Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on McGuckin, "Autobiography As Apologia"

Monday, September 21, 2009
McGuckin: Autobiography as Apologia

Gregory uses poems to reconstruct himself & the way things ought to be
Key to understanding Gregory: Gregory left us three forms of writing (poetry, 43 orations [sermons once-delivered but actually heavily reconstructed after delivered], series of letters (a little over 200)): comparing the orations to the letters (the letters have fixed dates, but the final versions of the orations are undated) – able to parse out different layers to see what Gregory originally said (what his concern was), and what must have been added later (reflecting concerns in letters from a later period)
What can we learn from knowing the differences? See whether and how his ideas changed (esp. in dealing with the more theoretical/theological aspects), and how St. Gregory is able to craft his own persona by which people are to remember him
Gregory is far more sophisticated and politically alert/astute than the caricature that he himself created – only people committed to lesser pursuits/lower things are able to make it in the political sphere
Augustine writes the first Christian autobiography in prose, not the first autobiography simply

Second Ecumenical Council – most influential orthodox theologian in the West at the time is St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (like the Cappadocians in temperament & theology) – simultaneous parallel council in Aquilea: basically no Western bishops at Constantinople – Ambrose gets Aquilea to coincide with the theology of Constantinople – Ambrose has the same view of the Trinity as the Cappadocians – between the Council of Nicaea and Constantinople I that Constantinople becomes the new capital (New Rome) – Rome & Alexandria did not acknowledge canon three of Constantinople I (Constantinople being the second see after Rome) – Ambrose also uncomfortable with the capital leaving Italy
No one in the East cared – if the Bishop of Rome had disagreed with the outcome of Constantinople I, then there would have been a problem – there is no theologically significant pope until Leo I the Great in the fifth century
Scholars think that people read Gregory uncritically, taking his accounts of history at face-value, not cognizant of the fact that he was giving his own biography when he talks of the ideal Christian leader
Historians will privilege the letter
says that only trustworthy theologians are those who have achieved theosis

Basil said monks are supposed to be at the service of the larger world, not totally isolated from it – reading for next class: On the Renunciation of the World & Longer Rules (sections) – not like Benedict’s Rule; this is an after-the-fact (posthumous) collection of Basilian sayings & pieces of advice – most of these recommendations come from when St. Basil was no longer an abbot, but a bishop – disjointed but gives insight into Basilian model of monasticism – Longer Rules

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