Besancon, BM 434,  f. 399, 1364

   WEEK_1 WEEK_2 WEEK_3;   WEEK_4;   WEEK_5;   WEEK_6;   WEEK_7 WEEK_8; 
WEEK_9 WEEK_10 WEEK_11;   WEEK_12;   WEEK_13 WEEK_14;  WEEK_15;  WEEK_16 


 WEEK 1: January 9, 2011





BEHIND the Christian understanding of “the contemplative life” stands the towering figure of Plato, whose philosophical system provided both the underlying concepts and the language that would ultimately be used to describe the experience of beholding The Divine.  In these first three lectures and texts we will discover Plato, the mystical theologian who longs for union with "The One" [God] and who believes that this union is both facilitated and anticipated by contemplation: that is, by seeing through and beyond superficial appearances into the deeper realities and truths hidden within ordinary circumstances and objects.
    Please read Louth, chapter 1, pp. 1-17, “Plato”, in conjunction with these lectures and texts.

FIRST an introductory lecture will present several fundamental concepts:
 1) Introd. to Plato: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THEN We will turn to Plato's Republic for two stories that were constantly read and extensively commented throughout classical antiquity and into the medieval and renaissance periods:
2) The Parable of the Caves:    AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
3) The Myth of Er:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 1) - 3) of Part One, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum One.

1) FORUM ONE Plato, The Parable of the Caves, The Myth of Er

a) Which elements in Plato's parables would be most appealing for Christian seeking to understand and practice "contemplation"?

b) What in Plato's thought could be problematic or misleading?

 Week 2


 WEEK 2: January 16, 2011





THROUGHOUT the Christian tradition references abound to an inward "ascent" from earth to heaven.  As we have seen in Plato's "Myth of Er", this notion long predates Christianity.  Now we will see how Cicero retold Plato's myth for the Latin-speaking world in his "Dream of Scipio", creating a classic that would be read, until relatively recently, by nearly every educated person in the Christian West. [Those interested in learning more about the influence of "The Dream of Scipio" in the middle ages will find C.S. Lewis' The Discarded Image a valuable and very readable introduction.]

4) Cicero's Dream of Scipio AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

SOME modern scholars, such as Alexander Golitzin , believe that early monastic models of contemplative ascent may owe as much or more to Jewish apocrypha than to Plato (or Cicero).  We will look briefly at excerpts from The Book of Enoch, an text from the Jewish pseudepigrapha (intertestamental literature) that certainly influenced some of the authors of the New Testament. Fr. Golitzin emphasizes how this text depicts the Jewish prophet as a "seer", one whose vision of the heavenly places authenticates his moral message. Fr. Golitzin believes the intertestamental seer is the true forerunner of the monastic contemplative; however, it should be noted that his theories have not yet won widespread acceptance ( a link to his website, - optional for this course - may be found in the Syllabus and in "External Links").

5) The Book of Enoch AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE ancient sources we have read all presume a dynamic interrelationship between contemplative experience and ascetical practice (i.e. virtue).  This dynamic understanding has sometimes been obscured in Christian tradition by the desire to define "steps" or "stages" of spiritual progress: [This will be a review for some of you who have already seen this in a previous webcourse]:

6) Our Inner Spiritual Rhythm: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 4) - 6) of Part One, please share your reflections in Moodle Discussion Forum Two. 

2) FORUM TWO: Cicero, Enoch, The authentic meaning of "contemplation" and "action"

a) Is Enoch a more attractive (or more confusing) model of the contemplative than Plato's Er?

b) What elements of contemplation did you notice in Cicero that were less obvious in Plato?

c) Do you find the notion of a dynamic interrelationship between contemplation and the ascetical quest for virtue helpful?  Have you had much experience with the tradition of stages in - or a stepwise movement of - spiritual progress?

