Category Archives: Book Reviews

Books reviewed by OPF/IC

Recommended Reading Winter 2010

Beginnings
by Peter Bouteneff
Baker Academic
256 pages, $23

The question of the origin of humankind and the cosmos has perhaps never been so hotly debated as nowadays, with “evolution” and “creationism” presenting themselves as polar opposites. In this fine book, Peter Bouteneff presents a carefully researched and scholarly reading of early Christian readings of the creation account in Genesis. What emerges is a range of interlocking insights into God’s creative purpose and the human place in the cosmos. Genesis 1-3 is seen as neither a myth nor an outdated scientific account, but a poem of creation, yielding deeper meanings upon closer ponderings. Bouteneff unveils the often surprising riches of our patristic inheritance with a rare

Living with the Wolf:

Walking the Way of Nonviolence

Peter Ediger, editor

Pace e Bene Press, $15

Some people are impressive at first glance, others only as one gets to know them. Books can be the same.

Living with the Wolf is a collection of fifty essays, most of them brief. Parts of it are frustrating in their use of jargon, others are direct, personal and moving. It is for the latter that one should read this book..

Poet Denise Levertov is quoted in the foreword: peace, like a poem, / is not there ahead of itself / can’t be imagined / before it is made, / can’t be known / except in the words of its making…

This volume portrays the making of peace. Pace e Bene (peace and good) has amassed, since its founding in 1989, a record of on-the-ground performance information and promotion of nonviolence that each of us should know about. Its programs have addressed nuclear disarmament, the plight of the homeless, the School of the Americas, and relations with Iran.

The strength of this collection lies not in its cataloging of success, but in its glimpses of God working in individual lives: an Islamic leader who raises a nonviolent army, a Hispanic disk jockey integrating spiritual awareness and street dance, a family who chooses to receive their loved one’s killer with compassion and to embrace healing. It chronicles “this time of withering, and confusion … this time of transformation and indescribable grace.”

Alexander Patico

Raising Lazarus: Integral

Healing in Orthodox Christianity

Stephen Muse, editor; Holy Cross

Orthodox Press, 270 pages, $20

In the context of immense contemporary discourse about healing, finding a book that derives from the genuine sources of true healing is both encouraging and inspiring.

Raising Lazarus brings together papers given at the 12th and 13th conferences of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion, which has a strong tradition for scholarly work tracing the spiritual dimensions of health.

In an era of mechanical health care, when the triumph of depersonalization that started from medicine now threatens psychotherapy too (and alas! even pastoral care), awakening voices are quite precious to the degree that they allow us to be “baptized” in the streams of truth that flow in abundance amidst our faith and theology.

In the book’s introduction, Stephen Muse writes that “whatever our calling, whether to medicine, psychotherapy, or the priesthood, we all are called to personhood.” But how often do professional therapists these days, those in ministry included, promote personhood? Every professional must answer for himself or herself, but clearly, as Muse writes, “we desperately need healers … who themselves are struggling to enter into the fullness of relationship with God and the beloved community and so bring to the healing partnership humility, a loving awareness of the presence of God and the sanctity and mystery of everyday life.”

Perhaps this presupposition explains why such a book as this is recommended in a journal dedicated to peace. To be able to work effectively for peace in external contexts requires that we first achieve a minimum of internal peace of the soul, that we continuously cultivate a freedom from sins and serious intrapsychic conflicts.

Vasileios Thermos

Lectures in Christian Dogmatics

by Metropolitan John Zizioulas

T & T Clark International, 166 pages, $33

The mainstays of Metropolitan John’s “dogmatic hermeneutics” are collected in this volume. These include the nature of dogma, doctrine of God and personhood, creation and salvation, and the Church. His approach identifies a relational method by which dogmatics might be interpreted by every age of history, including our own.

The chapters were compiled by the author’s students across three decades of lectures delivered in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, and Thessalonika. The book portrays a three-decade long conversation with students, to whom the author dedicates the book.

The author contributes to dialogue between Eastern and Western Churches by casting ecclesiology in terms of faith. Faith supports differences that enrich all Christians, thus dismissing a mistaken view that differences necessarily cause division. This idea is supported by Maximus the Confessor, among others, but its application to contemporary divisions and a spirit of divisiveness gathers collective assent.

Yet there are differences which have caused division. Metropolitan John addresses one of these in his cogent argument against the introduction of the Filioque into the Creed. His approach addresses history, then delves into theology, while grounding discussion in reference to the Church.

Ioannis Freeman

The End of Memory: Remembering Right�ly in a Violent World

Wm. B. Eerdmans, 244 pages, $15

Miroslav Volf addresses a compelling question: How should a Christian recall injustices suffered and forgive those who have committed them? This is not an abstract problem for Volf. He contends with memories of torture he experienced while a conscript in the former Yugoslavia’s military 25 years ago.

In Volf’s view, the proper goal of memory of wrongs suffered re-unites perpetrator and victim in the communion of Christ’s love. Memory is thus freed of unsettled scores which otherwise crystallize into an “eternity of evil.” Salvation from such torments in memory unburdens everyone of perceived need to recollect a grudge.

Volf addresses critics who might counter that bondage to penance is not only human, but is a duty which borders on being a sacred attribute.

Volf builds his case by distilling a sermon by St. Gregory of Nyssa (“On the Soul and Resurrection”) which sees the soul moving toward the eschaton in Christ, a process which “drives out memory from its mind in its occupation with the enjoyment of good things.”

Ioannis Freeman

In the World, Yet Not of the World

by Patriarch Bartholomew

We see little difference between watching a man being put to death and killing him.

Athenagoras of Athens

(ca. 133-190)

Athenagoras was a Greek philosopher who converted to Christianity.

John Chryssavgis, editor

Fordham University Press, 300 pages, $32

This text (subtitled Social and Global Initiatives) collects speeches and encyclicals of Patriarch Bartholomew. Many are published in English for the first time.

The text reveals a generous, self-effacing, pastoral voice capable of inspiring animated conversations not only among Orthodox Christians but among non-Orthodox Christians as well as all people of goodwill.

The editor’s introduction highlights the Patriarch’s engagement in ecumenical dialogue, bridge-building and peacemaking spanning 18 years since his enthronement. Chryssavgis groups the texts according to several themes (social insights, global perspectives and interfaith dialogue) plus a section of Bartholomew’s major declarations.

Read this book for its portraits of human freedom, faith in practice, and compassion. His writings witness “a seamless garment”  a frequent metaphor by Bartholomew of genuine relationships woven with humanizing threads.

Ioannis Freeman

Our Father: A Prayer for Christian Living

by Fr. William C. Mills

Orthodox Research Institute, 100 pages, $10

It is not a simple task keeping prayer simple, though Jesus makes prayer so accessible that even a small child quickly learns the words of the Our Father by heart and is capable of relating to the Person of the heavenly Father. The words of Our Father are few and simple, but understanding and practicing what they mean may require an entire life  for example to forgive others, and oneself, for great mistakes and grave sins. The child will eventually learn that enemies reside within himself, both inside and outside the family, and even in the Church in which we pray the Our Father with a single voice.

Each chapter concludes with “Food for Thought”  exercises and activities suitable for the individual reader or for a small group reading the book together. For example, one of the activities attached to the first chapter raises the question of how we feel and behave toward our earthly father, because this relationship influences how each of us feels and behaves toward our heavenly Father. The author suggests a seven-day plan of identifying good qualities in one’s father as a way not only of deepening our relationship with him, but of overcoming obstacles that may stand in the way of entering more deeply into the one prayer that Jesus gave to his followers, the Our Father.

