Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church

ON A FEW occasions, I've been asked regarding “books about the Fathers.” Here is one title to which I would direct anyone interested in the Fathers.

In The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Vladimir Lossky, a prominent theologian of the 20th Century, and the author of Orthodox Theology: An Introduction and Vision of God, presents an integrated vision of Orthodox theology. His thesis, one which he amply supports, is that theology and spirituality cannot be considered apart from one another. He writes,
Outside the truth kept by the whole Church personal experience would be deprived of all certainty, of all objectivity. It would be a mingling of truth and of falsehood, of reality and of illusion: 'mysticism' in the bad sense of the word. On the other hand, the teaching of the Church would have no hold on souls if it did not in some degree express an inner experience of truth, granted in different measure to each one of the faithful. There is, therefore, no Christian mysticism without theology; but, above all, there is no theology without mysticism.*
Lossky starts with “The Divine Darkness” and reaches “The Divine Light,” before bringing his study to conclusion. The study - which is supported by many passages from enlightened saints and teachers - includes an especially helpful chapter on the spiritual life entitled “The Way of Union.”

A word of caution: This is not a light or easy read. However, the very style which makes the book dense, makes it deep and enriching and makes reading it a highly rewarding experience.

*p. 9


Anonymous said...

Thanks NADEr For this nice Book and your comment .I think you got the most precious pearl , one of the major areas that greys between denominations. Few questions would still stay unanswered .
1- Mysticism may at some instances not agree with the Theology we know (at the begining ) but does this entail we discard all mystic experiance or accept it with wisdom ( without bad labeling ! )
2- Who and how would lead Theology and who will decide . Should the Church interfere with every mystic experiance and give it an OK . Should we leave that to People . Should we keep the mystic experiance to benefit the person only and not the Church community .
3- It always comes to my mind that Mystics stand at the same position with Spiritualy gifted people . What we decide applies to both .
Thank you and God Bless you for Being an active BEE . ( you bring honey from far places ) :)

B. Hold said...

I love this book! Nice review. I let my brother borrow it a while back, and I keep asking for it back because I know it has many valuable things I need to meditate on, especially now during Lent.

Anonymous said...

Dear to God Nader,

(Sorry this doesn't pertain to your post on Lossky, but...) I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian who reads your blog regularly. I would like to learn more about the history of Coptic Orthodoxy. Could you recommend a good resource?

There are many things that interest me in the Coptic Church. For one, most (if not all) Coptic churches have icon screens in their churches, yet they call their Divine Liturgies "Masses" in English. There is also a particular kind of joy I see in Coptic Abounas and Monks that is very attractive. I'm also interested in the Coptic Church because it is "Non-Chalcedonian," but seems to be very "Eastern" in most regards, yet also has a little "Western" or "Latin Roman Empire" influence as well (I didn't want to say Roman Catholic influence). I've also noticed a different emphasis on some theological things, such as God's providence and the Scriptures, as compared to what one hears in Eastern Orthodoxy. So in many things I see a meeting of "East" and "West", if you will, which is intriguing.

-John in Denver

Nader Alfie said...

Thank you each for reading and for taking the time to comment. It is always encouraging!

John in Denver:

I will try to provide some book recommendations in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, it is important to consider that Egypt experienced a very direct British and French presence than did, for example Greece or Russia. Thus, you will see certain Western influences in people's terminology. To be sure, while you may hear some Copts refer to the Divine Liturgy as "The Mass," this is the simply the preference of the individual, not the accepted term.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, interesting. I look forward to learning more!