Thursday, 7 February 2019

Dimitrios Moschos: “A cross of light” - The sign of the cross amidst competing eschatological views during the 6th and 7th centuries.

The sign of the cross apart from its liturgical use is mainly known because of its political use by the emperor Heraclius and the subsequent violent opposition of Islam against it in the 7th c. Heraclius utilizes a realistic eschatological perception of the victory of the Cross upon the enemies of Christ in a last stage of the History of Salvation within real history. This understanding of the Cross goes along with the legend of the last emperor, grown mainly in a Syriac environment (Cave of Treasures, Ps. Methodios). Yet, besides this version there are more complex approaches to the cross also directed against its “politically-realistic” use. In the proposed paper they are regarded as one pole in a dialectical tension between extremely internalized a-historic eschatological currents, putting the cross at the inner experience of salvation, the other pole being the above mentioned externalized one. These currents can be traced from 6th up to even 3rd c. texts and authors, such as apocryphal acts, the Evagrian work and its reception in the Middle East in cases like The Book of Hierotheos, or ideas lingering in monastic circles that emphasize the “inner eschaton” through cross appearance during prayer (e.g. an inner implanting of a “cross of light” to the faithful according to Macarian Homilies). The impact of these competing eschatological views goes as far as Iconoclasm or the Legend of Bahira.

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