Tuesday 19 October 2010

Byzantine Christianity characterized


From the chapter Byzantine Christianity - by Hannah Hunt

In The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, edited by Ken Parry, 2007.


[The city] had a population of nearly three quarters of a million. (...) Monasticism shaped Constantinople to a considerable extent. Monasteries abounded in the city: there were over 300 by the time of Justinian in the sixth century. (...)

Byzantine Christianity demonstrates a profound liturgical emphasis (which is nourished by its monastic tradition) and simultaneously a sense of catering for the spiritual needs of real people who inhabit a very physical world.

It seeks to elevate God's people to heaven (...) yet acknowledges the chthonic nature of humanity. 


Byzantine Christianity (...) is based on the concept of tradition (paradosis) and rooted in the study of patristics and scripture.

The theological definitions given by patristic authors continually refer, intertextually, to other fathers, even when they are not named or identified clearly. (...)

Scripturally based, the Christian tradition of Byzantium relied on the accumulated wisdom of living saints, whose experience illuminated the love of God and his desire for perfection of all humanity. (...)


The presupposition was that humanity was made in God's image, and strove continually to be reunited with God. Through the unique sacrifice of the god-man Christ, all humanity shares in the godhead, a total participation. (...)


A dominant characteristic of Byzantine Christianity is that its concepts and doctrine cannot be easily separated: in the Eastern Christian world, praxis and theoria are enmeshed, just as in Christ, divinity and humanity are intertwined and indistinguishable. (...)  There can be no theorizing, no theologizing without the practical impetus of prayer and faith. (...)


Greek Christianity of the Byzantine period may be characterized as restrained within certain traditional and ecclesiastical parameters. (...)

The utilization of the patristic method of theological discourse provided it with a dynamic source of renewal and replenishment which never succumbed to scholasticism on the one hand, or other-worldly mysticism on the other.

It attempted to maintain a balance between excessive rationalism and unarticulated rapture, and on the whole it achieved this.

Byzantine Christianity was able to articulate its religious faith through sound (liturgy) and sight (iconography) as well as through texts, to produce an integrated world view that sustained it over one thousand years of change and development.

Christianity in Byzantium was an imperial religion, and although the relationship between the church and the state was not always clear or convivial, it did at least provide a sense of destiny for the Greek people.

That sense of destiny was in turn passed on to the Slav nations to the north, who continued to promote the idea that a Christian state was a realizable ideal.


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