Book Reviews

God With Us: Critical Issues in Christian Life and Faith

by Fr. John Breck

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

285 pp, ISBN 0-88141-252-X

Fr. John’s book begins with an evocative description of his first experience of being inside an Orthodox Church as a young theological student visiting Paris. Nearly 40 years later, he has become a re­spected Orthodox theologian. He is currently Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Ethics at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris.

His latest book is a collection of many columns he has written in the past several years.

The first section focuses on moral issues: When does human life begin? How can a person be so pro-life about an unborn child and so eager to see a person on death row be hurried to his grave? Do embryos have souls? What do we say to those who regard suicide as a human right? Do we really want a world in which killing children with Downs Syndrome is regarded as an act of mercy? Is pornography socially destructive? He also ad­dresses such issues as clergy burnout, the link between stress and lack of sleep and fear of losing one’s memory.

In the book’s second section, we meet Fr. John as an interpreter of scripture and liturgy. Again his short essays are often responses to questions: Are the words of Jesus authentic? How are we to read the scriptures? Who wrote the Bible? Why the incarnation? Is there room for innovation in painting icons? How could Jesus suffer temptation?

Finally there is a section of reflection on various topical issues: the events of September 11, the mystery of suffering, the experience of God’s seeming absence, the impact of secularism on theological discourse. He also addresses such issued as weeping icons and bishops who recite the Creed but do not believe it.

Fr. John has a rare gift to be clear without over-simplifying and to be a knowledgeable person who is haunted by what he doesn’t know.

The Bond of Unity

Syndesmos – Fifty years of work for Orthodox youth and unity

Hildo Bos, editor

€15 plus postage; 250 pages

orders via: www.syndesmos.org

or contact the Syndesmos secretariat:

syndesmos@syndesmos.org

This sturdy volume brings together some of the best writing to have been generated by Syndesmos, the pan-Orthodox youth move­ment that this year is celebrating its 50th birthday. Syndesmos has been one of the main areas of contact linking Orthodox jurisdictions and a factor in stimulating reflection on many issues that have troubled or challenged the Church.

The authors include Fr. John Meyen­dorff, Metropolitan George Khodre, Bishop Kallistos of Dio­kleia, Fr. Heikki Huttunen, Archimandrite Lev Gillet, Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Paul Evdoki­mov, James Cou­chell (now Bishop Dimi­trios), Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, and Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana. The book also include a photos section.

Steps of Transformation

An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps

by Fr. Meletios Webber

Conciliar Press: $14.95

ISBN 1-888212-63-2

For those suffering from an addiction or trying to better understand and befriend those so afflicted, Fr. Meletios Webber’s book is required reading. For many readers it may prove quite literally a life-savi­ng resource.

The twelve-step program that was developed for those struggling to overcome alcoholism has gradually found its way to many people with other dependencies and has also been found useful simply as a structure for spiritual growth.

While many books have been written on the twelve steps, this is the first to consider them from an Orthodox Christian perspective.

“Here is a book that will help many who, so far as they know, are not themselves alcoholics,” writes Bishop Kallistos is his introduction, “for there are numerous kinds of addictions besides addiction to alcohol, and who among us can claim to be free from all addictive weakness? This is a humble and realistic book, that bears witness to the immense patience and mercy of God. Let us read it in the spirit of humility and self-questioning.”

Three Treatises on the Divine Images

by St. John of Damascus

translation: Andrew Louth

163 pp, ISBN 0-88141-245-X

On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

by St. Maximus the Confessor

translation: Paul Blowers & Robert Wilken

183 pp, ISBN 0-88141-249-X

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has a long-running project of making available fresh and reliable translations of patristic texts in compact, inexpensive editions that are useful to scholars yet accessible to lay readers who want to better know the great voices of Orthodox theology.

The latest additions to this excellent series includes a new edition of the three essays on icons by St. John of Damascus, written in the eighth century during the era of iconoclasm from a monastery near the Dead Sea. St. John’s defense of icons remains the best reply to those who regard veneration of icons as idolatry. The lucid translation as well as the introduction is the work of Andrew Louth, professor of Patristics and Byzantine Stud­ies at the University of Durham.

With interest in St. Maximus on the rise not only within the Orthodox Church but also among other Christians, this edition of some of the saint’s most important work will surely be welcomed by many in the English-speaking world. “This is the ideal volume,” comments Andrew Louth, “from which to learn first hand the depth and insight of St. Maximus’ cosmic vision and grasp of the complexities of human nature and consequences of the renewal of all things in Christ.”