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December 2015 - Advent No Tax and 20% Off Sale!

It is the time of year for the Advent No Tax and 20% Off Sale! It will be Sunday December 13. So anything in the Bookstore will be eligible for this sale. If you really want to buy something that day you may put it on the Reserve Shelf over by the outside door.

There are now some new items that people have been interested in, including prayer bracelets and icon bracelets, a wall icon calendar with American Saints (if you would like one and they are sold out, speak to me and I can order more), Christmas ornaments (a good price range), and Christmas CD's.

I also have books that are popular for gift-giving: Everyday Saints, and The Morning Offering, as well as our own Charli Riggle's Catherine's Pascha. I will also be getting more, such as the two Father Arseny books (Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father and Father Arseny: A Cloud of Witnesses) and a new beautiful CD from St. Tikhon's Concert Choir, and Pocket Planners for those who haven't moved on to smart phones. Also in stock now are the spiral-bound Saints of the Day books. These give the saint, the readings for the day, whether it is a fast day, and a short meditation for the day. There are also some older ones if you just want to read about the saints since they stay the same, and these are very reasonably priced. Another thing to notice is that I have gotten some shelf markers that tell the category of books that are on that shelf. This should make it easier to find a book you would like.

So drop by the Bookstore for gifts for St. Nicholas Day (children's books are on the bottom shelves, and on the green shelves to the right), and also for Christmas giving. My favorite Christmas gift is often my Christmas book, so give the gift of a peek into the beauty of our Lord .

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 


November 2015

I love going to the Greek Festival at St. Nicholas because it gives me a chance to look over books which I may not already have in the bookstore.  This year I found a gem: Remember Thy First Love:The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life in the Theology of Elder Sophrony, by Archimandrite Zacharias.  This is the third book following Enlargement of the Heart and The Hidden Man of the Heart, both extremely edifying books.  The book takes its name from Rev. 2:4-5 which reads:  'Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen:  repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent.'

The author begins with a discussion of the three stages of faith.  He observes that 'faith is not simply an inner matter; it always reflects the times we live in as Christians.'  He goes on to say that the Fathers of the Church said repeatedly that in the end times it will take more and greater grace for Christians merely to keep their faith than it did in their own times of great asceticism and godly works, and that those who succeeded in merely keeping the faith would be more greatly glorified in heaven.  He then warns, 'But we must be resolute: either we live according to our faith or we do not', allowing ourselves to become lukewarm.  This is easy enough for us to fall into, with all the distractions of this age. But this is the first stage of faith, to turn our whole being towards God, orienting our spirit towards Him.  He then proceeds to discuss the next two stages, and types of wrong faith.

The rest of the book goes on to describe in detail the three stages of the spiritual life. He introduces this in his chapter:  'After the Earthquake, the Spirit of Truth'.  He recounts several instances in which the coming of the Spirit of God to man is preceded by a violence - earthquake, fire, and a mighty wind.  He likens this violence to the Gospel stories of the preparation of the way of the Lord through 'hard sayings', which provoke us to become aware that our life is not as it should be.  Once we are brought to humility, then the grace of the Spirit can follow. He says emphatically however that no matter what stage we are in, that in our struggle to exchange our earthly life for the heavenly one, that 'it is above all through the Divine Liturgy that God preserves us', reminding us that, far from being a mere intellectual or psychological exercise, that 'as a response to the Lord's saving command, it is above all a spiritual initiation into the mystery if the life of Christ Who is perfect God and perfect Man.'  

In the Foreward, Antiochian Bishop Basil quotes St. John of the Ladder, setting the tone for approaching this book:  'The man who renounces the world from fear is like burning incense that begins with fragrance but ends in smoke.  He who leaves the world through hope of reward is like a millstone that always moves in the same way.  But he who withdraws from the world out of love for God has obtained fire at the very outset; and like fire set to fuel, it soon kindles a larger fire.'  And so, Remember Thy First Love!

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


October 2015

St. Vladimir's Seminary sent me 4 new publications the other day.

