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Book Review

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev

The Mystery of Faith

An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church

ISBN 0 232 52472 6

DLT, London, 2002, 12.95

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed January 2004; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2003

This is a book from the heart of Orthodoxy, and demonstrates the continuity of the tradition throughout the centuries.  Bishop Hilarion's personal contacts with the tradition in this country date back to his studies here and he is able to quote from contemporary writers in the West as well as from the early writers.  For some people, his affinity with St Symeon the New Theologian and St Isaac of Syria will be sufficient recommendation.

The Mystery of Faith sets out to be an introduction to Christian doctrine, prayer and worship.  There are sections on the Search for Faith, God, The Trinity, Creation, The Human person, Christ, The Church, The Sacraments, Prayer, Deification, and the Life of the Age to Come.  There are quotations, sometimes lengthy, from the early Fathers,  from Orthodox writers throughout the centuries, and from modern writers such as Anthony Bloom, St Silouan and Fr Sophrony, Fr Lev Gillet and many others.  The choice is not limited to the Orthodox but includes Aeschylus and Einstein!

Some quotations which may give a taste of the book are:

'Let us glorify the Greatest of artists who has created the world in wisdom and refinement.' (St Basil)

'To know that there exists a hidden Reality which is revealed to us as the highest Beauty and to feel this - this is the core of true spirituality.' (Einstein)

'The human person forms the centre and crown of God's creation.' (Bishop Kallistos)

'The assurance of the salvation of all cannot be an assurance of faith, because there is no clear and affirmative statement about this in Holy Scripture; but it can be an assurance of hope, because, knowing God as we know him, we have the right to hope for everything.' (Metropolitan Anthony)

'It is not the way of the compassionate Maker to create rational beings in order to deliver them over mercilessly to unending affliction and punishment for things of which he knew even before they were fashioned.' (St Isaac the Syrian)

To declare an interest, the book is ably edited by a friend of our community, Jessica Rose.

Gillian Clare OSC



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