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At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy

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Eastern Orthodoxy is one of North America's fastest-growing faiths, yet relatively few people understand this non-Western form of Christianity. This contemporary tour is conducted by a distinctive religious voice: a commentator for NPR's "All Things Considered". Eastern Orthodoxy is one of North America's fastest-growing faiths, yet relatively few people understand this non-Western form of Christianity. This contemporary tour is conducted by a distinctive religious voice: a commentator for NPR's "All Things Considered".


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Eastern Orthodoxy is one of North America's fastest-growing faiths, yet relatively few people understand this non-Western form of Christianity. This contemporary tour is conducted by a distinctive religious voice: a commentator for NPR's "All Things Considered". Eastern Orthodoxy is one of North America's fastest-growing faiths, yet relatively few people understand this non-Western form of Christianity. This contemporary tour is conducted by a distinctive religious voice: a commentator for NPR's "All Things Considered".

30 review for At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    I'm on a roll these days getting books by Frederica Mathewes-Green from the library. Frederica is an interesting woman. Raised nominally Roman Catholic, she became angry in her teens at the "skip Mass and go to hell" message that was communicated to her, and promptly became an atheist. She wandered in the garden of "design your own religion" until she became a Hindu. Not really because she thought Hinduism was true, but because it was so "other" that it was attractive to her and she was a rebell I'm on a roll these days getting books by Frederica Mathewes-Green from the library. Frederica is an interesting woman. Raised nominally Roman Catholic, she became angry in her teens at the "skip Mass and go to hell" message that was communicated to her, and promptly became an atheist. She wandered in the garden of "design your own religion" until she became a Hindu. Not really because she thought Hinduism was true, but because it was so "other" that it was attractive to her and she was a rebellious hippy who liked being on the fringe. When she and her husband were on their honeymoon in Europe, they visited a church and she had heard Jesus speaking to her while she looked at a statue of Jesus with his hands held out. That began her journey into accepting Christianity as true. Her husband became a Christian also after a philosophy teacher had their class read one of the Gospel's and he realized that Jesus spoke with authority! Eventually their Christian journey brought them to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Her husband is now an Orthodox Priest, and she is the wife of an Orthodox Priest! In the Orthodox Church, this "father and mother" model provides balance to the church in allowing not just a father figure, but also to be nurtured by a mother. She even has a special title "little mother" which is translated from Arabic or Russian or Greek, depending on what type of Orthodox church you are visiting. Frederica's books are educational to Western Christians who do not understand much history or mystery from an Orthodox Christian perspective. I will admit I am one of those. This particular book is taken as kind of a "walk thru the Orthodox services" at different times of the year. These chapters are interspersed with chapters of Frederica and her family traveling, shopping in thrift stores, or events where she is attending an event to interview someone or report on the event (a Christian music festival, a Christian women's outreach to women in prison who have had abortions, etc.). Chronologically, this book takes place after her book "Facing East", which details her conversion and her family's path to Orthodoxy in more detail. Several sections that were very interesting and helpful to me were these: One portion of the book explains the "Forgiveness Vespers" that occurs at the beginning of Lent. The congregation stands in a circle in the church. (Orthodox ALWAYS stand! ) The priest goes to a member, asks forgiveness from that person and then receives it. That person then asks forgiveness from the priest, and receives it. Then each of them turn to the next person beside them, and continue this. By the end, every person in the church has asked forgiveness from every other person in the church and received it.... and has also given forgiveness to every other person in the church. WOW! I admit that this must be a very powerful service. What a wonderful habit of reconciliation and forgiveness! What roots of bitterness that must be literally dug up and thrown away in these services?! The section on the "filioque" portion of the Nicene Creed has helpfully informative in good ways. The original Nicene Creed was agreed upon in 325 at the first of the seven ecumenical councils. The "and the Son" portion was not in that original creed. Pope Benedict in 1024 added the filioque clause to the creed, without benefit of an ecumenical council, but because of his authority as pope. Orthodox disagree with the phrase being added to a creed that had been agreed upon in ecumenical councils hundreds of years before, and disagreed with the Pope exerting authority as an individual bishop, one among many. I had not realized the length of time from the codifying of the written Nicene Creed and the declaration of the Pope, but I find myself falling on the side of the Orthodox in this. St. Vincent in 434 AD said that church doctrine, like the human body, develops over time while still keeping its original identity: "In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all." From the beginning of the church, the "filioque" has not been professed, and the superiority of one bishop over another has not been their either. Another interesting section was on a married priesthood, which of course Orthodox allow but Roman Catholics do not. Again as St. Vincent said, "that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all." Obviously a celibate priesthood has NOT been "believed everywhere, always, by all". Even in Old Testament Israel, the priesthood was certainly not celibate, but was an entire tribe, the Levites. In this regard, I find myself falling also on the side with the Orthodox. Even the apostle Peter was married. The section on icons was thought-provoking. Icons were created primarily for people who were not literate. Now that we are literate, do we need to continue to act as though we are not literate? I understand that involving all the senses is important, but icons seem to be to the illiterate what the Bible is to the literate. Is the emphasis on icons over knowing the Bible a proper emphasis to have, I wonder? In speaking of the church service, Frederica says that the church service is for worship and that study is left to times outside of the church service -- Sunday school or Bible studies, I assume. However the idea struck me that the study of the Bible by lay people is not an Orthodox habit (nor a Roman Catholic habit), but is a result of having the Bible translated and made available in your own language...... a very wonderful result of the Protestant Reformation! So while enjoying the ancient worship, I think it would be appropriate to appreciate also the blessing of having the very words of God as recorded in the Bible too. I found the book very worthwhile. Frederica writes with great skill, and even has a great section at the back of the book called "First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I wish I'd known". I plan to go through her "for further reading" section and try to pick up a few of the books she recommends.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I love love love Mathewes-Green's writing. She is wise and humble and funny, and most of all real. I would read anything she wrote, even if it was about paperclips or the color orange. I love love love Mathewes-Green's writing. She is wise and humble and funny, and most of all real. I would read anything she wrote, even if it was about paperclips or the color orange.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Isaiah the Ox

