on 14 February 2009
An academic goes to visit Mt. Athos, and is so taken with the life of the monks and their charismatic abbot, that when he hears the abbot has been sent to minister on the island of Cyprus, he jumps at the opportunity to get to know him better, and find out at first hand about the Orthodox way of life. He obtains permission from the abbot to live in the monastery as a monk, and is given the duty of chauffeur. This position allows him to have many forthright conversations with the Abbot, as he drives him around the island on his various pastoral missions. Often the situations are deeply personal, and bring up difficult questions both about the monk's way of life, and his relationship to the wider world. The questions often seem to be those you would yourself want to ask, posed in a very direct yet open-minded way and the abbot's responses are full of the insights of the Orthodox tradition, thought-provoking and clear, with an obvious sensitivity to the problems of the modern world. The book shows how an ancient Christian tradition, apparently fossilised on the timeless Mt Athos, is very much alive, vibrant and necessary. Very worthwhile.
on 6 December 2010
A great book. I think I've purchased five copies or more, given to new age friends who are interested in spirituality. Gave one to my yoga teacher as a thank you!
Wish this author had written this work ten years ago, would have handed a copy off to my mom who loved eastern mystics and a little bit of Jesus Christianity, too; but couldn't easily put the two together as this author does. Our Orthodox Book Club read and loved this work, which is on my coffee table again this week for a re-read as I get to know better a holy man I first learned of in this book, elder Porphyrios.
Buy this book. Tales on the pages here will rock your comfortable Christian world as the author drives a monk around from here to there at 5am, asking questions you'd expect from a New England humanities prof and guru lover looking for God, one who started thinking late in life that just maybe he'd better take another look at the Old Time Religion of the eastern church, the faith of his youth he'd tossed off. A fun read.
on 19 September 2012
I may have grown up western in my Christian thinking, but a visit to Cyprus got me thinking about Eastern Christianity and after a discussion with a friend, I borrowed her copy of this book. I ended up buying it for myself because I wanted to return to it again and again. If Father Maximos could speak English I would love to just sit at his feet and listen to his words of wisdom. In this beautifully flowing book, Kyriacos has given the reader an amazing insight into this wisdom. Father Maximos has learned so much from the Holy Fathers and from Scripture and I feel honoured to have shared in this teaching. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking Christian Spirituality.
on 14 May 2015
This is one man’s search for spirituality within the riches of the Orthodox Tradition. Kyriacos, an American trained academic produces a scheme where he can go back to Cyprus where he was brought up as a child, do some research, and search out the Orthodox wisdom from the monks of Mount Athos, one of whom he has already met in the States, one Father Maximos. He of course meets him, and gets the temporary role of driver, which of course gives him much more time with this quite charismatic character. Traditionally there are three roads such a search can take: the way of devotion – exemplified in this case by monasticism; the way of knowledge or reason; and the way of action. A simile might explain the distinction between the first two, for the modern monk – as monks have done in the past, does not just pray and praise, he studies – both scriptures, and the writings of the saints. Da Vinci in evoking Horace’s statement that Ut picture poesis, goes as far as saying that poetry, like music, is a sister art to painting: which is better? Painting, of course. Likewise: ‘Are we to assume that the philosophic search for God, one of the central passions of the Western mind from Plato to Kant…has been in reality been off its mark?’ “Yes, completely.”
So this book is not really for those seekers who think that what they seek will be found by thinking or mindfulness, for even Plato had a devotional side, his touchstone was to do that ‘which is pleasing to the gods’; Kant was not an atheist; it is perhaps more suited to those more interested in the heart than the head.
For a Christian brought up in the Catholic west, this book will be as much a revelation as it will be enlightening. For those who believe they have abandoned the faith of their fathers, reading this book may convince them that perhaps that is not as true as they had thought. Father Maximos makes it very clear, it is the heart that leads the individual to the monastic life, not the head; neither is it some belief that ‘one is a seeker’ who just has not found what they were looking for. It is very hard in the modern ‘to go and give all they have to the poor’ and adopt a quite different lifestyle because it is not guided by them. There is an illuminating story near the beginning of the book about a young intelligent woman who wants to become a nun. Father Maximos tells her neither, that she should, or that she should not, but the family blames it all on him. This is not a book about Orthodox Theology, or even Orthodox Mysticism, it is an account of a period in the writer’s search, and not some ecclesiastical tome. In fact the writing is so quiet, that one can read it on the bus – or in my case, the train. I find this a lovely book, lovely because of both its candour and its honesty. I now want to see if I can get ‘The inner river’, partly because I find water draws me, and partly because Markides’s writing is refreshing.
on 21 March 2016
I very much enjoyed reading this book some years back. Somehow the lovely sun and landscape of Cyprus came over to me on reading this book, on top of the wisdom of the holy priest from Mount Athos, which was encouraging and helpful. I think Christians and others of all traditions will like this book. My one gripe is that it is not published in ebook format. If only publishers and authors would please catch up with the reality and value of the ebook format. It is so frustrating when they can be so behind the times on this !