Although its various bodies boast a combined total of at least 300 million members, the Eastern Orthodox Church is widely perceived among those of other denominations to be an exotic branch of the faith, often shrouded in mysticism and misunderstanding that has been exacerbated by the longstanding Eastern-Western split. In Purification of Memory, Ambrose Mong casts light on the true nature of Orthodox theology, illuminating the thinking of eight distinguished modern Orthodox theologians who have made important contributions on topics as ecclesiology, ecumenism, Christology, and Mariology. Approaching the work of John Meyendorff, Nicholas Afanasiev, John Zizioulas, Georges Florovsky, Sergius Bulgakov, Vladimir Lossky, Nicolas Berdyaev, and Jaroslav Pelikan from an ecumenical standpoint, Mong deftly draws comparisons with the theology of their Roman Catholic counterparts to reveal points on which the two traditions have much more in common than either side will always admit.
The author interweaves these comparisons with a fascinating exposition of the history of the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches to demonstrate decisively that in spite of the bitter mistrust dividing them, they share a common heritage which could, and should, serve as a basis for reunification. Before old wounds can mend, however, a healing process of forgetting, characterized by Pope John Paul II as a ‘purification of memory’, must take place to clear the path towards a long-awaited return to unity.
Foreword by Peter C. Phan
1. John Meyendorff
2. Nicholas Afanasiev
3. John Zizioulas
4. Georges Florovsky
5. Sergius Bulgakov
6. Vladimir Lossky
7. Nicolas Berdyaev
8. Jaroslav Pelikan
Endorsements and Reviews
With Purification of Memory, Ambrose Mong continues in his thoughtful pedagogy of presenting exacting summaries of the work of Christian theologians of diverse backgrounds. Here we have the work of Orthodox theologians with an eye towards healing the breach between East and West. A good number of Catholics and Protestants may be unfamiliar with their work and see the East as monolithic in its spirituality, eucharistic theology, patristic theology, ecclesiology and so on. This book busts that stereotype. Orthodox theologians are as diverse as their Western counterparts and just as catholic in their theology. In many cases they present challenges to Western theologians. In other moments, they dovetail the doctrines of the Latin church. Aside from pride and mistrust, as well as theological obstacles, arrogance must be overcome by a healing of memories. By presenting the Eastern views in this book, an Asian theologian puts arrogant assumptions to rest for a world-wide audience. Purification of Memory will greatly assist the advancement of the cause of full visible communion among the churches.
Rev James Loughran SA, Editor of Ecumenical Trends
This irenic and penetrating study of the eight modern orthodox thinkers offered by a promising Catholic theologian from Asia, highlighting the diversity among their theologies and their intellectual theological affinities with some Catholic theologians, makes a valuable and distinction contribution to the purification of memory as well as the dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.
Lai Pan-Chiu, Professor of Religious Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Ambrose Mong’s research is very important for furthering conversations between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Dr Mong’s study represents a major contribution addressing the gap that exists between Orthodox theological thinking and Roman Catholic readership. An example of inspired scholarship, Purification of Memory invites careful reading and contemplation as it dispels some deep seated stereotypes and misconceptions.
Lasha Tchantouridzé, Professor of Church History, Saint Arseny Orthodox Christian Theological Institute, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
This clear and informative book is an amazing exercise in doing theology in global perspective. Here we have a Chinese Roman Catholic priest writing on American, Greek, and Russian Orthodox theologians, offering us a sympathetic, synthetic, and yet critical view of Orthodox theology. I can only think that Ambrose Mong’s Dominican confrère Yves Congar would be justly proud!
Steve Bevans, Catholic Theological Union, co-editor of Contextual Theology for the Twenty-First Century (James Clarke & Co Ltd, 2012)
Ambrose Mong is a very promising ecumenical theologian open to the wisdom of Orthodox theology and tradition. In this book he shows an authentic openness and recognition of the value of classical Orthodox theologians as a foundation for a contemporary ecumenical theology.
I would like to recommend this impressive book to all people interested in an ecumenical approach to Orthodox theology and especially in modern Orthodox theologians like John Meyendorff, Nicholas Afanasiev, John Zizioulas, Georges Flosovsky, Sergius Bulgakov, Vladimir Lossky, Nicolas Berdyaev and Jaroslav Pelican. We need a healing of memories in order to achieve a vivid unity of the church as true koinonia in the light of the Holy Trinity. This book is an important contribution to such an ecumenical future of the church.
Daniel Munteanu, Professor of Systematic Theology, Valahia University of Targoviste, Romania and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Orthodox Theology (www.orthodox-theology.com)