Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Way of a Pilgrim

Every now and then a book changes something about the reader. This is one of those books. I enjoyed Way of a Pilgrim, will likely buy it, might read it again, but have really liked the subject it discusses, which is prayer.

The book talks about the ecstatic experience from certain prayer rituals. I don't know anything about that. It is kind of hard to imagine for me, but am content to say "Well it's out there for some..." and I think it is interesting. I am not there, to that experience.

Before any of you start to tune out about "ecstatic prayer" thinking it's one of those kinds of books I might first mention that he indicates that the prayer he is saying is a simple "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me". That's it.

But the husband and I were talking about how even though we might not express worship that way, it is rather magnificent and beautiful to know that there is so much that we don't know about our God, and the mystical and poetic ways that he can be known. For me, it make me smile and be grateful that there was so much more to God that I had only seen this little drop.

And it introduces a technique of prayer that is so simple and accessible that it has been a nice addition.

I learned that the Philokalia, the book it refers to alot as a wise book in helping to understand the bible, is actually a real book that can be purchased.

And anecdotally, the book is also the book that is referred to in J.D. Salinger's book Franny and Zooey. I was a big Salinger fan in my youth.

Way of a Pilgrim has its roots in Orthodox Russian church. It has been my first glimpse inside that church really. Having visited really alot of orthodox churches, I knew that there were cultural and language barriers, but it really felt altogether like a different religion.

After reading Way of a Pilgrim, I think maybe not so much a different religion. It is hard to gain access though to the heart of a faith, when language and culture stand as barriers, and there is no one there to help bridge the divide.

I am reminded of a young woman I lived with in Vladimir. She and I were talking about missionaries and said she didn't understand why they came to Russia. After all, she said, they have their own church. She had a very good point.

But after living there, and now hearing about how it is there even now, I know that the orthodox church, well, people don't go really, except perhaps in rural areas.

Still it is there, and perhaps things will change in Russia...

But as for the book, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the narrators devotion and pilgrimage. It has its own place but it is a book I would recommend as a sort of devotion.

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