 Week 3


 WEEK 3: January 23, 2011





THE terms kataphatic (the “way of affirmation”) and apophatic (the “way of denial”) were first introduced in the sixth century; but it is only in modern times that they have become widely-used by Christian spiritual theologians to distinguish two contrasting poles of theology and spirituality. We will first review their meaning and application:

7) Apophatic and Kataphatic Theology  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT we will review biblical texts, often cited by Christian spiritual authors, that illustrate both spiritual ascent into the vision of God and the kataphatic and apophatic ways:

8) Old Testament Texts:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

9) New Testament Texts:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE story of the martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicity will help us understand how spiritual vision was popularly associated with the holiness and intercessory power of the seer.

 10) The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY, Saints Antony, Evagrius, and Benedict afford models of spiritual vision that expands or widens the heart of the seer.

 11) Visions of the Founders: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 7) - 11) in Part Two, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Three

4) FORUM THREE: God in Light and Darkness; Visionary Ascetics.

a) Christian spiritual writers have often described apophatic simplicity as a "higher" form of  spiritual experience than kataphatic complexity.  Does this approach seem accurate, or should it be more carefully nuanced?

b) Although the notion of God present in "a deep but dazzling darkness" is perplexing to some Christians, apophatic prayer techniques based on the via negativa (e.g. centering prayer, the Jesus Prayer) have become increasingly popular in recent years. Is this a mixed blessing?

 Week 4


 WEEK 4: January 30, 2011





THE history of early Christian monasticism will be reviewed with particular emphasis on the roles of: (1) Antony, the “first hermit”; and (2) the communities of Nitria and Kellia, founded by Amoun. Important sources from the early monastic tradition will be studied from perspective of the interrelationship between anchorites and cenobites: that is, the necessity for both solitary life and ongoing experience of community.

Particular attention will be paid to models of spiritual progress suggested in the Life of Antony.  Please read the following in conjunction with these lectures and texts: 1) Louth, ch. 6, pp. 98-131. 2) RB-80, Introd., “The Origins of Monasticism in the Eastern Church,” pp. 12-34. [Also available for download from "Course Documents" and strongly recommended (but not required) are the first two chapters of Derwas Chitty's book, The Desert A City.]

12) The Origins of Christian Monasticism AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT we will review the origins of the important early Egyptian desert communities of Nitria, Kellia, and Scetis

13) Early Egyptian Monasticism  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE Life of Antony is rightly regarded as one of the most influential Christian spiritual texts ever written.  It is fascinating to reflect on the spiritual "progam" Antony is said to have followed as an early model of spiritual formation. [N.B. these lectures will be familiar to those who have taken the course on Christian Asceticism]

14) The Life of Antony (Part 1):   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

15) The Life of Antony (Part 2): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 12) - 15) in Part Three, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Four.

4) FORUM FOUR Early Christian Communities and Hermits.

a) One of the first terms used in reference to the monks and nuns of antiquity is anchorite, from the Greek anachoreo, which means to withdraw or to flee.  Based on your reading and study, what were the early monastics running from, and what were they running towards?

b) What are your thoughts about the formation Antony received from his local Christian community (i.e. before he withdrew into the solitude of the abandoned fort)?



 WEEK 5: February 6, 2011


WE continue our study of the interrelationship between anchorites and cenobites with: (1) selections from the Apophthegmata (Sayings) of the Desert Mothers and Fathers; (2) selections from the rules of Basil and Benedict; (3) and articles on the eremitical (hermit) traditions in the Christian East and West.

16) The Apophthegmata (Sayings)
    of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

17) The Rule of Basil AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

18) The Rule of Benedict AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

TWO modern articles, one by a nun-historian, the other by a monk-bishop, will help us appreciate the the complex interdependency of coenobium and hermitage

 19) Benedicta Ward on Western Hermits: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

 20) Kallistos Ware on Eastern Hermits: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE


When you have finished § 16) - 20) in Part Three, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Five.

5) FORUM FIVE Hermits, Hermitesses, and Cenobites - Ancient and Modern.

a) How different is our contemporary experience of solitude and community from that of the monks and nuns of earlier ages? How did they - and how do we - envision the respective asceticisms of the two states?

b) What are your experiences - or those of your friends - with solitude? Would you care to share something of your reflections on the possible place of the hermitage in the modern world?



