Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent p.116

Just read this amazing passage from John Cassian (5th century) in Schmemann’s book:

“We must not avoid communion
because we deem ourselves to be sinful.
We must approach it more often
for the healing of the soul
and the purification of the spirit,
but with such humility and faith
that considering ourselves unworthy…
we would desire even more the medicine for our wounds.
Otherwise it is impossible
to receive communion once a year,
as certain people do…
considering the sanctification of heavenly Mysteries
as available only to saints.
It is better to think that by giving us grace,
the sacrament makes us pure and holy.
Such people manifest more pride than humility…
for when they receive,
they think themselves as worthy.
It is much better if,
in humility of heart,
knowing that we are never worthy
of the Holy mysteries,
we would receive them every Sunday
for the healing of our diseases,
rather than,
blinded by pride,
think that after one year
we become worthy of receiving them…”

John Cassian, 3rd conference on sinlessness


Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp.96-113

“Vision does not stand
on the top of a meticulous contemplative method,
but is an enlightenment accomplished
by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is the journey to the Kingdom:
the arrival is union with God.

If we are truly not of this world,
as Christ wishes us to be,
our conduct has to be identical
with the life of the age to come.
We should be bent on proceeding
according to the standards of the Spirit
and not those of this world.
Our longing should always be for reaching God,
for unity with Him.

Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp.92-93

“Man cannot see the Face of God and live (Ex 33.20)…
It means the sinner has to die first
so that the corruptible may change
to uncorrupted and incorruptible.
It is only then
that man may see God’s Face and live forever.

The will of Christ to declare His Glory
through clear vision
on the Mount of Transfiguration
expresses the will of God
in making man a partaker
in the invisible light of God.

Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, p.70

I can’t believe I am so late in posting the pearls I am discovering this Lent!

“Blessed are they whose sun never sets,
whose eye shall never see darkness,
whose light, the splendor of Christ,
shall never quit their soul.”
St John of Dalyatha.

Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp.55-61

“Interior prayer is…
a return of Adam
to the beauty of his former spirituality.

There is no place at all
in this vast universe
where we can meet God
except within ourselves.
Here, He waits for us;
here, we face Him and talk to Him;
here, He answers us.”

Books I read in February 2010

 5 books read in February, 3 non-fiction, 2 fiction


Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

 “A collection of meditations like polished stones–painstakingly worded, tough-minded, yet partial to mystery, and peerless when it comes to injecting larger resonances into the natural world.” — –Kirkus Reviews

“Teaching a Stone to Talk is superb. As with the flying fish, Annie Dillard doesn’t do it often, but when she does she silver-streaks out of the blue and archingly transcends all other writers of our day in all the simple, intimate, and beautiful ways of the natural master.” — — R. Buckminster Fuller

“The natural world is ignited by her prose and we see the world as an incandescent metaphor of the spirit…Few writers evoke better than she the emotion of awe, and few have ever conveyed more graphically the weight of silence, the force of the immaterial.” — — Robert Taylor, Boston Globe

“This little book is haloed and informed throughout by Dillard’s distinctive passion and intensity, a sort of intellectual radiance that reminds me both Thoreau and Emily Dickinson.” — — Edward Abbey, Chicago Sun-Times

Here, in this compelling assembly of writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard explores the world of natural facts and human meanings.

I had not read that classic yet. Very good, very poetic, deep, prompts reflection. Gives me the desire to read more by her.


Noel Riley Fitch, Appetite for Life: Biography of  Julia Child

Noel Riley Fitch’s savory new biography, Appetite for Life, reveals a woman as appealing as the good food and serious cooking she popularized. As a California girl and Smith College undergraduate, Fitch writes, Julia McWilliams was notable for her high spirits and voracious appetite. Performing intelligence work in Asia during World War II, she met Paul Child, and their marriage of mutual devotion and affection endured until his death in 1994. His postwar assignment took them to France, where she discovered her true calling.Fitch reminds us that Child championed fresh ingredients at a time when frozen foods and TV dinners dominated American supermarket shelves, and that she demystified haute cuisine with her earthy humor and casual attitude toward mistakes. This affectionate portrait of the remarkable Julia Child reflects her fervent belief that the pleasures of the table are a natural accompaniment to the pleasures of life.

Well, it all started when a friend posted on her Facebook wall that she wanted to watch Julie and Julia. I joined her to watch it at some common friends. I enjoyed VERY much that movie, and after I checked out books by Julia and started following some delicious recipes. My husband then had the great idea to check out this FANTASTIC book on her life. what a woman! and so wild as a kid! excellent book, with all the background of what she changed in the American relation to food. Well, it didn’t end up here for me: I just received the 2 volumes of Mastering the Art of French cooking for my upcoming birthday!

