Hello. My name is Peter Gilbert. This blog is largely an attempt to get some writing done on a book on which I am working, a translation of some of the treatises of John Bekkos, who was Patriarch of Constantinople during the years of the Union of Lyons (1275-1282). Because I agree with many of Bekkos’s views, and because he is not now in a position to write in his own defense, I am attempting to do some of that work on his behalf, by allowing him to speak English.

As for myself, I am 51 years old, single, with degrees from St. John’s College (Annapolis), from Oxford University, and from the Catholic University of America. I taught theology, patristics, and Old Testament for three years at an Orthodox seminary (the Akademi Teologjike-Hieratike «Ngjallja e Krishtit») in Durrës, Albania, and for seven years I taught at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, NM, which has a great books, interdisciplinary curriculum. In 2001 I published a book of translations of poems by St. Gregory of Nazianzus: it is titled On God and Man, and published by St. Vladimir’s Press. During the fall of 2010, I taught World Religions at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Currently, I am teaching an on-line course in Eastern Christian Studies through the Distance Learning Program of the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Ecumenical Institute, and working part-time at a bookstore. I live in New Jersey.

(14.iv.11)

Some of the above information is now dated. I now live, not in New Jersey, but near Cleveland, Ohio; I work as a teacher at the Lyceum School; and I am now 52 years old. I also am posting to this blog pretty infrequently these days, due to the workload at the school. But I still hope to get my translations of Bekkos published one of these days.

(First posted: 1.ix.07. Latest revision: 14.xii.11)

63 Responses to “About”


  1. Dear Peter,

    In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to reading your blog. Like you I am an Orthodox Christian who longs for the reconciliation of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. I wish you well in your scholarly endeavors and ask that God bless you and your work with every good thing.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  2. Fr. Isaac Skidmore Says:

    Peter,

    I second Fr. Gregory’s sentiments. I also am Orthodox, and thirst for such conversation.

    God bless,

    Fr. Isaac

  3. Wei Hsien Says:

    Peter,

    I am a Russian Byzantine Catholic, and am learning a great deal from your work. Keep it up!

    W.H.


  4. [...] interesting Bekkos posts at Peter Gilbert’s blog De Unione [...]

  5. Chris Bareford Says:

    Monsieur Gilbert!
    I have been looking for you for several days now, but I was unsuccessful even through St. John’s until I googled ‘Peter Gilbert translation.’ I would like to email you: please tell me how. I hope you are well, but I will spend the next few minutes scouring your blog to see if I can find out on my own. Good to find you!

    Chris

  6. Fr Paul Says:

    Greetings Peter! Happy Epiphany and a Blessed 2008!
    I am a RC priest and I am working on a doctoral thesis on Bekkos, Bessarion, and Byzantine unionism between Lyons II and Florence, and the theoogical (not merely cultural and political) for their lack of success. I am most excited to discover your blog. I read on Wikipedia that someone was working on an English translation of Bekkos and was unable to discover your identity until following a link from Cathedra Unitatis (to whom I express my thanks and renew my esteem!) led me to you at last. I am very keen on contacting you personally in view of what promises to be stimulating exchange and pehaps useful collaboration. No mail address is given here so I rely upon you to contact me using the mail address you now have. Invoking every blesing upon you and your activities.

  7. fr. Petros Says:

    Greetings to all and may God bless you on your endeavours. Forgive what may seem to be an out-of-place intrusion, but I was hoping that someone may assist in shedding some light on a topic of interest. So much is made of the differences between the Greek and Latin views of the Trinity. The Greeks are meant to have stressed the hypostases, wheres the Latins, the essence, Surely this is a gross generalization… surely the Greek Fathers made an issue of the “ousia” as much as Latin Fathers allowed for the “persona”. Can anyone assist with substantiation….
    fr. Petros.

  8. bekkos Says:

    Dear Fr. Petros,

    I agree with you that this is a gross generalization. In part, the generalization was popularized by a late 19th century theologian named Theodore De Régnon, who wrote a multi-volume work titled Études de Théologie Positive sur la Sainte Trinité, which influenced many subsequent writers. There recently has been a lot of movement among scholars to reassess De Régnon’s schematization of the opposition between Greek and Latin thought. Some of this reassessment was published in an issue of the journal Modern Theology a couple of years ago (vol. 18, no. 4, October 2002). An account of some of these recent criticisms of De Régnon’s views has been posted on the internet by Dr. Peter J. Leithart; you will find it at http://www.leithart.com/archives/003378.php.

    Matters like divine substance, hypostasis, person, nature, and so on in fact go beyond anybody’s ability to speak fittingly, or anyone’s ability really to understand. You perhaps know the apocryphal story about St. Augustine, how he went down to the beach and, seeing a child scooping up water out of the ocean with a cup, asked him what he was doing. The child told him that he was scooping up the ocean. Augustine told him he couldn’t scoop up the ocean with a little cup, and the child (Jesus) replied to Augustine that no more could Augustine understand the Trinity with the little cup of his mind. St. Gregory the Theologian says that anybody who thinks he understands God shows, by the very fact that he thinks this, that he still lacks understanding. Please pray for me, a sinner.

