sent my best-laid plans for January into a tailspin. I had been looking at it on Amazon for a while but couldn't make up my mind to buy this one or another by the same author. Seeing it in the bookstore made the decision for me.
My first introduction to the author came through her website, which was, incidentally, linked through an article on a church website. What was meant to be a quick perusal quickly became a morning-long experience of reading through other articles on her site. (I quite honestly sat at my computer, on a morning in which I had any number of other things to do, and absorbed as much of the written material there as I could.) For one, Frederica Mathewes-Green is an exceptionally good writer, and I don't say (write?) that easily. Perhaps more importantly, though, her honesty and humility about her journey to conversion provide a degree of accessibility for those of us who are otherwise unfamiliar and frankly a little frightened -- even as we are increasingly drawn toward it -- of this "other world" of Christianity.
At the Corner of East and Now is Mathewes-Green's follow-up book to Facing East, her first book about her family's conversion to the Orthodox Church (and which I have yet to read). Some of the reviews on Amazon indicate that At the Corner of East and Now makes for a poor study of Orthodox theology, but I suspect that these individuals have failed to grasp the purpose of the book. It's not really about theology, so much at someone individual experience of embracing a new theology and seeing its effects in hers and her family's life. It's beautifully written, with the chapters alternating between the contents of the weekly services and snapshots of poignant moments outside church. The result is that Mathewes-Green quite literally keeps the reader "at the corner of East and now" by looking back and forth, so to speak: she provides a glimpse of ancient Christian tradition and then she turns the reader's head toward a more day-to-day practice of this tradition. It could, I suppose, feel a little disorienting, but I found it quite helpful. Just as the reader is getting caught up in something that feels almost intangible, a liturgy that crosses the boundaries of time and draws the worshiper into the mysteries of the faith, we are brought back to earth again with the reminder that we're still here with a job to do; and that job usually means interacting with very real, very human people through the expression of Christ's love.
This book is definitely focused on Orthodox Christianity, but I think it's one that can be enjoyed by those not so much interested in the Orthodox Church as in Christianity in general. In particular, Protestants might object to specific theological elements, but they won't miss the recognizable faith behind her words. (I don't have a Catholic background, so I hesitate to project the Catholic impression. I don't think Catholics would be offended by anything in here, however.) And Mathewes-Green doesn't claim to know it all; instead, she makes it clear that this is where her Christian journey has brought her, and this is where she has found peace. It's not about arrogance; it's about learning, pressing on, loving and serving Christ.
Year of publication: 1999
Number of pages: 279