Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Mary Cunningham

marycunninghamDear Friends and Family,

Today I want to tell you a bit about my other supervisor, Dr Mary Cunningham. Mary is a lecturer in Church History here at the University of Nottingham, teaching classes on general church history, asceticism, Mary the Mother of God, and more. Her primary foci are Byzantine History (she is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church) and Mary the Mother of God. (It should also be noted that Mary is not related to one of our other faculty members, Dr Conor Cunningham.)

Mary did her undergraduate studies at Harvard University in Comparative Religion, focusing primarily on Byzantine theology and Medieval Greek. She then went on to do her Master’s and PhD at the University of Birmingham in the UK.


  • MARY B. CUNNINGHAM, 2012. ‘The Place of the Jesus Prayer in the Philokalia’. In: BROCK BINGAMAN AND BRADLEY NASSIF, ed., The Philokalia: A Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality Oxford University Press. 195-202
  • MARY B. CUNNINGHAM, 2012. Mary the Theotokos (‘Birth-giver of God’). In: AUGUSTINE CASIDAY, ed., The Orthodox Christian World Routledge. 189-200
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2011. ‘The use of the Protevangelion of James in eighth-century homilies on the Mother of God’. In: CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND BRUBAKER, LESLIE, ed., The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Texts and Images Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. 163-78
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND BRUBAKER, LESLIE, ed., 2011. The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Texts and Images Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  • MARY B. CUNNINGHAM, 2011. ‘Energies, Divine’ and ‘Iconoclasm’. In: I.A. MCFARLAND, D.A.S. FERGUSSON, K. KILBY AND I.R. TORRANCE, ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology Cambridge University Press. 163-64; 231-32
  • MARY B. CUNNINGHAM, 2011. ‘Messages in Context: The Reading of Sermons in Byzantine Churches and Monasteries’. In: A. LYMBEROPOULOU, ed., Images of the Byzantine World: Visions, Messages and Meanings.: Studies Presented to Leslie Brubaker Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. 83-98
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2010. ‘The role of faith in the Byzantine worldview’. In: LIZ JAMES, ed., A Companion to Byzantium Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. 149-60
  • CUNNINGHAM, M.B., 2008. The reception of Romanos in Middle Byzantine homiletics and hymnography Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 62, 251-260
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND THEOKRITOFF, ELIZABETH, EDS., 2008. Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology Cambridge University Press.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2008. ‘Homilies’ and ‘Clergy, monks and laity’. In: E. JEFFREYS, R. CORMACK AND J. HALDON, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies Oxford: Oxford University Press. 527-37, 872-81
  • CUNNINGHAM, M.B., 2008. Wider than heaven: eighth-century homilies on the Mother of God St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2007. ‘Divine banquet: the Theotokos as a source of spiritual nourishment’. In: LESLIE BRUBAKER, ed., ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry’: Production, Consumption and Celebration of Food and Wine in Byzantium Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. 235-44
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND BRUBAKER, LESLIE, 2007. ‘Byzantine veneration of the Theotokos: icons, relics, and eighth-century homilies’. In: H. AMIRAV AND B. TER HAAR ROMENY, ed., From Rome to Constantinople: Studies in Honour of Averil Cameron Leuven: P. Peeters. 235-50
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND BRUBAKER, LESLIE, 2007. ‘The Christian book in medieval Byzantium’. In: T. NOBLE AND J. SMITH, ed., The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 3: Early Medieval Christianity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 554-80
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2006. ‘All-Holy Infant’: Byzantine and Western views on the conception of the Virgin MarySt Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly. 50(1-2), 127-48
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2004. ‘The letter and the spirit: some problems in transmitting patristic texts to a modern audience’. In: M. MULLETT, ed., Metaphrastes, or Gained in Translation Belfast: Queen’s University Press. 28-38
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2004. ‘The meeting of the old and the new: the typology of Mary the Theotokos in Byzantine homilies and hymns’. In: R.N. SWANSON, ed., Studies in Church History: The Church and Mary 39.Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. 52-62
  • CUNNINGHAM, M.B., 2003. Dramatic device or didactic tool? The function of dialogue in Byzantine preaching. In:JEFFREYS, E., ed., Rhetoric in Byzantium: papers from the thirty-fifth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Exeter College, University of Oxford, March 2001 Aldershot: Ashgate. 101-113
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 2002. Faith in the Byzantine World Lion Hudson.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1999. ‘Polemic and exegesis: anti-Judaic invective in Byzantine homiletics’ Sobornost incorporating Eastern Churches Review. 46-68
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1999. ‘Shutting the gates of the soul: spiritual treatises on resisting the passions’. In: LIZ JAMES, ed., Desire and Denial in Byzantium Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. 23-32
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1999. ‘The Orthodox Church in Byzantium’. In: ADRIAN HASTINGS, ed., A World History of Christianity London: Cassell. 66-109
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND ALLEN, PAULINE, ed., 1998. Preacher and Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics Leiden: Brill.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1998. ‘Andrew of Crete: a high-style preacher of the eighth century’. In: CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND ALLEN, PAULINE, ed., Preacher and Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine HomileticsLeiden: Brill. 267-93
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1998. ‘The Mother of God in early Byzantine homilies’ Sobornost incorporating Eastern Churches Review. 53-67
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1997. ‘Andrew of Crete’s homily on Lazarus: the preacher and his audience’. In: E.A. LIVINGSTONE, ed., Studia Patristica: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference on Patristic StudiesLeuven: P. Peeters.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B. AND BRYER, A.A.M., ed., 1996. Mount Athos and Byzantine Monasticism Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1996. ‘The sixth century: a turning-point for Byzantine homiletics?’. In: P. ALLEN AND E. JEFFREYS, ed., The Sixth Century: End or Beginning?: Byzantina Australiensia 10. Brisbane: Centre for Early Christian Studies. 176-86
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1995. ‘Innovation or mimesis in Byzantine sermons?. In: A.R. LITTLEWOOD, ed.,Originality and Innovation in Byzantine Literature, Art and Music Oxford: Oxbow Books. 67-80
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1991. The Life of Michael the Synkellos: Text, Translation and Commentary Belfast: Queen’s University Press.
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1990. ‘Preaching and the community’. In: ROSEMARY MORRIS, ed., Church and People in Byzantium Birmingham: The University of Birmingham. 29-47
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B., 1986. ‘Basil of Seleucia’s homily on Lazarus: a new edition’ Analecta Bollandiana. 161-84
  • CUNNINGHAM, MARY B and FEATHERSTONE, J.M. AND GEORGIOPOULOU, S., 1983. ‘Theodore Metochites’ poem to Nikephoros Xanthopoulos: a new edition and translation’. In: Okeanos: A Tribute to I. Sevcenko: Harvard Ukrainian Studies Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 100-16