    Peter

  9. fr. Petros Says:

    My friend, thank you for your reply and effort. I appreciate the information. I have been reading extensively on Trinitarian issues with a view to undertaking a Ph.D. I would ideally like to do something that will fascilitate, and contribute to the dialogue between the RCC and the Orthodox Church. My passion is the Trinity, but I fear that the topic my be “overdone”…. Any ideas that may help? It was in these readings that I somehow began to feel uneasy regarding the emphasis given to “differences in views regarding the Trinity”.
    I would very much like to explore this further. How could I go-about obtaining the reassesment from the journal, or any other similar material?

  10. Aaron Walker Says:

    Dear Peter,

    I hope you are well. We met at St. John’s when you were teaching there, in ’98, the year after I graduated.

    (I had the surprising discovery in 2002 that you had taught at Shen Vlash and experienced the pyramid-scheme-caused collapse of social order in the nineties. This while speaking with the Hoppes and Veronises in the courtyard of the former, during a two-week visit with my wife Amelia.)

    Anyway, I was speaking with Jim Carey over the phone recently and shared with him both my interest in teaching at an institution like St. John’s, with it’s emphasis on primary source texts and shared inquiry, and my desire to serve the Church more directly. (I received my MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, last May.) He suggested I chat with you, as you may be serving as Dean of a theological school with St. John’s influence and an emphasis on Byzantine theology. I would love hear more about this. If you have an opportunity, please send me a line.

    In Christ,

    Aaron

    ps. I don’t know if this note will get to you this way, but the email address I rec’d from Jim bounced back. Hope to hear from you…

  11. bekkos Says:

    Dear Aaron,

    I distinctly remember meeting you. It is good to hear from you, and to learn that you know the Veronises and Hoppes.

    The college about which Mr. Carey informed you is unfortunately not in existence, and the prospects for its ever coming into existence look increasingly dim. Most of the main movers and shakers who were behind the idea of it are now busy doing other things. I still think that the idea of joining patristic content to a great books, conversational format is essentially a good one; and since with God all things are possible, and God is able to resurrect more weighty things than ideas, I do not want to say that the idea of this college is permanently defunct. But, if your hope is to find employment there, you’ll probably face a very long wait.

    One of these days I’ll put something about this college on the blog. Be well.

    Peter


  12. Aaron,

    I am EXTREMLY EXCITED to have found your webswite! I am a layperson living in Chicago. I have been seeking to research the antecedents of the schism and found your site.

    Do you have any projection of when your translation of “On the Union and Peace of the Churches of Old and New Rome” might be available? I would love to submit an early order.

    Thank you for your work bringing light and understanding to a great divide.

    Brandon Meister
    Chicago, IL


  13. Peter!!! My apologies!

  14. bekkos Says:

    Dear Brandon,

    Thanks for your encouragement. I really wish I could give you a fixed date for the appearance of this book on John Bekkos. As it is, I cannot. The practical necessities of making a living in the midst of an uncertain economy are starting to weigh on me; I put the Bekkos work aside most of last month in order to compile an index for someone else’s book, and it looks likely that, in the near future, I will get a 9-to-5 job at a bookstore or library to help make ends meet. Although I am committed to finishing the book, my immediate objective is to publish some articles on Bekkos and the Church fathers; that presumably should help me persuade a college or seminary somewhere to employ me as a teacher.

    Since you live in the Chicago area, you should get in touch with the people who are trying to start Transfiguration College (see http://www.transfigurationcollege.org/). In particular, talk with John Wiesner. I’ve done a lot of work with him, and he’s a good man.

    Peter

  15. Christian Holland Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Please send me your email address as soon as you can.

    I trust that you are well.

    Christian Holland


  16. Dear Peter,
    I am afraid we have lost touch…
    today a note on my blog from a
    roumanian notes that,as he sees it,
    most Eastern Orthodox theologians have
    no idea of the unity of Christians
    and he cites you as an exception. this
    too, but mostly to get back in contact,
    leads me here… greetings in the Lord!
    +Seraphim

  17. marthakeen Says:

    Mr. Gilbert:

    Please email me your current postal address, as I seem to have lost my address book in the mountains of boxes after my recent move…

    My best,
    Martha Keen

  18. +Seraqphim Says:

    Dear Peter,
    could you send me again your email address?
    I lost it sadly.
    am in russia until feb 2.
    hope we could meet
    in haste
    +Seraphim

