St. Mary’s Bookstore is a resource for people of all ages and stages in life to help them know, grow, and be inspired in the Christian Orthodox Church. With an extensive selection of books and a large selection of icons, the bookstore has much to offer. Newly remodeled, the bookstore is well organized to help you readily find a book you are interested in or to allow you to have a leisurely browse at your own pace. For those who want to make a brief visit, there is a “New and Noteworthy” display. The children’s section is organized to be browser friendly for children—and adults.

A few of the many categories of books are:

The Orthodox Church, Orthodoxy Living, Orthodoxy Bibles, Prayer Books, Liturgy, The Liturgical Year, Monasticism, Patristics, Elders, Saints, Marriage, Parenting, Children, Family Life, Iconography,  and Cookbooks.

Father Anthony Coniaris of blessed memory, so beloved and appreciated by the people of St. Mary’s for his many years—72!—of ministry here, was a prolific writer (estimates are that he wrote about 80 books). The bookstore carries all Father Anthony’s books that are currently in print and available.

The bookstore has a good selection of prayer ropes from Mount Athos and many made by Jon Klein, the former youth director at St. Mary’s; cards for all occasions (some created by talented parishioners); incense burners made by Doria Saros, the ministry support person St. Mary’s; jewelry with icons made by a parishioner; bookmarks; icon magnets; and more. The St. Mary’s Philoptochos cookbook titled Come Sit at Our Table: A Celebration of Food and a CD of St. Mary’s choir titled Lead Me on a Level Path: A Liturgical Celebration are available in the bookstore.

Whether you are looking for information or inspiration for your faith journey, please come visit St. Mary’s bookstore. Open each Sunday after the Liturgy, we are here for you. We welcome inquiries and special orders. Please email

Credits cards accepted. Gift certificates are available.

Please check back each month for a new “In the Bookstore” article featuring a book or other item(s) in the bookstore.

2024 Monthly Bookstore Features

Click below to open bookstore features.
February 2024 - The Ascetic of Love

by Rebecca Myerly –

The Ascetic of Love is a book by and about the newly canonized (October 3, 2023) Saint Gavrilia (February 10, 1897–March 20, 1992). This book is a combined autobiography and biography of Saint Gavrilia, with additional sections including her words of wisdom and letters, transcriptions of her speaking, and tributes to her. Photos of her are sprinkled throughout. Quite a compendium—this book is a treasure.

The life of Saint Gavrilia reads like a travelogue as her life was dedicated to following God’s call to wherever and whomever He led her. Born in Constantinople, she grew up in Greece and completed her formal education in England where she lived and worked until after World War Two when she returned to Greece. Trained as a physiotherapist, she was a nurse to many in body, mind, and spirit. She lived her life washing the feet of others, both literally and metaphorically.

Saint Gavrilia described the day her mother died, March 24, 1954, as “the most painful, the most significant, the most definitive day” (35) in her life. She explained:

The day of our parting, the day of my inner crisis, severed the last tie that had kept me bound to normal, material life on this earth. Suddenly, I was dead… I was dead to the world. The only course that lay open before me now, urged me to take the decisive step: ‘Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor’, then ‘Come and follow me’! But where? The Call came quite unexpectedly: INDIA…That was it! (35)

She went to India. Her experiences and adventures there are well documented in this book, both biographically and autobiographically. She said:

 The Lord took me to India moneyless, so that I might behold His magnificence and His glory; so that I might witness how He cares for us when we leave ourselves completely in His hands…I saw all that with my own eyes, I saw it at every one of my steps all those years in India. Since then and to this day I have not ceased, not for a single moment, to marvel at His Works. (43-44)

Her special call in India was to serve people in leper colonies, and she traveled broadly ministering to those in need, staying in most places only for weeks or months. Many of her stories are remarkable—some are miraculous. Her faithful abandonment to God was amazing throughout her life. The time she spent in India was an especially grace-filled period as she lived according to God’s call and direction while living amongst people of different faith traditions. One of the graces given to her was seeing the gifts and goodness in people of other traditions while being firmly rooted in her Orthodox faith.

On August 4, 1959, Saint Gavrilia left India to enter monastic life in Bethany where she was a novice for three years. Even while she was staying at the monastery, she had a remarkable missionary outreach. From there it would not be an exaggeration to write that she traveled the world as a monastic missionary of, for, and to Christ. She went where the need was, serving all with His love. Some of her “assignments” were small while others were large, and she accepted all with grace and gratitude. In her later years she served God in Greece, where she reposed on the island of Leros.

This book is replete with stories and anecdotes about people whose lives Saint Gavrilia touched and who touched her life, all in and with God’s love. The tape recordings of her transcribed in this book together with the letters from her and tributes to her flesh out her life so the reader can better appreciate this amazing woman of God. The section with her quotes is filled with 392 gems, which offer the reader much to ponder. One example is: “If you want things to be just the way you want them, stop wanting. Accept everything and everyone, as if granted either by God’s will or by God’s permission.” (305) Saint Gavrilia’s life, as documented in The Ascetic of Love, reveals what this wisdom looks like lived with joy in God.

January 2024 - Sing to Your Soul: On Daily Christian Living

by Rebecca Myerly –

Sing to Your Soul: On Daily Christian Living is the third volume of A Festival of Wisdom for the Christian Life in selected passages by Saint John Chrysostom. The passages were compiled, edited, and translated by David Ford. The reader is offered the wisdom and insight of one of the greatest and most beloved Church Fathers through passages that are so relevant they seem to be contemporary. In the biographical note included in the book, the editor writes:

Saint John Chrysostom (347-407) is renowned as one of the greatest Christian preachers in the history of the Church. He’s equally respected as a great Biblical commentator. We see both of these remarkable talents displayed in the passages contained in this book. (226)

David Ford did superb work collating the passages so the reader is drawn from one to another almost seamlessly and often eagerly seeking more of the grace revealed in each one. The topics included are, in order of presentation: “The Home as a Little Church,” “Knowing the Love of God for Us,” “Dwelling in Christ,” “Living a Life of Virtue,” “On Repentance,” “Prayer,”  “Our Love for God,” “The Goodness and Power of Love,” “Loving One’s Enemies,” “The Heavenly Perspective,” “Apatheia,” “Joy,” “Humility,” “Patience,” “Bearing Tribulation Nobly,” “Spiritual Warfare,” “The Power of the Cross in Daily Life,” “Dealing with Despondency,” “Scripture Reading,” “Hospitality,” “Almsgiving,” and “Preparation for Death.”

Most of the passages in this book are extracts from sermons, Scripture commentaries, or letters St. John wrote, addressed to and for a very specific audience. Yet when he speaks or writes very specifically about a human condition, he is speaking or writing universally, hence the remarkable relevance to all anywhere in and of all ages.

Reading this book is like sitting at the feet of a very wise elder who clearly knows the human heart and gently, yet firmly, wants listeners to see—discern— and know Christ within them and also calling them through His word and their life experience. He is a master at helping the reader or listener put their life in an eternal perspective and live in the light of this awareness. For example, in a homily he explains:

Reading the Scriptures is like sifting through treasure. With treasure, if one finds even a tiny nugget he can gain for himself great wealth. Just so with the divine Scriptures, for even in a short phrase one can find a great depth of meaning, wealth beyond telling. (166)

Sing to Your Soul: On Daily Christian Living is an encouraging book. The subjects are most often presented in quite short passages for the benefit of the reader/listener. Remarkably, one does not feel preached to but invited to grow in insight, understanding, and appreciation for Christ in all and thru all. The awareness of the agape love that permeated Saint John Chrysotom comes through clearly in this book.

2023 and Earlier Monthly Bookstore Features
December 2023 - Books for Christmas Gift Giving

by Rebecca Myerly –

In the bookstore you will find a large selection of books, icons, and other items for your Christmas gift giving—gifts that are truly meaningful.

The two books featured below are “on the surface” books for children, but they are actually for people of all ages. They would be especially good gift choices for families with children.

My Prayer Book by Dionysios and Egle-Ekaterina Potamitis is an Orthodox Christian prayerbook presented for children but, as mentioned above, it is also for people of all ages. The book begins: “May this book help you find the way to the immense beauty of prayer to the true Triune God.” (6) My Prayer Book does this simply yet profoundly through the prayers presented and the beautiful illustrations by Egle-Ekaterina which carefully teach the faith. (They had Demetrios Kokoris advise on the dogmatic accuracy of the illustrations.) Introducing the book, they explain:

Prayer is a way unique to man, the only way to communicate and enter in a personal relationship with God, His saints, and the Theotokos. Prayer fills our lives with matchless joy. It fills our soul and the world around us with peace and serenity. (10)

Prayers included in this book are Heavenly King; Lord, Have Mercy; The Trisagion; Glory to the Father; All-holy Trinity; and The Lord’s Prayer. These are followed by the Creed and many other prayers for before and after Holy Communion, different times of the day, before and after meals, hymns for feast days, and more. Each prayer is illustrated to inform and inspire. There is a second part to this book with explanations and some historical facts about the prayers. As a result, this book can be read as simply a prayer book while also being a resource for understanding and appreciating more about and in each prayer.

You Are an Orthodox Christian by Theofanis Sawabe with illustrations by Vladimir Ilievski begins:

You are an Orthodox Christian. Do you know what that means? When someone asks you, what will you tell them that we do? Who will you tell them that we are? Where will you tell them that we come from? (4-5)

These questions are followed by enlightening, clarifying, and encouraging answers, each well illustrated to also reveal more about the explanations. For example, together with this statement: “Orthodox Christians have been doctors, parents, teachers, soldiers, monastics, artists, cooks, and every job under the sun…and all of them worked to bring this faith, their faith, to you,” (12-13) there are illustrations of saints doing a ministry or service they were known for, each with halos that have their names written within them. In the appendix of the book there is a section telling about each of these saints with a brief biography and their feast day noted. As a result, this book can be read simply or in greater depth and detail, with much to ponder and discuss about each saint and how they lived their journey and glorified God. This is an inspiring book for each Orthodox Christian to know and appreciate that they are part of a great and eternal family of faith, firmly rooted in Christ and growing in grace.

For these and many other books and items, please visit the bookstore for your Christmas gift giving. If you aren’t sure about a gift idea, the bookstore also offers gift certificates.