As the author rightly observes, it is not simply the solitary self at issue. There is a “we” who embarks “on this path of love,” but it may take a lifetime to walk the path of love implied by the “our” in “Our Father.”

Ioannis Freeman

* * * end * * *

Winter Issue IC 55 2010

IN COMMUNION 55 / FEAST OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT / JANUARY 2010

The Mystery of the Present Moment

We can only meet God in the present moment. This is an area where God chooses to place limits on His own power. We choose whether or not to live in the present moment. Because we can encounter God only in that present moment, whenever we live in the past or in the future, we place ourselves beyond His reach.

We can only make decisions in the present moment. We can only enjoy sights and sounds in the present moment. We can only love or hate in the present moment. The present moment is the interface between ourselves and the rest of the universe, and, more importantly, it is the only point of contact between the individual and God. Of all the possible points of time, only the present moment is available for repentance. The past cannot be taken back and remade. The future remains forever outside our reach.

The present moment may appear to be tiny in duration – so much so that the human mind thinks it hardly exists at all – but in depth it is infinite. Actually, it has no shape or form. There is nothing to measure here, and that really infuriates the mind, since measurement is what the mind is good at. It is remarkable that this quality, so essential to our existence, has no shape. It just is. And it just is in a way which the past and future cannot be. The past is a done deal, the future is all guesswork. The formless present moment may be experienced as large or small. In some senses it is of almost no duration. In other ways, it is eternal life. Whichever we choose, it is, nevertheless, the only space within which we can operate. Indeed, this is the unique means through which we can confront the reality God gives us second by second.

It is odd that we do not consciously spend more time in the present moment than we do. Unfortunately, the mind blocks the availability of the present

moment whenever it has the chance to do so. The mind cannot trust the present moment, since it cannot control it, and is thus almost always at enmity with it. I think this may be part of what Jesus means when He contrasts “this world” with the Kingdom.

The mind cannot control the present moment, the time during which things can arise, so it pretends that it does not exist. This causes a person to behave in a completely unconscious way, forcing the individual to wait for the mind to absorb an event (which by then has become an event in the past) before she or he is allowed to experience it.

Archimandrite Meletios Webber an extract from his book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil (Conciliar Press)

Spring 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 53

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Recommended Reading: Winter 2009

The Living Body of Christ

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Darton, Longman & Todd, 235pp. 10.95

Metropolitan Anthony does not offer a systematic treatise on the nature of the Church. Instead, we see multifaceted views of the Church, as if through a kaleidoscope. The book is a compilation of talks, lectures and letters which required consideration of different aspects of the Church according to their particular circumstances.

He reminds us that the Church, though a society of repentant sinners, is, nevertheless, the body of Him who is both God and Man. This theandric “extension of the incarnation” transcends our abilities to understand and explain. It should come as no surprise, then, that the book reflects the multifaceted perception of this mystery that Christians have had from the earliest times.

He warns us of the perils of a “godless approach to divine things.” Theology “is not to God what ornithology is to birds.” It is, rather, “an increasing knowledge of God through communion.” There is a primacy of experience which means that the Church can only be truly known from within.

I was struck by his teachings about hierarchy, authority and power. “Power consists in the ability of a given person or persons to enforce their will and decisions upon others. Authority is something quite different. In a sense authority has no power; it is the persuasiveness of truth that is authority.”

In practical terms, this is expressed  or should be expressed by the Church’s structure as a genuine hierarchy of service. “If in the Church we are simply a hierarchy of power because we have different titles and ranks, that is a negation of the very substance and life of the Church.”

We may also draw some comfort from Metropolitan Anthony’s observation on “the vision of the Church as the Holy Trinity mirrored: alive, dynamic, living.” This can only be demonstrated in small dioceses where everyone is known to the bishop.

The Living Body of Christ is characterized by an attitude of openness to the world beyond the canonical boundaries of the Church. This includes willingness for the Church to engage in dialogue with other Christian communities and with the broader cultural life of society.

Metropolitan Anthony teaches us that the Church betrays its vocation if it adopts the characteristics of any kind of ethnic, cultural or social ghetto. It even does so if it defines itself exhaustively as a gathered Eucharistic community. This is not to demean the liturgical life of the Church in any way or to suggest that we should become woolly minded in matters of doctrine or ethics. The Church is a prophetic body. This should not, however, be seen only, or even chiefly, in negative or censorious terms.

Metropolitan Anthony teaches that we are called to receive truth and acknowledge holiness wherever we discern them. The temptation to retreat into a “safe,” unchallenged religiosity, which can be locked away in some hermetically sealed part of our brains, is to be rejected.

Metropolitan Anthony does not stand alone in calling for this spirit of openness. It is a theme which runs through the teaching of Fr. Alexander Schmemann. It is also writ large in the works and lives of Fr. Alexander Menn and St. Maria of Paris. Given such a unified witness from people such as these, how can we fail to conclude that it is a vital message for our time? Ian Page

The Peace Church and the Ecumenical Community

by Fernando Enns

Pandora Press and WCC Publications, 360 pp., $28.81

The “historic peace churches” include the Quakers, Church of the Brethren and Mennonites. Enns is a Mennonite theologian who heads the Institute for Peace Church Theology in Hamburg. The book clarifies these churches’ emphasis on ethics as a core part of their identity, and a basis for providing an example to other Christian denominations. He alludes to “the urgent need for the Christian traditions to present nonviolence, peace-building and reconciliation as axioms of their theology.”

Enns acknowledges that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism contribute a greater appreciation of mystery and apostolic continuity, but asserts that “it is not enough to preserve the church’s attributes in doctrine. … There must be a comprehensive connection between those attributes and the life of the church.” The book points out the dichotomy of “the believed church” (the ideal Body of Christ) and “the experienced church” (that which actually exists). He quotes another writer who says, “Ecclesiology and Christian ethics must stay in close dialogue, each honoring and learning from the distinctive language and thought-forms of the other.”

“In a free church understanding, Christian faith is expressed in terms of experiential religion. The life of faith is known through first-hand experience, with no room for a second-hand or substitute faith. Dogmas, confessions, rational theology, and office bearers could at best offer supportive help for personal faith.” Yet, Enns says, “the koinonia of the church is a unity within a continuous plurality…” “Diversity as well as unity is a gift of God,” states a 1993 WCC paper. He goes further when he states: “Christ is present outside the church as well, for the Spirit ‘blows where it will’ and works in many areas.” Alex Patico

Not by Bread Alone

Homilies on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Dewdney: Synaxis Press, 2008

There is a variety of scholarly and devotional books on the Gospel of Matthew, and there is a long debate between the devotional and scholarly world about how to interpret and exegete such a text. The academic is often more concerned about intellectual rigor and the insights of historic criticism. The devotional tradition tends to be more interested in the significance of the text for the heart and personal life journey.

It is from within the wisdom tradition of Orthodoxy that a more contemplative reading of biblical texts has emerged that avoids both approaches. Not by Bread Alone stands very much within the classical Orthodox tradition of contemplative exegesis.

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is certainly one of the wisest and most insightful theologians of our day. The verses and chapters that are interpreted go straight to the pure gold of Matthew, then present such distilled wisdom to the listening ear, heart and head. Needless to say, this book deserves many a meditative reading.

