Recovering Hymnography Symposium

May 1516, 2022
University of Chicago–TBA
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Susan Ashbrook HarveyBrown University

Fr. Brian Dunkle, SJBoston College School of Theology and Ministry

Ashley PurpuraPurdue University

Rev. Andrew SummersonUniversity of St. Michael’s College

Erin WalshUniversity of Chicago

Jeffrey WickesUniversity of Notre Dame

Cappella RomanaVocal Ensemble

The Lumen Christi Institute, The Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, and the Fordham Center for Orthodox Christian Studies Present:

Recovering Hymnography Symposium

May 15-16, 2022 | University of Chicago

Free and open to the public. Please note you must register for each day separately.

This symposium will explore the tradition of hymnography as both prayer and pedagogy, sharing insights about how biblical interpretation, ethical injunction, and theological reflection are combined with ritual reenactment in the texts they consider. Papers on early Christian liturgical hymnography in the Greek, Syriac, and Latin traditions will be shared and discussed with expert respondents. In so doing, the presenting scholars will shed light on the late antique Christian world’s practice of hymnography that is still preserved today by contemporary Eastern Christian worship.



May 15, 2022 | Rockefeller Memorial Chapel  (5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Chicago, IL 60637)

4:00 PM   Keynote Address

"Singing the Sacred: Music and the Holy in Ancient Christianity," by Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University

Why were hymns important for ancient Christianity? What did music add to poetry? Singing was an indelible part of daily life in the ancient Mediterranean world: in household and civic spaces, in celebrations, in mourning, and in religious devotions of all kinds. In the New Testament, singing hymns was fundamental to early Christian worship. Why did hymns matter? How did Christians in antiquity render singing sacred for their own purposes, able to articulate their own distinctive religious truths? What could make music “holy”? And how?

5:00 PM  Icons of Sound: Concert with Cappella Romana

The internationally renowned musical group Cappella Romana presents their concert “Icons of Sound” featuring pieces composed by the 9th century nun Kassia and interpretations of medieval Byzantine chant for the feast of the Holy Cross in Constantinople. 


May 16, 2022 | Swift Hall Common Room (1025 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637)

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM  Symposium presentations 

Presentations in this sympsosium include:

Brian Dunkle, “New Songs and Ancient Instruction: The Early Reception of Ambrose’s Hymns.”

Ashley Purpura, “Liturgical Name-Calling: Gender, Power, Performance, and the Akathistos Hymn”

Andrew Summerson, “Christ the Sea Monster: How Hymns Rephrase Patristic Thought on Jonah”

Erin G. Walsh, “Women and the Embodiment of Virtue in Syriac Poetry”

Jeffrey Wickes, “The Voices of the Martyrs’ Mothers in Syriac Liturgical Poetry”



This program is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. This program is cosponsored by the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Rev. Andrew Summerson, S.Th.D. is Assistant Professor of Greek Patristics at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, parish priest at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Whiting, Indiana,  and Program Fellow in Patristics and Eastern Christianity at the Lumen Christi Institute. He is the author of Divine Scripture and Human Emotion in Maximus the Confessor (Brill 2021). He is currently working on a monograph exploring Maximus the Confessor's interpretation of Gregory Nazianzen.