Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Ascetics in the World, Volume I

Ascetics in the World (Vol I), translated in English by Fr. Nicholas Palis and edited by Rev. Theodore Petrides, is a collection of stories, mostly of laypeople, whose simple, pious lives remind us sanctification is possible for all.

While most people featured in this collection trace their ancestry to Asia Minor, the stories feature a variety of people, predominantly laymen and women, fathers and mothers, a small number of monastics as well as priests and priest’s wives – all having lived in the last century. Presenting diverse and interesting stories the real charm of the book is that lives of these modern saints are so very inspiring. The asceticism and piety presented in these stories are both accessible and attainable.

Excerpt about Presbytera Kryriake G. Tsitouridou (p. 51 & 55):

Presbytera Kyriake [of Pontus] was simple, very pious and very charitable. She felt pain and shed tears whenever she saw people’s misfortune. The door of her one was always open to the poor and the hungry, who would find food and warmth within, and to travelers, who would find a place to stay…

When they exhumed her relics, they saw that there was no dirt on her bones and that beneath them there was water. A fragrance poured forth and, amazed, they saw her right hand where she wore her ring, her ear and her heart were incorrupt, while the rest of the bones were golden yellow.

The monk of Tranta took her incorrupt hand and heart, while the rest of her bones are preserved in St. Petersburg.   

In addition to offering such great hospitality Presbytera was also a very strict faster, eating very little and only after attending church and taking antidoron (blessed bread). Yet still, undoubtedly her hospitality contributed to her state of holiness – a virtue very much attainable for any who wishes to acquire it.

Excerpt about Keti Patera (p. 275):

“The God-loving Keti did not want to miss attending Vespers or Divine Liturgy any day of the year. Her only effort was to find out which church was holding a Divine Liturgy in order to run to enjoy it. She spared no toil nor time, she sacrificed her sleep, and traversed great distances, so long as she did not miss Divine Liturgy.

In Konitsa she would leave work at night, go to the Liturgy, and in the morning return to work. The observations of those responsible didn’t stop her. She was good at her work and loved the children. For this reason, they put up with this God-loving “quirk” of hers. One night, going as usual to find a Liturgy, she passed through a minefield, but God preserved her. She passed over the mines and none of them exploded.”

Seriously, what could be more accessible to us then to at very least desire to attend divine services as diligently and faithfully as pious Keti?

Living in the world no more disqualifies us from a life of sanctify than living in a monastery guarantees it. Asceticism, fasting, hospitality, church attendance, all this and more is readily available to us in the exact life circumstances we find ourselves. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Ascetics in the World will strengthen your will and inspire you to find a way.

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Books Reviews 2021 is a series of blog posts about the books I’ve read so far this year.

“Presbytera: The Life, Mission, and Service of the Priest’s Wife”

by Pres. Athanasia Papademetriou

While “Presbytera” shares a similar target audience as “The Joy to Serve” it takes a different approach to the same topic: life as a clergy wife. Where “The Joy to Serve” seems to focus on more general advice directed primarily toward the mindset of a clergy wife, “Presbytera” immerses itself in the practical. The latter addresses all manner of topics related to the life of a clergy wife, from the First Ecumenical Council establishing canons in favour of married clergy to how a priest’s wife ought to take down phone messages. Written with obvious care and a desire to address, in an organized fashion, as many topics pertinent to a clergy wife’s life as possible, the text is both beneficial and insightful.

“Presbytera” begins with more broad-scope topics such as women in the early church, the call to the priesthood, and the call of a priest’s wife to share her husband’s ministry. Gradually moving, chapter by chapter, into more and more specific topics it does read a bit like a manual. However, rather than detract from the text, I think this is a part of its charm. Pres. Athanasia by no means makes herself out to be ‘the expert’ in the area, rather she covers such topics as conflict resolution and parish transfers with an element of personal experience combined with general observations and suggestions. One never gets the impression that she puts forward a singular way to do things, rather she provides food for thought on a number of relevant issues/ situations many clergy wives encounter.

I must say I am very impressed by Pres. Athanasia’s undertaking of this subject matter. It takes a great deal of discretion to write about such things in a gentle, encouraging manner. While never concealing the trials and tribulations of this life, “Presbytera” leaves the reader with the feeling that navigating the rough waters of being a clergy wife is not only manageable but a blessing.

