The Church of the Holy Spirit / Edition 28

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The Church of the Holy Spirit, written by Russian priest and scholar Nicholas Afanasiev (1893-1966), is one of the most important works of twentieth-century Orthodox theology. Afanasiev was a member of the “Paris School” of émigré intellectuals who gathered in Paris after the Russian revolution, where he became a member of the faculty of St. Sergius Orthodox Seminary. The Church of the Holy Spirit, which offers a rediscovery of the eucharistic and communal nature of the church in the first several centuries, was written over a number of years beginning in the 1940s and continuously revised until its posthumous publication in French in 1971.

Vitaly Permiakov's lucid translation and Michael Plekon's careful editing and substantive introduction make this important work available for the first time to an English-speaking audience.
"Nicholas Afanasiev is perhaps the most important ecclesiologist of modern times in the Orthodox world. The Church of the Holy Spirit is a very important book, a magnum opus, demonstrating that Afanasiev himself is undoubtedly a major twentieth-century theologian.” —John McGuckin, Nielsen Professor of Early Ecclesiastical History, Union Theological Seminary
“One of the great contributions of the Second Vatican Council was its recovery of a Eucharistic ecclesiology. Yet over a decade before the council, one of the most influential theologians of the Eastern Orthodox communion, Nicholas Afanasiev, was helping his own tradition recover its Eucharistic foundations. The publication of one of his most significant works, The Church of the Holy Spirit, which the University of Notre Dame Press has now made available in English translation, will allow contemporary readers to discover the provocative, insightful and sometimes idiosyncratic perspectives of this seminal Orthodox theologian.” —Richard R. Gaillardetz, Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Toledo.
“Fr. Nicholas Afanasiev's The Church of the Holy Spirit is truly a seminal work of the twentieth-century, an indispensable monument of theological reflection on the Church and her Liturgy. Written over many years, in sustained engagement with the historical experience of the Church and contemporary Eastern and Western theology, the work became itself a catalyst in both eucharistic practice and ecclesiological reflection. This splendid English translation will provide the opportunity for Afanasiev's contribution to be more fully appreciated and critically appropriated.” —Rev. Dr. John Behr, Dean, St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In a work that is scholarly yet accessible to the educated layperson, the late Afanasiev (1893-1966, St. Sergius Orthodox Seminary, Paris), Russian-born Orthodox priest and theologian, considers the evolution of the office of bishop in the Christian church. He argues that the current Western teaching on the office of bishop is one based on scholastic theology, which corrupted the original understanding of the role of the bishop, and ignores the role of the communal and charismatic in the early church. Afanasiev argues that bishops were ordained because it was recognized that the Holy Spirit had already chosen them. He meticulously makes his argument, examining and explaining biblical and early church texts. The chief presbyter (later called bishop) was not set apart but was the presider at the Eucharist, which is concelebrated by all, not just the presbyters. He emphasizes the priesthood of the laity, a topic that is common now but would have been radical when Afanasiev wrote of it. Although completed more than 40 years ago, Afanasiev's book has a contemporary feel. Highly recommended for theology collections.
—Augustine J. Curley

From the Publisher
“In a work that is scholarly yet accessible to the educated layperson, the late Afanasiev (1893-1966, St. Sergius Orthodox Seminary, Paris), Russian-born Orthodox priest and theologian, considers the evolution of the office of bishop in the Christian church. . . . Although completed more than 40 years ago, Afanasiev's book has a contemporary feel. Highly recommended for theology collections.” —Library Journal

“[Afanasiev] was one of the most creative, original, and provocative Orthodox writers in recent generations. Permiakov's very readable English translation will bring a much larger audience to Afanasiev's insights and lead to critical engagement with his arguments.” —Theological Studies

“This felicitously translated posthumous work, The Church of the Holy Spirit (1971), is Afanasiev's magnum opus and it sets out to express his vision of the Church as the realization of the Eucharist by giving an historical account of earliest Christianity's 'eucharistic assembly' with all its constitutive ministries. The present translation makes a poorly known work easily accessible and it is therefore a gift of the authors both to contemporary scholarship, with its reassessment of Russian émigré culture and religious thought in a broad ecumenical perspective, and to the various churches indebted to Afanasiev's immense theological legacy.” —The Russian Review

“. . . This welcome volume is the first time that Afanasiev’s seminal work has been made fully accessible to the English-language reader. Afanasiev was one of the major theological thinkers of the twentieth century. His training as a church historian, his strong belief in the centrality of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and his thorough grounding in patristics enabled him to be among the first theologians to initiate a profound renewal of Eucharistic ecclesiology, not only among Orthodox Christians, but within Catholic and Protestant traditions as well.” —Slavic and East European Journal

“Published posthumously in Russian in 1971 and in French in 1975, The Church of the Holy Spirit—together with other pieces in West European languages—established its author among the most significant Orthodox theologians of the mid-twentieth century. . . . In the present book and some other writings, Afanasiev was directly addressing problems that he saw in the current life of the Orthodox church(es). His criticisms are amply surrounded by a positive ecclesiological vision as he draws hints towards reform from apostolic and early patristic sources.” —Modern Theology

“This is the first time that the classic work of Fr. Afanasiev, originally completed in 1950, has been published in English. Fr. Afanasiev joins a line of Orthodox theologians who attempt to understand the Church—that ‘subject which is not a subject,’ according to Fr. Schmemann—beyond the standard, canonical, approach. His voice, in this edition’s English, sounds timely even now.” —The Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268020309
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 28
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Plekon is professor of sociology at Baruch College. He is the author of Living Icons: People of Faith in the Eastern Church (University of Notre Dame Press, 2002).

Vitaly Permiakov received his M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and is a Ph.D. student in theology at the University of Notre Dame.

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