Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Book Release Conciliar Press

Dimitri's Cross: The Life and Letters of St. Dmitri Kleppinin, Marytyred During the Holocaust  by Helene Arjakovsky-Klepinine   Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press Ministries, 2008    189 pages, paperback

Recently there has been a renewed interest in the Parisian Orthodox that lived, worked, and ministered during the earlier part of the 20th century; namely, Lev Gillet, Elizabeth Behr-Sigel, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Paul Evdokimov, Sergius Bulgakov, and Nicholas Afanasiev. Now, thanks to the work of his daughther Helene we now have a short biography of Fr. Dimitri, the longtime friend and pastor to Mother Maria and martyr in the Holocaust. Much can be said about this book, it certainly shows Dimitri's bravery and many sacrifices to save Jews during this difficult time in France. Scholars think that he along with others saved several hundred people by creating fake baptismal certificates. Dimitri's Cross also includes many letters that he wrote to his wife while he was interred in a prison camp. This is a worthy book to read especially for those of us who want to learn more about contemporary Orthodox persons who are "living saints" to us. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Orthodox Readings of Augustine

New Release
Orthodox Readings of Augustine
George E. Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou, editors

St Vladimir's Seminary Press
ISBN 9780881413274
Softcover 304 pages
Price; US $ 22.00

This book not only presents Eastern Orthodox readings of the great Latin theologian, but also demonstrates the very nature of theological consensus in ecumenical dialogue, from a referential starting point of the ancient and great Fathers. This collection exemplifies how, once, the Latin and Byzantine churches, from a deep communion of the faith that transcended linguistic, cultural and intellectual differences, sang from the same page a harmonious song of the beauty of Christ.

Contributors are: Lewis Ayres • John Behr • David Bradshaw • Brian E. Daley • George E. Demacopoulos • Elizabeth Fisher • Reinhard Flogaus • Carol Harrison • David Bentley Hart • Joseph T. Lienhard • Andrew Louth • Jean-Luc Marion • Aristotle Papanikolaou • David Tracy

Posted by Nina Chapman on behalf of St Vladimir's Seminary Press

Monday, November 3, 2008

Coming Soon

Our Father: A Prayer for Christian Living (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2008)

I wanted to share some good news about my new book project. Our Father is an easy to read reflection on the Lord's Prayer. Each chapter is devoted to the scriptural background of the prayer. Also included are a series of "food for thought" sections which helps the reader reflect more deeply on the meaning of each verse. Our Father is a resource for both personal and group Bible study as well as for sermon preparation.

Our Father will be available before Christmas 2008

For ordering information contact the publisher at

posted Nov. 3
Fr. Bill

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: Thinking Through Faith

Thinking Through Faith:
New Perspectives From Orthodox Christian Scholars

Edited by Aristotle Papanikolaou and Elizabeth H. Prodromou

Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008

Reviewed by Fr. William C. Mills

Thinking Through Faith is a volume that is long overdue. When perusing through recent Orthodox Christian publications from various Orthodox presses one finds much on Scripture, Church History, Patristics, and Liturgy, but very little on how these theological subjects are related to each other and even less on how they impact our culture and society. If we as Orthodox Christian scholars are going to have an impact in our respective parishes, seminaries, and institutions, and the academy, we have to start thinking about brining the best that we have to offer to a wider audience. Thankfully the tide is shifting and Orthodox Christian scholars are active in the various scholarly guilds, most notably is the recent Orthodox presence at the Society of Biblical Literature last year as well as the ongoing presence in the American Academy of Religion. Hopefully other scholarly guilds will also include sections if not seminars or round-table discussions and debates with Orthodox Christian scholars and theologians.
The present volume is a collection of essays by Orthodox theologians, some established and others who are just beginning their scholarly career. The individual essays are as diverse as their authors, there are entries on how to read the lives of the saints, the nature of pastoral care in the early Church, and the notion of the communal aspect of liturgy and prayer. I found most of the essays to be thought provoking and inspiring, some were worth a second read, especially John Fotopoulos’ essay on the Kingdom of God in the writings of the Apostle Paul, Valerie Karras’ Orthodox theologies of women in ordained ministry, and Anton Vrame’s essay on four types of Orthopraxy among Orthodox Christians in America. It was also very nice to see that all but one contributor are lay theologians who are working and writing in various schools, colleges, and seminaries, many in non-Orthodox settings. This gives me hope because it shows us that Orthodox theologians are indeed working and writing in a religious pluralistic setting and will have to engage and dialogue with non-Orthodox students and faculty.
Individual readers will find essays that are more or less engaging. Some essays I found lacking, especially in terms of an important question that one of my friends, a longtime author and scholar always asks of his students when they write papers, “where do we go from here?” In other words, I was looking for and even expecting some creativity when it comes to how we, as Orthodox scholars, both clergy and laity, are to incarnate and really think about the practical and pastoral application on these specific topics included in the book. Hopefully, as we await further volumes on such topics we will find more creativity and ideas on how our Orthodox theology, rich and full, can engage our Western society and culture.

