Kyriacos Markides: The Mountain of Silence
By jsolof on Apr 04, 2005
A Search for Orthodox Spirituality
I was in California all last week, and the cross-country flights on Monday and Friday gave me time to finish this splendid book.
At first, I have to say, I found Markides somewhat irritating. He was like a cub reporter following a saint, and I was pleased to be irritated -- on Fr. Maximos's behalf -- at the obvious and simplistic questions, at the secular "doubting Thomas" approach to many of the elder's stories and sayings, at the frequent comparisons to this off-beat charismatic healer or that far-away guru du jour.
But once I got into the thick of the book (which, at 272 pages, isn't all that thick), I began to appreciate two things. First, that Markides's questions were clearly not simply his own, but were on behalf of the likely majority of his readers who would have exactly the same questions. This is not a book written for "Orthodox cognoscenti", but for lay people of any tradition. It assumes no prior familiarity with the Athonite spiritual tradition -- and from that perspective, it is entirely sucessful in finding and revealing the Orthodox spirituality which is the subject of the search.
The second thing I came to appreciate was the clear organization of the book, which is surely Markides's doing, since unedited conversations are never this organized. Not with any Orthodox I've ever met. :) (Present company included.) The table of contents is revealed as the curriculum for a comprehensive general introduction to Orthodox faith and spirituality, with each chapter well organized and relatively self-contained. You could do far, far worse than to begin an exploration of the Orthodox Church with Markides and Fr. Maximos as your guides.
The bottom line -- and why I gave this book five stars -- is that it helped me and inspired me to pray. Starting Lent with this book has made it a better Lent (thus far, anyway) than I've had in a few years. It has both comforted and challenged me, both confirmed what I believed and taught me things I never knew. It changed me -- and you can't ask any more of a book than that.
I highly recommend it to anyone, Orthodox or not, beginner or... well, in the company of Fr. Maximos and the elders whose wisdom he shares with us, we're all beginners.