Liturgy and Culture

The Birth of Sources Chrétiennes and the Return to the Fathers

Paolo Prosperi

“[T]he central conviction of the circle of Fourvière was the attempt to find in the Fathers the key for a unified vision of the whole of reality entirely grounded in the mystery and person of Jesus Christ.”

The early 1940s in France were not only the “dark years” of the Nazi occupation; they were also the years when what may have been the most important patristic movement of twentieth-century Catholicism came into being. They were years of “luminous darkness,” to use an image dear to those who were exploring the riches hidden in the mystical doctrine of St. Gregory of Nyssa and Pseudo-Dionysius during that time. In effect, the dark years of the occupation truly coincided, in France, with the golden years of the return to the Fathers. The quantity and quality of the publications of those years is striking, considering the material and environmental conditions surrounding such vitality.1

How can such a phenomenon be explained? If one considers that the first volume of Sources Chrétiennes, Gregory of Nyssa’s La Vie de Moïse, was published in 1942, the question arises: why would such an endeavor, which had every reason to be considered absurd, ever be attempted? From where did the enthusiasm and feverish activity of those years arise? In a book that carefully reconstructs the history of the birth of Sources Chrétiennes, Étienne Fouilloux has clearly brought to light the particular historical conjuncture that made such a blossoming possible.2


. . . . . . . . . .
To read this article in its entirety, please download the free PDF or buy this issue.