Posted on Oct. 27, 2008
Fr. Bill Mills
Blog Moderator

Friday, September 5, 2008

DISCUSSION: Buying books

I created the OCB blog with the intent to offer Orthodox publishers a vehicle for promoting their book and magazine news and for readers to learn that news. After all, I don't think it's a secret that I work for one of the aforementioned publishers. But today, instead of posting the usual press release or book review, I'd like to get your opinion on what you buy as readers. So here are some questions up for discussion:

(1) Would you say that the recession has affected your book-buying at all? Slowed it down? Or not?

(2) How often do you buy Orthodox books and from where?

(3) How much does price factor into your decision to buy (or not buy) a book? Are Orthodox books too expensive?

(4) What can publishers of Orthodox Christian books do to improve their products and services?

(5) What is your favorite Orthodox book? Your favorite Orthodox publisher?

(6) Is there anything you can't stand about the way Orthodox books are currently published in the English-speaking world?

(7) Orthodox children's books: do you ever buy them? Why or why not?

(8) What kind of Orthodox book would you like to see more of in the future?

(9) Would you buy a book from your church book store as a matter of principal, even if it were offered for a much lower price on Amazon? Or would you go for the deal?

(10) Are books flying off the shelves at your church bookstore, or have they been collecting dust for years?

Please take a moment to comment on any one (or all) of these questions. And while you're at it, respond to our poll. After all, it's your feedback that helps us publishers provide you with books of increasing quality and integrity. Without your feedback and support, we would be nothing.

Have a great weekend, and keep reading!

In XC,
Heather Zydek
Blog Moderator

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

BOOK SALE: Conciliar Press Children's Books

Tomorrow is the last day of a one-week sale on Orthodox Christian children's books published by Conciliar Press. Conciliar's "Back to School Sale" includes discounts of up to 30 percent on select Conciliar Press children's books through Thursday, September 4, 2008. Visit www.conciliarpress.comto browse books on sale.

NEW BOOK: Royal Monastic by Bev. Cooke

The life of a princess isn’t all glamour, handsome princes, and beautiful clothes. It’s also devotion to duty, sacrifice for your people, and a lot of just plain hard work. And if your country happens to suffer two world wars and a communist takeover in your lifetime, it means danger and suffering, exile and heartache as well. Princess Ileana of Romania endured all this and more. But her deeply rooted Orthodox faith saw her through it all, and eventually led her in her later years to the peaceful repose of monasticism. But that life included sacrifice and hard work as well, because as Mother Alexandra she was called to build the first English-language Orthodox women’s monastery in the United States—the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Princess Ileana’s story is a thrilling tale of love and loss, danger and rescue, sacrifice and reward. Her inspiring life stands as a beacon of faith and holiness for young women of all times and nations to follow.

"Royal Monastic [is] a comprehensive and enjoyable read for any age…Readers will learn to appreciate the woman who lived on three continents during the most troubled time in modern history--a woman who in some ways could identify with everyone she met, yet in other ways with no one on earth."
-- Mother Christophora, Abbess, Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration

"Royal Monastic is an excellent and engaging historical biography of a truly remarkable princess turned monastic. Mother Alexandra is an example of Orthodox Christian virtues of love, suffering and self-sacrifice."
-- Chrissi Hart, Author of Under the Grapevine: A Miracle by Saint Kendeas and The Hermit, The Icon and The Emperor: The Holy Virgin Comes to Cyprus

Bev. Cooke is the author of Keeper of the Light: Saint Macrina, Grandmother of Saints (Conciliar Press, 2006) and Feral (Orca Book Publishers, 2008). She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Learn more about Bev. and her work at

Purchase Royal Monastic at

Monday, August 25, 2008

NOW AVAILABLE: New Issue of The Handmaiden Journal

Conciliar Press has released a new issue of its quarterly women's journal, The Handmaiden.

The summer 2008 issue of The Handmaiden explores the mystery of today’s miracles, some that we encounter close to home, and others that we purposefully travel to as pilgrims, looking for deeper personal insight and inspiration. The issue includes the features "Finding a Miracle" by Paul D. Sidebottom; "My Encounter with Saint Xenia" by Jill Wallerstedt; "Our Lady of Cicero: Two Young Priests Share their Experience with a Weeping Icon" by Heather Zydek; and "A Pilgrimage of a Lifetime" by Archpriest John Bethancourt. The issue also features a host of regular columns, including A Word from the Editor, The Orthodox Home, Culture Currents, Close to Home, Verses of Praise, The Orthodox Kitchen, Women Making a Difference, Books to Treasure and a specially-themed Woman-to-Woman column for which we asked our readers to share their experiences of pilgrimages.

For more than a decade, The Handmaiden, published as a 64-page journal, has been serving Orthodox women by offering them fresh content to inspire and illumine their hearts. With the Handmaiden of the Lord, the Holy Theotokos, as its guide, The Handmaiden strives to be a beacon of light, a place where Orthodox Christian women and others who are interested in Orthodox life and spirituality can come together to learn, share, relate, and grow. Join us as part of The Handmaiden community, as we prayerfully and joyfully struggle to become the women of God we long to be.

