Professor Milosevic sets himself a simple task, but one which is challenging to fulfill: he seeks to integrate the sacramental mysteries of the Church into the Paschal Mystery of the Eucharist. He proposes
with Dionysius the Areopagite that “Not even a single hierarchical rite can be complete (fulfilled) without the most divine Eucharist.” Like the lungs oxygenate the body, the Eucharist oxygenates each sacrament. This scholarly but accessible book recounts the historical development of the rites by an investigation of manuscript evidence that reveals that in the Orthodox liturgical tradition each mystery was always oriented directly toward Eucharistic communion. But liturgical theology must do more than research. It must speak with a pastoral heart to the circumstance of the Church today. So Milosevic provides
theological reasons to reunite each sacrament to its Eucharistic center, and in several cases proposes a revised rite that would make this more explicit. This stimulating book challenges our temptation to treat sacraments discretely, as self-sufficient events of worship to be received independently of the Divine Liturgy. It weaves each sacrament into the full Eucharistic experience of our redemption and deification.
David W. Fagerberg, Department of Theology The University of Notre Dame
Nenad Milosevic defends his thesis with great academic sensibility. He examines both extant Greek and foreign bibliographic sources and makes use of a vast number of manuscripts, both published (Dimitrievski, Goar, Trempelas) and unpublished. To this end, he has visited libraries and worked on a variety of manuscripts across Mount Athos, Athens, the Vatican, and has also put to his disposal the Athonite microfilm collection at the Vlatadon Center.
Milosevic presents the theological significance of the divine Eucharist as the par excellence All-Mystery of the Church and uncovers its inextricable link with the individual sacraments and their dependence upon it, which is seen in their performance all until the period of Turkish rule. As the aim of his research, Milosevic examines this linkage and the manner in which it is demonstrated within the manuscript tradition as with ancient liturgical practice, the testimony of the Fathers, as well as the theological reasons, which have encouraged this association. Subsequently he examines the reasons for their separation, along with the possibilities of returning to the more correct older practices, offering even some practical recommendations stemming from tradition.
With this perspective, the contents of the book are expounded systematically with chapters for the sacraments of baptism, marriage, unction, and for the remaining rites and offices (the laying of hands, blessing of chrism, consecration of a temple, monastic tonsure, lesser blessing of waters, services for the departed, etc.) Their exposition is clear and complete, with an abundance of citations from manuscripts, the Fathers, and contemporary sources. Generally speaking, the work is written with immense care, affection for both the subject matter at hand and the liturgical life of the Church, and familiarity with the sources as with the field of theology.
John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, Panteleimon Rodopoulos, Metropolitan of Tyroloe, +Joannis Foundoulis, Professor of Liturgics
It would be no exaggeration to say that the 20th century marked the development of eucharistic ecclesiology, not only within the Orthodox Church, but in the wider Christian world as well. This movement was led by the leading Orthodox theologians of the era, among them Nicholas Afanasiev, Alexander Schmemann, John Zizioulas, and John Meyendorff.
Their chief insight was the centrality of the Eucharist in our understanding of the nature of the Church, as well as the importance of the eucharist for the Christian life. Among the fruits of this movement has been the great increase in the frequency of communion by the faithful. Many who once received communion only once or a few times a year now participate much more regularly, if not weekly. Yet this project of restoring the centrality of the Eucharist is not yet complete.
In this remarkable study, Professor Milosevic argues that the Eucharist is central to every dimension of the Church’s life, including every aspect of its sacramental and liturgical life. Eucharist ecclesiology, he argues, needs to be more deeply implemented at all levels of the Church’s life if it is to be realized more fully. Thus, in the various chapters covering baptism, marriage, anointing of the sick, the consecration of churches, monastic tonsure, confession, etc., he demonstrates their intimate connection to the Eucharist. After describing this theological connection, Milosevic goes on to make practical suggestions for how this connection can be made more evident in practical terms. It is in moving from theory to practice that this study breaks new ground, challenging the Orthodox today to put their theology into practice.
Paul Meyendorff Professor of Liturgical Theology St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary Professor Milosevic’s book is a most welcome contribution to the rather scant registry of modern Orthodox studies on sacramental theology. Probing and challenging, the book deftly steers away from uncritically adopted tenets of medieval western scholastic theology that have too long beguiled Eastern Christians, as he discerns a more authentic Orthodox understanding of the church’s sacramental vision rooted, above all, in the defining mystery of the Eucharist.
V. Rev. M. Daniel Findikyan, Ph.D., Dean and Professor of Liturgical Studies, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary