Sunday, December 16, 2007

NEW BOOK: Song of the Talanton by Claire Brandenburg

From Conciliar Press


Ben Lomond, CA – Conciliar Press is pleased to announce the release of a captivating new picture book by Claire Brandenburg, author and illustrator of the popular Christian children’s picture book The Monk Who Grew Prayer and several other children’s titles. Song of the Talanton, a soft cover picture book with an accompanying audio CD, takes a unique look at Eastern Orthodox monasticism, focusing on prayer, silence and watchfulness. At the moment of sunrise, a pilgrim visiting a women’s monastery senses Christ’s mystical presence in the rhythmic call of the talanton. Song of the Talanton teaches children to listen and to be ready for God's presence.

Brandenburg was inspired to write Song of the Talanton upon visiting a monastery and “feeling God's loving and powerful presence in the sound of birds singing, the light of the rising sun and the sound of the talanton,” she said. She was also inspired by the desert itself, where sound “carries in a remarkable way, settling on branches, along the tops of peaks like dust blown by a heavenly wind.”

A story that focuses on such a unique sound would be incomplete without an audio component. Song of the Talanton includes an audio CD featuring:

• The tonk, tonk, tonk of a talanton’s call to prayer
• The story Song of the Talanton, read by Claire Brandenburg
• A recording of a large Romanian toaca
• A description of how to make a simple talanton
• Music by Eikona (Shine, Shine, New Jerusalem; Psalm 142; Litany of Fervent Intercession)

Claire Brandenburg received a BFA in art and education from the University of New Mexico. Working in a variety of different art forms for over thirty years, she has shown her work in galleries and museums and has received numerous awards. To learn more about Claire Brandenburg and her books, go to

Monday, December 10, 2007

PUBLISHER NEWS: Chrysostom Press releases new book

Chrysostom Press has recently released The Explanation of the Gospel of John by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria. This completes the four volume set of Theophylact's classic Gospel commentaries, written about the year 1100 A.D. and now available for the first time in English. Work is underway to complete the translation (from the original Greek) of Blessed Theophylact's commentary on the New Testament.

Dr. Mary Ford, Professor of New Testament at St. Tikhon’s Seminary in New Canaan, PA, writes: “The long awaited translation of Bl. Theophylact's Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to of the same high quality as the others in the series. The very fluid, readable translation, enhanced by judiciously placed explanatory footnotes...should be greatly appreciated by serious students of Scripture - certainly the seminarians in my class on the Gospel of John have benefited very much from reading it. Yet it is accessible for anyone who is looking for an edifying and informative commentary on St. John's Gospel.”

The blog The Ochlophobist said of The Explanation of the Gospel of John:“Bl. Theophylact's teaching of Scripture is the teaching of the cadence of graceful steps. He holds the hands of his spiritual children, and teaches them how to get the feel of the legs underneath them. His commentaries are meant to be bathed in, their genius is their wholeness, the consistent movement of grace whether ordinary or life-shattering; this is Baptism by immersion, and not by sprinkling.” Read the full review.

Chrysostom Press also publishes the twelve-volume set The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, compiled St. Demetrius, Bishop of Rostov, a renowned Russian church leader and writer of the seventeenth century. One of the most comprehensive collections of lives of saints to be published in English, The Great Collection covers the saints of the first millennium, as well as Russian saints of the first half of the second millennium (Note: only in heaven is there a record of the life of every saint!). The first six volumes already available contain the lives of saints who are celebrated from September through February. The seventh volume (for the month of March) will be published in February, 2008.

Fr. Christopher Stade, the founder of Chrysostom Press and translator of Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the Gospels, is the rector of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church (ROCOR), located in House Springs, Missouri, 45 minutes southwest of St. Louis in the foothills of the Ozarks. A small group of dedicated parishioners assist him in producing the books, advertising, and order fulfillment.
Fr. Thomas Marretta in upstate New York (Cortland) has been working with Chrysostom Press since 1993 to translate The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints from the original Church Slavonic text of St. Demetrius of Rostov. When he completes the final draft of each volume, he sends it Chrysostom Press in House Springs for layout and production.