November 2023 - Behold a Great Light

by Rebecca Myerly –

Behold a Great Light: A Daily Devotional for the Nativity Fast through Theophany is a new book from Ancient Faith Publishing. One could say this was an “in house” project because the editor, Lynette Horner, is a staff editor for Ancient Faith and the contributors are authors, bloggers, and podcasters for Ancient Faith. There are eight contributors and each provides a week of meditations.

The contributors, listed in the chronological order in which they are included in this book, are Fr. Stephen Freeman, Laura S. Jansson, Fr. Basil Ross Aden, Brandi Willis Schreiber, Elissa Bjeletich Davis, Fr. Michael Gillis, Nicole M. Roccas, and Fr. Stephen De Young. Each one writes from their gifted and cultivated perspective, so the reader is given a variety of daily companions for their journey through the Nativity Fast and the Christmas season to Theophany and the day following which is the Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist. This is a book to help the reader keep focused on and in the heart of Christmas during the Advent fast when “the world” seems to be preoccupied with and focused on celebrating and the materialness of gift giving and all else that comes—or goes—along with the commercialization of Christmas and the Christmas season. Behold a Great Light is an antidote to the business and busyness that try to distract the person of faith during this holy season of grace.

October 2023 - Sacraments of Healing

by Rebecca Myerly –

Sacraments of Healing, recently published by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, holds the wisdom of a retreat within the covers of a book. It consists of the transcription of six talks given by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of blessed memory (1934-2022) to members of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship gathered for a retreat in Vezelay, France, in 1999. Also included is a foreword by his friend and fellow scholar Archpriest Andrew Louth. Metropolitan Kallistos explains the title Sacraments of Healing:

Please think of the word sacrament and what it signifies. Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says, “It is the sacraments that constitute our life in Christ.” Let us root our thinking in the sacraments. [He] also called the sacraments “windows into this dark world.”

…Let us remember the Greek term for sacrament—mysterion, mystery….A mystery, in the true religious sense, is not simply an enigma, and unexplained problem. A mystery is something that is revealed for our understanding, yet never totally revealed because it reaches into the infinity of God….

The second word in my title that we shall need to keep in mind…is healing….Healing means wholeness. I am broken and fragmented. Healing means a recovery of unity. Let us each think that I cannot bring peace and unity to the world unless I am at peace and unity with myself. “Acquire the spirit of peace,” says Saint Seraphim of Sarov, “and thousands around you will find salvation.” If I do not have the spirit of peace within myself, if I am inwardly divided, I shall spread that division around me to others. Great divisions in the world between nations and states spring from many divisions within the human heart of each one of us. (2-3)

The first talk, now chapter, in this book is titled “Glorify God with Your Body.” Explaining the Christian attitude toward the body, Metropolitan Kallistos says:
“I am my body and my body is me. The body is to be transfigured along with the soul. Divine grace is to be shown in and through our bodies.” (13) The next talk/chapter is on the passions with the subtitle/question: “Enemy or Friend?” he invites the listener and reader into many considerations leading to greater clarity and a sense of wonder, concluding with the observation, “If we can learn to use our passions in the right way, then we should be, each of us, a true peacemaker.” (32)

In the third talk/chapter titled “Approaching Christ the Physician,” Metropolitan Kallistos speaks with great insight and pastoral wisdom about confession as a sacrament of healing. The following two talks and chapters are on the Divine Liturgy and the liturgy after the Liturgy, in which he speaks about the focus of peace and healing both in the Liturgy and after as a result of being present in the Liturgy as we “go forth in peace.” In the final talk/chapter titled “A Peaceful Ending to Our Life,” he considers and reflects on “death as an experience of healing” and looks at several forms of death—in the process seeing that death can be an enemy but it is also a friend.

Metropolitan Kallistos was a skilled speaker with a great talent for making his subject accessible and understandable to all listeners, even though he himself was a remarkable scholar. His delightful sense of humor also shines through in many places in these talks. There is a depth and breadth to this book that is an exceptional gift, and we are blessed to have this retreat available in book form. Special thanks to Gregory and Jeanette Swenson, who attended the retreat with Metropolitan Kallistos and sponsored the publication of this book. This is the first of six books containing Metropolitan Kallistos’ talks and unpublished writings that Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press plans to publish.


September 2023 - The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year

by Rebecca Myerly –

The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year is a creative ecumenical collaboration by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, George Every, and Father Richard Harries. They write in the introduction:

The purpose of this anthology is to show how time—the sequence of days, months and seasons—can be taken up into Christ, and so be sanctified and transfigured.
Of the three editors one is Roman Catholic (Avery), one Anglican (Harries) and one Orthodox (Ware). We have embarked on our task in an ecumenical spirit, hoping that the book will widen the horizon and enrich the prayer of our readers, opening their eyes to unfamiliar treasures in Christian traditions other than their own. We have sought to convey some inkling of the amazing variety that exists within Christianity. Yet this variety is at the same time a diversity in unity. As we made our selection, again and again we were struck by the manner in which the different texts—ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, Catholic and Protestant—do not so much contradict as complement each other. Working together as a team, with each editor suggesting material not only from his own tradition but from that of the other two, we have repeatedly discovered in unexpected ways how much we share in common. (vii)

The Time of the Spirit is divided into chapters, one for each month, with each month having a theme or themes of its own. The book starts in September, the ecclesiastical new year in the Orthodox tradition and the theme is creation, which is given special emphasis in Orthodoxy this month. Each month begins with readings related to the theme of the month followed by a section on saints celebrated on specific days in the month. The editors provide brief biographical notes about the saints to help the reader.

This is a book for anyone wanting spiritual edification day by day with a broader and greater appreciation of and for the gifts in other Christian traditions in addition to and together with one’s own. Jesus tells us in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Reading and reflecting on passages in The Time of the Spirit is a helpful way to become aware of and see some of the treasures not only in one’s own dwelling place, but also in the places where others dwell, making this a good book for families with members of different Christian traditions and people with friends in other dwelling places.

August 2023 - Praying in Time: The Hours & Days in Step with Orthodox Christian Tradition

by Rebecca Myerly –

Praying in Time: The Hours & Days in Step with Orthodox Christian Tradition by Sr. Vassa Larin is a gift for anyone wanting to pray more deeply in and with the Church. She writes:

 This book grew out of my experience trying to pray the prayer-tradition in which I was raised, that of the Orthodox Church, in the different places and circumstances I have found myself in the thirty-two years that I have been a nun. Throughout the last thirty-two years, I went from prayer-life in a monastic community in a convent, to prayer-life on my own in an apartment in the center of a city, and from prayer-life without a constant Internet connection and a mobile phone, to prayer-life in our twenty-four-seven Internet age. The latter transition, from an offline life to one with a constant Internet connection, has radically changed all of our lives, whether we had a “prayer-life” or not. In my case, these transitions changed me profoundly; they have changed the way I perceive time, the way I pray, and the way I perceive the church and what it means to be church. (xi)

Considering living in the world with twenty-four-seven Internet and the fragmentation and chaos that so often results, she felt compelled

to seek a better way to manage this chaotic time, in a way that fostered, not destroyed, my vocation. I eventually found this “better way” within my own church-tradition,…the Byzantine Orthodox Christian one. This ancient church tradition had…a now-broken and mostly neglected practice of “ordering” our hours and days by “hallowing” each day and hour with specific prayers and/or sacred memories. I discovered this tradition anew, in the chaotic context of the Internet Age, and the way in which I am learning to utilize it in this context is what I will be sharing… (xiv)

The Church has a long tradition of praying the Hours of the day that extends back to its origin in Old Testament times. We see this in the book of Acts where the disciples are mentioned praying at certain specific hours. This tradition grew and developed. The daily “Little” Hours are the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours—often not even known by lay people; and the better known “Big” Hour of Vespers. In addition, the Church has liturgical commemorations for each day of the week. Combined together, one can redeem the time in and through prayer in sync with the Hours and the days. Each Hour has its own focus. The theme of the First Hour (from sunrise to about 9 AM) is Morning and Light, the Third Hour (9 AM to 12 noon) is Pentecost and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Sixth Hour (12 noon to 3 PM) is the Crucifixion (the Nailing of Christ to the Cross), and the Ninth Hour (3 PM to 6 PM) is the Death of Christ on the Cross.

In addition to the Hours each day, the Church gives each day of the week liturgical traditions and themes which “shed additional light on our redemptive walk through time.” (53)

Sunday—the Resurrection

Monday—the Angels and all Bodiless Powers

Tuesday—Saint John the Baptist

Wednesday—the Cross and Theotokos

Thursday—the Apostles and Saint Nicholas

Friday—the Cross and Theotokos

Saturday—the Departed and All Saints

Sr. Vassa explains the meanings of and in each Hour and each day in a way that invites and encourages the reader to “redeem the time” by praying with and in the Church and its Tradition:

Our participation in the prayer tradition of the hours and days is…profoundly creative, drawing us into participation in God’s creative work in our own ways, in the context of our own time. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes about this creative aspect of reliving tradition as follows: “Our reliving of Tradition is essentially creative….To be a true traditionalist is to be creative. What is tradition? It is creative life. And what is creativity? It is the reinterpretation of tradition in the context of our present-day experience.” (8)

How to do this in the context of the reader’s life is a focus for Sr. Vassa. She presents brief explanations for each Hour, including the theme, the Troparion (hymn of the hour), and verses from Psalms prayed traditionally at each Hour. She does this succinctly so the reader can readily memorize the theme and have a verse (or verses) from a Psalm or a simple prayer to remember in each Hour, and expanding that, for each day as well. She also explains how she incorporates this prayer into her daily life. The result enables the reader to pray the Hours and the days in the Church Tradition with ease in their own circumstances without the need of a prayer book. In other words, this prayer can be seamlessly incorporated into our hours and days so we can enter more deeply into the life of the Church, redeeming the time.

July 2023 - The Good Samaritan: A Children's Catechism

by Rebecca Myerly –

Father Michael Shanbour has drawn on his experiences as a parish youth director and his many years as an Orthodox priest, to write The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism. While it is listed by the publisher as being a book for children ages 6 to 12, Father Michael notes in his Preface:

This work was written with preteen children in mind. Having said this, experience shows that this catechism may also serve as a basic primer for Orthodox Christian teens and adults or even those inquiring into the Faith, as it effectively introduces many of the fundamental truths of Orthodox Christianity necessary for anyone, young or not so young, who desire to know God and His Church. (i)

Explaining the foundation for this catechism and how the book proceeds, he writes:

The title, The Good Samaritan, is inspired by St. John Chrysostom and other Church Fathers who, in addition to the more common moral interpretation of showing Christlike compassion for those in need, have interpreted this parable of the Lord (Luke 10:30-35) as an icon or analogy of the entire economy of salvation. Through this lens we can perceive the Church for what She is—the “spiritual hospital” for the healing of the sickness of sin—and the place where we receive the true “medicine,” Jesus Christ, through her sacramental, ascetical, and hesychastic Tradition.

