Catholics have grown weary of papal speeches and interviews, whether on airlines or in other fora. The endless yammering has turned even the most caricatured ultramontane fantasies or the most outrageous Protestant polemics about "papolatry" into reality: the pope as oracle, ceaselessly pontificating on matters large and small, well beyond his brief and far exceeding any authority he has, and thereby causing far more confusion than clarity.
How much better the example of the other pope, the one whose use of the title, according to some historians, pre-dates that of the Roman bishop's adoption of it. I refer, of course, to the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, successor to St. Mark.
Perfectly timed for this Lenten season is a book about repentance hot off the presses from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, which has just put into my hands: †Pope Shenouda III, The Life of Repentance and Purity, 2nd. Eng. ed., trans. H.G. Bishop Suriel (SVS Press, 2016), 322pp.
About this book, now in a second issue from the late pope (who died in 2012), the publisher tells us:
The Life of Repentance and Purity provides readers with a comprehensive overview of the practice of repentance and purity, essential aspects of Christian life. Pope Shenouda III draws on Scripture, the Church Fathers, his own experience of desert monasticism, and his experience as a shepherd to millions of Christians to provide a practical understanding of how to live a life of continually turning to God.
My advice to you, instead of saying, I promise you that I will repent, O Lord, say to the Lord: Restore me, and I will return (Jeremiah 31:18). Ask for repentance as a good gift from him, for he himself promised this, saying: I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you (Ezekiel 36.26).
The Coptic Studies Series at St Vladimir s Seminary Press was conceived with a two-fold purpose: to increase the accessibility of the many treasures of Coptic Orthodox Christianity to a wider English-speaking audience; and to cross-pollinate the spiritual minds of Coptic Orthodox Christians and their Eastern Orthodox brethren with the knowledge of a common faith in the incarnate Word of God who is the true source of all wisdom and knowledge.I am delighted at both this book, and also this new Coptic Studies Series from SVS Press. I am delighted because I have an abiding affection for the Copts thanks to my friendship with Iman Nashed, through whom I was first introduced to the writings of Pope Shenouda in the mid 90s, and to the Coptic tradition in Canada, at whose flagship parish of St. Mark's in Scarborough I gave lectures over the years. The Copts in Egypt have suffered enormously over the years at the hands of Muslims in Egypt but all the while have been a faithful witness to the gospel. In addition, they are second to nobody in the number and rigor of their fasting days each year. They are a model to us all.