I mentioned previously about the Life of St. Mary of Egypt being conveniently located in the back of Frederica Mathewes-Green’s book, First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey Through the Canon of St. Andrew. I enjoy this book more every year, working my way through it during Great Lent. My Orthodox friends are most likely familiar with the Canon of St. Andrew, but the great thing about Frederica’s style is that she often appeals to a wider audience, from the reference of her Protestant background.
She writes about the history of the Canon in her introduction and goes on to differentiate between an Eastern view of Christianity and our Western one. She addresses concepts such as sin, theosis (sanctification in the Protestant realm) , the evil one, monasticism, and prayers to the saints -- something very misunderstood to Protestants.
If you are unfamiliar, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is a prayerful hymn.... a very lengthy one. St. Andrew was born in Damascus and spent many years as a monk in Jerusalem. Later he spent his time caring for orphans and the elderly in Constantinople and toward the end of his years, was made Bishop of Crete. He died in 740 A.D. St. Andrew was inspired to write this hymn during close examination of the Scriptures; many researchers believe this work was originally intended for his personal use. He presents a very intimate look at repentance as a pathway toward healing and wholeness, drawing much encouragment from passages in the Old Testament. As the early Church became aware of this Canon, it began a wide circulation and eventually became used during Lent each year.
I like this book primarily because it is to be ingested in small bits, with each page offering wisdom and insight. It’s perfect for reading after prayers, during a lunch break or just before going to sleep at night -- a healthy soul-food.