Subscribe to The Handmaiden today at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

NEW BOOK: Feasts of Faith by Fr. William C. Mills

Feasts of Faith: Reflections on the Major Feast Days
By Fr. William C. Mills
Paperback (August 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933275-23-9
Price: $13.95 + S&H (USD)

Feasts of Faith: Reflections on the Major Feast Days is a collection of pastoral reflections on the major feast days that appear in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar. The primary aim of Feasts of Faith is to encourage Orthodox Christians to learn more about the feast days through reading and reflecting on the rich scriptural texts that are associated with these special celebrations. The feast days include beautiful liturgical hymnography, but also prescribed Scripture readings for Matins, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy which function as a context for understanding the importance of these festal celebrations. Feasts of Faith is not an exhaustive commentary on all the Scripture readings for the festal celebrations, but rather offers the reader an overview of the content and background of these readings. One hopes that by reading and studying the Word of God, the entire Church will be edified, encouraged, and challenged to follow the biblical God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Feasts of Faith is a valuable resource for personal and group Bible study, adult education classes, and sermon preparation.

Learn more about Feasts of Faith at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Release
Thinking Through Faith:
New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars

Aristotle Papanikolaou and Elizabeth Prodromou  Editors
Foreword by Albert J. Raboteau

St Vladimir's Seminary Press
ISBN 978-0-88141-328-1
Softcover,  376 pages
Price; US $ 18.00

Within these pages a  younger generation of Orthodox scholars is America takes up the perennial task of transmitting the meaning of Christianity to a particular time and culture. This collection of twelve essays is the result of six years of reflective conversation and collaboration regarding core beliefs of the Orthodox faith, tenets that the authors present from fresh perspectives that appeal to reason and spiritual sensibilities alike. The essays include The Kingdom of God, The Foundations of Noetic Prayer, The Discipline of Theology, Understanding Pastoral Care in the Early church, Orthodox Theologies of Women and Ordained Ministry, reading the Lives of the Saints, The Meaning and Place of Death in an Orthodox Ethical Framework, Confession, Desires and Emotions, Byzantine Liturgy as God's family at Prayer, and the Orthodox Church in the Twentieth-Century.

Posted by Nina Chapman on behalf of St Vladimir's Seminary Press

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NEW BOOK: The Person of The Christ: The Earthly Context of the Savior

By Daniel Fanous
Regina Orthodox Press
paperback, 255 pages
ISBN# 978-1-928653-332

Living in a world that differed radically from ours, Jesus is revealed by researching His context. To come into knowledge of this context, it is to first-century Judaism that we must turn. Through a most unique synthesis of Orthodox Christian theology, early Church Fathers, rabbinic writings, and contemporary Jewish and Christian biblical scholarship, this astonishingly unique book explores the atmosphere of first-century Palestine in which Christ lived.

The Person Of The Christ explores many issues including the inter-testamental period; the Pharisees and Sadducees; the Sanhedrin; the concept of YHWH and its significance for the Orthodox Christian; the Shekhinah–the Jewish understanding of the presence of God–and its rich potential for understanding the Incarnation.

This work also thoroughly examines the development of the Jewish Messiah concept throughout the Scriptures, as well as early Judaic writings, and the reaction of Jesus to the Messianic concepts of His day. To follow Christ is to desire to know Him. The Person Of The Christ will bring readers closer to Jesus, His time, place and life.

"As soon as I began to read this great book, I was unable to bring my reading to an end. The blessed son of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Daniel Fanous, has succeeded in guiding my inner senses into the times of the ancient people of God, through his engaging style of writing. This work has been presented logically, biblically, and historically, to reveal the context of the Christ...This present work reveals to us the richness of our faith, as well as its foundations among the early Jews." - Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty (from the Foreword)

Daniel Fanous is a member of St. Mark's Orthodox Church in Sydney, Australia. He is extensively involved in the theological education and services for high school and university youth. Daniel has spent many years exploring the Jewish roots of Christianity and its significance theologically and spiritually.

Now available at For more information, please see

Friday, June 6, 2008

NEW BOOK: St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans

By Archbishop Dmitri (Royster)

2008, St Vladimir's Seminary Press
ISBN 978-0-881413212
softcover, 416 pages
Price: US $20.00

Written with the average lay reader in mind, this pastoral commentary on the Epistle to the Romans offers readers a clear explanation of the Apostle Paul's influential and controversial letter. Quotations from church fathers and parallel expressions from Scripture create a methodology consistent with Orthodox tradition. By also using hymns and texts from the Orthodox liturgical services, the author supplies deeper and broader contexts for familiar biblical verses. Appropriate for personal and group biblical study and for spiritual guidance and edification, this volume also serves as a useful aid to pastors in teaching and preparation of homilies.

His Eminence Dmitri is Archbishop of Dallas and the South of the Orthodox Church in America.

Posted by Nina Chapman on behalf of St. Vladimir's Seminary Press

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NEW BOOK: Surprised by Christ by Fr. A. James Bernstein

Conciliar Press Ministries is pleased to announce the release of a new spiritual memoir of a man's conversion from Judaism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Raised in Queens, New York by formerly Orthodox Jewish parents whose faith had been undermined by the Holocaust, Arnold Bernstein went on a quest for the God he instinctively felt was there. He was ready to accept God in whatever form He chose to reveal Himself—and that form turned out to be Christ.