Not by Bread Alone is a must for anyone interested in how to read, interpret and internalize sacred texts in a way that leads to transformation and deification.

Ron Dart

Winter 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 52

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Recommended Reading: Fall 2008

Dimitri’s Cross:

The Life of St. Dimitri Klepinin

by Hèléne Arjkovsky-Klepinine

Conciliar Press, 189 pages, $17

In February of 1943, Father Dimitri Klepinin, a 39-year-old Orthodox priest, was arrested by the German occupiers of Paris for issuing false baptismal certificates to Jews, an action he had performed time and again without hesitation, though well aware of the dangers involved. A year later he died at Dora, a German concentration camp known as “the Man-Eater.” His final action, done with the help of another prisoner as he was too weak to do himself, was to make the sign of the cross.

Before his arrest Fr. Dimitri worked side-by-side with Mother Maria Skobtsova at the house of hospitality she had founded in 1933. After the German occupation began, the community turned much of its attention to Jews and all others who were in danger.

While undergoing interrogation at the Gestapo headquarters in Paris, Fr. Dimitri was asked, “How dare you talk of helping those swine [the Jews] as being a Christian duty!” Fr. Dimitri responded by holding up the cross hanging over his cassock. “Do you know this Jew?” The Gestapo officer instantly struck Fr. Dimitri on the face. “Your priest did himself in,” he said afterward. “He insists that if he were to be freed, he would act exactly as before.”

Fr. Dimitri along with Mother Maria, Yuri Skobtsov and Ilya Fundaminsky were glorified by the Orthodox Church in 2004. Their icons are now found in many churches, but only now has a detailed account of Fr. Dimitri’s life become available to the English-speaking world.

Some of the most memorable stories concerns small moments of family life for example how Fr. Dimitri was so distressed when his daughter banged her head on a corner of the kitchen table that he nearly sawed off all four corners of the table in order to prevent future injuries. Only his wife’s intervention saved the table from ruin.

Hèléne Arjkovsky-Klepinine last saw her father when she was a child of six. In preparing this account of his life, from childhood in pre-revolutionary Russia (he was born in 1904) to his martyrdom 40 years later, she has sought out many who knew him well and even found a few witnesses who were with him at the Dora concentration camp. It is a story of remarkable constancy in caring for others, from his wife and children to each stranger at the door. Fr. Dimitri is among those saints who can be described as “a man for all seasons.”

The final section of the book consists of Fr. Dimitri s letters to his wife from his initial confinement until no more letters were allowed. In them, the reader meets a priest whose reliance on Christ was absolute and love for his neighbor excluded no one. His humility was profound and his courage never wavered. JF

The Life of Saint Martin

text by Verena Smith

color illustrations by Emile Probst

Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 24 pages

There are quite different ways of looking at history. The dominant one is to regard it in terms of wars and warriors and the clash of civilizations. Another is to focus on the lives of the saints, who, by living Christ-revealing lives, help us to better understand what it means to follow Christ. The one route centers on power and bloodshed, the other on conversion. For those of us trying to follow Christ, one of the ways the Church helps us is by remembering the great saints and retelling their stories.

Would that there were more children’s few books about saints, but here is one of them a life about a saint of the fourth century, Martin of Tours.

So important was Martin’s role in the conversion of Europe to Christianity that to this day, in several European countries, the eve of his feast day, November 12, is still the occasion of festivities, especially processions of children carrying lanterns as they go from door-to-door singing St. Martin songs in exchange for gifts of fruit or candy. The idea behind the tradition is that St. Martin should make all of us more generous.

In some towns and cities, a man dressed in a Roman officer’s uniform and riding a white horse leads a parade of lantern-bearing children and their parents. The man of horseback represents, of course, St. Martin, dressed as he was in the period before his baptism. The great event in his early life was to notice a freezing beggar at a city gateway and to cut his officer’s cape in two, giving half it to the man in need. It’s a scene represented in countless carvings, paintings and stained glass windows, especially in churches and monasteries bearing Martin’s name. That same night, Martin had a vision in which he realized that the man he helped was none other than Christ.

The other important story from Martin’s younger life occurred soon afterward, when he refused to take part in a great battle that was due to begin the next day. “I am a soldier of Christ,” he told Caesar. “To fight is not permissible for me.” Accused of cowardice, Martin offered to stand before the opposing army unarmed, but instead was put in chains for his disobedience. When the opposing army instead chose not to enter into battle, Caesar saw this as a heavenly sign, freeing Martin and granting him a discharge.

Martin was still a catechumen at the time, but soon afterward was baptized, became a monk, and eventually was conscripted by local believers to become the bishop of Tours in France. It was a fate Martin tried to avoid, regarding himself as unworthy. He went into hiding, but the noisy geese with which he took shelter gave him away. (Poor geese! In Austria, Germany and France, many of goose are roasted on St. Martin’s feast day.)

While this brief account of St. Martin’s life leaves out some of my favorite details of his life (the reason Martin left the army is not made clear), nonetheless the book will open a door for any family in which it is read. The illustrations are excellent and the story told in an engaging way. JF

The Hermit, the Icon, and the Emperor: The Holy Virgin Comes to Cyprus

by Chrissi Hart, illustrated by Niko Chocheli

Conciliar Press, $17

Chrissi Hart tells the story of how an icon of the Mother of God, painted by the Evangelist Luke, journeyed from a palace in Constantinople to a remote hilltop in Cyprus, where it remains to this day as part of the iconostasis of the monastery church of Kykkos. It’s a tale that begins with the song of a cuckoo and involves a resolute hermit, a governor stricken with paralysis, a princess close to death, and an emperor whose greatest treasure is the icon painted by St. Luke. Niko Chocheli’s vibrant illustrations bring the story to life and will give many young readers their first glimpse of Byzantium. The story also introduces the realization that some dreams are God-given.

It’s a book that will engage both children and their parents and no doubt will inspire more than a few readers to make their way as pilgrims to the Kykkos monastery on Cyprus. -JF

The Uncreated Light

by Solrunn Nes

Eerdmans, 187 pages, $25

The Uncreated Light is centered on the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration, as rendered in four representative portrayals spanning the 6th through the 15th centuries, and supplemented by four other works.

The book is also a statement about the human person in his relation to God. One can find the key to Nes’s thesis in this: “Theosis [deification] does not imply that the difference between the divine and the human is erased. On the contrary, greater likeness with God will make man more human since the deified man has developed his God-given potential. … Iron which is heated by fire is still iron, but is different from cold iron in that it can be formed.” The point is that the human person is not made to vanish in his encounter with God. Nothing of the truly human, including personal identity, is left behind, but is taken up and made more fully itself in communion with the deifying Christ human iron infused with divine fire.

While Nes does what most art historians do, her book is theological in a way that art history books rarely are. She interprets her examples through two theological controversies: 8th-century iconoclasm and the 14th-century hesychasm. Without a grasp of the relevant theology, one misses so much that is vital to the iconography itself.

The three-part structure of the book ascent, vision, and descent assumes the shape of the Transfiguration accounts and, by extension, the eastern-patristic path of the mystical journey. Nes shows how the various depictions themselves elucidate the Incarnation, the glory of the Cross, eschatology, and human deification.

The highest compliment I can pay Solrunn Nes’s book is that it induces one to pray and to conceive a desire for the True Beauty objectively reflected there.