 WEEK 6: February 13, 2011



PART 4 - LECTIO DIVINA: Praying the Scriptures


OUR study of the history and role of lectio divina as a Christian spiritual practice will begin with an introduction to the theory, key terminology, and biblical origins of practices related to biblical meditation and prayer.

21) IntroductionAUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

A PRACTICAL introduction to lectio divina will describe the different aspects and traditional terminology of this practice.

22) Article: Accepting the Embrace of God AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

TWO texts, one ancient and one modern, will highlight both the antiquity and contemporary relevance of lectio divina.

23) Cyprian of Carthage:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

24) Vatican II (Verbum Dei): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE practice of so-called group lectio divina has become popular and widely-practiced in recent years.  We will examine this approach, noting both the advantages and limitations it imposes.

25) Group Lectio Divina: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 21) - 25) in Part Four, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Six.

6) FORUM SIX Lectio Divina, Praying the Scriptures.

a) In the practice of lectio divina the terms meditation and contemplation describe two aspects or movements within a process, rather than ends in themselves or “states” to be maintained.  How does this correspond to your own understanding of these terms, or your experience with them as spiritual practices?

b) The text we studied from the Constitution on Divine Revelation suggests that lectio divina is one of the means by which sacred tradition makes progress over the centuries. Is this an exaggeration? What could it mean in practical terms?



WEEK 7: February 20, 2011


HAVING reviewed the origins and current practice of lectio divina, we may now use our understanding of this practice as a key that will help unlock several ancient texts.  Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Jesus, describes methods of meditating and and praying the scriptures that were employed by Jewish monks and nuns in Egypt and Israel during the early years of the first century.

26) Philo of Alexandria:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT, two medieval sources will highlight contrasting but related approaches to lectio divina: Guigo the Carthusian will depict the use of this practice in the monasteries; Hugh of St. Victor will suggest how it was applied in the more academic setting of the nascent universities of Western Europe.

27) Guigo II on Lectio Divina AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

28) Hugh of St. Victor on Lectio Divina AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY a chapter on  Sacred Learning from Fr. Jean Leclercqs magisterial study of monastic culture will help consolidate what we have learned and anticipate what we will study in section seven of this course, on the interrelationship between lectio divina and contemplative exegesis (the mystical interpretation of Sacred Scripture).

 29) Jean Leclercq :“The Love of Learning and the Desire for God”, ch. 5: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 26) - 29) in Part Four, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Seven.

7) FORUM SEVEN: Ancient and Modern Approaches to Lectio Divina.

a) Philo, Guigo, and Hugh each highlight different aspects and applications of lectio divina. How do their insights compare with your own experience of this practice?

b) The practice of "group experiences" of lectio divina has been attracting renewed interest since the 2008 Synod of Bishops on Sacred Scripture. What are your reactions to this practice? How might you modify or employ it the parish?



WEEK 8: February 27, 2011



A Rhythm that Heals the Soul


WE begin with a discussion of psalmody and hymnody in the New Testament and the early church.

30) Early Christian Texts on Psalmody and HymnodyAUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT we will study the developing enthusiasm for psalmody characteristic of the early monastic movement, and attested both in the Apophthegmata and in Athanasius' writings:

31) Athanasius and Antony on the Value of Psalmody AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

JOHN Cassian offers one of the clearest descriptions of the practice and spirituality of monastic psalmody, followed by prayer, in late fourth-century Egypt:

32) Cassian on Praying the Psalms AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

EVAGRIUS Ponticus offers a spiritual understanding of the intertwining rhythm of psalmody of prayer, defining the goal and practice of each pole:

33) Evagrius' Spirituality of Psalmody AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 30) - 33) in Part Five, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Eight.

8) FORUM EIGHT Psalmody and Prayer, A Rhythm that heals the Soul  (introd.)

The central place of psalmody in Christian prayer has been attacked from many quarters in recent years.  A famous monastic musician once quipped that the Psalter is "a quaint and vivid testimony to the spirituality of the late Bronze Age".  Related complaints abound in the periodicals of most Christian denominations, generally in regard to the violent imagery and intolerant world view expressed in psalmody.

a) How would the sources we are studying respond to these criticisms?

b) Do you find their approaches helpful?