But Bernstein soon perceived discrepancies in the various forms of Protestant belief that surrounded him, and so his quest continued—this time for the true Church. With his Jewish heritage as a foundation, he came to the conclusion that the faith of his forefathers was fully honored and brought to completion only in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Surprised by Christ combines an engrossing memoir of one man’s life in historic situations—from the Six-Day War to the Jesus Movement in Berkeley—with a deeply felt examination of the distinctives of Orthodox theology that make the Orthodox Church the true home not only for Christian Jews, but for all who seek to know God as fully as He may be known.

The Rev. A. JAMES BERNSTEIN was a teenage chess champion whose dramatic conversion experience at the age of 16 led him to Christianity. His spiritual journey has included a number of twists and turn: he was chapter president of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at Queens College, helped found the Jews for Jesus ministry in San Francisco, was a staff member of the Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley, served as a pastor of an Evangelical Orthodox Church near Silicon Valley, and later became an Eastern Orthodox convert and then priest. He lives with his wife Bonnie outside of Seattle, Washington, where he serves as pastor of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church. Father James is the author of the booklets Orthodoxy: Jewish and Christian (Conciliar Press, 1990); Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament (CP, 1994); and Communion: A Family Affair (CP, 1999). He was also a contributor to the Orthodox Study Bible: New Testament and Psalms (Thomas Nelson, 1993).

For more information or to order Surprised by Christ, go to

Friday, May 2, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Lenten Triodion Supplement

Published by: St. Tikhon Seminary Press

Reviewed by: Macrina Lewis,

At long last the Lenten Triodion Supplement is available in hardback format. For Orthodox liturgists, chanters, and choir directors, and also for those wishing to pray through the hymnography of the church at home when services are not locally available, this volume is a “pearl of great price.” The unassuming black hardcover boasting a gold-embossed cross contains essential hymnography for the long Lenten season. This volume joins its predecessors, The Lenten Triodion and The Festal Menaion, to form a triumvirate of what liturgists call “movable hymnography” for celebrating major feasts and the Great Fast throughout the liturgical year.

All three volumes have been translated as a joint effort between Met. KALLISTOS Ware of England and Mother Mary of the Monastery of the Veil in Bussey-en-Othe, France. The layout design of the Triodion Supplement tastefully matches that of the other two volumes, making for a clear and familiar presentation. Although there are a few minor word choices and spellings which reflect a more proper English than what is common usage in America, these are clearly the most widely-used and most cohesive texts available in English for Festal and Lenten hymnography.

The primary hymnography for Lent (including the preceding weeks, the first week, the weekends, and Holy Week) is found in The Lenten Triodion proper. The Lenten Triodion Supplement contains all the “supplementary” texts needed for weekdays of the Lenten season, including prescribed readings and prokeimena as well as hymnography for the daily Matins, Hours, and Vespers/Presanctified services.

Up until now, this translation and the full volume of supplementary texts has only been available in a spiral bind volume produced by the Monastery of the
Veil, and in recent years has become increasingly difficult to procure. With a pre-PC typewriter, the sisters did a wonderful job of making this great work available for the faithful, but the present publication elevates it to the rightful status it deserves alongside the other two volumes. There have been no changes in translation from the original; only the few minor spelling corrections necessary were changed in the text.

The paper is slightly glossy and appears very durable and easy to handle. The text is crisp and clean, printed in a traditional serif font on bright white. The volume measures 7” x 9”, matching the size of the volumes previously printed by St. Tikhon’s (The Festal Menaion, 1990 and The Lenten Triodion, 1994). The price is surprisingly low for such a good quality volume.

This most useful and handsome book will be well-used and treasured in many a kliros and prayer corner. Joining its predecessors, it completes the definitive set of English-language source-books for the Festal and Lenten hymnographical cycle. A hearty thanks to St. Tikhon’s for making this available. The volume itself ends with apt words: “Glory be to God.” Amen!

Monday, April 28, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Lives of the Georgian Saints

By Archpriest Zacharia Machitadze
Trans. David and Lauren Elizabeth Ninoshvili
St. Herman of Alaska Press, 2006

Reviewed by Stephen Ullstrom

I first heard of this book on a blog several months ago. I was immediately interested, partly because my home parish is named after St. Nina, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia, and partly because the book was highly recommended. But as a student I was a bit daunted by the price (US$29). Then, when I saw the number of pages (506), I also began imagining this to be a dense trade paperback-type book like some other similar books I had seen. So I put this book on my mental ‘maybe one-day’ list, and never got around to ordering it.

I was quite surprised, then, when I recently saw that someone had donated this book to our church library. Still being curious, I took the book off the shelf and opened it up. What I saw were glossy pages with large, well spaced text, chapters that were framed by colorful motifs, and on almost every page a beautiful reproduction of an icon or a photograph. Without having read a word, I was already very impressed with the beauty of this book, and was regretting my hasty judgments.

In reading the various lives detailed in the book, what has struck me the most is the great diversity of holy men and women. And not only that, but of how interconnected their lives were to each other, and to the history of the Georgian nation and people. Of course, this is something that I have known before, but these points were really re-emphasized for me in a tangible way due to the sheer number of lives I was reading all at once, and by the fact that they were all somehow tied to the same nation. For example, the saints detailed in this book are from almost every century since the ascension of Christ. Some were foreigners who settled in Georgia, and others were Georgians who settled abroad, and they include laymen, monastics, members of the nobility and the intelligentsia, and the list goes on.

