Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Meditations for Holy Week and The Miracle of the Red Egg (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Another month has come and gone, and we are at the beginning of April. Where did the time go?! Not only is my son almost 1 year old, but Easter is rapidly approaching as well! Today, I have two Orthodox books to share with you. One focuses on Holy Week and is aimed for adults. The other focuses on Easter, and while intended for children, is suitable for kids and adults alike! Without further ado, here are the reviews.

Meditations for Holy Week is the third book in Fr. Vassilos Papavassiliou's "Meditations" series, with the previous two being Meditations for Great Lent and Meditations for Advent. The book is divided into two parts. Part I is "The Bridegroom Service," which covers Great and Holy Monday through Great and Holy Wednesday and Part II is "The Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection," which covers Great and Holy Thursday through Great and Holy Pascha.

The book is rich with hymns and readings from the liturgical services of Holy Week, which Fr. Papavassiliou meditates on to draw us deeper into this most sacred week of the Church year. Many will focus on Thursday through Sunday as this is where the "joyful sorrow" reaches its pinnacle with the Crucifixion and Resurrection. That is perfectly fine. There are sections in this book that all Christians, not just Orthodox, would do well to read, particularly Chapter 9 "The Suffering Servant." Many Christians and non-Christians have the wrong idea about Christ's words, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Fr. Papavassiliou first explains that this was a cry of pain. Christ was both fully divine and fully human after all, so to imagine that He experienced no pain on the cross is absurd. We then receive the explanation of Christ's words. He was not despairing, but instead was praying or reciting Psalm 21/22. This psalm is a prophecy of His Crucifixion, but it is not a psalm of despair. Christ was not murdered, but freely sacrificed His life for our salvation.

Despite the depth and beauty of Thursday through Sunday, I felt myself being drawn more to the meditations for Monday through Wednesday. As a Roman Catholic, we don't focus on these days much in our liturgical year. They just kind of blend into Lent until Holy Thursday arrives. For that reason, it was interesting to read how the Orthodox celebrate during this time. I was truly fascinated by the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the theme of Christ as the Bridegroom. Since the Bridegroom theme is one that focuses on Christ's Second Coming, we don't usually make the connection of Lent and Second Coming. However, we must be reminded that "The Suffering Servant will come again as Judge, and so we are exhorted to repent that we may not be shut out of 'the bridal chamber' of Christ (the Kingdom of heaven)."

This is the perfect meditation book to get you through Holy Week and is a worthy companion piece to Meditations for Great Lent. Fr. Papavassiliou once again shows himself to be a brilliant mind. He conveys the beauty of the Church seasons in easy to understand language and does so without watering down the message. We can only hope that he continues this series and give us a Meditations for Pascha or Meditations for the Twelve Great Feasts. Five stars.

The Miracle of the Red Egg is another fabulous children's book from Elizabeth Crispina Johnson. Drawing on tradition, Ms. Johnson explains the story of Mary Magdalene and the first "Easter egg." For those unfamiliar with the story, it centers around Mary Magdalene attending a feast hosted by the unbelieving Emperor Tiberius. Unable to contain her joy of the Resurrected Jesus, she tells guests seated near her, and word quickly reaches the ears of the Emperor. In disgust and disbelief he proclaims, "Do you see this egg? I declare that Jesus can no more have risen from the dead, than this egg could turn blood red." To everyone's amazement, the egg did turn red.

The book is an absolute treasure. It makes a perfect and unique Easter gift for your children instead of peeps and chocolate bunnies. There are beautiful illustrations on every page with what I would describe as colored pencil sketches. Additionally, at the end of the book, your children will see icons for Pascha and Mary Magdalene. There is also the Kontakion of Mary Magdalene and the Blessing of the Eggs. So if you're sick of the Easter Bunny or just want your children to have a more religious meaning behind Easter eggs, you'll want a copy of this book. If you are interested in dying your own eggs red, be sure to check out Ancient Faith Publishing for a $6 kit to get your eggs a deep, rich color. Also, be sure to check out Ms. Johnson's other books, And Then Nicholas Sang and What Do You Hear, Angel.

These books were provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found the reviews helpful, please click here and here and hit Yes!