Book Reviewing, Baby & Life, ‘Silly’ Pursuits, Revisiting Blog Goals

It has been a bit of time since my last post, so I feel in some way obligated to fill readers in on my absence.

BOOK REVIEWING

I wrote a brief review of C.D.C. Reeve’s Action, Contemplation, and Happiness for Englewood Review of Books. I highly suggest this book to those who are serious students of Aristotle, otherwise you may get way too bogged down in Aristotelian minutiae.

Today I received in the mail a copy of Jeffrey Bishop’s The Anticipatory Corpse. I hope to be reviewing this in the near future, again for Englewood Review. I am excited to begin book reviewing with some regularity and will hopefully be expanding into more areas, i.e. poetry.

BABY & LIFE

The past few weeks have been an occasion of preparation and increased work load. I have begun a part time job helping the Vanderbilt Divinity Library process a gift from a soon to be retiring professor. This has been helpful financially, and perhaps even career wise as I try to get SOME kind of library experience while I pursue this MTS degree.

Preparation has been increasing for some time as my wife and I are expecting any day now. We do not know the gender, but we have some names picked out for either gender. I am looking forward to being a father and opening up this world to this child. Anyone who has already assumed the mantle of fatherhood, please direct any stories or advice my way. The Greeson party is about to start.

In other recent news, my wife and I had a splendid visit with the ever gregarious Aaron Taylor and his wife and sister. Besides Aaron’s genial nature, he has also been on a rampage in the blogosphere. I have found the most recent post on Maritain and Dionysius on poetic knowledge to be quite applicable to my recent forays.

‘Silly’ Pursuits

I have a condition of severe dissipation when it comes to disciplined and focused reading. I have almost finished Dante’s Inferno, as provided by Anthony Esolen. I can honestly say this will be the first real time I have read the entire work from first canto to last. I gave up in high school, despite my love for it, and I only got into the upper teens canto wise a few years ago. I am enjoying Dante immensely this time around and was lucky enough to stumble upon Esolen’s translations of the rest of the Commedia.

I have also been spending time with more modern poetry. I have been enjoying the incredibly hilarious essays of Randall Jarrell, a fellow Nashvillian, the work of John Hollander and even the philosophical poetics of Maritain. Beyond these I have been enjoying the poetry of Derek Walcott, Geoffrey Hill, and R.S. Thomas. My general idea is to read through Thomas and Hill’s corpus in order to maybe write my MTS thesis on something involving theology, theodicy, and modern poetry. In that vein I have also been reading Hill’s essays (which seem to mirror Cavell in style?) and some folks’ works on R.S. Thomas.

REVISITING BLOG GOALS

As you may already have seen from visiting the blog, I have done a bit of “summer cleaning”. I will be blogging in a bit about the header change.

I am going to go ahead and incorporate into this blog my meanderings into poetry and literature. I just can’t keep them separated. So this blog will deviate from its original goal. Now, I will more fully explore what is actually coming across my desk and not blip in and out of existence on this blog as I read specifically “theological” works.

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Recent Publications from Holy Cross Press

I am a bit surprised that I am beating the two blogs that seem to keep the blogosphere up to date with recent Orthodox publications. I want to draw your attention to some of the recent activity of Holy Cross Press.

Like a Pelican in the Wilderness by Stelios Ramfos

This was originally published in english in 2000, but has (in my recent memory) not been in print for awhile now. I have been bugging them for the past two years about its reprinting, after I was told via email about plans for reprinting. In my time spent with it during stints in the library I have found it worth the time and an insightful read. Not breaking new ground per se, but doing a good interpretive job with the phenomenon of the sayings of the Desert Fathers and their import for us today.

The Holy Trinity: In the Beginning there was Love, Dumitru Staniloae

“The dogma of the Holy Trinity has always been at the center of Orthodox theology, which is why it was an endless subjection of reflection for Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, may he rest in peace. The special place that the Trinity occupies in his teaching on the Church makes Fr. Staniloae the theologian par excellence of the Holy Trinity in the contemporary world. In fact, his entire corpus is a mammoth effort to place the unspeakable mystery of the Holy Trinity at the center of all recent Christian life and thought. As with St. Maximus the Confessor, whose work he has translated and commentated on in Romanian, this dogma does not represent an isolated theme for Fr. Staniloae. His exegesis of the Trinity glimmer throughout every chapter of his dogmatic theology. While identifying both a united absolute essence and distinct absolute hypostases at the heart of the Holy Trinity, in the most Orthodox spirit Fr. Staniloae always aimed to bring the living, dynamic personalism of Orthodox Christian theology into the light. Speaking as no one else in contemporary theology has about the infinite value of the person, about its unfathomable depths, and seeing “the undying face of God” in man, Fr. Staniloae can also speak about the perfect love whose only source is the Holy Trinity.” – From the foreword by His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church”

