My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a short little book. I was hoping for more. Apparently, St. John was a very holy man who upheld the Orthodox Tradition. This book doesn’t have much in the way of footnotes or sources (for further study), but one of the main points of the translator’s (Fr. Rose Seraphim) introduction is that one must participate in Orthodox worship for a long period of time to really understand what the Orthodox believe about Mary.
Indeed, it is an ancient principle of Christian theology that “prayer determines belief”–how we pray shapes what we believe.
I enjoyed the section against the Roman Catholic doctrine of Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” (that she was conceived free from original sin) the best. I guess that because I’m a recovering Calvinist, but it was illuminating to see that Church Fathers like Ambrose, Augustine, and Bernard said things that sure seem to contradict Rome’s current understanding (which was only proclaimed a “dogma” in the 1800s).
For Westerners, who are almost completely ignorant of Christianity outside the US, Orthodox can be quite strange and foreign. This little book did a decent job of explaining some of the things the Church has believed from the very earliest times, and also showed how Orthodoxy does not go as far as Rome in their high view of Mary.