Christian Peace and Nonviolence:
A Documentary History
edited by Michael Long
Orbis, 400 pages, $40
Christian Peace and Nonviolence is a major addition to any Christian library or, for that matter, to the library of anyone with a serious interest in war and peace. Michael Long has assembled a comprehensive survey of Christian voices for peace from the early days of the Church into the present day.
The book’s structure is historical, beginning with a selection of Old and New Testament scriptures on peace. Authors from the early Church include Justin Martyr, Athenagorus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Arnobius, Lactantius, Basil the Great, Pelagicus, Paulinus of Nola, Benedict of Nursia and Francis of Assisi. There are also extracts from the biography of Martin of Tours and accounts of the martyrdoms of Maximilian, Marcellus, and the brothers Boris and Gleb.
Erasmus of Rotterdam is included in a section of writings from the Reformation period. Among those represented in the 1600-1900 section that follows are George Fox, William Penn, John Woolman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams and Leo Tolstoy.
The book’s twentieth-century authors include Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Pope John XXIII, Oscar Romero, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, A.J. Muste and André Trocmé. The anthology concludes with twelve entries written in the past eleven years.
While the collection has a distinctly western orientation (the only Orthodox authors in the post-Schism sections are Fr. John McGuckin and myself), it belongs in the library of any Christian, Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. The documents demonstrate that a nonviolent way of life and struggle is not a footnote to Christian history but, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, “lies at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ.” He predicts this book “will become an essential teaching resource not only for thinking through nonviolence but also for understanding the very character of Christianity.”
Note: In September, the Orthodox Research Institute is publishing a book with an Eastern Christian tilt that will be a useful companion volume: For the Peace from Above: an Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism. The editors are Fr. Hildo Bos and myself.
– Jim Forest
A Life Together:
Wisdom of Community from the Christian East
by Bishop Seraphim Sigrist
Paraclete Press, 200 pages, $16
An alternative title for this book might have been “Gatherings,” because Bishop Seraphim uncovers the experience of unity that became evident in Father Alexander Men’s “gatherings” during the last two decades of the Soviet era. The preface to the book explores the history of these “gatherings,” all the while reflecting on the gossamer and yet robust Orthodox Church transformed by the Holy Spirit. For example, the author quotes a paradox of Fr. Alexander: “Christianity is the religion of death, instantly transformed into life.” Readers will appreciate how the author employs quotes from Orthodox and non-Orthodox sources as he explores “Sobornost.” This book is ideal for discussion groups, inspiration for sermons, and contemplative reflection. If you are troubled by the lack of compassion in yourself and others, this book offers a way to increase compassion. But its way will prove both dangerous and joyful.
– Ioannis Freeman
When Hearts Become Flame:
An Eastern Orthodox Approach to the dia-Logos of Pastoral Counseling
by Stephen Muse
Orthodox Research Institute, 342 pages, $20
This book is arguably one of the best on pastoral counseling to have been published in the past twenty years. The author discusses how pastoral counselors must practice personal readiness in order to receive what God manifests in encounters between counselor and client. Muse follows the ancient ascetical path of Orthodox Christian therapy to teach and disclose a state of personal readiness, which leads toward prayerful listening not only to the “other,”or client, but also attention to subtle windows into heaven that appear in sessions. Counseling sessions become holy icons.
But this book has an audience far wider than pastoral counselors, because it is not so much a “how-to-do” text as it engages every reader in basic questions. Do I listen well? How do I discern the will of God when helping others? What is important in my encounters with someone? Do I pay attention when others speak to me? What is healing?
Make this a text to share among your friends. Give a copy to your favorite priests.
– Ioannis Freeman
Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition
by Fr. John Oliver
Paraclete Press, 129 pages, $16
An ancient yet contemporary voice from the Orthodox Church’s view of the Holy Spirit is present in this book. Fr. John discusses the invitatory prayer of the Holy Spirit, “O heavenly King,” according to its nine parts in this long-awaited text. Along with a discussion of each part, such as “the Spirit of Truth” and “Giver of life,” the author illustrates the mystical connection between the Spirit and ordinary ways that the Holy Spirit creates, corrects and refreshes the Creation. “He restores … but also chastens, and both restoration and chastening are proofs of His love.”
Fr. John presents the Holy Spirit in a familiar yet fresh way. For example, “When conflict with other persons brings our impurities to the surface, those persons become angels of healing.” What the Spirit fashions is a therapeutic milieu inside the Church, which provides a place for “healing” of effects from sin to occur, instead of symptom “relief.”
Of special interest is the author’s watchful approach to differentiating symptom relief from healing. Truth—“the Spirit of truth”— serves as the foundation for this difference, whereby relief is a short-lived outcome from engaging “half truths.” Half truths are thoughts that the devil “whispers into our minds,” which often bring initial relief from suffering followed by emotional extremes such as despair or smug pride.
– Ioannis Freeman
• I Came that They May Have Life
• Hagia Sophia: Light of our History
• Beauty will Save the World
• From Heraclitus to Elder Porphyrios
These four booklets are by Archimandrite Vaileios, abbot of Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos.
The emphases of the first include the characteristics and actions of divine love, the patience of Christ as He knocks at the door to our hearts, and the radical way that the Lord of life offers healing to everyone. The author’s view of divine love provides a foundation for the entire series: “Love is the manner of teaching the truth that frees man.” Indeed, as stated in the last volume, “the Lord did not come to teach truths of a theoretical and juridical nature or to offer justification in worldly terms.”
Hagia Sophia poses an allegory on the “loss” of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople to the Ottoman Muslims. The allegory is also a paradox, for “in the Church, it is a proven fact that when you lose something important and the loss pains you, you are offered something more precious … which you would not have gained without the earlier loss.”
In the third booklet the ultimate beauty is seen as selfless service to others. “Exertion leaves you refreshed. You love the humble. You feel a bond of brotherhood with those who suffer.” The author sees such beauty in the service of Elder Porphyrios (1906-1991).
The fourth text, explores the theme of real poverty of spirit. Poverty of spirit identifies all that passes away, and adheres to the “gold” that lasts. He depicts Heraclitus as unconcerned with fame or rebukes from others. He presents Elder Porphyrios as “a divine child playing.” Confessing to him was “like holding a conversation, because he helped you to say what you were thinking.”
The booklets can be ordered via the publisher’s web site: www.alexanderpress.com . Each costs $6 to $8 (Canadian).
– Ioannis Freeman
❖ IN COMMUNION / issue 61 / July 2011