Thursday, 18 September 2014

Journey to the Kingdom, by Father Vassilos Papavassiliou

Father Vassilios Papavassiliou Journey to the KIngdom: An Insider's Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church 2012 Paraclete Press

Some introductions to Eastern Orthodoxy begin with a sketch of the history of the Orthodox Church. While that information is useful to know, it can get in the way of showing Orthodoxy as a living tradition. Journey to the Kingdom avoids this approach by outlining the teaching of Orthodoxy through the elements of the Divine Liturgy.

It is something of a cliche to say that the Eastern Orthox Church is known and experienced primarily in its liturgy. Nevertheless Father Papavassiliou takes this oft repeated notion and uses it to deliver a very dynamic and highly readable outline of the essentials of Orthodoxy.

Journey to the Kingdom takes a look at each stage of the Divine Liturgy, such as the Great Litany, the Cherubic Hymn and the Holy Oblation. Readers will be struck by how rich in theology each of these sections are. The author takes several chapters to explain the creed in it's fullness.

The title was a good choice. It demonstrates the heart of Orthodox worship; that the Liturgy is an encounter between heaven and earth. This book is thankfully free from the anti-western polemics that are too often in found in Orthodox writings. Papavassiliou defends Orthodoxy by demonstrating the beauty and glory of Orthodoxy rather than by attacking Protestantism and Catholicism.

The book is illustrated with black and white photographs. At the beginning there is also a complex diagramatic chart which outlines how the distinct parts of the Divine Liturgy fit together. It looks amusingly like a dispensationalist chart, like the one's found in Dake's Annontated Reference Bible or the works of Clarence Larkin.

This book did not win me over to Orthodoxy, but it was an enlightening and enjoyable read.

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