First is a hefty book written by Archbishop Dmitri Royster, who was Bishop of Dallas from 1978 to 2009.  The title is The Holy Gospel According to St. John, and is a chapter by chapter, verse by verse, study of his subject.  He brings together Traditions of the Church and the Fathers to instruct us in the understanding of St. John's exposition of the Incarnation of the Son of God.  As the introduction states, 'This is strong meat and drink, not cookies and lemonade. . .The material presented here needs to be savoured as one seeks to digest the riches of this extraordinary Gospel.'  Definitely worth a look!

Next comes Two Hundred Chapters on Theology by St. Maximus the Confessor.  These 'chapters' are actually short statements packed with wisdom, often speaking in different ways to those who are at different points on their spiritual path.  The original Greek is on one side of the page, with the English translation directly opposite.  Themes such as God's relation to the universe, monastic life, scripture , and 'his vision of the consummated universe in relation to the incarnate Word of God'.  There is a nice introduction which gives a background of St. Maximus as well as discussing the text itself.

A book for those interested in Church and liturgical history is the second edition of On the Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus, a third-century Roman. This new edition also includes a recently discovered manuscript from Ethiopia, which has added some clarity to previous versions in which there were some ambiguities.  Once again, there is a good introduction which helps to understand the text.  It is organised in sections which first present Hippolytus' writing, followed by commentaries on it.  Subjects include many aspects of Church life such as regulations for the life of the Church, ordinations, the Eucharist and other gatherings of the community, fasting, and relations with the catechumenate.  Also included is the author's "Homily on the Psalms".

In a little more accessible vein is the fourth book, A Layman in the Desert: Monastic Wisdom for a Life in the World, by Daniel G. Opperwall.  It is related to John Cassian's Conferences, which was aimed at adapting the practices of the Eastern desert monastics to Western monastic life.  The aim of the monastic life and life in the world is the same,  and a monk of Mt. Athos said to the author:

 

'What is a monastery? . . .A monastery is merely a place where people come to help one another to salvation.  Your home as a married man should be no different from that.' 

 

After a chapter concerning the purpose and method of Christian life, he tackles society, marriage and family, property and work, and 'Beholding the Kingdom'. This is a very readable book, and would be a real help in focusing our efforts to attain salvation while living in the world.


Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 


September 2015

Christ reveals Himself to us in so many ways: through the created world, the people around us, into our hearts. But one of the most direct ways is through Holy Scripture. In the words of the stories and teachings, He shines through as a many-faceted, supremely precious jewel. I always love the story of the two buckets: the one which was never filled with water was filled with cobwebs, dirt and bugs, whereas the one which was filled with water every day was shiny and clean. The same is true of the scriptures: read daily and with attention, they clean the cobwebs out of our souls.

Fr. Patrick Reardon has written two companion books which, in a very lively and engaging way, tell us of Christ showing Himself to us in his Saints, and in the Psalms. Christ in His Saints concerns itself with almost 150 of the saints of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. He begins with an introduction entitled 'The Cloud of Witnesses', in which he quotes the Epistle to the Hebrews in which, in Christian worship, we 'have come to the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn. . . to the spirits of just men made perfect . . . '. So every time we worship we come not only to God, but to the 'company of saints and angels.' He has divided them up into various categories, such as Repentant Saints, Loyal Saints, Clever Saints and Wise, Gentle Saints, and (a favorite of mine) Saints in Need of Improvement. In each section he gives an introductory point of view in which to consider the stories which follow. In the stories he relates to historical background, implications both for the Saint and for us, and ways in which the Church Fathers explained them.

The other book is titled Christ in the Psalms. The Book of Psalms is one that spans both Old and New Testaments as well; "It is the profound Christian persuasion that Christ walks within the Psalms . . ." He makes this unity of Scriptures the basis for what follows, in a very interesting introduction in which he states that the unity consists 'not in some common trait within its disparate literary components, but in some prior and non-literary principle - namely, the objective historical continuity of the chosen people of God.' He also discusses three major themes, embodied in the first three Psalms: Man, the Messiah, and the Suffering Servant. Each Psalm is given about 2 pages of explanation, which relates it to, among other things, other Scriptures, the history and use of it in the worship services of the Church (both Eastern and Western), and its meaning for our own spiritual lives.

