In the third subsection of chapter five of Being as Communion, Zizioulas turns to some concrete implications of the synthesis between the historical and the eschatological understandings of apostolic continuity for the life of the Church. He begins by considering the nature of the apostolic kerygma.

While we find the idea of historical transmission, of paradosis or logia, in the New Testament, it is the Spirit that vivifies the Words and only in the Spirit that they can make sense.

The apostolic kerygma needs to be constantly placed in the Spirit in order to be life and not just words. It cannot be an objectified norm in itself, something that judges the community of the Church from above or from outside. It is in the context of the koinonia of the Spirit, which implies the concrete continuity of the Church, that the kerygma of the apostles can be “continued” in a living way. (189)

In the second century, and especially with Saint Irenaeus, the kerygma becomes more objectified as an historically transmitted norm, but the danger of this historical approach overshadowing the eschatological approach is overcome by Irenaeus’ emphasis on Pneumatology and on the centrality of the Eucharist.

The Church is to be found only where the Spirit is and the apostolic tradition comes to the Church not just through history but as a charisma. At the same time, true and orthodox doctrine is to be synthesized with the eucharist: “our doctrine agrees with the eucharist and the eucharist with our doctrine.” This synthesis safeguarded the apostolic kerygma from objectification in its transmission through history. (190)

This eschatological perspective was preserved by the Greek Fathers and especially by their emphasis that the Logos as person decisively qualified the idea of the Logos as word. This idea, found especially in Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril of Alexandria, meant that the historically transmitted word only becomes life and presence in the context of the eschatological community of the Eucharist.

By developing the “liturgy of the word” as an integral part of the eucharistic liturgy, the Church did nothing by eschatologize the historical, i.e. make the apostolic kerygma come to the Church not simply from the side of the past but simultaneously from the side of the future. Only when the preached word becomes identical with the eucharistic flesh does the synthesis of the historical with the eschatological continuity of the kerygma take place. Then the Johannine mentality of the “word made flesh” unites with the Irenaean view that orthodox doctrine and eucharist form an indivisible unity. (191)

In this context dogmas become not petrified relics from the past, but doxological statements of the community.

A Zizioulian footnote on singing the Gospel

Zizioulas claims that the fact that theĀ apostolic kerygma comes not simply from the past, but simultaneously from the side of the future, is the reason why the Gospel is sung and not just read aloud.

In the Orthodox Liturgy this is indicated by the fact that the readings from the Bible are placed in the doxological context of the Trisagion which is sung before them. This is clearly meant to indicate that the word of God comes to the Church not simply from the past as a book and a fixed canon, but mainly from the eschatological reality of the Kingdom, from the throne of God which is at that moment of the Liturgy occupied by the bishop. This is why the reading is traditionally sung and not just read didactically. (Some Orthodox priests today, apparently not realizing this, do not sing the Gospel readings but read them like prose in order to make them more understandable and thus edifying!) (191, fn 70)

That last comment on being understandable and edifying could of course apply to Catholics as well, and relates to several aspects of contemporary liturgy!

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