Friday, December 6, 2013

Journey to the Kingdom (Paraclete Press)

For someone who reviews A LOT of books, I rarely speak with the authors of those books. This is due in part to the fact that time is very limited in my schedule. (This blog is not my job, but a side-project of love.) This can also be attributed to the fact that I know authors have busy schedules too, and I don't want to impose on them. This being said, I'll drop them an occasional line to let them know I appreciated their book and to encourage them to keep writing. Every so often, I am blessed to have them respond to my email or, in the case of Fr. Papavassiliou. Fr. Papavassiliou emailed me after I reviewed his book Meditations for Advent and asked me to review his first book Journey to the Kingdom. I, of course, jumped at the chance, and I am VERY glad I did.

Journey to the Kingdom is an introductory guide to the worship service of the Orthodox Church, known as the Divine Liturgy. I hesitate to use the term "introductory" here, because I think it undervalues the book. Just because the text simple to read does not take away from its depth or beauty. Beginning with the opening Blessing and ending with the Dismissal, the reader possesses a step-by-step guide, or walkthrough, of what each part of the Divine Liturgy is and means. As Fr. Papavassiliou points out, though, this book is no substitute for actually attending, experiencing, and participating in the Divine Liturgy.

With all the beauty in this book, it was tough to pick a favorite chapter. It is for that very reason that I picked SIX chapters. The six chapters in this book which talk about the Creed are as good a reason as any to buy this book. In them, Fr. Papavassiliou masterfully explains key tenets of the Creed including Trinity, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church, Baptism, and Resurrection. The chapters also explain interesting pieces of Tradition associated with the Creed. For example, the proclamation, "The doors! The doors!" is still declared before the recitation of the Creed, though it is more symbolic than anything today. In ancient days, this proclamation was given to doorkeepers to shut the doors and keep "spectators" from entering the Church. The Divine Liturgy is not a spectator sport, and only Orthodox Christians are allowed to receive Jesus in Communion.

I have had a great love for Orthodoxy for the past five years, and I am always trying to learn more about my Eastern brethren. I had the great joy of attending Divine Liturgy once, and I admit I was a little lost at points. I wish I had Journey to the Kingdom prior to attending. This is a must-read book for both cradle Orthodox Christians looking to deepen their faith and potential converts who are in the inquiry stage. It's also wonderful for people like me who just want to know more about Orthodoxy, how they celebrate, and what they believe. I love everything about this book, except for the presentation of the illustrations. They are black and white, and I wish they were in color instead.

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