Thursday, 23 May 2019

Annette Weissenrieder: Birth, Rebirth, and the Resurrected Body in the Old Latin Gospel of John

Insofar as Christianity can be said to have begun with the disappearance of a body, namely the absence of Jesus’ body in the grave, this disappearance occasioned not so much a disjuncture with Jesus’ preceding work as a new start, by way of a salvific turn, according to multiple accounts in the New Testament. It is through the absence of Jesus’ body and subsequent appearances of the risen Jesus that the messianic promise is fulfilled.Christian faith was thus marked, from the earliest time, by questions regarding the meaning, representation, and transformation of the body and the notion of “new life.” In the Gospel of John, after Jesus is resurrected he blows (ἐμφυσάω, accipite) the holy spirit into his disciples (John 20:22). Here the spirit evokes the framework of ancient embryology, in which spirit brings life. Ancient embryology illumines the recurrent passages in John referring to birth, being reborn, and children of God, especially 1:13–14 and 3:3–8.

Donald Boyce: Ordering Tears: Tears as Physician’s Anesthesia in Augustine’s Experience of Loss in Confessiones

‘The child of those tears shall never parish.’ While these words were once used to console Monica, the ambiguity of the genitive is appropriate since Augustine’s own tears are characteristic of his identity. We will begin by using De Musica, De doctrina christiana,and Book I of Confessionesto provide the interpretive framework for understanding the role of tears in Augustine – particularly as it relates to the deaths he recounts in Confessiones.We will first look at the death of an anonymous friend, then the death of three Christian brothers, before concluding with the death of Monica. Through these examples and the framework of the earlier works, we will show that ‘ordering tears’ can be interpreted in three ways: First, tears in the accusative as an attempt to restrain tears. Second, tears in the nominative as an attempt, in pride, to impose order on rational souls around us. In the last sense, tears take the ablative where the phrase takes the sense of ordering with tears and ordering bytears. Through this last movement and Augustine’s well-known Christological assertion of Christ as Physician we are able to synthesize certain passages where tears appear to be their ‘own end,’ but instead are the Physician’s anesthesia - a step in the process of our ordering. Tears on this account are the ‘food’ in the Neoplatonic example of the pain of an empty stomach. They are a gift in our bodies that the Surgeon uses to help fix our painful brokenness.

Rebecca Usherwood: Even the memory of his name was erased: remembering and forgetting the persecutors

The idea that political disgrace and material obliteration were God-sent punishments inflicted on any emperor – or other secular authority figure – who had persecuted the Christians is a consistent theme throughout Christian writings, particularly at the turn of the fourth century. This discourse, blending Roman, pre-Roman, near-eastern, and biblical concepts, emphasised the destruction of honorific dedications (e.g. portraits, statues, images, and inscriptions). This was often accompanied by graphic descriptions of the bodies of the persecutors lying unburied or wasting away due to horrific diseases, their shameful ends an ironic reversal of the destruction they had sought to inflict on individual martyrs and the wider Church. The often-contradictory rhetoric of social forgetting was also featured: the claim that these punishments lead to these figures’ complete erasure from collective memory, whilst simultaneously memorialising them with the aim that their stories should never be forgotten.This paper charts the development of the motif of the disgraced persecutor: how it intersected with established Roman concepts of political dishonour, and the role it played as a focal point in the creation of a mnemonic heritage and unifying group narrative for Christian communities. I will argue that the motif cast interactions between secular authorities and Christians in an established pattern which suppressed regional, chronological, and typological nuances. Moreover, this motif endured in the changed world of the later fourth century, drawing its potency from the memory of the great persecution, as a way of articulating relationships between the powerful and the powerless.