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Books Reviews 2021 is a series of blog posts about the books I’ve read so far this year.

The Joy to Serve

by Matushka Juliana Schmemann

“The Joy to Serve” is a well-written account of Matushka Schmemann’s personal perspective on ministry in the Church as a clergy wife.  It is a short, pleasant read. The most notable parts are found in the straight-forward observations grounded in Matushka’s many years of experience. 

In the book Matushka Juliana re-frames some of the stereotypical complaints one might imagine a clergy wife would have or reasons a young woman might posit for why she does not want to become a priest’s wife. Pointing out that as clergy wives we make a conscious choice to minister to the Church, share our husbands with the faithful, and prioritize the Church above and beyond our personal needs, Matushka reminds us this life of service is a life of freedom not subjection. She writes: 

“Be aware that the challenges of being a clergy wife are quite similar to those of other wives. A doctor’s wife has an impossible schedule to deal with, often involving being up in the middle of the night. A politician’s wife has to put up with unsettled political situation of the country which he services, an artist’s wife with the lack of security and the dreams of her unpractical mate. There is nothing new in feeling subservient, instead of fulfilled. But subservience is the wrong expression since you have determined your own future. So the role of a woman  is not to lose herself in the unexpected inconsistencies of her life, but to find inside herself a strong and unwavering personality. She is the one who has chosen to serve, never losing her free resolve and realizing that her acceptance and support are needed by family, parish, and especially herself” (p. 10-11).         

Throughout the book Matushka encourages clergy wives to acquire and maintain a spiritual perspective: “why don’t we take it seriously when we are asked to lay aside all earthly cares? Because we think that the cares are really important, that our problems are unique, special, need to be solved? A problem is solved by lifting up our hearts, standing aright, giving thanks unto the Lord, singing, shouting, crying aloud and saying! “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory”… Problems? Where are they? The light has burned them away… Yes, salvation from being slaves to our pettiness, slaves refusing to be free; our mind, our love, our whole being – a burning fire for our Lord” (p. 30-31).

While the book never gets “into the weeds” of being a clergy wife, its charm lies in Matushka’s honest and firm resolve to admonish her reader to accept, with joy, the ministry she freely entered into when she agreed to support her husband in his service as a priest (or deacon) of the Most High. 

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Books Reviews 2021 is a series of blog posts about the books I’ve read so far this year.

How Do I Learn God’s Will?

by Hieromartyr (priest-martyr) Daniel Sysoev

Christ is risen!

The more I read the homilies, talks and writings of Fr. Daniel the more I marvel at the great work he was able to accomplish in the relatively short period of time we had him with us on earth. He had an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers – not to mention history and philosophy, even a little physics.

The book has three distinct sections: on divine love, on the divine names, and on God’s will.

One of my favourite passages is from the second section, on the divine names. Fr. Daniel writes: “There is a curious paradox: physicists term the sun a completely black body, since it reflects nothing, and only shines with its own light. This is similar to God’s exceeding brilliance, which halts the process of coming to know Him. Hence, there is a border at which the [divine] names [of God] end” (p. 44).

In the third section, the primary topic of the book, Fr. Daniel lists four ways to discern God’s holy will:

1.) Cast lots (this is a well-known method found in Scripture). He writes, “Lots are cast when there are several possibilities, each of which is not contrary to God’s will, Holy Scripture, and the commandments. First one must pray… and then one of several options is drawn at random” (p.83).

2.) Read Scripture. Here Fr. Daniel explicitly discourages the “open book, point finger” approach. He says we should not just read one phrase or one sentence but rather to first pray, ask for God’s will to be revealed, and then to open the Scriptures and read an entire sacred passage and in this way something within the passage will speak to the human spirit and enlighten one’s mind.     

3.) Pray. Reminding us of St. Silouan’s advice on this point, Fr. Daniel says cleanse your mind of all pros and cons and through prayer ask the Lord His will. The first thought that comes to mind is to be considered God’s will.

