International Dominican University

Order of Preachers - Dominican Friars

Eastern Church History and Cultural Landmarks

Professor: Fr. Jesmond Micallef ofm cap

Credts: 3 ECTS

This course will look at some issues of theological controversy between East and West (e.g. Filioque) and some areas of doctrine and practice traditionally distinctive of Eastern Christianity (e.g. theology of the icon), as well as areas of theology and church life that show especial vitality today. Through a variety of readings, including some patristic and liturgical texts, it will try to convey the connections between spiritual life and worship, theology, and the response of the Church to the world.

The Tradition of the Church is a living reality, which the Orthodox Christian must live daily in a mystical way. By adhering to the teaching of the Scriptures, the Ecumenical Councils, and the Patristic writings, by observing the canons of the Church, by frequently participating in the Eucharist, where Tradition becomes an empirical reality, we are members of the Body of Christ and are led to the "contemplation of God" to repeat a beautiful expression of St. Neilos (fifth century). St. Gregory Palamas, in summing up the Patristic doctrine of Christian life, suggests that the ultimate purpose of man's life is theoptia, that is, seeing God. (In Defense of the Hesychasts, 1, 3, 42) or to use St. Gregory of Nyssa's words, man's life is a strenuous and endless ascent towards God, that is, deification (theosis). (On the Life of Moses, ed. by W. Jaeger, 112ff.).


Orthodox Tradition, therefore, is not a dead letter, a collection of dogmas and practices of the past. It is the history of salvation. It is the life of the Holy Spirit, who constantly illuminates us in order for all Orthodox Christians to become sons and daughters of God, living in the Divine light of the All-blessed Trinity.


The objective of studying the orthodox tradition is because it is essential for us to understand that Christianity functions with two lungs and not only. In order to be complete we cannot ignore the East with its Christian traditions and Christian roots. The Eastern Christian tradition has to offer alot for a contemporary Christian theology of creation.


Thus we cannot do without being acquainted with some of the principal Eastern church Fathers and leading modern theologians. Neither can we ignore the general sense of the historical movements, both external to the Church and within it, that have helped shaped Orthodox Christian consciousness. This helps us to have a deepened understanding of the spiritual landscape within which the Orthodox Christian lives. The various articles which make our topics start with a historical overview of the orthodox tradition and ask the question: What is theology? The answer will lead us to the knowledge of God, the meaning of tradition, worship as a source of theology.