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Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy Hardcover – January 2, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The homespun mingles with the majestic in this affectionate account of a family's romance with an ancient form of Christianity. The author, a columnist for the Religion News Service, was a lapsed Roman Catholic who tried Hinduism before becoming a charismatic Episcopalian; her husband, Fr. Gregory, pastor of the Holy Cross Mission in Baltimore, is a former Episcopal priest. Homeschoolers who believed the Episcopal Church was "repealing the creed and condoning immorality," the couple has joined a contingent of evangelical Christians who have, in recent years, been converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green offers an intimate glimpse of this piece of the contemporary American religious landscape. Writing with charm and humor and a convert's zeal, she weaves reflections on family life, friendship and personal spirituality with descriptions of Orthodox worship and fellowship. However, she glosses over Orthodoxy's theology and ecclesiastical structure, focusing mainly on externals. As a result, lifelong Orthodox may feel this chatty depiction trivializes their faith, while outsiders may be frustrated by the lack of explanatory content.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this enlightening work, the author (Real Choices, Questar, 1994), a syndicated columnist with the Religious News Service and an occasional commentator for National Public Radio, explores the forms of worship and devotion in Orthodoxy. She takes the reader through a year of liturgical worship and social activity in the small, highly motivated congregation of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Catonsville, Maryland, where her husband, a former Episcopal priest, is the founding pastor. Holy Cross is not a typical Orthodox parish, for most of its members (like the pastor and his family) are converts from Protestantism. The author's spiritual inclination, as the reader quickly learns, is toward charismatic and spirit-filled devotion. Enthusiastic and fervent, she often concerns herself with justifying her choice of Orthodoxy, and its devotional practices (e.g., the reverencing of icons), to the Protestants who constitute her main audience. Accessible and informative for casual readers and beginning students in religion, this work is suitable for both public and academic libraries.?James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st edition (January 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060654988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060654986
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. Tidman on September 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It all began when my roommate started dating an Orthodox guy. I was intrigued. I had never heard much about the Orthodox church, never thought much about the Orthodox Church. However, since that time I have visited their church a few times, including once during Pascha (Orthodox Easter). I was still intrigued, but I had a lot of questions, and nobody to answer them. "Facing East" helped. It didn't answer all of my questions, but it gave me a place to start. I'm not going to tell you that I'm going to convert to Orthodoxy because of this book. I don't know yet what I'm supposed to do about the Orthodox church. However, for those who are looking for something that will give you more of an idea of what being Orthodox is all about without having to struggle through heavy theological texts, this book may be just what you're looking for. It's light enough to keep one's interest, yet serious enough to answer some major questions. I highly recommend this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
At last a mass market read for what was a hidden faith. This book truly captures the mysticism, beauty and depth of the oldest of Christian Faiths. It only strenghthened my already devout calling, and shows how the burgeoning conversion of disenchanted Catholics and Protesdants will slowly and quietly reshape American Christianity, while at the same time remaining steadfast to it's unchanged, timeless doctrines.
In an Era of TV preachers selling a packaged Jesus like toohepaste or any other product, dying churches due to compromising principles in the name staying "current", and the loss of depth, aestheticism, mystery and soul in an increasing selfish, commercial, "I want it now" world, this book is a must read.
It will take you back to how Christianity was once practiced, and at the same time show you it is still alive and well.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Dawson on October 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
I think this book is very important to anyone interested in the Orthodox Church. It's not the only book you'll want to read, but it supplements the other great books out there in a unique and important way.

This book is not a treatise on Thology or practice. There are a number of good books available to cover these topics. Instead, it's a personal memoir. It tells the story of a woman, a family, and a congregation as they come into their faith and tradition. There's the feel of conversation over a cup of coffee here as Mrs. Mathewes-Green talks in an engaging and humorous style about the experience of discovering a faith and building a church. It takes something that can be very intimidating - the discovery of an ancient and deep faith and tradition that is very alien to modern American culture - and makes it very human and very accessible.

If you want to get right into Theology, History, Spirituality, and Practice, Read Biship Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Way(Spirituality)," "The Orthodox Church (History)," Clark Carlton's "The Faith (Theology)" and some of the other great books available. These are all important. The most important piece of exploring Orthodoxy, however, is to "come and see." Experience the worship and life of the Church. It can be intimidating at first, however. But Mathewes-Green makes it so much more accessible. Give it a try!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Renae Gregoire on September 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I confess: when I first started reading this book, I was very turned off by all the chit-chat about the goings-on of people in the author's church and life. For instance in the first few pages, we meet "Basil," who says things like: "Ya taking inventory?" as the little church body sets about converting a rented room into an Orthodox sanctuary.

I also thought, at first, that author Mathewes-Green was treating her faith very lightly -- too lightly -- almost as if she was making fun of it. She takes us through one particular service this way: "Basil's son, Michael, then leads us in chanting forty 'Lord, have mercys,' running the words together Byzantine style: 'Lord have mercyLordhavemercyLordhavemercyLordhavemercy,' he intones."

Shortly after, we read: "At this point the booklet instructs the worshippers to make a prostration. We fold where we are standing, dropping to our knees, a process that takes longer for some than others. ... A prostration is a shuffly process. ... Another prostration here. More shuffling."

I must say, I was thinking: the audacity!

But I kept on reading. And I was shamed. Humbled. And then hooked. Author Frederica Mathewes-Green sure showed me a thing or two about faith. Hers, and the faith of those around her, shined brightly and compellingly to this seeking-heart Protestant.

There are many moments throughout the book where I was stunned by the beauty of God and of her love for Him and of the treasures within Orthodoxy. I will not share them here -- I want you to discover them for yourself, like I did! And I wound up caring very much for all the "characters" that make up her life: would that I, too, could find such a family!

All in all, I do highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason A. Gagnon on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is even better than Bishop Kallistos Ware's indispensable book, that is more commonly recommended to folks that express an interest in the EO Church.

Why is it better? Because this book walks you through a liturgical year in the life of a parish, and shows you what it means to live as an Orthodox Christian. And when it comes down to it, the praxis of the faith, what it means to live as a Christian, is going to matter more to most adherents than what did or did not happen x number of years ago in country y. Those facts shape what the Church is, and how it lives the gospel, but does it really matter to the YaYa standing there each week for the Divine Liturgy? Probably not.

You will meet the members of Holy Cross Orthodox Mission, and look in on their lives as they live out their faith. Feasts and fasts, icons and church buildings- you get an intimate, and unparalleled introduction to the faith.
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