4.) Make the sign of the cross. Depending on whether one must speak, think, or act, he should sign his lips, his mind, and his hands with the sign of the cross. These, Fr. Daniel says, are “highly practical devices, and they are of great benefit” (p.86).

What I liked most about this book was not so much the practical advice of discerning God’s holy will, but the way Fr. Daniel shed light on what it means to truly draw closer to God. We wish to know His will because we wish to draw near Him and to live in the Light cast by His Grace.

“God cannot be approached fearlessly; one must not contemplate God without fear, without reverence. One must not speak of God to a person who wishes to tailor God to fit his needs” (p.68).

In a sense, God is unknowable. However, He condescends: “the inaccessible God” allows Himself to be “accessible to all” (Akathist to the Mother of God). Provided we approach “with fear of God, faith and love”. Despite his unworthiness, God allows man to know His will, to approach Him, to contemplate Him. This truth never ceases to amaze me.

This book is available HERE on Amazon as well as through Holy Trinity Seminary HERE.

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There is a new book published by St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery on the departure of the soul that I wish to draw your attention to. It is called The Departure of the Soul: According to the Teaching of the Orthodox Church. This book not only contains numerous citations of Scripture, liturgical services, Patristic writings, and lives of the saints but also includes photos of many beautiful icons from monasteries and manuscripts depicting, in colour, the great mystery of death. My personal favourite is the chapter which contains about 140 pages of excerpts from the lives of the saints, many of whom are Irish.

This book is a reference edition that aids the reader in locating important sources of information on the departure of the soul at death. It will not, necessarily, be read from cover to cover but contains a treasury of wisdom that will doubtlessly help both pastor and layman obtain insights into the final moments every person born into the world will have to endure.

Here is a small excerpt:

st. john chrys

The publisher has put together a website which offers excerpts, numerous endorsements, and images of icons depicting the aerial toll-houses. You can visit the website here.

You can order your copy here.

We thank the brotherhood of St. Anthony’s Monastery for undertaking such a great and lengthy work. May this book help us “pray to our Lord,” as Abbott Paisios writes in the Prolegomea, “that His infinite mercy may prevail at that inevitable hour, and that we may also be receptive of this great mercy.” Amen, so be it!


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51k5othnmsl-_sy346_Below is a very gracious review of The Sweetness of Grace by Matushka Anna Crawford. I thank her for taking the time to write down her thoughts on my new book.

Original post can be found here.

“More than the sum of its parts,” was a phrase that came to mind when I finished The Sweetness of Grace: stories of Christian trial and victory by Matushka Constantina Palmer. However, that phrase doesn’t quite convey what I want it to. You see, it isn’t the sum of the parts that makes this book what it is, because each story carries within it  the whole: the grace of Orthodoxy as lived by faithful Orthodox Christians.

Mat. Constantina admits in the introduction that it is her skills as a storyteller, not her masters degree in theology, which bring these stories to life, but I must disagree slightly. Matushka is an exceptional storyteller, but she also has the intimate knowledge of the Holy Fathers and their writings which provides the lens through which the light of the stories shine. Much like my spiritual father who has a (to me) phenomenal and encyclopedic ability to pull out exactly the right anecdote from an elder’s life, a quotation from a saint, verse from holy scripture, or story from the Prologue, Matushka roots every story solidly in the Church’s Tradition. This in turn brings a deeper understanding of the scripture or precept.

All of this might make the book sound too exalted to read! Do not be deceived on this front; just like Matushka Constantina’s first book, The Scent of Holiness, this one is extremely approachable, easy to read, and enjoyable. I read the first third in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. After all, it is a collection of stories. The Lord himself taught us in parables, or stories, as the best way to capture our attention and instruct us. There is nothing insignificant about the humble story.

I recommend this book very highly. You will likely read it as I did, in huge gulps, but then you will return again and again to savor individual stories. Both The Sweetness of Grace and The Scent of Holiness [review here] should be in every Orthodox Christian’s library. Thank you, Matushka, for your labors in collecting and sharing these stories with us.

The Sweetness of Grace: stories of Christian trial and victory is available from Ancient Faith Publishing. I received a free copy in return for my unbiased review.