Fr. Addison Hart

Violence and Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Conversation

by Fr. Emmanuel Clapsis

Foreword by Patriarch Bartholomew I

ISBN: 9782825415054

WCC Publications, 329 pages, 35 francs

For those who wished they might have attended the conference on violence and spirituality held in 2005 at the Hellenic College and Holy Cross Orthodox School of Theology, it’s not too late to at least listen in. Fr. Emmanuel Clapsis, Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Holy Cross, has gathered together all the papers that were presented and also included transcripts of a panel discussion on domestic violence. The topics include Christian witness in overcoming violence, religious freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation, the saints as models of Christ’s peace, and nonviolence in the Orthodox tradition.

Fall 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 51

Recommended Reading: Summer 2008

His Broken Body

by Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck

Euclid University Consortium Press; 438 pages, $33.50

Not often is a book published which has the potential to serve as a catalyst for history-making events. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians may have that potential. Certainly it will make a book that will greatly help any Christian who is saddened by the disunity of those claiming ancient and apostolic Christian roots.

His Broken Body tells both sides of the story in a comprehensive manner. New light is shed on a multiplicity of concurrent, and competing, early church viewpoints and practices such as Eucharistic vs. universal ecclesiology and Petrine succession not only in the bishop of Rome, but in every bishop. There is also the fascinating concept of the “Church as Hologram.”

For many readers, seeing this material for the first time will be an epiphany. It was for me. I know of no other single source that addresses so much in one volume. I’ve had to dig for years through both Roman Catholic and Orthodox resources to gain even a small portion of what is made available in His Broken Body. Both uncritical ecumenists and unyielding traditionalists will likely be surprised to find controversial topics addressed in such a balanced, truthful and faithful way.

Fr. Laurent’s style is almost conversational, yet rigorous: outstanding both in its directness and charity, sticking to the point like a laser, irenic in its approach. It’s an example of “speaking the truth in love.”

Fr. Laurent helps us understand the Church as it understood itself during the first millennium, with all its glory (and shame), in unity (and schism), replete with concurrent differences and agreements.

Not everyone will agree with Fr. Laurent’s conclusions and perspectives, but his analysis will be hard to fault and his obvious desire to move in a forward direction with concrete steps is worthy of admiration and emulation.

– Darrin Roush

Recovering the Icon:

The Life and Work of Leonid Ouspensky

by Fr. Patrick Doolan

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, $33

Few people did so much to recover the understanding of classic iconography and the theology of icons as Leonid Ouspensky. Thanks to Fr. Patrick Doolan, we now have an excellent introduction to Ouspensky’s work in a superbly illustrated book, with the added benefit of a biographical essay by Lydia Ouspensky.

In his youth in Russia, Ouspensky despised the Orthodox Church. Going from village to village preaching atheism, the future iconographer entered houses and threw out the icons he found within. In 1918, he joined the Red Army. Captured by White forces, moments before execution by a firing squad, his life was saved by a compassionate colonel. His attitude toward bloodshed was soon after transformed by being witness to the execution of an unarmed captive. “Brothers,” said the man to those who were his killers, “what are you doing?” Ouspensky, his wife writes, “afterward remained unconditionally intolerant throughout his life to the killing of any living creature.”

Like so many other Russians fleeing the disaster of revolution, Ouspensky later settled in France, first working in a coal mine. Later, following study at an art school, he made his living as a commercial artist. Interest in icons opened the doorway to baptism. In time his love of icons became so compelling that icons became his life’s work. Iconography had been in decline since the seventeenth century. By careful study of representative ancient icons, Ouspensky set out to rediscover an all-but-lost tradition and its methods. His icons are now renowned throughout the Orthodox world.

For more than four decades, Ouspensky taught iconography in Paris to pupils who came from many countries. Each student heard his humble admonition: “The old icons are the best teachers.” An icon was not an aesthetic creation, he taught, but a vision in lines and colors of the Divine World, and it pervaded, conquered, and transfigured the fallen world.

“If you want to know Ouspensky,” Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh writes in the book’s foreword, “stand in silence a long while before an icon of his.”

Fr. Patrick Doolan, himself a well known iconographer, was one of Ouspensky’s last students. He oversees the icon workshop at Saint Gregory of Sinai Monastery in Kelseyville, California.

– JF

Questioning God

by Fr. Ted Bobosh

Light & Life Publishing, 210 pages, $18

Fr. Ted Bobosh has written a verse-by-verse meditation on the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, chapters which he sees as foundational to Christian theology.

Here is an extract concerning the Adam and Eve passages in Genesis:

“For the first time in Genesis, God finds something ‘not good’ – man is alone. A flaw in God’s paradise? Hadn’t God foreseen this? Did he assume he was to be Adam’s partner? …. [And so Eve is created.] …. But when it comes to making a ‘helper fit for man,’ the Lord does not once again go to the ground but rather takes part of the man to form the woman. To do this, God has to put the conscious being into unconsciousness. The woman like the man was especially created…. God does not consult with Adam or get Adam’s approval. God takes the initiative, the man is passive. The woman is made to share Adam’s life and to be his helper…. [But] clearly being a helper does not imply inferiority. Woman is a helper equal to man…. The solution to man’s problem [his aloneness] is found in man, not in the stars…. Each human since Adam is really brought forth from the side of humanity – from humans who already exist. We are dependent on one another…. Each human conceived is a fit helper for other humans and each has a God-ordained role in the universe… We each are bearers of the image of God, having a soul where God’s own breath interacts with our physical nature.”

Digging in the rich soil of Genesis, and drawing deeply from the writings of the Fathers, Fr. Ted has produced a book which cannot help but deepen the reader’s appreciation of the primary stories on which our tradition has its foundations.

– JF

Summer 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 50

Recommended Reading: Pascha / Spring 2008

The Orthodox Study Bible

Thomas Nelson, 1824 pp, $50

I’ve been looking at the new Orthodox Study Bible, which now includes the Old and New Testaments. Here are my first impressions.

New Testament: I was a bit apprehensive about this project, since I had found the earlier edition (which only included the New Testament and Psalms) disappointing. Comments were often inane, and made little use of the Fathers’ commentaries on the New Testament passages. That edition made no effort to correct the Psalms to the (sometimes substantially different) Orthodox text.

I’m happy to say that the New Testament commentary has been substantially re-worked and seems to me much improved. More patristic material is included, and notes are provided on how various passages are used in the Church’s services.

Unfortunately, the editors did not correct the Textus Receptus version (the basis of the New King James Version used here) to match Church usage. Why not? Fortunately differences in the New Testament are rarely significant. If you want to come very close to reconstructing the Church’s text, keep your eye out for notes (provided by the NKJV editors) saying “M-Text reads.” This will give the “Majority Text” reading when it differs from the one in the body of the text.

The Psalter has been moved to its proper place in the Old Testament and corrected to Orthodox usage. See below.

Old Testament: Here is where we find the big contribution. The full text of the Orthodox Old Testament, including all of the so-called Apocrypha in their proper places, is included. Wonderful! This will be a big help to parishes, since many of the Old Testament readings for various feast days (for example the Song of the Three Youths in the Furnace) aren’t found in Protestant Bibles.

The translators used the New King James Version as their starting point, correcting or adding to it where it did not match the Septuagint text used by the Church. If you’re familiar with the NKJV, you’ll have a good idea of how the text reads: quite literal, a little stiff in places, but generally a dignified, easily-readable modern English. As with the New Testament, the notes make use of the Fathers’ commentaries and describe where various passages are used liturgically. Much more helpful.

