"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Praying as and with the Early Christians

When, earlier this year, I interviewed the incredibly prolific John McGuckin, he mentioned the release this year of the latest of his many books: Prayer Book of the Early Christians (Paraclete Press, 2012), 224pp.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher earlier this month. About this book the publisher tell us: 

Designed for any 21st-century Christian, this prayer book gathers prayers and rituals from the ancient Church (especially early Greek Christianity), re-presenting them for the use of Christians at home, in small prayer groups, cohorts, and house churches. It offers a structure of prayer offices and blessing rituals for all times of day and year, and articulates many religious needs including bereavement, house blessing, praise, worry, gratitude, and thanksgiving.

This is a handsome book, well laid out in a way that makes it suitable indeed for personal devotion. It contains a lovely sample of prayers and texts from a variety of Eastern liturgical families--primarily the Byzantine and Syriac but also the Coptic and Latin. It contains simplified versions of Byzantine vespers and orthros, as well as the so-called small hours--along with a large selection of prayers for all kinds of occasional uses and needs. With a deftly light hand, McGuckin has written a brief introductory essay, and occasional brief "rubrical" note before certain prayers or disciplines. Happily the book eschews the use of hieratic English--a silly affectation among modern Orthodox Christians--but is nonetheless written in clear, crisp, elegant English. Warmly recommended. 

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