Volkert's Reviews > The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality

The Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos C. Markides
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Apr 02, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: orthodox-christian
Read in August, 2003 , read count: 1

Rarely have I underlined the text of a book as much as I recently did with "The Mountain of Silence," by Kyriacos C. Markides.

Markides, a sociology professor at the University of Maine, was born on Cyprus into an Eastern Orthodox family, but became secularized while coming of age during the Sixties in the United States. The sociological research for his earliest books brought him into contact with the mystical traditions, shamanism and Occultism of the Orient. A serendipitous experience in 1991 caused him to begin investigating the mystical traditions of the Orthodox Christian faith of his youth, which is covered in his previous book, "Riding with the Lion."

For this book, Markides had intended to spend a sabbatical on Mount Athos, the "Holy Mountain" on a remote peninsula in Greece set aside for over a thousand years as the home to a number of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Upon learning that his main contact had returned to Cyprus to become the abbot of Panagia Monastery, he changed his plans to spend several months there with Father Maximos and the other monastics under his supervision.

While this book is an amazing travelogue, which also contains some engrossing history lessons about Cyprus, monasticism and the Christian faith, it is primarily a series of personal conversations between Professor Markides and Father Maximos. It was the many enlightening comments by the abbot that I found myself voraciously underlining in my copy of the book.

While "The Mountain of Silence" has appendices for chapter endnotes and a helpful glossary of Greek terms used throughout the book, it unfortunately does not contain an index.

Among the many topics covered in these insightful conversations are: asceticism, addictions, animals, angels, apathia [liberation from egotistical passions], Athonite tradition, the Beatitudes, the Bible, Byzantium, ceaseless prayer, Christ, the Cross, demons, Divine Liturgy, the Ecclesia, equality, faith, fasting, fear of God, freedom, God, grace, the heart, heaven, the Holy Spirit, Hesychast tradition (silence), humility, icons, idolatry, illness (of the soul), illusion, the Jesus Prayer, justice, komboschini (prayer ropes), love, magicians, miracles, monasteries, monks, nationalism, the nous, obedience, passions, Pentecost, perfection, prayer, Providence, radio and television, repentance, repression, saints (living and dead), salvation, sanctification, Satan, sin, spiritual guides/confessors, spiritual struggle, temptations, thoughts (positive and negative), the Threefold way (catharsis or purification of the soul, fotisis or enlightenment of the soul, and theosis or union with God), the Theotokos (Mother of God/Virgin Mary), transfiguration, trials, Turks, Uncreated Light, Western philosophy and theology, and worship.

While some readers may be disturbed by some of Professor Markides' sociological and secular questions and comments, it made me feel like I was right there, observing genuine conversations with a modern holy man. Most readers will never have the opportunity to spend hours, much less months, with the renowned abbot of an Orthodox monastery. And many of the questions and comments would be those of anyone raised in the secular (and skeptical) West.

This book is highly recommended to anyone desiring to learn more about Orthodox spirituality, monasticism, or even about life on Cyprus and on Mount Athos. Although it's written by a professor, it's not too technical and should be accessible to anyone with a high school education or above. (August 14, 2003.)
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