To get a feel for how the text reads for liturgical use and for prayer, I looked over the Psalms and was generally pleased. The editors have carefully revised the text according to the Septuagint; almost as important for church use, the Psalter “sings” fairly well when read aloud.

Other Material: The earlier New Testament OSB included a number of supplementary articles. Some of these were strongly criticized for having a Protestant feel (produced as they were by evangelical converts). My impression is that the best of the original articles have been kept (there’s an excellent one by Bishop Kallistos, “How to Read the Bible”), and that the articles that were most strongly criticized have been removed or rewritten.

Short, helpful study articles (Deification, Transfiguration, The Church) interspersed throughout the text have been more carefully supervised and edited than in the earlier edition.

As in the earlier edition, many reproductions of icons are included. These draw from a wider range of sources than in the earlier version. Some are exquisite, though the quality of some reproductions seems not as good as in the earlier edition.

Finally, a short set of morning and evening prayers is included. These generally follow longer versions found in prayer books and will be helpful to many users. (The earlier edition included no prayers to the Mother of God, one source of charges that it was a crypto-Protestant work. That egregious omission has been corrected.)

Sometimes I felt as if the earlier, New Testament edition of the Orthodox Study Bible was aimed more at converting Protestants than at being helpful to Orthodox believers. I don’t get that impression about this edition, and I’m grateful.

My opinion may change as I read it more carefully, but for now I’m very pleased with the job the editors have done. For Orthodox Christians wanting a proper Old Testament in English, this is really the only choice, so it’s fortunate that the editors undertook their work with care and prayer. Many thanks to them. – John Brady

Bread and Water, Wine and Oil

by Archimandrite Meletios Webber

Conciliar Press, pp 200, $16

A key passage at the beginning of Bread and Water, Wine and Oil focuses on the Orthodox use of the word “mystery”:

“One of the most noticeable features of Eastern Christianity is that it is this word, ‘mystery,’ rather than the word ‘sacrament,’ which describes those actions of God which have a specific, decisive and eternal significance in the lives of those who take part in them. Everyday substances – oil, water, bread, wine – together with simple actions – offering, blessing, washing, anointing – become the means by which God intervenes in our lives. These interventions – in which God does all the work, and our only contribution is to be prepared and present – color and shape our lives beyond the extent that would be possible through any human encounter. However, unlike most human interactions, they do not take us from a place of ignorance to a place of knowledge. Rather, the Mysteries lead us deeper and deeper into the Mystery – the Mystery which is the presence of God Himself.”

Mystery, in the Orthodox sense, has nothing to do with mystery novels and films. The divine mystery has no solution. As the author writes:

“In the East, on the other hand, a mystery is an area where the human mind cannot go, and where the heart alone makes sense, not by ‘knowing,’ but by ‘being.’ The Greek word mysterion leads you into a sense of ‘not-knowing’ or ‘not-understanding’ and leaves you there. All a person can do is gaze and wonder; there is nothing to solve.”

Fr. Meletios’s book is a profoundly challenging book concerning the journey from the mind (always struggling to explain, solve and de-mystify, yet always seething with emotions and passions) to the depths of the heart, the center of being rather than of knowing.

Bread and Water, Wine and Oil seems likely to become a Christian classic, the sort of book the reader returns to again and again and keeps recommending to friends.

– Jim Forest

Churchly Joy

by Sergius Bulgakov

translated by Boris Jakim

Eerdmans, pp 149, $16

Little by little, more of the writings of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov are becoming available in English, in this case a collection of sermons delivered in Paris between 1924-1935 when the author was dean of St. Sergius Theological Institute as well as professor of theology. The original Russian text appeared in 1936 with a dedication to the Association of Orthodox Action, in which one of the most notable figures was a spiritual child of Fr. Sergius, Mother Maria Skobtsova, now better known as St. Maria of Paris.

The 28 sermons (also described as orations and discourses) offer the reader a journey through the Church calendar and, while the chapters might first be read in one go, might afterward be returned to one by one in connection with particular days and seasons of the ecclesiastical year: Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Presentation of the Virgin, Presentation of Christ, Entry into Jerusalem, Pascha, Exaltation of the Cross, Protection of the Mother of God, etc.

Bulgakov writes in the preface: “There are two worlds for the Christian and two lives in them: one of these lives belongs to this world of sorrow and suffering, while the other is lived in a hidden manner in the Kingdom of God, in the joyful city of heaven. All of the events, both of the Gospel and of the Church, which are celebrated at different times of the Church Year are not only remembered but are also accomplished in us, insofar as our souls touch this heavenly world. These events become for us a higher reality, a source of unceasing celebration, of perfect joy.”

A reviewer could quote from any sermon to give a prospective reader some idea of the spirit of the book. Here is an extract from what Fr. Sergius had to say about the Sunday of the Last Judgment:

“The Lord reveals … that upon which salvation or perdition depends, and this is for all men or all nations, not only for those illumined by faith in Christ. The principle, his power of life, is love, the works of love and the way of love: feeding those who hunger, giving drink to those who thirst, giving refuge to the wanderer, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned – not only in a bodily but in a spiritual sense. These questions of the Lord encompass the entire domain of relations between human beings, all the possibilities of love. However, the question involuntarily arises: Is Christian life reducible to charity alone?

Does this mean that right faith, Christian hope, the fulfillment of Church decrees, adherence to doctrine, and prayer have no significance for salvation? Does this mean that heresies, schisms, and absence of faith do not matter if one’s works are good? No, all these things are required of the Christian and will be taken into account by the Just Judge; but separated from love, these things are the empty virtue of the arrogant Pharisee or the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son.”

There is clarity, depth, joy and energy in each sermon, making the book a great aid in entering more deeply in the Pascha-centered calendar we travel through time and again, but – one hopes! – each year reaching a deeper level.

It is also encouraging to see such books being published by Eerdmans, a company with deep Protestant roots that not long ago would never have considered publishing work by an Orthodox theologian. – JF

The Living Body of Christ

by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Darton Longman & Todd, 264 pp, €11

It is five years since Metropolitan Anthony’s death but, thanks to his writings and transcriptions others made of talks (many of which were given without notes), his voice is still very much with us. It is often a challenging voice, as he doesn’t hesitate to speak out quite plainly about what he regards as shortcomings in the Church as an institution. He is often surprising, never glib. He was also one of the great storytellers of his generation.

In this collection of talks and interviews, none previously published in book form, the late Metropolitan Anthony, for many years leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain, discusses the nature of the Church and what is meant – or ought to be meant – by the phrase “the Church is the body of Christ.”

Metropolitan Anthony discusses the development of the early Church, its mission and legacy, offering insights into where the Church today finds itself. He explores what the vocation of the Church should be and our role within that, with his customary vigor, accessibility and directness.

“Our vocation,” he writes, “is to be an icon of the Holy Trinity. The only real structure, the only real way in which the Church can be formed so as to fulfil its vocation, is by expressing in all its being these relationships within the Holy Trinity: relationships of love, relationships of freedom, relationships of holiness.” – JF

Lynette’s Hope

compiled and edited by Fr. Luke Veronis

Conciliar Press, 268 pp, $18

For centuries, in some traditionally Orthodox countries, for decades in others, the oppression suffered by believers was such that mission work in any usual sense of the term was simply impossible. In no country was this more true than Albania, the only Communist regime that closed every place of worship, whether Christian, Moslem or Jewish, and forbid any form of religious life, even in one’s home.