Both books give very accessible teachings, at the same time being very substantive.
Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


August 2015

St. Symeon the New Theologian popped into my head the other day.  Well, not literally.  But thinking of him did prompt me to go to go to my beautiful floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (built by John Payne), and extract both The Discourses, and Divine Eros: Hymns of St. Symeon the New Theologian.  I think I mentioned the latter book when it was published by St. Vladimir's, and the former is published by Paulist Press and is available from St. Vlad's or online.  

These Discourses are also called the 'catechetical discourses' because they are a collection of sermons given to his monks at St. Mamas monastery when he was still fairly young.  They are more accessible than his other more theological discourses, and shine with the grace of his divine revelations.  They cover subjects that range from the very beginning of a serious quest for a life in Christ, to his own experience of the divine light. And although these discourses are directed at monastics, he very clearly asserts that people in all walks of life can grow in their spiritual lives through these counsels as well, by following the narrow way of Christ's commandments.

For instance, in the discourse 'To Christ Through the Beatitudes', he first enjoins his hearers to reject the false reasonings of men, counseling them to 'press on with greater zeal and courage in the practice of virtues', determining to 'die rather than to depart from this life-giving pursuit'.  In renouncing these, one of course meets with trials and suffering, and he encourages us to learn to love them.  He says, 'What is more beautiful than a soul undergoing tribulation, which knows that by enduring it will inherit joy in all things? What is more courageous than a "humble and contrite heart" (Ps. 50:19) . . .In truth the commandment is beyond nature and its rewards beyond words. For such, Christ will become all and take the place of all things.'  To do this, he tells us, 'Day by day Christ our God explicitly proclaims in His Gospel, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)"  When we hear this we ought to look at ourselves and examine ourselves carefully, whether we are such as truly poor.'

One of his most pervasive themes is the experience of Christ as Light.  'I pray you, Christian brethren, listen and come to your senses and examine whether "the light has shone in your hearts" (2Pet. 1:19) . . .Let us continually give glory and thanks to the good Master who has granted this gift, and let us strive to feed and increase the divine fire within us by practicing the commandments, that fire which makes the divine light shine more brightly and brilliantly.'  He agonizes over those who do not seek this light:  'What ignorance, what darkness!  By what misery and obtuseness are we swayed and dragged down to the things of earth! . . . Let us long with all our souls for the things God commands us to embrace: spiritual poverty, which the world calls humiliation; constant mourning . . .from which there wells forth the joy of soul and hourly consolation for those who love God.'  In one of his Hymns (#25), he writes of the Holy Spirit:


'So I am in the light, yet I am found in the middle of the darkness.
 So I am in the darkness, yet still I am in the middle of the light.'


Another theme is God's immense, unwavering love for man, even when 'the neck of his heart is like a sinew of iron (Is. 48:4), as is mine, wretch as I am!'  He uses as his example the story of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden of Eden. Consider His great patience, giving Adam chance after chance to repent, and when he did not, God, who had foreknown the result, 'when He saw them humbled He did not as yet cancel their sentence. But since they ate and failed to repent they were cast out.'  But once they  'had shown proper penitence, worthily humbling themselves by weeping and mourning, He Himself came down to them, He who is the Only One begotten of the Only One . . .'  So, 'they reaped the greatest benefits from it, and this has been the salvation of us all.'

