The Illumined Heart by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Published by Paraclete Press (2007)

• Why are modern Christians so indistinguishable from everyone else?

• How come Christians who lived in times of bloodly persecution were so heroic, while we who live in safety are not?

• How could the first Christians fast valiantly, but we feel deprived without dessert?

• How did the New Testament believers pray without ceasing?

• How could the early Christian martyrs actually forgive their torturers?

• What did the Christians of the first century know that we don’t?

That is what this book is about. Frederica Mathewes-Green says: “when I look back at the process of writing The Illumined Heart, I’m amazed all over again at how God directed it. I wrote the whole thing in a week. The week before Christmas in fact. For Orthodox Christians, it’s a week that we fast from meat and dairy. It’s no wonder that I look at The Illumined Heart as the one out of all my books that felt the most God-directed. Yet the Illumined Heart is quite proportional, just enough; it’s like a jewel, one I must urge people to read.”

In her book the author writes about the experiences of Anna and her family to explain how the teachings of the Orthodox Church were preserved from the time of the Apostles to today. When Jesus taught his disciples, they in turn taught others and passed down Christ’s teachings to the churches they started. The disciples spread Christ’s teachings through both written and verbal communication, which St Paul acknowledges: “Brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thes 2:15).

The author attempts through Anna and her family to rediscover a unifying faith that transcends all modern cultural messages. To truly live in Christ, current believers must travel the path of the ancient church. To achieve an illumined heart, one must pray, fast and repent as vigorously as did the initial generations of Christians. A must-read book for all Christians. It is a moving, educating look at the vibrant spiritual life of the ancient Christians, a heritage lost to many modern Christians, but still alive and well in the Orthodox.

Source: Lychnos April / May 2017