When at last it became possible for the Orthodox Church to return to visible life in Albania, among those who volunteered to help were two Americans, Nathan and Lynette Hoppe. Albania became their life’s work.

Lynette quite literally gave her life to serving the Church in Albania, where she died of cancer in August 2006.

Even though her life was cut short, Lynette will be remembered as a saint by all who knew her.

This collection of her writings, along with vivid memories from others, is not only a record of an astonishing, Christ-revealing life, but an invitation to each of us to find ways to share our faith with others. – JF

From the Pascha / Spring 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 49

A Pascha greeting in Stalin’s Russia

Nicholas Arseniev recounts an event that occurred in Russia, one that is quite characteristic of the faith of the Russian people.

During a public conference held in Moscow at the Polytechnic Museum during the fierce repression of believers, a Bolshevik commissioner in charge of education violently attacked the “out-dated faith” of the people, crying out that it bore the mark of capitalism and was not believable.

At the conclusion of his presentation, the orator invited his hearers to engage in a brief

dialogue. No one was to speak for more than five minutes and, of course, only after having properly identified himself.

A priest from a rural background timidly stepped forward and was greeted by the orator with obvious contempt.

“Remember, no more than five minutes.”

“Yes, very well. I’ll be brief,” the priest replied.

Climbing toward the podium, the priest turned toward the audience and declared:

“Brothers and sisters, Christos voskresse!” [Christ is risen!]

They all answered with one voice, “Voistinu voskresse!” [Truly he is risen!]

“I’m done,” added the priest. “That’s all I wanted to say.”

– from Michael Quenot’s book, The Resurrection and the Icon

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997

Cover: Christ Pantocrator, photo taken at the Monastery of St. Anthony in Egypt, the oldest inhabited Christian monastery in the world, built about 356 AD on the burial site of St. Anthony. Photo by Chris Tse.

From the Pascha / Spring 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 49

Recommended Reading: Winter 2008

Mountains Beyond Mountains

by Tracy Kidder

Random House, 2003. 317 pp.

Paul Farmer graduated from Harvard University with degrees in medicine and anthropology. Instead of following the usual paths expected of hyper-achievers, he and a few colleagues founded a clinic in central Haiti, where Farmer still spends half of his year, practicing medicine among some of the world’s poorest. In recent years he has written and spoken with disturbing clarity about the connections between the ailments of his Haitian patients and the worldwide maldistribution of wealth, medicine and power.

Tracy Kidder has written a profile of Farmer and his work that is by turns inspiring and daunting. For the first time in any of his books, Kidder inserts himself into the narrative, recording his conversations as he accompanies Farmer on housecalls in Haitian villages and flights to Peru or Russia to aid world campaigns against the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis, a deadly and increasingly common companion of poverty. Mountains Beyond Mountains is deeply heartening in its portrayal of a few people’s power to make a profound difference.

The Haitian clinic has changed the lives of people throughout much of Haiti; Farmer’s campaigns have changed attitudes toward health care for the poor throughout the world.

Paul Farmer is not portrayed as a saint: he can be sarcastically critical even of those who share his concerns but disagree with him on small points of implementation. Often, though, his acerbic words can go to the heart of an issue, as when he dismisses popular talk of “appropriate technology” as a polite way of reserving the best technology for the wealthy.

Farmer is relentless in his insistence that the poor are as entitled to medical care of the same quality as those of us who live in the wealthy world.

His own willingness to live out the implications of this view – in Haiti he lives in a house not much different from that of the average peasant – make his words hard to dismiss.

As Farmer’s and ways of speaking is deeply influenced by Liberation Theology, I was frustrated by the book’s near silence about Farmer’s faith. Does he pray? Is he a practicing Catholic? Either Kidder or Farmer himself are reticent about these matters – odd given Farmer’s free use of religious language and his strong association with some Catholic institutions.

One of the most important, but least visible, characters in the story is Tom White, a Bostonian who made a large fortune in the construction business, then devoted himself to giving it away to the poor, mostly through his funding of Farmer’s work. At the end of the book, White’s fortune is almost spent, and the reader wonders how the clinic in Haiti will survive.

I would have liked to learn more about White, whom Tracy Kidder could have made the subject of another excellent book. White’s willing renunciation of privilege parallels Farmer’s own in interesting ways, and hints at a response to Christ’s difficult words “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

Mountains Beyond Mountains will inspire, fluster and challenge any of us who hear its call to look squarely at world poverty and to resist the demonic voices telling us that there is nothing one person can do.

– John Brady

Freedom to Believe: Personhood and Freedom

in Orthodox Christian Ontology

by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Synaxis Press, second edition, 2007, $10

Archbishop Lazar has ventured, faithfully and steadfastly, into intellectual and political terrain that few Orthodox theologians in North America have dared enter. The journey into such deep and demanding places has done much to reveal the splendor of the Orthodox tradition.

Many Orthodox theologians have been rather shy about addressing the existential tradition of philosophy. Existentialism, for some, has a bad name, and should be shunned and avoided at all costs. But should it?

Freedom to Believe ponders how and why existentialism has been knocked, and yet, true to thoughtful form, why the existential tradition has much truth to it that should not be avoided or missed. In fact, Freedom to Believe makes it more than obvious that the Orthodox Tradition, in both thought and deed, is the true fount and foundation of existentialism.

Freedom is a sacred word for the Western tradition, but the meaning of freedom often lacks meaningful content. It is often used as a justification for all sorts of behavior. The rights of the individual are, also, front and center for most in the midst of the culture wars of our time.

Freedom to Believe walks the extra mile to clarify the differences between “personhood” and “individualism,” and how freedom can be distorted and abused if the language of individualism dominates the day, but, if the notion of “personhood” is properly understood, the deeper meaning of freedom will emerge.

– Ron Dart

Many American Christians demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon?

– Kurt Vonnegut

The Rublev Trinity

by Gabriel Bunge

translation by Andrew Louth

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, $27

An important event in the renewal of iconography occurred in Russia in 1904. This was the year that a commission was created to restore Rublev’s “Holy Trinity” icon, then nearly four hundred years old. As was the case with many old icons, over time the smoke of candles had been absorbed by the varnish, gradually hiding the image beneath the varnish. In the centuries when no safe method existed for removing the varnish without harming the image, the cure for blackened images was the repainting of icons. Thus a similar, often cruder, image was painted over the older one. In many cases, ancient icons bear several icons layered one on top of the other.

Often a more permanent solution was to place an oklad over the icon: a relief image in metal – silver or gold – that covered everything but the faces and hands. In 1904, the restoration commission carefully removed the oklad covering the Trinity icon. Then began the slow and painstaking removal of the layers of overpainting that masked Rublev’s work. It took years, but what their effort finally revealed has ever since amazed those who have been privileged to stand in front of the actual icon (now in the care of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow). The uncovering of the icon was a momentous event, doing much to inspire the return to classic iconography, and the restoration of a great many other old icons.

The author of this handsomely published book, the Benedictine monk Gabriel Bunge, has undertaken a parallel work of restoration, exploring many earlier images of the three angels who were the guests of Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality by the oaks of Mamre, a story related in Genesis.

In this work of profound theological examination, the reader discovers how many centuries of meditation, biblical reflection and earlier artistic effort lie behind the icon painted by Rublev in the 16th century.

