Vladimir’s Irenaen Moment

One of the most interesting–and underdeveloped–aspects of Patristic thought is St Irenaeus’s “Recapitulation” view. On its broadest level it is simply Ephesians 1:10–Christ sums up all things in heaven and earth in himself.  But what does that really mean?  How far can you take it?

Maybe far.

Irenaeus uses it as the key to at least four events in Scripture: God’s covenant with Adam, Noah, Moses, and the final covenant that renews man and recapitulates everything in itself, that which by the Gospel raises men and wings them for the celestial kingdom (3.11.8).

The structure of anakephalaiosis is this:  events repeat one another;the story involves not just progress, but restoration.  Certain signal events are contained within later events which recontextualize familiar motifs. The repetition of these motifs helps us understand liturgy and history.

(1) Recapitulation causes positive events or structures to come about.

How is this relevant to Vladimir of Russia? Upon conversion (and I will accept the Chronicle as more or less accurate) Vladimir put away his concubines.  Contrast this with Solomon, who gained concubines.  Before conversion Vladimir had drunken orgies.  After conversion there was still alcohol, but he now invited beggars to feast with him.

Some more meditations on recapitulation.

If Christ sums up all things in himself, and time is a created entity, and hence a thing, then time itself is affected/effected.

(2) The structure of time–at least in theory and according to Ephesians 1–is fundamentally altered.

What does it mean to say “time is altered?”  An easy answer is the Platonic one:

(2*) Time participates in eternity.

There is something true about this but not quite adequate. For Plato, time would have participated in eternity regardless of Christ.  That’s been the problem with Plato.  Perhaps Hans Boersma answers this:

(2′) sacramental time is when past, present, and future coincide (124). Chronological time thus opens up to eschatological time.  Thus, “eschatological realities are able to enter into time.”

This is good so far, but the emphasis in Ephesians (and Irenaeus) is on Christ’s person, not the sacraments.  We can revise the statement:

(2**) The exalted Jesus is where past, present, and future coincide.

Jesus opens our reality to the eschatological reality.   Therefore,

(3) We meet the eschaton in Jesus.

Works Cited

Boersma, Hans.  Heavenly Tapestry

Irenaeus.  Against Heresies


One comment on “Vladimir’s Irenaen Moment

  1. I like this post. Great thoughts on an important theological idea.


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