That said, this book is not a scholarly book. Sources are not cited, and information on some saints are a little patchy. In many cases, this is probably due to a lack of available information. I also found myself wanting to know more the links between the different saints. An introduction, there is a brief history of Georgia which is helpful to a point, but I would have liked more information. Then again, perhaps that is material for another book. The stated purpose of this book, according to the author, is to bring together into one book information on all of the Georgian saints, events, and icons that are commemorated by the Georgian Church. And as an introduction to the Georgian saints, this book does a superb job. The only major oversight I can find is the lack of a pronunciation guide to assist with pronouncing the Georgian names.

For anyone interested in Georgia, or in saints, or in learning about another corner of Christendom, or in how Christianity can impact a nation and a people, this is an excellent book to start with. Even though it is not hot off the press, having been published in 2006, the information and stories are timeless. And the aesthetics are such that it will preserve well, to be savored for a long time to come.

Friday, April 18, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Life and Teaching of Saint Seraphim of Sarov

By N. Puretzki and the Monastery of Sarov
Translated by G. Kochibrolashvili and M. Tooneman
Gozalov Books, 2007

Reviewed by Stephen Ullstrom

I found this book difficult to review for a couple of reasons. One being that I hadn't read any of the other books about St. Seraphim of Sarov, and so I cannot offer any comparisons or contrasts. The second is that I am not an expert on ascetic literature or practices, which is what a lot of this book covers. On the contrary, after reading this book I had several questions of my own to ask my parish priest about. So keeping this in mind, here is my review.

The Life and Teaching of Saint Seraphim of Sarov is a translation of two different Russian texts that were originally printed and re-printed in 1903 and 1991, respectively. The book is slim, containing only 64 pages. Nineteen of these are a Life of St. Seraphim, with the remainder being his teachings. A short prayer to St. Seraphim is also included.

Overall the translation reads clearly and smoothly, with occasional grammar mistakes or stilted language. The main translation problem that I had was that scripture verses were translated directly from the Russian Bible, instead of being taken from an accepted English translation. This resulted in some verses being worded so differently from what I was used to that I failed to recognize them. The other main problem were a few words that I thought could have been translated better. For example, instead of using the word ‘anointed’, the word ‘oiled’ was used. A Russian speaking friend of mine told me that this is because the translators went for a literal translation, which in my opinion isn’t always the best choice.

In terms of content, I found the Life of St. Seraphim to be quite detailed for only being nineteen pages. Though I had certainly heard of St. Seraphim before I read this book, I now feel that I have a much more rounded understanding of his life and how he came to be so popular in the Church. The teachings of St. Seraphim are equally to the point. They are divided into thirty-one different topics, such as ‘On God,’ ‘On Hope,’ ‘On Illnesses.’ There are definitely some good teachings here that will be worth returning to again and again. But there are also parts that I didn’t understand, or I didn’t know what to take from it. A lot of this confusion is probably due to my inexperience with ascetical and monastic writings, and with Russian Orthodox spirituality. This is also my main caution about this book.

In their introduction, the translators state that they hope that this book will “stimulate interest in the Russian Orthodox spiritual tradition, which is, regretfully, so little known in the Western World.” This is a laudable goal, but I don’t think that this book does the job. The reason being that beyond the Life of St. Seraphim, no context is given for what is being taught. For someone already familiar with the ascetical teachings and writings of Orthodoxy, this is not a problem, but for someone who is hearing this for the first time, I think that this could be both intriguing and confusing.

So I would recommend this as a quick introduction to St. Seraphim and some of the teachings of Orthodoxy. It is a short read, and yet contains a lot of meat. But I would also recommend, especially if you are new to Orthodoxy or ascetical and monastic literature, to have a priest or other mature Orthodox Christian nearby whom you can ask questions of. Because believe me, you will have questions.

Currently, this book is only available in the UK, and is distributed by Gazelle Book Services. It can be ordered here, and at a few other UK book sellers.

Monday, March 31, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Mysteries of Silence

By Christopher Lewis
Anaphora Press, 2007

Reviewed by Stephen Ullstrom

In his first collection of poetry, it is soon obvious that Christopher Lewis knows his garden. And that he intimately knows such things as the birds that fly into his garden, and the growing of good, thriving, crops. He knows the names of flowers that I have never heard of, and he understands something of the mysteries of pruning and of seeds growing. We even learn that Lewis writes in a shed that is in the midst of his garden, and that at times he struggles between desiring to write and desiring to nurture his plants. This is the joyous Lewis that we see as he lovingly describes nature and finds within it a touch of paradise. But he is never sentimental, and the serious side of Lewis emerges when he writes about scorching deserts and the wearying heat of summer. This is the side that is concerned with prayer, and with attaining silence before God. And Lewis does not shy away from this either, as seen when he tells himself, and us, to “not delude yourself that you’ve met the silence. / You have not touched even the hem of it’s garment.” In addition to Lewis’s emphasis on nature, and as someone who feasts on biographies, I also thoroughly enjoyed Lewis’ exploration of the lives of various saints. He used these lives to illustrate prayer in diverse circumstances, and to encourage us in our struggles while also pointing out that we have so far to go before reaching those heights.

