24 November 2010

Eucharistic Ontology: An Addendum on Fr Nicholas Loudovikos in English


In this post from the Spring of 2009, I strongly recommended the theology of Protopresbyter Nicholas Loudovikos of the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki. At that time, I wrote that ‘none of Fr Loudovikos’s work has, to my knowledge, yet been published in English’, but added, ‘If I remember correctly, an English translation of another book, Η Ευχαριστιακή Οντολογία (Athens: Domos, 1992), is in the works...’ I’m afraid I must admit that around the time that I wrote the original post, at least one of Fr Nicholas’s articles—a fine critique of some of the theological positions of his former teacher, the renowned Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon—was already being published in English under the title, ‘Person Instead of Grace & Dictated Otherness: John Zizioulas’ Final Theological Position’, The Heythrop Journal XLVIII (2009), pp. 1-16. I should have noted this and at least written an addendum to the original post some time ago.

Well, as many of you may know already, the second statement has proved to be correct, and the said translation having been completed, the first statement is now doubly if not triply untrue. Holy Cross Press has published this book, which when I talked with him in 2007 Fr Nicholas spoke of often as one of his more important, under the title, A Eucharistic Ontology: Maximus the Confessor’s Eschatological Ontology of Being as Dialogical Reciprocity (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2010). Here is Fr Andrew Louth’s blurb about the book as posted on Amazon:

In this remarkable book, Fr Nikolaos Loudovikos brings his profound knowledge of the greatest of Byzantine theologians, St Maximus the Confessor, into dialogue with the recent currents of philosophy and theology in the West. This in itself is rare enough, but his central claim—that who we really are is disclosed in our final destiny in God—is one that he shows is rooted in our participation in the Eucharist. This is an intellectually demanding work, but in it Fr Loudovikos never loses sight of the fact that what he has to say bears directly on how we understand what it is to live as a Christian in the twenty-first century.

I myself have not yet read the book in Greek, much less English (though if there remain any generous readers out there willing to help a brother out, I would be delighted to find a copy in the mail!), but I have little doubt that it will prove to be very much worthwhile. The title may sound a bit unwieldy and pretentious, though it doesn’t strike me as nearly so bad in Greek, but Fr Loudovikos is a theologian who really must become better known in the English-speaking world. Order this book now!

22 comments:

avowofconversation said...

Sigh! I thought that I had just established something of a list of priorities of books to begin buying - and now you've gone and messed it up! This looks like it deserves to be moved close to the top, especially since I happened to chance upon a volume of St Maximus this afternoon and decided it was time to finally take the plunge and at least begin reading him...

Macrina

aaronandbrighid said...

Well, messing up neat book-buying priorities is perhaps the very raison d'etre of this blog! By the way, on the subject of reading St Maximus, the 'Chapters on Love' seem to be often translated and anthologised, but I recommend also striking out a bit and reading the less common 'Mystagogy of the Church'. And as far as introductions go, Fr Louth of course has a very nice one in the volume on St Maximus that he did for Routledge's Early Church Fathers series.

avowofconversation said...

Done, or at least begun. The volume I took out of the university library is the Classics of Western Spirituality series, Selected Writings, and includes the Trial of Maximus, The Four Hundred Chapters on Love, the Commentary on the Our Father, Chapters on Knowledge, and the Church's Mystagogy. Having read the Introduction by Jaroslav Pelikan last night, I was going to begin at the beginning, but your reply prompted me to begin with the last one. It seems like a good idea!

And, yes, Father Louth's book is definitely on my to-be-acquired-and-read list.

Macrina

David.R said...

Aaron:
I'm not sure if you have read a posted homily of Fr Nicholas at;
http://www.oodegr.com/english/asynithista/empeiries/xwrikoi1.htm
"Simple Village Folk Who Saw the Uncreated Light"
In the light of his experience, I only hope that Fr Nicholas in his theology is closer to St Gregory Palamas.

aaronandbrighid said...

Macrina> Good! That's the most readily available translation of that treatise that I know of.

David> No, I hadn't read that! When you say you hope his theology is 'closer' to St Gregory, do you mean closer to St Gregory than Metropolitan John's theology?

David.R said...

Yes. I have this issue in my list
of things to heck out. Does Dr.Zizioulas teach that Grace is created?
I sent you some links via e-mail.

aaronandbrighid said...

David> I couldn't comment on that. What he says about the essence/energies distinction in some places might bring him close to such an affirmation, but I really don't know. Actually, Macrina may have read more of him than I!

On the subject of Fr Nicholas, I can assure you that he is fully faithful to St Gregory. He's a Thessalonian after all!

David.R said...

I am also concerned with the possibility that Dr. Zizioulas in his book 'Being as Communion' is nothing less than affirming the concept of analogia entis between God and man.
The implications of all of this would be staggering because IF, and please underline IF, Dr Zizioulas teaching state that
1.Grace is created.
2.There is no distinction between Essence and Energy in God.
3.There is analogy of being betweeen God and man.

Then the above is nothing less than Barlaamism, that is heresy.

Taylor said...

Logismoi readers may find it interesting that the English translation of this book was funded, at least in part, by Vatopedi Monastery of Mount Athos.

aaronandbrighid said...

David> I could see that accusation perhaps having some validity, but I seem to recall His Eminence offering what struck me as a reasonable denial of it in one of the essays in the new book. I'm not sure but that the heresy of analogia entis may be too broadly interpreted these days.

Taylor> I did not know that. Very interesting!

J.Sanidopoulos said...

