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Imperial Birthroom

Interesting digs in Serbia:

The latest discovery once against confirms that the archaeological location of Medijan has greater significance than it is usually credited, with its links to Constantine the Great (280-337 A.D.), and as a residence of the Roman emperors in the third and fourth century AD, archaeologists say.

The site is located near the road leading from Niš to Niška Banja…

From the early Christian period, archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be Germanic graves.

What are the links to Constantine? He was born in Naissus (Niš). There are remains of a fourth-century Imperial villa nearby, as well as other pricey pieces of ancient real estate. Luxurious mosaics have been found there. It will be interesting to find out whether those “Germanic graves” from “the early Christian period” were Christian graves — and what was in the graves, besides bones.

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A Patristic Book Club!

Got an email yesterday from a visitor who helps to lead “an ecumenical Patristics books club.” He was trying to put together a program that used primary texts — “actual works (not commentaries)” — well translated, affordable, and easily bought in quantity. I had to ponder this a bit. The simplest route, of course, would be to use The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition and The Mass of the Early Christians, both of which include sample texts from a wide range of patristic authors. (Anne Fremantle’s A Treasury of Early Christianity used to serve this purpose, but it’s long out of print.)

But this inquirer wanted something meatier than the short, representative excerpts my books had to offer. He asked if I thought Jurgens’ Faith of the Early Fathers: Three-Volume Set might do. Jurgens is indeed a good reference work — a collection of excerpts, usefully indexed by dogmatic subject. But it makes for dull reading by itself. I think it would be a disappointment for members who are obviously motivated to read deeply in individual works — who want to get to know the ancient authors.

After scanning the shelves a little bit last night, it seemed to me that the Penguin Classics presented the best way to do something programmatic. Consider these four titles for starters.

Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (ed. Andrew Louth)

Eusebius: The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine (ed. Andrew Louth)

Early Christian Lives

St. Augustine: Confessions (tr. R.S. Pine-Coffin)

These four could keep a group well occupied for at least a year (if not two or three). What’s more, they present an excellent overview of the historical challenges and dogmatic disputes of the first four centuries — and in a fairly painless way, with stories rather than treatises (though all the dogma’s in there).

Once the group got through that list, it could go back in time and work through some more challenging material, again all readily available and quite readable (though just a bit more pricey) in the Classics of Western Spirituality and HarperCollins Spiritual Classics series:

Origen: An Exortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works

Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns

Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses

Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter

Pseudo Dionysius: The Complete Works

Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings

John Cassian: Conferences

Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings

That’s the best way I’ve found to be programmatic with readable, affordable, available texts. What do you think?

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More on the New Augustine Sermons

Constanze Witt of the Department Of Classics at the University of Texas posted the following to a medieval list.

Not all sensational finds come out of the ground! Augustine scholars will be delighted at the news of 6 previously unknown sermons’ being discovered through a library “excavation” in Erfurt’s Bibliotheca Amploniana. Isabella Schiller and colleagues from the Austrian Academy of Sciences discovered these works while studying an 800-year-old manuscript in the summer of 2007.

Concealed in a medieval parchment manuscript amongst 70 other religious texts are ca. 26 sermons attributed to Augustine, 3 of them on brotherly love and alms-giving. These were known previously only by their titles cited in Possidius’ Indiculum. One sermon is on the martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas, and another on the recently martyred Cyprian, the latter of which condemns the copious drinking that took place on saints’ feast days. The final sermon deals with resurrection of the dead and biblical prophecies.

The 12th c. mss came from England(?) to Erfurt as part of the enormous collection of more than 630 books donated by the physician and theologue Amplonius Rating de Berka to the ‘Collegium Amplonianum’ which he founded in 1412.

For 24 amazing images of this absolutely pristine and gorgeous codex, see here.

The 6 new sermons will be published in Wiener Studien. Zeitschrift für Klassische Philologie und Patristik und lateinische Tradition
Sermones Erfurt 1, 5, and 6 in Bd. 121 (2008), pp. 227-284.
Sermones Erfurt 2, 3 and 4 in Bd. 122 (2009)
They can now be viewed on display in the Sondersammlung der UB Erfurt für Foto- und Filmaufnahmen. Several public lectures are
planned in the coming weeks.

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Stop the Presses! Six “New” Augustine Sermons Found!

Adrian Murdoch (late of the blog Bread and Circuses) sends us the following press release, which my co-author Chris Bailey translated from the German. If you can read German, follow the link. There are pictures, too.

Dear Listers:

Allow me to inform you that six unknown genuine lectures of the famous early-Christian Church teacher Augustine (d. 430), bishop of Hippo Regius (which is now in Algeria), have been discovered recently in the university and research library in Erfurt by three researchers from the Austrian Academy of the Sciences, Vienna. The manuscript is more than 800 years old.

Isabella Schiller, Dorothea Weber, and Clemens Weidmann have succeeded in identifying four completely new and two until-now incompletely known lectures of the famous Church father Augustine in a medieval manuscript of the “Bibliotheca Amploniana.” The Pergament Manuscript, marked Dep. Erf. Ca. 12th 11, was written in the second half of the 12th century, probably in England, and contains, altogether, more than 70 different lectures of different late-antique and medieval theologians.

For more information:

Yours sincerely,
Brigitte Pfeil

And, of course: Tolle, lege.

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Going Out in Tile

Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire is on display at McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, through June 8. The artworks exemplify the common visual language shared by Jews, pagans, and Christians.

Three spectacular mosaic panels remain from a Creation vignette section: a large fish, a dolphin, and a duck. Most of the floor has been laid out symmetrically, but not this dynamic area. In the watercolor, vines or ropes spin from the mouths of the fish and the dolphin, suggesting they have been caught and will perhaps be served, according to Jewish tradition, when the messiah comes.

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Marinade in the Maronite

The Society of St. John Chrysostom promotes ecumenical dialogue of the east-west variety. Most members belong to Orthodox or Catholic churches. I’ve had the honor of speaking twice in the lecture series of the Youngstown-Warren, Ohio Chapter.

Next up in the series is Msgr. Anthony Spinosa, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, Ohio. He will speak April 1 at 7 p.m. on the subject of the Maronite divine liturgy. The talk takes place at the shrine, which is at 2759 North Lipkey Road. For information, call 330-755-5635.