Plans for future publications (in addition to completing the two ongoing series) include booklets of individual Lives of the Saints from The Great Collection; CDs of recorded Lives of the Saints by a gifted storyteller recounting and explaining them for young children; and a collection of essays on Orthodoxy in America by an eloquent contemporary writer (name of author to be announced).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Freedom to Believe by Archbishop Lazar (Synaxis Press)

Review by Ron Dart

Freedom To Believe: Personhood and Freedom in Orthodox Christian Ontology
by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
Synaxis Press, Second Edition, 2007

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo 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 splendour and motherlode of the Orthodox Tradition.

The publication of For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love: The Theology of Archbishop Lazar Puhalo (2004) did much to highlight the visionary role Archbishop Lazar has played in Orthodox theology in North American and beyond. There is a mystical depth and political breadth, a philosophic fullness and social passion that cannot be missed in Archbishop Lazar's unearthing and application of the Orthodox way. For a Culture of Co-Suffering Love articulates, in an incisive way, how and why this is the case.

The re-publication of Freedom to Believe: Personhood and Freedom in Orthodox Christian Ontology (2007) makes it abundantly clear, yet once again, why Archbishop Lazar is on the cutting edge of Orthodox theology.

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? What is it about the insights of existentialism that need to be heard? And, more to the point, is Orthodox theology, at core and centre, existential? These are some of the questions Archbishop has taken the time to ponder in Freedom to Believe.

Freedom to Believe is divided into seven sections and an appendix by way of conclusion: 1) A Definition and Discussion of the Essential Aspects of Existentialism, 2) An Orthodox Christian Concept of Existentialism, 3) Existentialism and Free Will, 4) Freedom and Choosing Values, 5) Existentialism and Models of Reality, 6) The Existential Nature of Orthodox Theology, 7) The Existential Nature of Orthodox Christian Systematic Prayer, and Appendix 1, Platonistic Essentialism.

Freedom to Believe ponders, carefully and judiciously, 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 nor 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. There is an Anglican adage that 'abuse should not prohibit use', and if the existential vision has been abused by some, it should not be tossed out; its real use and insights need to be recovered. This is the task and real work of Freedom to Believe.

There is little doubt that 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 behaviour. The rights of the individual are, also, front and centre 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 like a bird to the sky. There is even more to Freedom to Believe than these crucial distinctions and many others.

The intellectual meaning and significance of existentialism, freedom and personhood must be a lived reality in both the inner and outer, the mystical and public life. "The Existential Nature of Orthodox Theology" and "The Existential Nature of Orthodox Christian Systematic Prayer" wed the world of inner thought and transformative prayer and healing. Ideas must take legs and flesh, and such is the integrated existential conclusion in this gem and jewel of a book.

Appendix 1 in Freedom to Believe is rather thin and meagre (2 pages). I found the appendix a rather weak link in the book. "Platonistic Essentialism" tends to dim, distort and diminish the full orbed thinking of Plato. Plato was a foundational thinker to the early Christians and the Fathers for the simple reason that there is much depth and integrated thought in his approach to thought and life. George Grant has been called 'Canada's greatest political philosopher', and he held Plato high. Just as existentialism can be caricatured and distorted, so can reads and interpretations of Plato. Perhaps, in the future, Archbishop Lazar will be as fair to Plato as he has been so generous and insightful with existentialism.

Freedom to Believe takes arrow from quiver, places it well in bow, pulls taut, releases and hits the bull's eye of insight and wisdom. Do read this keeper of a book. You will understand why Orthodoxy and Existentialism are in a great round dance and cannot be separated.

Freedom to Believe can be ordered via the web site of Archbishop Lazar's monastery:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Fr. William C. Mills is an Orthodox author and rector of Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC (OCA). He lives in Mooresville, NC, where in addition to his priestly duties he is professor of religion at Queens University.

OCB: You've been a busy man this last year. Can you tell us a little bit about your new books?

WCM: I have several book projects forthcoming:

1. Let Us Attend: Reflections on the Gospel of Mark for the Lenten Season (NY: iUniverse, 2008), the fifth in a series on basic scriptural commentaries based on the Orthodox liturgical lectionary. This volume deals with the readings on Mark for Lent.

2. Church, World, Kingdom: The Sacramental Foundation of Alexander Schmemann's Pastoral Theology (Mundelein, IL: Liturgical Training Publications/Hillenbrand Press, 2008), a revision of my doctoral dissertation for a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology. This book highlights Schmemann's vision of pastoral ministry which is based on the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist. Topics also include the perennial problem of clericalism and the abuse of authority, as well as the teaching and preaching role of the priest and the ministry of the laity.