The book is also a presentation of one of the most loved but least known Russian saints, Sergii of Radonezh. As the author writes in a chapter analyzing the Rublev image: “Father Pavel Florensky was not completely wrong when he maintained that St. Sergii was, alongside Andrei Rublev, the true creator of [the icon]. One may even go a step further and suggest that this icon, painted in ‘the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity’ built by Sergii, is intended to depict this mystery of the grace of the Holy Spirit… The attributes that Rublev used to make visible his interpretation are the postures and gestures of the three angels.”

For anyone who seeks a deeper appreciation of icons in general, or of the Trinity icon in particular, this fine book, with its many color illustrations, is a treasure.

– Jim Forest

Mystic Street

by Steve Georgiou

Novalis Press, $25

OPF member Steve Georgiou’s new book invites readers to discover that they live not only at a certain postal address known to the postman but (more significantly) on Mystic Street – a street that begins at one’s front door and stretches to wherever you happen to be going on a given day, whether to the supermarket or a mountain top.

Mystic Street is not a line on the map but a way of life in which the main project is to be fully present wherever you happen to be, and thus to be continually rescued from boredom and be snapped awake in a state of surprise. Steve presents his invitation autobiographically, recalling particular experiences he has had while traveling his own Mystic Street.

Yet this is less a book about his own life than an invitation to the reader to be more attentive, to live a more contemplative life, to discover beauty in unexpected places. The book’s many photos add another level to the text. The cover photo – light shining on wet cobblestones – might have been taken on one of the Greek islands, perhaps Patmos, where parts of the book are located.

Altogether a refreshing read!

– Jim Forest

Greek East & Latin West:

The Church AD 681-1071

by Andrew Louth

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, $22

In the series “The Church in History,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has now added a volume that starts with the Sixth Ecumenical Synod and ends with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This is the tragic period in which what had once been only a language border, no more than a thin line in the sand, steadily grew into a wall of division, until finally Christians East and West were no longer in communion with each other.

At the same time it was also a period of Byzantine growth, with Byzantium once again the most powerful Christian empire, if not the empire it had been in Justinian’s day.

Fr. Andrew, professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at Durham University, carefully follows many of the crucial events of this four-century period, including the two periods of iconoclasm in the East, the rise of the Carolingians in the West, the monastic reforms that reshaped Christian life and civilization in both East and West, the mission activities that brought Christianity to the north and east of Europe, and the crisis in relations between Rome and Constantinople that culminated in the break of communion between the two patriarchates.

Yet, as Fr. Andrew points out, the break was far from complete in 1054:

“To contemporaries of the event, and for many years after, it did not seem that anything had changed in 1054. Tensions between East and West were long-standing, and they occasionally flared up, but for the most part Christians of East and West acted as it they belonged to a common cumene. This was particularly true … among the monks…”

One of the chief issues of division in the early eleventh century was the question of whether the eucharistic bread should be leavened or unleavened. Other points of dispute included the celibacy that had been imposed on priests in the West, and the West’s introduction of the Filioque into the Creed. Might patient dialogue have restored unity? No doubt. But it has yet to happen. In both East and West today, there are many who would rather die than see the Great Schism ended.

For any Christian reader who wishes to better understand the divisions we still live with, but also the possibility of finding common ground that might at last restore our shattered unity, this is an essential book.

– Jim Forest

The Book of Pastoral Rule

by St. Gregory the Great

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

St. Gregory the Great (also known as Gregory the Dialogist because of the Dialogues he wrote) was the first Bishop of Rome to come from a monastic background. Born in 540, he died in 604 after fourteen years as pope.

Born into a wealthy Roman family, he was the great-great-grandson of Pope FelixIII. Following his father’s death, Gregory converted the family home into a monastery dedicated to the apostle St. Andrew, which he entered as an ordinary monk. Later, after being ordained deacon by Pope Pelagius II, he was delegated to heal a schism in northern Italy.

In 579, Pelagius chose Gregory as his representative to Constantinople, where Gregory gained attention by opposing the view advanced by Patriarch Eutychius that the risen bodies of the elect would be “impalpable, more light than air.” Gregory argued that the physical actuality of Christ’s risen body made clear that the elect were to rise, not only spiritually, but physically.

The controversy was so intense that finally the emperor intervened. After a hearing in which both sides presented their views, the matter was decided in favor of Gregory’s position. Both disputants fell ill due to the strain of their controversy. Gregory recovered, but the patriarch succumbed, recanting his errors on his deathbed.

After nearly seven years in Constantinople, Gregory returned to Rome to serve Pelagius as secretary. After Pelagius’ death, Gregory was elected to succeed him. It was Gregory who first described the role of the Bishop of Rome as being “servant of the servants of God.”

Among his deeds as bishop was arranging for the daily feeding of the poor of Rome. He carried on an extensive correspondence, much of which survives, with Christians in both East and West, and wrote essays on a many topics, including a biography of St. Benedict. He is remembered for compiling the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

It was Gregory who said, “Non Angli, sed Angeli” (they are not Angles, but angels) when he happened to see blue-eyed, blond-haired Anglo-Saxon boys being sold at a slave market in Rome. This led to his dispatching St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the Anglo-Saxon tribes.

Once in Canterbury, Augustine wrote Gregory to ask whether to use Roman or Gallican customs in the liturgy in England. Gregory advised that it was best to do whatever would best advance the Christian Faith, for “things are not to be loved for the sake of a place, but places are to be loved for the sake of their good things.”

George Demacopoulos has chosen to translate St. Gregory’s Book of Pastoral Rule, which addresses with wisdom and sobriety a wide range of questions that remain relevant not only to bishops, priests and monks, but are of value to anyone bearing a pastoral responsibility. A significant part of the book provides practical advice to anyone witnessing confessions or providing spiritual guidance.

– Jim Forest

From the Winter 2008 issue of In Communion / IC 48

Recommended Reading – Fall 2005

Orthodoxy for the Non-Orthodox

by John Garvey

Templegate, 136 pp, $12

Death and the Rest of Our Life

by John Garvey

Wm. B. Eerdmans, 96 pp, $10

The person who wants a concise yet lively introduction to Orthodox Christianity would be hard-pressed to find a better starting point than Orthodoxy for the Non-Orthodox. Fr. John Garvey explains the differences between the Eastern and Western churches (as well as their shared teachings), a summary of Orthodox belief, a description of the Orthodox liturgy and the feasts of the church, an introduction to Orthodox spirituality, and a survey of some questions facing Orthodoxy in the contemporary world.

Convinced that our beliefs about death should inform every aspect of our lives until death, Fr. Garvey reflects on the meaning of death and its aftermath in Death And The Rest Of Our Life.

He argues that the common view of the soul being released from its “imprisonment” in the body is not Orthodox Christian teaching. The Christian affirmation of the resurrected and transformed body, he reminds us, is an essential part of the truth about death’s real depths and about what life is finally meant to be.

Incorporating stories from the author’s own family life and experience as a parish priest, this book will be of particular help to people recently bereaved and those who work with the bereaved.

Our Church and Our Children

by Sophie Koulomzin

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

169 pp, $16

Sophie Koulomzin was an Orthodox Christian laywoman, teacher, mother and grandmother and also taught Religious Education at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. She was also among the founders of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Our Church And Our Children, first published in 1975, is a classic work of foundational wisdom for Christian parents and educators, now updated with a new foreword and study guide by Ann Mitsakos Bezzerides.

