Annunciation Resource Center January Update
(Maxim number 16 from Fr. Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims of Christian Living)
Fr. Hopko wrote a list of 55 maxims in response to being asked: "If you summarized, in the shortest form, the practical life of a believing Christian, of a human being who believes in God and believes in Christ, what would it be like? What kind of maxims or rules would that include?” Fr. Hopko listed 55 things that he said a believer, very simply, would do if they were really a believer and were really obedient to God and wanted to live the way God would have us live. Fr. Hopko fell asleep in the Lord on March 18, 2015. May his memory be eternal!
We thought we'd share our thoughts on a few of the good books we've read and would love to hear from you about what you are reading!
Olga's review of The Archbishop
"Among the first remember, Lord, (episcopal rank) (name), grant him to your holy churches in peace, safety, honor, and health, unto length of days, rightly teaching the word of Your truth.” This simple prayer, from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, has become more meaningful and poignant for me since reading The Archbishop.
An Orthodox Christian classic written at the beginning of the 20th century and set in Russia, this powerful novel keeps you engaged as you examine your own life and the health of your soul.
The story starts out with an age-old conflict: do you do for others out of love, and what is acceptable to God while violating civilian law? If you do, are you willing to accept the consequences? This is the dilemma that Father Paul finds himself in, having acted out of love by marrying a couple without their registration papers. He flees the consequences with distance and drink while not considering how his actions might affect those around him. Along comes the archbishop, unrecognizable to Father Paul, who makes him understand that while he is ordained, he is not yet a priest.
The archbishop is filled with love for his clergy and his flock. He faces the same conflict as Father Paul. Does he follow acceptable hierarchical practices when interacting with his flock, or does he do what is necessary to bring people back to the churches and the Orthodox faith and help them restore their bodies and souls?
The book has many other characters: the doctor who believes in science, the professor of theology who believes in dogma, people who are beggars and from asylums, Father Gherasim whose life has been filled with pain and suffering and devoid of love and who cannot see what is in front of him, Father Grigori who preaches ideals but has no works to back them up. It is filled with life’s themes and conflicts such as rationality vs. faith, intelligentsia vs. the church, love and truth and good vs. evil, the resurrection of man, the death of one’s soul, free will to choose and do the right thing, sin and redemption, the responsibilities of priests and bishops, the need for people to work together to save one another, and many more. This book will instigate many conversations, thoughts, and hopefully, actions.
The archbishop has a way of perceiving the troubles of others and, with his patience and love uses these powerful perceptions to guide all to redemption and the renewal of soul and body - if they are willing to open themselves to the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This book is for all Orthodox Christians. It is not lengthy in pages but lengthy in insight into the health of one’s soul seeking eternal life.
Dianne's review of Do Not Judge
As with all things Orthodox, reading the advice of elders is one thing - a short excursion - and living it is another thing altogether - a lifelong struggle and adventure. Do Not Judge is a great place to start or to pick up anytime in one’s journey toward the Lord. It is well-written, beautifully bound, and very portable for carrying in one’s purse or book bag or for placing on the night table or coffee table. Thank you for recommending it and for keeping the Annunciation Resource Center going in these tumultuous times.
Talia's review of All Is Well.
I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone who is an over-thinker like myself. Living in the present is challenging, and as we all know, the reality of distressing situations like the pandemic can make it even more difficult.
All Is Well offers an opportunity to look at life’s challenges in a different way. It teaches us how to avoid overthinking or creating problems in our heads before they exist. It guides us to always seek improvement spiritually and personally through self-reflection. The tools of the church and taking time for prayer and discipline help us achieve that.
In a time where we have to be distant and at times alone, this book brings comfort in teaching that isolation can be of great benefit to ourselves and can bring much healing. God is always with us. Even when we think we are alone, we never are!
Emmalia's review of Prayer Spa
Prayer Spa by Jennifer Anna Rich offers a soothing and contemplative guide to daily prayer. Instead of imposing strict guidelines, Rich inspires us to genuinely incorporate prayer into our hearts by highlighting the true beauty of Orthodoxy. Her prose is interlaced with passages from psalms, words from saints and elders, and offers ideas on how to pray. The guidance is expansive and includes creative suggestions for prayer using all five senses. The spiritual grace of God is translated into the corporeal world to nourish “mind, body, and soul.”
The book is specifically written with the modern reader in mind—one who is influenced by the demands of work and secular culture. She acknowledges these obstacles with realistic guidance on how to bring prayer into busy schedules. As indicated by the title, the book will especially touch those who want to find a spa of stillness and relaxation through daily healing prayer.
Angela's review of From I-ville to You-ville