  19. Veritas Says:

    Greetings Mr. Gilbert,

    I am what most would refer to as a “lurker”; while not posting at all, I still rather enjoy the many informative and interesting articles you post for public view. Also, your many translations I have found most useful; I thank you, and not so much because you have done me a favor here; but rather, the pursuit of scholarship itself, thanks you. I eagerly await the publishing of your book on Bekkos, and if I may be so bold as to ask: Is the release of such erudition soon upon us? No need to feel any overwhelming inclination to answer my question here, good sound sholarship takes time, and I am confident that your forthcoming work shall ooze with it.
    As a Catholic, I was, however, wondering your thoughts on the Roman Primacy. Do your opinions on this matter carry you farther than some of your Orthodox brethren wish you to go? As it would seem, you’ve encoutered a bit of that already. Ive heard great things about Oliver Clement’s work, in response to JP II’s Ut Unum Sint; I hope to purchase a copy soon. I realise this is a complex question, just wondered some of your thoughts on the topic.

    Peace in Christ,

    -Veritas

  20. bekkos Says:

    Dear Veritas,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a message. You ask some large and important questions. Concerning the book, its appearance is not yet imminent. There are many reasons for this, and I hope that sloth is not too considerable a part of the explanation. Part of the problem is that I am doing this work by myself, outside of a strictly academic context, and while having to find some way of supporting myself financially. Although I have taken on a job at a bookstore, this is not a real solution to the problem; for one thing, it does not provide enough to live on, for another thing, when I was working there more or less full time I found it impossible to make any progress on Bekkos when coming home exhausted from standing at a cash register most of the day. So, in brief, economic factors are a large part of the delay. Also, about a year ago, I learned that there is another scholar, in Europe, who has now started working on Bekkos; I have been in touch with him by e-mail and telephone, and we have exchanged translations and ideas. By mutual agreement, I am working more on the earlier stuff (things written by Bekkos while he was still Patriarch), while he is working on the later stuff, that is to say, Bekkos’s controversy with Gregory of Cyprus — which is, in certain respects, the more interesting part of Bekkos’s work. To some extent, I think, the discovery that another person is working on the material acted as a large distraction for awhile, and caused a couple of translation projects that I was working on to hang in the air — a translation of Bekkos’s De pace ecclesiastica, a translation of the annotations of Gregory Palamas and Bessarion of Nicaea upon Bekkos’s Epigraphs (where Palamas tries to refute Bekkos and Bessarion, in turn, defends him); also, my translation of the Epigraphs, while complete, is still in real need of revision. Also, this blog, last year, was felt to be a distraction, and I put it aside for a few months.

    One recent result of my research on Bekkos is already on this blog, although few people seem to have taken notice of it. One of Bekkos’s closest friends and colleagues was the archdeacon George Metochites; after Bekkos, Metochites, and the archdeacon Constantine Meliteniotes had all been sent into exile, Metochites began writing a three-volume work that has been given the title Historia Dogmatica, the “Dogmatic History.” It is a very important historical source for the whole period of the Union of Lyons and especially for the controversy that followed it, what one scholar has referred to as a period of “Crisis in Byzantium,” when the unionists were ousted and the Orthodox response to Western trinitarian teaching took its most definitive shape. Unfortunately, Metochites’ Greek is very dense; he is by no means easy reading. For this reason, I have been trying to come up with at least a kind of Table of Contents to the work, a kind of map to point myself and others to those places where they are likely to find what they are looking for. Anyway, you might find that of some interest; a link to it is on the sidebar.

    As for my thoughts on the Roman Primacy: as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve somewhat studiously been avoiding the question here on this blog, except for various comments here and there. It is, indeed, a very large question. On the whole, as an Orthodox Christian, I try to hold on to some hope that the ongoing dialogue between the Churches will actually agree to something, which would allow communion to be restored. It seems clear to me that those who assert that the position of the Bishop of Rome in the early Church was simply that of a primus inter pares, perhaps on the model of the Archbishop of Canterbury within the Anglican Church, are not being historically truthful. There are many important occasions in the early Church where the Bishop of Rome exercised an effective authority on behalf of the whole Church, acted in a decisive way to uphold the Church’s teaching. And there are important testimonies to the authority of the Roman Church from a number of saints of the Eastern Church; St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Theodore the Studite are two that come to mind. On the other hand, there is also evidence from the early Church of numerous saints finding cause to question Rome’s decisions and policies, or otherwise leading one to think that the way papal authority was conceived of was not quite the way it is currently exercised within the Roman Church’s communion. St. Cyprian’s (and St. Firmilian’s) disagreements with Pope Stephen over the validity of heretical baptism is one example; St. Basil’s unhappiness with Pope Damasus’s approach to the ecclesiastical situation in the East is another. Even in the case of John Bekkos, some people have argued, what one sees is not a simple readiness to take orders from an ecclesiastical superior so much as it is a readiness to see, in the Western tradition, the same basic faith as is present in the Greek Christian tradition. The assumption is that, along with ecclesiastical order, there is also a basic equality in Christ, in this case the equal validity of these two traditions. There were popes at the time of the Union of Lyons who were telling the Greeks to add the Filioque to the Creed and to use unleavened bread in the Eucharist; Bekkos, politely but firmly, told them no. As an Orthodox Christian, while I recognize that the current situation of the Church is abnormal and impaired, the history of the various Eastern Churches in union with Rome does not give me great confidence that that is the way God wills for healing the impairment. I agree, in other words, with the Balamand Declaration: uniatism as a method cannot be the answer the Church seeks for the problem of Christian division. (And that applies also to Orthodox uniatism, i.e., the idea that everything will be back to normal if we promulgate a “Western rite.”) My hope, in short, is that the theological conversation that the Churches are engaged in will be a serious and genuine one, that those engaged in it will realize the responsibility that weighs upon them in the sight of God to seek Christ’s will for his Church, and that it will bear fruit.