In this catechism we are taken from life in Paradise, through the fall of Adam and the reality of sin and corruption, and into life and redemption through Jesus Christ. In the Church we then encounter Holy Tradition, the dynamic “river” that runs through the midst of the Church and provides the “living water” for our thirsty souls. The  treasure of Holy Tradition then presents to us the Holy Mysteries of the priesthood, the Eucharist, and baptism, along with repentance and Holy Confession, all of which are essential for the health and salvation of our souls. Finally, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are shown to be the indispensable means of union with God and as lifegiving manifestations of faith, hope, and love. (ii)

With this map of the layout of the book, readers and listeners are guided with clear and engaging stories, relevant analogies, and patristic wisdom presented for modern readers. Father Michael includes simple ideas and activities to help young people “see” and remember what they are hearing or reading. For example, in the chapter describing how Jesus became Man to heal our sick nature and is the medicine for our sins, he uses the example of a sponge soaking up water:

 This is something like what our Lord Jesus did on the Cross. He absorbed our sins like a sponge into His pure and sinless body and soul because of His love for us. He was the only one who could soak up our sins because He alone is without sin….All of our sins are like a tiny drop to Him. He then drained all of that sin—our sin—out of His humanity and into the sea of His love so that we could be free from sin if we live in Him. (35-36)

Father Michael also offers opportunities for readers and listeners to grow in their faith. In the chapter on prayer he writes:

Have you heard of the Jesus Prayer? “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Can you memorize this prayer? This simple prayer can be with us at any time—at home, at school, at church, when we’re playing, when we’re alone, when we’re with friends.

Saying the Jesus Prayer is like walking through a field in the same place every day. What happens if you walk over weeds and brush over and over? You clear a path, a road, right? If we use the Jesus Prayer a lot, we make a path in our heart that keeps us always with God.

And this is the goal of prayer: To always be with God, our Best Friend. (88-89)

The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism is an excellent book for children to read alone, families to read—and discuss—together, church school, homeschool, and anyone seeking a clear and simply presented catechism of the Church. Nicholas Malara illustrated the book beautifully so this catechism is not only presented in words but also in pictures.

June 2023 - Journey to Freedom

by Rebecca Myerly –

In the early 1970s, during his army service in Russia, Sergei Ovsiannikov was sent to prison for ‘propaganda for the American way of life’ and ‘disobedience to superiors.’ He writes:

It was precisely in prison that freedom came to me. Or, more exactly, that I was born into freedom. Contrary to all logic, contrary to the obviousness of fear. Fear is the main thing that comes over you in prison, in the condition of unfreedom. But it turns out that if you take a good hard look at fear, it does not like the feeling. Fear wants to get away. And then it leaves behind a territory in which freedom may be born. (xvi-xvii) It was while he was in prison that he “heard very clearly the words: Freedom can only be in God.” He explains: “‘God’ was not a word in my vocabulary. I never used it….If I were indeed to recognize that ‘freedom can only be in God’, I had to begin with the fact that I knew nothing about God.” (xxvii, xxvix)

Sergei wrote his book Journey to Freedom more than forty years later, after being a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church for almost thirty years. He writes of his journey:

In the 1970s I dreamed of meeting Metropolitan Anthony of Surozh, whose sermons I knew from samizdat copies that circulated among us. It seemed to me that he knew some secret of life that other people had only a vague notion of. I met him for the first time at the end of the decade, when he came to Russia, But our real acquaintance took place in London, when I went there in January 1989 to continue my biblical studies after completing my studies at the Leningrad Theological Academy. For a year and a half I served as deacon at the London Cathedral, and once a week I went to talk with Vladyka [Metropolitan Anthony]—he was preparing me for the priesthood. It was then that I sensed that a friendship had established itself between us. Later I defined it thus: we shared silence.

Soon after my ordination in 1990, Metropolitan Anthony… petitioned the patriarchate to send me to serve in Amsterdam. I was transferred….But before we parted—it was not a real parting, I knew I would be coming to visit, but still there was this tradition—I asked for words of farewell. I said, ‘Vladyka, what advice would you give me before I start serving in the Amsterdam parish?’ He replied, ‘First of all, don’t emulate me or anyone else. Second, don’t pretend to pray. Third, learn to be yourself.’
I have been attempting to do precisely that ever since. (36-37)

In a very real sense, Journey to Freedom is a journal of Sergei’s life experiences in the light of Metropolitan Anthony’s words to him. He notes:

Try to be yourself without playing any role. Try to remain alone with yourself for at least a short period of time, and you will understand how difficult it is to accomplish it. It is not by chance that many sophisticated technologies of the modern world are aimed at the simple task of ridding man of the necessity of remaining alone with himself. ‘If we are unable to be ourselves, if we only simulate our existence, we become fictitious, counterfeit beings. And God can do nothing with such an unreal person,’ Metropolitan Anthony used to say. (37)

Father Sergei served as a priest in Amsterdam for more than thirty years before his death in 2019. During this time he continued to discern and pursue considerations of freedom from many perspectives. Part autobiography, part philosophical reflection, part psychological consideration, part spiritual awareness—this book is an eclectic mix that is often surprisingly enlightening. Father Sergei read widely and also lived an active involved life in the communities he served, so he brings a unique mix of experiences to his writing and draws often remarkably apt, perceptive, and often nuanced analogies. With these experiences, lived and prayerfully considered, Father Sergei offers much wisdom and direction for the attentive reader. His writing is engaging and permeated with meaning, always with joy and gratitude present in his being and thinking. A remarkable journey to freedom indeed.

May 2023 - The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms

by Rebecca Myerly –

For anyone looking for a gift for a mother on Mother’s Day—

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms is for all mothers in all stages of motherhood. The author, Annalise Boyd, writes from the heart—and often messy reality—of motherhood. She begins her introduction:

At the time of the printing of this book, I will have given birth to three, adopted five, fostered thirty, and been godmother to five children….Whether you are mother to one child or fifteen, it is important to note that once you welcome a child into your life, you will never be the same. From the time that child enters your life—your whole worldview shifts. (11)

Beginning with the priority of making time for prayer and then proceeding to “The “Rule” of Motherhood,” she writes about motherhood being “a type of asceticism.”

Like the ascetics, mothers find themselves in a situation that requires their utter devotion, self-denial, daily emotional exercises, facing extreme challenges, and much prayer…. The rules of motherhood include the two commandments Christ gave: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘…And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). (17-19)

Annalise applies these commandments to motherhood by looking at virtues and seeing them as being “spiritual habits we can pursue at any time” that help mothers “be light-bearers for (their) children to help them walk along the way.” (19) She defines and offers brief reflections on the following virtues and how they look lived: humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence.

Being open and honest about the blessings and struggles of being a mother, the prayers—both liturgical and those the author has written—included in this book cover a broad spectrum of experiences that can come with raising and loving children. For many problems and concerns such as addiction, anger, anxiety, arguing, complaining, correction/chastisement, depression, disobedience, enemies, envy, feeling a failure as a parent, financial strain, greed/selfishness, idle talk/gossip, infertility, irritability, laziness, lying, persecution, pride, sexual immorality, and special needs—behavioral, developmental, emotional, Annalise offers prayers with guidance using thoughtful quotes for reflection.

The author also includes chapters addressing godmothers, foster mothers, mothers of “bonus” children, and grandmothers with examples of Saints who lived their motherhood as Christ bearers. Motherhood is an identity and a ministry in many ways for many people.

Together with The Ascetic Lives of Mothers, the bookstore carries many books on parenting and icons of motherhood such as the two below of Holy Motherhood and The Holy Mothers of the Three (Holy) Hierarchs. An icon of the Theotokos with Christ is always a beautiful gift for a mother.

April 2023 - The Mystery of Christian Life

by Rebecca Myerly –

The Mystery of Christian Life by Saint Sophrony the Athonite (1896-1993) has recently been published in an English translation of the original text written in Russian. Both are published by the monastery Saint Sophrony founded—the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England.

Hieromonk Nicholas, the compiler of this book, writes in a superb and truly edifying foreward:

The majority of the texts in this book are taken from St. Sophrony’s collection of drafts which did not reach book form in his lifetime, because he was so occupied in taking care of the monastery and those who visited with need of his prayer and counsel. The texts began in handwritten form, often on already-used paper, so that not a scrap of paper—each one a gift from God—would be wasted. The final drafts were type-written. Some texts were in files; others were on loose papers, many of which were not in any particular order.

Most of the chapters here are compilations of such notes, grouped by theme, but again, not rigidly delineated. (20-21)

For readers who have read books by Saint Sophrony, The Mystery of Christian Life will be a welcome and, for many, a long anticipated book. Hieromonk Nicholas notes, “Those who have read the books of St. Sophrony already published in English will find some of the thoughts expressed here familiar.” (17) For readers who have not read anything by Saint Sophrony, this book is a great introduction to this Saint and the length and breadth and height and depth of the divine wisdom and insight he was given and shared.

Entering into the world of the Elder’s word/idea, we are spiritually immersed in God’s presence, in which he himself lived. Every moment spent consciously in this sphere acts in a mysterious way upon the whole man: spirit, soul, and even body….The saint’s words are the fruit of long years of weeping and intense prayer, and they transfigure the reader in his ‘inner man’… (18)

Much is revealed about the content of this book from the chapter titles: “Reflections on Monastic Life;” “The Life of Our Monastery;” “The Path I have Travelled;” “On Faith;” “The Person-Hypostasis;” “On Prayer;” “Creativity;” “The Service of Mothers to the Church and the World;” “On Marriage;” “Knowledge of God, Knowledge of Humanity;” “Mankind and Human History;” “Spiritual Life;” and “Spiritual Striving.” The epilogue was also written by St. Sophrony with a penciled note: “for the end of the book” without specifying the book. The Mystery of Christian Life is truly a compilation of life giving writings.

