Christos Yannaras

b. 1935

Christos Yannaras is one of the most significant Orthodox theologians in the world today. An entirely unassuming man, his work is not easy to read, which is unfortunate because it limits the scope of its influence to some degree. However, with some effort his writing reveals a worldview of great optimism and hope. Yannaras understands mankind’s struggle to live and act in a truly free manner, and he is convinced that the essential freedom is possible in and through a rediscovery of ourselves as members of the local community of the Church. This involves the rejection of individualism and pietism, two reductions which have profoundly misshapen the experience of Christianity in our time.

He is also concerned with our cultural history as persons living in the “Western” world, and he clearly identifies himself as a Westerner. In his view, this history is inescapable and must be addressed before we are able to understand and act in a manner consistent with the true goal of our human nature. In “Orthodoxy and the West,” his analysis of the end of the Byzantine Empire and the religious history of modern Greece is similar to that of Fr. Georges Florovsky in his “Ways of Russian Theology.” Seeing the Eucharist as the fundamental sacrament of the Church and beginning to relate it to everyday life, this is the hope that the Church offers and the basis for its continued relevance in the world.

Selected Works & Links:

Selected Excerpt:

From: Orthodoxy and the West, Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press, 2006, pp. 23 – 25

The West’s innovations resulted in what we may call a “religionized” version of the Church. Historically, Christianity was not a new religion but the proclamation of a new mode of existence. It was a way of transforming human existence from a physical, mortal individuality to personal relation, a way for people to exist in a relation of love and communion with life as the members of a body which is the Church.

The sense of the Church primarily as a body in which we share in life and existence was lost in the West. With this change, Christianity became an individualistic “religion” dominated by private convictions, the acquisition of individual merit, and the institutional control of faith and morals.

This mutation was more fundamental than any earlier heresy, none of which had changed the mode of Christian life so radically or so distorted the Christian Gospel. The Church’s teaching on the meaning of life offered a new beginning for humankind, a new mode of life that inaugurated the thousand-year culture of New Rome. The Western religious changes not only altered the Gospel but also rejected the Greek understanding of human life, resulting in the emergence of a different culture whose global influence still predominates.

The Gospel joyfully proclaims the good news that human beings can overcome death and transcend the limitations of their human nature. This proclamation was a “revelation.” Not in the sense of an unverified supernatural message about the existence of God and a transcendent world, but in the sense of a testimony from experience which “reveals” the capacity for human beings to overcome death.

The testimony from experience carries the conviction of a real encounter with a historical person at a particular time and place, Jesus Christ, who embodied the capacity of human beings to exist in the mode of God’s uncreated nature.

The Christian Church does not call human beings simply to accept intellectually and a priori that Christ was both man and God. It does not seek “faith” in the sense of individual intellectual assent to a supernatural datum. It sets out the testimony of the first “eyewitnesses” to God’s “epiphany” in the person of Christ, calling on human beings to share experientially in a mode of existence which verifies the original testimony. The message of the eyewitnesses, historically perpetuated by the Church, was expressed linguistically as a kerygmatic proclamation. The experience of the ecclesiastical body is not an illogical or irrational mysticism. The Church’s proclamation is a rational declaration and clarification of its experience, so that others can participate in it. But rational knowledge never replaces the immediacy of lived experience.

This is the basis of the apophaticism that is essential before we can receive the Church’s proclamation. Apophaticism is the denial that we can exhaust the truth in its expression, a denial that we can identify the knowledge of truth simply with an understanding of its declamatory logic. The Church’s proclamation links the revelation of God’s personal existence and of humanity’s personal capacities to the historical manifestation of Christ.

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Sebastien Falardeau December 10, 2015 at 3:03 PM

It is possible to have the email of Dr. Christos Yannaras?


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