    Peace be also with you.

    Peter

  21. Veritas Says:

    Dear Peter,

    Thank you for your response; your words carry much weight, since you have made clear that you are indeed a busy man; certainly sloth has nothing to do with the delay of your book, of that I am certain. Thanks for the heads up on Metochites; I will certainly check it out when I have a bit more time.(also I am very much interested in the annotations of Palamas and Bessarion here)

    As for the Roman Primacy: I can, in large part, agree with you. Seems to me, that many of my Catholic brethren(including many apologists), have forgotten that our Eastern brothers did indeed enjoy their church’s autonomy; that is to say, they, justly, felt themselves a church that could deal with issues themselves, often times without the see of Rome. Nicetas’ words to Anselm in their dialogue come to mind here. However, when real strife struck their churches, from the extant writings of the fathers and clergy, it seems evident that the venerable faithful of the East had no problems with appealing to Rome on major doctrinal issues(and not just in the manner of the Council of Sardica), and even, as Dvornik points out in his ‘Byzantium and the Roman Primacy’, it was also very possible, although rare, for even Constantinople in the 9th Century to make appeals to Rome, even on disciplinary grounds. It seems to me that the notion of the Pentarchy, wherein all patriarchs are of equal status, is something that cannot be too firmly held to. My readings over Nicea II have brought me to that basic conclusion, in the not too distant past. But, allow me to clarify. I also agree with you that Rome’s practice of that Primacy has developed some over the years(and here, surprisingly, I have heard many Catholic apologists assert that it has not), and if we are to be united with our Eastern brethren once again, the Catholic church must realize this, and I think, in large part, it has. One example I may offer is that of Pope St Loe the Great. When sending his Tome to Chalcedon, he did not instruct the council to accept it and be done; rather, he encouraged discussion, and the council itself, discussed Leo’s Tome with those views already seen as orthodox, by way of St. Cyril.

    I’ll stop here, as it would seem I’ve begun to ramble, a rather frequent occurence from my end. Suffice it to say, I, too, eagerly await the reconciliation of the Catholic/Orthodx churches; a united communion that can only be achived through the Holy Spirit.

    Peace and God bless,

    -Veritas

    P.S.- One little note, if you’re ever interested in a good balanced acount of the Roman Primacy, you may find Klaus Schatz’s great work ‘Papal Primacy: From its Origins to the Present’ of good use. It really is a good work. Blessings again Peter.

  22. Veritas Says:

    Hello again Peter,

    It just struck me, in the event that I find any information that may seem useful or interesting, is there any possibility in swapping e-mail address’?

    Blessings,

    -Veritas

  23. Denis Searby Says:

    Dear Dr Gilbert,
    I would like to be in contact with you outside the blogosphere. I am a scholar in Sweden involved in the Thomas Byzantinus project – working on Thomas of Aquinas-related issues in Byzance (one of my fields of research). You can find me on the homepage of the dept of linguistics and philology at Uppsala university, http://www.lingfil.uu.se. Send me an email.
    regards
    Denis Searby

  24. Rebecca M Says:

    Hi Peter —

    After running into you at Ed Day, I looked around a bit for your blog, but didn’t hit the right search terms. Then Bp. Seraphim recently published a link here.

    Just a note to say “Hi.” Hope all is reasonably well.

    — Rebecca

  25. bekkos Says:

    Hello, Rebecca.

    Yes, “reasonably well” is a good, qualified way of putting it.

    Thanks for visiting the blog, and hoping you find things to like in it.

    Peter

  26. Veritas Says:

    Hey, Peter,

    I’m sure you’ve heard of the upcoming conference at Fordham, “Orthodox Constructions of the West.”

    http://www.fordham.edu/academics/programs_at_fordham_/orthodox_christian_s/triennial_patterson_/2010_orthodox_constr_73023.asp

    The website says that registration for the conference started in February. Just wondered if you were going to attend; and, if so, I was wondering — selfishly, I must admit — if you would be taking notes, or anything of the like.

