The presentation abstracts will be listed here in the alphabetic order of the speakers.


The Reception of Chalcedonian Christology by Georges Florovsky and John Zizioulas: A Critical Appraisal

Chalcedonian Christology is central to the orthodox Christological doctrine. Whereas in modern western Christology its reception has been sometimes ambivalent, in Orthodox theology it has generally been positive. Two of the most prominent Orthodox theologians, Georges Florovsky and John Zizioulas, attempted to highlight the existential significance of this Christology. Florovsky underlined the personal involvement of God in the misery and tragedy of human life and its redemptive effect. He associated this with man’s deliverance from both sin and death, which was accomplished not only at the incarnation but also at the cross (and by implication the resurrection), which is the highpoint of the Gospel. He also explained how Chalcedonian Christology may be used in order to shape our theological epistemology. Zizioulas, by contrast, focused one-sidedly on the problem of death, emphasized the incarnation and the resurrection and neglected both the problem of sin and the importance of the cross. Thus, he failed to highlight the existential significance of Chalcedonian Christology in a balanced and theologically satisfactory way.

Fr Dobromir DIMITROV

Western Scholastic Influences on Orthodox Theology in the 17th-18th Centuries: Impacts on the Eucharistic Practice in the East

Despite the numerous theological studies that have been published over the last 20 years, a number of problems arising from traditions foreign to the Church still remain unrecognized in our church life today. Moreover, these traditions pass as strictly Orthodox traditions, and whoever tries to make sense of them through the prism of the authentic church teaching is stigmatized as a modernist or reformer. This talk is an attempt to briefly trace the westernization of Orthodox theology. It aims to show the consequences this process had for the Eucharistic practice in Russia and in the Balkans.

What constitutes one of the greatest dangers to liturgical life is its being reduced to rules and norms, to a simple ritualism based on the individual experiences and efforts of the individual Christian. This individual experience and individual piety has infiltrated Orthodoxy from Western Protestantism and is denoted by the term pietism.  Pietism penetrated the Orthodox world in the 18th century through Russia thanks to the determined efforts of Archbishop Theophanes Prokopovich (1681–1736), who carried out the order of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great (1672–1725) to reform the church life. This reform both consisted in the introduction of secular principles into the life of the Church (as was Tsar Peter’s desire) and in promoting Protestant pietism to counterbalance the strong Roman Catholic influences. At the same time, Prokopovich established his own theological system and introduced several Protestant textbooks into the curriculum of the Kiev Theological Academy.  This had a profound effect on the theological science in Slavic-speaking Orthodox lands. Gradually, under Prokopovich’s influence, Protestant models and criteria were imposed on theology and church life. Theological thought began to deal with moral issues that had nothing to do with liturgical life, and participation in the Liturgy was perceived as an aid, a reward, and a religious obligation. In this way, the understanding of the Eucharistic service and participation in it (Holy Communion), which according to Christos Yannaras is ‘the original embodiment of the fact of salvation,’ was ‘distorted by the pietistic spirit [and] construed as a narrowly “religious” obligation.’

Clericalism, on the other hand, has been no less a threat to the Church than pietism. It became dominant in the Roman Catholic Church in the 12th century, while in the 13th century the scholastic rationalists, notably Thomas Aquinas, based on Western metaphysics stretching back to St Augustine of Hippo, introduced radical changes to theology. They created a closed dogmatic ideology, institutionally embodied in the Roman Catholic Church. In this ideology, hierarchical ministries were not based on their role and place in the Eucharistic assembly, but on institutional legalism. This juridical model created a division between the various hierarchical ministries and completely destroyed the ministry of the laity (gr. laos). The clergy was perceived as a mediator between God and the laity, possessing a special grace through which they distributed gifts, preserved the faith and provided a religious service to the laos. Inevitably, this led to a decline in the Eucharistic life of the laity since it was only the clergy who had, by virtue of their special grace, the privilege to partake of the Holy Mysteries regularly in the celebration of the Liturgy.

Octavian GORDON

Neptic Spirituality and Latin Fathers. The Case of St Gregory the Great

Modern scholarship usually associates Neptic spirituality with the Greek Fathers of the Church, maybe due to the Greek origin of the term and its theological development within the Byzantine world. The collection of The Philokalia and its success may also have played a role in the perception that Neptic spirituality is exclusively or almost exclusively connected to the Greek Byzantine Fathers. It can be doubted whether the common reader of The Philokalia realises that the texts of John Cassian were first written in Latin and then translated into Greek.

In a piece of research recently carried out by the author, it has been revealed that Gregory the Great, in his Homilies on Gospels, uses mens, -ntis with a meaning similar to the Greek philokalic νοῦς. It has been shown that mens, ­-ntis is interchangeable with cor, cordis in many contexts. Beyond the purely philological observations and the obvious cultural influence of the Byzantine thought upon the Western Roman world, it would not be erroneous to assume that the participation in the same divine realities has determined the common semantic development of νοῦς and mens, in a time when the social communication between East and West was not so easy as before the split of the Roman Empire.