    Goos book. The writing style takes a little while to get used too... sometimes she's trying too hard to sell an analogy in my oppinion. I liked how simply and shortly she explained so many different Orthodox topics, and then would just move on, when most authors would spend chapters on them. I didn't really get the connections of the "real-life chapters," but I guess they were just stories to introduce different truths she wanted to discuss. I enjoyed the Orthodox perspective, and learned many t Goos book. The writing style takes a little while to get used too... sometimes she's trying too hard to sell an analogy in my oppinion. I liked how simply and shortly she explained so many different Orthodox topics, and then would just move on, when most authors would spend chapters on them. I didn't really get the connections of the "real-life chapters," but I guess they were just stories to introduce different truths she wanted to discuss. I enjoyed the Orthodox perspective, and learned many things i didn't know. I also appreciated Matthews-Green's balanced views on more controversial issues like abortion and an all-male Priesthood. Definitely worth reading- pushing past writing style if it bugs you like it did me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily Mishler

    An interesting and informative look into the Orthodox faith. For someone unfamiliar with Eastern Christianity it was a good introduction to the liturgy and certain aspects of the faith and how different wings of Christianity developed and diverged. There were some parts that definitely grated a bit from a feminist point of view but not so much that I didn't gain anything from the book as a whole. An interesting and informative look into the Orthodox faith. For someone unfamiliar with Eastern Christianity it was a good introduction to the liturgy and certain aspects of the faith and how different wings of Christianity developed and diverged. There were some parts that definitely grated a bit from a feminist point of view but not so much that I didn't gain anything from the book as a whole.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    This is one of the best spiritual autobiographies I have ever read. The author takes us on her personal religious journey while explaining concepts of the faith she chose, in this case the Eastern Orthodox Church. She talks about icons with a friend who makes them, she goes into liturgy, the ancient saints and the spirituality of Orthodoxy. I learned a lot!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hank Beyer

    Very informative and very well written. Explores the Orthodox faith both in its liturgy and history. Some biography as well. Easy reading like a Bill Bryson book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    NormaCenva

    Great re-reading. Always a joy!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This is a warmly written and easily read book about Eastern Orthodoxy and the Divine Liturgy. I say “warmly” because Khouria (priest’s wife) Frederica has a very good voice for reading and especially her own work. Her voice kind of wraps you in a blanket and gives you a cup of tea and let’s you know, it’s going to be okay. I read a hard copy of this book several years ago, just before my own conversion to Orthodoxy and found it to be a bit syrupy because I could not imagine having that much love This is a warmly written and easily read book about Eastern Orthodoxy and the Divine Liturgy. I say “warmly” because Khouria (priest’s wife) Frederica has a very good voice for reading and especially her own work. Her voice kind of wraps you in a blanket and gives you a cup of tea and let’s you know, it’s going to be okay. I read a hard copy of this book several years ago, just before my own conversion to Orthodoxy and found it to be a bit syrupy because I could not imagine having that much love and adoration for the elements of a church service. Church is whole, right? Why break it down like this? But now, ten years after my conversion, I get it. The Divine Liturgy is not “a church service” and the individual components of the liturgy are what make it whole. Separated, the components are like the coal in the bucket next to the stove: “Dusty, dark, cold, and hard, coal has no beauty of its own…” but when the Holy Spirit comes down on those individual parts, “it is consummated by fire it is beautiful and becomes what it was designed to be.” This is what the Divine Liturgy is. I do recommend this book to newcomers to the Divine Liturgy and to folks who have been around for a while. For the newcomer, you will find a description of what is happening in each part of the liturgy, what the priest is doing, what the words he says mean, and how they come together. People who have been part of the Church for a while will have a new understanding as to the different components of the liturgy and be able to see how they blend to form the beautiful whole of it. Definitely worth reading. Truly worth hearing. 4.5 Stars Full Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to do this, AFP!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    ON THE CORNER OF EAST AND NOW is a lightweight introduction to Orthodox Christianity and its worldview by Federica Mathewes-Green, wife of an Orthodox priest and noted commentator on contemporary religious issues. The book is geared toward non-Orthodox readers interested in the Orthodox faith who would be intimidated by more substantial introductions such as Bishop Kallistos Ware's classic THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. The book is built around the Sunday-morning service. Each chapter begins by examining a ON THE CORNER OF EAST AND NOW is a lightweight introduction to Orthodox Christianity and its worldview by Federica Mathewes-Green, wife of an Orthodox priest and noted commentator on contemporary religious issues. The book is geared toward non-Orthodox readers interested in the Orthodox faith who would be intimidated by more substantial introductions such as Bishop Kallistos Ware's classic THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. The book is built around the Sunday-morning service. Each chapter begins by examining a portion of Matins or the Divine Liturgy before branching off into other topics. Some of the facets of Orthodoxy that Mrs Mathewes-Green discusses include the organization of the Church, the settlement of the ancient disputes in ecumenical councils, the use of icons, and the role of Mary. She also talks about other current religious trends, such as evangelical Protestant megachurch worship, Christian death metal bands, proselytizing, etc. A large part of the book is about life in her own parish, with characters readers may know from her earlier book FACING EAST. The narrative has a somewhat "feminine" tone to it with its emphasis on small-town (or, rather, small-parish) life, like the novels of Miss Read. While some of Mathewes-Green's observations are interesting, and she is generally an entertaining writer, I think that the work ultimately fails as an introduction to Orthodoxy. There's just not that much here, and at the end the reader knows little more than if he had read one of the pamphlets a church keeps in the entrance. If you have a family member interested in Orthodoxy, they might not want to tackle something like Bishop Kallistos' book now, but taking them to an actual service would do more for them than handing them Mrs Mathews-Green's work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gary Hansen