Concluding the foreward, Hieromonk Nicholas writes:

This is a book to be read slowly and prayerfully, the reader’s aim being spiritual and theological nourishment. There are many reflections here that have not been expressed in earlier books. And what we seem to have read elsewhere is refreshed by the inspired way it is expressed, and by our discovery of hitherto unexpressed nuances. (21)

March 2023 - Coming Closer to Christ: Confession and Forgiveness

by Rebecca Myerly –

Coming Closer to Christ: Confession and Forgiveness is a collection of the talks, sermons, and answers to questions Metropolitan Anthony Bloom gave on these subjects. Metropolitan Anthony spoke directly yet with gentle pastoral discernment gleaned from his decades of pastoral experience with confession. In one of his talks titled “Healing the whole body” he said, “Confession is something which is very widely misunderstood and criticized in our times. It is full of possibilities which are not being used, and I would like to disentangle the various elements within the present-day practice of confession.” (3) This he does through many examples. One anecdote the reader will find repeated in this collection because of its wide application, is the story of children coming to confession to him. He explains:

When a child comes to confession, usually he brings either on paper or by memory a long list, or a short list, of sins. And when he has finished, I always say, ‘Are these things which break your heart? Are these things which you feel are wrong in you? Did you invent for yourself this confession?’ And most often the answer is, ‘No, my mother gave me this list because that makes her cross!’ After that I usually have a conversation with the mother. But as far as the child is concerned, it has nothing to do with him, it is not his confession. It is the judgement which the parents have established, accusations against him. And the same could be asked about grown-up people who come with lists of sins which they have found in manuals, or been told to consider by their spiritual fathers. And the answer is always the same: it is not my confession, yet it is a challenge which I was given. (83)

Metropolitan Anthony would then ask the person what they know of Christ, if they like him and what he means to them. If they only know Christ from afar, he would tell them: “Read the Gospel and try to find out what Christ is like.” (84) Then he would ask the person to think about their relationship with Christ—or the lack thereof, and use friendship as a way to help the person see and discern….

Friendship consists most of all in choosing someone among all the people to be to you the one you treasure above all, whom you admire, by whom you are prepared to stand in case of danger or unpleasantness; one to whom you wish to give joy. Ask yourself these questions with regard to Christ; and ask yourself, in what way have you tried in the past week to give some joy to the Lord Jesus Christ, or in what way have you been for him a cause of pain?…

If you can say, ‘Yes, I choose him as a friend’, begin to ask yourself every day, every day, ‘What have I done, said, thought, felt, been, which can be to him a joy or a pain?’

And when you come to confession that is what you must bring to confession….Think in those terms;…prepare,…pronounce a confession that will be your own; the truth, the rock bottom of your life and heart, the truth about your relationship with Christ. Amen. (84-85)

This is simply one example of the wisdom offered in Coming Closer to Christ: Confession and Forgiveness. The reader will find much guidance in the words of Metropolitan Anthony, which could aptly be described as “light in the Lord.”

February 2023 - Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion


by Rebecca Myerly –

At the doors of the liturgical season of Great Lent, the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion is a guide, teacher, and source of encouragement for anyone seeking to understand and enter into these seasons with greater depth. Published by Holy Dormition Monastery, it is described by editor Father David Kidd as being a labor of love—and it is. Being a collaborative effort in many ways and on many levels, including the source materials, there is remarkable unity in this book.

A synaxarion is, by definition, “a short account of the life of the saint or a commentary on the feast that is being celebrated.” (1) This book begins with the Sunday of Zacchaeus (January 22 in 2023) and concludes with the Sunday of All Saints of North America (the Second Sunday after Pentecost—June 18 in 2023). All the Sundays and many Saturdays in these liturgical seasons are included as well as each day in Holy and Great Week plus other liturgical “landmarks” such as the Great Canon and Mid-Pentecost. Each begins: “On this day…” and continues: “we commemorate…” or “we call to remembrance…” or “we celebrate….” Explanations follow for “how and when the feasts began, how they are celebrated, and why they were established by the Holy and Godbearing Fathers.” (1-2) These explanations—which follow the sequence of liturgical events—provide abundant opportunities to gain greater insight and background to understand Tradition (and many traditions) in the Church and the mind of the Fathers. The editor notes, “This English edition has additional information from various sources to enhance and “fill out” the feasts’ explanations for the enlightenment of the reader and for the benefit of all.” (2)

With each synaxarion there is an abridged sermon of a Holy Father. “These sermons were chosen from both the Greek and Latin Fathers and the subjects are either the feast being celebrated or kindred themes.” (3) Each sermon is enlightening.

Father Roman Braga of blessed memory wrote the introduction for Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion. He begins: “Good books need not to be introduced; they speak for themselves.” (5) Yet, being the spiritual Father he was—and continues to be—for many, he wrote:

It is characteristic to Orthodoxy to consider man a liturgical being. Through baptism, man became “the temple of the living God” and is himself a “church”; and the life of the Church is the Liturgy. Whether these synaxaria are read in church or in private, they are and remain prayers. Everything Christians do is part of life’s “liturgy”….The entire book is spiritual. The commentaries from the Holy Fathers, added to these synaxaria, give them a deeper spiritual meaning. For the Holy Fathers, history is twofold. They read behind the events. God is the one who moves the pieces on the chessboard of life. For us it is important to understand God’s reasoning in things and events.

The reading of these synaxaria will help us understand the spiritual meaning of the Scripture, of history and of nature. But it will do so only if we engage personally on the road of spiritual sacrifices. (5,6)

It is the editor’s hope “that this book will be used to increase the readers’ understanding of this festal period, thus strengthening their faith and nurturing their spiritual growth.” (4) With the potential to form the reader by informing, there is an immense amount of grace offered within.

January 2023 - Wisdom from the Holy Mountain

by Rebecca Myerly –

Dr. Steven Rakes has made many pilgrimages to Mount Athos together with other men from St. Mary’s under the guidance of Dr. Harry Boosalis While on the Holy Mountain, the men had many opportunities to be in conversation with monks living there. Dr. Rakes made it his mission to take notes, and these notes have now become a book titled Wisdom from the Holy Mountain: Life Lessons from the Monks of Mt. Athos. He writes in the prologue:

 It was a miracle to me that I was able to remember so much of what was said. I always believed that these notes would be for my friends, family, and me alone. It was not my intention to publish these gems. But during one of my visits, I shared some of this with a monk from Iviron and he said, “Do not hide what you have learned; share it with everyone.” Although these thoughts were delivered by monks to men, I believe these teachings are not for men only but can enrich the lives of everyone who reads them. What you will read in this collection is a summary of the notes I took on these visits….Some of this is repetitive, and that reflects the number of times the monks emphasized a particular point. I want you, the reader, to be able to experience the information as I did. Just as we were able to ask the monks questions about different topics in our minds and hearts, the notes are presented here by topic in the hope that you might be able to read their wisdom about a topic close to your mind and heart, instead of feeling the need to read the story from beginning to end. (2-3)

There is a comprehensive table of contents to facilitate access to specific topics. But note to readers: topics are often so rich in meaning and relevancy that they overflow and pour into other topics, so reading widely within the book multiplies the blessings the wisdom imparts.

Although most of the life lessons are given by monks who remain anonymous (Monk 1, Monk 2, etc.), Dr. Rakes provides brief bios so one can perhaps appreciate more what—and perhaps the context from which—a specific monk is sharing with those listening.

Wisdom from the Holy Mountain: Life Lessons from the Monks of Mt. Athos is physically a small book, but it is huge in wisdom and guidance for people living in the world. It is also remarkably encouraging. Dr. Rakes notes:

One beautiful aspect of the monks I encountered was the positive encouragement that I received from them. Whenever I spoke negatively about myself or the way I was conducting my life, they always spoke words of encouragement, pointing out to me the good in my life and reminding me that life in the world is difficult and that my efforts toward spiritual growth were honored by God. (3)

This is a book for people of all ages teenage and above. No matter what one’s life circumstances are, one will find relevant wisdom and guidance from the monks. Their messages are alive in the tradition of Scripture and the Holy Fathers. One of the notes included aptly describes this book: “The Holy Spirit comes to the reader from holy books.” (8)

Dr. Rakes is donating 100% of the proceeds from his book to the Church. Whether you buy the book as a gift for yourself or for someone else, you are also giving a gift to St. Mary’s.

For people reading this article at a geographic distance from St. Mary’s, the bookstore can mail the book if you email your request to the bookstore. The book is $12 and the shipping charge is $4. Payment can be made online. The physical book is not currently available from a public forum, but the ebook is available from Amazon.

December 2022 - Timeless Truths: The Annual Liturgical Cycle for Every Year

by Rebecca Myerly –

Timeless Truths: The Annual Liturgical Cycle for Every Year is composed of the teachings of Father Symeon Kragiopoulos (1926-2015), edited with a translation by Theophilos Lasswell. Two of Father Symeon’s previous books—“May It Be Blessed” and Anxiety (How It Is Created and How It Is Healed)—have been best sellers in the bookstore. Timeless Truths gives readers the opportunity to listen to the wisdom of this elder for a whole year. Organized to follow the liturgical year, there is an introductory note that explains liturgical time and how to use this book in sync with the liturgical year. For each day, Father Symeon offers brief words of wisdom, humble advice, a thought to ponder….Each entry takes a minute or less to read, but often contains food for thought to nourish the reader throughout the day—and beyond.
One of the remarkable talents Father Symeon has in his writings is to begin with a sentence that immediately draws the reader in and focuses them to anticipate what is ahead. A few examples of these leading sentences are:

*No one is put in order with a single confession. (70)
*Everybody looks for joy. (83)
*The entire life of a human being looks—paradoxical though it may seem—as if it is a battle against God. (104)
*With sins, something analogous happens with what happens with grass. (106)
*Every person, regardless of who he is and how old he might be, down to the child in his cradle, has within his being, within his constitution, this great truth: he wants to assert his existence. (107)
*This is the major issue: Whether we want to or not—that is how God has arranged things—we will become martyrs, in one way for one person and in another for the next person. (118)
*When a person has Christ, all things are simple, all things are easy. (126)
*If a man understands that becoming humble is everything, he will desire to empty himself of all the bulk that exists within him. (171)
*We think that we are going to meet Christ at very special moments. (180)
*All things that happen to people have within them the mystery of salvation. (184)
*Wake up and start your day with zeal. (200)
*We all have a predisposition to appreciate certainty. (303)
*Normally, one is a victim of one’s feelings, thoughts, mindset, even of the coercive complexes that are in him. (386)

For each day, some of the saints celebrated are listed. Father Symeon occasionally bases his meditation on one of these saints, noting a characteristic of the saint and how that characteristic might be—or is—applicable to the reader.