    Thanks,

    -Veritas

  27. bekkos Says:

    Hello, Veritas.

    In fact, I had not heard about this conference, but I am very grateful to you for telling me about it. I will definitely make an effort to go to it; at this point, it is too early to say what kind of notes I will be taking.

    One wonders who will be speaking. And how far they will skirt the issue of whether the old “Latinophrones” were speaking the truth.

    Peter

  28. Veritas Says:

    Peter,

    That’s a very good question indeed. This sure sounds like a conference you should have mic-time at!

    Addressing and clarifying certain issues like the “Latinophrone” Bekkos murdering monks on Mt. Athos would seem beneficial, in my opinion at least. To charitably hear one out on theological positions without constructing a East/West (Latin/Greek) dichotomy has proven a harder task than most have seemed to realize. With the Lord’s help, perhaps this conference will do good in clearing some way towards the hopeful reunion of our two great communions.

    Conferences such as these are just as important for us in the “West” as they are for our Eastern brethren; I think that’s something me and my co-religionists should keep well in mind. Prejudiced human consructs are just that: prejudiced human constructs, whether east or west.

    -Veritas

  29. Veritas Says:

    I did some surfing and came accross this site. It has much information about the conference.

    http://www.fordham.edu/mvst/conference10/orthodox/program.html

    -Veritas

  30. bekkos Says:

    Thanks for the second link. It looks like the makings of a remarkably good conference, and one which I will not want to miss.

  31. Fr Paul Says:

    Veritas
    I too would like to thank you for bringing this to my attention. I think it worth me crossing the Atlantic to attend this, and have just sent a request to set in motion the registration procedure.

  32. Veritas Says:

    Fr Paul,

    That’s great to hear. However, I must admit my envy! The presentations sound great.

    God bless,

    -Veritas

  33. christianos Says:

    Dear Peter!
    I love your blog there is so many interesting articles! I’m really happy to have an opportunity to get to know Orthodoxy closer and its heritage. Even though I’m a Catholic (Byzantine) I love Orthodox Church and I really hope one day we will be again together!
    Greetings and God bless You!


  34. Dear Peter,

    I don’t have an email for you and I was writing to ask for some minor translation assistence for some material in Origen, if you wouldn’t mind. Please contact me at your leisure.


  35. Hi Fr. Peter,

    In case you don’t know, early registration for the Orthodox Constructions of the West conference ends this weekend. You can register and see the slate of speakers at

    http://www.fordham.edu/mvst/conference10/orthodox/index.html

  36. Tap Says:

    Lol @ Fr. Peter. I don’t know Dr. Gilbert personally, but i suspect he would be blushing at being referred to as a ‘clergyman.’ He does give out that “ascetic-clerical-vibe” though.

    Or perhap i’m wrong altogether, in which case, congratulations on your ordination.

  37. bekkos Says:

    I’m a godfather; that’s the closest to actual fatherhood that I’ve come.

    The “ascetic-clerical-vibe” is produced by my spending long hours translating into English the writings of men who were, undoubtedly, ascetics and men of the cloth. It is a reflection of my being a good translator. If I were spending long hours translating the writings of men who drove about in futuristic sports cars in performance of top-secret governmental missions, who were habitually in the company of beautiful women (that is, when not in the company of egomaniacal criminal fiends or their lackeys), and who had all the appurtenances of modern technological gadgetry at their disposal, then I should doubtless be emitting vibes of a very different sort.

  38. Tap Says:

    Hey, Dr. Gilbert,

    The ‘vibe’ thing was meant as a compliment. In re-reading it now i see how it might be taken as a sneering comment, which was not my intention. i hope you didn’t take it the wrong way.

  39. Veritas Says:

    Hey Peter,

    Sorry to bother you with the same question again, but do you know if you will be taking any notes at the conference? Please don’t feel the need to keep busy with note-taking just for your readers’ sake, but some sort of a reckoning of the proceedings of this much anticipated conference would be highly appreciated.

    -Veritas

  40. bekkos Says:

    Tap,

    I didn’t take it the wrong way, I was simply making a feeble attempt at humor. The probability of my emitting the vibes of James Bond is very slim.

    Veritas,

    Most likely I’ll have something or another to report from the conference — what, and how much, remains to be seen. But it is a conference I very much look forward to attending, and I will be providing limousine service, in my Volkswagen, to at least two other scholars who will be attending it.

    Peter


  41. [...] here. . One major disappointment for me was the limited time I was able to spend with Dr. Tighe, Dr. Peter Gilbert (of “Bekkos” fame) and Fr. Paul [frequent commenter on Eirenikon] (who managed to make [...]

