Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Herman Press)

St. Philaret of Chernigov was born in 1805 and the son of an Orthodox priest. He too became a priest and later a bishop. He was said to be extremely spiritual and humble, "an ascetic in the best traditions of Orthodox Patristic spirituality." He became a saint in the Orthodox Church in 2009. Today, I am going to tell you about his book On the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, available from St. Herman Press.

On the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is a book which contains 60 homilies given by St. Philaret of Chernigov during Lent with one bonus homily given on Pascha. The book begins like most Orthodox books with a brief biography of St. Philaret of Chernigov. I always find this feature useful, and I wish more Catholic and even secular books would adopt this practice. We then arrive at the homilies. The first one begins by telling us about the importance of Christ's Passion and the role it plays in Great Lent. He also encourages and implores his congregation to listen to the Scripture and the homilies over these forty days. The homily then transitions its main subject of Jesus foretelling His death and Judas leaving to betray Him. The next homily then takes us to the preparation of the Passover feast that Jesus will celebrate with his disciples, and the third homily is on Jesus washing the feet of His apostles. As you can see, these homilies are going in chronological order.

I noticed that a great portion of the homilies dealt with the words Jesus said, which proved to be most edifying. The homilies that most piqued my interest dealt with Pilate. I always like to read the words of greater minds when it comes to this tragic figure, as I have mixed thoughts on Pilate and his action/inaction. St. Philaret of Chernigov gives several reasons for Jesus' silence in response to Pilate's questions. For starters, Jesus didn't need to answer the questions, because Pilate already knew the answers in his heart. Secondly, by not directly answering the questions, Jesus lessened some of Pilate's guilt. It did not completely remove his guilt though, as he turned Jesus over to be crucified, if only to save political face and not upset Caesar. Part of me still pities Pilate and wonders if he ever repented and converted, but we will have to wait to find that out.

Books of homilies are some of my favorite types of books, and this one did not disappoint. The shortest homilies in this book are six pages with others being twice as long, so this won't be a book you can pick up and read for five minutes a day. You'll have to carve out a bit of time to fully appreciate the wisdom of this saint and the previous saints he draws on for inspiration. What I found most helpful in this book was that each homily had the Scripture passages with them, so you could read the Scripture and then the homily. The only drawback to this book is that there are more than 40 homilies, so you'd have to double up on reading a lot to make it through Lent. You could also, more sensibly, read it one per day and finish when you finish, as this book is good anytime, not just Lent. At $20, this book is an absolute bargain, and I highly recommend it.

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