Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sarah Stewart-Kroeker: SC: The Moral Aesthetics of World-Weariness in Patristic Psalm Commentaries

Augustine and other patristic theologians have been criticized for their other-worldliness, particularly evident in eschatologically-oriented texts. The negative valuation of other-worldliness undermines the role that eschatology plays in positively guiding the Christian moral life on earth for patristic thinkers. I interpret the eschatological expression of “world-weariness” as a moral aesthetic that is rhetorically cultivated in patristic texts. This moral aesthetic perspective aims to shape a religious community guided by an otherworldly imagination. Patristic authors seek to transform and indeed convert readers to a certain religious disposition that looks beyond the earthly life toward the eschatological future for its fulfilment. In so doing they provide a guiding framework for the Christian moral life on earth. Commentaries on the psalms are a notable site of eschatologically driven reflection. In this paper, I comparatively survey how patristic writers such as Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, Methodius, and John Chrysostom rhetorically cultivate a moral aesthetic of “world-weariness” in their writings on the psalms. I examine the literary and rhetorical tools and strategies by which these authors seek to transform the dispositions of their readers and to construct an eschatological sensibility. In so doing, I interpret the eschatological orientation of world-weariness, expressed in psalmic reflections, as a rhetorically cultivated, moral aesthetic framework for this-worldly life.

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