Category Archives: Book Reviews…

The Luminous Eye

    The Luminous Eye is a concise introduction to the mystical writings of Syria’s favourite monk, St Ephrem the Syrian.  Universally revered in the east, his poetry has encapsulated the spiritual eye of generations of Orthodox Christians.  The poetry of St Ephrem and his hymns are a wonderful re-working of Scripture endowed with the spiritual vision of the patristic mind and a living testimony to the living stream of this holy tradition.  St Ephrem’s writings are at once both simple and complex, although the simplicity at timescould betray to the undiscerning mind the rich tapestry of theological reflection interwoven as great themes collide in his work.

The Luminous Eye is another Cistercian Publication, who are to be commended for translating and publishing a number of rare patristic books from the original languages such as “Pachomian Koinonia” from the Coptic.  Whilst the “Luminous Eye” acts as good general introduction to the work of St Ephrem, SVS Press have previously published St Ephrem’s “Hymns on Paradise” perhaps some of his most beautiful work – which is to be reccommended to go into greater depth through his hymns in sequence rather than in the format in “The Luminous Eye” where only portions are quoted and then expounded by the author.

However you encounter him, St Ephrem is one of the great and often underestimated writers of the patristic era.  Well worth reading on a nice day outdoors in the company of creation!


Saint Gregory of Nyssa is one of the great Fathers of the Church and this wonderful little book is in itself evidence of his holiness because of the profound mystical reflection which is nothing short of inspirational.  Furthermore, it is clear evidence of why the writings of the Church Fathers should take an honoured place as second only to our Divinely inspired Scriptures in the significance of Christian writings.  This particular work is so full of awe and wonder at the marvels of God and Divinity one will never again read over the well known account of the life of Moses the arch prophet the same way again.  It seems impossible to actually put into words the profound nature of Saint Gregory’s insight, so I will leave you with a little quote…

After he had passed some time in this kind of life, the history says an awe inspiring theophany occurred.  At high noon a light brighter than the sunlight dazzled his eyes.  Astonished at the strange sight, he looked up at the mountain and saw a bush from which this light was flaming up like a fire.  When he saw the branches of the bush sprouting up in flame as if they were in pure water, he said to himself “I will go and see this great sight.”  As soon as he said this, he no longer received the marvel of the light with his sight alone, but (which is most astounding of all) his hearing too was illuminated by the rays of light.  The light’s grace was distributed to both senses, illuminating the sight with flashing rays and lightning the way for the hearing with undefiled teachings.  The voice from the light forbade Moses to approach the mountain burdened with lifeless sandals.  He removed the sandals from his feet, and so stood on that ground on which the divine light was shining.” 

This is just a taste of the wonderful depth of this book, no Orthodox Christian can read this and not be moved…

This book is now available in an affordable edition from Harper Collins Spiritual Classics Series or from the Classics of Western Spirituality Series.