The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the first series I remember reading as a child. I know I read other secular series, like Boxcar Children, Goosebumps, etc. However, none of them stuck with me the way this series has. Perhaps, it was because I played Edmund in a school production of it. Yes, I’m always typecast as the jerk. 🙂 Perhaps, it was because the allegory of Aslan being Jesus hit me over the head and was something I at my young age could grasp. I’m not really sure the reason. I just know I still love this series. I love it so much that my paperbacks have cracked spines. If you know me, cracked spines are not something I love (unlike my lovely wife). Therefore, I have been investigating different editions (both text and audio) of this wonderful series.

The first one I tried was the audio version edition produced by Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre. When I received this product, I didn’t realize that it was the dramatized version. That means that the text is more or less the same. There is a narrator, but more often than not, the character will exclaim something rather than have the narrator tell what the character is feeling or doing. For example, when Lucy was walking through the wardrobe and was crunching on snow, instead of having the narrator describe to us what she was thinking, Lucy directly tells us what she is thinking. If you want just the books, you will probably hate that it is dramatized, if it is not a deal breaker then it is the best dramatization I have heard, even better than the BBC one. What makes the dramatization so good? I attribute it to the cast of characters. When you have that many voices in a story, it helps to have a whole cast of people instead of one person trying to do every voice. There are also music and background noises that add to the story. I  must admit that these can be a bit overpowering at times. If you listen to the first five to ten minutes of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe it drowns out the four children’s conversation a bit.

What really impressed me about this CD set is the packaging. For starters, it is in a nice study tin with Aslan front and center on it. Next, there are seven separate sleeves for each of the books. Each sleeve gives the date of publication and the order in the series, which the book is to be read following the chronological approach. With each book being on separate sleeves, you can choose to listen to the books in the original publication order, and expose your children to Narnia the way you were originally exposed to it. Also on the sleeves are a shield representing some facet of the particular book, like a lamppost for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The CDs themselves also look like works of art, and each one is unique looking. Lastly, there is a folded up map of Narnia included in this package. So if you are looking for an audiobook version of The Chronicles of Narnia and don’t mind that it is dramatized, this is a beautiful edition to own. If you are looking for an unabridged audiobook version, then you’ll have to buy Harper Collins’ edition.

After looking at audio editions. I turned my attention to the text versions. There are several different versions available depending on if you want individual volumes or a treasury of them all in one book. Part of me was tempted to go for the treasury, because it was a hardcover, and I am a sucker for hardcovers! However, I didn’t like the fact that since it was one volume, it was prearranged into the chronological order and not the published order. It’s a minor pet peeve, but it almost forces you to read them in a specific order, and you shouldn’t be shoved into an order, you don’t prefer.

The edition that I ultimately settled on were the full-color collector’s editions from Harper Collins. They come in paperback in the United States, but if you want them in hardcover, you can buy them from an Amazon seller or Amazon UK. These are the best editions, I have discovered. The illustrations are original Pauline Baynes illustrations. She also illustrated for Tolkien, so she is definitely my favorite illustrator. I remember being enchanted with her black and white illustrations when I first read this book, but adding color to these pages make them all the more vibrant. The pages are a thick, glossy paper that feel like they are built to last. The books themselves also have a nice weight to them, and the covers are just as beautiful as the illustrations on the inside. And even though these books are numbered chronologically on the spine, I can give them to my son in the order I choose to (which is publication order), and let him read them the original way the first time. After that, if he wants to read them in the chronological order he can. But he will at least have had the chance to experience the Narnia magic the correct way first. Well, these are my recommendations for Narnia books, both audio and text. What are your favorite editions and why?

These products were provided to me for free by Tyndale House Publishers (CDs) and Harper Collins UK (Books).

Meditations for Pasca (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Meditations for Pascha is the fourth book in a series by Fr. Vassilios Papavassiliou. The previous three were Meditations for Advent, Meditations for Great Lent, and Meditations for Holy Week. The book begins by discussing the meaning of the week which follows Pascha, also known as Bright Week or Renewal Week. There are three themes for this week – water, light, and renewal. It is in this week that we celebrate all things being made new by Christ’s Resurrection. We also begin to get hints of Pentecost, despite it still being more than a month away. The rest of the book dedicates individual chapters to the weeks that follow Pascha, like Thomas Week; Week of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Week of the Blind Man, etc.

