Breaking Boundaries: The Cosmic Dimensions of Worship
© Peeters Publishers, 2016.
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Under embargo until 20 December 2020 in compliance with publisher policy.
Basil of Caesarea’s Letter 207, to the clergy of Neocaesarea, tackles a quarrel between the parties. Although the underlying differences are doctrinal, the immediate points of contention are the singing of psalms and Cappadocian monasticism. A strong theme of heavenly citizenship runs through the Letter and is traced from Basil’s first mention of the monastics to the quotation from the hymn of Isaiah 26 with which he opens the description of a service at which psalms are sung. Though undoubtedly functioning here as a rhetorical device contrasting orderly monastic life with the disorganised attacks of his opponents, this concept lies at the heart of Basil’s view of monasticism. He sees his monastics as citizens of heaven in the sense of living the ideal Christian life in which worship is central. Thus, the theme of heavenly citizenship fits with ideas that associate human worship with that of angels. This association draws on a well-established Christian idea which may well have had Jewish origins, and which begins with the author of Hebrews being adopted and developed by later writers. The concept has its full development in the hymn of Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1786, Gregory of Nyssa’s exposition of Psalm 150 as the eschatological union of human and angelic worship, and the poetry of Gregory Nazianzen in which that eschatological future is seen as breaking through into the present.
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Papers presented at the Seventeenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2015
Vol 90, pp. 83-90