Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Test Your Awareness

I just came across this and had to share it. Not only does it get its point across, but that point is applicable to many other situations in life.

I would argue that in this day and age the spiritual, the Grace of God, often falls into this category.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More Americans Support Life


A Gallup Poll has discovered that Americans now hold a pro-life stance by a slight majority (51%).

Read the report here!.

Of Prayer Books -
Guardian Angel Prayer Book
by Josephus Flavius

Thanks to our good friend Joseph Flavius at Byzantine Texas for his recent review of the Guardian Angel Prayer Book and permission to include it here.

Joyfully surprised by the Guardian Angel Prayer Book

A few weeks back I ordered two prayer books from the new ACROD bookstore, Orthodox Goods. The online store is a new enterprise for the Christ the Saviour Seminary and it looks like they will continue to add new items as time passes. In search of a good, pocket-sized prayer book (I suggest the Potamitis Publishing "My Prayer Book" for a larger equivalent) I ordered the Guardian Angel Children's Prayer Book and expected to see a book of prayers with occasional colorful pictures to entertain the eye.

What I received instead was much more than that. On durable yet flexible picture-book quality paper the majority of the book is actually a walk-through of the Divine Liturgy. It presents pictures, short explanations, and prayers in a way that a child could hold the book and follow along quite easily. The last third of the book (again, beautifully illustrated) is a compendium of prayers in a child-readable, large font along with a short listing of greetings based on the time of year (e.g. 'Christ is Risen!' 'Christ is Born!').

I plan to use this book both at home and at church this weekend as an aid for understanding the Faith. It should come in quite handy when a child's mind wanders so I pass down the book and ask him, "Find where we are in the liturgy."

As I mentioned a few months back a lot of emails I receive are requests for help finding a good online religious items retailer. Next week I'm going to list a number of them I have ordered from along with a rating system and anecdotal notes.

As an additional endorsement, we gave our daughter a copy of this delightful prayer book when she was little and it was her constant companion every time we went to church.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Of Prayer Books - An Invitation

So far, I've commented on six English language prayer books. It is my intention to add a few more; however, if anyone would like to contribute a review of a favorite Byzantine Catholic or Orthodox prayer book I will be happy to consider posting it (and if so, you will be given credit). After all, I don't own a copy of every prayer book.

I ask only that you follow the basic format I've already established: Title, publisher, general and specific features, Classical English versus Modern English, details about the binding, etc..

You may contribute your reviews either using the comment option below, or email me directly via "information at"

Of Prayer Books VI - Orthodox Daily Prayers

Orthodox Daily Prayers is published by St Tikhon Seminary Press. The 2008 edition is a revision of the 1982 original. In many ways, this volume is a compromise between the Jordanville and Holy Transfiguration Monastery approaches to prayer books. The collection of morning and evening prayers are those found in the Jordanville and Publicans prayer books. Yet here we also find Little Compline and the Three Canons as well as Communion.

Orthodox Daily Prayers is more of a small paperback than a 'pocket' book. Somewhat larger than A Book for Prayer, the text is tight but readable. Not just in classical English, but copyrighted Revised Liturgical English, it is useful and not overly expensive.

I would note that while the psalm texts are nice, they reflect a forthcoming new edition. To my mind, it would have made a better book to use the Holy Transfiguration Psalter - but that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MercatorNet picks up the story

Mentioned here in February, MercatorNet has now added a piece about the problems of an Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization and the limits of freedom of expression in the United Kingdom. Read it here.

Of Prayer Books V - (A Book for Prayer)

A Book for Prayer is published the Office of Educational Services of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, MA. One might see it as sort of Melkite version of the Pocket Prayer Book reviewed earlier. The selection is somewhat less numerous than its Antiochian counterpart; however, the text is somewhat larger and in modern English. While not including the text of the Divine Liturgy, there are prayers and reflections for Confession and preparatory prayers for Holy Communion, etc.. Nice inclusions are a brief introduction, an abridged menologion (list of calendar dates), a short glossary and a few notes about "Priestless Services".

