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Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece Paperback – August 29, 2011
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About the Author
Herman A. Middleton received his doctorate in theology from the University of Thessalonica, Greece. This book is the fruit of his visits to monasteries and elders while in Greece.
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As the previous reviewer noted, today there exists a great spread of false spirituality, an outpouring of venemous worldviews and practices which promote the most distorted ideas of "spirituality" and "mysticism." The nihilistic worldview has entered the "spiritual" lives of many who seek anything which makes one "feel good" or has an inkling of transcendant "powers." There is a great problem, however, if relativism in matters of faith turns out to be false, if there is a Truth of which the fulness can be found in this life. Basically, if there is Truth, then not all methods of "spirituality" can be legitimate. I believe that the fulness of truth can be experienced, and it exists in Orthodoxy; no better proof of this exists than within the saints.
This book introduces the reader to the 8 modern-day Greek elders listed above, providing a short life followed by their counsels. The lives reveal the Gospel being truly lived, and their teachings offer interpretations of the Gospel message and what it means for man today in counsels wholly consistent with the teachings of the Church Fathers and apostles. For modern man in a world replete with the sickness of sin, this book is like thousands of dollars worth of medicine and hundreds of hours of psychological counselling in just over a couple hundred pages (for those willing to accept it). This book is perfect for those searching for the Faith, those who want to learn about Orthodoxy, or those who want to become acquainted with some modern-day saints. Most of all, however, it is perfect for someone searching for truth and meaning in today's world. If one wants to know where the True Church promised by Christ lies, this book is a great place to start in order to show the unbroken connection between the Orthodox saints of today and the apostles who knew the Person of Christ.
Along with the lives and counsels, the book has a great introduction, is bound well, includes a few very nice pictures, and is presented, overall, in a very attractive manner.
So why, one may ask, four stars instead of five? Perhaps this is a bit of a personal complaint rather than one that would be shared by many others, but I would have liked to see the book be about 3 times in length, as the lives of the elders are not nearly detailed enough. I have read many longer lives of these as-of-yet unglorified saints, and I would have liked to see more stories of their miracles and struggles - both of which are so inspiring and awe-inducing - in the lives in this book. In a way, the short lives here are good for many as they may inspire readers to search elsewhere for longer, more detailed and intimate lives (which I suggest doing). I suppose, then, that I would give a four and a half star rating.
Either way, buy it, read it, and love it. This is the type of book the world needs.
(side note: I mentioned briefly how well the book is bound above; for some, this will seem an odd comment after seeing the book - it is not bad, just nothing special. The reason is that the edition I own is bound with a heavier cover with flaps that fold in. Later editions are bound just like most other paperbacks. Not that important, but I thought I'd mention it...)