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Ancient Faith Publishing‘s May Catalog:

The Sweetness of Grace by Constantina R. Palmer

From the author of The Scent of Holiness. The Sweetness of Grace is a collection of stories derived from conversations with Orthodox nuns, monks, and laypeople, along with experiences of Orthodox life in South Korea, Greece, and North America. Those who enjoyed Everyday Saints will enjoy these similar stories from other parts of the Orthodox world.


While The Sweetness of Grace is not exactly a sequel, a number of the themes and a few people I wrote about in The Scent of Holiness make appearances in this new book.  It can be read independently, however, and does not have a women’s monastery as its primary setting. It is more board in scope. Written in a similar style to The Scent of Holiness, it is a collection of stories – composed of vignettes – about Christian trial and victory. It tells stories of monastics and laypeople alike, my experiences of Orthodoxy while teaching English in South Korea, living and studying theology in Greece, as well as a few stories from life here in North America.

There is no definitive publication date as of yet, but I will certainly keep you posted.  Share the word!



A beautiful fountain in the courtyard of the Holy Monastery of St. Theodora in Thessaloniki, Greece.


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volos-monasteries-2012-110(Originally posted in 2013)

Below is a translation I have done – through Gerontissa Macrina’s prayers – concerning the great rewards God has prepared for those who practice patience when confronted with great trials and temptations, and the spiritual exhalation the soul experiences (in this life or in the next) when we abstain from passing judgement, even on those who openly hate and harm us.

The passage is from Λόγια Καρδίας (pp. 246-250), a collection of homilies by Abbess Macrina of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Odigitria in Volos, Greece. At this time the book is only available in the Greek language; I hope it will be available in multiple languages in the near future. I read it and my soul soars, such is the power of this holy abbess’ divinely-inspired words. She is a saint like the saints of old: wise in spiritual matters, reverent in every regard and virtuous beyond compare! Words cannot express the effect she has on me, a stranger. And yet reading her words makes me feel as though I am sitting at her feet, learning from her firsthand the art of Christian spiritual struggle. Although I am just an unworthy, self-proclaimed “disciple” of this holy abbess, I laboured to share with you one of the most spiritually potent passages I have yet come across in her book.

May we have her prayers and her blessing!

Let’s be watchful concerning the matter of passing judgment. Let’s be very watchful concerning passing judgement! It is indescribable how fearful this matter is! “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Do we safeguard this saying? Even if we don’t have virtues, Christ will save us, He will take us into Paradise if we abstain from judging.

I will tell you something else, again from experience. Once a sister* in the world wanted to say something about me that didn’t happen to me; it was slander. For the glory of Christ I tell you this. Was it a temptation that put her up to it? Was it from hatred? Was it from jealousy that she did it? In any case, I said many, many prayers for her, I mean many prayers. I cried neither for my father, nor for my mother as much as I cried for this sister. With much pain I cried and I said: “My God, save me, help me, give me strength.” The prophet David said: “Deliver me from the slander of men and I will keep thy commandments” (Ps. 119: 134). I felt a great deal of pain inside.

I saw her coming to me in a vision. Her face had two indentations on account of her tears. It was so real! In the indentations she had clots of perspiration. Her whole face was covered in perspiration and black from suffering and fatigue. She had a sack on her back, too heavy to be lifted. And as soon as I saw her, I wanted to go and help her, to lift the weight from below, but it was like a stone wall and the weight lay there immovable. I said to her: “You are tired!”

“Yes, I am tired of lifting this weight!” she said. It was a stone like the porters used to carry on their backs a long time ago.

She said to me, “This evening is the Queen’s reception and she wants you to go.”

“The Queen wants me?” I asked.

And suddenly a vehicle arrived, not like any carriage or car, it was very different, and Gerontissa Theophano was sitting inside. She looked like a young child, like a young lady of fifteen years. She said: “Come, the Queen will have us at the reception this evening.”

I made the sign of the cross and I got into the vehicle. We proceeded to a beautiful turnpike. I saw a church in front of us – it was like looking at the church of Panagia in Tinos – such a nice church, it was bright, resplendent! I made the sign of the cross as I passed by. Across the way, toward the east, was what seemed to be a palace. The door to the palace was huge, just as doors are in large buildings. There in the middle of the doorway was the Queen, who, from her neck up I couldn’t see on account of the light of her face, because she was shining so brightly. I saw her resplendent sandals; she wore a feloni** and vest, each had two inches of piping embroidered around them.

