Thursday, 2 April 2015

Fr. Maximos Constas: “Solomon Saw Her from Afar”: Theological and Exegetical Themes in The Life of the Virgin Mary by John Geometres

John Geometres flourished during the second half of the tenth century. His brilliant career as a Byzantine court poet came to an end after the assassination of his patron, Nikephoros II Phokas (+ December, 969), after which Geometres became a monk and devoted his considerable literary gifts to ecclesiastical poetry, biblical commentaries, scholia on the Church Fathers, and orations on the great feasts of the Byzantine church. Among the latter is a massive oration for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The oration, often referred to as the Life of the Virgin Mary,recounts in detail the entire life of the Virgin, beginning with her ancestry and ending with her death. The text remains unedited, and this paper offers a description and analysis of its contents, based on my forthcoming critical edition and translation. Neither a generic encomium nor a work of simple hagiography, the Life of the Virgin Mary frames its subject matter with a wealth of apocryphal literature, patristic theology, and biblical exegesis indebted to the work of Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrios of Pontus, Maximos the Confessor, and John of Damascus. In his creative appropriation of these sources, Geometres produces a remarkable synthesis of monastic spirituality, theological anthropology, and the theology of the hypostatic union exemplified in the Mother of God as the bride of the Song of Songs, the good wife of Proverbs, and the king’s consort of Psalm 44.

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