Living and confessing the true faith in the unity of the Spirit and love, volume coordinated by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan, „Mission and pastorate” Collection, vol. 3

Ed. Mitropoliei Olteniei, Craiova, 2018, 375p., ISBN: 978-606-731-052-8

This paper Living and confessing the true faith in the unity of the Spirit and love includes 20 studies and it is accompanied by the „foreword” (pp. 9-12), signed by His Eminence Father Prof. univ. dr. Irineu Ion Popa, Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia, in which are pointed out some aspects related to living and confessing the true faith, emphasizing that it is not enough resuming to a declarative faith, but it is important that it is complemented by „faith that brings spiritual fruit” (p. 12). At the end of the foreword, His Holiness reminds us that the role of Orthodox Christians is to live and confess the true faith.

In the first study, entitled „The Sin of Foolishness” (pp. 13-24), PS. Conf. univ. dr. Nicodim Nicolăescu, Bishop of Severin and Strehaia, proposes a detailed analysis of the sin of folly, as it appears in the writings of Holy Scripture and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, paying special attention to the Homilies of St. John Chrysostom. Following this analysis, His Holiness concludes that folly is one of the grave sins that can be removed by obeying the rules and by strong faith, man reaching not to fool others, but not to be fooled by others either.

PS Conf. univ. dr. Emilian Crișanul, Vicar Bishop of the Archdiocese of Arad, in the chapter „Preserving faith and church unity through monastic settlements” (pp. 25-39), addresses the issue of Romanian monasticism, highlighting the roles played over time in the spiritual evolution of society. In addition to the pastoral-missionary role that Romanian monasticism plays, the philanthropic role is also mentioned, through which it can help people „in the spiritual evolution of serving God and others” (p. 38).

„The presence of Holy Scripture in the Holy Liturgy: the confession of Scripture through the Liturgy or the prayers of the Liturgy through the words of Scripture” (pp. 40-76) is the title of the study signed by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan in which reference is made to a series of verses and biblical accounts found in the text of the Proscomidia and of the Holy Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. In the first lines of this study, the author points out some aspects related to the history of the Holy Mass. In the next pages, he analyzes every moment of it, to highlight the fact that through prayers, blessings and litany is the message of Holy Scripture such as „Christ’s dialogue with His Church” (p. 75). Following the analysis made, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan concludes that to formulate the text of the Holy Liturgy were used the words „expressed by God Himself in the Holy Scriptures” (p. 75), attributing, in this sense, to the Holy Scriptures an important role in the Holy Liturgy.

The next chapter, „The preaching mission of the priest in the service of the unity of faith and nation” (pp. 77-96), signed by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Adrian Ivan, aims to analyze some principles of the pastoral ministry of the priest. In this sense, the author refers to a series of examples in order to describe the image and characteristics of the preaching vocation over time. At the end of the study, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Adrian Ivan concludes that through the preaching mission the priest must seek „the preservation of the unity of all Romanians through faith in God, in Church” (p. 96).

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Picu Ocoleanu, in the study entitled „Between Rome and Byzantium. The ethnogenesis of the Romanian people and the genealogy of Romanian spirituality in the theological thinking of Nichifor Crainic” (pp. 98-109), proposes a profound approach to our national identity, as it appears from the writings of Nichifor Crainic. In the first part of the study, the author aims to present the Christian-Orthodox vision of Nichifor Crainic regarding the ethnogenesis of the Romanian people. In the following pages, he describes Nichifor Crainic’s reflections on the connection between spirituality and natural gift, pointing out the difference between Romanian Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy.

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Gheorghe Zamfir, in the study „Saints, human faces restored in Christ, models of living the Christian faith” (pp. 110-127), presents the Orthodox teaching about the veneration of saints, considered to be real „models of living the Christian faith” (p. 112). In order to highlight the importance of the veneration of saints, as it appears from the Orthodox teaching, the author brings into discussion several topics: the semantics of the terms holy and holiness, as found in Holy Scripture; biblical grounds for honoring saints; the purpose of honoring the saints; and, last but not least, the fact that through their lives and deeds the saints become living models of living the Christian faith.

Another study, included in this volume is that of Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Marin Cojoc, entitled „Defense of the true faith at the Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Danube implications” (pp. 128-153). Here, the author offers a rigorous analysis of the vicarious relationship between Rome and Thessalonica. In this sense, the conflicts that appeared at ecclesiastical and religious level are pointed out, during the pastorate of Pope Boniface, making a series of historical and doctrinal references regarding the jurisdictional situation in the province of Illyricum.

The chapter „The Holy Fathers-teachers of the unity of faith and examples of working love” (pp. 154-179), signed by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Constantin Băjău describes the richness of the writings of the Holy Fathers, considered true models of faith, both through their lives and through their works. Throughout this study, Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Constantin Băjău approaches the theme of unity of faith, emphasizing that, through their lives, the Holy Fathers are a living expression of working love, and through their writings „they become our sure guides in living the Gospel and in confessing the true faith” (p. 178 ).

Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Adrian-George Boldișor, in the study „Interreligious dialogue – a form of love of neighbor” (pp. 180-196), wants to highlight the role and importance of interreligious dialogue from a Christian point of view, both in the past and today. As stated at the beginning of the study, interreligious dialogue is based on Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. In this sense, the author makes an analysis of the dialogue with those of other faiths, as presented in the Bible and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, revealing some special cases presented in the patristic works. Towards the end of the study, he presents the role of interreligious dialogue in the current context, stating that it aims to „promote collaboration between believers of the world’s religions” (p. 195).

