The following is the third in a series of four guest posts at various blogs from Herman A. Middleton, author of Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece (featuring eight Greek Orthodox monastic elders), and translator of the recently released Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis (a study of one of modern Greek literature’s finest writers). It is about his new book that he now writes. (The first, second, and fourth posts are posted elsewhere,for which see below.)
In my last post, I touched on the biography of Alexandros Papadiamandis, and why, from the perspective of Orthodox Christianity, he is a significant figure. These posts are all related to the book I translated from Greek, Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis. In this post, I wanted to delve a bit deeper into the content of Greece’s Dostoevsky.
I first read Greece’s Dostoevsky for Dr. Anestis Keselopoulos’s pastoral theology class at the University of Thessalonica. This is significant because it suggests the type of book that it is: a handbook for pastors. It is much more than this, however. It is very much a book for laymen as well as clerics. As Fr. Alexis Trader mentions in his Introduction to the book, “It is a catechism. In fact, it is not only a catechism for those who know little about Orthodox liturgy and faith—it can also act as a compass for those who have some knowledge about Orthodox prayer and doctrine, but are in need of criteria for evaluating authentic liturgical life today. In other words, this gift to America is both a catechism and a strategy for Orthodox evangelism that begins with the pulse of the heart of Orthodoxy—the liturgical life of the faithful.”
Among the many questions Dr. Keselopoulos considers are the following:
- What should the relationship between the clergy and the laity look like?
- What is at the root of many of the problems within the laity and within the clergy?
- What is the answer to these problems?
- What is the role of the laity?
- What is the meaning of “Tradition” in the Church?
- How do you distinguish between the Church’s Tradition and traditions?
- How does the Church’s Tradition get passed down and what does this mean for Orthodoxy in the West?
- What is the essence of the Church’s life of worship and prayer?
- What aspects of worship are non-negotiable, and what aspects can be adjusted (and who determines these things)?
- Why is liturgical art important?
- How does/should liturgical art affect worship?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, while Dr. Keselopoulos’s book deals with the depths of Orthodox life and thought, it does not deal with these things in the abstract. Keselopoulos restricts himself to the spiritual issues that arise from Papadiamandis’s stories. Because the issues that Papadiamandis brings to light emerge from the context of real life, his stories remain both practical and timely. And Keselopoulos’s insightful analysis helps us appreciate Papadiamandis’s work even more.
In the final post, I’ll consider the broader significance of Greece’s Dostoevsky for the Church in the West, in particular as regards the example of Papadiamandis as an artist-evangelist, and as an example that can inform and instruct artists desiring to create faith-inspired work.