  42. Pamela Says:

    Dear Peter,
    Perhaps you can answer some questions for me. I recently stayed at the Home of Hope in Shen Vlash, Albania. It was a beautiful experience and upon my return to the US, I’ve been searching for information regarding Shen Vlash, whose name I believe is Saint Blaise in English.

    Can you provide a brief history? I’ve checked several sites and feel I am getting conflicting information. Were there 2 Saint Blaise’s? One website actually suggests this because Shen Vlash is known as being Armenian but locals in one area where he had apparently lived (near Lac) insisted he was Albanian. In addition, I have read that Shen Vlash was tortured with a large brass comb, yet while in Albania I did not hear this, and was told that he was tied to a post and matryred there on the property where the church, seminary and monastery are erected. It is my understanding that he is the patron saint of Dubrovnik and his relics are there.
    Any information you can provide is greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely.
    Pamela

  43. bekkos Says:

    Dear Pamela,

    It is a joy to hear news from Shën Vlash; no doubt it was, indeed, a beautiful experience. Teaching there was, in many ways, the most rewarding experience in my life.

    The question of the identity of the St. Blaise who is venerated at the monastery of Shën Vlash in the village of Shën Vlash outside Durrës with the St. Blaise who was martyred in Armenia early in the fourth century is a question which was posed to me from time to time when I was living there, but on which I unfortunately possess no special, privileged information. I know that, before its destruction by the Communists, the monastery possessed relics of St. Blaise/Vlash/Vlassios (probably the post of which you speak), and that many people, both Christian and Muslim, went there to be healed of various illnesses; in particular, I was told that women used to go there when they had difficulty conceiving, or to seek a safe childbirth.

    The best discussion I have found of the question of the identity of St. Blaise/Shën Vlash is in Robert Elsie, A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology, and folk culture (New York: New York University Press, 2001), pp. 41 f., which I found on Google Books this morning, and which I will transcribe below:

    Blaise, Saint. Christian saint. Alb. Shën Vlash or Shën Vllas. Saint Blaise, known in Lat. as Blasius and in Ital. as Biagie or Biagio, was bishop of Sebastea in Armenia, now Sivas in eastern Turkey, and has become the patron saint of merchants. He was martyred under the Emperor Licinius (r. 308-324) after being tortured with a big brass comb, which became his symbol. The cult of Saint Blaise spread to Europe in the eighth century and he is often invoked by believers to cure afflictions of the throat, the Blessing of Saint Blaise.

    In addition to this Armenian figure, there is a second saint named Blaise and some confusion between the two. The second Saint Blaise, a Balkan figure, is said to have been tortured in Durrës and became the patron saint of Dubrovnik, where he is buried. He is regarded there as a continuation of the pre-Christian deity Veles who guarded the flocks of the early Slavs. In Bulgaria, it was customary not to yoke the oxen on his feast day. The women would go out and place a loaf of bread on the animals’ horns, offering the bread to passers-by and then to the animals themselves.

    In Albania, there was a monastery devoted to Saint Blaise built on the north slope of Mount Tomor (q.v.) and referred to in 1343 as Hibernum S. Blasii. Another monastery at Shënavlash DR, also known as Vrrin, was once visited by pilgrims who hoped to be cured of their illnesses. It was rebuilt in 1996. There were also churches dedicated to Saint Blaise in Shkodra extra Scutari ad S. Blasium dating from the fourteenth century, Kthella MR, Skuraj MT, Gur i Bardhë MT, Ghonëm LA, Mazha KR, Mëner TR, Bishqem PE, Gjuricaj DR, on Cape Rodoni, in Vlora (Shën Vllasi), and a nineteenth-century Orthodox church in Dhuvjan GJ. On a wooded hill near the former settlement of Sebasta near Laç there once stood a monastery, which was destroyed in 1853 by an earthquake. Right below the church, built in 1557, was a grotto in which Saint Blaise is said to have lived. According to the Croatian Franciscan, Lovro Mihačević, the local people insisted he was Albanian and not Armenian.

    /p. 42/ The feast day of Saint Blaise is February 3 in the western calendar and February 11 in the eastern calendar.

    From this, I learn that there were various shrines devoted to St. Blaise throughout Albania and much of the rest of the Balkans. I did not know about the monastery dedicated to St. Blaise on Mt. Tomor near Berat in the south, nor about the various churches dedicated to him in Shkodra, Vlora, and other places. In particular, I find it interesting that he is venerated in both the Catholic and the Orthodox parts of the country. But the general Balkan consensus is that he was martyred outside of Durrës, which seems inconsistent with the story of his martyrdom in Armenia. The most likely reason for this is that there were two people with the same or similar names, and their memories and feast days became confounded; a similar thing occurred in the East with the commemoration of St. Cyprian.

    Peter

  44. Pamela Says:

    Hi Peter,
    Thank you. The additional explanation is helpful. Robert Elsie’s site is the site that led me to believe there must have been at least 2 Saint Vlash’s. Your clarity helped.