Why Study Icons

Why Study Iconoclasm

Why Study Orthodox Christianity

Why Study Mary the Mother of God

Why Study the Orthodox Churches of the East

Why Study Asceticism

The Council of Florence with Tom O’Loughlin and Mary Cunningham

Christmas in Orthodoxy

Icons of Christmas



15th August The Feast Day of Mary

I hope you’ve enjoyed Mary’s videos and will check out some of her published work. Mary is an excellent scholar who seeks to do historical theology, that is, she seeks to study and understand the history of Christianity in its past and contemporary theological contexts and implications. It is an honour to have her as one of my supervisors.

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Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver


Seeking Guidance and Imaging God in Prayer: Icons and Their Use


Dear Friends and Family,

One of my favourite Christmas presents from this last Christmas was a reproduction of an icon given to me by my Mother-in-law. Icons are another one of those things that tend to confuse Western Christians, particularly we lower-Protestants. They can seem like idols. They can be treated like idols. There are even passages in Scripture that tell us not to make graven images of our God. So why on earth do I have a reproduction of an icon of the Trinity?

The answer is less than simple and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. At root, however, the logic behind icons is that Jesus, who is the Image of the invisible God did precisely what graven images in Exodus were intended to do, he gave us a picture, a physical object in himself, to show us what God is like. This became the main argumentation in the early Church for creating (or writing as it is now called) icons. Since Christ gave us an image of God to guide us to God, it is not inappropriate for us to create images of God to help guide us to God.

The purpose of an icon is a guide. When you pray using an icon, you are not praying to the icon, instead you allowing the image depicted in the icon lead you to deeper truths about God. This can help you focus your prayer when you don’t know what to pray. While many icons depict Jesus (or God as the icon of the Trinity above, which is actually a depiction of the three visitors who come to Abraham before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah), there are also some that depict holy people. I don’t want to get in to this, since this leads us to the veneration of saints, but the idea behind these icons is still one of guidance and seeking for personal transformation. We pray to God (not the icon) that we may be made more like the person depicted (These icons are also used to invoke the saints themselves and ask them to pray for us, just as we would ask our friends. I realise that many may still have issues with this, but I wish only to focus on these icons as guides).

Below I’ve embedded a video from one of my supervisors, Dr Mary Cunningham, on why theologians ought to study icons. Give it a watch.

At the end of the day we are called to pray without ceasing. Sometimes, however, we need help, we need guides because we do not know how to pray. While the Holy Spirit will groan within us and for us when we don’t know what to pray, we can still use other guides. This is the usefulness of icons in prayer.


Shifting Thesis Topics (Again)

Dear Friends and Family,

I still struggle, from time to time, with what the purpose of this blog should be and why/if I should continue writing for it.

Nevertheless, today I have something I believe worth sharing, for those who find interesting the goings on of my life. So, to get to it.

These Autumnal days are getting shorter,darker, and wetter. This morning, in fact, the world was shrouded in fog. That plus a headache led Lauren and I to stay home this morning and do some devotions and worship together. But I digress.

My work at the University of Nottingham has been ever slowly turning, turning toward a more theological focus. Finally, a few weeks ago, I realised the transition and made a change. I am no longer working on John Cassian and trying to prove he had a concept of deification. Instead, I’m now working solely on deification. I’m not sure precisely what the project will look like yet, I know it will be rather systematic (i.e. showing how deification impacts our understanding of the Incarnation, salvation, humanity, creation, etc.). This change also means I switched my supervisors and am now working with Simon Oliver (a systematician and previous student and now colleague of John Milbank) and Mary Cunningham (a historical theologian who focuses on Byzantine theology). I’m wanting to strike a balance between my historical background and theological future.

Who knows for sure where this new path will lead, but I’m more excited about my research than I have been in a long time. God has certainly blessed me with a supportive wife, as well as colleagues, friends, and supervisors in order to make this transition easy and helpful.

Well my friends, farewell for now. I will write to you again within a month or so (if not sooner).

Sincerely yours,

David Russell Mosley