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Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise Hardcover – October 1, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
I recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Athos or, for that matter, to everyone who already made the customary brief visit to the Holy Mountain as he will discover many things he probably missed, often the larger perspective of the place that is sadly lost in the brevity of an overnight stay.
It is incredibly refreshing to see a book about a monastic community published by a secular university press (Yale University) be free of the condescension and skepticism that one would expect to find. As a matter of fact, there's a general tone of reverence for the monks' traditions. It is, however, fair and balanced in the fact that he hasn't glossed over the rough patches of Athonite history.
Speake has produced a work of scholarship that is accessible to the academic and the average joe as well as to Orthodox and non-Orthodox. That is no small accomplishment.
Many people outside of Eastern Europe and the Middle East are embracing Orthodoxy today. This is happening in Asia, Africa, Western Europe, Oceania and the Americas. An intelligent, well written and accessible history (both political and spiritual) of Mount Athos in English is essential and Speake has provided us with what will surely be the standard for years to come. Athos is the center of world Orthodox monasticism and could be called "The Conscience of Orthodoxy." This book is essential for those wishing to understand Orthodoxy and particularly Orthodox monasticism.
Before recounting the traditional founding of the monastery in the 10th century, Speake gives the various legends for early monastic settlement on the peninsula, doubtful though some may be. The political workings that regulated the monastery in its early days are clearly spelt out, Byzantine though they may be. The influence of non-Greek peoples on Athos, such as the Vlachs, Kyivan Rusians, and Serbs gets a large amount of space, and Speake dispassionately reports the ethnic conflicts that have led to Slavs and Romanians sometimes finding it difficult to visit the mountain today. Finally, as the subtitle of the book indicates, Speake gives readers an idea of how miraculous the Athos' contemporary flourishing is in comparison to the moribund state of monasticism there for much of the 20th century.
Beyond the history, though, Speake's guide is also a vivid portrayal of the timeless way of life on the Holy Mountain: the existing monasteries and their ways of functioning, the relation to the church calendar, initiation procedures, the preparation of meals, and so forth. Speake even describes the baptism of his godson, an adult convert, who profited from the Holy Mountain's remarkably rigorous and spiritually constructive cathechesis.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I finally got hold of this book in February this year (2013) and managed to read it slowly and carefully through with great interest! Read morePublished on April 9, 2013 by Reijo Oksanen
I have been fascinated with Mount Athos in Greece for more than half my life.
It is in many ways stuck in a 1,000 year time warp. Read more