Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Meditations for Great Lent

The period of Lent is a period were the faithful attempt to better themselves, by fasting, reading and following the rules and canons of the Church. Reading the hymns of the Church, the Bible and books on Lent give all of us an insight into the richness and mysteries of the Ecclesia. This new book ‘Meditations for Great Lent’, written  by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou (a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain) and published by Conciliar Press, is a useful  source for those interested in the beauty and spirituality of Lent. Despite tackling the topic from an Orthodox point of view, this book can be read by faithful of other denominations, who practice and follow the teachings of the Lenten period. Fr. Vassilios identifies the key points of Lent by using passages form the Book of Triodion (the book used for the services of this period by the Orthodox Church, which are full of spirituality and teachings that coincide with the atmosphere and treasures of this intriguing period). The chapters are separated in Lenten themes, examining the topics of humility, repentance, ascetic love, fasting from sin and others, leading to the happiness and glory of Pascha. 

Many today, in the Church, believe that fasting certain food is enough, criticising those who do not fast, forgetting therefore the Bible (Rom.14:3-4) which clearly goes against these judgements. This book, however, highlights that if we are to live a truly Orthodox lent “we are called to forgive everyone who has injured or offended us from the bottom of our hearts” (p. 48). Fasting spiritually and physically is crucial, if we are to follow the hymns and teachings of the Triodion. New ideas and understandings are analysed; the author states that “the spiritual struggle of Lent and of Christian life as a whole is not a matter of avoiding the passions, but of mastering them” (p.70), a refreshing idea, especially for those who try to abide by the virtues of Lent and the general Christian life in our modern globalised and digital societies, where most of the time sin is the easy option.   
This small, pocket size book contains the most important themes of the period of Triodion. These topics are explained in a simple language, approachable by all, taken from the services of the Orthodox Church. Therefore, I would suggest that whoever wishes to fully understand the Lenten period, before going to the Divine Liturgy on a Sunday, they should read a chapter of this book in order to further understand the hymns, the Apostle and the Bible readings in Church. This will bring the faithful closer to the true meaning and ideals of Lent, creating a “joyful expectation” (p. 87) for Easter. Moreover, this is a book that can be read every Lenten period, reminding us of our obligations, as Christian faithful, in becoming more virtuous by achieving the ultimate goal, i.e. theosis.

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