Thomas Sunday was an interesting read. For starters, it is also known as Antipascha, not because it is in opposition to Pascha, but “instead of Pascha.” On the Sunday of Pascha, in the evening, there is a Vespers service called the “Agape Vespers.” In this service, the Church hears about the first post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus. If people are unable to make it to this service, then the following Sunday, known as “Thomas Sunday,” they can hear about Thomas seeing the Risen Lord. Therefore, some of the Church is like Thomas in that he wasn’t present when all the others first saw Jesus after his Resurrection. Little things like this are what makes the Orthodox calendar so awesome.

Another section, I particularly liked is the Week of the Paralytic. We all know this Gospel story from John. There was a man who lay at the pool of Bethesda who was paralyzed for 38 years. An angel would go down and stir the waters, and the first person who went in the water was cured. However, for 38 years, someone always went into the water before him, so he never was healed until Jesus came and healed the man Himself. Instead of focusing on the paralytic, Fr. Papavassiliou focuses on those around the man and compares them to us. We are all suffering from some sort of spiritual illness or paralysis. We may try and do good for our neighbors and help them when it’s convenient for us. But what about when it comes down to us or them? Will we choose them over us? We like to think so, but unfortunately we are usually selfish and think only of ourselves.

This was another superb book of meditations by Fr. Papavassiliou. I believe there is one more book coming out in this series on the Twelve Great Feasts. After that, I believe the series will be done. I’m not sure the ins and outs of publishing and what kind of response is needed to merit a new printing of a book, but if possible, I think combining all of these Meditations books in a nice leatherette edition would be a nice idea, especially if it is the same quality as The Ancient Faith Prayer Book.

This book was provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Book of Hours (Holy Transfiguration Monastery)

The Book of Hours is a pocket-sized (4″ x 6.5″) edition of the Midnight Services and the Hours as printed in The Great Horologion. The Midnight Services include all forms for Weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Hours included are the First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours along with all of their Mid-Hours and variants for Great Lent. There is also the full text of the Typica, which is a service used for whenever Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, like weekdays during Great Lent or when a priest is not present. The text itself is black for parts that are to be read and red for all instructions and rubrics.

Truth be told, I received this book in error. I actually requested Saint Symeon of Emesa, but received this one in error. I admit to being a bit ignorant when it comes to the Orthodox hours. This book encouraged me to read more about them and learn more about them. There is a similar structure between Catholic and Orthodox daily hours. For example. the Catholic office has Vespers (Evening Prayer), Compline (Night Prayer), Office of Readings, Lauds (Morning Prayer), Daytime Prayer (which can be one or all three), . The Orthodox cycle has Vespers (Evening Prayer), Compline (Night Prayer), Midnight Office, Matins (Morning Prayer), First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, and Ninth Hour, and Typica.

If you are Orthodox and interested in following the Daily Cycle, this is a great and affordable investment. Of course, you will want to pair it with the pocket Prayer Book and pocket Psalter. Overall, I would highly rate this book both for its affordability and it’s high quality craftsmanship. The Holy Transfiguration Monastery doesn’t print many books, but the ones they do are made to last a lifetime. The same can be said for their icons. In fact, they are my go to source for icons, as I have purchased at least a dozen from them! Be sure to check them out for your Orthodox needs.

This book was provided to me for free by The Holy Transfiguration Monastery in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

The Morning Offering (Ancient Faith Publishing)

Abbot Tryphon is both a blogger and podcaster at Ancient Faith Radio. He has recently published a book called The Morning Offering. It shares its name with both his blog and podcast. The book chicagobearsjerseyspop is laid out in the format of Xcelsius a daily devotional with a page devoted to each day of the year. The flaw with this book, as with most daily devotionals, is that they forget February 29th. Sure, this is only an issue once every four years, but it can be Good very annoying when you want a reading and don’t have one.

Here is a sample of one of the reflections. January 1 begins by talking about typical resolutions, like losing weight or saving money. Instead of these cliched resolutions, Abbot Tryphon offers us these words of wisdom. “A better plan would be to pledge ourselves to exercise virtue during the coming year. Doing this means disposing ourselves to do good habitually and firmly. We pledge ourselves not only to perform good acts, but also to Doll give the best of ourselves to others. Virtuous people tend toward the good with all their sensory and spiritual powers and also pursue the good, choosing to do it through concrete actions.”