I have always enjoyed any of the time I have spent with Fr. Staniloae. For those of an academic bent I will always quickly suggest his book, Orthodox Spirituality. Recent work on Staniloae by Fr. Radu Bordeianu (which I have not been able to consult yet (waiting for the library to get this one) seems to bring about some of the best aspects of Staniloae, one which presents an important contribution to ecumenical work (to be paired with the work of Metropolitan Zizioulas). I have ordered this new book by Staniloae and hope to do a book review when I have adequately read and processed it.

There has also been an upsurge recently from Holy Cross Press in the translation projects of Christos Yannaras’s work. A new book on “The Enigma of Evil” looks promising.

From the back cover :

“Nature’s logic makes no qualitative judgements: earthquakes, disease, fire, and flood destroy human beings just as they also destroy irrational animals – without distinction. Decay, pain, panic, and death constitute the same conditions of existence for both Aristotle and his dog. Why? How is this irrationality compatible – how does it coexist – with the wonderful rationality (the wisdom and beauty) of nature? Why is the only consciousness in the universe, the creative uniqueness of each human being, a provocatively negligible given in nature’s mechanistic functionality? And why do hatred, blind cupidity, sadism, and criminality spring from nature – why do they have roots in humanity’s biostructure? Can we perhaps bring some logical order, some principles of understanding, to questions concerning the nature of evil? This book attempts to respond to the challenge.”

I applaud the work of translation and publication of important contemporary theologians and thinkers from the Orthodox milieu. It seems to me that there is not enough “advertising” of Holy Cross’s work and thought that it would be worth my time and yours to direct your attention to these new publications.

…perhaps Holy Cross should put me on their list for reviewing to be able to provide a more permanent format of directing others to their work!

Attempting to blog… again.. (or) is blogging dead?

Various blogs of my own creation have cropped up on the internet over the past decade or so… some I would be more ashamed to own than others, but nevertheless I am going to attempt the blogging game again. For the past few years, as I since been married, finished a masters degree in library science, and took small vacations from serious theological study (to pursue silly ventures like poetry) I have maintained a tumblr blog, Paideia, which was a sporadic linkage of pictures, poems, quotes.

I wonder (aloud) as I attempt to grapple again in a somewhat public venue with various theological topics whether this type of venue has already seen its zenith? I remember when certain blogs (5 or 6 years ago) were highly visited, argued, debated, and even gathered the attention of various professors who joined the foray (this brings to mind Hunsinger’s appearance on Ben Myer’s blog, Faith & Theology).

In the Orthodox world there was much action/debate/gossip/news/etc. to be found on a few blogs, which have now switched venues or even ecclesiastical association.

So, why this blog?

My hope is to actually highlight certain Orthodoxy theological positions, debates, tensions, and interests in a fairly balanced and nuanced manner that I am currently not aware exists on the internet (with obvious nods to Aaron of Logismoi for his constant stream (perhaps dribble recently 😀 ) of quality posts). I am hoping for the type of conversations and insights notable from such blogs as the aforementioned Logismoi, Ora et Labora, A Vow of Conversation, and even the cantankerous but ever lovable Ochlophobist. However, as my temperament is not the same as the above I hope this blog will still present something of value.

This quote from Fr. Georges Florovosky will be a constant theme:

“Orthodoxy is summoned to witness. Now more than ever the Christian West stands before divergent prospects, a living question addressed also to the Orthodox world… The ‘old polemical theology’ has long ago lost its inner connection with any reality. Such theology was an academic discipline, and was always elaborated according to the same western ‘textbooks.’ A historiosophical exegesis of the western religious tragedy must become the new ‘polemical theology.’ But this tragedy must be reendured and relived, precisely as one’s own, and its potential catharsis must be demonstrated in the fullness of the experience of the Church and patristic tradition. In this newly sought Orthodox synthesis, the centuries-old experience of the Catholic West must be studied and diagnosed by Orthodox theology with greater care and sympathy than has been the case up to now… The Orthodox theologian must also offer his own testimony to this world — a testimony arising from the inner memory of the Church — and resolve the question with his historical findings.” – Georges Florovsky, Ways of Russian Theology II, pp. 302-304 — h/t to Fr. John Schroedel