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Foto Spelic Miran , Recensione: Omelie sull’Esodo. Lettura origeniana, a cura di M. Maritano e E. dal Covolo, in Antonianum, 78/1 (2003) p. 382-383 .

The magnificent gesture of Moses standing in front of the divided waters of the Red Sea, represented on the cover of the book, as it can be seen on the famous mosaic in the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the papal apartments in the Vatican, could well be one of Origen himself. One hand stretched up as if grasping for spiritual meaning, the other almost embracing the audience and offering acquired insight. Iconic severity on the one hand and the dramatic colours of moving hands and waters on the other somehow join East and West in admiration, although not always admitted, of the great Alexandrinian.

The content of the book corresponds well to its cover: It is the third publication of the so called Lectiones Origenianae, held in the Centro Sacro Cuore in Rome, under the auspices of the Salesian Pontifical University and organized by Prof. Enrico dal Covolo. In the five years of this remarkable event to date, many scholars have been offered the occasion to foster knowledge about Origen, since, as Coordinator Martino Maritano writes in the preface, the intention of the Lectiones is "to help Origen return to talk to the people of today." Among the most prominent lecturers we may note Prof. Manlio Simonetti. The offerings of the last three years are now available also to the wider public, published in the LAS series: Homilies on Genesis (1999), Jeremiah (2001) and Exodus (2002).

Presentations on five selected homilies on Exodus are introduced by a short and concise preface by M. Maritano, who presents all circumstances and past achievements of this project. Precious also are his abstracts of each of the five articles and his final evaluation of Origen's role in the history of Christian philosophy.

The opening study by Marco Rizzi does not focus only the first Homily, but also gives a complex overview of the Rufinus' entire translation in which the Alexandrinian's work is transmitted to us, individuating the common exegetic themes (littera overcome by allegoria; "interrupted exegesis", when Origen was not sure either of himself or of his audience) and those specific to Exodus (e.g. Egypt as this worldly existence; exodus as the liberating force of baptism; construction of the tabernacle as the building of the homo interior). The analysis of the text of the first homily follows the five paragraphs and shows Origen's exegetic manifest, his parallelism between Moses and Paul as the new leader and spiritual father, and warns the Christian not to become like "the new king, who does not know Joseph", i.e. forgetting the Gospel and returning to their old ways. The title of the last paragraph, "Origen outdated", is meant to shock. After convincing us of the accuracy of this phrase, the author exalts Origen's value in refuting postmodern indistinct syncretism by pointing to the centrality of Christ. This axiom, together with allegory leading to spiritual understanding, can speak to a postmodern ear as well as it did to a Hellenistic one.

The VII homily explained by Caterina Moro, stresses two episodes, bitter water and manna. The first, as an allegory for a bitter Law, calls for a digression on the tree of life, that can take away the bitterness; the second gives occasion for different etymologies and possible identifications of the substance itself. The author however takes all this as a basis for reflection on the Judaic background of Origen's exegesis.

Carla Noce reads Homily IX on the tabernacle in individual and ecclesial keys and sees in Origen's explanations the idea of a progress in spiritual understanding, a theology of the priesthood of all the faithful and recalls the theme of visio Dei, since it is in the tabernacle that God manifests himself to his people.

The following homily presented by Francesca Cocchini is an exercise in self reflection. The case of an abortion provoked by two quarreling men is a warning for the theologian, who can be responsible (and condemned) for a simple believer’s losing his faith. The law of the talon is interpreted spiritually, but only when the literal exegesis, driven to its extremes, is proven to be inconsistent.

The closing presentation by Emanuela Prinzivalli analyzes Origen's Homily XIII on Exodus. It is a very appropriate counter point to the first presentation by M. Rizzi. The author discusses the question of liturgical readings in Cesarea and explains the reason for returning to the theme of the tabernacle: namely, it has a very important role not only in the ecclesiastical authors (Letter to the Hebrews, Ireneus, Clemens), but also in gnostic literature. This homily is centered on the materials used for the tabernacle and the sacred vestments, giving very rich allegoric and spiritual insights. The commentary, however, reaches its best points when Prinzivalli manages to grasp the dynamic between the preacher and his public: his fears of indignation and his hope, their carelessness and even lack of interest, but also their progress.

Origen’s reading of Exodus, reread by competent scholars, who having applied all the appropriate instruments for historical and literary analysis do not avoid actualisation, is therefore far from being outdated and we can only congratulate the Group for Research on Origen and Alexandrian Tradition for their initiative, and eagerly await new volumes of their Lectiones Origenianae.


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