (On the Priesthood). I’m going to be in Boston next week as a Teaching Fellow at the Pappas Summer Patristics Institute, so I figured I should go ahead and knock a little chunk of this out early because I may not be able to work on it much or at all next week.

Greek Text:

Ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἔδει τὸν μακάριον τὸν τῶν μοναχῶν μεταδιώκειν βίον καὶ τὴν φιλοσοφίαν τὴν ἀληθῆ, καὶ οὐκέτι ἡμῖν ὁ ζυγὸς οὗτος ἴσος ἦν, ἀλλ’ ἡ μὲν ἐκείνου πλάστιγξ ἐκουφίζετο μετέωρος, ἐγὼ δ’ ἔτι ταῖς τοῦ κόσμου πεπεδημένος ἐπιθυμίαις καθεῖλκον τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ καὶ ἐβιαζόμην κάτω μένειν, νεωτερικαῖς αὐτὴν ἐπιβρίθων φαντασίαις, ἐνταῦθα λοιπὸν ἡ μὲν φιλία βέβαιος ἔμενεν ἡμῖν καθάπερ καὶ πρότερον, ἡ δὲ συνουσία διεκόπτετο· οὐ γὰρ ἦν τοὺς μὴ περὶ τὰ αὐτὰσπουδάζοντας κοινὰς ποιεῖσθαι τὰς διατριβάς. Ὡς δέ ποτε καὶ αὐτὸς μικρὸν ἀνέκυψα τοῦ βιωτικοῦ κλύδωνος, δέχεται μὲν ἡμᾶς ἄμφω τὼ χεῖρε, τὴν δὲ ἰσότητα οὐδὲ οὕτως ἰσχύσαμεν φυλάξαι τὴν προτέραν. Καὶ γὰρ τῷ χρόνῳ φθάσας ἡμᾶς καὶ πολλὴν τὴν σφοδρότητα ἐπιδειξάμενος, ἀνωτέρω πάλιν ἡμῶν ἐφέρετο καὶ εἰς ὕψος ᾔρετο μέγα.

My Translation:

But when there was need to pursue the blessed life of the monks and the true philosophy,  no longer was the balance the same for us, but his scale was light, raised high in the air, while I, being shackled with the desires of the world, drew down my own scale and I forced it to remain down, weighing it down with youthful fantasies. While the friendship remained steady even as before,  our time spent together was interrupted.  For where there are not common enthusiasms for the same things, there is no common way of life. But when I lifted myself a little from the worldly wave, he received us with both arms,  we were not able to preserve the former equality.  For outstripping us with respect to time and exhibiting much vehemence, higher still he bore himself and raised himself to a great height.

Issues:

The only issue I had with this text was this weird phrase:  τοῦ βιωτικοῦ κλύδωνος . Perhaps I need to get Lampe’s Patristic Greek dictionary before I go any further, but I’m not sure what a lively wave has to do with this. **I edited it thanks to Josh N’s comment. It’s not very poetic, but it makes more sense.**

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John Chrysostom: On the Priesthood 1.1

I realized awhile ago that I am not a philologist. I do, however, enjoy learning languages and I need to spend more time doing them. So I’ve devised this scheme to help my Greek. I’m going to translate St. John Chrysostom’s De Sacerdotio (On the Priesthood) and then post my “translation” here on my blog. You will see how bad I am at Greek and Notre Dame may rescind their offer and take back my MA. Posting my failures on the internet is not something I’m inclined to do, but I figure this will help me get better at Greek and maybe I’ll become more humble (sainthood, here I come!).

Without further ado, section 1.1 of Chrysostom’s “On the Priesthood”:

Greek Text:

Ἐμοὶ πολλοὶ μὲν ἐγένοντο φίλοι γνήσιοί τε καὶ  ἀληθεῖς, καὶ τοὺς τῆς φιλίας νόμους καὶ εἰδότες καὶ φυλάττοντες  ἀκριβῶς· εἷς δέ τις τουτωνὶ τῶν πολλῶν, ἅπαντας αὐτοὺς ὑπερβαλλόμενος τῇ πρὸς ἡμᾶς φιλίᾳ, τοσοῦτον ἐφιλονείκησεν ἀφεῖναι κατόπιν ἐκείνους ὅσον ἐκεῖνοι τοὺς ἁπλῶς πρὸς ἡμᾶς διακειμένους. Οὗτος τῶν τὸν ἅπαντά μοι χρόνον παρηκολουθηκότων ἦν· καὶ γὰρ μαθημάτων ἡψάμεθα τῶν αὐτῶν καὶ διδασκάλοις ἐχρησάμεθα τοῖς αὐτοῖς, ἦν δὲ ἡμῖν καὶ προθυμία καὶ σπουδὴ περὶ τοὺς λόγους οὓς ἐπονούμεθα μία, ἐπιθυμία τε ἴση καὶ ἐκ τῶν αὐτῶν τικτομένη πραγμάτων· οὐ γὰρ ὅτε εἰς διδασκάλους μόνον ἐφοιτῶμεν,  ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡνίκα ἐκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντας βουλεύεσθαι ἐχρῆν ὁποίαν ἑλέσθαι τοῦ βίου βέλτιον ἡμῖν ὁδόν, καὶ ἐνταῦθα ὁμογνωμονοῦντες ἐφαινόμεθα. Καὶ ἕτερα δὲ πρὸς τούτοις ἡμῖν τὴν ὁμόνοιαν ταύτην ἐφύλαττεν ἀρραγῆ καὶ βεβαίαν· οὔτε γὰρ ἐπὶ πατρίδος μεγέθει μᾶλλον ἕτερος ἑτέρου φρονεῖν εἶχεν, οὔτε ἐμοὶ μὲν πλοῦτος ὑπέρογκος ἦν, ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἐσχάτῃ συνέζη πενίᾳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ τῆς οὐσίας μέτρον τὸ τῆς προαιρέσεως ἰσοστάσιον ἐμιμεῖτο καὶ γένος δὲ ἡμῖν ὁμότιμον ἦν καὶ πάντα τῇ γνώμῃ συνέτρεχεν.

