(2012) #47 review: Beauty For Ashes

Beauty for Ashes:
The Spiritual Transformation
of a Modern Greek Community

by

Stephen R. LLOYD-MOFFETT

223 pages

Published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press in 2009

THIS BOOK COUNTS FOR THE FOLLOWING READING CHALLENGES

    

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

 

The Orthodox Metropolis of Nikopolis / Preveza, a town northwest of Greece, suffered thirty years under the leadership of a bishop involved in all sorts of political and financial scandals.

In 1980, a new bishop was sent to it. With the help of his spiritual sons, with whom he was about to pursue monastic life on Mount Athos before his episcopal appointment, Archbishop Meletios raised the local Orthodox Christianity from the ashes and has since been given it its spiritual beauty back (cf. the title, inspired by Is. 61.3.)

In Beauty For Ashes, the author, specialized in the study of early Christian history, presents the story of this healing following the structure of a play:

  • the decor is the city with its ancient apostolic roots
  • the chapter on the main protagonist presents Meletios’s life
  • the drama focuses on what these Christians had to suffer previously, and how they were offered an access to renewal
  • the supporting actors are the monks of the monastery of Prophet Elias, founded by Meletios himself and his early followers.

The last three chapters offer a more general reflection on the interaction between the church, monks and modern society, and the lessons that can be learned from the example of Preveza to save other communities in similar danger.
Three appendices provide homilies and reflections by Meletios. They perfectly illustrate his kindness and humility, characteristics apparently not often shared by most of the hierarchs, as pointed out several times by the author.

This book, as well as the monastery and bishop, breathe divine and human health, due to their balance between authentic roots in the Tradition and a necessary adaptation to the modern world. Is this not in fact the definition of holiness, that we would like to encounter more often in our Christian urban and monastic communities?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Professor Lloyd-Moffett teaches at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. His professional research centers on ascetic traditions, particularly hermits and cave-dwellers in Early Christianity and Ancient Hinduism. He is working on a second book on Basil of Caesarea, the ascetic tradition, and the making of Christianity in the fourth century called. He has also recently published two essays examining César Chávez as a religious figure. He also has book accepted for publication based on field research conducted on a Fulbright grant about the religious life in a contemporary rural Greece village. He has the following degrees: B.A. from Claremont McKenna College in Economics and Film Studies; M.A. in Religious Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara; Master of Theology from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary; Ph.D. in Religious Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. His family, including his wife Fiona and young sons Basil and Phineas, live in San Luis Obispo where students are frequent visitors. His interests outside the classroom include wine making and wood working.

This review was originally written by me in French, for a French spiritual journal that publishes articles on monastic spirituality and many reviews of books related to Patristics, Church History, and Monastic Spirituality. If you are so inclined, you can read a sample of last issue.

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4 thoughts on “(2012) #47 review: Beauty For Ashes

  1. Pingback: New Authors Reading Challenge 2012 « Words And Peace

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