Sunday, October 10, 2010

God's Many-Splendored Image

Dear Parish Faithful,

In searching for a book to study together at our upcoming Fall Adult Education Class, I was determined to find a book written by an Orthodox woman. There are many good choices today, but I believe that I discovered a wonderful new book that will prove to be of great interest and insight to all. The book is: God's Many-Splendored Image, and the author is Sister Nonna Harrison, an excellent scholar and Orthodox nun. Sister Nonna has built up a reputation as an expert in the writings of the Church Fathers, but also for making Orthodox theology very accessible and applicable to today's world. She achieves this to great effect in her new book. She takes on a deeply important issue in today's world: a feeling of dehumanization and despair among so many people who are really struggling to find meaning in life. This is based on either on a dim view of human nature; a very reduced image of human nature; or a confused understanding of human nature. Can a trip to church on Sunday morning spare us from being influenced in that way of thinking? Perhaps a seasoned guide into the life in Christ and the Church can lead us away from such temptation.

For positively, Sister Nonna carefully explores what it means to be created "in the image and likeness of God." She does this from a range of perspectives, each covered in a separate chapter. The chapters cover the following themes:

1. Freedom
2. God and Christ
3. Spiritual Perception
4. Virtues and Humility
5. Royal Dignity
6. Embodiment
7. In the Created World
8. Arts and Sciences
9. Community

Her application of the wisdom of the great saints of the past - Church Fathers and Desert Fathers & Mothers, as well as including the wisdom of modern thinkers - is really excellent, and she helps us draw out the implications of this great wisdom in our lives today.

Are you tired of hearing that basically you are nothing more than your biology? Are you tired of the devaluation of human nature to nothing more than satisfying your passions and desires - for food and fun; sex and success? Are you tired of seeing that in the vast majority of TV programs and films that you watch? Would you like to hear about the dignity, beauty and wonder of being human? Of how a loving God created us in His "image and likeness" so as to grow in virtue and excellence? Of how Christ reveals to us what it means to be human and how to live a life pleasing to God and helpful to our neighbor?

This book is the fruit of an Orthodox Christian woman's faith and vision that will take us into the uncharted realms of the mind and heart where we can better understand who and what we are in the creative will of God, so that we can live up to and live out that vocation in a meaningful way. Here is a wonderful combination of schoarly knowledge and loving spiritual care for those dialoging with Sister Nonna through reading her book.

No less a figure than Metropolitan Kallistos(Timothy) Ware wrote a ringing endorsement of the book as the author of the book's Foreword. Here is an excerpt from the Foreword:

"Sister Nonna writes as an expert in the early Christian world and its literature, but she presents the fruits of her learning in a form that is readily accessible to every reader. Her style is simple yet profound, vivid yet never overstated....Here truly is a work that I can recommend with all my heart."

We have traditionally held this class on Monday evenings. We are scheduled to begin, therefore, on Monday, November 8, and this class is always six sessions in length, making the last session Dec. 13. If you would like to commit to the class, but cannot on Monday evening, please let me know. The book is selling for $15.63 on, and that is a good discount from the retail price of $22.95. (There are new and used copies selling for as low as $10.00-13.00). I highly doubt we could find a better price elsewhere, so my advice is simply to purchase it from there. Money well-invested!

The Fall Adult Education Class is meant to ... well, educate us in the depth, beauty, and glory of our shared Orthodox Christian Faith by reading and discussing a book together as a gathered body of committed Orthodox Christians.

I am looking forward to our first session together on Monday, November 8!

In Christ,

Fr. Steven

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