This and the many other great reflections in this book are the perfect way to start your day. Each reading takes only five to ten minutes to read, so you can read it over breakfast or a cup of coffee. At times, you cannot tell this book is Eastern Orthodox, but then he makes references to hesychia, Elder Paisos of Mount Athos, and St. John the Wonderworker.This is neither a criticism nor a compliment, merely an observation. Therefore, you could buy this book for your Catholic or Protestant family and friends, and they would find it approachable and understandable as well. Even though the year is almost one-fourth over, it’s not too late to draw closer to God. This book is a simple starting point for doing just that.

This book was provided to me for free by Tomatoes Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary (Angelico Press)

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary is another recent Fulton Sheen re-release from Angelico Press that made it here in time for Lent 2015. In this 70 page book, Sheen begins with a summary of Homer’s epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Many of us know these works. In the first, Achilles defeats (kills) Hector, and in the other Odysseus is lost at sea while his wife Penelope waits for his return. He astutely points out though that it is Hector who is the hero, not Achilles, and that Penelope is the hero, not Odysseus. He then uses these examples of the defeated man and the sorrowful woman to compare them to Jesus and Mary during Christ’s Passion.

Sheen then points out a fact I never realized before. Mary is only recorded as having said seven phrases in the New Testament. This leads to the heart of the book – a juxtaposition of Jesus’ seven last phrases with Mary’s seven total phrases. One such example of their words next to each other is Jesus saying, “Behold your Mother,” and Mary saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” In these words, Sheen shows us that religion is not something one experiences individually. It is a communal thing that requires fellowship with others. That is why Mary willingly gave herself to be the mother of Jesus and bring salvation into the world. It is also why Jesus gave John (and by extension us) His mother while He was hanging on the cross.

This book reminded me of another book that Fulton Sheen penned called, The Cross and the Beatitudes. In that book, Sheen too focused on Jesus’ seven last words and compared them to the Beatitudes. I already knew that Sheen was a highly intelligent man, but reading both of these books, it is clear that Sheen valued these seven phrases perhaps more than any other seven phrases in human history. If you need a perfect book for Holy Week, particularly Good Friday, I highly recommend Seven Words of Jesus and Mary and The Cross and the Beatitudes. Neither one will disappoint ? you, and you will walk away with a better understanding of the seven last words and a deeper love of Jesus.

This book was provided to me for free by Angelico Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here!

Remade for Happiness (Ignatius Press)

Today in Fulton Sheen week, I will be On reviewing Remade for Happiness. This book was originally published in 1946, but Ignatius Press has recently re-released it for our spiritual edification! There are fourteen chapters in this book. The first seven are questions Sheen asks and answers for us.

1. Are you happy?
2. What is God like?
3. What are you like?
4. How did you get that way?
5. Who can remake you?
6. Is religion purely individual?
7. How can you be remade (if you so choose to be Dung remade)?

As you can see, there is a natural progression with the questions. The first question leads us to the realization that though we experience moments of happiness, we are not truly happy. If we were, then we wouldn’t need to continue to look for happiness. The second question introduces to God, the One who can make us happy. We are then juxtaposed with God and it is explained why we are the way we are. Chapter Five brings God back into the picture and explains that we cannot remake ourselves. If we could, we would not need God. Six also strips away the pride of the individual letting us know that we cannot experience salvation alone. We need others to get to Heaven. That is why we have Mother Church. Then, in one of the longer chapters, Chapter Seven walks us through the process of being remade.

The next four chapters in this book walk us through the Four Last Things – Judgment, Purgatory, Hell, and Heaven. He explains that in our judgment, everything will be stripped away and we will be left to be judged by our choices. However, God will not be the one judging us. We will be judging ourselves by the life we lived. There will be no pleading or bargaining, merely the cold reality of truth. After this judgment, he explains so succinctly that there are three possible destinations. “Hell: Pain without Love; Purgatory: Pain with Love; and Heaven: Love without Pain.” The final three chapters fittingly deal with faith, hope, and charity (or love).

I was born 3 years after Fulton Sheen’s death, so I never had the opportunity to see or listen to him live. That doesn’t mean I haven’t watched or listened to almost all of his old programs, though. This book is classic Sheen and reads like he is there speaking the words to you. It is practical, straightforward theology without unnecessary words. Part of me is telling me to pass on my copy of this book to someone else, so they may gain from its riches. The other part of me is telling me to keep this book and reread it at least once more. You too might experience this conflict after you read it, so you better buy two!

This book was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this book helpful, please click here and hit Yes!