Two lines were configured in front of her: one line with children who were wearing lace and ribbon in their hair, dressed just as the angels are, while the other line seemed to be composed of widows***, as though they were nuns, wearing monastic clothing, just like we wear.

I started toward the nuns and they told me it wasn’t my turn yet, I would go when it was my turn. Suddenly I heard chanting, “This is the day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant…” And the Queen began to say, “Come martyrs to the platform, come great-martyrs!” They were taking her blessing and going to the platform. From within the palace was heard, “This is the day of the Resurrection…”

When I approached, I took the hand of the Queen: her slender hand, those nails, that gentle hand has been imprinted on my soul. Padding me on the back she said, “Patience, patience, patience.” Then she addressed one of her maids of honour: “Escort Maria**** to the royal garden.”

I paused for a moment to see where they were chanting “This is the day of the Resurrection”. And I saw that inside the palace a banquet was laid out with very beautiful white tablecloths. What could you desire that the banquet didn’t have!

I lingered to listen and the maid took me by the hand and said, “That is for the martyrs, those who endured great temptations” and she gave me to understand that patience is needed. Afterward she took me to the royal garden, and I saw a vast place which had something like lilies, the brown lily had a cross. Just as the wind blew, so the lilies swayed. A vast place: green, beautiful, enchanted! Within this beautiful exhalation which I found myself, the sorrow in my soul fled, and pleasantness and joy came!

In the morning I went and found this sister who had slandered me, and hugged and kissed her. I didn’t know what to do for her; I didn’t know how to thank her for the false words she had said, I really didn’t know.

This experience stayed in my soul and from that time I have kept the commandment of God: judge not, so as not to be judged – even if I see the act committed in front of me, whatever I happen to see in front of me.

That which I saw in the vision stirred me and left me such comfort. I forgot everything. A purity entered into my nous, a passionlessness, a peacefulness, a heavenly thing entered my soul and I didn’t know how to thank that sister who was the cause of such good.

And I say what a good thing it is for someone to be patient! For this reason the Queen said, “Come martyrs of Christ, come great-martyrs of Christ, enter into the platform…” How can I have the boldness to touch such a banquet? It was the banquet for the martyrs who had struggled, who had endured martyrdom and for whom God had prepared greatness!

*Although Gerontissa calls this woman “sister” it seems that she was a laywoman.

**A feloni (φελόνι) is a chasuble, which in its origin was a traveling garment in the late Roman Empire. It is like a poncho, a circular garment with a hole in the middle for the head.

***It is a tradition in Greece for widows to wear black headscarfs and dress.

****Gerontissa Macrina’s name before monastic tonsure was Maria.

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An image from the 11th Century, believed to be a representation of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople

The Apostles and the Mission [1]

 Metropolitan Avgoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

The twelve Apostles! These are the twelve foundation stones upon which the Church is built, while Christ himself is the cornerstone; these are the twelve trumpets whose sound goes out to the ends of the earth; these are the twelve stars which illumine the spiritual sky of the Church! I am not here today to show the spiritual film of the lives of the Holy Apostles, but rather I will have to be satisfied with providing a general picture of their work and making a few observations.

The life of the Apostles is divided into two periods: the period before they met Christ and the period following their meeting with him. The day of that meeting was a moment of great change in their lives. Indeed, whoever has met Christ and has repented of his sins has lived this experience; his life too is divided into two epochs, one dark and one light. Do you see your life as being divided in this way? Have you marked that day when you cut your life in two with a knife?

Before the day they met Christ, the Apostles lived a quiet life. Have you been to the islands? Have you seen how the fishermen live? This is roughly how the Apostles lived. They went out fishing at night and when they returned in the morning they sold the fish they had caught; this is how they earned their bread. And, most of them being married, they knew the joy of being the head of a family, of seeing their wives and children gathered around their table.

They did not live their whole lives like this, however. They did not die at home with their families, but instead they abandoned quietude, entered into the great battle, and finished their lives in prison. Why? Why such a change in their lives? How could they leave their homes and get caught up in such an affair? What drew them into this? It is an easy thing for a man to leave his wife, his children, his home and go roaming far away? What was it that changed everything? What happened? Something happened that human words cannot describe!