The book is peppered with engaging anecdotes from her half-century of experience working with children in the Church. For Koulomzin, recognizing that children are full members of the Church was of upmost importance, and her life’s vocation was encouraging others to see this.

Topics addressed include: the task of Christian education, developmental stages of children, Christian education in the family, the challenges and opportunities of the church school, and a vision and goals for the Christian teacher. Included in the re-release are a foreword, which gives a glimpse into her incredible personal life, a bibliography, and a chapter-by-chapter study guide.

St. Macarius The Spirit Bearer

translated by Tim Vivian

St. Vladimir’s Press, 216 pp, $16

Four Desert Fathers

translated by Tim Vivian

St. Vladimir’s Press, 202 pp, $15

Macarius the Great (also referred to as Macarius of Egypt) presided over a loosely knit scattering of ascetic monastic communities in the fourth century Egyptian desert. He enjoyed great respect during his lifetime and his fame was further spread after appearing in Palladius’s Lausiac History. This volume presents three ancient texts (The Sayings of Saint Macarius, The Virtues of Saint Macarius and The Life of Saint Macarius of Scetis) and provides valuable insight into the world of Coptic spirituality and early Egyptian asceticism.

Pambo, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt and Macarius of Alexandria, the four fathers presented in the companion volume, were well-known in Alexandria and Lower Egypt some 1600 years ago. Their lives provide valuable insight into the Egyptian monastic communities of the fourth century and into the saintly tradition of the Coptic Church.

When You Fast:

Recipes for Lenten Seasons

by Catherine Mandell

St. Vladimir’s Press, 264 pp, $20

This attractive and helpful book was born out of the author’s nearly decade-long quest to attain a rule of fasting for her family in accordance with the traditional Orthodox Christian discipline. Her goal was not only abstention from meat during lenten seasons, but also abstention from dairy products, and from oils on the strictest of fast days. The resultant 200 recipes provide a variety of easy, nourishing, and appealing meals. Sprinkled among the delicious recipes are sayings from the Mothers and Fathers of the early Church regarding how the body and soul are affected by eating habits – pithy illuminations to accompany the appetizing recipes.

The Passion of Christ

by Vaselin Kesich

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 92 pp, $11

The passion narrative is at the heart of Christianity and the suffering and death of Christ on the cross takes a central role in any discussions between Christians and non-Christians. The 2004 film Passion of the Christ provoked strong reactions from Christians and non-Christians alike, running the gamut from alarm and repulsion at the violence to genuine religious experience. The film also brought to the fore discussions of the importance of the Cross to Christianity and the perceived anti-Semitism of the Gospels. Professor Kesich addresses both of these issues in this re-release of his 1965 edition. He expertly addresses questions of anti-Semitism and the family quarrels between Jews and Christians in the historical context as well as explaining the trial of Jesus and the purpose his suffering.

Speaking the Truth in Love

by Thomas Hopko

St. Vladimir’s Press, 176 pp, $16

These collected lectures on education, mission, and witness, all written during the author’s decade as dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, deal with what it means for Orthodox Christians to speak and to act in a loving manner in societal and ecclesiastical settings. Especially relevant are his remarks regarding education and spiritual formation in Orthodox theological schools; his historical background regarding the formation of Orthodox seminaries in the United States is enlightening.

In an effort to dispel misconceptions, he also presents readers with an insightful view of Orthodox participation in ecumenical activities. Additionally, he comments on the relationship between clergy and laity and makes some pertinent observations about the challenges to the Church in post-modern and post-communist societies.

The thread holding these essays together is St. Paul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love” and to “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.”

The Nicene Faith

by John Behr

St. Vladimir’s Press

502 pp, $30

In this two-volume sequel to The Way to Nicaea, Fr. John Behr turns his attention to the fourth century, the era in which Christian theology was formulated as the Nicene faith, the common heritage of most Christians to this day. Engaging the best of modern scholarship, Behr provides a series of original, comprehensive, and insightful sketches of the theology of the key protagonists of the Nicene faith, presenting a powerful vision of Christian theology, centered upon Christ and his Passion.

Part One, “True God of True God,” opens with a reflection on the nature of Christian theology, challenging common presuppositions, and an analysis and survey of the fourth- century controversies, followed by studies of Alexander, Arius, the Council of Nicaea, and, Athanasius.

Part Two, “One of the Holy Trinity,” provides analyses of the work of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, together with their opponents, in particular Eunomius and Apollinarius.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy

by John McGuckin

St. Vladimir’s Press

430 pp, $23

The Christological Controversy describes the turmoil of fifth-century Christianity seeking to articulate its beliefs on the person of Christ. The policies of the Theodosian dynasty and the conflicting interests of the patriarchal sees are the context of the controversy between Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria, a bitter dispute that racked the entire oecumene.

The historical analysis expounds on the arguments of both sides, particularly the Christology of Cyril, which was adopted as a standard.

Recommended Resources – Summer 2005

The Return of the Icon

an 85-minute film produced by Bill Smith

In the summer of 2004 the icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God, one of the several icons attributed to the hand of St. Luke, was returned to Russia after nearly 60 years in the United States.

The story begins in a Chicago house and ends in at the monastery at Tikhvin, east of St. Petersburg. The film includes wartime footage in its explanation of the extraordinary events which lead to the icon’s miraculous escape from both the Nazis and the Soviets. Moving footage provides a vivid glimpse into the revival of Orthodoxy in Russia and Latvia. It is especially impressive to see the hundreds of thousands of people processing with the Tikhvin icon down Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg.

The film is available in both DVD and VHS formats for €20, including postage and packing. Contact: Bill and Masha Smith, Great Takes TV, The Old Rectory, Church Road, Wreningham, Norwich NR16 1BA, UK; [email protected] (In North America: Dr. Constantine Kallaur, 108 Oakwood Drive, Syosset, New York 11791; [email protected])

Salt of the Earth

a film about Palestinian Christians in the West Bank

“Salt of the Earth” documents the lives of Palestinian Christians living in the northern West Bank. This skillfully made DVD is the work Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders, Americans who lived for three years in the mainly Christian Palestinian village of Zababdeh.

One of the nine segments focuses on an Orthodox priest, Fr. To’mie Daoud. First we meet him as he presides at the Divine Liturgy and then meets with the minority Christian community in Tubas. The next day he prays with the “living stones” of the ancient church of Burqin, while on the next he serves in his home town of Zababdeh.

The film can be ordered via www.saltfilms.net.

The Trial of Job

By Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Conciliar Press, $11

The figure of Job is elusive to us – possibly because he seems so comfortably distant; or perhaps because he seems so frightfully close. What Fr. Reardon achieves with this book is to render Job comprehensible, tangible and accessible. Ultimately, all of us identify with one or another aspect of Job’s life. As life inevitably informs and as this book intuitively confirms, one cannot sing the Psalms without having read Job.

– Fr. John Chryssavgis

Tending the Flame of Feminine Holiness by Demetra Velisarios Jaquet

The author’s study draws on data collected from a conference of 80 Orthodox women held last year. Attendees supported the restoration of the Order of Deaconess and urged hierarchs and clergy to support women in emerging ministries such as chaplains and pastoral counseling. The author reviews the recommendations of twelve conferences held in Europe since 1976; she summarizes Orthodox theological arguments regarding ordination and women’s roles in lay ministry; and offers guidelines for women’s ministries.

The full text is available electronically without charge and can be requested by e-mailing: [email protected]