Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Ancient Faith Prayer Book and The Epistle to the Hebrews (Ancient Faith Publishing)

The Ancient Faith Prayer Book is compiled and edited by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou, author of several other Ancient Faith titles including Meditations for Advent, Meditations for Great Lent, Meditations for Holy Week, and my favorite Thirty Steps to Heaven. The book begins with instructions from St. Theophan the Recluse on how to use this prayer book. At the end of the book is a calendar of Feasts and Fasts, as well as dates for Pascha for the next decade. In between these useful "bookends" is the spiritual meat of the text - the Prayers.

The prayers are a blend of ancient prayers and contemporary editions. You will recognize the Trisagion Prayers, Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, Prayers of Thanksgiving, Prayers Before and After Communion, and the Odes. There are also prayers Before and After Work and Before Using the Internet. There are a lot of prayers related to conception, pregnancy, labor, and miscarriages, which is understandable as married couples want (rightfully so) children. The most interesting section to me was St. Chrysostom's Prayers for Every Hour of the Day. I'm not sure I will be able to, but praying these prayers is a goal I would like to set for myself. This is a very useful prayer book for Orthodox, especially, but for others as well. I personally plan to use this prayer book going forward and recommend you pick up a copy and do likewise. Five stars.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the latest and perhaps last volume of The Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series. The format stays true to previous volumes in that it includes both Biblical text and commentary from Fr. Lawrence Farley. I have been awaiting this volume for a while, because this epistle was always a bit confusing to me for two reasons. Number One, people often misattribute its authorship to St. Paul, and it bugged me that we didn't know who wrote it. Secondly, it was written to a Jewish audience of that time, and since I am not Jewish some of the finer details of this epistle puzzled me.

Fr. Farley however masterfully works his way through this epistle, which explains to us the importance of Jesus. We (and the Hebrew people back then) learn that Jesus is superior to the angels; greater than Moses; like Melchizedek; that He is High Priest of all of Heaven and Earth; and that we must continue to follow Him, even in times of persecution. My favorite part in these books is always the excurses (detailed side notes). Here, Fr. Farley talks about subjects such as the sacrifice of Christ and the Eucharist. Abolition of the Old Covenant, and the Wrath of God. This volume did not disappoint. I feel more knowledgeable having read it, and am glad I received it to complete my collection of this series. I hope that Fr. Farley will consider a new series for the Old Testament, but understand if he will not. A great book and a perfect commentary for anyone, not just the scholarly. Five stars.

If you are looking to deepen your prayer life and your knowledge of Scriptures, you'll want to pick up these two books, as well as some more volumes of The Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series. You won't be disappointed! It is also about that time to order your calendars for 2015, so check out their Icon Calendar, which features a dozen stunning icons of the Theotokos. These books were provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing.