Short book review: The Pearl of Great Price by Veronica Hughes

This book tells the story of one woman’s movement from the traditional Roman Catholicism of her youth, through various New Age and Eastern spiritual and religious movements, and finally to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Throughout the course of the narrative, the reader is not only told the events that occurred but also let into the emotional, mental, and spiritual world of the author, getting a glimpse of the movements of heart and spirit that eventually lead to embrace Christ and his Church.

Her story is one that many, including myself, who have converted to Orthodoxy in America over the least several decades will be able to identify with, as many of us found ourselves disillusioned with the spiritual barrenness and harshness of Western religion, as embodied in Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and so headed East to religions and philosophies like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, only to turn again to Christianity as it is embodied in the Orthodox Faith, its fullest and truest expression.

I recommend this book both for those who have come or are coming to Orthodoxy from such a background in Eastern and New Age religion, as well as for those who have close friends and family interested or involved in such movements. I think this book can act as an excellent bridge book and a gateway for those who have fled from the typical Western understandings of Christ to return to Christ, the real Christ.

Hesychasm & history

Hesychasm was more than an exchange between theologians, more even than the articulation of a vital truth. It involved imperial politics, international and ecumenical relations, art, and the very direction of the Orthodox Church in a world and era where the approaching end of the ancient empire and the Christians’ eventual servitude under the Ottoman Turks were becoming more and more clear to all concerned. It was a “reawakening of Byzantine spirituality” which had “effects far beyond the shrinking boundaries of the … Empire … It lit up the whole Orthodox world.” Remarkable leaders, including several Patriarchs of Constantinople, rose out of the monastic and especially Athonite milieu of hesychasm and led the way toward the forging of “a new solidarity of … religious and ideological nature … tying together the Eastern Christian ecumene,” and influencing events as far off and significant as the formation of modern Russia. In certain respects it would be no exaggeration to say that hesychasm — and thus Mount Athos — saved the Orthodox Church, providing her with a new dynamism and unity on the very verge of Byzantium’s collapse and the centuries-long captivity of its people under Muslim rule.

Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin), The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos, p. 7