UPDATE: I received in the mail today the four volumes of the Blessed Theophylact's Explanation (seen left). They're softbound, but with care I think they'll hold up. I am quite excited about being able to read such a revered Orthodox commentary alongside the morning Gospel readings. Now if St. Tikhon's would just get those lectionary calendars sent out to our parish so I'd have the readings close at hand (cough, cough)...btw, for an excellent review of these volumes, click HERE for the Ochlophobist's always-eloquent thoughts.
From my sister-in-law...well, no, she didn't buy me the book to your right, but she got me the Barnes and Noble gift card with which I purchased said prize. I had borrowed this book about a year and a half ago and only now was getting around to reading it. I heartily recommend this book to anyone wanting to seek after the presence of God continually. Father Tom Hopko said that his mother told him the three things he was to do in order to encounter God in his life: Go to church; say your prayers, and never forget God. This "never forgetting God," traditionally, is done through the Jesus Prayer. The book The Art of Prayer goes into how the Jesus Prayer is meant as a tool for achieving a constant awareness of the presence of God who is everywhere and fills all things. What's wonderful about this anthology of quotes is that it is mindful of the "one thing needful"; it places a desire for the conscious awareness of God's presence at the center of one's life, and explicitly warns against those of us who would get caught up in "stylizations" such as types or length of prayer rules (or of prayer ropes, for that matter), the words of the prayer instead of the One invoked by said prayer, imaginations or physiological responses. The only thing a Christian should strive for is a constant understanding that God is present, and calling on the name of Jesus has done this for countless saints through the ages. I thoroughly enjoy this book and look forward to finishing it.
Every year my wife's family does a "white elephant" style gift exchange due to the sheer size of the family gathering. The men each bring a gift for a man, and the women bring one for a woman. As I spent the majority of my time at the gathering soothing and rocking a five-month old to sleep, I was unable to participate myself, but my wife, always one to look out for me, spied the BBQ utensils to your left and snatched them up for me. My old spatula and tongs were about to split from overuse, so these will be very useful (and will apparently last a good long while!) when I fire up the grill and send the aroma of seared cow flesh into the air in one of the most anticipated of all spring rituals. The budding of the branches in Spring, the warming of the air--all this is accompanied by the rebirth of the fire and the...urm...burnt...offerings? Well, not burnt...medium, medium well tops...
And what would all this pagan talk be without a libation offering? A colleague of mine and I recently sat down for a lengthy talk which included, among other things, various beverages of the alcoholic persuasion. He knew I have a fondness for Shiner beers and asked if I had ever tasted any of the commemorative brews (Shiner brews one every year and will brew their hundredth one next year!). I was not aware of this, sad to say, so neither did I know that, for the 1997 commemoration, a bohemian black lager was chosen as the brew o' the year. I was graced with a six-pack of these lovely longnecks and, while the flavor is definitely hoppy and dark, the bitterness and strong aftertaste usually associated with said black beers is notably absent. This is a smooth, enjoyable beer that will go well with any and all animals sacrificed to the aforementioned BBQ gods.
Quite grateful for all of these.