The present paper aims at broadening the research on Gregory the Great’s Homilies on Gospels, providing further elements showing that Gregory, Pope of Rome, belongs to the same Neptic spirituality as the philokalic Fathers.


The Holy Canons: Problems and Use

The Holy Canons are the common sources of church law in the Orthodox Churches and an important part of their confessional identity. There are, however, several problems related to defining the corpus canonum (body of canons), the hierarchy of norms within corpus canonum, and the relationship of the Holy Canons to other sources of church law. This paper will explore and reflect on these problems with a view to the contemporary canonical praxis.


Revisiting “Active Participation” in Orthodox Ecclesial Life: Insights from St John Chrysostom

The contemporary Orthodox discourse frequently delves into lay participation in liturgical activities such as congregational singing, public reading, and assistance at the sanctuary. Scholars have observed a correlation between this phenomenon and the directives of Vatican II on “active participation,” which not only influenced Roman Catholic theology but also shaped Orthodox perspectives on liturgy, notably advocated by theological figures like Fr Alexander Schmemann. One may also ask whether the emphasis on active participation has found particular resonance in cultures influenced by the individualism of early 16th-century Protestant interpretations of the priesthood of all believers or subsequent iterations thereof. Rather than scrutinizing these modern or medieval undercurrents beneath contemporary debates, this study redirects attention to the sources, aiming to delineate the essence of active participation as exemplified by a prominent catechist and congregational homilist of the Patristic era, St John Chrysostom.

The central inquiry pertains to the nature of ecclesiastical participation that Chrysostom anticipated from both neophytes and seasoned believers. A systematic examination of his catechetical and exegetical homilies elucidates that, for Chrysostom, active ecclesial participation primarily entails renunciation of one’s former lifestyle, repentance, steadfast confession of faith, internal adherence to ecclesiastical dogma, and earnest engagement in the rites of initiation. Through these voluntary acts, adherents attain full membership of the Church. Subsequently, Chrysostom underscores the significance of regular attendance at services, reception of homiletical instruction, participation in the Eucharist, and concentrated prayer, alongside the cultivation of piety, ceaseless pursuit of spiritual growth, Christian witness, and material generosity.

Remarkably, Chrysostom outlines minimal expectations concerning the public roles of his audience in the liturgical synaxis. While scant evidence either confirms or denies their involvement in hymnody, the homilist’s sporadic exhortations to singing, praise, and scripture reading seem directed more against worldly discourse than toward the promotion of lay participation in public liturgical activities.

Fr Václav JEŽEK

Exegesis as Liberation

The purpose of this paper is to address the new possible developments in Orthodox Theology. There is a growing chasm in contemporary Orthodox theology, which is conditioned by the new developments in science, society and other challenges. This chasm is related to the often difficult task of bridging a mystically and spiritually orientated theology with the necessity of developing an applied theology with regard to the challenges that are facing us.

The good news is that Orthodoxy has not lost its connection with the ontological basis and spirituality linked with salvation, as has happened perhaps in other contexts. However, at the same time, we have to a certain degree in Orthodoxy lost the ability to theologise creatively. The contribution focuses only on exegesis as a method, which enables us to offer creative theology while remaining anchored in the matrix of spirituality. We have chosen a few patristic exegetical examples to assess how they approach the texts, how they explain them, and whether there is inspiration in these exegetical endeavours for us, in creating a viable method for applied theology. We look at a treatise of Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom.

Fr Ernesto Sergio MAINOLDI

Neo-patristic Synthesis between Unity and Identity in Orthodox Theology

Neo-patristic synthesis has constituted the mainstream in Orthodox theology during the twentieth century, making the motto “return to the Fathers,” launched in 1936 by Fr. George Florovksy, its banner. The polemical intent underlying Florovsky’s appeal undoubtedly make of the call to the Fathers an identity element, which played an important role in the confrontation with Western theology triggered by the Orthodox diaspora during last century. Beyond the polemical and apologetic motive, the neo-Patristic synthesis was plainly accepted in all orthodox theological schools and animated the most significant movements of revitalization of the theological studies. This success, however, has created the perception of methodological fragmentation and has prompted criticism that the focus on the Fathers has stifled other fields of theological studies, e.g., biblical studies. In this contribution I will try to highlight from a historiographical point of view the constant presence of the patristic paradigm in the Orthodox tradition (and beyond), which has produced recurrent returns to the Fathers; secondly I will attempt to highlight from a theological point of view the aspects that make it an element of unity from both a historical and methodological point of view, moving beyond the mere identity motif with which it is usually approached.


Reading and Misreading Church Fathers in Serbia Today: Between Ideology and Theology

The revival of interest in the Church Fathers in Serbia, initiated by St. Justin Popović in the 1930s, gained momentum following the collapse of Communism in the 1990s. Serbian theologians, particularly those educated in Greece in the latter half of the 20th century, championed the theology of personhood and eucharistic ecclesiology, shaping modern Orthodox theology. They sought to interpret the Church Fathers through the lens of these doctrines, viewing them as essential for understanding the Church and Christian life.

