"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).

Monday, March 21, 2011

UFOs Over the River Jordan

"Hey! What is that bird doing above Jesus' head?"

Such is the type of question novices ask around icons. That "bird," of course, is a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is, for most people, the most mysterious of the Trinitarian Persons. It has long been a commonplace that Pneumatology remains weak, especially among Western Christians, though Eastern Christian understandings of the Holy Spirit are not always as they seem.

Now a new book comes along to help us further understand the Spirit: John Oliver, Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition (Paraclete Press, 2011), 164pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
Delving deep and subtly into Orthodox tradition and theology, The Giver of Life articulates the identity of the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity as well as the role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of the world. Written with a poetic sensibility, Fr. Oliver begins with Pentecost, an event uniquely celebrated in Orthodoxy as a time when greenery of all kinds is brought into churches. "The splash of green foliage calls to mind not just life, but a special kind of life. It is the life that transcends biological existence and flows from the very Godhead Itself; it is life that's a state of being—immortal, everlasting, changeless. Ferns and flowers fade and die, but souls filled with this ‘life from above' flourish forever."

Reflecting on the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Church, to the world, and to the human person, Giver of Life looks to the impressive biblical and liturgical tradition of Orthodox Christianity. This is a book weighty in content but accessible in tone, not an academic study of the mind, but a lived experience of the heart.

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