    As an aside: What I found interesting during our stay in Shen Vlash is that non-Orthodox came and worshiped at the small church. As we were leaving evening services, a small group was entering the church. I wondered whether a wedding or baptism were to take place. Instead, it was simply a group of either Muslims or Catholics coming to worship. It was interesting how very normal this was to Orthodox teenagers were with. In my experience, this was not unique to Shen Vlash for there were non-Orthodox present at Divine Liturgy’s we attended in Tirana and Durres as well. Considering our unified begninng, no doubt we share saints in common with the Catholics, but what I found most interesting (because I was completely unaware of it), nearly half the Albanians who are Muslim practice a very unique Islam, one that incorporates many Orthodox (and Catholic) practices, including a belief in the Trinity and the veneration of saints. This was unknown to me prior to our visit.

    I appreciate your time in searching and answering my question.
    Sincerely,
    Pamela


  45. Dear Peter,

    A friend introduced me to your website and I look forward to reading your notes from the Fordham conference and the links on the Palamite controversy. I am a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri and very interested in your thoughtful and balanced approach to ecumenical relations. My interest is focused more on the Eastern spiritual tradition of the desert Fathers, and so any helpful suggestions you might have in regards to possible resources would be appreciated.

    Blessings on your work,

    Fr. David

  46. bekkos Says:

    Dear Fr. David,

    Thanks for your kind comment, and for your prayers. About the Eastern spiritual tradition of the desert Fathers, it is unlikely that I can much add to your store of knowledge. It is an immense subject; the book by Derwas Chitty, The Desert a City, is a standard historical introduction; and Andrew Louth’s The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys is also to be recommended. But, on the whole, I think it is best to read the original texts where possible, starting with the Apophthegmata Patrum and St. Athanasius’s The Life of St. Antony (which played an important role in St. Augustine’s conversion).

    To those who have been reading this blog: I apologize for being silent for about the past month. There are various reasons for this — perhaps, among them, a lack of things to say. Or perhaps I have simply been too busy with other work, and have not felt that focusing upon this blog would be, right now, the best use of my energies. At some point, no doubt, I will begin posting again; God willing, it will be when I have something to say that needs saying, and not before then.

    Peter


  47. If you are looking for a list of Latin and Greek editions in progress, have a look at

    http://www.arsedendi.org/?page_id=546

    ab

  48. A Bulgarian Christian Says:

    An outstanding blog. I am culturally Orthodox, but due to period of living in a Catholic country and due to my conversion to Christ in the purest sense of the word in a Catholic church there I am presently discerning switching to the Catholic Chirch. Currently I have no doubt anymore about the fundamental importance of the papal primacy as Catholics see it, but philioque proves to be more difficult to me, mainly because of needing further explanation so as to be understood (as perhaps the original wording of the creed does, but it would not have occurred in a unified Church)and its not having been duly consulted with the East at an ecumenical Coucil. In my opinion, the council of Florence could not be called impartial because of the Turkish threat at the time.

    Anyway, God will provide help, as He is already by having brought me here.

    Thank you very much. I was pleasantly surprised to discover we are of the same age.

    Konstantin

  49. Irenaeus Klod Says:

    Hi, Peter!

    I too was recomended to read in your blog about the article on Filioque, and I like it a lot. Moreover I am surprised to read that you have been teaching in the seminary in Albania (96-98). My teacher of patrology was a Peter, whose surname I do not remember…

    About Saint Vlash (Blaisius). An extant research on him has been done by an albanian catholic priest, Fr Shtjefen (Stephen) Gjecovi. It is claimed that Saint Blaisius is a local saint, martyred in Albania, which from Arbenia was transliterated into Armenia.
    As Robert Elsie has pointed out the grove where the saint was caught, in Sebaste, is claimed to be a famous grove in Sebaste of Lac, where today a famous sanctuary of Anthony of Padua stands. Lac, from latin lake, is thought to be the place where the forty martyrs of Sebastea were drowned.

    Pamela, albanian muslims, in general, especially the sunites, have no christian elements in their spiritual life. Many of them visit churches, looking for spiritual benefits, simply out of ignorance.
    The muslim bektashies have their christian elements in their liturgy in a wider context rather than that albanian.

    Ireneu!

  50. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Granting the possibility that there were two saints bearing the same name, the martyrdom of St Blaise (as he is normally known in English from the French) is likely to have occurred in Transcaucasian “Albania” which bordered Armenia to the East.

    The first attested use of the term “Albania” for that part of Illyria was in the 11th century, whereas “Albania” in St Blaise’s time (late 3rd, early 4th century) was in what is now the border region between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

  51. Irenaeus Klod Says:

    Miachael,

    Although would be a mistake to take the first documented mention of Illyrian Albania of 11th century as its very first actual use – there is a difference between the being documented for the first time and being used for the first time – there is historical evidence that Ptolemeus, second century A.D geographer, in describing the area, mentioned a Albanopolis right close to what makes modern central Albania.