Several themes are underlying and overarching in Father Symeon’s writing, and the reader will meet them many times throughout the liturgical year. For example: the vital importance of prayer, humility, repentance, being always grateful, accepting pain, obedience, and parenting.

Read with openness, Father Symeon’s thoughts and reflections in Timeless Truths are gifts to the reader for reflection, meditation, and perhaps action—all in the love and light of Christ. This book is a good Christmas gift looking to the year ahead.

November 2022 - On Prayer

by Rebecca Myerly –

On Prayer is the sixth volume of The Spiritual Counsels of Saint Paisios. Recently published in English with a translation by the esteemed translator Father Peter Chamberas, this is truly a book filled with spiritual wisdom and guidance. In the Prologue, Mother Philothei, the Abbess of the Holy Hesychasterion “Evangelist John the Theologian,” the monastery Saint Paisios was affiliated with and that publishes his counsels, writes:

For Elder Paisios, prayer is the immeasurable potential which God has given us in order to communicate with Him, and ask for His help. The Elder actually felt pain when he observed people suffering as they struggled “with their limited human capabilities,” when they could have asked for help from God, Who “would have sent not only simply divine help, but a whole variety of divine assistance…” (11)

Divided into seven parts, On Prayer is a guidebook to, into, and in prayer. Beginning with “Communicating with God,” the book continues with “The Struggle for Prayer,” “Our Intercessors Before God,” “Ask and It Shall Be Given You,” “The Jesus Prayer and Nepsis,” “The Life of Worship,” and concludes with “The State of Doxology.” Each section is divided into several chapters explaining the overarching themes in detail. Written in a question and answer format, one is aware of being in the presence of and hearing a wise and humble spiritual father speaking to each questioner and listener, connecting with their concerns and inviting them to awareness, insight, and spiritual growth and appreciation. For example, in answer to the question, “What is the meaning of “Remembrance of God, vision of God”?” Saint Paisios responds:

Remembrance of God means that the mind is on God, that one experiences God, in which case he sees God everywhere. He who succeeds in keeping his mind constantly on God, constantly senses the presence of God and is moved by gratitude, because he sees all things as the blessing of God. One look around suffices for him to understand that God closely follows not only one person, but the entire universe, even the smallest and most insignificant details. Wherever he looks, he sees the splendours of God. He takes one look at the heavens and is transformed by the presence of God. He takes a look at the earth; he sees the birds, the trees, and he sees God, their Creator. That is also prayer; it is also remembrance of God. (203-204)

Whether one is new to prayer or someone with long experience praying, everyone will find spiritual nourishment, direction, and guidance in this book. Saint Paisios speaks to the mind in the heart in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. All who read On Prayer attentively will grow in prayer.

October 2022 - The Whole Counsel of God: An Introduction to Your Bible

by Rebecca Myerly –

Father Stephen De Young, known to many for his podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, has written The Whole Counsel of God: An Introduction to Your Bible. This book is actually a guidebook to how the Bible came to be—and the story is fascinating. Father Stephen traces the histories of both the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha in five succinct chapters: “What Is the Bible?”,“What Is in the Bible?”, “How Did the Bible Get to Me?”, “Which Bible Should I Read?”, and “How Should I Read My Bible?”. Rooted strongly in the Orthodox tradition, this is an informative book to help one understand and appreciate the Bible in and through this tradition.

Father Stephen is gifted in being able to explain the complicated remarkably simply. For example, the evolution and development of the Old Testament obviously involved thousands of years as well as several cultures, languages, and traditions. He breaks down this development into understandable and sometimes surprisingly clearly delineated segments, piecing them together almost seamlessly. He does the same, albeit differently, with the New Testament canon which was written in a relatively short period of time.

One of the most interesting aspects the author addresses is the Greek Old Testament tradition. He notes: “Roughly 70 percent of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament come from the Old Greek.” (53) At the time of the early years of the Church

The Old Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures had proved a remarkable success and had found acceptance in Jewish communities all over the world. This Greek translation was the only version of the Scriptures allowed to be read in the synagogue other than the original. Because Hebrew was virtually unknown in Jewish communities outside of Judea, the Scriptures were read in Greek in most synagogues of the Jewish diaspora, even in regions as close to Judea as Galilee. This is the primary reason that the Greek renderings of these texts are most commonly quoted in the New Testament. As the vast majority of the texts that make up the New Testament were written to Christian communities outside of Judea, the authors quote the version of the text that was familiar to their hearers, both Jew and Gentile. (53-54)

The Whole Counsel of God is a helpful resource for anyone in dialog with Jewish people and Christians of other traditions as well as for people within the Orthodox Church in discussions about the Bible and in Bible studies. In fact, this book is for anyone interested in knowing how the Bible came to be.

It should be noted that Father Stephen takes liberties in this book that, while making the content more readable, is academically questionable. Footnotes are rare, even when discussing material that would benefit from acknowledging his sources. He also does not include a bibliography. While this shows his confidence with his subject matter and makes this book more conversational in tone, it does not make for firm academic authenticity.

September 2022 - The Spiritual Roots of the Ecological Crisis


by Rebecca Myerly –

The Spiritual Roots of the Ecological Crisis by Jean-Claude Larchet focuses on the vital importance of the environment and the crisis of climate change.

Rooting concerns for creation in the historical understanding of the relationship of humans and the natural world, Larchet write in his introduction:

The Orthodox Church can bring to the present crisis the principles which should guide the thought and action of all those who seek to save nature. They are drawn from a long tradition of thought, theological, cosmological, and anthropological on the value of creation and how mankind should relate to it, reinforced by her liturgical and spiritual practice. (3)

There are four sections in this brief 102 page text: “How It Was in the Beginning: Man’s Original Relationship with Nature,” “The Sin of Mankind and Its Ecological Consequences,” “How Did We Reach the Present Situation?,” and “Restoring the Relationship of Man with Nature.” Even with the brevity of the book, Larchet includes spacious quotes from the Church Fathers and contemporary Saints. Succinct and directional, he begins with creation in the first chapter of Genesis with creation being “an expression of the love, greatness, wisdom, and beauty of the Creator.” (12)

Larchet points out: “The ideal relationship between man and God is eucharistic: man should return to God with thanksgiving what God has given him.” (33)

The world is not given to man as a mine of resources to be exploited, but rather as a house of which he is the tenant, and which he should maintain…“like a good head of his household. The rent to be paid to God is thanksgiving for all he has received.

…Man should not be seen so much as a master, but as the servant of the Master…a steward of the Master’s goods. (17)

Tracing how mankind’s thinking has evolved as a result of the popularity of certain philosophies leading more and more away from God and more and more toward focusing on the individual (me-ism might be an apt term for this), Larchet shows how this has resulted in the ever growing abuse of nature for personal benefit and convenience at the expense of others and the world. Egotism, greed, and covetousness have led mankind into the ecological crisis we are in. Demonstrating how social, political, and economic remedies in favor of ecology will help because the current crisis is very much bound up in our political and economic systems, he then notes:

Whatever the value of these social initiatives and ecological gestures, they can only provide partial and provisional solutions. It is clear that the ecological crisis has deep roots and can only be completely solved by equally deep spiritual remedies which address its root causes. (77)

Essential to a deep spiritual remedy is awareness of the restoration of man by Christ, together with man’s collaboration with Christ, prayer, and repentance. “What is needed is that everyone should become an ascetic in the strict meaning of the term, which implies effort, renunciation, and privation based on temperance and sacrifice.” (85)

Patriarch Bartholomew is quoted:

When we sacrifice our life and share our riches, we gain life in abundance and enrich the whole world. This is the experience of humanity throughout the ages: kenosis means plerosis: a voluntary emptying leads to fulfilment. We should apply this in our actions to save the environment. There can be no salvation for the world or hope of a better future without the dimension of sacrifice which we lack. Without a costly and determined sacrifice we can never act as the priests of creation to reverse the spiral of environmental destruction. (86-87)

Larchet concludes:

The love of God is the true foundation for love of nature, but it is also true that a pure and innocent love of creatures can lead us to love God….In the end we must change our attitude to nature, no longer to see it as an object of prey, exploitation, or selfish pleasure, but as a Eucharist. (94-95)

The Cross is the key. Christian life should be eucharistic.

August 2022 - For Mind and Heart: St. Nektarios as Teacher

by Rebecca Myerly –

Saint Nektarios (1846-1920) put great value in education—both sacred and secular. For Mind and Heart: St. Nektarios as Teacher is a collection of texts chosen and translated by Rev. Dr. John Palmer. In his Preface, Palmer writes:

Of the texts included in the present collection, half are sermons or orations, while the remaining texts…are penned in such a way as to both instruct and spiritually move the reader. Consequently, this corpus affords us an opportunity to observe St. Nektarios as a pedagogue in action. (XXII)

The texts are presented in an order that builds and develops. In “On the Feast of the Three Hierarchs,” St. Nektarios emphasizes that St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom each had sacred and secular educations. Their mothers Emmelia, Nonna, and Anthusa (respectively) gave their sons a strong upbringing in the faith, so much so that they were confident their sons would not lose their faith when they sent them off for secular education. With this, St. Nektarios stresses the importance of mothers in raising children. In the next text, titled “Motherhood and the Raising of Children,” he writes:

Nature has appointed parents, especially mothers, to be the teachers of this age [infancy and childhood]…to suitably educate and carefully form children: it is they who serve as images and patterns, of which their children become copies in continuation. A child imitates either the virtues or the shortcoming of his mother, her voice and manner, her ethos and behavior….It is the mother who most properly plants the first idea of God in the child’s heart. (16,17)

In “The Calling of Youth in Society” and “On Exercise,” St. Nektarios turns his attention to young men and the vital importance of a well rounded upbringing for them with both a sacred and secular education working together with physical exercise to build strength of character. Explaining the importance of wisdom, piety, justice, truth, and knowledge, he stresses, “It is…an obligation above every other that we should know ourselves in order to become virtuous, while, conversely, our ignorance of this results in a myriad of sins.” (38)

St. Nektarios quotes Greek philosophers in many of his texts in this book and elsewhere. In “Concerning Greek Philosophy As a Guide Leading to Christianity,” he, steeped in the writing of St. Clement of Alexandria on philosophy, explains, “Greek Philosophy taught about God’s providential care for humanity and became humanity’s pedagogue, leading it to Christ through its sound ideas.” (54) St. Nektarios also carefully points out its deficiency and insufficiency “when it comes to the great work of mankind’s illumination and reformation.” (68)

Man sought divine revelation so as that he might learn the truth, be certain, be convinced; it stood in need of a divine reformer. Philosophy was wanting in both these regards. Man found these in Christianity, however, which Greek Philosophy led it to. This is my humble opinion concerning these matters. (68)

The concluding text in this book is “The Necessary Attributes of a Spiritual Shepherd,” which is a section of St. Nektarios’ Pastoral Handbook. Written in a question and answer format, he highlights the importance of spiritual shepherds (priests and bishops) having a broad and extensive education and formation.

