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Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy Paperback – February 28, 2006
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Elegantly and honestly written. Deeply personal. Intriguing at times, and tedious at times.
The beauty, ritual, tradition, liturgy, and reverence of Eastern Orthodoxy are appealing to me. I applaud the fact they take their faith and worship seriously, and that their church practices don't resemble a cruise ship entertainment calendar the way they do in a lot of modern American Protestant churches. The Eastern church respects and maintains the "old ways", and makes no apologies for it. You have to like that. At least I do.
Yet, while I think there is definitely something that your contemporary, "anything goes", change on a whim Protestant churches could learn from here, there is just a bit too much orchestration and mapping out of virtually every aspect of daily Eastern Orthodox church life for my tastes. It is too rigid, ornate, controlled, and tightly choreographed for me.
Nonetheless, there is much to admire about Eastern Orthodoxy. The strict structure they operate by - while a bit over the top in many respects - is still somewhat refreshing and honorable when compared to the Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip flops style of overtly casual church worship so prevalent in our culture today.
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.
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. It will take you inside the life of Orthodox believers -- through their services, fasts, feasts, faith, fathers...in a way I have not yet seen another book do. This may be as close as you can come to "being there" without actually having attended Orthodox services.