Study Group Relationship Judaism Christianity

Publications the Netherlands Centre for the Study of Early Christianity

Since 2008 CPS * CPO (and its precursors: NCSEC and CPO) publishes in the series Ad fontes by the Dutch publishing house Meinema and in the peer-reviewed series by Peeters in Louvain.

Early Christian Mystagogy and the Body. Nienke Vos, Paul van Geest (eds.)

Annua Nuntia Lovaniensia, 83. Leuven: Peeters, 2022



This multidisciplinary volume focuses on the theme of early Christian mystagogy and the body. In the patristic tradition, mystagogy refers to the essential process of initiation into the divine mystery and existential transformation. In this context, the body is a challenging element, since it represents a contested topic in early Christianity, and the Christian tradition has often been accused of hostility towards the body. The reality is, however, more complex. As its core tenet of the incarnation testifies, the body is central to salvation in Christianity, which involves the healing and control, transformation and resurrection of the body. The contributions in this book explore precisely such paradoxical and kaleidoscopic perspectives. In a cohesive chronological progression, fundamental issues are discussed such as the sacraments, the embodiment of the soul, the ascetic tradition, and the cult of the saints including relics as conduits of healing and conversion. The timeframe is extensive, ranging from the second century into the medieval period, and the early Christian tradition is represented in all its diversity, including, for instance, Syriac sources. Due to its broad scope, this volume on early Christian mystagogy and the body offers a rich and thought-provoking contribution to the field of early Christian studies and beyond.

Prayer and the Transformation of the Self in Early Christian Mystagogy. H. van Loon, G. de Nie, M. Op de Coul, P. van Egmond (eds.)

LAHR, 18. Leuven: Peeters, 2018


This book is the second in a series on the mystagogy of the Church Fathers produced by the Netherlands Centre for Patristic Research. The first volume, Seeing through the Eyes of Faith: New Approaches to the Mystagogy of the Church Fathers (LAHR, 11), initiated the study of the Church Fathers as mystagogues, since this approach does more justice to the Fathers' own intention in writing a work or a sermon than does regarding them as theologians avant la lettre. Early Christian writers did not primarily seek to offer rational reflection on the faith as an objective in its own right, but their works were rather aimed at an existential transformation in their audience.

The present volume focuses on how the Church Fathers conceived prayer as an aspect of such a process of progressive transformation, and as a means to achieve an awareness of God as Mystery, with whom one could, paradoxically, communicate in prayer. In the essays collected here many aspects and dimensions of the mystagogy of early Christian prayer are examined: different kinds of prayer, their antecedents and their development over time; their historical, theoretical, and ritual contexts and meanings; and their noetic, imaginative, and physical strategies.

H. van Loon, Living in the Light of Christ. Mystagogy in Cyril of Alexandria's Festal Letters.

LAHR, 15. Leuven: Peeters, 2017


While the original goal of the 'festal letters', written by the archbishops of Alexandria, was to announce the dates of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, they developed into treatises with pastoral purposes, to be read out in the parishes and monasteries throughout Egypt and Libya. In his book, Hans van Loon studies the mystagogy of Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 378-444) as it can be discerned in his twenty-nine extant festal letters. After an introduction, which deals with the historical background of the festal letters and gives an overview of their contents, various aspects of Cyril's mystagogy are discussed in detail: the centrality of the mystery of Christ; the role of the sacraments; the archbishop's typological interpretation of the Old Testament, and his attitude towards Judaism; how he encourages the faithful to fast and to pray, and to live virtuous lives; and finally, how he envisages our relationship with God.

Seeing through the Eyes of Faith. New Approaches to the Mystagogy of the Church Fathers. P. van Geest (ed).

LAHR, 11. Leuven: Peeters, 2016.


In the course of the past years an interest in the mystagogy of the Church Fathers developed at various Dutch universities. Interest in the mystagogy of the Church Fathers increased because it was recognised that its study did justice both to the intention of the Church Fathers themselves and to the increasing demand for spirituality. It was not their primary intention to put forward a rational reflection on the depositum fidei as such or to pass on knowledge of this as a goal in itself. Their goal was rather to initiate a process aimed not so much at intellectual formation as at an existential transformation by means of rituals, catechesis and the explanation of stories and images from biblical traditions.

In this book the main focus was on the mystagogy of the Church Fathers. The assumption was that philological, historical and theological methods complement each other in the approach to the Church Fathers as mystagogues. Consequently the manner in which they attempt to shape their introduction into the mystery of Christ was regarded from an interdisciplinary point of view.

The contributions to this book form a first sketch of the research area of the mystagogy of the Church Fathers, as it is taking shape at present.

P. van Geest, The Incomprehensibility of God. Augustine as a Negative Theologian.

LAHR, 4. Leuven: Peeters, 2011


Augustine’s way of speaking about God has been frequently deplored. It has been dismissed as too confident regarding the content of its assertions and too narrowly confined. The reception of Augustine’s work appears to indicate that there was not a little truth to this view. Augustine’s affirmative statements on God’s essence and activities constituted the ‘initial capital’ of Christian theology and spirituality.

In contemporary religion, a tendency is in evidence to deny that too specific an image of God can really contain absolute truth. Fully formulated religious truths have to be placed in perspective, or must even be deconstructed, especially if the suspicion arises that they inhibit openness to authentic religious experiences of unity and harmony. Given such an outlook on religion, it seems understandable that those who take contemporary culture’s renewed interest in religion seriously ignored Augustine’s work as an authoritative source for ‘post-christian’ discourse about God.

The presupposition of this book is that, throughout his life, Augustine maintained a balance between speaking about God and remaining silent about him to a much greater extent than has often been realized. On the one hand, as a priest and a bishop, he wished to prevent misunderstandings concerning the nature of God’s essence and activity. On the other hand, as a young priest, he already showed his concern to drive home to the faithful the idea that God was a mystery.

If Augustine positioned himself at the cutting edge of speaking and remaining silent, then his work is once more of importance for the future of the Christian faith, because it recognizes that the tension between affirmative and negative discourse about God has been characteristic of the Christian tradition from time immemorial.

Cyprian of Carthage. Studies in His Life, Language and Thought. H. Bakker, P. van Geest, H. van Loon (eds).

LAHR, 3. Leuven: Peeters, 2010


Up to Augustine, bishop Cyprian of Carthage was the theological authority in the West, and he has continued to influence theology ever since. Cyprian of Carthage. Studies in His Life, Language and Thought is the result of a symposium on this Church Father held by the Centre for Patristic Research (CPO), which is an initiative of VU University Amsterdam and Tilburg University. The symposium was held on the occasion of the 1750th anniversary of his martyrdom, which took place on 14 September 258. Virtually all contributions are from Dutch scholars who are members of the CPO. They cover Cyprian’s biography, hermeneutical and philological questions, theological issues such as baptism and the role of the laity in episcopal elections, and the reception of the Church Father’s texts in ancient and modern times.