Thursday, June 27, 2013

Conciliar Press: Words for our Time

Another month is ending, and it's time for an Orthodox book review. I know I say this every month, but this will be my last Orthodox book review for a while. No, I mean it this time! I do have a couple of Orthodox books that might make it into the "Children's Corner" section of this blog, but for now consider this my final Orthodox book review. With that in mind, I can't think of a better title to review than Words for Our Time by Matthew the Poor, so thank you Conciliar Press for making it possible for me to review this work.

The back of this book starts by saying "Abba Matta of Egypt, known in the West as Matthew the Poor, is widely regarded as the greatest Egyptian elder since St. Antony the Great." Let that sink in for a minute. This is not a statement you make haphazardly. St. Antony the Great is regarded as the Father of All Monks, and it was his biography (written by St. Athanasius) that helped spread the idea of monasticism. To compare a 20th century monk to arguably the greatest of all monks is high praise! You can learn more about him in the introduction, but Matthew the Poor was also a prolific writer, who is credited with authoring 181 books in Arabic. Sadly, very few of them have been translated into English. However, Words for Our Time is not one of his books. It is instead a selection of his informal talks to monks and visitors.

This book is not presented chronologically, but is instead divided into four sections: 1. Spirituality, 2. Christian Living, 3. On Scripture, and 4. On Feasts and Fasts. Most of the talks in this book are from 1973 to 1979, but one was in 1987. I'm not sure why this decade was chosen to highlight, but it stood out to me, so I felt it was worth mentioning. Topics touched on are love, the Resurrection, the Epistle of Romans, etc. Looking at the Table of Contents, I honestly thought that I would be drawn to the section on Scripture. However, Abba Matta surprised me and instead fascinated me with his talks on Christian Living.

The talk/chapter that most spoke to me was called, "A Word to Married Couples." In this talk, there is much discussion about how a husband and wife become one. He states, "This union continues in Heaven," and, "The bond that links spouses is spiritual and eternal." That was very beautiful to read and made me appreciate my wife all the more. Later in this talk, he also tells us that we must give up our "self" to love our spouse more and that we are responsible for the salvation of our spouse and children. For someone who was never married, Matthew the Poor was spot on with his advice. I hope to take it to heart and practice it better with each passing day.

This is a 5-star book and a great introduction to Matthew the Poor. I look forward to seeing what future titles Conciliar Press will release, and if there will be any others by Matthew the Poor. If you would like to read more of Matthew the Poor, you could check out works such as "The Titles of Christ," or "Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way."

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