One day they were throwing out their nets and there appeared before them on the seashore someone unknown to them, someone who today continues to be the Great Unknown! Who is this ‘unknown’? Let us bear his name! Let us go to church and light candles to him! He is unknown. He is Christ! If you ask a thousand people, only one will know Christ. Why? Because if you were to open the hearts of men you will find only three loves: the love of money, the love of pleasure, and the love of glory. If we were to open the hearts of the Apostles however, we would find no such loves. Within them a great fire was lit, a divine fire, a heavenly fire which is called the love of Christ. And what was Christ’s commandment to them? What did he say that caused them to change? “Follow me”![2] And from that time forward they followed him and their life changed.

It is as if I can now see before me these men whose feet we are not worthy to kiss. They are preparing to leave behind their nets, houses, their weeping wives, their homeland, their world. There, as they are about to start out, I approach them and ask, “Who has caused you to get up and go? Where are you going?” And they all answer with one accord, “We are going to subject the world to Christ!” “Who are you to undertake such a thing?” I ask, “And by what power will you accomplish this? Where is your money, your knowledge, your weapons?” “We have none,” they answer. “Our only weapon is our faith in Christ.” And off they go. Blessed is that moment when they set out on the path of the Gospel, flying from hill to hill to preach Christ!

In order that you might understand what a difficult thing it was that they did, I will give you an analogy. Imagine that you took twelve sheep and threw them into a pen full of hungry wolves. Would there be anything left of them? Christ told them, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”[3] The Pharisees, the emperors, the officers, the philosophers – all wolves! But now, what do see? What do I hear? The sheep have defeated the wolves! And not only did they defeat them, but they turned the wolves into lambs! They made the wild holy, and the idolaters Christians! How did this happen? If you read the scriptures, you will find a prophesy which says, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb.”[4] This has come to fruition through the Holy Apostles. They have made the wolves into sheep, taming them and making them part of Christ’s flock, too.

A pious emperor, seeking to honor their memory, built the famous Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and ordered that the manner of death of each be inscribed on a marble plaque so that the whole city might remember and honor them. The Apostles did not die in their homes with their wives by their side; rather, they died scattered at the ends of the earth. They died for us; they are the world’s greatest benefactors. On that plaque is written the following: first, Peter was beheaded at Rome; second, Andrew was crucified on Patra; third, John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, died in exile on Patmos; fourth, James was beheaded like a lamb in Jerusalem; fifth, Bartholomew was martyred in India; sixth, Thomas was run through with spears in India, and so on until the thirteenth, Paul, was beheaded in a Roman prison. Never has the world owed so much to so few!

These, my beloved brethren, were the Apostles. But we today, what are we? Priests, bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, all of us clergy, we are their successors. But I wonder, do we bear the apostolic character? Do we have the Holy Spirit, do we preach, do we live selflessly, innocently, like angels? Now is not the time for me to rebuke the holy clergy, to ask whether they have faith, love, or zeal. I am now addressing the laity and to them I would say the following:

Roughly how many people have come to church today? Maybe a little more, maybe a little less than two hundred? There were only twelve Apostles and they changed the world! What might two-hundred Christians accomplish! I am not saying that you should do what they did, that you should go to far-off Africa, Asia, India, or somewhere else. Let us instead become little apostles. Somewhere nearby there are people who are waiting. There are the poor who do not have bread to eat, there are the sick who are looking for a visit, there are heretics who are suffering in their delusion, there are sinners who have not confessed in decades. What are these waiting for? They are waiting for us! Let us run to them! Assembled here today we are two hundred. Do you want to honor the Apostles? I put on my stole and give you a kanona: you will go to Hell if you do not lead one soul to Christ. Who will be that soul that you bring close to him? Try to free one soul from the nets of the devil this year. A Christian who does not benefit others, who does not bring others close to Christ, is no Christian! Amen.

[1]               From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 41-45. Translated by Rev Dr John Palmer.

[2]               Matthew 4:19.

[3]               Matthew 10:16.

[4]               Isaiah 11:6.

