By Frederica Mathewes-Green
When traveling in a foreign country, it is nice to have a guide who has visited your own land and can offer keen observation, appropriate context and lively translation. Orthodox Christian convert Mathewes-Green, one of America's foremost apologists for the faith, has in previous works (At the Corner of East and Now; Facing East) shown herself to be such an escort, making her denomination's ancient faith and practice-which can seem austere and demanding-both accessible and sympathetic. Framed as a visit to an imaginary Orthodox church, this series of meditations on icons-depictions of biblical and church history figures in paint, mosaic and other media-serves not only as an art history lesson but an examination of their role in public devotion and private prayer. Mathewes-Green pulls the reader right into the sanctuary with her, which gives the book immediacy and perspective. Theological conundrums and historical explanations that might seem turgid and dry become compelling and vivid in her skilled hands. For the Orthodox, as Mathewes-Green explains, icons are objects of veneration because they can transport believers closer to the presence of God. Redolent with the drama of liturgy, soaked in church history and laced with quotations from the Bible and Orthodox hymns, this slight volume offers rewards for both the intellectually curious and the religious seeker.
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