In addition to the poems, Lewis also provides some notes explaining the reasons for writing a few of his poems, and explaining some of the allusions he makes to various saints and books. These were very helpful in understanding some of the more obscure allusions he made, and they offered interesting insight into how Lewis works as a poet. My only disappointment was that he didn’t tell us more.

Mysteries of Silence provides keen and honest insights about nature, beauty, and our struggles with the Orthodox spiritual life. As the first publication of Anaphora Press, which has dedicated itself to publishing excellence in literature, Mysteries of Silence has set the bar very high indeed. And as the first book published by Christopher Lewis, I look forward to savoring whatever else he chooses to share with us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BOOK REVIEW -- Mystic Street: Meditations on a Spiritual Path

By S.T. Georgiou
319 pages. Novalis. $24.95

Reviewed by Matt Karnes

A book critic faces a problem every time he begins to read a book for review; the problem of evaluating the book that is in his hands instead of the book he wishes had been written. An Orthodox Christian book critic has the added burden of 2,000 years of spiritual master pieces on the shelves above his writing desk; those books sitting in judgment of all new Christian writing. It is difficult to lay all of that aside when looking at this spiritual travel book which tells part of the story of a young Orthodox scholar living in San Francisco and attending the very ecumenical Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley.

Like all good travel books, Mystic Street is filled with quirky characters and events. And place is vitally important to the happenings recorded in the stories, as is the sense that the author is experiencing something new. But that is not the only way this is a travel book.

The author’s constant movement, almost vibration, is what makes spiritual travel book the best descriptor for this collection of living snapshots, for it seems that Georgiou receives his most interesting insights when he is walking through doorways, or riding on trains, or going up or down stairways. An angel talks to him in a hallway, he gains an understanding of the Light of God in a subway station, he wrestles with his vocation while walking on the beach. He can’t even sit still in a Buddhist retreat center, but busts up laughing at an apple and has to walk out to a hall way where he is told he is very Zen.

And, of course, we might wonder why an Orthodox Christian is in a Buddhist retreat center, attending Roman Catholic Masses, and divining the future with I Ching, why he seems averse to normative ways of Orthodox spiritual practice, and why he refers more to the writings of modern Roman Catholics than to the teachings of Orthodox Christians of any age. Several times I was tempted to put the book down and say “This isn’t Orthodox. It’s a load of Unitarian garbage.” But then the author tells us about visiting the island of Patmos, and experiencing there what might have been the Holy Spirit praying through him, or, perhaps, it was the hesycast’s much sought after prayer of the heart; prayer Ven. Alexander Schmemman would have recognized as the offering that fulfills the vocation given to Adam and to us.

This mixture of spiritual confusion and spiritual clarity is a constant in the book. One vignette (the book is a series of them) will make the author seem like a Protestant, or a Pagan, or a Roman Catholic, while another will make him seem very Orthodox. Only after rereading sections of it did I come to understand that the back and forth movement is the key to the book, to the story it tells. It moves in and out of Orthodoxy because it tells part of the story of a real human being. But not only his life is shown to us. Our lives, too, are reflected back to us from the pages of this book.

The stories Georgiou tells are all of our stories. We are all screwed up. We are all inconsistent. Even the best of us, the Saints, sometimes get it wrong. But God keeps revealing Himself to us, as much as we can tolerate, hoping that the love and beauty we receive from Him will draw us to Him. That is the most important message Georgiou put in this book. It is worth reading the way he has written it.

Stars : 3 of 5

Monday, March 10, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Cyprus: Byzantine Churches and Monasteries Mosaics and Frescoes

By Ewald Hein, Andrija Jakovljevic and Brigitte Kleidt
Melina-Verlag, Ratingen, 1998

Reviewed by Dr. Chrissi Hart

This beautiful textbook is the result of a collaboration between the three authors about the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Cyprus. It begins with historical accounts of the turbulent history of Cyprus, the Byzantine Empire and history of the Orthodox church. Dr. Jakovljevic’s scholarly description of monasteries, churches, icons, mosaics and frescoes is supplemented with beautiful color photographs. The appendix includes references to Cyprus in the Bible; a list of Archbishops of Cyprus; Byzantine, Lusignan and Ottoman rulers; a chronological table or timeline of Cyprus, a summary of saints; and a glossary.

The book is rich with information into the Byzantine Empire that lasted over one thousand years. Of particular interest is Stavrovouni Monastery, the oldest monastery on the island, founded by St. Helen when she brought the holy cross to Cyprus. Kykkos Monastery houses one of three original icons written by St Luke dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. The oldest church in Cyprus is that of St Lazarus of Bethany, in Larnaca, which contains his precious relics. A number of Byzantine churches on the UNESCO World Heritage List are also included. These are located throughout the Troodos mountain areas of Marathasa, Solea and Pitsilia, set in enchanting scenery of cedar valleys or pine forests. One such example is the painted church of the Mother of God at Asinou. There are also descriptions of neglected churches in the Turkish occupied north of the island which have been inaccessible since 1974.

Scholars and students of Byzantine history and art will find this book an invaluable resource into the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Cyprus and thus should be in every University Library.

Dr. Andreas Jakovljevic is a Byzantine scholar and Director at the Research Centre of Kykkos Monastery based at Archangelos Monastery, Nicosia, Cyprus. Cyprus: Byzantine Churches and Monasteries Mosaics and Frescoes is available from Moufflon Bookshop in Nicosia, Cyprus. Tel: (357) 22 665 155; Fax: (357) 22 668 703.

