The international patristic conference “Saint Basil the Great in the Western and Eastern Theological Tradition” opened on April 11 at the Saints Cyril and Methodius Institute for Doctoral Studies in Moscow. This scientific forum brought together more than twenty patristics scholars, theologians, and Church historians from Russia, the United States, Italy, France, Australia, and other countries.
“The 4th century Cappadocian theologian can still teach much to our contemporary world”. This thought was developed in one of the lectures, and was shared by other participants, who highlighted different aspects of St. Basil’s legacy. His legacy “is so great that it would take several symposia to understand it”, said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the opening of the symposium. He enumerated different facets of this great Cappadocian saint’s theological creation. He is indeed known as a dogmatist, an exegete, a remarkable canonist, and a liturgist.
When greeting the participants, Metropolitan Hilarion reminded them this conference was the sixth in a series of annual forums each dedicated to one of the ancient Church great theologians.
Metropolitan Hilarion gave the first presentation on the theme “The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great in the context of his theological ideas”, in which he focused on the theological aspect of the text of the anaphora and its “very pronounced Trinitarian character”. He addressed the issue of the prototype of this anaphora, which recalls the research on the “Q source” in Gospel studies. He also analyzed the text of the anaphora in the context of theological discussions going on in the 4th century Church.
“The understanding of the theological content of St. Basil’s liturgy must become the starting point for the study of both dogmatics and patristics,” said Metropolitan Hilarion.
You can read his lecture here, in Russian.
Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe (ROCOR) gave a presentation on the theme “The Liturgy of Creation: Saint Basil the Great’s Cosmology and Theological Vision”. He emphasized that Saint Basil’s theological works have a liturgical character. It is in this perspective that the speaker considered the “Homilies on the Hexaemeron”, convincingly establishing the link between these texts and that of the anaphora: “In both, the liturgical method is the same”, ultimately and exclusively directed towards the saint’s flock.
Bishop Irenei stated that out of St. Basil’s many ministries, the main one was precisely the pastoral ministry, which motivated all the others: “He was above all a priest and a pastor. By creating liturgical texts, he served his flock in the first place. He was fully immersed in the suffering world, full of heresies and erroneous teachings, and he felt strongly the need to fight with his faithful.”
The first session was concluded by Msgr Francesco Braschi, the Director of the Slavic Section at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan.
Examining the correspondence and examples of doctrinal inheritance between St. Ambrose and St. Basil (St. Ambrose often referred to the works of the Bishop of Cappadocia, which he used for his sermons), Msgr Francesco drew conclusions on the role played by both hierarchs to overcome the Arian crisis. At that time, marked by “difficulties and controversies that forced the ship of the Church to sail on rough sea”, “the seriousness of the circumstances did not prevent the realization that the interaction and dialogue between Eastern and Western Churches was a necessary and irreplaceable means allowing both sides to assume their missionary role and to respond to their vocation of proclaiming the faith”, concluded the scholar.
In the session on “Saint Basil the Great: Historical-Cultural and Literary Context”, Professor Claudio Moreschini of Pisa focused on the philosophical aspects of Saint Basil’s legacy. Like the other Cappadocian Fathers, he turned to Greek philosophy. According to the speaker, St. Basil “does not consider it possible to solve the difficulties of Trinitarian theology with help of philosophy alone. However, the explanations he gives in this field are no less philosophical than theological”.
A special session was devoted to Saint Basil’s Trinitarian theology. In a lecture entitled “St. Basil, on the name of Christ and the Mystery of God”, Archpriest John Behr (St. Vladimir Seminary, New York) drew attention to the fact that St. Basil’s Christology influenced the theology of his younger brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa.
“St. Basil rarely mentioned Christology questions. And the bases of the development of this teaching in the works of his brother St Gregory are not found in these alone. Nevertheless, all the mystery of theology is contained in these words by St. Basil: “The name of Christ is the confession of everything” summed up Father John.
Two other speakers, Lewis Ayres (University of Durham) and Marvin Jones (Louisian College), discussed the themes of “Saint Basil and the development of pro-Nicean apophatism” and St. Basil’s theology in understanding “the homoousios “.
Ysabel de Andia (CNRS, Paris), examined the question of the divinity of the Holy Spirit in St. Basil’s work “on the Holy Spirit”.
There were lectures as well on “Exegetical Questions in Saint Basil the Great”, “The Moral and Ascetic Teaching of Saint Basil the Great”, “Theology of Saint Basil the Great and the Eastern Christian Tradition” were further examined”.
The full program is available here in Russian.
Source in Russian (with picture)