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Im on a roll these days getting books by Frederica Mathewes-Green from the library. Frederica is an interesting woman. Raised nominally Roman Catholic, she became angry in her teens at the skip Mass and go to hell message that was communicated to her, and promptly became an atheist. She wandered in the garden of design your own religion until she became a Hindu. Not really because she thought Hinduism was true, but because it was so other that it was attractive to her and she was a rebellious hippy who liked being on the fringe. When she and her husband were on their honeymoon in Europe, they visited a church and she had heard Jesus speaking to her while she looked at a statue of Jesus with his hands held out. That began her journey into accepting Christianity as true. Her husband became a Christian also after a philosophy teacher had their class read one of the Gospels and he realized that Jesus spoke with authority! Eventually their Christian journey brought them to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Her husband is now an Orthodox Priest, and she is the wife of an Orthodox Priest! In the Orthodox Church, this father and mother model provides balance to the church in allowing not just a father figure, but also to be nurtured by a mother. She even has a special title little mother which is translated from Arabic or Russian or Greek, depending on what type of Orthodox church you are visiting.Fredericas books are educational to Western Christians who do not understand much history or mystery from an Orthodox Christian perspective. I will admit I am one of those. This particular book is taken as kind of a walk thru the Orthodox services at different times of the year. These chapters are interspersed with chapters of Frederica and her family traveling, shopping in thrift stores, or events where she is attending an event to interview someone or report on the event (a Christian music festival, a Christian womens outreach to women in prison who have had abortions, etc.).Chronologically, this book takes place after her book Facing East, which details her conversion and her familys path to Orthodoxy in more detail.Several sections that were very interesting and helpful to me were these:One portion of the book explains the Forgiveness Vespers that occurs at the beginning of Lent. The congregation stands in a circle in the church. (Orthodox ALWAYS stand! ) The priest goes to a member, asks forgiveness from that person and then receives it. That person then asks forgiveness from the priest, and receives it. Then each of them turn to the next person beside them, and continue this. By the end, every person in the church has asked forgiveness from every other person in the church and received it.... and has also given forgiveness to every other person in the church. WOW! I admit that this must be a very powerful service. What a wonderful habit of reconciliation and forgiveness! What roots of bitterness that must be literally dug up and thrown away in these services?!The section on the filioque portion of the Nicene Creed has helpfully informative in good ways. The original Nicene Creed was agreed upon in 325 at the first of the seven ecumenical councils. The and the Son portion was not in that original creed. Pope Benedict in 1024 added the filioque clause to the creed, without benefit of an ecumenical council, but because of his authority as pope. Orthodox disagree with the phrase being added to a creed that had been agreed upon in ecumenical councils hundreds of years before, and disagreed with the Pope exerting authority as an individual bishop, one among many. I had not realized the length of time from the codifying of the written Nicene Creed and the declaration of the Pope, but I find myself falling on the side of the Orthodox in this. St. Vincent in 434 AD said that church doctrine, like the human body, develops over time while still keeping its original identity: In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. From the beginning of the church, the filioque has not been professed, and the superiority of one bishop over another has not been their either.Another interesting section was on a married priesthood, which of course Orthodox allow but Roman Catholics do not. Again as St. Vincent said, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. Obviously a celibate priesthood has NOT been believed everywhere, always, by all. Even in Old Testament Israel, the priesthood was certainly not celibate, but was an entire tribe, the Levites. In this regard, I find myself falling also on the side with the Orthodox. Even the apostle Peter was married. The section on icons was thought-provoking. Icons were created primarily for people who were not literate. Now that we are literate, do we need to continue to act as though we are not literate? I understand that involving all the senses is important, but icons seem to be to the illiterate what the Bible is to the literate. Is the emphasis on icons over knowing the Bible a proper emphasis to have, I wonder? In speaking of the church service, Frederica says that the church service is for worship and that study is left to times outside of the church service -- Sunday school or Bible studies, I assume. However the idea struck me that the study of the Bible by lay people is not an Orthodox habit (nor a Roman Catholic habit), but is a result of having the Bible translated and made available in your own language...... a very wonderful result of the Protestant Reformation! So while enjoying the ancient worship, I think it would be appropriate to appreciate also the blessing of having the very words of God as recorded in the Bible too. I found the book very worthwhile. Frederica writes with great skill, and even has a great section at the back of the book called First Visit to an Orthodox Church: 12 Things I wish Id known. I plan to go through her for further reading section and try to pick up a few of the books she recommends.

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