Popular Patristics

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press has been publishing a Popular Patristics series for some time now, comprised of various translations of individual Patristic works, selections thereof, or themed editions of excerpts. The translations are fresh, contemporary, and pleasant to read. The books are also of a perfect size for popping into a pocket: 5x7x1/2″ (12.5×18.5×1.3 cm for you metric heretics). I’ve just picked up a short stack of these, rather like Lenten pancakes, and thought I’d recommend them to any readers who are interested in patristic reading, as I am. Each little volume includes a helpful (and surprisingly, for such little volumes, high quality) introduction, and most (all?) include selective but very useful and most importantly thoughtful footnotes. The surface of these translations is perfectly popular, with the depths entirely scholarly. And they’re inexpensive. How delightful!

Sunday of the Cross

Come, ye faithful, and let us venerate the life-giving Wood, on which Christ, the King of Glory, stretched out His hands of His own will. To the ancient blessedness He raised us up, whom the enemy despoiled of old through pleasure, making us exiles far from God. Come, ye faithful, and let us venerate the Wood whereby we have been counted worthy to crush the heads of our invisible enemies. Come, all ye kindred of the nations, and let us honor in hymns the Cross of the Lord. Rejoice, O Cross, perfect redemption of fallen Adam. Glorying in thee, our faithful kings laid low by thy might the people of Ishmael. We Christians kiss thee now with awe, and glorifying God who was nailed on thee, we cry aloud: O Lord, who on the Cross was crucified, have mercy upon us, for Thou art good and lovest mankind.

The above hymn was written by Roman/Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-912), and is sung during Matins/Orthros on the third Sunday in Lent, the Adoration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross (see Mother Mary and Archimandrite [now Bishop] Kallistos Ware.The Lenten Triodion. St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2001, pp 348-9). His reference to defeating the Arabs is probably to the capture of the city of Tarsus in 900 and 904, which for several years had been an Arab base for invasion of Asia Minor, and earlier, if similarly temporary, successes further west in Italy and elsewhere.

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