I've been reading Frederica Mathewes-Green's articles for years in Books & Culture, Christianity Today, and Image. (She also writes for Beliefnet.) I enjoy her work, because she writes with clarity and humor on topics that are often treated by other writers in a heavy-handed, academic manor, such as spiritual disciplines, liturgy, iconography, and Church history.
So this fall, as part of the Fall into Reading Challenge, I determined to finally read some of Mathewes-Green's full-length books on Orthodoxy and icons. You can see a short list of her books here:
[Click on her name in the first paragraph of this blog for her website, which lists all her works.]
So far I've finished
and am halfway through
At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy
I have so much to say in reaction to these introductions to Orthodoxy that I think I'll break it into two posts, since I don't like reading really long posts myself.
First, the good.
Mathewes-Green continues to amuse me with her humorous and self-deprecating writing style. She presents liturgies and doxologies wrapped in homespun musings that demonstrate what a 21st century life in Orthodoxy looks like.
I imagine her books are recommended often by Orthodox priests in response to people who visit their churches and want to know more. Her books give a vivid picture of Orthodoxy, so those who read them will know what they are getting into.
Regarding the Orthodox Church as presented by Mathewes-Green, here's what I admire and agree with:
- Standing during worship
- Worship being the greater part of Sunday services, with more in-depth Bible study reserved for other services
- Congregants being very involved throughout worship services
- Choir being very interactive with both priest and congregants during services
- Following a liturgical calendar so our whole lives revolve around Jesus's life and work
- Easter (they call it Pascha) being the biggest Holy Celebration of the year (rather than the Nativity)
- Frequent fasting followed by feasting
- Spiritual disciplines
- Spiritual direction and directors
- The Jesus Prayer spoken as a meditation in rhythm with one's heartbeat. I've started doing this and it's wonderful. Except I say "Lord. Jesus. Christ. Son of God. Have mercy. On me. A Sinner." in imitation of the penitent's prayer that Jesus praised over the Pharisee's prayer.
Okay, I'll stop with 10. I may think of more, but these all strike me as wonderful aspects of the Orthodox faith which sing in my being as I read about them.
There are other aspects, however, that give me pause about actually becoming an Orthodox believer myself.
I'll save those for next time ...