Randal Stross, Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this spellbinding behind-the-scenes look at Google, New York Times columnist Stross (The Microsoft Way) provides an intimate portrait of the company’s massively ambitious aim to organize the world’s information. Drawing on extensive interviews with top management and his astonishingly open access to the famed Googleplex, Stross leads readers through Google’s evolution from its humble beginnings as the decidedly nonbusiness-oriented brainchild of Stanford Ph.D. students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, through the company’s early growing pains and multiple acquisitions, on to its current position as global digital behemoth. Tech lovers will devour the pages of discussion about the Algorithm; business folk will enjoy the accounts of how company after company, including Microsoft and Yahoo, underestimated Google’s technology, advertising model and ability to solve problems like scanning library collections; and general readers will find the sheer scale and scope of Google’s progress in just a decade astounding. The unfolding narrative of Google’s journey reads like a suspense novel. Brin, Page and CEO Eric [Schmidt] battle competitors and struggle to emerge victorious in their quest to index all the information in the world. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

I enjoyed this audiobook, explaining all the intricacies of google


Maggie Anton, Rashi’s Daughters, Book II: Miriam: A Novel of Love and the Talmud in Medieval France

The engrossing historical series of three sisters in eleventh-century France continues with the tale of Miriam, the lively and daring middle child of Salomon Ben Isaac, today known as “Rashi”. Having no sons, he continues to teach his daughters the intricacies of the Talmud in an era when educating women in Jewish scholarship was unheard of.
Miriam, emboldened by her knowledge and mourning the death of her betrothed, is determined to become not only the community’s midwife, but also their mohel–performing circumcisions. As devoted as she is to her chosen path, she cannot foresee the ways in which she will be tested and how heavily she will need to rely on her faith. And when a shadowy new suitor arrives in Troyes, an exceptionally learned and handsome young scholar who struggles with a secret that, if revealed, would expose them both to ruin. Somehow the formidable and independent Miriam must decide if they can forge a life together.

Author Maggie Anton brings the 11th century to vivid life with MIRIAM, which poignantly captures the struggles and triumphs of this strong Jewish woman.

I enjoy Maggie Anton’s books, though this second volume had less interesting passages on the Talmud than the first volume, and a bit too much on issues related to sexuality in the Medieval Jewish world> I hope I won’t be disappointed by the last volume.


Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

From Publishers Weekly

Atwood has visited the future before, in her dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. In her latest, the future is even bleaker. The triple whammy of runaway social inequality, genetic technology and catastrophic climate change, has finally culminated in some apocalyptic event. As Jimmy, apparently the last human being on earth, makes his way back to the RejoovenEsencecompound for supplies, the reader is transported backwards toward that cataclysmic event, its full dimensions gradually revealed. Jimmy grew up in a world split between corporate compounds (gated communities metastasized into city-states) and pleeblands (unsafe, populous and polluted urban centers). His best friend was “Crake,” the name originally his handle in an interactive Net game, Extinctathon. Even Jimmy’s mother-who ran off and joined an ecology guerrilla group when Jimmy was an adolescent-respected Crake, already a budding genius. The two friends first encountered Oryx on the Net; she was the eight-year-old star of a pedophilic film on a site called HottTotts. Oryx’s story is a counterpoint to Jimmy and Crake’s affluent adolescence. She was sold by her Southeast Asian parents, taken to the city and eventually made into a sex “pixie” in some distant country. Jimmy meets Oryx much later-after college, after Crake gets Jimmy a job with ReJoovenEsence. Crake is designing the Crakers-a new, multicolored placid race of human beings, smelling vaguely of citron. He’s procured Oryx to be his personal assistant. She teaches the Crakers how to cope in the world and goes out on secret missions. The mystery on which this riveting, disturbing tale hinges is how Crake and Oryx and civilization vanished, and how Jimmy-who also calls himself “the Snowman,” after that other rare, hunted specimen, the Abominable Snowman-survived. Chesterton once wrote of the “thousand romances that lie secreted in The Origin of Species.” Atwood has extracted one of the most hair-raising of them, and one of the most brilliant.

This sounded to me like Margaret Atwood at her scariest. It was an audiobook, and even the reader’s voice was creepy. I enjoy her books very much but at the same time wonder if I should go on reading her – so bleak and scary stuff