I try to read about one book a month that is clearly outside my Evangelical tradition. It has been a little while since I have read much about the Eastern Orthodox church. Most of what I have read about the Orthodox Church has been about prayer, or community or conversion. Journey to the Kingdom: An Insider’s Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church by Vassilios Papavassiliou looks like a broader look at the Eastern Orthodox church.
Englewood Review of Books posted Amy Gentile’s review of Journey to the Kingdom last week.
Fr. Vassilios’ Journey to the Kingdomis a helpful introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy. It takes readers through the Divine Liturgy (Sunday service), explaining the meaning of the different elements of the service as well as some distinctive Eastern Orthodox beliefs. This book would be helpful both to those new to Orthodoxy as well as converts and “cradle” Orthodox who would like to learn more about their own Liturgy. As a former Protestant who converted to the Orthodox faith in my mid-twenties, I especially appreciated this balance.
Fr. Vassilios begins the book with a general invitation to “Come and See,” a phrase I’ve often heard repeated by my Orthodox friends, and that is exactly what this book does. His choice to introduce Orthodox beliefs by describing its Liturgy is apt. You can’t really learn about Orthodoxy apart from its worship—while the theology on its own is beautiful, it is perceived much more naturally through the rhythms and patterns of the weekly Liturgy as well as the special fasting and feasting periods throughout the year. Fr. Vassilios describes all these things clearly and beautifully. More importantly, however, he details their meaning, putting the different acts within their historical and theological context.