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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies

Hanna Lucas

My name is Hanna Lucas, and I am a third-year PhD student in Theology at Durham University. I am from the province of British Columbia in Canada, and I moved to Durham with my willing and supportive husband and my four, occasionally willing, children to go on this adventure of study and experience here in the UK.

My research looks at the mystagogical catecheses of four prominent patristic figures: those of Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Cyril of Jerusalem; all fourth century bishops. What draws me to these texts and this era is not so much historical or textual concern; it’s metaphysical. What gets me excited about these texts is the implicit catechesis that accompanied the explicit catechesis. When these bishops gathered the newly baptized and said, in effect, ‘Now, let me explain to you the meaning of all you have just experienced,’ they imparted so much more than what, on the surface, can seem simply a collating of scriptural and spiritual meanings correspondent to each of the steps of the initiation rites. What was being passed on in this, the capstone of ancient catechesis, was a comprehensive doctrine of the sacramentality of creation and how that sacramentality is to be entered into and fulfilled in the Church’s liturgy. We also find an exploration of human embodiment and ways of knowing by means of words, sight, smell, touch, and through the posture and movements of the body. All four of these mystagogue bishops also engage in discussions of heavenly participation, in the cultivation of the ‘eyes of faith’ which can be trained to see spiritual reality in the earthly, and which can apprehend that the temporal liturgy is an entrance into and participation in the eternal, heavenly liturgy.

All of this implies a rich theology of creation, of the human person, of knowledge and of the sacraments. In my project of drawing out and giving articulation to this underlying metaphysical catechesis, I have found a number of thinkers within modern Catholic theology to be most helpful. This is especially true of ressourcement theologians like Henri de Lubac, Jean Danielou and Pope Benedict XVI in their writing on the liturgy, and also Pope John Paul II and his exploration of the theological meaning and function of the body.

What strikes me most about mystagogy is that it is catechism. It’s not meant for the glorious and isolated elect of the theological academy. It is, or was, intended for every convert, every baptizand. As an Anglican, I am burdened by the sense that an absence of mystagogy results in a profound impoverishment in the theological horizon. I do feel that I’m on a bit of a humble ressourcement mission of my own. In Catholic theology I have been discovering some profitable approaches to the articulation, the defence, and the retrieval of the tradition of the Church. And in the CCS I have found a diverse and lively theological and collegial community, boiling over with robust and challenging scholarship. I am truly grateful for the financial support that I have received through the CCS, specifically from the Capuchins of Great Britain and the Congregation of Jesus. It has enabled me and my husband to continue with more confidence in the leap into the unknown that we have made with our family; coming here for this season of life and for the pursuit of my doctorate. And I am grateful that I get to take part in the spirit of theological edification that the Centre for Catholic Studies pours out of itself, its scholarly activity, and its rich and distinct contribution to the department of Theology and Religion here at Durham University.

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