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.
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.
This is a brilliant introduction to the spiritual renewal evident on Mount Athos and elsewhere in the Orthodox world, in this case in Cyprus. Its strength lies in the lively dialogue throughout between traditional Christian spiritual theology and practice and the questions raised by modern minds.
This book is an amazing read for anybody that is struggling with finding their way towards true Orthodoxy. I love the fact that it includes questions that many laypeople ask themselves and it gives you the feeling that you are not the only one wondering those things.
Kyriacos really has put together a masterpiece and has helped me see some things in a much clearer light. :) I highly recommend.