Chrissi Hart is the author of Under the Grapevine: A Miracle by Saint Kendeas of Cyprus (Conciliar Press, 2006) and The Hermit, The Icon, and The Emperor: The Holy Virgin Comes to Cyprus (Conciliar Press, October 2008).

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Ben Lomond, CA – Conciliar Press Ministries is pleased to announce the release of five new books, just in time for Great Lent 2008. The five titles -- three picture books for children and two adult titles -- include:

Drita: An Albanian Girl Discovers Her Ancestors' Faith
Written by Renee Ritsi
Illustrated by Cameron Thorpe

After suffering for decades under religious persecution, Albanians and other Eastern European Christians were allowed to worship more openly following the fall of communism in the 1990's. In the new picture book, Drita: An Albanian Girl Discovers Her Ancestors' Faith, author Renee Ritsi offers readers a vivid picture of the world of an Albanian girl who finds the Orthodox Christian faith of her ancestors. As this beautifully illustrated story opens, we meet Drita, a young Albanian girl whose family has lived for years under repressive communist rule. After decades of religious oppression, Drita is finally able to discover the faith of her ancestors. As she experiences God’s love for her through the example of her grandparents and the teachings of missionaries, she turns her heart toward Christ. At the story’s joyful conclusion, Drita is surrounded by her grandparents and friends as she is baptized.

Baby Moses and Moses' Flight from Egypt
Two books in the new Old Testament Stories for Children series
Written by Mother Melania
Illustrated by Bonnie Gillis

While adult readers enjoy the new Complete Orthodox Study Bible, children can enjoy the Orthodox perspective on classic Bible stories with the new Old Testament Stories for Children series. Launched with the release of the picture books Baby Moses and Moses’ Flight from Egypt, the series uses simple verse and colorful, semi-iconographic illustrations that are both sweet and reverent to introduce children and their parents to the profound truths revealed in the pages of the Old Testament. Everywhere in the Old Testament, the Fathers of the Church see Christ, the Theotokos, and the Church revealed. The Fathers always understood the Old Testament in light of the New. Moses in the basket is a “type” of baptism. Jacob crossed his hands to bless Joseph’s younger son (Ephraim) over his older son (Manasseh)—a prefiguring both of the Cross and of the surpassing of the Old Covenant by the New. The series will continue with several Moses stories and include others that are also associated with Christ’s Pascha: Jonah and the fish, the Three Youths in the furnace, and Elijah raising the widow’s son.

Lynette's Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe's Life and Death
Edited by Fr. Luke A. Veronis

Lynette Katherine Hoppe's life and death touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives as she served as a missionary in Albania, tragically succumbing to cancer in 2006. In Lynette's Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe's Life and Death, close family friend and fellow OCMC missionary Fr. Luke Veronis retells the story of her life, and then lets her writing speak for itself. In poignant, honest prose, Lynette's diaries, newsletters and website chronicled her struggles in the "valley of the shadow" as she faced impending death. In the midst of such heartache -- a young missionary wife and mother ill and dying -- how did she live? How did she die? The answers to those questions will move readers to agree with those who witnessed her passing, that truly hers was a "beautiful death." No one who reads Lynette's Hope will come away untouched; all will be stirred to a new resolve to live life as she did, in the presence of God, with joy and faith.

Shepherding the Flock: The Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus
Part of the Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series
By Fr. Lawrence Farley

The latest volume in Fr. Lawrence Farley’s Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series, Shepherding the Flock: The Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus, combines a fresh, literal translation of the pastoral epistles with verse-by-verse commentary written “for the average layman, for the non-professional who feels a bit intimidated by the presence of copious footnotes, long bibliographies, and all those other things which so enrich the lives of academics” (from the series introduction). Arranged in brief pericopes of text with commentary following, Shepherding the Flock presents a traditional Orthodox interpretation of the scriptures along with historical, linguistic, and contextual details that bring Paul’s epistles to life for the contemporary reader. St. Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus contain the apostle’s instructions to the pastors under his care about how they, in turn, should care for their flocks in wisdom and love. As the last epistles St. Paul wrote in anticipation of his martyrdom, they “remain as a testimony to his pastoral love and as an inspiration for those in the Church, both the shepherds and the flock, to walk in holiness and love themselves.”

Now available at, and at bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ARTICLE: The Importance of Story

Now available in the current issue of The Orthodox Observer, p. 20

By Heather Zydek

I wish I could say that it was the Bible or the lives of the saints alone that brought me to the Christian faith and, later, to the Orthodox Church.

Instead, like many of us born after the advent of television, my faith as a Christian was inspired by an amalgam of impressions from weekly Sunday School lessons, stories about death from my mother’s childhood, annual viewings of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, and frequent readings of Myths and Mythology by Anthony Horowitz, a vividly illustrated book I received as an eight-year-old.

The Sunday School lessons made me familiar with the stories of the Bible and the mysterious person of Jesus Christ. The stories of my mother’s biological father’s and step-father’s untimely deaths put subjects like dying and the afterlife on my radar at a very young age.

