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Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today Hardcover – March 18, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Image; First Edition edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385518137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385518130
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Although the 16-year reign of the patriarch of the Orthodox Christian communion has largely gone unnoticed in America, this new book should serve to raise his profile considerably. Like some of his Western counterparts, the popes of Rome, Bartholomew has used his position to speak out against the ravages of the global economy and has been an eloquent advocate for environmentalism. In his new book, he mines the mystical theology of Orthodoxy, which relies heavily on saints like Gregory of Nyssa and the New Testament, to paint a picture of a world transformed and renewed by Christianity. The chief principles that underlie this world are prayerfulness, asceticism and humility. Bartholomew understands the cultivation of virtue as having both personal and global dimensions, as when he writes, [L]et us treat everything with proper love and utmost care. Only in this way shall we secure a physical environment where life for the coming generations of humankind will be healthy and happy. As a citizen of Turkey, Bartholomew has also been committed to Christian-Jewish-Muslim dialogue and is believable when he says, [I]t is not religious differences that create conflict between human beings. More than anything else, this book shows that all who are committed to social justice have a friend in the Orthodox patriarch. (Mar. 18)
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Review

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ENCOUNTERING THE MYSTERY

"Orthodoxy is neither just a theological system nor just a set of liturgical disciplines; it is in the most serious and full sense wisdom – a perspective of Spirit-led insight that transforms both vision and action. In this exceptional book, Patriarch Bartholomew inducts his readers into this wisdom and demonstrates with authority how it bears upon a range of global issues. There is nothing archaic here, though plenty that is traditional; nothing merely fashionable, though plenty that is sharply contemporary. It is a treasury of sane and generous theology, from one of the truly great figures in the Christian world today."
—Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

“The Ecumenical Patriarch is renowned as a bridge-builder. Encountering the Mystery is a bridge in book form, and a majestic structure it is. The text first introduces readers to the tenets and values of the Orthodox Church, then prompts us to think deeply about the nature of the world in which we live, then summons us to act on behalf of all creation. The volume is nothing less than a work of art, informed by faith, and infused with wisdom and love.”
—Madeleine K. Albright


“Although the 16-year reign of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian communion has largely gone unnoticed in America, this new book should serve to raise his profile considerably . . . Bartholomew has used his position to speak out against the ravages of the global economy and has been an eloquent advocate for environmentalism. In his new book, he mines the mystical theology of Orthodoxy . . . to paint a picture of a world transformed and renewed by Christianity. More than anything else, this book shows that all who are committed to social justice have a friend in the Orthodox Patriarch.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is an extraordinary book, for Patriarch Bartholomew is a quite exceptional human being. He has a deep understanding of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and works tirelessly to bridge their worlds. He is concerned for the future of unborn generations, linking poverty, the dark side of globalization, and the unsustainable lifestyles of the elite with environmental degradation. He is an extraordinarily wise global leader, using the gift of his life to make this a better world for all, knowing God in all, and urging us to do the same.”
—Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace www.janegoodall.org www.rootsandshoots.org

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Customer Reviews

He did mention that a total transformation of attitude is needed in humanity today in order to address our most serious global problems.
John
Anyone on any side of the issue of abortion, the death penalty or other related issues would feel comfortable reading this and keeping their current position.
Florida Dad
Anyway, I would recommend this book to people who are considering the Orthodox church, as well as the books by Kallistos Ware and Frederica Mathewes-Green.
Sabrina M. Messenger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on March 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, known in some parts of the world as "the Green Patriarch" for his outspoken activism on behalf of the environment, steps up onto the world stage in a new way for Great Lent 2008. His eloquent voice is embodied in his first-ever book for a global audience, "Encountering The Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today."

