Brother Elliott C. Maloney, O.S.B., a monk and professor of New Testament and Biblical Languages at Saint Vincent Seminary, will give a talk on Saint Paul, the topic of his recently-published book, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 15 in the assembly room at Saint Vincent Basilica Parish. Saint Paul, Master of the Spiritual Life “in Christ” is the result of more than 40 years of teaching about Saint Paul. Copies of the book, published by Liturgical Press, are available at the Basilica Gift Shop as well as online at www.stvincentstore.com. Cost is $24.95.
Brother Elliott, a member of the Benedictine monastic community at Saint Vincent since 1965, has taught Biblical languages as well as courses on Saint Vincent Seminary and Saint Vincent College since 1976. At the Seminary, he teaches primarily about Saint Paul, the Synoptic Gospels, and the Gospel of Mark, which was the topic of a previous book.
A Pittsburgh native, Brother Elliott had the concept for a book on Saint Paul in 2007-2008, and the idea for structure of the book came together following a study semester abroad in 2008. His travels included trips to Rome, Brazil, Africa, and Jamaica.
Brother Elliott received a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Saint Vincent College in 1968, and attended Saint Vincent Seminary from 1968–1969. He earned a licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome, in 1972, and a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Fordham University in 1979.
“As I say in the preface of the book, Catholic scholarship has done a very good job in explaining what Saint Paul says about the effects of the Christ event, what happened to the human race because of what God did in Jesus Christ,” he said. “But I didn’t think we handled adequately what Saint Paul says we are supposed to do. What is our response to this gracious gift of God?”
During his Jamaican trip, where he gave a series of Biblical institutes, the outline of the book came together. He said “it just occurred to me that there would be a typical old-fashioned scripture way of finding out the answer to why, what Paul says to do. I examined every time Paul gives a command, makes a wish or says a prayer, and analyzed those, saying ‘okay, here’s what he wants. Here’s what he says we should do’.”
Saint Paul, Brother Elliott said, offers an eschatological imperative in his writings. “He makes a command or offers a suggestion. He tells people how to live based on who they are and what has happened to them. Saint Paul talks about justification and reconciliation and redemption and liberation and adoption and salvation, about eleven different images. I determined that there were 435 commands and wishes and prayers of Saint Paul, for the community to do, to act in a certain way.
“As early as Saint Paul, there was in the church real expertise on how to live according to the spirit given by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. When we say the spirit we mean God’s spirit, but it’s co-equal with the spirit of Jesus Christ, which is the power pack. It’s the special presence and activating way we talk about God working in our life through Jesus Christ. It is present to us because we make up the presence of Jesus in the world. If you want to see Jesus Christ teaching you’re supposed to be able to look at us, the Church, the Body of Christ.
“My book on Saint Mark (Jesus’ Urgent Message for Today: The Kingdom of God in Mark’s Gospel) was very heavily inspired by Latin American contextual theology,” said Brother Elliott. “This is more of a straight shoot out of what Saint Paul is saying but I think I’m asking the contemporary questions. The most incredible thing is how communally Paul thinks about things. He considers every person in the Christian community to be a member of the Body of Christ, and therefore essential to the proper execution of the task of the body of Christ. That task is to bring about what God wants in the world, what God originally made creation for. In other words, to have human beings come into the world and be fulfilled and be great human beings according to their capabilities of what God wants of them by being helped by others, by being engendered by others.”
In the book, he builds the structure of Saint Paul’s understanding of the human condition, examines the effects of the self-giving life of Jesus Christ for believers, and then concludes with “an image, a picture of what that community would look like” in Paul’s vision of Christianity.
Saint Paul’s community is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It has a great mission toward the rest of the world. Internally, the community as the body of Christ is a place where everyone is respected, where any kind of prejudice or discrimination would not be allowed. Where leadership is done not in terms of imposing power but it is done in terms of trying to organize and draw out the best in people. That there is an eschatological facet to being part of this community: we are already now the body of Christ; we are already now living in a constant growing sanctification and glorification; and we are going to be saved, as Paul always talks about salvation. There is a future point to which we are going. The church should be the witness of what that can be, but we’re not there yet. We’re still going along and actually we have a long way to go, but in God’s time things happened, can happen, very quickly.”
This fall he will teach using his new book in a graduate seminar on the spirituality of Saint Paul.