A Book for Prayer is published in a yellow cover with reddish letters. As noted above, the font size is somewhat larger than A Pocket Prayer Book, and the overall dimensions are somewhat larger. While not perhaps as "handy" as the Pocket Prayer Book, this volume is convenient and probably easier to use for those of us who have started playing trombone with our reading materials.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Of Prayer Books IV- (A Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians)

A Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, nicknamed by many in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese as "Chairman Philip's Little Red Book", (although it is also available in a black cover) has been a best seller for well over forty years. It is a basic collection of morning, evening, and daily prayers for various occasions. It includes the text of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (as used in the Antiochian Archdiocese), with preparatory prayers for Confession and Communion, thanksgiving prayers after Communion. A supplemental section of "prayers for various occasions" provides the Trisagion Prayers of Mercy, and the inclusion of various priestly prayers has ensured that the volume is almost always somewhere about the person of many priests and deacons. The language is classical Church English.

The Pocket Prayer Book is usually available in three covers. The most commonly seen is a basic red, sometimes with a textured pattern. Two vinyl cover options allow red or black (as noted above). While the font size is small, it has changed little since the old days of typesetting and so is surprisingly readable. The size, format and price of the Pocket Prayer Book make it an affordable book to own and take along, as well as a nice gift or "stocking stuffer".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

we interrupt this program....

While I will be continuing to review various Orthodox and Byzantine Prayer Books over the next week or two, I promised our congregation I would provide a link so they could watch a fascinating BBC program called Extreme Pilgrim. Particularly, I recommended the episode of host Peter Owens-Jones (an Anglican minister) and his visit to St Anthony Monastery in Egypt. The program offers a glimpse into the holy aesthetic Tradition of the Eastern Churches.

There are two sites from which one may view the entire program, here and here.

Or, here....

For another good monastic program, check out Ostrov (The Island), available from Archangels Books. It's a keeper.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Of Prayer Books - III (Holy Tranfiguration's Prayer Book)

The Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians of Holy Transfiguration Monastery demands attention from anyone serious about following a rule of prayer. This prayer book provides a more liturgical rule that still works on a personal (individual) level. The Morning Prayer section is somewhat abbreviated in comparison to the Jordanville and Sophia Press books. However, like the Jordanville volume, this book includes excerpts from Orthros and Vespers, and Troparia, Theotokia and Kontakia for all the major Feast Days. Instead of the Evening Prayers, Small Compline is provided along with seven Canons and Akathists, allowing each evening to be concluded with a particular spiritual emphasis. For those who might find the nightly repetition of the bedtime prayers difficult, the option of Compline with a Canon or Akathist provides variety within a stable framework.

The text is in classical English. Of special note is that the troparia typically can be chanted easily according to the original Greek melodies. For example, if you know the melodies of the Paraklesis (Supplicatory Canon) to the Theotokos chanted every August, you can chant the HTM texts with no difficulty. The troparia of a given ode all follow the same pattern.

This particular emphasis of the monks’ work is most praiseworthy. Generally, translation of Eastern hymns seek to get the meaning across without reference to the poetic quality inherent in all Byzantine worship. The monks at Holy Transfiguration, however, often spend years refining the phrasing and clarity of the translation before publishing. This guarantees that their work will flow easily whether recited or chanted.

While it is taking them decades to complete translations and publication of the entire corpus of Byzantine liturgical books, the work to date indicate that Holy Transfiguration’s translations will endure as standards against which all others will be measured.

Like all of Holy Transfiguration’s publications, the Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians is cloth-bound and beautifully printed on quality paper of proven durability. The text is in black with rubrics and instructions in red with icons periodically gracing the text. This book is made to last and is a worthy addition to your prayer shelf library.

PS, To the person asking about Spanish language prayer book resources, I will look into it and see what I can find.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Of Prayer Books - II (Publicans Prayer Book)

For a modern English equivalent to the Jordanville Prayer Book, one can use the recently-published Publicans Prayer Book from Sophia Press. Indeed, the Publicans Prayer Book is, to some extent, a Melkite version of the Jordanville Prayer Book. The complete morning and bed-time prayers seem to be modern English updates of the Jordanville originals. However, there are significant and welcomed differences.