  52. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    I’m sure the name didn’t come out of nowhere, but I am also reasonably sure that all non-Balkan hagiography places St. Blaise in the 4th century Caucasus and not Illyria.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02592a.htm

    http://orthodoxwiki.org/Blaise_of_Sebaste

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Blaise

    But as I mentioned earlier, there could have been an Illyrian saint of the same name who subsequently adopted his Armenian namesake’s biography by osmosis. This would not be without precedent in popular hagiography. It happened often enough in secular medieval biography.

  53. Irenaeus Klod Says:

    Yes, sure, your second point, that it might be, as it is the case with other coupled saints, there are two different saints.
    I have never come across of the actual research the albanian catholic priest, Fr. Shtjefen Gjecov did. Nevertheless, the legend connects the saint to the lical church of Albania, and by cioncidence the same places given in the live of the saint are still to be recognised in Albania. As I wrote above, the cave is still a famous place of pilgrimage, with a roman catholic church nearby of Anthony of Padua, held to be one of most miraculous sanctuaries in all Europe. Opposite of the cave, on the other hill, are to be seen the remains of a settlement known as Sebastea, overlooking the Adriatic sea, on whose coast is found the town of Lac, from latin lake, where the forty martyrs of Sebastea were drowned.

    The hagiographies you mention, you know well, are not critical editions.

  54. bekkos Says:

    Ireneu,

    Me falni si e harrova emrin tënd. Ndoshta jeni studenti që kisha me emrin Ireneu Pandelejmoni.

    Ka qenë shumë koha, e kam harruar shumë gjerat.

  55. Irenaeus Klod Says:

    Hi Peter! I was led to read your article about Filioque, which I really liked. I didnt expect it would be you so I am twice happy it is you who wrote it.
    It has been a long time since Shen Vlash’s time. How are things? Continue with your reasearch. I belong to those interested to know your views.

    Glad to hear from you!


  56. Hi, Peter,
    Carol Wetmore directed me to your blog. My (Orthodox) daughter will be enrolling at St. John’s Santa Fe next month. Any words of wisdom for her?

  57. bekkos Says:

    Hello Katherine.

    About the best I can say is that there are a number of Orthodox tutors at the college whom she might want to get to know, starting with Fr. David Starr. Also, that, when I was living there, I attended Holy Trinity Church on Cordova Road; it is within bicycling/walking distance of the college, and is a good community.

  58. Inga Leonova Says:

    Hello Peter,

    Finding my name on your blog, I felt compelled to say “hi”, especially since your name comes up occasionally in wistful memories of how well the library has been managed when you were there. :)

  59. bekkos Says:

    Thanks, Inga.

    As you can see, this blog suffers from neglect; I’m sorry it’s taken me some months to respond. I still miss some of the books I donated to the library, but it’s good to know that they are in capable hands. Please give my regards to Fr. Robert and his family, to Walter, and to Alice Carter — also to Genia Pomerantzev if she’s still alive (perhaps she’ll remember me).

    Peter

  60. Gabrielle Says:

    Peter,

    I am currently reading your PhD thesis and loving every minute of it. Is it published anywhere or available to buy online?

    Gabrielle

  61. bekkos Says:

    Dear Gabrielle,

    The dissertation is available through University Microfilms, dissertation number 9522753; a link to it will be found here. When I wrote the dissertation back in the 1990’s, the cost for having it printed and bound in paperback was about $36; these days, it costs $56, which, to my thinking, is a lot of money. I’ve considered publishing the whole dissertation here on my blog; my main reason why I have not yet done this is that it contains a lot of text in Greek, and, to get the Greek text to appear correctly online, I would need to convert it from its original format to Unicode, which is time-consuming. Also, now that St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has published the translations that are part of the dissertation, it may be that putting the whole dissertation online would raise copyright issues. Perhaps, then, I will eventually publish on this blog only the Introduction and the Commentary on the poems. There are, in fact, already two sections of the Introduction here on the blog, the part titled “Trinitarian theology in St. Gregory’s poems,” and the part titled “On early Greek Christian poetry.”

    That is the best I can tell you. Hoping that helps.

    Peter

  62. Gabrielle Says:

    I have been able to buy it Peter, I have found it extremely helpful and also formationally very inspiring. I hope that even with school life you will be able to write some more articles as well – I do find your insights on Gregory really useful as one who is very much a beginner.

    Gabrielle

  63. Charles Says:

    Dear Dr. Gilbert,

    Hello, my name is Charles Yost and I am a doctoral student in the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend). I am also an admirer of your work and share similar research interests. I have made a couple of Bekkos translations which may interest you. Feel free to get in touch: charles.yost1@gmail.com


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