    I most enjoyed the book's windows into the author's life as a happy convert to Orthodoxy. There are lots of very helpful explanations of things a visitor would find baffling or off putting. An appendix packages 12 such things she wishes she'd known before her first visit to the Divine Liturgy; this can also be found on her blog, and as a brochure in some Orthodox parishes. The book is less successful when looking at other forms of American Christianity through those same convert's eyes. There are I most enjoyed the book's windows into the author's life as a happy convert to Orthodoxy. There are lots of very helpful explanations of things a visitor would find baffling or off putting. An appendix packages 12 such things she wishes she'd known before her first visit to the Divine Liturgy; this can also be found on her blog, and as a brochure in some Orthodox parishes. The book is less successful when looking at other forms of American Christianity through those same convert's eyes. There are many pleasing vignettes about the parish she and her husband, an Orthodox priest, were then starting. These reflect her joy in her faith community, which is lovely. However they seem to present the feelings common to those in a shared mission or project as a kind of argument for Orthodoxy itself. I suspect many an Orthodox parish would have much in its community life that is quite parallel to the shallowness and mundane squabbles of a mainline Protestant congregation.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    I would love to have a cup of tea with Mathewes-Green. She's a smart writer, a deep thinker, and she's got a dry wit -- all things that I value. The structure of this book is fantastic. It's essentially essays about Orthodoxy and what it means to live out that faith in a modern world, but she's woven it so that she takes the reader through a Divine Liturgy in the process. I can't decide if I like Facing East or this text better, but they will remain on my shelf as handy references. Mathewes-Gree I would love to have a cup of tea with Mathewes-Green. She's a smart writer, a deep thinker, and she's got a dry wit -- all things that I value. The structure of this book is fantastic. It's essentially essays about Orthodoxy and what it means to live out that faith in a modern world, but she's woven it so that she takes the reader through a Divine Liturgy in the process. I can't decide if I like Facing East or this text better, but they will remain on my shelf as handy references. Mathewes-Green seems to be a great gateway writer for those looking to read on a deeper level about the Orthodox faith. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Leland

    Written as a sort of sequel to FACING EAST (though I read this one first and it didn't seem to matter), this book is written in the same tone (as a sort of memoir) and is just as beautiful and compelling. Written as a sort of sequel to FACING EAST (though I read this one first and it didn't seem to matter), this book is written in the same tone (as a sort of memoir) and is just as beautiful and compelling.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vinnie Santini

    For those seeking what the Orthodox Church is about in a readable and personal tone, this is a good place to start.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Coleen--Marie Hanson

    Although I'm not a fan of the "folksy" approach to matters of faith, so far I am really enjoying Matthews-Green's blend of the quotidian and the sacred. Although I'm not a fan of the "folksy" approach to matters of faith, so far I am really enjoying Matthews-Green's blend of the quotidian and the sacred.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maureen E

    Excellent book for both the baptized Orthodox and those interested in finding out more about it. [Nov. 2008]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Muriel Hammond-teusink

    Fascinating blend of description of the Orthodox service of worship and liturgy intertwined with understandable explanations to the non-Orthodox.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    While I don't think this is as strong as "Facing East," it is still a great read and explores a lot of interesting topics. While I don't think this is as strong as "Facing East," it is still a great read and explores a lot of interesting topics.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  19. 4 out of 5

    FM Telschow

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Wentz

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Moore

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 5 out of 5

    A Green

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Merritt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephen London

  28. 5 out of 5

    Basali

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alisha

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