My translation:

I had many true and genuine friends , those who knew the laws of friendship and strictly cherished them.  There was one from among the many who exceeded all the rest in their friendship with us, he was eager to pass by those who were absolutely disposed toward us.  Out of those who were keeping company with me, he was with me all the time.  We availed ourselves of the same lessons and we consulted the same teachers. There was for us a singular eagerness and desire for those studies at which we both worked, and an equal desire was born out of those affairs.  For not only when we were resorting to our teachers, but also thereafter when we left, when it was necessary to deliberate what manner of life seemed better for us to choose, then we showed ourselves to be in agreement.  And there were other things which kept safe for us this unbroken and firm concord.  With respect to the greatness of the fatherland, neither of us had reason to believe one greater than another, nor did I have excessive riches and he excessive poverty, but the proportion of our nature represented the equality of our choices, even our kin were of the same rank and everything agreed with our dispositions.

Some issues I had with this:

ἀφεῖναι (Aor Act Inf ἀφίημι) means something like “let go” or “discharge.” There’s a meaning of “pass by”, but it means to neglect, not as I’m using it here. It was the closest thing that made sense to me. Any suggestions?

οὔτε γὰρ ἐπὶ πατρίδος μεγέθει μᾶλλον ἕτερος ἑτέρου φρονεῖν εἶχεν (With respect to the greatness of the fatherland, neither of us had reason to believe one greater than another) – I feel like I’ve got the sense of this, but maybe I’m way off.

So there’s the first installment in this little humility project. I’ll post 1.2 soon. My goal is to post one of these a week, if not more. If I slack off and don’t hold to this schedule, yell at me in the comments or something.

 

Second installment.

Third installment. 

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Advice on applying to Ph.D programs in Patristics/History of Christianity

Having completed my M.A. in May, I’ve spent the majority of the summer back in my native land (North Carolina) reading and translating. I’m working on a Syriac poem written by Jacob of Edessa. I’m also preparing for my first semester of courses as a doctoral student in the Fall. Having been accepted into the Ph.D program at Notre Dame, I thought I would offer some advice publicly on the Ph.D application process. I had considered writing this later in my Ph.D career,  but because I’ve just gone through the application and interview process in the last year, it made good sense to me to write this. 

My first bit of advice is to visit John Anderson’s blog and read his post on this same subject. 

To give you a run-down of things: I applied to three schools last year: Notre Dame (Theology – History of Christianity), Marquette (Historical Theology), Duke (Religion – Early Christianity). I was accepted at Notre Dame and Marquette and rejected from Duke. Why only three schools? Because of that ever-elusive quality of graduate applications: fit. I could have applied to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and U of Chicago just for fun, and then been subsequently rejected by all of them. That plan seemed neither financially nor emotionally responsible. Notre Dame was my top choice for obvious reasons. We have the sorts of scholars at Notre Dame who do the type of work I hope to do one day. We also have a wide array of interests floating about the department and I like that. Next semester I’m taking: 1) Advanced Syriac 2) Armenian 3) Latin West/Byzantine East and 4) Early Christian Biography. This sort of course selection is one of the advantages to coming to a place like ND.

Also, a bit of ND-specific advice for future applicants: if you are applying to the History of Christianity track, you are applying not just to do one historical period. If you want your application to get sent to the bin, talk non-stop about one topic and one professor in your statement of purpose. We have an amazing Patristics faculty, we have amazing Medievalists, and we have Randall Zachman who is just amazing when it comes to Calvin and Luther. You can mention professor so-and-so in your statement of purpose, but you have to fit the entire track, not just that one person. 