The classic Bible films brought to life the Sunday School lessons that were appealing but abstract to me as a child. If you’re wondering how the book of mythology fit into the picture of my early faith, you may have to think outside of the Judeo-Christian box for a moment. It’s true that not once is Jesus, the Holy Trinity, or the Church mentioned in this secular book.

It contains tales of pagan gods and pre-Christian myths. But the book, and others like it, nudged me a little closer to the idea that this life is just one part of a larger story humans have been trying to understand since the dawn of time; it helped me look beyond my small suburban worldview and made me thirsty for a deeper meaning, for universal Truth.

No one can deny the sway of all forms of story, whether printed, recited, or projected on the screen. God knows His children learn best through story; that’s probably why Jesus used entertaining stories (parables) to convey timeless truths.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: New Book by Fr. Bill Mills

Press Release

New Bible Study Resource for Great Lent!!!!

Available January 2008

MOORESVILLE, NC (January 2008)—Fr. William C. Mills is pleased to announce the publication of his fifth book, Let Us Attend: Reflections on the Gospel of Mark for the Lenten Season. This book is a collection of pastoral reflections on the gospel lessons from Mark that are read during Great Lent. Let Us Attend is a wonderful resource for personal and group Bible study, adult education classes, and sermon preparation.

Other books in this series include From Pascha to Pentecost: Reflections on the Gospel of John (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2005), Prepare O Bethlehem: Reflections on the Scripture Readings for Christmas-Epiphany (Rollinsford, NH:Orthodox Research Institute, 2006), Baptize All Nations: Reflections on the Gospel of Matthew (Rollinsford, NH: Orthodox Research Institute, 2007), A Light to the Gentiles: Reflections on the Gospel of Luke (NY: iUniverse, 2007).

About the Author

Fr. William Mills, Ph.D. is the rector of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC, and an adjunct professor of religious studies at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. His essays and book reviews have appeared in AGAIN magazine, The Orthodox Church of America Magazine, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, Pro Ecclesia, and Theological Studies.

Fr. Mills is available for clergy and parish retreats. For more information about his books or his speaking engagements please visit his webpage at

Let Us Attend: Reflections on the Gospel of Mark for the Lenten Season by William C. Mills

Publication Date: January 2008
Trade Paperback: $11.95
ISBN 0-595-48043-8
Discounts available for bulk orders and for parish bookstores

Blog Update

Greetings! We've been busy here at OCB with other projects, but hope to start posting more book news soon, including:

-- Press releases announcing publisher news and information about new books (send us your news)

-- Book reviews, provided by our new volunteer book reviewers (become a reviewer)

More info to come...

Monday, January 14, 2008


Are you a book lover? The Orthodox Christian Books blog is looking for contributors to write articles and book reviews and conduct author and publisher interviews. If interested, please contact OCB editor Heather Zydek at heatherzydek(at)gmail(dot)com.

NEW BOOK: Syra's Scribbles by Syra Divine

Syra's Scribbles, a self-published novel by author Syra Divine, will officially be released on January 20, 2008, when it will be available in most online bookstores.

Syra Divine, AKA Syra Ruehle, is an Orthodox mother of three whose semi-autobiographical novel grew out of emails to friends and family that described stories from her daily life life. "These letters became a personal journal of my daily joys and struggles," Ruehle said. "Syra's Scribbles is my memoir of the years when I was a busy mother of two. The prayers and church services show Orthodoxy in practice. The dirty diapers and singing toddlers are experiences every mother can relate to."

Having grown up with the confidence that she could do anything she aspired to, Syra married her true love, earned her master's degree in mathematics, and then embraced a career as housewife and stay-at-home mother.

The letters in Syra's Scribbles chronicle the author's real-life experiences, taking the reader through a continuum of emotion: the thrill of a baby learning to walk, the surprise of a teenaged nephew moving in, the fear of wild fires creeping closer, and the anguish of an aging mother's decline that would change everyone's lives. Syra's stories are laugh-out-loud funny, inspirationally moving, and real beyond the glitz and glamour of reality TV.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NEW BOOK: Called to Serve by Fr. John Peck

Called To Serve a new Bible survey workbook containing all the books of the Orthodox Bible, is now available. Written by Fr. John A. Peck, Orthodox priest, graphic artist, and contributor to the soon-to-be published Orthodox Study Bible, Called to Serve is a basic survey of the Holy Scriptures for Orthodox Christians. "No longer will the Bible be an intimidating mass of stories and text gathering dust and guilt from disuse," said the book's press release. "In a fun and exciting journey, this workbook will take you through the entire Bible, and fill in the gaps and answer the questions that you may not even know you have. In 20 short lessons, you'll have set a firm foundation for your life in the Holy Scriptures."

Called to Serve, self-published by Fr. Peck, is available in two versions: a student edition containing 20 lessons, and a leaders edition containing answers to questions posed in the student edition.

Peck has been publishing books under the "Interior Strength" moniker for about a year. Other Interior Strength titles include Divine Liturgy: A Student Study Text, BIBLE DRILL Field Manual, Bible Diva Flight Manual, S.W.A.T. Field Manual, and BIBLE DRILL Officer's Manual. According to Peck, the "Manuals" are "intense VBS type programs that are held every year in the summer in Ohio. Very intense, very fun, and very successful."

Learn more about called to serve at