For Mind and Heart: St. Nektarios As Teacher offers guidance and encouragement to parents and all who teach, whether formally or informally. Keeping in mind we all teach, whether intentionally or not, by our words and our actions—and our very being, this book roots the reader in awareness of this calling and responsibility. David Brooks wrote in his book The Second Mountain, “The educated life is a journey toward higher and high love.” (201) This aptly applies to St. Nektarios and all who read him with sincere openness and the desire to learn.

July 2022 - The Sunflower: Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God

by Rebecca Myerly –

The Sunflower: Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God could be described as a practical manual for living life in Christ. It could also be described as a commentary on Romans 8:28–“…God makes everything work together for good….” This book was written by Saint John Maximovitch (1651-1715), Metropolitan of Tobolsk and all Siberia, who is known more commonly as the namesake and ancestor of Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco.

Using the metaphor of the sunflower, Saint John writes:

The sunflower is a flower that constantly turns to the sun—morning, noon, and evening—not only during sunny days but also even during cloudy ones. The will of man should emulate the nature of this flower and turn to God and His divine will every hour, not only in the bright days of life but also during the dark, difficult days. The holiness of a person’s life, according to a certain wise theologian, is the constant striving toward perfection for the duration of life, the gathering of all possible virtues together with God’s will. Whatever is pleasing to God, let it be pleasing to you, O Christian. (146)

Divided into five parts with many chapters in each part, The Sunflower is a clarifying companion for seeking, knowing, and accepting the will of God. For example, in Part One the chapters are “Discerning the Will of God and Conforming to It,” “Why does God Allow Evil?,” “How to Recognize God’s Will in His Inscrutable Judgments,” “How to Determine God’s Will in All Events and Actions,” and “How God’s Will Is Revealed in Jesus Christ, and How We Can Conform Ourselves to It.” Saint John repeatedly emphasizes the inscrutability of God’s will and the importance of accepting God’s will no matter whether we understand it or not. One reminder the reader will find repeated in many iterations throughout the book is that God’s perspective is not necessarily ours, and it is human pride that would think otherwise.
Saint John explains and encourages:

The only true means to acquire happiness in this life and the next is to constantly direct our attention within—to our conscience, thoughts, words, and deeds—and to weigh these things without partiality. This will reveal to us the depths of our delusion in life and will show us the only path to salvation. This path is the complete commitment of our being, together with all the circumstances of our individual life, to the will of God. Let the sunflower be our preferred symbol of this turning toward God. Let us keep the image of the sunflower always in our mind. (62)

In this season of summer when we see sunflowers blooming and in all seasons let us remember the example of the sunflower and pray: “As it pleases God, let it also please me.” (63)
It is thanks to Mother Macrina that copies of The Sunflower: Conforming the Will of Man to the Will of God are available in the bookstore. She has recommended this book to many people because of its vital importance. Anyone who reads it will understand why.



June 2022 - Prayers by the Lake

by Rebecca Myerly –

For Saint Nikolai of Ohrid, a.k.a. Saint Nikolai Velimirovic (1880-1956), Lake Ohrid was a beautiful place. While at Lake Ohrid in 1921-1922, he wrote prayers that were soon published as Prayers by the Lake. A modern spiritual classic, this book has been hard to find for several years until it was recently republished.

In 1919, Saint Nikolai was consecrated Bishop of Zica in the Church of Serbia, and in 1920 he was posted to the Ohrid archbishopric in Macedonia. Reading the prayers in this book it is evident that time at Lake Ohrid was clarifying, focusing, and life giving for him. One could say that Lake Ohrid was a thin place for Saint Nikolai, meaning that the veil between heaven and earth was transparent for him when he was at this lake. The prayers he wrote clearly reflect this. He saw elements of nature to be teachers pointing to divine realities. In his introduction for the first edition of this book in 1922, Saint Justin Popovic wrote about Saint Nicolai:

He thinks through prayer, he philosophizes through prayer. One senses that the luminous souls of the great Orthodox ascetics…are speaking through him. Through prayer he senses God, and through prayer he senses all creation. He is in a prayerful relationship with everything. (11)

For example, mountains and the foam on the lake—

The walls that stand between you and truth and loom up before you like colossal mountains, which you have been trying to cross by running to the point of exhaustion, are your own creation and are more fragile than the white foam on the lake. If only you could open your eyes wide enough not to see them. Truly, the existence of these walls depends upon your seeing them. If you did not wish to see them, they would not exist. (124-125)

Sebastian Press has published a beautiful new edition of Prayers by the Lake, edited and with illustrations by Bishop Maxim Vasiljevic. Todor Mika and Stevan Scott translated the text with great respect for Saint Nikolai’s poetic thinking and writing. The book design and printing were done in Serbia—a fitting tribute to a beloved Serbian Archbishop and Saint—with remarkable attention to detail, including a sewn binding for long use, a subtle wave pattern in the background on each page, and three photos of Lake Ohrid—two of which feature Saint Nikolai on the lake.

Whether you are walking around Bde Maka Ska or spending time at a cabin on a lake—wherever your beautiful place is—Prayers by the Lake is a companion to elevate your journey and provide a lens through which to see in the natural world around you signs of God in His grace.

May 2022 - The Ladder of the Beatitudes

by Rebecca Myerly –
Following in the footsteps of Saint John Climacus and his book The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Jim Forest (1941-2022–memory eternal!) wrote The Ladder of the Beatitudes. To help understand, appreciate, and live the Beatitudes, Forest uses the metaphor of a ladder to describe the connection between each beatitude—much like St. John’s metaphor of a ladder for the virtues that is climbed step by step:

There are eight beatitudes, if we recognize the last two verses as one, as both describe the suffering often imposed upon those who live the gospel: eight facets of discipleship. Yet in another sense, there is only one beatitude, because all are aspects of life in communion with God. Each of the eight describes aspects of being in the Kingdom of God.
They are like rungs on a ladder, which Christ has arranged in an exact order. There is a pattern to his arrangement. Each step builds on the foundation of the previous step, each leads to the next, and each is indispensable. We can’t divide them up, retaining those we find appealing and leaving those we don’t care for to others, as if one could specialize: “I’ll take peacemaking, you can have purity of heart.” (1-2)

After providing introductory information on the Beatitudes, including a chapter on the history and meaning of the word “blessed,” Forest proceeds with two chapters for each beatitude, one for the first half beginning “Blessed are…” and the second for the part of the beatitude beginning “for…”. For each beatitude he gives the history and definition of key words, followed by an in-depth explanation and invitation into the beatitude.
For anyone who has wanted to spend more time exploring the connections between the Beatitudes in an accessible, applicable manner, this book is a clear companion. Forest makes a point to show examples of how the beatitude can be lived and expressed in daily life:

Poverty of spirit is inseparable from mourning. Without poverty of spirit, I am always on guard to keep what I have for myself, and to keep me for myself. An immediate consequence of poverty of spirit is becoming sensitive to the pain and losses of people around me, not only those I happen to know and care for, but also people I don’t know and don’t want to know. To the extent that I open my heart to others, I will do whatever I can to help—pray, share what I have, even share myself. (38)

Step by step, beatitude by beatitude, Forest guides the reader, walking with them as a companion pointing the way into the love of God and living in His grace. He explains:

Each of the beatitudes has to do with dying to self….

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness requires dying to self in the daily struggle to overcome in oneself and in society all those things that keep us apart from God and from each other, everything that destroys communion and community.
Being merciful is a surrender to God, another dying to self. It is not my own personal mercy I have to offer, only God’s mercy passing through my life—if only I will get out of the way.
A pure heart is unobtainable except through death to self. The only thing that makes a heart pure is God’s presence in the heart.
Peacemaking is also a death to self. There is no peace without risk to the self in trying to safeguard the legitimate needs of others, whether friends or enemies….
Accepting persecution as a blessing is the final act of death to self—a poverty of spirit that allows us to cope with condemnation and rejection without bitterness and hatred.
It is all these surrenderings of self to God, most often in very tiny actions invisible to others, that make up the ladder of the beatitudes. (146, 148)

In closing, Forest’s final words of encouragement in The Ladder of the Beatitudes sum up the great blessing of a closer study of the Beatitudes:

Those who climb the ladder of the beatitudes are in the best of company: the prophets, the martyrs, and the saints—the great cloud of witnesses. (158)

April 2022 - The Face of Light: St. Sophrony’s Icons of Christ

by Rebecca Myerly –
Many Saints have written the word—Word—of God as revealed to them. Other Saints have written icons so we can see the Word of God. Saint Sophrony is one of the few Saints who did both. In The Face of Light: St. Sophrony’s Icons of Christ by Sister Gabriela, we see this Saint’s journey into and in the light of Christ through his writing and his icons. Sister Gabriela is uniquely qualified to write this book. On Saint Sophrony’s recommendation, she studied iconography before joining the monastery he founded—the Stravropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, England. Sister Gabriela has written several books about what she has learned from her experiences assisting Saint Sophrony with many of the artistic projects he did in his later life. She writes as a disciple with tremendous respect and appreciation for Saint Sophrony, his writings, his iconography, and his journey in Christ.