Catherine Broc-Schmezer: Towards a Critical Edition of the Homilies on Hannah, by John Chrysostom

The first three editions of the complete works of John Chrysostom contain five homilies on Hannah, mother of Samuel (CPG 4411, PG 54, 631-676). Although they were pronounced at the same period of the liturgical year (just before and after Pentecost), several elements cast serious doubt on the presumption that they constitute a single series of homilies pronounced by the same author during the same year. Rather, there may actually be two different series, the first comprised of three homilies on the narratives in the first chapter of the Book of Reigns, and the second, also consisting of three homilies (the first being missing), about the Song of Hannah in the second chapter of the Book of Reigns. Moreover, the Prologue of the first homily gives several chronological details which are inconsistent when taken together. This paper will present how a careful examination of the manuscripts may serve to clarify these two points.

Karin Schlapbach: Remembering the Christian Saints, or: The silencing of the holy men

This paper addresses a change in the cultural practice of remembering saints. In the pre-Christian Graeco-Roman world, it was generally the philosopher who could lay claim to the title of holy man, or theios anér. Endowed with special power, often including rhetorical power, the philosopher was a teacher, and while some philosophers did not leave behind any writings, they certainly talked to their fellow human beings to impart their wisdom. The sayings of the philosophers were held in high esteem and transmitted with great care (several portraits of philosophers by Diogenes Laertius and Lucian of Samosata may illustrate this claim). It was believed that the philosopher’s sayings revealed his character, and if his life was in accordance with his teaching, he was a true philosopher.The portrayal of Jesus in theGospelsoverlaps with this tradition of holy men who were commemorated as teachers, and the Sayings of the Desert Fathersare influenced by it. By contrast, the Livesof Christian saints greatly diminish the role of the saint’s sayings. While the Ur-Life, Athanasius’ Life of Antony, still dedicates over twenty-five chapters to his direct discourse, this aspect becomes more marginal as the new genre develops. Judging from the majority of late antique Latin Lives, Christian saints are not talkative; for them, eloquence is not a virtue. This paper addresses the change in commemorating holy men via a case study, by examining the sparse direct discourse in the Life of Saint Martin by Sulpicius Severus.

Kylie Crabbe: Disability, economic hardship, and mercy: The multilayered story of a father and his sons in the Acts of John

The episode of Antipatros and his sons (identified as the Acts of John 56-57) offers a chilling commentary on ancient views of disability but also, this paper argues, a structured critique. Antipatros asks John for healing for his impaired twin sons, pleading: “assist me in my old age”. His declaration that he had been intending to take his sons’ lives, with the agreement of his wider family, provides an insight into the interaction between economic hardship and disability in the second-century context. But this paper highlights the multiple levels upon which the narrative nonetheless criticizes the father, ultimately recasting the Lord “who always console[s] the downtrodden” as the one who redirects compassion towards the sons themselves.

Nevena Dimitrova: Sense Perception and Transfiguration of Vision in Maximus the Confessor

The aim of this presentation is to show the meaning of αἴσθησις according to Maximus the Confessor. The definition of sense perception that includes the perfection of soul capacities, penetrated by the unifying intelligible nous also leads to the question of transfiguration of vision: the visible and invisible in Maximus’ and patristic viewpoint on beauty will construct the second part of the presentation.Sense perception as transfiguration of vision, a “passing from flesh to spririt”.Sense perception is complex motion of the soul in comparison with the simplicity of rational and noetic realm. With its help, the soul “tears itself apart from the outside world and—as if they were symbols—turns toward the logoi of visible things.” Visible things are agents of a natural motion toward knowledge that transcends time and space. The composition of body and soul confirms the relationship between creation and the transcendental creator and between the material and spiritual worlds.In Maximus the Confessor the transition from ascetic practice to aesthetic contemplation is a process of transformation of vision – a notion that unifies both sensible and intelligible realms and is one of the main contributions of Maximus in 7th century language.The bond between the world and intelligible being is realized in beauty – they are identical in this and the very notion of beauty which becomes especially apparent in Cappadocians (the whole Byzantine aesthetics is connected to the Cappadocian apophatic theology) has an important place in Maximus’arguments against the “Origenists” of his day.