Pastoral care and mission. Missionary-pastoral methods of defense and confession of the true faith in the modern era, volume coordinated by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan, „Mission and Pastoral Care” Collection, vol. 2

Ed. Mitropoliei Olteniei, Craiova, 2017, 327p., ISBN 978-606-731-036-8.

This volume, Pastoral care and mission. Missionary-pastoral methods of defense and confession of the true faith in the modern era, published under the auspices of the Center for Theological and Interreligious Studies (CSTI), brings together a series of studies of teachers of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology from Craiova, which approach a very broad issue and bring into question aspects related to the significance of the true faith for the life of Church and of the faithful, proposing numerous missionary-pastoral methods of its defense and confession in the current context.

This paper includes nineteen studies and it is accompanied by a „Foreword”, written by His Holiness Father Prof. univ. dr. Irineu Ion Popa, Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia, in which he specifies the importance of the chosen theme both for the life of the Church and for the life of the faithful, taking into account the current context. From the very first lines of the Foreward, His Holiness presents the importance of true faith in human life, calling it „the essential characteristic of defining our Christian-Orthodox identity” (p. 9). From this point of view, His Holiness is of the opinion that „by faith we enter into communion with others and with all humanity … we carry out our daily life and move towards truly immortal things” (p. 9). The author briefly gives us a comparative analysis of the multitude of beliefs that have emerged over time and the Christian faith, emphasizing the importance of the Christian faith, the only faith „that will remain as long as the world will be … permanently alive, present and saving” (p. 10) and „which is based on the revelation of God” (p. 10). Referring to the current society, IPS Dr. Irineu Ion Popa urges us to investigate as carefully as possible our existence, in order to analyze whether by deeds and words we are in faith.

The first of these studies, „The need for biblical and patristic reading for the confession of the true faith” (pp. 14-28), written by PS Conf. univ. dr. Nicodim Nicolăescu, Bishop of Severin and Strehaia, refers to the importance of reading the holy books, in order to achieve the main goal of every Christian, the salvation of the soul. The three subchapters of the study offer an original approach: 1. Reading holy books in monasteries; 2. The teaching of the Holy Fathers about the importance of reading the holy books; 3. The importance of reading in the writings of St. John Chrysostom. Thus, PS Conf. univ. dr. Nicodim Nicolăescu presents, first of all, the fact that from the beginning of monasticism, there was the order of reading from the holy books for the spiritual benefit of the monks. To support his point of view, the author offers several testimonies: the testimony of St. Athanasius the Great about St. Anthony the Great, who took note of what was read in the Holy Scriptures and tried to put them into practice. St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom are two other Holy Fathers exemplified in this subchapter, who through their writings testified that reading the holy books is of spiritual benefit to both monks and believers. Referring to St. John Casian, the author emphasizes that it is not enough just to read the holy books for man to reach completion, without being followed by a practice of what is read. Towards the end of the study, the author approaches this topic from the perspective of St. John Chrysostom, who, in his writings, urges people both to read the Holy Scriptures and to think of the words read in order to understand their true teaching. In conclusion, he points out that the priest is most obliged to read the holy readings in order to fulfill his teaching mission to the people. The present study is based on an analysis of the writings of the Holy Fathers, following which the need to read the holy books is specified, but also the appropriation of those read in order to increase the spiritual growth of each believer.

The purpose of the second study, entitled „Defense of the true faith by preserving the spiritual-cultural heritage” (pp. 29-43) of PS Conf. univ. dr. Emilian Crișanul, Vicar Bishop of the Archdiocese of Arad is to identify ways in which the cultivation of cultural heritage helps to preserve and affirm the true faith. Structured in six parts, the study begins with an overview of the symbolic meaning of the Church, taking over some fundamental ideas of the Holy Fathers. In the following pages, PS Conf. univ. dr. Emilian Crișanul briefly presents the symbolism of church art (church architecture, church painting and objects of worship), highlighting „the educational, didactic and catechetical purpose, i.e. to train believers in the truths of the faith” (p. 31). All these transpose in a specific form the teachings of faith, the history of the Christian life and the content of the Holy Scripture. The conclusion (p. 43) of this study updates the main ideas, emphasizing that through worship, church painting and church architecture the deep connection is made between „the mystical body of Christ and each believer or between theology and the daily life of communities” (p. 43).

