Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Journey to the Kingdom – An Insider’s Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church

In the latest issue of Koinonia, the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association's journal, two book are reviewed. The first one is the Journey to the Kingdom – An Insider’s Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church, written by Father Vassilios Papavassiliou, (Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2012) The review is as follows:

This new book, the “Journey to the Kingdom”, claims to be an insider’s look at the Liturgy and beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, it is much more; in order to explain the Divine Liturgy he inevitably is forced to explain other Sacraments, such as Baptism (Chapter 14) in order to further explain the Creed, which is part of the Liturgy. The illustrations and the explanations give a further interest in order to comprehend the Divine Mysteries, given to us through the ages by the Church Fathers and our Holy Tradition.
Every book needs to understand its audience, who will read this book? This book seems to be a continuation of Fr. Vassilios’ catechetical work. It is a book for both those who wish to learn more about the Eastern Orthodox Church and eventually become its member, but also it is a great introduction for those who are already members of the Orthodox Tradition but who are, in many ways, catechumens. Currently the Church, worldwide, does not only have catechumens outside its body, but also within it, which it needs to identify and teach. This book is a first step in achieving a better understanding of the faith, the dogmas, the Creed, Christology, the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Liturgy, the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It will be a surprise to many that this book does not contrast its beliefs to other Churches, such as the Roman Catholic, the Anglican or Protestant Traditions. It is a book on Orthodoxy, were Orthodoxy explains itself through its own course and life, through the ages since its beginning, where the Church Fathers formed and explained the ecclesiastical dogmas and traditions. Anyone within the sphere of Ecumenical Relations should read this book in order to better understand the Orthodox Church, its beliefs, its ecclesiastical practices. Many questions raised at inter-Christian meetings are answered here.
This book explains step by step what we observe when we take part in the Divine Liturgy. It is an invitation “to come in and see how Orthodox Christians all over the world worship” (p.1).  It allows the reader and the partaker of the Divine Liturgy to “have a foretaste of the life of God’s Kingdom” (p. 143)[1].

[1] Salapatas, Dimitris, “Book Reviews”, Koinonia, New Series No. 61, Eastertide/Pentecost 2013, p. 72-73

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