January 16, 2017
Photo: detail from an icon of Sts. John Chrysostom, Athanasius, and Ignatius of Antioch at St. John Orthodox Church, Memphis, TN
Frs. Athanasius Murphy, OP and John Chrysostom Kozlowski, OP both recently finished graduate degree programs, a licentiate in systematic theology from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception and a doctorate in canon law from the Catholic University of America, respectively. Fr. Athanasius is the provincial promoter of the Rosary and will be assisting at the Johns Hopkins University campus chaplaincy, while Fr. John Chrysostom has taken up a teaching post at the Dominican House of Studies.
Fr. Athanasius’s thesis was entitled “Ending at the Beginning: A Study of Rev 3:12 and 21:22 through St. Thomas’s Theology of Beatitude.” He examined the manner in which the faithful on earth are led by God’s grace to become living pillars in heaven’s temple which the Apocalypse equates with God himself. After providing an exegesis of Rev 3:12 and 21:22, Fr. Athanasius dicussed how St. Thomas Aquinas uses Rev 3:12 and 21:22 in his biblical commentaries to develop his theology of beatitude through the Pauline metaphor of the spiritual temple. He concluded by showing how the temple imagery in Rev 3:12 and 21:22 can be understood through Aquinas’s description of the saints coming to exist in God by way of knowledge and love in beatitude. God invites his saints to be pillars in his temple, and God himself is the temple into which his beloved are joined in heaven in beatitude.
The licentiate also requires a formal lecture, and Fr. Athanasius’s topic was titled “Teaching and Learning: Aquinas and the pedagogical nature of Scripture – theology as holy learning from Scripture.” During his lecture Fr. Athanasius compared the trend among some modern theologians to view the role of theology as the creative manipulation of Scripture for the sake of furthering some intellectual purpose with St. Thomas Aquinas’s view that Scripture is not merely as the material by which theology performs its task, but as the source of revelation that gives theology is identity as a sacred science. In the lecture he spoke of how Aquinas links together sacred Scripture with sacred doctrine, and how it is that God, as the origin and end of theology, uses Scripture as a medium to convey sacred truth to mankind in a way that makes the student of theology receptive to God’s pedagogy. The majority of the lecture was based upon an early text of St. Thomas, called “This is the Book” or Hic est Liber, which was Aquinas’s inaugural lecture at the University of Paris.
Fr. John Chrysostom’s doctoral dissertation, meanwhile, was entitled “A Canonical Analysis of the Authority Exercised by the Diocesan Bishop and the Religious Superior Over the Religious Pastor qua Pastor.” It discusses the situation faced by many Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, in which a priest who is a member of a religious institute (like the Order of Preachers) who is appointed pastor of a parish is subject to two distinct but sometimes overlapping authorities: the diocesan bishop and his religious superior (in our case the Prior Provincial). The two authorities comprise the dual authority structure to which all religious are subject in the exercise of an external apostolate. It is crucial that the authority exercised by the diocesan bishop and the religious superior over the religious pastor qua pastor be properly delineated so as to minimize tensions among the concerned parties. These tensions can negatively affect the care of souls, hinder the bishop’s ability to shepherd his diocese, and even imperil the religious vocation of the pastor.