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 


July 2015

One of my favorite books from my earlier days of being Orthodox, and one I haul out from time to time just because I love it so much, is From Glory to Glory: Texts From Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings, by Jean Danielou, and published by St. Vladimir's.  The title of the book comes from 2Cor 3:18, 'All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory'.  In discussing the mutability of man, his changeableness, Gregory says:


"But in truth the finest aspect of our mutability is the possibility of growth in good; and this  capacity for improvement transforms the soul, as it changes, more and more into the divine.  And so what appears so terrifying (I mean the mutability of our nature) can really be a pinion in our flight towards higher things . . .let us change in such a way that we may constantly evolve towards what is better. . . ever becoming more perfect by daily growth, and never arriving at any limit of perfection."

"As St. Paul, even he who was taken up into the third heaven, says 'I do not count myself to have apprehended. But forgetting the things that are behind, I stretch myself forth to those that are before.' (Phillipians 3:13) He does not become satisfied with the grace which he has been given, but constantly strives for an unceasing ascent."


The book has a long introduction by the author which tells of Gregory's life and then goes on to introduce the concepts and background of the material in the book - short sections taken from various writings of Gregory.  My favorite part, which takes up more than half the book, are texts and elucidation from the Song of Songs. He invites us:  


All of you, following the counsel of Paul, have stripped yourselves of the old man (Col. 3:9). . . Come within His incorruptible bridal chamber. . ."


I find this book so inspiring that even when I just see it on my bookshelf, my heart lifts.

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


June 2015

My mailbox held a treasure trove the other day - 4 new books from St. Vladimir's Seminary.  So I will introduce them to you.

First is a beautiful new children's book, St. Nicholas & the Nine Gold Coins, by Jim Forest, who visited our parish a couple of years ago.  It is lavishly illustrated by Vladislav Andrejev, in an iconographic style, and tells the story of St. Nicholas as a youth who anonymously gave 3 young maidens gold for their dowries.  The text is longer than that in just a picture book, and tries to show Nicholas in a way in which children can relate to his story.  It is a lovely book.

Next is a book about the experience of being an Orthodox Christian in the West, The Ways of Orthodox Theology in the West, with contributions from several different authors. It is primarily concerned with the Russian experience, from the coming of Orthodoxy to Russia, to modern times, including missions to America and Western Europe, the Revolution, the diaspora, and the lives of the emigres.  The change from living in an Orthodox country to living in pluralistic cultures where Orthodoxy is in the minority and most often misunderstood has had a major impact on the everyday lives of its people, and it is this that the book thoroughly explores.

The next two book are tangential in feel and import.  One is To Open One's Heart: A Spiritual Path, by Michel Evdokimov; the other is Arvo Part: Out of Silence, by Peter C. Bouteneff.  Both pierce into the depths of the human being, that part which is wordless but which is the ground from which the person springs forth.  As Evdokimov puts it, 'The place of the heart, the source of the multiform expressions of life, is situated at the center of the person, in the 'deep me'. (p. 11) He uses the metaphor of a lighthouse, illuminating all within its purview, watching over all it encompasses.  Arvo Part is a living composer from Estonia, an Orthodox Christian. His style can generally be described as minimalist, but he has not gone the way of atonality like many modern composers.  The techniques he uses in his composition produce music described by both religious and non-religious listeners as 'spiritual'.  'Part's music strikes many people right to the core, moves them like an ocean; it bespeaks purity, strikes all the chords of "bright sadness" . . . They feel heard and consoled for their pain, stilled in their inner selves, taken to the contemplation of greater realities.' (p. 59)  There are many performances of his works on youtube, but I think the best place to start is with 'Spiegel im Spiegel', listened to without expectation or 'interpretation'. This wordless place was well described by some of the comments on youtube: 'Arvo Part sings to me from the next world, like a mother's lullaby to the child in her womb'.  And another: 'This piece brings me somewhere between the depths of mourning and absolute serenity'.  Perhaps it is the heart's music as it sheds the noise and clutter of outer life, mourning the loss of its innocence.

 

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 


May 2015

I went to visit my mother-in-law recently, and after eating lunch with her, I had some time before I needed to leave, so I joined her for the Bible study at her retirement home.  After some songs, the leader announced that the subject of the day was 'Heaven'.  She read some scriptures, and began discussing how one gets to heaven.  She then made the statement, that she knew that her own mother was in hell.  I was stunned.