WEEK 9: March 6, 2011


BASIL the Great, Evagrius' teacher and spiritual master, provides practical recommendations for those who pray the psalms together in community:

34) Basil on Psalmody and Prayer AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

IN Gregory of Nyssa we find a liturgical spirituality that fuses psalmody together with traditions of spiritual ascent we glimpsed in Plato and Cicero:

35) Gregory of Nyssa on Psalmody AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

CHAPTERS Nineteen and Twenty of Benedict's Rule provide a pattern for the developing western approach to psalmody, and summarize the tradition we have studied thus far.

36) Benedict on Psalmody AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

OUR study of early monastic psalmody and prayer concludes with a summary of this tradition by Fr. Gabriel Bunge.

37) Gabriel Bunge on Monastic Psalmody AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY, a modern commentator on the Psalms raises the question how we are to apply in the present day what we have learned from early monasticism: (It will be obvious from the content that this lecture was recorded several years ago, prior to the death of Pope John Paul II)

38) Pope John Paul II AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 34) - 38) in Part Five, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Nine

9) FORUM NINE Psalmody and Prayer, A Rhythm that heals the Soul  (concl.)

The sources we have studied suggest an ancient approach to psalmody that is significantly different from what is generally experienced in worshipping Christian communities today. Intervals of silence allowed for an intertwining of psalmody with personal prayer.  A symbolic or allegorical experience of the text expected the Psalter to open out both as a mirror of the soul and a window into God and creation.

a) Is it realistic to hope that some aspects of this approach might be revived in our own day?

b) If you have any experience of communities or parishes that have attempted this, would you care to share them?

  WEEK 10


WEEK 10: March 13, 2011



- the Heart of Christian Spiritual Theology


IN this section of our course we will apply what we have learned concerning the rhythms of psalmody and prayer to the broader context of Christian worship.  We will discover that in the early Church and in the monastic tradition, a principal place and source of contemplative prayer is the celebration of the liturgy.

39) IntroductionAUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

EARLY Christian mystagogy (the spiritual interpretation of ritual gestures, liturgical actions and prayers) is introduced in an ancient and famous series of homilies intended for Christian catechumens

40) Cyril of Jerusalem (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

ANOTHER series of catechetical homilies places mystical theology squarely at the beginning of Christian formation: the Song of Songs is suggested as a model for those about to be baptized:

41) Ambrose: (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

ONE of the greatest and most influential Christian mystical theologians was a monk who called himself Dionysius,  He presents the liturgy not only as a source of contemplative wisdom and vision, but also as a means of theosis - divinization. He also wrote the most influential text in Christian tradition on apophatic theology, The Mystical Theology, given here in full.  Please read Louth, ch 8; pp. 159-178, in conjunction with these two texts and lectures.

42) Dionysius the (pseudo-) Areopagite:  (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

43) Dionysius the (pseudo-) Areopagite: The Mystical Theology  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE notion that liturgical prayer transforms the one who participates in the liturgy is developed further by the monk-bishop, Maximos Confessor:

44) Maximus Confessor: (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 39) - 44) in Part Six, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Ten.

10) FORUM TEN Liturgical Prayer - the Heart of Christian Spiritual Theology (introd.)

We have seen that during the first centuries of Christian monasticism there existed an approach to liturgical prayer that was profoundly mystical, even “contemplative”.

a) In our own day it cannot be claimed that the mystical significance of liturgy is overemphasized.  Has the notion of “contemplative liturgical prayer” any relevance (or any hope) in an era such as ours, where the liturgy is made to serve so many other purposes?

b) We have studied texts in which the liturgy is described as “divinizing”; and, indeed, this notion retains an important place in the mystical theology of the Christian East.  In the West this teaching first cooled, and then simmered well below the surface for several centuries; but it is undergoing a revival in our own day. Is this a good thing?  If so, what pastoral forms might this revival take?

  WEEK 11


WEEK 11: March 20, 2011


WE turn to several monastic authors in order to see how the liturgical themes we have studied also reflect the heart of Christian spirituality.

AGAIN we reflect on themes raised by Fr. Jean Leclercq, this time on the subject of the role of liturgy in monastic culture.