In her introduction Sister Gabriela writes:

The purpose of this book is to present the icons St. Sophrony created in his search to depict the face of Christ. It was my hope to allow the icons and murals to speak for themselves. However, since our modern minds are accustomed to fast and ever-changing visual imagery, I have added quotes from St. Sophrony’s writings in order to encourage the reader to pause and have a fuller experience viewing the Presence of the images. (7)

She then includes an essay titled “The Face of Light: St. Sophrony’s Icons of Christ” in which she explains:

Christ was the center of St Sophrony’s life. He experienced the Uncreated Light as a child, and yet in adolescence fell away from the true faith turning toward the darkness of non-being. But Christ sought him out, penetrating the darkness with a thin ray of light in which St. Sophrony recognized his Creator. From then on, for the rest of his life, with ardent prayer of repentance, St. Sophrony sought to come ever nearer to Christ Who hearkened to his prayer and, once again, gave him the grace of beholding the uncreated Light as well as the rare gift of prayer when Christ Himself would pray within him….

Towards the end of St. Sophrony’s long life, he wrote his spiritual biography as well as other books describing his inner journey in order to share his experiences for the benefit of others. And yet, there is a threshold where words are not adequate, and this is where painting can take over. An icon can express more than a million words. St. Sophrony painted several icons of Christ. He spent many hours in diligent search to find the right glance, the right expression of light and humility and softness, but also the right expression of Divine strength, of the otherworldly eternal in human form. However, he was never fully satisfied with the result. He observed that at most it is only possible to capture a small fraction of Christ and His icons are like springboards: we see that the icon represents Him and our mind shoots up much higher, beyond the icon, towards our Creator. (9-10)

Sister Gabriela has formatted this book so that we see Saint Sophrony’s drawings and icons of Christ together with selected quotes, allowing the reader to enter into the Word revealed. She also includes “Some reflections on Christ, by St. Sophrony.” At the back of the book she has “Quote references and comments on the illustrations.” This section helps the reader understand and appreciate Saint Sophrony’s process. The Face of Light: St. Sophrony’s Icons of Christ is a beautiful, grace-filled guide, companion, and enduring inspiration—especially so as we journey to Pascha in the Light of Christ.

March 2022 - Sin and Salvation: An Orthodox Understanding of Redemption

by Rebecca Myerly –

Sin and Salvation: An Orthodox Understanding of Redemption is the most recent book by Dr. Harry Boosalis, published late last year by Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Press. Dr. Boosalis wrote this book using materials he originally prepared for an introductory class for seminarians he taught at St. Tikhon’s Monastery. With three overarching chapters titled “An Orthodox View of Sin,” “Redemption and Reconciliation,” and “Divine Grace and Human Freedom,” he offers readers the opportunity to grow in understanding and appreciation of many core beliefs and perspectives of and in the Orthodox Church. For example, in writing about salvation he explains:

The Orthodox experience of salvation is unique. It sets the Orthodox Church apart from every Christian denomination in the world….In the Orthodox Church, salvation ultimately leads to personal experience of Christ’s all-inclusive love and heartfelt prayer for the salvation of all mankind. Characteristic of salvation in Christ is the desire for the salvation of each and every human person. (1-2)
Salvation is spiritual therapy. Salvation is the healing and purification of our human nature in Christ and through Christ. This therapeutic renewal comes about through our personal participation in the ascetical, liturgical and sacramental life of Christ’s Holy Body—His holy Church.
Salvation is a process, a “passover” from death to life, a passage from darkness to light; salvation is Pascha. Salvation is a new attitude—a new worldview. Salvation is acquiring the mind of Christ: “But we have the mind (νους) of Christ,” teaches the Apostle Paul. Salvation is repentance (μετανοια), which means literally: decisively and resolutely changing or altering (μετα) your mind (νους)—that is to say, changing the way you think.
We must always bear in mind, there is no theological definition that fully describes the depth of our experience of salvation in Christ. (4)

Dr. Boosalis then explores and explains “some basic concepts and terms that are fundamental to further discussion.” (5) This he does using Scripture, patristic writings, and writings from contemporary Saints and elders and other authors. In addition, he clarifies how and why the Orthodox view of sin and salvation and predestination differ from the views other traditions have on these subjects. For example:

In Orthodox theology, the concept of sin is not focused on the breaking of a rule or regulation. Rather sin is seen as a spiritual sickness, which separates us from God’s grace and glory—that is, from His kingdom. Sin is a sickness that requires spiritual therapy.
Sin separates us from God and from each other. It not only ruptures our relationship with other people; sin also separates us from our own true selves. We sin when we make wrong choices that lead to our separation from God’s likeness….
From an Orthodox view, our own personal sins have cosmic significance. Our own personal sin—our own individual self-inflicted separation from God—affects all mankind. Indeed we all make our own personal contribution to the universal sin, suffering, and general disfunction that engulfs our world today. Our own individual sins and misguided choices have cosmic ramifications. (13-14)

Whether you are looking to personally understand more about sin and salvation and other key concepts in the Orthodox tradition or to be more informed in order to dialog with people of other traditions, Sin and Salvation: An Orthodox Understanding of Redemption is a great resource concisely written in 69 pages.

To hear more from Dr. Boosalis exploring the Orthodox spiritual life in conversation with Paul Karos, please listen to their podcast Person to Person.

February 2022 - "When You Fast"

by Rebecca Myerly –

L. Joseph Letendre has written a brief, succinct, edifying, and sometimes humorous book titled When You Fast: The Why and How of Christian Self-Discipline. In the introduction, aptly titled “Coming to Terms with Fasting,” Letendre defines the term, locates it in the biblical context, addresses the “rules,” and concludes:

Fasting is eminently practical—in the literal sense: it is something you put into practice, something you do. Putting this Christian discipline into practice in twenty-first–century North America presents its own set of difficulties. This book will attempt to face some of these difficulties while showing the continuing relevance and importance of practicing both fasting and other forms of Christian self-discipline. (11)

The author divides the book into two parts, first addressing why we fast followed by how we fast. We fast because of Christ and the Church.

Fasting, together with other forms of self-denial we will consider…, is a crucial component in the work of taking up our cross. But the question remains, Why? There are (at least) three reasons: We fast to prepare. We fast to be free. We fast to be fruitful. (17)

The reader is invited to fast with the Church and choose one’s weapons, by which he means:

There’s more to fasting than fasting. The word “fasting” is shorthand for the entire range of disciplines Christians have undertaken for centuries. For the Church, these are the tools, or more accurately, the weapons we use in our largely unseen warfare against the kingdom of Satan, the kingdoms of this world, and the kingdom of self….Along with fasting, the disciplines of abstinence include solitude and silence, self-restraint through frugality and chastity, and sacrifice—all performed in secrecy. These disciplines are the equipment we have been issued by the Church for our spiritual struggle. They are provided to help us build a life that is of service to our neighbors and pleasing to God. These disciplines are our weapons in our resistance campaign against the three enemies of grace—the age in which we live (the world), our own fallen human nature (the flesh), and the one who wields these against us (the devil). The Church calls the proper and effective use of these weapons asceticism….The word “asceticism” is rooted in the Greek word ascesis, which means “exercise, training.” (39, 41-42)

Letendre starts this ascetical exercise with fasting from food, learning and growing in the concept of denying oneself. He writes:

Asceticism is goal-oriented. Fasting, and all the other Christian disciplines, are tools…for specific purposes….Asceticism is intended to increase our capacity to love God and our neighbor….The whole point of Christian asceticism is to increase our capacity to obey Christ. (49, 62)

From fasting from food the author moves on to fasting from talking and the vital importance of cultivating silence —interior, exterior, and in one’s environment. After providing clear evidence for the importance of silence and guidance for clearing one’s mind of toxic thoughts and thinking, Letendre concludes with an appendix titled “A Field Guide to Toxic Thoughts” which is a clarion call to any reader who has been really listening while reading When You Fast: The Why and How of Christian Self-Discipline.

“We fast because we are loved, and we fast to be better able to love.” (89)

January 2022 - "At the Doors of Holy Lent" is a great guide and companion...

by Rebecca Myerly –
At the Doors of Holy Lent is a great guide and companion for entering into the liturgical season of Great Lent. Written by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou of the Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England, this book focuses on the five Sundays preparing for the Triodion and the four Sundays of the  Triodion. In addition there is a section titled “Constant Principles for Our Spiritual Warfare.” The Introductory Note explains:

“During the period before the Triodion and the Sundays which mark its beginning, the Church sets forth before our eyes various lessons through the Gospel readings: the grateful Leper, the Blind Man of Jericho, Zacchaeus, the good and faithful Servant of the ‘talents’, the Canaanite woman, the Publican, the Prodigal Son and the Righteous on Judgment Day. Through some word, or deed, or attitude, these people all attracted God’s gaze upon them. They became the target of his visitation and traversed centuries in an instant. These suffering souls, who had withered away either because of sin or because of not knowing the true God, came into the presence of the Lord and ‘a spiritual sun, the name of which is persona, began to rise in them.

…In this way, the Church guides us, knowing the struggle which we are encouraged to undertake in order to find our deep heart, so that we may also become persons in the sight of our Creator and Judge, the targets of His visitation.

…The path is trodden. The constant principles are laid out with clarity, and we must keep them in our  conscience as our polar star, as pearls of great price. We must embrace them so that they may render our labour fruitful not only during Great Lent, but also throughout our lives. (11-12)”

Reading what Father Zacharias writes about the Gospel readings for each Sunday, we are sitting at the feet of a wise spiritual guide and elder inviting us to hear, know, and grow in this word of God. Father Zacharias writes:

“In every passage of the Gospel we find a perfect teaching that portrays the whole Christ. He is hidden in every verse of Scripture, but according to the Fathers, in order to discover Him, we need to ‘use the virtues of our hands to knock on the door of Scripture’.” (52)

Reading At the Doors of Holy Lent we are knocking at the door of Scripture and Father Zacharias leads us through the doors with God-given wisdom and grace.

Note: The Sunday of the Ten Lepers, the first Sunday written about in this book, is on January 16, 2022.

December 2021 - Bookstore Treasures

by Rebecca Myerly –
The bookstore at St. Mary’s is a great source for truly meaningful gifts in all seasons, but especially for  Christmas. Now is a good time to visit the newly remodeled and conveniently organized bookstore to select gifts that nourish the spirit. For people stopping in for a quick browse, there are featured item displays  including a “New and Noteworthy” section. You will find a large selection of icons and books and other gift  ideas from which to choose. Gift certificates are also available.

During this season of grace, there are many icons of the Nativity and books available to enrich the Advent journey. Christmas ornaments and micro icons (1”-1  ½” in size) are popular gifts for friends and family.