Having traveled in eastern Europe myself in 1990, as a journalist for Knight-Ridder Newspapers chronicling the tumbling of former Communist regimes, I understand that this is, indeed, a rare moment in world history. Now, nearly a decade into this new century, Orthodox leaders and congregations finally have had a good chance to develop their ministries without fear of imprisonment or, even worse -- physical violence and death. In several areas of Eastern Europe in 1990, I had a chance to meet Christian leaders emerging, scarred but hopeful, after years of imprisonment and, in some cases, torture. This journey of restoration continues to this day in many Eastern European countries.

Bartholomew himself was not threatened with imprisonment in his part of the world -- but he understands that, even though nearly two decades have passed since revolutions swept across Orthodox nations -- we still are in an age of Christian restoration in these regions.

Now, a word of warning is in order: There is a whole lot of background information that the patriarch's editors have chosen to lay before us as a kind of crash course in Orthodoxy 101, embodied in a roughly 70-page prelude that appears in the pages before Bartholomew's voice finally is able to reach its full eloquence.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on July 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For many Christians in the west, both Protestant and Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Christianity remains largely unknown, overlooked and even ignored. Orthodox believers constitute a family of fifteen self-governing and "autocephalous" churches that are united in liturgy and doctrine but administratively independent. By some estimates they number 300 million adherents. Whereas Rome fell in the late fifth century, Byzantine Christianity flourished for a millennium, from the time when Constantine established "New Rome" in what is today Istanbul until its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. In the United States, since the late 1980s, a steady trickle of mainly Protestant evangelicals have converted to Orthodox.

It's hard to imagine a better guide to the Orthodox than Bartholomew I (b. 1940). In 1991 he was elected as the Archbishop of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch who serves as the spiritual leader over the entire Orthodox communion. In Orthodox parlance he has no juridical authority but he enjoys a primacy of honor as the "first among equals." His personal background and sustained efforts over the last twenty years have earned him a reputation as an outspoken advocate of reconciliation among world religions, ecumenicity among Christians, and care for the environment. He's a Turkish citizen of Greek heritage, situated at the geographic, cultural, political and religious crossroads of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and he's fluent in eight languages.

Bartholomew begins with a general introduction to Orthodox history, theology, and worship. He explains the aesthetic elements of Orthodoxy as seen in its architecture, icons and liturgy. He describes the influential role of monastic spirituality and the sacraments.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mark C. Wedge on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an Orthodox Christian, I found the crash course on Orthodoxy primarily for those not of the faith; a bit simplistic in explanations but a good general overall view. What is radical are his challenges to the world and his Church on equivilating environmental issues with sin. His Holiness also takes on Globalism, removing the benefits from Western eyes and placing it in terms of the entire world and how the rich nations of the West effect the rest of the world through consumerism. I dare say if Priests and Pastors in America gave a sermon on what Bartholomew has written, they would become unpopular by many for he challenges western values with regards to the impact our policies have on the rest of the world.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. Christ on July 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My first two fears was that this was either some narrow esoteric treatise in theology-speak; or it was going to be some sort of simplistic catechism which are legion. It was neither. Patriarch Bartholomew gets down to the spiritual essence of what the Church is about. The title contains the clue: mystery. Very often people want to understand God in concrete terms they can categorize and (unfortunately) manipulate. Throughout history God has been revealed to various persons in a multitude of ways. Much, but not all, has been summarized in the Bible which is the written record of those faith experiences. However, God is so transcendent and beyond anything that we conceive that in humility we have to realize that we haven't even scratched the surface in understanding God. Much of theological work has been to make God understandable in human terms. Some of that is very helpful, some is not. Ultimately, the Patriarch is trying to lead us to the idea that God is not a concept to be understood rationally, but a being with whom we are called into a personal relationship. A theologian is not someone who studies about God, but is a person who encounters God in a prayerful relationship. God cannot be encapsulated fully in creeds. God must be experienced and Bartholomew provides the reader with the perspective of a two thousand year old tradition. A perspective that regretfully many people of Western Christian traditions in America have not been exposed.
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