45) Responsories and SequencesAUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
          HOMO_QUIDAM  SEQUENCE (audio)

THE intermingling of music and the visual arts in the monastic liturgical tradition is suggested in brief texts from the medieval promoter of gothic architecture, the Benedictine Abbot Suger of St. Denys in Paris.

46) Suger (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

VISUAL aids to liturgical prayer reached a highpoint in medieval books of hours:

47) Books of Hours: (introd.)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

ONE of the greatest liturgical theologians and mystics of the Middle Ages was Gertrude the Great, a nun of Helfta, Germany:

48) Gertrude the Great: (selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE concept of liturgical prayer as an act of inward and outward-directed consecration was stressed in the doctrine of the Royal Priesthood of the faithful at Vatican II::

49) Lumen Gentium: (selection)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

11) FORUM ELEVEN Liturgical Prayer - the Heart of Christian Spiritual Theology (concl.)

We now consider the spiritual pole of “kataphatic contemplation”: that is, of beholding the glory of God in complex images and in light, rather than the simplicity and “dazzling darkness”of Dionysius’ Mystical Theology.

a) What are your reactions to our glimpse at the music and visual arts of medieval Christianity?  Are they primarily “period pieces” or do they have something to say to us today?

b) Our selections from St. Gertrude and Vatican II suggest that liturgical prayer can be both profoundly contemplative and a real exercise of our common priesthood. How does this comport with a modern approach which tends to emphasize the differences between (and sometimes the incompatibility of) liturgical prayer and contemplative prayer?



WEEK 12: March 27, 2011




The Scriptures as a Source of Spiritual Transformation


WE turn again to the perennial Christian preoccupation with sacred scripture, but now with an increased sensitivity to the rhythms of silence and speech, spiritual activity and receptivity, that have traditionally undergirded the reverent study of Sacred Text in Christian communities.  We will note in particular how the study and interpretation of the Bible came to be regarded as a kind of laboratory in which the reader learned how to discern the presence and purposes of God in human history, and thus also in each human soul. 

FIRST with assistance from Fr. Jean Leclercq we familiarize ourselves with the principal characteristics of what we will call "contemplative exegesis"  In conjunction with this introduction please read Chapter Four ("Devotion to Heaven") from The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, A Study of Monastic Culture, Jean Leclercq, O.S.B. , which has been added to the "Course Documents" page and may be read online from this link [Leclercq-ch_4] or downloaded as a document from this link: [Devotion_to_Heaven].

50) IntroductionAUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

NEXT we will observe the origins and growth of this tradition in a text from Clement of Alexandria

51) Clement of Alexandria (selec.): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

ORIGEN offers both a rationale for spiritual exegesis and a methodology that becames universal in the Christian Church:

52) Origen: (selec.):   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

IN the Gnostikos of Evagrius Ponticus the spiritual exegete is identified with what we would call a spiritual director or spiritual Abba/Amma

53) Evagrius Ponticus: (selec.): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 50) - 53) in Part Seven, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Twelve.

12) FORUM TWELVE The Scriptures as a Source of Spiritual Transformation (introd.).

Our first three readings and lectures in this section provide the background and some of the medieval "working out" of Evagrius Ponticus' much more difficult text.  Of all the early monastic authors, it is he who most strongly emphasizes the interrelationship between, prayer, contemplative reading of the bible, and the ability to offer spiritual direction. I am aware that the Gnostikos is a difficult text, but I am eager to hear your responses to it:

Do you believe Evagrius (and his predecessors) had a valid point about the way we "read" scripture and the way we "read" personal stories and human souls?



WEEK 13: April 3, 2011


JOHN Cassian adapts the exegetical approaches of Clement, Origen, and Evagrius into a fourfold "method" of spiritual exegesis that becomes universally known and practiced in both monastic and lay circles throughout the Christian West.

54) Cassian: Conference 14  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE method of Cassian is applied and popularized by Eucherius of Lyons, who creates a spiritual "glossary" intended to aid those who read Scripture in search of spiritual meanings.  His efforts hint at an anxiety that the capacity of each believer to practice contemplative exegesis may be fading: instead of relying on the believer's personal practice of lectio divina, Eucherius offers it's fruit in a condensed, packaged form.

55) Eucherius (Formulas): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

IN the homilies of Peter Chrysologus allegorical exegesis is offered to the laity.

56) Chrysologus: (selec.):   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE story of Caedmon in Bede's Ecclesiastical History is a multilayered recommendation of spiritual exegesis.  We "read" the story of Caedmon, whom Bede portrays as the flowering of Northumbrian monastic culture: the inner meaning of history is revealed in the life of a simple cowherd  Meanwhile, within the story itself, Caedmon discovers how to contemplate and sing the inner, sacred meaning of the events of his own life.
[Also included on this page is a text which we, unfortunately, do not have time to study in any detail. If you wish, you may read "Br. Drythelm's Vision of Hell," a (not-always-consoling) witness to the Celtic monastic tradition; but it is not discussed in the audio lecture.  Perhaps another time!]

57) Bede: (The Story of Caedmon.): AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

FINALLY, in a text from the Liturgy of the Hours we encounter one of the most glorious examples of allegorical exegesis in Christian tradition.  Christ's descent into hell invites a meditation on the transforming power of Christ's healing, transfiguring Passion: sacred history affords a window into the deeper meaning of our own personal faults and failures.  As we saw in Evagrius, salvation history provides the key to understanding and offering back to God our own individual story.

58) An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 54) - 58) in Part Seven, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Thirrteen.

13) FORUM THIRTEEN The Scriptures as a Source of Spiritual Transformation (concl.).

Cassian offers a method or model of contemplative exegesis.  What do you think of the different ways his method is applied by Eucherius, Chrysologus, and Bede?

What are your reactions to the allegory of Christ's Passion in the anonymous reading for Holy Saturday?



WEEK 14: April 10, 2011





THE origins of the Christian tradition of monologistic (short-phrase) prayer can be found in the Scriptures and early Christian reflection on the command to pray without ceasing. We will also note in passing several defining characteristics of the later Jesus Prayer-tradition, that will help us identify the remote origins of this practice

59) Biblical and Early Patristic Sources; Introduction to the Jesus Prayer:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

THE principal patristic source to which all contemporary Christian exponents of monologistic prayer point is John Cassian.  In his Ninth and Tenth Conferences Cassian extols the virtues of formula prayer and reveals the formula given to him by Abba Isaac:

60) Cassian: Conference 9  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

61) Cassian: Conference 10  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

BEFORE plunging headlong into the mysteries of eastern hesychastic prayer with Bishop Kallistos, it will be helpful to remind ourselves of a developing parallel monologistic prayer-form in the Christian West: namely, the rosary.  While the rosary is not a specifically monastic devotion, it arose, as we shall see, out of the monastic practice of psalmody and the growing conviction that those unfamiliar with the psalms ought to be permitted to substitute more easily-memorized, simple prayers.

62) The Development of the Rosary: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 59) - 62) in Part Eight, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Fourteen

13) FORUM FOURTEEN Origins and Types of Early Christian Monologistic Prayer

How would you respond to a Christian who confides to you their discomfort with monologistic prayer because it seems to contradict the Lord's warning to avoid “vain repetition” in prayer?  (And if you have not yet encountered this concern, I guarantee that you one day will!)

Did you find and surprises in the texts from Cassian or on the Rosary?  Many modern advocates of monologistic prayer quote Conferences 9 and 10 in a very truncated and selective way.  Do you have any experiences in this regard?



WEEK 15: April 24, 2011


THE most knowledgeable and experienced living author on the subject of the Jesus Prayer and the Hesychastic tradition is Bishop Kallistos Ware.  The four articles that follow contain the substance of his lectures on this subject at Oxford, and are unparalleled in their clarity and depth.  Although I urge you to read all four articles, the one that could be skipped (if absolutely necessary!) is § 64 on Symeon the New Theologian.  If you read all four you will almost certainly be able to take pride in having become one of the most knowledgeable authorities on this subject in your area!