I had been rolling this incident over in my mind until into my hands was given Father John Garvey's book Death and the Rest of Our Life.  It is a small book - 88 pages, but this is deceiving.  It is a tightly woven tapestry, with colors of all the different ways that mankind has looked at death, from the Old Testament to the New, from personal experiences to the philosophies or theologies from Secularism, Atheism, Protestantism, and Catholicism to Orthodoxy, and the effects (or non-effects) of these ways on society. The book is so deep and intertwined that, rather than try to give a synopsis, I will give some quotes from it.


'Fear of the unknown is a buried fear of death itself. . . .The unknown both frightens us and draws us, it is associated with both beauty and destruction. . . .At the same time, something in us is thrilled by the idea of moving out, of heading for the unfamiliar. . . .The unknown, and the possibility of experiencing the sublime, and the fear of losing everything, all show up again and again in the course of our lives.'

'But if there is a meaning, however mysterious and unnameable, to the fact of our being - a meaning that has to do with the love we have for one another, the desire to live in the face of the inevitability of death, the hope that we are not mistaken to think that the love we have for one another and the joy we have encountered in one another, and in beauty, is grounded in what the universe is about - this meaning will show itself in the way we cherish what is passing without trying to grasp it.'

'Belief in the Resurrection inverts the usual ancient model:  Now we are the shades, and this wounded world resembles the Sheol or Hades of the ancients' imaginings. We are called to expect a life that our understanding cannot yet encompass, a wider life that goes from one depth of glory to another, forever.'


There are a certain number of these books in the bookstore, and more will be coming.  What a wonderful way to keep the remembrance of our wonderful Father in Christ - to have his words to instruct and inspire us.

 

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


April 2015

An article in the latest Greek Orthodox Archdiocese newspaper 'The Orthodox Observer' republished an article originally from the Order of S. Andrew-Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate  concerning the Christmas attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East.  There are stories from Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Nigeria, Kenya, Libya, and Turkey.  But perhaps the most poignant of these was told by the Anglican Rev. Canon Andrew White, known as the 'Vicar of Baghdad'.

He tells of how IS soldiers tried to get the Christian children to say the words to convert to Islam, but they all said, 'No, we love Jesus. We have always loved Jesus. We have always followed Jesus. Jesus has always been with us.'  The children were cruelly martyred.  Rev. White agonized, 'How do you respond to that?  That is what we have been going through.'

It is almost too hard to write that what we are told to do is to forgive and to love our enemies.  Another article that came into my hands is a talk given by Hieromonk Damascene (Christensen) of St. Herman's Monastery, 'Resentment and Forgiveness'.  He begins by speaking of the 'incensive or fervent power of man'.  According to the Fathers, this incensive power is to 'courageously repel temptation . . .'  When man fell, he used this incensive power against other people instead of against temptation.  St. John Cassian says, 'No matter what provokes it, anger blinds the soul's eyes, preventing it from seeing the Sun of Righteousness . . .Whether reasonable of unreasonable, anger obstructs our spiritual vision.  Our incensive power can be used in a way that is according to nature only when turned against our own impassioned or self-indulgent thoughts.'  Anger turns into resentment when it is prolonged; we are enjoined 'not to let the sun go down on our anger'. (Eph. 4:26)  St. Ignatius Brianchaninov reminds us, 'Resentment or rejection of love is rejection of God', who is Love.

Hieromonk Damascene then goes on to look at the nature of forgiveness. 'Rather than resenting those who wrong us, we are to love them, and we express this love by blessing them and praying for them . . . Abba Dorotheus tells us we can pray such words as, 'O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.  In this, we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother's prayers.'  Through forgiveness can come reconciliation, but when that does not happen, the key is endurance. 'He that shall endure to the end will be saved.' (Matt. 10:22)  He quotes Archimadrite Seraphim Aleksiev from his book Strife and Reconciliation: 'If we do not succeed in persuading our enemy to be reconciled, we should not continue in our spitefulness toward him.  We should not ate him as he hates us, so that the loss will not be doubled and our soul not perish together with his.'  In this way the forgiveness we show is a chance to receive God's blessing and Grace.

