Category Archives: Book Reviews

Books reviewed by OPF/IC

Recommended Reading Winter 2010

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 Genesis 1-3 is seen as neither a myth nor an outdated scientific account, but a poem of creation, yielding deeper meanings upon closer ponderings.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


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

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 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

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]

Book Reviews

God With Us: Critical Issues in Christian Life and Faith

by Fr. John Breck

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

285 pp, ISBN 0-88141-252-X

Fr. John’s book begins with an evocative description of his first experience of being inside an Orthodox Church as a young theological student visiting Paris. Nearly 40 years later, he has become a re­spected Orthodox theologian. He is currently Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Ethics at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris.

His latest book is a collection of many columns he has written in the past several years.

The first section focuses on moral issues: When does human life begin? How can a person be so pro-life about an unborn child and so eager to see a person on death row be hurried to his grave? Do embryos have souls? What do we say to those who regard suicide as a human right? Do we really want a world in which killing children with Downs Syndrome is regarded as an act of mercy? Is pornography socially destructive? He also ad­dresses such issues as clergy burnout, the link between stress and lack of sleep and fear of losing one’s memory.

In the book’s second section, we meet Fr. John as an interpreter of scripture and liturgy. Again his short essays are often responses to questions: Are the words of Jesus authentic? How are we to read the scriptures? Who wrote the Bible? Why the incarnation? Is there room for innovation in painting icons? How could Jesus suffer temptation?

Finally there is a section of reflection on various topical issues: the events of September 11, the mystery of suffering, the experience of God’s seeming absence, the impact of secularism on theological discourse. He also addresses such issued as weeping icons and bishops who recite the Creed but do not believe it.

Fr. John has a rare gift to be clear without over-simplifying and to be a knowledgeable person who is haunted by what he doesn’t know.

The Bond of Unity

Syndesmos – Fifty years of work for Orthodox youth and unity

Hildo Bos, editor

€15 plus postage; 250 pages

orders via:

or contact the Syndesmos secretariat:

[email protected]

This sturdy volume brings together some of the best writing to have been generated by Syndesmos, the pan-Orthodox youth move­ment that this year is celebrating its 50th birthday. Syndesmos has been one of the main areas of contact linking Orthodox jurisdictions and a factor in stimulating reflection on many issues that have troubled or challenged the Church.

The authors include Fr. John Meyen­dorff, Metropolitan George Khodre, Bishop Kallistos of Dio­kleia, Fr. Heikki Huttunen, Archimandrite Lev Gillet, Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Paul Evdoki­mov, James Cou­chell (now Bishop Dimi­trios), Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, and Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana. The book also include a photos section.

Steps of Transformation

An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps

by Fr. Meletios Webber

Conciliar Press: $14.95

ISBN 1-888212-63-2

For those suffering from an addiction or trying to better understand and befriend those so afflicted, Fr. Meletios Webber’s book is required reading. For many readers it may prove quite literally a life-savi­ng resource.

The twelve-step program that was developed for those struggling to overcome alcoholism has gradually found its way to many people with other dependencies and has also been found useful simply as a structure for spiritual growth.

While many books have been written on the twelve steps, this is the first to consider them from an Orthodox Christian perspective.

“Here is a book that will help many who, so far as they know, are not themselves alcoholics,” writes Bishop Kallistos is his introduction, “for there are numerous kinds of addictions besides addiction to alcohol, and who among us can claim to be free from all addictive weakness? This is a humble and realistic book, that bears witness to the immense patience and mercy of God. Let us read it in the spirit of humility and self-questioning.”

Three Treatises on the Divine Images

by St. John of Damascus

translation: Andrew Louth

163 pp, ISBN 0-88141-245-X

On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

by St. Maximus the Confessor

translation: Paul Blowers & Robert Wilken

183 pp, ISBN 0-88141-249-X

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has a long-running project of making available fresh and reliable translations of patristic texts in compact, inexpensive editions that are useful to scholars yet accessible to lay readers who want to better know the great voices of Orthodox theology.

The latest additions to this excellent series includes a new edition of the three essays on icons by St. John of Damascus, written in the eighth century during the era of iconoclasm from a monastery near the Dead Sea. St. John’s defense of icons remains the best reply to those who regard veneration of icons as idolatry. The lucid translation as well as the introduction is the work of Andrew Louth, professor of Patristics and Byzantine Stud­ies at the University of Durham.

With interest in St. Maximus on the rise not only within the Orthodox Church but also among other Christians, this edition of some of the saint’s most important work will surely be welcomed by many in the English-speaking world. “This is the ideal volume,” comments Andrew Louth, “from which to learn first hand the depth and insight of St. Maximus’ cosmic vision and grasp of the complexities of human nature and consequences of the renewal of all things in Christ.”