Background

The Maronite Enrichment Days is a venue that offers continuing education for the Maronite clergy of the Maronite Eparchies of Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Each year, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary invites a scholar to offer a series of talks on Syriac Theology.

In 2018, Seely Beggiani gave a lecture on Themes in Syriac Spirituality. The following year, Joseph Amar gave two talks on St. Ephrem. Robert Kitchen introduced the attendees to the Book of Steps in 2020.

Our brother priest, Rodrigue Constantin, graduated in May 2020 with a Ph.D. in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America. He accepted our invitation to be the guest speaker at this year’s Online Maronite Enrichment Days. He is going to give three talks based on his dissertation entitled “Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogue on the Soul.”

Rev. Dr. Constantin will host us over ZOOM on three consecutive Thursdays, April 15, 22, and 29, from 11:00 am -12:30 pm Eastern Time. Registration is required (see below).

The organizers had hoped to host you for this event at the seminary in our nation’s capital this year, but, unfortunately, the circumstances dictate otherwise.


Abstract

Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogue on the Soul

Virtue cultivation is an under-researched topic in theological virtue ethics. Moreover, little attention is given in virtue ethics to vice and its impact on virtue cultivation. In this dissertation, I respond to this lacuna by examining the role of the removal of evil passions in moral growth in the Dialogues on the Soul, whose author, John of Apamea, is a fifth-century ascetic who has introduced the discussion of passions in Syriac Christianity. For John, moral growth occurs in three stages: somaticity, psychicality, and pneumaticity. I argue that, for John, the gradual healing from evil passions facilitates one’s moral progress from one stage to another.

After examining John’s theological anthropology, in the first chapter, I explore his views on the relationship of the body and the soul with the passions in chapters two and three. In chapter four, I focus on the morality of the passions, that is, whether the passions in themselves are good or evil, and to what degree one is morally responsible for them. I, then, reconstruct, in chapter five, a list of the passions and their variations in the Dialogues on the Soul, as well as the structure of the passions as stirrings that are intimately connected to thoughts. In chapter six, I synthesize the different techniques of the ascetic therapy of the passions, and, finally, in chapter seven, I show how the ascetic therapy of the passions helps one to progress morally from somaticity to psychicality. The state one must reach on earth is the purity of the soul, which is characterized by the absence of evil passions. This paves the way for the manifestation of true virtue at the pneumatic level. The full manifestation of the natural virtue of the soul, however, is an eschatological gift of the Divine Grace.

Finally, through this dissertation, I aim to draw attention to the central role of removing vice in moral growth and, more broadly, to the significance of Syriac asceticism for virtue ethics.



Guest Speaker

<strong>Rodrigue Constantin</strong>
Rodrigue Constantin

Rev. Dr. Rodrigue Constantin is a Maronite priest in the Eparchy of Los Angeles. Prior to his doctoral studies, he served as pastor of Holy Family Church in St Paul, Minnesota, where he also completed a master’s degree in Theology at the St Paul Seminary and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis. He earned a Ph.D. in moral theology from The Catholic University of America, where, under the direction of Paul Scherz, he authored a dissertation, Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogues on the Soul, which is the first academic exploration of the Dialogues on the Soul from the perspective of moral theology.

Rev. Dr. Constantin’s academic interests include virtue ethics, the dialogue between psychology and theology, and Syriac patristics. He has taught several undergraduate courses at CUA including introductory courses to theology and moral theology and Social Ethics. He is currently assigned as pastor of St Rafka Church in Livonia, Michigan and teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.


Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogues on the Soul

John of Apamea, also known as John the Solitary, is a fifth-century writer and monk, whose main ascetic work, The Dialogue on the Soul and Passions, has influenced later Syriac writers, such as Joseph Hazzaya, Philoxenus of Mabbug, and Isaac of Nineveh. Despite its considerable influence, the Dialogue has not been studied for its moral import, especially from the perspective of virtue ethics. This series of talks will undertake this task specifically. It will focus on three themes in the Dialogue:
Talk 1: The diseases of the soul
Talk 2: Psychopathology, therapy, and moral growth
Talk 3: The three levels of moral growth


Talk 1: The Diseases of the Soul

Talk 2: Psychopathology, Therapy, and Moral Growth

Talk 3: The Three Levels of Moral Growth

Sponsors

His Excellency Bishop Gregory Mansour,
Eparchial Bishop,
Maronite Eparchy of Brooklyn

His Excellency Bishop Elias Zaidan,
Eparchial Bishop,
Maronite Eparchy of Los Angeles

Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary

Organizers

Msgr. Peter Azar
Rector, Maronite Seminary

Fr. Armando Elkhoury
Vice-Rector, Maronite Seminary