In his turn, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan, in the study „The canon of prayer of Holy Communion: ascetic-mystical aspects” (pp. 44-61) presents a detailed analysis of the ascetic-mystical elements contained in the canon of prayer of Holy Communion. The „Introduction” (p. 44) gives us a brief presentation of the practice of the Orthodox faith regarding the receiving of the Holy Eucharist, while specifying the main purpose of the study which is „an analysis of the whole ascetic-mystical reality in which the Prayer Canon of the Divine Eucharist places the person who received the Holy Eucharist” (p. 44). The first part, „Transposition into the state of penance – an essential condition of preparation for the reception of the Holy Eucharist” (pp. 45-53), offers a series of important explanations regarding the role of prayers said before receiving the Holy Eucharist. Following a detailed analysis, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan considers the prayers before the communion have the role „to facilitate a special preparation for the encounter with Christ” (p. 60), to place the believer in that state of inner research, of continuous struggle, for the analysis of the inner self.  The second part, „Communion with the Body and Blood of the Savior Christ or the mystical aspects of the Divine Eucharist” (pp. 53-58), approaches the mystical aspects of the Holy Eucharist. In this sense, the author emphasizes both the sanctifying effects that occur in the being of the one who receives the Holy Eucharist, such as the spiritual consequences, as it appears from the first prayer of St. Basil the Great. The third part, „The help and intercession of the saints and the Mother of God in order to justify the reception of the Holy Sacraments” (pp. 58-59), highlights the role of mediator of the Mother of God in order to participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The chapter „Conclusions” (pp. 60-61) outlines the main ideas highlighted throughout the study, emphasizing that the entire canon of the Holy Communion is to raise awareness of the whole being of the one who receives the Holy Eucharist in order to maintain a permanent communion. with Christ.

The fourth study included in this volume, „Following the example of life and ministry of the Holy Fathers and reading their works – methods permanently valid and useful for Christians in defending and preaching the true Orthodox faith” (pp. 62-82), written by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Constantin Băjău, aims to present the current pastoral-missionary methods, as it emerges from the study of life and writings of the Holy Fathers. In the first part of the study he refers to the Parables of Holy Scripture and the living example of the righteous of the Old Testament (Abraham, Noah or Job), the way of life of St. John the Baptist and the way the Holy Apostles lived (pp. 64-65). Among the pastoral-missionary methods of defending the faith encountered in this study, we mention: the knowledge of the life of the saints; the remembrance of the life of the Holy Fathers, their model of living; care for the needs of others – a practical form of the teaching of Holy Scripture; his own example can also be considered a means of pastoral care, especially in the case of the priest and the reading of the writings of the Holy Fathers (pp. 66-74). Among the methods of defense and preaching of the true Orthodox faith, a special place is occupied by the reading of the Holy Scriptures, but the author states that its understanding is made through the interpretation of the Church (p. 75). Elaborated in a well-documented form, the study discusses various missionary-pastoral methods, which can be followed in today’s society.

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Marin Cojoc, in the study „Historical and spiritual discernment and the fight against religious movements” (pp. 84-94), approaches the virtue of discernment, both from the perspective of the Holy Fathers and from that of  the contemporary Fathers. In the first part of the study we are presented with the meaning of the phrase „sacred discernment” (p. 85), as it appears in the writings of the Holy Fathers. From the patristic evidence used, the author concludes that discernment or right reckoning is the „crown of all virtues” (p. 86), ultimately leading to impatience. In the last part of the study, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Marin Cojoc draws our attention to the fact that discernment and perseverance are charisms acquired through the cleansing of passions (p. 91). At the end of the study, we are presented with the connection between discernment and our spiritual health.

Another well-documented study of this volume is that of Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Adrian Ivan, „Principles of communication and communion in the preaching and pastoral care of the priest” (pp. 95-116). From the first pages, the author specifies the main object of this analysis, the identification of fundamental principles or norms in the preaching service of the priest and in his pastorate, derived from the activity of Christ the Savior and the teaching of the Holy Fathers (p. 99). Fidelity to the teaching of the Church, knowledge of the kinds of preaching and observance of the particularities of the auditor are just some of the important principles that the priest should take into account in his catechetical and preaching activity. In a society where we encounter cultural, religious, ethnic, and national diversity, the priest is required to use the most appropriate means of communication to preach Christian teaching and to help others. In conclusion, the author states that the whole pastoral activity of the priest is inseparable from the Holy Mass, „in which the Word of God shared in the Eucharist gives Himself through the words of the sermon, through spiritual meanings, to those who follow Him” ​​(p. 116).

