FACING EAST by Frederica Mathewes-Green


A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy
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 With both humor and depth, NPR commentator and syndicated columnist Mathewes-Green describes a year in the richly liturgical life of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as experienced in a small Maryland parish founded by a group of recent converts. North America is currently witnessing a remarkable growth in the Orthodox Church, a faith distinguished by its icons, mystical writings, and vibrant ancient traditions. Mathewes-Green tells us what it's like to enter this unfamiliar and at first sight daunting world. Raised a nominal Catholic, she became a skeptic as a student and then embraced Hinduism, before returning to Christianity with her husband, Gary, as a result of an unexpected religious experience during their honeymoon. In 1977 Gary was ordained an Episcopal priest, but 15 years later, frustration with doctrinal and moral confusion in the Anglican Church led him, and eventually his wife and three teenage children, to Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green's narrative is a 12-month journal, in which we get to know the 30-odd pioneers of the new parish as they make their way through their Church's intriguing cycle of festivals and fasts. We meet Gary in his new role as an Orthodox priest; Basil, a larger-than-life Greek who has rediscovered his early faith; and the young couples who form the bulk of this lighthearted but fervent community. Mathewes-Green intersperses anecdotes about her friends and family with vivid descriptions of the services and their ancient texts. While she succeeds in writing about this traditional Eastern Christian faith from a contemporary, distinctively American perspective, she does not pursue her insight that Orthodoxy has a special appeal to men, and she tends to play down the role of the different ethnic jurisdictions in American Orthodoxy. A mine of information about the customs and spiritual life of the Orthodox Church, presented in a very human and accessible way.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-065498-8
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1996