Monday, September 22, 2014

Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing)

There are some books that earn a special place on your desk, next to your bed, on your prayer table, or wherever you keep important books in your house. Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies is one of those books. I have been in possession of this book for several months now, and I have had a hard time putting it down, let alone trying to review it. I am going to attempt now, but before I do, I'd like to give some stats on the book.  It is a 750 page hardcover, measuring approximately 9" x 6". Within this tome are 63 homilies, which range in length anywhere from five to thirteen pages. At the end of the homilies, there are over 100 pages of notes on the homilies, including Scripture references, original Greek wording, and explanations of passages in the homilies. Finally, there are three indices - 1. Index of Scriptural References, 2. Index of Names and Subjects, and 3. Index of Greek Words. The editor and translator is Dr. Christopher Veniamin, who is a disciple of Archimandrite Sophrony of Sakharov, which is awesome in and of itself.

When reading through a collection of this magnitude by such a great Church Father you have to read through it slowly and carefully, because if you try and read too quickly you will miss a ton of beauty. I found even reading slowly that I still had to go back and re-read even slower because the depth which St. Gregory Palamas dives can be overwhelming sometimes. I appreciate the way Dr. Veniamin organized this book, which is in the order the Sundays or Feast Days appear in the Church Calendar. It gives the book a nice flow to it. Unfortunately, not all of Saint Gregory Palamas' homilies were saved, so you will find that not every Sunday or major Feast Day is covered in this book. However, when the homilies in this book come on successive Sundays (like Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent), you feel your knowledge increase exponentially.

It is impossible to pick the "best" passage in a book of this nature, because each of his homilies are edifying for the soul. If I had to pick the homilies I enjoyed the most, they would be the ones on Mary, particularly her Dormition and her Entrance into the Holy of Holies. In the West, we refer to Mary's Dormition as her Immaculate Conception, and her Entrance into the Holy of Holies is a GREATLY neglected Feast Day that I think 99% of Roman Catholics don't even know about. In his homily on the Dormition, St. Gregory Palamas explains how Mary's death was life-giving and the day itself should be remembered as joyful. He also recounts the tradition of all the Apostles being gathered to her funeral, despite them being spread throughout the world. There is also great explanation given to the fact that both her body and soul were taken to Heaven. Catholics believe that too, so this is a great point of agreement for Catholics and Orthodox that could be a good start toward unity.

This book is a treasure to be not only valued and held in high regard, but also read (repeatedly), pored over, and studied. It is also clearly a book that was a labor of love for Dr. Veniamin. I already find myself visiting this book, almost on a daily basis, and I know I will continue to study it and reference it even more, particularly on the Sundays that coincide with the homilies inside. This book is worth every penny and then some. If you are a serious student of Patristics, you need this book in your library. There are also individual paperback volumes of St. Gregory Palamas' homilies available, if the price of this book is out of your budget, or you need to buy them here and there.

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