The Church and Social Reform: The Policies of the Patriarch by John L. Boojamra

By John L. Boojamra

The Church and Social Reform reviews the character and volume of Athanasios' social reforms and political involvement in the course of his tenures at the patriarchal throne of Constantiople. the conventional impact, strength, and authority that resided within the patriarchate of Constantinople made the involvement of an competitive patriarch within the social affairs of the empire almost inevitable.

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Extra info for The Church and Social Reform: The Policies of the Patriarch Athanasios of Constantinople

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Although Gregoras is more generous than Pachymeres, both present Athanasios' monastic nature as the source of his ascerbic, reforming zeal. According to Gregoras, from the very beginning, Athanasios, who was filled with divine ardor and severity, threw a somber light on the life of the people in the city. 29 Athanasios was unique as an ecclesiastic inasmuch as the post-patristic Byzantine Church gave little attention to ethical or social thinking; theological affirmations and elaborations prevailed, with no real effort made to relate them creatively to the Lebenswelt of Orthodox believers.

One thing is clear: for Athanasios the idea of reform was part of the renewal of the centralized institutions of the empire, and it was rooted in the commitment to Christian baptism, cenobitic mutualism, and the metaphor of Israel's covenant with Yahweh. There was nothing simple about Athanasios' reform; and his thinking was far from systematic. This is the challenge of working with Athanasios: to avoid the ever-present danger of historical distortion in the attempt to systematize what is inchoate.

The intention was to build a system that was the mirror of the heavenly kingdom. Nothing is clearer in Athanasios' letters than that the basis of his reform is the theological notion that the world is fallen, irradicably imperfect but capable of relative perfection. 9 Although reform has roots in pre-Christian Greek thought, it is essentially a biblical and patristic notion. Christianity is a religion of reform, primarily in the sense of personal and spiritual growth, albeit with political and social implications.

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