This advice is geared toward those who find themselves entering an M* program this Fall. I think one thing I did wisely at Notre Dame was to take courses in my first semester/year with individuals I knew I wanted to write for me letters of recommendation. I already had a general idea of where I wanted to end up for Ph.D work (Notre Dame) and what I wanted to do (History of Christianity, early through the Reformation). Therefore I found courses that showed an interest in those topics with professors whom I knew could write me good letters. Think about it: most M* degrees are 2 years long. You will begin applying your Fall semester of your second year. Thus, you have 2 semesters and a summer to impress people enough to write for you. Choose wisely.

I also had something of a coherence in my course work. I came out of an amazing undergraduate program at East Carolina University, but both the Classics program and the Religion program were small and thus course selection was not huge. Your schedule was basically determined for you by the offerings. This was not the case for me when I came to Notre Dame. When you sign onto the site where you can view and register for the courses, it is a buffet. You suddenly find that you would love to take 20 hours as a graduate student because you want all of that knowledge in your head now. This is noble, but misguided. Think about what sort of scholar you want to be when you leave your Ph.D program. Do you have even a vague idea of what you’d like to work on? I knew from the beginning of my time at ND that I have interests in Patristic, Medieval, and Reformation readings of the Psalter. I’ve taken courses on those topics as well as other relevant courses. My M.A. coursework made sense – especially to anyone on the Ph.D admissions committee who read my statement of purpose and then looked over the courses. 

 

Study languages. So many languages. Languages are the perennial concern of Ph.D programs in Patristics/History of Christianity. We deal with many authors in many languages, be they primary sources in Latin or Greek, or secondary scholarship in French or German. I was fortunate to basically knock out all of my language requirements during my M.A., so the Ph.D committee had nothing to worry about. I had already passed the Advanced Greek course and taken the Latin exam. I’ve also passed the French exam (curieusement). I also took up Syriac during my M.A. and I’ve done well with that. That I was able to knock out future language requirements had to have been a benefit to my application. As a side note: because of this, I’m now able to keep pursuing Syriac instead of having to take mandatory Greek and Latin courses, and I’m beginning Armenian in the Fall. Yes, I will be the least useful person on the planet if I have my way. 

Take the GRE seriously. I hate the GRE and I am in no way a fan of anyone involved with it. I think the GRE is a great way to test whether you can study for and take the GRE. That’s about it. It certainly weeds out some people who shouldn’t be applying to graduate school in the first place, but it’s still a stupid test. That said: take it seriously. I didn’t do well the first time I took the GRE, but thankfully the rest of my application was strong and Notre Dame let me in. I knew full well what my competition looked like when it came time to apply for the Ph.D. I studied like mad for it. This is not a position you want to find yourself in while in the middle of your M*. You have enough work as is, so don’t put yourself in a position where you have to retake the GRE. If you’re in this position, study like crazy. You might hate it as I do, but grad schools and committees love it. It’s an easy-to-understand metric. The GRE gets nobody into graduate school, it just keeps people out. Do well enough that you don’t have to worry about it keeping you out.

 

Once you’re in the actual application process: make it easy on your recommenders. They likely have to write letters for other individuals. As brilliant as your work was, chances are they don’t remember every aspect of everything you’ve written for them. What I did was create a CD for each of my recommenders which had:

1) Every paper I had written for them

2) Every course I took with them 

3) My statement of purpose

4) My transcripts

5) A word document with a list of schools to which I was applying, the specific programs, the due dates of all the letters, and the contact information for the DGS. 

 

This, I think, makes it easier on them. They don’t have to scramble through emails or try to remind themselves which paper was yours. Be helpful, but not pushy. If they ask for something else, respond in a timely manner. Also, once the process is all over and the applications are in, be sure to write a thank you note. I gave my recommenders a little note and a small gift card to Starbucks. Being collegial is a big part of making graduate studies go smoothly. 

 

As for the interview weekend: one thing I think I did well was to read an article or a chapter in a book from each person with whom I was interviewing. I had already read a lot of their work – that’s the reason I was at Notre Dame for my M.A. But I went back and read specific articles. I found this helpful numerous times during the day, particularly as an internal candidate. I didn’t have the questions outsiders have – I know how the department works, which professors do what, how awful it is to live in South Bend, etc. To avoid sitting there for 20 mins and staring at one another, you can read an article and say, “So, I read your article on X and I was particularly surprised by….” One of my interviews was with the former DGS of the Theology department, Dr. Matovina. He studies Latino Catholicism. If you’ve read my blog, you know this isn’t exactly my area. I found an awesome article of his that actually brought up early modern American Latino readings of Augustine. I think he was pleased I had even bothered to read the article and I liked getting the chance to pick his brain during the interview process. 

Other schools may have different ways of interviewing, but I found that the professors with whom I spoke at ND had a few questions, but really just wanted to see how the conversation went. If you bother to read their work (and you should have already – why else are you applying?!), you’ll find your conversations go a lot more smoothly. 

 

That’s basically all I can think of right now. If you have specific questions, feel free to email me or look me up on Facebook. I’m happy to answer what I can about the process, particularly as it relates to Notre Dame. 

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