Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mount Thabor Publishing: The Enlargement of the Heart

Well, another month is winding down, and that means it's time for my monthly Orthodox book review. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you that this was going to be my last Orthodox book review as the publishers just aren't interested in having their books reviewed, but I received a book from my favorite Orthodox company, Conciliar Press, very recently so maybe next month will be my farewell to Orthodox book reviews. Today, however, I have one final book from Mount Thabor Publishing to review.

The Enlargement of the Heart is a series of lectures, which Archimandrite Zacharias gave at a 2001 Clergy Brotherhood Retreat. Archimandrite Zacharias is a disciple of Elder Sophrony of Essex who was in turn a disciple of Saint Silouan the Athonite. That's some pretty impressive lineage for those of you unversed in Orthodoxy. Drawing upon their teachings, these lectures discuss man's ultimate existence and purpose.

Each lecture is brilliant but accessible. So many times, depending upon the speaker, theology can go over the heads of the majority of us, myself included. Archimandrite Zacharias, however, does a brilliant job keeping his lectures simple yet deep. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Jesus Prayer. In this chapter he tells us that two factors are indispensable when praying the Jesus Prayer. "The first is the faithful effort made by man to focus his attention in his heart, and humbly predispose his spirit. The second, and incomparably more important, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which nothing can succeed, no word and no act is accomplished." If I understand it correctly, it is saying that we need to humbly put forth the effort, while realizing that we can't accomplish it without the Holy Spirit.

This was a great book to read. It not only made the teachings of Elder Sophrony and Saint Silouan available, but also made them accessible to the average reader. I appreciate the Scripture cross references included in the book, as well as the original questions and answers at the end of the lecture. Sometimes, no matter how clear a lecture is, there are questions that need to be answered, and a lot of the questions asked were some of the same ones I had as well. Pick up this 5 star book if you want to read from some of the great minds of recent Orthodox history.

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