3. Called to Serve: Readings on Ministry From the Eastern Church (South Bend, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), an anthology of writings from some of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the 20th century. Essays by Bishop Kallistos Ware, Elizabeth Behr Sigel, Nicolas Berdiev, Anton Kartashev, and Archmandrite Kyprian Kern are a few of the many who are represented. Kern's essays on the vocation to the priesthood and on ministry are original essays that are appearing in English for the first time. This volume is a welcome addition to the scholarly discussion on ministry and on ecumenism.

4. Walking With God: 30 Days Towards Spiritual Renewal (manuscript in preparation). This book includes thirty meditations on key scriptural passages that focus on forgiveness, vocation, discipleship, prayer, and love. Each chapter also includes a section called "Food For Thought" which further assists in reflecting and thinking about the spiritual journey. This book is marketed towards a general readership. It is also free from "academic" and "theological" jargon.

OCB: Can you give us a short history of your work as an writer and how you ended up authoring books through the different publishers with whom you've worked/are working?

WCM: Well, I never saw myself as a writer when I first started the process a few years ago! I guess it all started during my graduate work while preparing for my doctorate in Pastoral Theology. There was a tremendous amount of writing involved, not only academic research type papers but also contextual and reflective essays as well. When I shared my dissertation with a friend of mine, Fr. Stephen J. Hrycyniak (a priest in the OCA), he said that it just had to get published. After several phone calls to editors, Hillenbrand Press, a rather new press based in Chicago quickly picked it up. Currently the dissertation is being revised for publication. I know it sounds like a cliche, but the rest is project led to another and here we are. Honestly, I never saw myself writing books or articles. The books really flowed from one another. My work on Schmemann led me to the anthology on ministry. After reading several of the essays I was intrigued at their vision of the Church and their emphasis on freedom in Christ and openness, something which we don't see too often in the Church these days, which is quite sad.

OCB: What inspired you to write the piece on Schmemann?

WCM: Well, it was quite practical. During my graduate research I was trying very hard to find a topic of study that would sustain and inspire me enough to write a doctoral dissertation on it! One of my professors, Andrew Purves, a wonderful theologian and mentor, suggested that I try something from the Orthodox point of view. After looking at my bookshelves I thought I would look at Schmemann. While reading his work I noticed a small thread, a theme really which was woven in almost all of his books and articles. This thread was his thoughts on ministry, the role of the priesthood and the laity in the Church. The more I read the more intrigued I became. After a while I had a dissertation and now a book.

OCB: Do you have any unannounced projects in the works?

WCM: Actually, I have several projects and ideas that I am working on. Currently I am researching an academic book on Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Women Theologians, persons such as Dorothee Soelle, Dorothy Day, Elizabeth Behr Sigel, and Sophie Koulumzin to name a few. I am also working on a project dealing with both liturgy and ecumnism called Orientale Lumen: A Theological, Historical, and Liturgical Commentary. The late Pope John Paul II published an ecumenical statement in 1995 called Orientale Lumen (Light From the East). I would like to offer an Orthodox response to this document, it is wonderful really. I also would like to write a book on key women of the Bible, I think the women are often overlooked, but some of their stories like Hannah, Sarah, Rachel, and Mary Magdalene are wonderful.

OCB: Where do you stand in the "e-books v. print" debate?

WCM: I think e-books are great even though I think that the printed word will always be wtih us. People love to touch, smell, and carry a book. I know I do. I have no interest in the e-book, but it is good for people who travel I guess or who are more "technologically advanced" than I am.

OCB: Any final thoughts?

WCM: I encourage all writers out there in cyberspace to keep writing. We need good, wholesome, and sound writing on a variety of topics, but especialy ones that deal with Christianity and culture, ecumenism, ethics, and modern theology. Orthodox authors tend to stick with patrisics, hagiography, and liturgy, which have their place within theology but really we need to have greater dialogue with the world around us; for the contemporary society in which we live.

Also, it would be great to have an Orthodox or even Eastern Christian Writers Conference which would include not only Orthodox but anyone who enjoys or is invovled in Eastern Christian theology or thought.

Learn more about author William C. Mills at