Another study where a lot of historical information is thoroughly concentrated is the one written by Pr. Conf. univ. dr. Sergiu-Grigore Popescu, entitled „The Oltenian priesthood and the movements of social and national emancipation” (pp. 197-211). Here, the author aims to present some information that highlights the role played by the Oltenian priesthood during the Revolutions of 1821 and 1848 and The War of Independence in1877. The conclusion of this study is that the priests of Oltenia were actively involved and brought a major contribution to all important moments of the nineteenth century.

„On the Christian Mission from a Theological Perspective” (pp. 212-223) is another study written by the Arhid. Conf. univ. dr. Gelu Călina, who begins with some general considerations regarding the missionary vocation of the Orthodox Church. In order to give readers a more accurate understanding of the Church’s mission, the author aims to analyze the socio-cultural environment of the Church as it was in the first Christian millennium, as it evolved and as it is perceived today.

Arhid. Conf. univ. dr. Ionel Ungureanu, in the study entitled „The use of new media and the perspective of Orthodox theological ethics” (pp. 224-229), aims to address the use of new media from an Orthodox perspective. Thus, after describing the relationship between the new media and economic realities, the meaning of Orthodox theological ethics is clarified and the challenges of using new media that can lead to deepening of the self are highlighted. In the last part of the study, the author reveals the perspective of Orthodox Ethics in terms of how to use the new media, referring to the writings of the Philocal Fathers.

Another study, written by Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ion Reșceanu, „The practice of personal prayer according to the Old Testament” (pp. 230-252), discusses aspects related to the practice of Old Testament prayer. In this context, the author first presents some terminological approaches to the meaning of the term „prayer”, as used in the Old Testament, continuing with the description of certain features of Old Testament prayer from various periods. Following this analysis, the author concludes that the Old Testament prayer reveals that „disposition and commitment of man with all his being to the fulfillment of God’s will” (p. 252), in order to reach into full communion with God.

The chapter „Faces of Greek and Romanian protopsalts from the 19th and 20th centuries, keepers and continuators of the psaltic musical tradition” (pp. 253-269), written by Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Adrian-Cristian Mazilița, reveals a series of information about the Greek and Romanian protopsalts, in order to help theologians, priests and music teachers to correctly understand psaltic church music. This study presents emblematic figures, specifying their importance for the evolution of church music.

In turn, Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ioniță Apostolache, in the article „Orthodox teaching about ancestral sin. Apologetic approach in the context of interfaith differences” (pp. 269-291), discusses a number of issues related to ancestral sin, as it appears in Orthodox teaching, providing a detailed analysis of the consequences of ancestral sin and the theme of „tunics of leather”. Towards the end of the study, a critical approach is proposed regarding the Western teaching about ancestral sin and the restoration of man after the fall into sin.

Pr. Lect. univ. dr. Ion-Sorin Bora presents, in the chapter „What does it mean for the Holy Apostle Paul to be faithful?” (pp. 292-305), an apology for the faith, as it appears from the Pauline writings. In the first part, he offers a semantic analysis of the term πίστίς – faith, and continues with the exposition of the meaning of the expression πίστίς Χριστοΰ. Following these statements, the author concludes that in Pauline writings faith is a characteristic of the Christian, the only thing necessary for man’s salvation and „a continuous effort for the believer” (p. 304).

The next study, entitled „The unity of faith and the Communion of the Holy Spirit according to the book of Acts of the Apostles” (pp. 306-323), written by Diac. Lect. univ. dr. Mihai Ciurea, offers us a fairly detailed analysis of the phrase „unity of faith and participation of the Holy Spirit”, as it appears in the Lucanian writings. The first part of the study begins with a presentation of a Christian historiography of the book of Acts of the Apostles and continues with an emphasis on the role of the expression „unity of faith and participation of the Holy Spirit” for Christian communities.

In the study „The unity of thought of the Church. Ecclesiological synthesis” (pp. 324-348), Diac. Lect. univ. dr. Lucian Zenoviu Bot proposes a short presentation on the unity of faith of ekklesiei, from the perspective of the three aspects of the return of human knowledge to God: will, martyrdom and confession. In the last part of the study, the author analyzes heresy, as a form of deviation from the unity of faith and understood by some modern historians as an expression of a certain type of Christianity. 

Mister. Asist. univ. dr. Victor Șapcă, in the article „Mother of God reflected in hymnography and songs of the liturgical cult” (pp. 349-363), describes the way that The Orthodox Church transposes into religious songs and hymns the dogma of honoring the Mother of God. In the present study, the author refers to the first hymns dedicated to the Mother of God that can be found in the Bible writings. Towards the end of the study, Mr. Asist. univ. dr. Victor Șapcă emphasizes the fact that the Mother of God is honoured in all services of the orthodox cult, through the poetic-dogmatic imnology, but also through the dedicated prayers.

In the final part of this volume there is the study written by Arhid. Dr. Nicușor Lăzărică, „Singing in common – a means of pastoring, communion and strengthening of the faith” (pp. 364-375), where the importance of singing in a community at Church is presented. Practiced since the beginning of the Church, singing was a way of spreading the dogma, now being considered a means of communication and preservation.

Therefore, we can conclude that, both through scientific approaches and concise and clear style, the presented volume can bring a valuable contribution to the knowledge of different aspects of this complex theme. Viewed from the perspective of the reader eager to learn more about Orthodox teaching regarding the true faith, the volume provides all the information for building correct overviews considering the latest research and interpretations. From this point of view, this volume is remarkable through its scientific aspect.

PhD. Mihaela Simona  VULCĂNESCU (OUATU)

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