It seems there are more and more things happening around us that can traumatize us and cause us to weep for the sorrows and sufferings of those we either are in contact with or that we hear about.  St. Nikolai Velimirovich is quoted at the end of the article in a poem, saying that 'the pure balm (of mercy) heals the festering wound, and light disperses the darkness of the dungeon.'

The original article on the suffering Christians of the Middle East can be accessed on the Gatestone Institute website.  Hieromonk Damascene's article, more lengthy and detailed than I have indicated here, is available through the Orthodox Christian Information Center website.

There is another unrelated article which is available on the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese website is a revelation to those dealing with aging people who have grown fragile in mind as well as body.  It is called 'Personhood and an Aging Mind and Body'.  It looks at the person in terms of the nous, which is the essence of the person and is still intact beneath the fragility.  Highly recommended!

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


March 2015

The Lenten Triodion book begins with an article entitled 'The Meaning of the Great Fast'. It begins with the end of the fast: 'Only in the light of the Resurrection does life receive meaning.' (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich) The foundation of all our worship as Orthodox Christians is the joy of the Resurrection. However, in order to fully experience this joy, we must pass through a period of preparation. This preparation encompasses 10 weeks including preparation for Lent, Lent itself, and Holy Week. This is in turn mirrored by the 50 days from Pascha until Pentecost.

Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to grasp about the fast is that it has both outward and inward aspects, since man is 'a living creature fashioned from nature visible and invisible.' There are temptations both to lean too far toward the outward observances, leaving the fast void of meaning, and to lean too far toward the spiritual observances, neglecting our very real bodies in the process.

The primary aim of fasting, the author states, is 'to make us conscious of our dependence on God.' Our struggles lead us not only to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition, but to a sense of 'lightness, wakefulness, freedom and joy.' It is moral as well as physical. St. John Chrysostom says, 'The fast should be kept not by the mouth alone, but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands, and all the members of the body.' Also St. Basil's famous rejoinder: 'You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.'

The inner significance of the fast is best summed up by Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. We want our efforts to produce contrition and joyfulness, not pride, tension and irritability. It should be a help to gaining a more 'intense and living prayer', and a greater love for our brother. This love must be found in a genuine fast, and shows itself not only by giving money, but by the giving of our very selves.

This section of the essay concludes with five common misconceptions about the fast:

  • That it is only for monks and nuns. All of us need to aim toward the full observance of the fast.
  • That the benefits of the fast are primarily due to an exercise of our own will. On the contrary, the benefit is a free gift from God, who accepts our intentions.
  • A proper fast is not a self-willed fast, but an obedient one, following the teachings of the Church.
  • That it is a period of doom and gloom. Instead, it is a time of 'joy-creating sorrow'; a beautiful springtime announced by the opening of the flower of repentance.
  • That it is a rejection of God's creation. 'All things are pure to those who are pure', but we are not pure, living in this fallen world. Our task is to cleanse our will, and in so doing refuse to pervert our relationship to creation, but on the contrary, to assist in its redemption.

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep


February 2015

My mind is more like a rambling rose than a steel trap.  Therefore, I got out of philosophy after my first term. 

 

My eyes glazed over when I received St. Basil the Great: On Christian Ethics in the mail.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked inside, because it is actually very accessible!  After a couple of shorter essays, 'On the Judgement of God' and 'On the Faith', the bulk of the book consists of the title essay.  Instead of the long, dense paragraphs I expected, St. Basil's points are numbered, short (one sentence), and followed by appropriate quotes from Scripture.  For those who can appreciate such things, the original Greek is written on the facing pages.  This book is a wonderfully clear window into the thought of St. Basil.