With an abundance of books to choose from, two to highlight are
101 Orthodox Saints by Presvytera Sarah Wright and Alexandra Schmalzbach, with illustrations by Nicholas Malara. This is a great book for people of all ages, even though the book is featured for children.
Timeless Wisdom: Frescoes from the Community of St. John the Baptist (Essex, England). This beautiful book is filled with icons of Saints and meaningful passages for prayerful meditation. In the introduction explaining this book, the community writes: “Saints were selected based on their ascetic writings, and each carries a scroll presenting their words on the general theme of “brotherly love.” In the case of women monastics whose writings have not come down to us, their scrolls contain some representative aspect of their lives.” (6)

If you are looking for a gift to be enjoyed around the house or in a dorm room, the bookstore has branched out and brought in some new items with designs by Orthodox Christian artist Aaron Gray, including mugs and framed canvas prints. The mugs feature Saints with their powerful words of inspiration. They are  microwaveable, dishwasher safe, and available in 11 oz. and 15 oz. sizes. The canvas prints feature words of faith and encouragement. They measure 8”x 8” x 1 ½” so they can be featured on a table or desk top—or be hung on a wall. Aaron explains that all his creations are “made with the prayer that [they] will bring the spirit, beauty and joy of the Orthodox Church out into the world and into the everyday lives of Orthodox Christians.”

For parents and grandparents looking for a child’s gift that can last for generations, we are delighted to offer hand-carved Orthodox Churches made of building blocks. We are grateful to Presvytera Alexandra for introducing us to Alex Goncharov, who lives in Canada and carves the churches from Canadian Red Western Cedar and Olive Wood harvested in Bethlehem. His labor of love began as a way to teach his daughter about Orthodoxy and all the parts of the Church. He makes two churches a week, at night, after his day work. If you are interested in one of these sets, please come to the bookstore or email:

This is simply a sampling of the gift ideas in the bookstore. Come and see!

November 2021 - "On Fasting and Feasts" by Saint Basil the Great

by Rebecca Myerly –
On Fasting and Feasts by Saint Basil the Great is a fitting book for the liturgical season of the Nativity Fast  when the focus for Orthodox Christians leading to the Nativity of Christ is on fasting while for many—Christians in other traditions and others in the world—this is a season of feasting. Susan R. Holman and Mark  elCogliano (a professor at the University of St. Thomas) have translated nine sermons by Saint Basil, all  relevant to fasting and feasting and the liturgical year—including “On the Holy Birth of Christ,” “On Baptism,”  “On Giving Thanks,” “Against Drunkards,” two sermons on fasting, and three sermons on martyrs. Dr.  Holman’s helpful introduction provides the reader with background and context to enrich understanding and appreciation of the sermons, each of which has a distinctive character.

The purpose and message Saint Basil  had in mind and heart are clearly tailored to his audience. At the same time, there is a universal relevance to his  messages that transcends the specific context in which each sermon was originally given to address the  human condition in general.

Saint Basil’s sermons were sometimes catechism classes given in the form of a sermon. On occasion, they rose to liturgical praise, as in his sermon “On the Holy Birth of Christ,” when he says:
“Let us…welcome this great joy into our hearts. The angels bring good news of this joy to the shepherds. Let us adore with the magi. Let us glorify with the shepherds. Let us sing with the choirs of angels: For to you is born today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has shone upon us….It is the feast in which all creation shares.” (38-39)

Saint Basil was—and is—a perceptive guide and astute teacher. He was also direct in his assessments and  admonitions. For example, in his sermon “On Baptism,” urging his listeners to be baptized, he says:
“Look inward, to the secret depths of your own soul. Take inventory of your conscience. Do not despair if you find you have many sins, for where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, if, that is, you receive grace. Much is forgiven the one who owes much—so he might love more.” (46)

He warns of the evil one who tries to trick one into thinking and saying, “Today for me; tomorrow for God.” (50) Then he urges his listeners, “Take instruction; learn the Gospel rules….Be dead to sin. Be crucified with Christ, your whole heart in love with the  Lord.” (51)

Fasting is a priority for Saint Basil and often woven into his sermons, as the practice is foundational  for truly living in Christ. In his “Second Homily on Fasting,” he explains: “Fasting is likeness to the angels, companionship with the righteous, moderation in life….Fasting is the beginning of repentance….We must fast with an acceptable fasting that is pleasing to God. True fasting is being a stranger to vice, controlling the  tongue, abstaining from anger, distancing oneself from lust, evil speech, lying, perjury. The absence of these  vices makes fasting true, and so shunning these vices makes fasting good.” (78, 80)

On Fasting and Feasts is a good resource of guidance and direction for Orthodox Christians, especially now as we journey to the Nativity of Christ in faith, hope, and love.

October 2021 - "Ten Homilies on the Beatitudes"

by Rebecca Myerly –
Ten Homilies on the Beatitudes contains little known sermons by St. John of Kronstadt (1828-1909), one of the best known modern Russian saints. St. John’s personal chronicle My Life in Christ has been broadly known since it was first translated into English at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it is only recently that his Ten Homilies on the Beatitudes has been translated into English.

Professor Nadieszda Kizenko-Frugier, the translator of these homilies, wrote an informative introduction that includes a brief history of St. John of Kronstadt, the religious and political environment he lived in, his social consciousness, how the Homilies came to be, and the priorities St. John addressed in and through them.

She writes: At first, Father John’s reputation was local. Then, in 1883, Russia’s largest newspaper, New Time, ran an open letter from grateful recipients testifying to their healing at his hands. This brought him national fame and established Kronstadt as one of the leading pilgrimage sites in Russia. People came by the shipload; those who could not inundated the post office with their pleas. He became the first modern Russian religious celebrity, with his image on souvenir scarves, mugs, placards, and postcards. His sermons were printed in virtually every newspaper and journal. In effect, all of Russia was his parish. (6)…People from every social class and religion in the Russian Empire, including Muslims, Buddhists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Jews, wrote and flocked to him, and the emperor Alexander III himself acknowledged that St. John was “the most popular person in Russia.” (10)… In 1894, when he was asked to minister to the dying emperor Alexander III, his fame became international, attracting correspondents from Europe and the United States. (6)

St. John’s social consciousness was great and focused through the lens of the Beatitudes. In these homilies, which date “from St. John’s early period, when he was known primarily in Kronstadt and its environs…(we see him) as a local parish priest, intimately concerned with the life and behavior of his immediate flock.” (7)

Professor Kizenko-Frugier emphasizes that “above all, the Homilies are an invitation to the Liturgy….By concentrating on a simple and basic text (the Beatitudes) which he notes are “read or chanted” every day, (St. John) illuminates the entire Divine service” (12) and the direct words of Christ.

In these homilies St. John lays the groundwork and framework from—and in—which he speaks of the Beatitudes, defining and delineating each Beatitude and revealing the vitality in each. In a very real way, Ten Homilies on the Beatitudes is a catechism given by a loving shepherd to his flock—those listening in his parish when he gave the homilies and listening readers of all times and in all places. St. John reveals how living the Beatitudes is truly life giving.

September 2021 - "Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality"

by Rebecca Myerly –
September first, the first day of the ecclesiastical new year, is a day of prayer for all Orthodox Christians “to offer prayers for the protection and preservation of the natural creation of God.” (188)

Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality was written by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis. Eminently and uniquely qualified to write about the environment from his many years as Archdeacon to Patriarch Bartholomew (aka the green patriarch), Fr. Chryssavgis has written an invitation and clarion call to see God’s creation as the gift it is and to live with respect and compassion for all creation. He begins by explaining that caring for creation is fundamental and foundational in the Orthodox faith, and is rooted in the history and beliefs of the Church.

On creation as sacrament, Fr. Chryssavgis writes: “The divine mystery revealed in Christ is the foundation and substance of all sacraments, which unveil something greater and deeper than whatever we see in the world….The word [sacrament] (is) equivalent to the Greek term “mystery” (mysterion) that denotes a reality hidden while at the same time revealed through initiation….In this sense, since everything is a reflection of the divine, the actual number of Christian sacraments—or mysteries, as they are known in the Orthodox Church—can never be limited to the seven conventional rites of baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, marriage, confession, unction, and ordination…

In all its transcendence, a sacrament always remains an historical event, demanding material expression in which God becomes manifest in time and space. For instance, the Eucharist is God’s manifestation in bread and wine, where the world becomes the historical and material sacrament of God’s presence, transcending the ontological gap between created and uncreated. The world articulates and relates in very tangible terms this co-inherence and cooperation between divine and human in history, denoting the presence of God “incarnate among us” (John 1:14). In this way, the sacramental principle becomes the way that we perceive the world around us as sacred, a tangible mystery revealing and reflecting the invisible divine: the spiritual in matter and the eternal in time. (87)

A sanctioned—or sacramental—way of appreciating and approaching the world lies in the distinct symbols and values of the Orthodox Church, which include: icons (the way we view and perceive creation), liturgy (the way we celebrate and respond to creation), and ascesis (the way we respect and treat creation). Orthodox icons, liturgy, and spirituality offer a fresh way of seeing and imagining the world asintended by God from “the beginning.” (113)”

With this awareness, one realizes that “every act of exploitation, pollution, or destruction of the natural environment is an offense against God.” (165) Patriarch Bartholomew, “whose focus is on creation as the body of Christ…considers both the planet and all people as the incarnate body of the Creator, an inseparable and interconnected part of the living God.” (180)

He states: “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation…for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping it of its forests, or by destroying its wetlands… for humans to injure other humans with disease and contaminate Earth’s waters, land and air with poisonous substances…these are sins. (163-164)”

Fr. Chryssavgis writes that we are called to “a cosmic liturgy” which is a worldview in which “everything bears a sacramental seal and everything enjoys a sacred significance.” (175)

We should ruminate and meditate on the way we are living, on what we are doing. If we are going to effect a shift in our attitude and change our lifestyle in order to regulate or reverse the environmental crisis, we must first of all perceive our world and ourselves; we must change our worldview, our image or “icon” of the world. This calls for a change of mindset, a conversion of heart that is the essence of repentance and its Greek concomitant metanoia.” (176)

Key to this struggle is the “ascetic imperative” that implies more than simply living or living simply. It issues into compassionate concern for all people, to the least of our brothers and sisters, as well as to all creation, to the last speck of dust. Compassion is what Christians are called to be and supposed to be about—a compassion extended to every living being and every natural landscape. …Christian compassion should be expanded to the reverence for and sustenance of every living creature. (180)

Creation as Sacrament is informative and edifying, with clear guidance on creation care.