April 10, 2018 Public Lecture at HMML
The Reading List: Ascetical Reading at Mar Behnam Monastery
Presented by HMML Dietrich Reinhart, OSB Fellow in
Eastern Christian Manuscript Studies
The Rev. Dr. Robert A. Kitchen
3:30 p.m. Reception
4:00-5:00 p.m. Program
HMML Reading Room
(Access via the Lower Level of Alcuin Library)
Studying manuscripts is no longer an armchair occupation in a quiet library. Established in the fourth century and now part of the Syrian Catholic Church, Mar Behnam Monastery near Mosul, Iraq was largely destroyed by ISIS in 2015, yet its substantial library was hidden and eventually liberated. During 2011-2013, however, this library’s collection was digitized by HMML. The earliest manuscript in Syriac (MBM 00364, 1231 C.E.) epitomizes the purpose of a monastic library – a monastic anthology of 28 texts from early Christian authors on the ascetical and monastic life, including many tales of the Egyptian Desert Fathers in Syriac translation. A monk would take out the single volume to read and meditate upon the various texts, not in an analytical fashion, but as a way to contemplate and assimilate the spiritual direction and insights of the authors. The lecture will describe how the practice of ‘ascetical reading’ enables readers to experience texts on a deeper level.
Dr. Robert Kitchen is a retired minister of the United Church of Canada (last in Regina, Saskatchewan) and the United Church of Christ (including International Falls, Minnesota). He read for the DPhil in Syriac language and literature at the University of Oxford, and has published translations of Syriac ascetical and monastic literature for Cistercian Publications – The Book of Steps & The Discourses of Philoxenos of Mabbug.