"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).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Introductions to Orthodoxy

In the last three years alone, at least five rather good introductions to Orthodoxy have appeared in English. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Among the latest is

Katherine Clark, The Orthodox Church (London: Bravo, 2009), 168pp.

This latest introduction is a very small book—no larger than one’s hand—by Katherine Clark, an American-born translator and teacher who lived in Greece for many years and eventually converted to Orthodoxy. Clark does a generally commendable job in explaining the basics of Orthodoxy.

There are, however, a few infelicities in this book, including the occasions where Clark describes sui generis practices observed in a handful of parishes in Greece and extrapolates from them to assume that all Eastern Christians everywhere celebrate services in the manner she observed. Her treatment of holy orders ignores deacons; her treatment of the Julian calendar mangles the dates for Christmas, and claims “all” Orthodox follow the Julian paschalion, which is false; and her sweeping treatment of clerical appearance incorrectly claims that all Orthodox priests are “always bearded” and “always clothed in long robes quite distinct from modern dress.” So one must use this book with some caution, and it will not rival, in my estimation, David Bell's recent introduction, which is superb.

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