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Book review: Feasts for the Kingdom: Sermons for the liturgical year by Khaled Anatolios

by
19 January 2024

A convert’s sermons are worth reading, says Hugh Wybrew

KHALED ANATOLIOS is a Muslim convert to Christianity, and a priest in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Originally part of the Arabic-speaking Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, it entered into communion with Rome in 1724, while keeping its Orthodox liturgical tradition. Fr Khaled’s conversion was inspired by reading the New Testament, and his growth in the Christian faith was nourished by reading the early church Fathers. His homilies draw on both for their content, as well as on the hymnology of the feasts on which they were preached. They were delivered at celebrations of the divine liturgy, as the Eastern Orthodox call the eucharist, at the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana.

In the Orthodox calendar, the liturgical year begins on 1 September, coincident with the beginning of the academic year at Notre Dame. The first two homilies speak of Christ, our beginning and our today. There follow homilies preached on the major festivals of Christ and his Mother, and during Lent, Holy Week, and the Easter season. Of the last four homilies, one is intriguingly titled “Voting in Christ: Evangelical Counsel before a Federal Election”, two are funeral homilies, and the last was preached at a wedding.

The specific context of these sermons in no way diminishes their value for readers and preachers in other Christian traditions and circumstances. They all proclaim basic Christian truths about God, the human condition, and the destiny that God has in mind for us. They do so in a straightforward and lively way. There is the occasional surprising image, as when Fr Khaled speaks in his sermon on the Birthday of God about “God’s eternal baby-ness”. The liturgical context is always prominent, with frequent references to the scriptural readings; and each homily ends by reminding its hearers that in the celebration of the eucharist the events commemorated in the calendar are made present, so that in receiving communion we renew and deepen our participation in the mystery of our salvation.

Sermons should be heard rather than read; but there are echoes of a convert’s enthusiasm for the Christian message and its significance for human life in the straightforward language of these homilies. Readers will gain insights into the distinctive Eastern Orthodox understanding of the feasts and fasts of the liturgical year. Western Epiphany, for example, is Eastern Theophany, and celebrates, not the visit of the Magi, but the baptism of Jesus. It is also a Trinitarian feast: the Spirit descends on the Son, and the Father’s voice is heard. At a deeper level, these homilies provide nourishment for both mind and spirit. They are, as Rowan Williams says in his commendation, “a treasury of wisdom and clarity”.


Canon Hugh Wybrew was formerly Vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s, Oxford.

 

Feasts for the Kingdom: Sermons for the liturgical year
Khaled Anatolios
Eerdmans £15.99
(978-0-8028-8303-2)
Church Times Bookshop £14.39

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