Thanks for making me aware of the book. I was at Holy Cross today, so I decided to get it. In gratitude I will quote you something from p. 9 in his Intro in light of some comments here: "I have critiqued the personalism of Berdyaev, Yannaras and Zizioulas in various books (some of which will soon be available in English)..." So it looks like Holy Cross is producing these texts in English soon much like they did with Yannaras' books. The funny thing is that right after saying this he says he will not repeat his criticisms of Zizioulas in this Intro, then for the next page criticizes Zizioulas until he repeats himself by saying that he didn't intend to "fully" critique Zizioulas in the Intro.

aaronandbrighid said...

John> I'm glad to have done you this service! And if Fr Nicholas is inconsistent, at least it's for a good cause! ;-)

aaronandbrighid said...

Btw, John, that's good news about his publishing future. Thanks for sharing...

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I just started Eucharistic Ontology. The introduction is astonishingly concise, and in places sublime, due (I'm sure Fr Nikolaos would agree) to the subject matter being St Maximos' writings, particularly on the Eucharist.

Zizioulas does not write (anywhere that I've read) that Divine Grace is created. I don't know where someone would get that, other than a misreading. He is very dense reading, and perhaps easily misunderstood for that, but such a claim is simply eisegesis. If I'm following the pointers in his introduction correctly, Fr Loudovikos appears to be addressing the focus of Metr John on a view of personhood in communion which insufficiently accounts for the individual in theosis (something that did bother me, in retrospect, in reading Being as Communion). His is a corrective critique of Metr John, yet one that also avoids the solipsistic individualism that is the beating heart of modern European philosophy. This is truly Orthodox philosophy, which is to say, simply an explanation of life as a Christian.

The two further books of Fr Nikolaos which "will soon appear in English" are Closed Spirituality and the Meaning of the Self (2009) and Apophatic Ecclesiology of Consubstantiality (2002), he says (p. ix), "thus forming a kind of trilogy, respectively comprising eschatological ontology, anthropology, and ecclesiology as parts of a developing line of thought."

Apophatically Speaking said...

I must concur with Kevin, I have not encountered in Met. Zizioulas the understanding that grace is created. The distinction between essence and energies is firmly maintained, albeit formulated in a different way as one encounters it in Lossky for instance. Papanikolaou's "Being with God" can be recommended for a closer look at this. Just received Eucharistic Ontology and looking forward starting on it soon.

Acolyte4236 said...

I've recently acquired the work after seeing it. I am much heartened that this kind of material is now making its way from Greek into English. In the last ten years or so there has been a flurry of monographs on Maximus, some good and some medicore or born premature.

I also must confess some school girl anticipation over his work on Apophatic Ecclesiology.

As for the analogia entis, the classi work in English that I know expositng the idea is Bernard Montagnes, The Doctrine of the Analogy of Being According to Thomas Aquinas. I refer to it, not to advocate the idea of course but so that readers have a basis to critique the right concept and not a caricature, as we are often accused of doing.

James said...

I vaguely remember someone trying to discredit Fr. Nikolaos as an "uniformed" theologian or something of the sort. Obviously not true!

As for Met. John Zizioulas, I find that his whole theological enterprise is an attempt to be faithful to the Orthodox teaching on salvation and the Church. But, of course, most Orthodox--myself included--have little patience for his apparent confusions of terminolgy. For instance, how is one saved "by hypostasis"? Divine Hypostaseis are in a sense communicated to us via divine energies, but Met. John, at least in his English language writings I have read, avoids clarifying this all-important point. Many other strange notions about ecclesiology are found in Met. John's first book, which I had to read in my seminary training. All of this is troubling to a traditional Orthodox! Thus the importance of Fr. Nikolaus' work.

James said...

As for Fr. Nikolaos's critique of the personalism of Berdyaev (thanks John!), I am most interested in this for a future book I am writing on what I call "Perennial Ecumenism." I am knee-deep in Berdyaev, Bulgakov, and Solov'iev, plus their precursors in the occult traditions. Analogia entis (in a peculiar form indeed!) seems to be the central notion of Jacob Boehme's cosmogonic theology. Soloviev and the whole Russian theosophical tradition (which bore fruit in Bulgakov and others) seems to have drank deep draughts as Boehme's well...

Apophatically Speaking said...

In my opinion, Fr. Nikolaos most substantial critique is in regards to Met. John's understanding of deification as a flight from nature. Such a position is contrary to St Maximus' teachings, Fr. Nikolaos points out, who views deification as a fulfillment of, rather than escape from, our nature by reaching the original intent and purposes for which human nature was created.

aaronandbrighid said...

Perry> Sorry for the reply long after the fact, but thanks for mentioning that study of analogia entis. Someday I may just have to have a look at that!

Apophatically> So, does Met. John distrust theosis on the grounds that it is a 'flight from nature', or does he approve it for that reason?

Apophatically Speaking said...

Aaron,

It is not in a narrow sense of merely theosis in which this issue surfaces. Fr. Nikolaos points out that Met. John makes the mistake, contrary to St Maximus, to identify nature with necessity and personhood with freedom. Met. John sees the new hypostasis as a flight from creatureliness, an escape from our givenness and necessity towards freedom and personhood. According to Maximus human nature is an uncreated call to freedom, by reason of the logos of human nature and human being. There is therefore no escape or flight, but rather a fulfillment of our nature (the uncreated principles/logoi of our nature) by means of free participation in the Divine life.

So to answer your question more directly, the issue is neither distrust nor approval of theosis, but rather a radically different understanding of the same.

Fr. Nikolaos' book is an enormously important accomplishment.

- Robert

Alejandro mediocres said...

Here is a newly translated sermon of Fr. Nicholas Loudovikos, in English: True Christianity: The Soul's Journey