The other two books I received were much more amenable to my rambling mind.  One is the third volume of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev's series, Orthodox Christianity.  The subjects covered in this book are the architecture, icons and music of the Church.  Thorough as always, he begins with a background section concerning the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple, followed by the progression of Christian worship in private homes, through the catacombs, and on to the first actual churches made possible with Constantine's edict allowing Christianity to emerge from the shadows. He then follows the development of Byzantine churches, national church architecture traditions, and development of Russian church architecture.  This section is concluded with the arrangement of the churches and church objects, and church vestments. With the same thoroughness, the next section concerns the history and types of iconography, with special emphasis on Russian icons, individual iconographers, concluding with a section on the meaning of icons.  The third major section of the book concerns Church Music.  Again he starts with a background of music in ancient Israel and Greece and moves forward through early Byzantine, on to Russian, and also traditions in other countries.  He concludes with (I love this!) a section on bell ringing.  Truly a feast of ways in which the arts contribute to the understanding of the beauty of the worship of our God!

The third book I received is The Human Work of Art: A Theological Appraisal of Creativity and the Death of the Artist, by Davor Dzalto.  Hmmm.  The subject of this book is human creativity as understood in relation to God's creation of the world out of nothing, ex nihilo.  He is mostly concerned with contemporary and modern art, largely ignored by Orthodox thinkers other than Paul Evdokimov and Paul Florensky.  He feels it is a mistake to ignore the issues which modern art raises, not engaging them theologically.  He also explores the relationship between human freedom and creativity.  He takes Metropolitan John Zizioulas's theological work establishing creativity as a 'vital part of the human person'.  Examples of modern art are illustrated with works of artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.  Establishing creativity as basic to human beings, he feels we can then 'begin to understand its potential role in Orthodox ecclesiology, eschatology, and soteriology.

 

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 


January 2015

'As in Paradise, God walks in the Holy Scriptures, seeking man.'  St. Ambrose of Milan


It has always boggled my mind the way the Church Fathers are able to wring out so much meaning from the Scriptures. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, they had such a thorough knowledge and understanding of the entirety of the Bible, and through their writings have left us a rich legacy which can lead us into Scripture, there to be found by God.

There are many books which can assist us in this.  Johannna Manley has edited several books in which she has compiled commentaries from many sources and put them in easily usable formats.  One of these is Grace for Grace, in which there are commentaries on the entirety of the Psalter, including an extra one found in the Sepuagint and written by David; plus the 9 Odes with commentaries.  Another of her books is The Bible and the Holy Fathers, which has the readings from the Epistles and Gospels for every day of the year, once again with commentaries from the Fathers. She has also done the same thing with the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah through the Ages.

Many other books are written which compile commentaries on certain books of Scriptures.  St. Vladimir's Seminar has a series written by Paul Tarazi, which includes 2 volumes each on the Old and New Testament, plus separate books on some of the individual Epistles. He also has a series, The Chrysostom Bible, in which he attempts to continue the tradition of St. John Chrysostom's Biblical interpretation.   Georges Barrois has authored Scripture Readings in Orthodox Worship.  Archbishop Averky makes use of patristic sources as well as scriptural references in his book on the Apocalypse.  John Breck has written a book, Scripture in Tradition, which concerns the way scriptural interpretation has shaped the Orthodox Tradition. Patrick Reardon has written Christ in the Psalms, which shows the way Christ is foretold in the book of Psalms.

Books are also available which are original source works.  There is a series of books of commentaries by the Blessed Theophylact.  In parts of the book From Glory to Glory Gregory of Nyssa has beautiful elucidation of The Song of Songs.  Gregory the Theologian has taken a poetic approach in his Poems on Scripture. There is a 2-volume set of St. John Chrysostom's Commentaries on the Psalms, as well as Homilies on Romans.  Theodoret of Cypress has a 2-volume set of homilies on the letters of St. Paul.

These are just a few titles of books which can expand our understanding of Holy Scripture, and lead us to a sense of awe at the way God has spoken to us and opened for us a deepened love for His gracious providence for His people.

 

Susan Noel Reynolds - Shopkeep

 



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