However, this approach has led to both fruitful interpretations and potential misreadings of the Church Fathers in Serbia over the past three decades. The broad identification of hypostasis with person and the Church with the Eucharist has influenced how these theologians have approached the patristic writings.

This paper aims to delve into the impact of these theological frameworks on the interpretation of the Church Fathers in Serbia, with a particular focus on the writings of the Cappadocian Fathers and St. Maximus the Confessor. It will explore both the insights gained and the potential pitfalls of reading the Church Fathers through the lens of personhood and eucharistic ecclesiology, shedding light on the complexities of engaging with ancient texts in a contemporary context.

Georgi MITOV

The Patristic Exegetical Foundations of the Orthodox Homiletic Tradition: The Učitelno evangelie (Didactic Gospel) by Constantine of Preslav

The Učitelno evangelie (Didactic Gospel) is a collection of fifty-one homilies for each Sunday of the ecclesiastical year for the period from Easter to Palm Sunday, written by Constantine of Preslav at the end of the 9th century. For the composition of the homiletic texts, Constantine extensively used patristic exegetical commentaries, either in their original form (usually, exegetical homilies) or in the form of Greek New Testament catenae. By doing so, Constantine placed the patristic exegetical tradition at the centre of his homilies, whilst engaging with his patristic sources in a new and creative way. Thus, in my paper, I shall elaborate further on the significance of the Greek patristic exegetical tradition for the composition of homiletic texts by using the Didactic Gospel by Constantine of Preslav as an example.

Fr Chrysostomos NASSIS

Elements of a Mid-20th Century Liturgical Debate: Eulogios Kourilas Lauriotes and Panagiotes Trembelas on the Recitation of Priestly Prayers in the Divine Liturgy

In current discussions on liturgical renewal and reform within the Orthodox Church, a significant number of scholars and practitioners strongly advocate for the audible recitation of priestly prayers during the Divine Liturgy. This marks a departure from the long-standing practice observed in Greece until the mid to late 20th century.

Traditionally, it was customary to recite these ‘mystikai euchai’ in a manner inaudible to the congregation. Throughout the 20th century, however, perspectives regarding this practice gradually evolved. By the mid-20th century, the debate peaked, with proponents arguing for either the audible or the silent recitation of these prayers. This culminated in the 1956 decision by the Synod of the Church of Greece, favoring the older practice in order to counteract the alternative trend

This paper aims to dissect this debate, focusing specifically on the divergent viewpoints of Eulogios Kourilas Lauriotes and Panagiotes Trembelas. By examining the perspectives of these influential figures, this paper seeks to explore the nuanced layers of this theological discussion, providing valuable insights for contemporary reflection within Orthodox liturgical theology and practice.

Fr Damaskinos (OLKINUORA) of Xenophontos

Liturgical Archaeology: Trends and Dangers

The blossoming of liturgical studies from the 19th century onwards and the ad fontes movement of the early 20th century have encouraged churches, especially the Roman Catholic and Orthodox ones, to “return” to their liturgical sources, with various pastoral and practical implications. In the Byzantine Orthodox churches, this has resulted in the reconstruction and celebration of “ancient” liturgies, such as St James, St Mark, Apostolic Constitutions, and Sarapion. Additionally, since the 19th century there has been an ongoing debate on how to apply the liturgical instructions of the Neo-Sabbaitic typikon in the realities of liturgical worship today. The present paper examines the tendencies of “liturgical archaeology” and its application in the liturgical life of the church, as well as the dangers it might expose.

Fr Serafim SEPPÄLÄ

Animals as aloga: a critical appraisal of a murky idea

In our times, phenomena such as industrial animal agriculture, increased meat consumption, and the loss of species necessitate an urgent shift in human attitudes towards animals. Within the Orthodox Church, there seems to exist some tensions between praxes and theories concerning animals. On the one hand, the praxis of monastic saints demonstrates a harmonious relationship with animals, supported by the idea of return to the original paradisiacal state. One the other hand, this appears to have minimal impact on the majority of the Church, or its message.

The patristic, hymnographic, and even modern discourses are inherently linked with the concept of animals as aloga, lacking the faculty of reason. In history, this notion has been repeatedly used as the primary justification for humans’ entitlement to use animals as objects of consumption and mistreatment. The validity of this argument itself was a subject of debate in antiquity, and its integration into patristic theology seems to create some tension with the paradisiacal ideals. Therefore, the argument requires reinterpretation in the light of contemporary concerns and the discoveries of modern science regarding animal cognition. In this paper, I aim to trace and outline the principal uses, applications, and problematic issues of the idea of animals as aloga, focusing on patristic sources with some reference to the Greek antiquity, as well as the insights of modern natural science.