Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book recommendation

I've just finished reading Markides's The Mountain of Silence, a sociologist's account of his experience with Orthodox spiritual practices in his homeland of Cyprus. The author makes the point that the Eastern Church, unlike the Roman Church in the West, never became involved in the secular concerns of the state, and so developed along a different, more mystical path, demonstrated most prominently by the monastic state of Mount Athos (the "Holy Mountain") in Greece, the site of many Orthodox monasteries like the one at right.

Now, I haven't taken a history course in years (about 30 of them!), but I don't recall ever studying Byzantium. Seems like it was considered the poor step-sister of the West; many historians tend to focus on Rome and its fall, and the development of the European states. So it's probably time I read more about the Orthodox Church. Better late than never!

But this was a great book, and I recommend it.


Anonymous said...

I'm taking patristics and can tell you loads about church history east and west... I'd be HAPPY to email long wordy documents! :-)
Also, if you come visit NYC you can get the seminarian tour (I swear the prof made us learn more than the museum docents) of the Byzantine, Coptic/Egyptian, and early medieval sections of the Met Museum!
A number of people here are interested in Eastern churches; I even have a friend who spent time in Ethiopia studying their Orthodox churches over winter break. It's a whole different world and fascinating to learn about. I'd like to learn more about iconography.

-the seminarian

Michael Astley said...

Hello, Judith. :-)

I finally go round to replying to you on my blog (I'm sorry for the delay). I understand that Athos is a wonderful place, and indeed had a Benedictine monastery until the later 13th century. One of the books I recommended to you actually touches on this issue of the Roman focus, and the Roman Empire still being that, even when its seat was transferred to Constantinople (or "New Rome", as it was called), despite the Franks' rival seat in Rome. I find very interesting the way perspectives vary depending on geography and culture. Hmmm.

Michael Astley said...

Thanks for asking the question, Judith. You've made me pick up my own copy of The Orthodox Way, only to realise that I never actually got round to reading the second part. There's the bookmark that I've missed for the past year. How very embarrassing!