While omitting the ‘public’ liturgical material found in the Jordanville volume, the Publicans Prayer Book packs in a complete Menologion, with Troparia for every day of the year, including the common Troparia for saints not having their own Troparion. It also features complete preparatory prayers and Canons for Holy Communion and Confession, Prayers and Canons for various needs, and a collection of quotations from the Church Fathers and much more. The appendices includes topics on the Christian home, fasting practices and aids for living the spirigual life.

The Publicans Prayer Books is an astounding accomplishment. In the past, Sophia Press publications have been plagued by typographical errors. This volume is beautifully presented with no typos found. The binding is sturdy, appearing to be sewn, with a burgundy leather cover, gilded-edged pages and five ribbons for place marking. The pages themselves are sturdy, slightly cream coloured, with a red border. Prayer text is nicely sized in a pleasing font, with rubrics and instructions in red. Here and there iconic images grace the pages.

With only one intercession for the Pope, the Publicans Prayer Book could serve quite well for Orthodox Christians as well as Melkites and Eastern Catholics. Indeed, the Publican's Prayer Book may prove to be the twenty-first century's main competition to the Jordanville Prayer Book in the hearts of many. I only hope that Sophia Press not limit its publication to a single run as this book has enduring potential - and I'm not saying that only because it was published by my Eparchy's publication arm.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Of Prayer Books - I (the Jordanville Prayer Book)

While not necessarily the first, one of the recognized early classic prayer books is the Prayer Book of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. This volume includes the complete morning and evening ‘personal’ prayers, as well as excerpts from Matins, Vespers, the people’s text of the Divine Liturgy, and Troparia for each day of the week and all the important Feast Days of the Church Year. In addition, Akathists and Canons to our Lord, the Theotokos, and the complete preparatory prayers and Canon for Holy Communion and Thanksgiving After Holy Communion are included.

The older editions of this highly influential collection featured a sturdy hard cover with etched decoration. I've had my copy since the 1970s and though the pages have yellowed, it has held up quite nicely. Somewhere along the way the text of the prayers were tweaked and the original translation of the psalms was replaced with the Psalter According to the Seventy from Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The newer edition also includes a section on Christian living and etiquette in Church. The newer edition's cover is somewhat fancier and the page edges are gilded.

The Jordanville Prayer Book uses classical English (Thee, thou, shalt, etc.), which may not suit everyone, but certain traditional phrasings familiar to almost everyone in the English-speaking Orthodox and Greek Catholic world originate from this volume. For those wishing to check it out before ordering, the original text is fully available online at two locations, Myriobiblos in Greece and St Mary of Egypt parish in Atlanta.

To my knowledge there is only one comparable prayer book to the Jordanville volume, and that will be my next review.

PS, I am happy to take suggestions of other prayer books as I don't pretend to know them all. If I have not already prepared a review I'll be delighted to consider yours.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Of Prayer Books - Introduction

As a priest of the Church, prayer is the essential and central reality of my vocation and life. As a Byzantine priest, I am called upon to follow the priestly rule of prayer prescribed by that Tradition.

Some time ago, I reviewed two basic options for following the priestly rule in English (search this site for "Divine Praises"). However, this does not exhaust the options available in English for Byzantine prayers in general. For the Eastern Christian, prayer is not confined to the public liturgical life of the Church (the Divine Liturgy, the Hours, Mysteries, Akathists, Canons, etc.). Even as we cherish and preserve the divine services and hymns of the Fathers, we also preserve various prayers that have proven spiritually beneficial over the centuries. Herein, I will review several notable collections of these ‘personal’ prayers available in English.

First, I must clarify that I am not including discussion of such English language classics as Isabel F Hapgood's Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church or Father Seraphim Nassar’s Divine Prayers and Services of the Catholic Orthodox Church of Christ (the “Five Pounder”). While these are excellent resources, their content is generally ‘public’ worship. My focus will be on the ‘personal’ prayer books.

I will present these reviews as a series of individual posts. This may help those who are searching for information on a particular volume. In addition, any comments can be tied to the specific book under consideration.