Friday, March 27, 2015

Meditations for Pasca (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Meditations for Pascha is the fourth book in a series by Fr. Vassilios Papavassiliou. The previous three were Meditations for Advent, Meditations for Great Lent, and Meditations for Holy Week. The book begins by discussing the meaning of the week which follows Pascha, also known as Bright Week or Renewal Week. There are three themes for this week - water, light, and renewal. It is in this week that we celebrate all things being made new by Christ's Resurrection. We also begin to get hints of Pentecost, despite it still being more than a month away. The rest of the book dedicates individual chapters to the weeks that follow Pascha, like Thomas Week; Week of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Week of the Blind Man, etc.

Thomas Sunday was an interesting read. For starters, it is also known as Antipascha, not because it is in opposition to Pascha, but "instead of Pascha." On the Sunday of Pascha, in the evening, there is a Vespers service called the "Agape Vespers." In this service, the Church hears about the first post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus. If people are unable to make it to this service, then the following Sunday, known as "Thomas Sunday," they can hear about Thomas seeing the Risen Lord. Therefore, some of the Church is like Thomas in that he wasn't present when all the others first saw Jesus after his Resurrection. Little things like this are what makes the Orthodox calendar so awesome.

Another section, I particularly liked is the Week of the Paralytic. We all know this Gospel story from John. There was a man who lay at the pool of Bethesda who was paralyzed for 38 years. An angel would go down and stir the waters, and the first person who went in the water was cured. However, for 38 years, someone always went into the water before him, so he never was healed until Jesus came and healed the man Himself. Instead of focusing on the paralytic, Fr. Papavassiliou focuses on those around the man and compares them to us. We are all suffering from some sort of spiritual illness or paralysis. We may try and do good for our neighbors and help them when it's convenient for us. But what about when it comes down to us or them? Will we choose them over us? We like to think so, but unfortunately we are usually selfish and think only of ourselves.

This was another superb book of meditations by Fr. Papavassiliou. I believe there is one more book coming out in this series on the Twelve Great Feasts. After that, I believe the series will be done. I'm not sure the ins and outs of publishing and what kind of response is needed to merit a new printing of a book, but if possible, I think combining all of these Meditations books in a nice leatherette edition would be a nice idea, especially if it is the same quality as The Ancient Faith Prayer Book.

This book was provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book of Hours (Holy Transfiguration Monastery)

The Book of Hours is a pocket-sized (4" x 6.5") edition of the Midnight Services and the Hours as printed in The Great Horologion. The Midnight Services include all forms for Weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Hours included are the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours along with all of their Mid-Hours and variants for Great Lent. There is also the full text of the Typica, which is a service used for whenever Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, like weekdays during Great Lent or when a priest is not present. The text itself is black for parts that are to be read and red for all instructions and rubrics.

Truth be told, I received this book in error. I actually requested Saint Symeon of Emesa, but received this one in error. I admit to being a bit ignorant when it comes to the Orthodox hours. This book encouraged me to read more about them and learn more about them. There is a similar structure between Catholic and Orthodox daily hours. For example. the Catholic office has Vespers (Evening Prayer), Compline (Night Prayer), Office of Readings, Lauds (Morning Prayer), Daytime Prayer (which can be one or all three), . The Orthodox cycle has Vespers (Evening Prayer), Compline (Night Prayer), Midnight Office, Matins (Morning Prayer), First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, and Ninth Hour, and Typica.

If you are Orthodox and interested in following the Daily Cycle, this is a great and affordable investment. Of course, you will want to pair it with the pocket Prayer Book and pocket Psalter. Overall, I would highly rate this book both for its affordability and it's high quality craftsmanship. The Holy Transfiguration Monastery doesn't print many books, but the ones they do are made to last a lifetime. The same can be said for their icons. In fact, they are my go to source for icons, as I have purchased at least a dozen from them! Be sure to check them out for your Orthodox needs.

This book was provided to me for free by The Holy Transfiguration Monastery in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Morning Offering (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Abbot Tryphon is both a blogger and podcaster at Ancient Faith Radio. He has recently published a book called The Morning Offering. It shares its name with both his blog and podcast. The book is laid out in the format of a daily devotional with a page devoted to each day of the year. The flaw with this book, as with most daily devotionals, is that they forget February 29th. Sure, this is only an issue once every four years, but it can be very annoying when you want a reading and don't have one.

Here is a sample of one of the reflections. January 1 begins by talking about typical resolutions, like losing weight or saving money. Instead of these cliched resolutions, Abbot Tryphon offers us these words of wisdom. "A better plan would be to pledge ourselves to exercise virtue during the coming year. Doing this means disposing ourselves to do good habitually and firmly. We pledge ourselves not only to perform good acts, but also to give the best of ourselves to others. Virtuous people tend toward the good with all their sensory and spiritual powers and also pursue the good, choosing to do it through concrete actions."

This and the many other great reflections in this book are the perfect way to start your day. Each reading takes only five to ten minutes to read, so you can read it over breakfast or a cup of coffee. At times, you cannot tell this book is Eastern Orthodox, but then he makes references to hesychia, Elder Paisos of Mount Athos, and St. John the Wonderworker.This is neither a criticism nor a compliment, merely an observation. Therefore, you could buy this book for your Catholic or Protestant family and friends, and they would find it approachable and understandable as well. Even though the year is almost one-fourth over, it's not too late to draw closer to God. This book is a simple starting point for doing just that.

This book was provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!