Thursday, October 12, 2006

Eastern Orthodoxy and Frederica Mathewes-Green

Hi all:

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:

Frederica Mathewes-Green

[Click on her name in the first paragraph of this blog for her website, which lists all her works.]

So far I've finished

Facing East:

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:

  1. Standing during worship
  2. Worship being the greater part of Sunday services, with more in-depth Bible study reserved for other services
  3. Congregants being very involved throughout worship services
  4. Choir being very interactive with both priest and congregants during services
  5. Following a liturgical calendar so our whole lives revolve around Jesus's life and work
  6. Easter (they call it Pascha) being the biggest Holy Celebration of the year (rather than the Nativity)
  7. Frequent fasting followed by feasting
  8. Spiritual disciplines
  9. Spiritual direction and directors
  10. 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 ...



Sherry said...

I read Facing East last year, and I agree with all your observations. Ms. Mathewes-Green is a great writer, and she makes Orthodoxy very appealing---even to a Baptist like me.

Oh, and please come link this post at my Saturday Review of Books tomorrow.

hrh said...

Hi Sherry:

Glad you liked the book, too. Frederica makes Orthodoxy mysterious and down-to-earth at the same time. I think of her as the Lisa Whelchel of Orthodoxy!

Sure, I'll look for your Review and post a link when I find it.