Site institutionnel FR EN
Frères de Saint-Jean Province de France
PROVINCE OF EUROPE Découvrir la Province Europe Autriche Marchegg Belgique Banneux Italie Rome Lituanie Vilnus Pays-Bas La Haye Utrecht Angleterre Londres Roumanie Bucarest Suisse Genève
PROVINCE AFRIQUE Découvrir la Province Afrique Côte d’Ivoire Abidjan Cameroun Simbock Yaoundé Éthiopie Addis-Abeba Guinée Coyah Sénégal Poponguine Togo Kara Lomé

Brother Marie-Alexandre’s thesis in patristics

Published on May 3, 2024

Brother Marie-Alexandre's thesis in patristics

Brother Marie-Alexandre Dallaporta, professor at the Studium of theology in Rimont, defended his thesis on May 3, 2024, at Catholic university of Paris. It was awarded magna cum laude (very good). Here is the presentation of the thesis from the author.

This is a thesis in patristics, directed by Professor Charbel Maalouf, and entitled : “The providential Trinity : Athanasius of Alexandria’s contribution to the Trinitarian and Christological theology of providence “. In the context of a contemporary theology seeking to renew its discourse on providence and divine action, this study sets out to show the contribution of an author of the IVᵉ S, Athanasius of Alexandria. While the latter is recognized as one of the Church Fathers whose work is decisive for Christology (one of the first Christian authors to have written a treatise on the Incarnation) and Trinitarian theology (his participation in the Council of Nicaea in 325 and his constant defense of the divinity of the Word in the face of Arianism), he has been little studied for his conception of divine providence. However, one passage from his work, the Treatises against the Arians, has prompted and guided our research, the one in which he states:

``For the Father has given all things to the Son, so the Father has all things in the Son, and when the Son has, the Father has. For the divinity of the Son is the divinity of the Father, and so the Father exercises in the Son providence toward all things.`` Athanase d'Alexandrie

This excerpt is to be understood in the context of a Christological reflection on certain difficult passages of Scripture (those relating the agony, ignorance or receptivity of Christ…), which Arianism used to show that the Word could not therefore be of a divine nature. For Athanasius, on the other hand, the receptivity of the Son (Mt 11:27) must be understood from both the eternal and temporal points of view, based on the unity of nature between the Father and the Son and unity in the exercise of their providence. Hence the question that drives our research: is this an isolated statement, or does it shed light on the way in which Athanasius can link, in his theological reflection on providence, a Christological and Trinitarian affirmation ?

After making a detailed study of the use of the term providence (pronoia in Greek) in Athanasius’ entire work (1st part), our study proposes to show different aspects of this contribution to Athanasius’ theology.

Firstly, in the way his apologetic works attribute providence to the Logos, his theology is based on a philosophical discourse (2d part). Among the various influences, we have highlighted Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish author of the 1st century, who draws on both philosophy and Sacred Scripture to discuss the role of the Logos in relation to creation.

Secondly, in the face of the Arian heresy, Athanasius elaborates a specifically Christian discourse on providence in the biblical hermeneutics of his doctrinal works (3rd part). Using Johannine verses on the unity of Father and Son (Jn 10:30, 14:9…), as well as the book of Proverbs on Creative Wisdom (Pr 8:22-30), he shows that, while respecting their distinction, Father and Son are one in the exercise of providence. The Son appears as the heir of the Father’s goods (Hb 1:3), the one who receives them but also distributes them in this unity with Him.

Athanasius’ contribution is also assessed within the patristic tradition (4th part). The Alexandrian is situated in continuity and discontinuity with the ante-Nicene Fathers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen). Faced with the Arian heresy that reduces the Son to a mere intermediary or instrument of creation, and Origen’s position that affirms the unity of the Father and the Son, but considers the latter above all as an efficient minister of providence, Athanasius gives full scope to the Son’s mediation in providence, considered above all from the point of view of the immanent unity between Father and Son. Thus, the Son appears one with the Father in our divine election, being himself the Will of the Father in his person.

Athanasius’ thought also paved the way for later developments in patrology, notably by Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria (5th Part). These authors clarify the place of the Holy Spirit in the sanctifying and divinizing action of the divine persons. Nevertheless, Origen is the most explicit on this point, since he is the only one among the Fathers, subject to a possible addition by his Latin translator Rufinus, to use the expression Providentiam Trinitatis. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, he affirms how, in the Holy Spirit, divine providence is in all things.

A final contribution is highlighted in the fruitful links between his doctrinal theology and his spiritual theology. Athanasius’ works such as Apology for his Flight, the Festal Letters and the Life of Anthony bear witness to the way in which the Christian is invited to combine human prudence and abandonment to providence, and how, by allowing himself to be taught by God, he participates in the knowledge of divine designs.

At the end of this study, we outline some of the avenues opened up by Athanasius’ thought in relation to questions posed by contemporary theology. The latter seeks to better grasp how Christ, in his humanity, was able to receive and live according to paternal providence. It also underlines the incomprehensibility of the divine plans for the Son, who lives them in obscurity and distance from his Father. Conversely, Athanasius, and Alexandrian theology in general, have rightly been criticized for not focusing enough on Christ’s humanity, as the question of his soul was still underdeveloped in his time. Nevertheless, the insistence of Alexandrian theology on examining divine providence in the light of these Trinitarian and Christological questions, prompts us to examine how the Son, who is one with the Father in the eternal decision concerning our salvation, was able in his will and human nature, even in the trial of agony, to live this unity with the Father’s will.