A study which refers to the current context of society is that of Father Conf. univ. dr. Adrian Boldișor, „The Orthodox Church and current interreligious issues” (pp. 117-132) and which addresses the contribution of the Orthodox Church in interreligious discussions, referring to a series of topics related to the relationship between Gospel and culture, between religion, ethnicity and nationalism, respect for human rights or the issue of migration. The present study addresses in a rather rigorous style some of the challenges and trials that Christians face in the „contemporary globalized world” (p. 132), characterized by a multicultural framework, offering as an example the experience of the Orthodox Church in the diaspora and the way in which interreligious dialogue is approached.

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Gheorghe Zamfir, in his study „The role and importance of the Holy Mass on the preaching, defense and living of the true faith” (pp. 133-153), aims to highlight the fact that in addition to the main purpose of the Holy Mass, the communion with the Body and Blood of the Savior Jesus Christ, several essential elements can be enumerated: the preaching of the true faith – through prayers, through biblical readings, through the answers given by the faithful, through the utterance of the Creed and through the sermon delivered by the priest; the confession of the true faith through the utterance of the Creed and its manifestation beyond the Church through acts of social solidarity.

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Picu Ocoleanu, in the study entitled: „De adaequatione ecclesiae missionis. The Holy Sacrament of Confession and the pastoral-missionary dimension of moral theology” (pp. 154-166), presents, first, the „Mission of the Church in contemporary society” (pp. 154-161), referring to the phenomenology of inadequacy, which has, in theology, a different specific, and proposing some solutions for the types of inadequacies presented. On this subject, the author concludes that „the inadequacy is much broader: it has to do with not thinking and articulating the life and mission of the Church, at the same time, genuine and integral” (p. 161). In the second part, entitled, „Holy Sacrament of Confession and the moral-theological dimension of the Church’s mission”, addresses a series of moral, theological and liturgical aspects related to the practice of the Sacrament of Holy Confession, emphasizing its pastoral-missionary dimension. Being beyond the inadequacies presented in the first part, the Holy Sacrament of Confession represents „the central theme of the moral-theological problematization in the concrete life of the Church” (p. 166).

The study of Father Conf. univ. dr. Sergiu-Grigore Popescu, entitled „Priests from the first half of the 20th century, models of service and defense of the true faith” (pp. 167-182), signals to readers that the priests from Oltenia supported social activities in the first half of the 20th century, organizing a true social apostolate and laying the foundations of an important priestly society, the „Renaissance”, with a social, cultural and philanthropic activity. This study is essentially a „history” of the involvement of the priesthood in social, cultural and philanthropic activities in that period, seeking to highlight the role of the priest who „remained the first pillar of the community, a model of service, living and feeling Orthodox and Romanian” (P. 182).

The study, entitled „Specific methodology for finding and expressing the church word” (pp. 183-193), written by Arhid. Conf. univ. dr. Ionel Ungureanu, analyzes the meanings of the theological word, understanding the methods by which it can be expressed. Emphasizing as an essential feature of the apostolic, patristic and ecclesiastical word the „experience prior to expression, writing” (pp. 185-193), identifies a specific methodology to relate to the word of the church, proposing first: following the life of the Fathers, then the desire to approach of the Realities that are talked about and the avoidance of the mechanical use of some terms. The conclusion of this study is that the relationship between words and the realities designated by words must not remain only in an external plan, but it is necessary to move towards „personal being reporting” (p. 193).

The next chapter, „Faith according to the prophetic books from a missionary pastoral perspective” (pp. 194-211), belongs to Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ion Reșceanu and aims to highlight the meanings of faith as presented in the prophetic books. Performing a rigorous terminological analysis, the author briefly presents the Hebrew terms through which faith is expressed. Having as a starting point the connection between faith and the prophetic calling, Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ion Reșceanu summarizes the meanings of faith, as they appear in the prophetic writings. The author insists that through their books, the prophets urge us to live the faith „as a living, personal reality in which God is present and working” (p. 210).

The purpose of the following study, „Ecphonetic singing or the technique of liturgical recitative in the past and today” (pp. 212-225), by Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Adrian Cristian Mazilița is to present the historical evolution of the liturgical recitative and to understand its role in the holy services. As it appears from the present study, the liturgical recitative aims at emphasizing the liturgical text, and „engaging, with all being, in service by living the liturgical text” (p. 225) is an essential fact.

Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ion Sorin Bora, in the chapter „To what extent can the hypocrisy of the Pharisees affect Christians? A special look at the testimonies offered by St. Matthew” (pp. 226-245), analyzes some events described in the Gospel of Matthew, showing that the image of the Pharisees was associated with hypocrisy and to what extent it influences the lives of Christians. The conclusion of this study is that hypocrisy is a real danger to all people, whether they have heard of God or not. The author states that against hypocrisy man must show sincere repentance and imitation of Christ.

In the study „The work of divine grace in the holy relics. Apologetic and existential evaluation” (pp. 246-262), Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ioniță Apostolache discusses aspects related to the work of divine grace in the holy relics. To begin with, the author presents the biblical and patristic foundations for the veneration of holy relics and shows that, both in the Holy Scriptures and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, a special veneration is given to these holy odors, specifying at the same time how it should be fulfilled. However, the veneration of holy relics has a practical dimension, but also certain characteristic elements, called by the author „practical realities, certainties or evidence of the work of grace” (p. 257). In concluding his study, he presents the importance of the veneration of holy relics by Christians, emphasizing that they fulfill the greatest desire of man: „perfect union with Christ the Savior in the perspective of eternity” (p. 262).

 A study that includes recommendations addressed to both priests and singers is that of Mr. Lect. univ. dr. Cristian Emanuel Cercel, entitled „Recommendations addressed to priests, singers and parishioners for a good liturgical service” (pp. 263-270). This article addresses a number of issues that highlight that along with the priest, both the singer and the chaplain are considered church people and can be seen as role models who influence others through their behavior and attitude.

The chapter entitled „The parish and living in the community according to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism” (pp. 271-284) written by the Dl. Asist. univ. dr. Lucian Zenoviu Bot, begins with a brief analysis of the current pastoral context and has as a starting point the question „What does living in the parish mean for every believer?” (p. 272). In the author’s opinion, the answer to this question starts from two important coordinates for parish life: the churching, to which a pedagogical dimension is assigned and the accomplishment through which man is placed in the „ontological condition of the Church” (p. 277). Towards the end of the study, some practical clarifications are pointed out that emerge from the vocation of the three ministries, highlighting the fact that the Sacrament of Holy Baptism offers man „the coordinates of the Christian life” (p. 284).

In the study „Biblical Theology Today: Diachronic Exegesis and Synchronic Exegesis of Holy Scripture. An orthodox approach” (pp. 285-302), Diac. Asist. univ. dr. Mihai Ciurea specifies the importance of exegesis in the cult of our Church, emphasizing the essential conditions of an authentic exegesis. Referring to the diversity of exegetical methods currently used by other religious circles, he analyzes two main directions: diachronic exegesis and synchronic exegesis and their reception in Orthodox theology, noting that although they differ in their directions, they still lead to somewhat complementary results. The study also exemplifies two models corresponding to the two exegetical methods: the historical-critical method and the method of narrative criticism and the way they are used in Orthodox theology. In the final part, after a rigorous analysis of the two methods, the author concludes that if at first the Orthodox Church was somewhat reluctant in these two directions, over time there was a change of vision on diachronic exegesis and on the two exegetical methods without them contradicting the Orthodox teaching.

The last study presented in this volume has the following title „St. Constantin Brâncoveanu, promoter of psaltic singing in Romanian. Method and means of pastoral care” (pp. 303-327) and is written by Mr. Asist. univ. dr. Victor Șapcă. This article presents certain historical considerations to highlight the Romanianization of church songs, a cultural process that began in the 18th century and is in constant development. As we can see, from the title of the study, the author wants to present the importance of St. Constantin Brâncoveanu in promoting the entire Romanian culture. Most of this study provides an analysis of the authors who played an important role in the Romanianization of church songs. Throughout his presentation, the author wants to specify the fact that over time the desire to Romanianize the songs was supported by both St. Constantin Brancoveanu and many hierarchs.Throughout its content, the volume offers a multidisciplinary approach to a topic quite important for contemporaneity. Its value lies, on the one hand, in the scientific accuracy and, on the other hand, in the thematic diversity of the works that make it up, features that give it the status of a valuable guide for believers and clergy and a useful working tool for researchers. from various areas of theology.

PhD. Mihaela Simona  VULCĂNESCU (OUATU)

Doctoral School of Orthodox Theology „Sfântul Nicodim”,Craiova University