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51wy9gzguql-_sx321_bo1204203200_Abbess Thaisia of Leushino: An Autobiography of a Spiritual Daughter of St. John of Kronstadt: How could I read anything written by this uncanonized saint and not absolutely love it, especially her own autobiography? I first read this while Fr. John and I spent four weeks at a women’s monastery in Canada one summer. Reading it again brought back a lot of good memories; it was also really nice to become reacquainted with the incredible person of Abbess Thaisia in such intimate detail.

0b2351d9-c59d-11e1-a7b0-889ffadf43f7_40892163-920b-11e2-b998-0015174458e8-resize1Instructions for the Immortal: Or, What to do if You Still Die by Fr. Daniel Sysoev: Readers of this blog know how much I love and admire Fr. Daniel. This book, with its witty title, is wonderful. It’s very small, almost like a long pamphlet but bound like a tiny hard-cover book. And yet, Fr. Daniel manages to go into detail concerning death, life after death, and the aerial toll-houses. The topic of aerial toll-houses is often labeled “controversial” but anyone who reads the Fathers of the Church know they are an accurate image of a spiritual reality experienced by all who have and will repose.

homilies-revelation-large-1Homilies on the Book of Revelation (Vol. 1) by Archimandrite Athanasius: I only have a few more pages to go in this book and I have high praise for it. It is jam-packed with information. It not only offers incredible insight into the Book of the Revelation, but gives detailed accounts of the geographical and social histories of the seven churches to whom Christ has St. John the Theologian address an epistle. Translated by Costas Zalalas, this book should be read by all Orthodox Christians, not merely those who are inclined toward reading commentaries on Scripture. It is very informative and yet also manages to challenge the reader to become a more authentic Christian.

nopnikona-01Letters to Spiritual Children by Abbott Nikon: The small size of this book is deceiving for great spiritual grandeur is contained within its few pages. I literally have nearly as many sticky notes attached to the pages as it has paragraphs. The book is a composition of the elder’s letters to his spiritual children. Reading it gives you the impression that he has condensed into these select letters all that is necessary for an Orthodox Christian to find and remain on the straight and narrow path that leads to life. If you only read one book from this list, let it be this one. But, please don’t just read it, struggle to put the Abbot’s words into practice!

41pjjqruu2l-_sy344_bo1204203200_1Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus: Elder Thaddeus’ well known work is a joy to read. This text is very applicable to modern man: it both admonishes and inspires the reader to lead a proper Christian life. Having lived and reposed in our times, Elder Thaddeus shares wonderful personal insight, insight into his own character and development. This allows the reader to not only learn more about this holy person but to see his own character and development in light of the elder’s inspired words.


The Art of Salvation by Archimandrite Ephraim: This is an English translation of a collection of 33 homilies by Elder Ephraim of Arizona. Every homily is rich in wisdom and yet the spiritual depth of each is conveyed in a simple and applicable way. Although likely delivered to his monastic brotherhoods, I believe there is not one sentence in the book that does not apply to the modern layman who wishes to also taste of God’s grace and goodness.

51ro95u4rbl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Life of the Virgin Mary by St. Maximos the Confessor: Fr. John gave this book to me Christmas, 2014. I read it just before Christmas 2015 and loved it. The information is predominately drawn from the Proto-evangelium, the same primary source the book The Life of the Theotokos – published by Holy Apostle’s Convent – draws from. While much of what it contains was not something unfamiliar to me as I’ve read The Life of the Theotokos, it was very beautiful to read St. Maximos the Confessor’s description of the events and person of the Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos. It’s a more condensed version of her life and I highly recommend it. We can never read enough insights into this all-holy person who was made worthy to contain the Uncontainable God in her holy womb.

1068192Shepherd of Souls: Life and Teachings of Elder Cleopa: I bought this book while in Boston, MA at Holy Apostle’s Bulgarian Orthodox Church during a retreat I was invited to speak at. I started reading it while waiting for my plane back to Newfoundland and finished it rather quickly. I was incredibly impressed by the person of Elder Cleopa. In particular I found the description of his childhood and his early inclination toward asceticism very beautiful. I loved this book and already feel like re-reading it.

What good books have you read lately?

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