Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Body and Society




Death was a catastrophe that no contemplation of the universe could soften. And, in explaining death as the punishment of Adam, Augustine gave the Christian laity of his time an explanation of death that was at least as melodramatic as death itself was shocking. Yet, in so doing, he caused the cosmos (that majestic and consoling source of high vision to so many ancient people of all religions) to fade for many centuries. Historians of the Early Christian church in all its regions must reckon that the eclipse of the cosmos (though never complete in Latin Christianity) may have been a heavy price to pay for the emergence of the distinctive features of ‘the Christian West’. Anyone who turns from the writings of Augustine and Gregory the Great to the majestic cosmic backdrop still implied in the writings of John Climacus, Maximus the Confessor, and the later Hesychasts senses immediately that the Western version of Christianity is strangely flat, focused, with little relief, on the greatness and misery of the human condition alone.


~Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, & Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity

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