Endorsements of Reading Scripture in the Orthodox Church

Archpriest Professor John Behr (Fr Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics, St Vladimir’s Seminary, New York; Metropolitan Kallistos Chair of Orthodox Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam):

“In this book Fr Doru offers us the fruits of his deep meditation on, and preaching from, the Sunday readings from the Apostle and the Gospel as given in the lectionary of the Orthodox Church. Summaries of the readings are given, followed, in true Alexandrian style, by ‘Wisdom,’ a reflection on the content and implications of these texts for us today. Offered as an aid to growth in “life and faith and spiritual understanding,” this book is sure to enrich and deepen the encounter with Christ for those who accompany Fr Doru through the liturgical year.”

Revd Dr Bogdan G. Bucur (Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA):

“Biblical tradition insists on the centrality, within the revelation at Sinai, of God’s detailed instructions concerning the construction of specific physical objects, about materials, shapes, dimensions, intervals of time, ritual actions, sanctified servants, and so forth. Worship is, indeed, of paramount importance because it renders the unique theophanic experience on the mountain of God spatially and temporally mobile, “presentified” whenever and wherever Israel engages in divine attunement by means of revealed worship. We read that the tent of meeting with the ark of the covenant, its mercy-seat, and the furnishings are material renderings of the heavenly pattern (LXX: paradeigma, typos; MT: tabniyth) that Moses received on Sinai, presumably in the course of a vision: “And you shall make for me according to all that I show you on the mountain—the pattern (παράδειγμα) of the tent and the pattern of all its furnishing. So you shall make it . . . See to it that you make them according to the patten (κατὰ τὸν τύπον) that has been shown to you on the mountain” (Exod 25:9,40, NETS). The same holds true, according to biblical tradition, about the Temple: David passes on to Solomon the pattern he had received by divine inspiration (1 Chron 28:1114,19).

The Church makes similar claims about its rich worship: when Orthodox Christians gather for Divine Liturgy they ask to join in the liturgical chronotope together with the heavenly powers by adding their humble voices to the ongoing angelic liturgy and by “borrowing” their Trisagion, their Cherubikon, their Megalynarion from the cherubim and seraphim at worship. Does this mindset also extend to the Lectionary—the annual cycle of liturgical readings from the Apostle and the Gospel? Fr Doru Costache’s new book intends to show us that this is, indeed, the case.

Reading Scripture in the Orthodox Church: The Sunday Cycle does not intend to contribute yet another volume of reflections on the Sunday readings. As a matter of fact, the work of biblical exegesis is rather minimal, and the message of each Sunday is boiled down to no more than a sentence. The main objective of this book is, rather, to verify the principle that the Apostle and Gospel texts selected on any given Sunday hold each other’s interpretive keys, so that their joint consideration is the necessary prerequisite for grasping the various aspects of Divine Wisdom communicated to Orthodox worshippers Sunday after Sunday. It is clear that in his search for the “pattern” of liturgical exegesis Fr Costache has found something real and solid. The theological depth and beauty of the message that springs from approaching the Sunday readings in this manner make a very compelling case. 

Yet, this uncovering of the pattern is also painful and frustrating, because it reveals a glaring contrast between that ideal theological structure and today’s messy state of affairs. Without saying much, safe for a few remarks in the introduction, Fr Costache shows us how deep our ignorance of the theo-logic of the Lectionary is, how much we have strayed, how much we have forgotten and how badly we have come to do things. The fact that the catechetical structure of the Lectionary, its very generative logic, has become “one of the most profound secrets of the Orthodox tradition” is tragic. This “secret” does not refer to some mystical depth of Church life, but to a treasure of beauty and rationality from which we can no longer benefit fully because it has been buried under layers upon layers of liturgical formalism, institutional inertia, and theological amnesia. 

One can only hope that, in the course of reviving its trans-national and trans-cultural conciliar identity, twenty-first century Orthodoxy will also rediscover these lost elements of the revealed pattern of worship and teaching.”

Archpriest Andrew Louth, FBA (Emeritus Professor, Durham University, United Kingdom; Honorary Fellow, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam):

“The treasures of Orthodoxy: magnificent liturgy, icons, the Jesus prayer, the monastic tradition? Fr Doru reminds us that at the heart of all this lie the Scriptures, that the Orthodox Church reads from the New Testament—the Gospel and what it calls the ‘Apostle’—at every celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The lectionary used is of great antiquity, or, put another way around, has been tested by not far short of two millennia of use, year by year. And yet, many Orthodox neglect this—more likely to kiss the Gospel book than open it, as the saying goes. In this book Fr Doru helps us to ponder the scriptural passages we hear, week by week, at the Divine Liturgy, to hear Christ’s voice, and deepen our discipleship.”

Archpriest Professor John A. McGuckin (Professor, Faculty of Theology, Oxford University; Emeritus Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary, New York):

“Fr Costache has performed a marvellously useful task in preparing this guide to the entire year’s Sunday scriptural readings in the Orthodox Church. Taking as his standard the pre-1989 Romanian lectionary Fr Costache takes the reader through a system that offers a synopsis of the Apostle and Gospel for the day, followed by a narrative section of spiritual and moral interpretation, and then a very succinct headline of the essential message of the texts collectively. This book will be a powerful resource for Orthodox preachers, and a very useful spiritual resource for those laity who wish to prepare the readings in advance of the Sunday liturgy.” =

Archpriest Professor Eugen J. Pentiuc (Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA):

“Succinct yet poignant, educated yet unpretentious, Doru Costache’s theological annotations on the Sunday readings may be used as a reliable guide for personal and group Bible reflections and a useful resource for preachers.”

Pages 119–22 in Doru Costache, Reading Scripture in the Orthodox Church: The Sunday Cycle (Sydney: AIOCS Press, 2018)