63) The [5th-9thCentury] Origins of the Jesus Prayer, Diadochus of Photike, Gaza, Sinai  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

64) Symeon the New Theologian  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

65) The 14th Century Hesychasts  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

66) The [Modern] Hesychast Renaissance  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

LESS authoritative than Bishop Kallistos' magisterial treatment, but nonetheless of great interest, are Thomas Spidlik's articles on the Jesus Prayer.  In addition to a discussion of the physical technique of the hesychasts he describes the principles according to which recitation of the Jesus Prayer may in some circumstances be substituted for specific hours of the Divine Office (!!).

67) Spidlik, sel. from Prayer: The Spirituality of the Christian East: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

AGAINST the background of the traditions we have studied it is possible to assess two modern variants of traditional Christian monologistic prayer: Centering Prayer and the “Christian Meditation” of John Main.

68) Popular Variants:  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

When you have finished § 63) - 68) in Part Eight, please share your reflections in Discussion Forum Fifteen.

15) FORUM FIFTEEN The Jesus Prayer and Modern Monologistic Methods

Our rather detailed study of the development of Eastern Hesychasm (the Jesus Prayer) suggests a more intricate interrelationship between liturgical prayer and private monologistic prayer than is generally appreciated.  What our your thoughts on implications of this for the way we teach and recommend different forms of prayer today?

For those who read the article on Symeon, any thoughts on his sense of the interrelationship between an experience of divine indwelling and the authority to absolve from sin?



WEEK 16: May 1, 2011





THE last council to be fully acknowledged in both the Christian East and West is the Second Council of Nicæa, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which met just after the patristic era (as it is usually defined) in 787.  This council reflects a strange and destructive period of iconoclasm, during which an entire epoch of Christian art was almost completely destroyed by zealous Christians.

FIRST we will survey Christian imagery and iconography in the centuries that preceded the iconoclastic controversy, tracing the legend of the Icon "not made by human hands" and reviewing a summary of the spirituality of icons:
) Early Christian Images: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
70) The (Abgar) Legend of the Icon "Not Made by Human Hands": AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
71) Kallistos Ware on the Spirituality of Icons: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

 NEXT we will note the painful period of the iconoclastic controversy and the text of the Seventh Ecumenical Council:
72) The Iconoclastic Crisis:   AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
) The Second Council of Nicea(selections)  AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE

 FINALLY, we will allow the patristic era to reach forward into the middle ages and beyond by noting features of Christian iconography both characteristic of the Christian East and common to East and West:.
74) Christian Iconography After Iconoclasm: AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE
75) Eastern and Western Images of the Blessed Trinity, : AUDIO_LECTURE _:_  TEXT_FILE






An indispensable part of this course will be downloadable audio-lectures that you may download to your computer or play directly from the Internet, depending on the speed of your connection.  New texts and audio-lectures will become available about every week to ten days, and once posted will remain available for review throughout the course.

THIS is a link to the type of file (“.wma” for those who wish to know) that we will be using for audio lectures: AUDIO-FILE  (don't click on it quite yet). This is a music file consisting of the medieval prolix responsory Homo Quidam, and it will serve as a test of your computer's ability to play the kind of audio files we will be using in this course.

THIS is a link to a text-and-image file showing (at the bottom of the page) Gregorian notation of the Homo Quidam: TEXT-FILEThe navigation panel on the left will remain visible when you link to the text file, so you can return to this page at any time by clicking on “Lectures”

THE goal is: (1) to get the AUDIO-FILE playing; then (2) minimize the player so you can see this window again; then (3) click on the link to the Gregorian TEXT-FILE, so you can look at the notated music while you hear the music being sung.  If you are able to do this, all is well; and you will have no trouble with the materials that will begin to appear here next week.

If you have trouble doing this, I strongly urge you to spend this weekend obtaining the technical assistance you need. Be aware that the download time for these audio files on a very slow modem may be as long as five to ten minutes.  If you need a new version of Windows Media Player, it may be downloaded from the Microsoft Website (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=en&categoryid=4).  If your computer is so old that it simply cannot be induced to play the audio files, you will need to use another computer for this course. 

AS soon as you are comfortable listening to audio-lectures while reading the text files that accompany them, please begin working through the lectures and texts for Part One.

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