Robert J. Kitchen, a renown-scholar in Syriac studies, is this year’s speaker at the Maronite Enrichment Days held at the Maronite Seminary in Washington, DC. He is going to acquaint us with The Book of Steps (ܟܬܳܒܳܐ ܕܡܰܣ̈ܩܳܬܳܐ) and is uniquely qualified to lecture on that important Syriac work.
Robert J. Kitchen began reading The Book of Steps in 1974 with Professor Fr. Alexander DiLella in the Semitics Department of Catholic University of America. Robert earned a BA from Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts; M.Div, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California; MA in Syriac, Semitics Department, Catholic University of America; and D.Phil, University of Oxford, studying with Sebastian P. Brock.
He is a retired United Church of Christ and United Church of Canada minister, serving for 43 years in Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Saskatchewan until 2016. He is a Senior Lecturer in Syriac Patristics, Sankt Ignatios Theological Academy, Södertälje, Sweden; and Visiting Professor in Syriac New Testament Exegesis, MA in Syriac Theology program, University of Salzburg, Austria. He has translated The Book of Steps and The Discourses of Philoxenos of Mabbug, both for Cistercian Publications. He and his wife, the Reverend Mary-Ellen McGreal Kitchen, reside in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The Book of Steps
(ܟܬܳܒܳܐ ܕܡܰܣ̈ܩܳܬܳܐ) ktābā d-masqātā
The Book of Steps is a collection of 30 Syriac mīmrē or discourses, anonymously written during the fourth century in the Sasanian Persian Empire, present day northeast Iraq. As the spiritual leader of a Christian community, the author organizes the church into two groups: the Perfect (ܓܡܺܝܪ̈ܶܐ) gmīrē, and the Upright (ܟܺܐܢ̈ܶܐ) kīnē. The Book of Steps is a rare occasion in early Christian writing in which we see how a group of committed Christians tried to build a higher way of life, succeeded for some time, and then gradually lost sight of their higher calling. We are immersed in the travelogue of a living church trying to be perfect. This may be the only book in early Christianity in which the lower level, the Upright, are recognized at the end as being superior to the higher level, the Perfect. The Book of Steps ends abruptly with no record of what happened to this local church and its pastor. This is a book for laity and clergy to see how to be and how not to be a church with a new idea.
Five Steps Along the Way
Kitchen is going to present The Book of Steps in five sessions, which he divided as such:
- The Big Picture – or 30 Steps at once. What does the anonymity of the author tell us? What are the “Steps” in the title? Are you Perfect or Upright? The uniqueness and importance of this Book in early and contemporary Christianity.
- The Basics of living Perfectly and Uprightly. All the rules and routines one needs to follow – and there’s more than one way to interpret the rules and Scripture.
- The Steep Road to the City of God, or the problems and pitfalls in trying to be Perfect. Along the Road, the gentleness of being Perfect is shown.
- The Spiritual Wisdom of The Book of Steps. Trying to be Perfect teaches you a few things about living among other people.
- No Longer Perfect and Perfect Enough. At the end of The Book of Steps, the surprising reality of Christian and Church life when you are not quite Perfect.
Maronite Enrichment Days
April 28-30, 2020
7164 Alaska Ave NW
Washington, DC 20012
Topic: The Book of Steps (ܟܬܳܒܳܐ ܕܡܰܣ̈ܩܳܬܳܐ)
Lecturer: Robert A. Kitchen
|10:00-11:30 am||1st Session:|
Are you Perfect or Upright?
The Steep Road to the City of God
No Longer Perfect and Perfect Enough
|12:00-1:00 pm||Lunch Break||Lunch Break|
|1:30-3:00 pm||2nd Session:|
The Basics of Living Perfectly and Uprightly
The Spiritual Wisdom of the Book of Steps
|5:30-6:00 pm||Divine Mystery|
|April 28, 2020||April 29, 2020||April 30, 2020|
Maronite Enrichment Days April 20-22, 2021
Fr. Rodrigue Constantin (PhD in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America) is going to present his doctoral dissertation entitled “Passions, Virtue, and Moral Growth in John of Apamea’s Dialogue on the Soul” at the next Maronite Enrichment Days held at the Maronite Seminary from Tuesday, April 20, until Thursday, April 22, 2021.