Musings from the High Desert

Books that Touch Your Heart and Mind

Musings from the High Desert


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  • August 18, 2013
    In this broadcast, Fr. Gabriel discusses one of his favorite books on spiritual care from the Lutheran tradition. He has cherished this book for some forty years now and used it in his former teaching life at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. It is titled The Hammer of God and was written by the Rev. Bo Giertz, a biblical scholar, parish priest in rural and urban settings, and Bishop of the Diocese of Gothenburg, Sweden. Though this book comes from another tradition, Fr. Gabriel knows that you will find in its story and content good news for your heart and mind.
  • August 30, 2013
    The Psalms are the beloved hymnbook of Israel and the Church. They are also the inspiration for much of the prayer life of the church, both east and west. In this broadcast, Fr. Gabriel explores the literary structure of the Psalms, which helps to explain their winsome and enchanting power. He explains the different categories of Psalms and reads some of his favorites.
  • September 11, 2013
    After some notes to explain the genuine meaning of Inter-Religious Dialogue, Fr Gabriel turns to a 2010 book by the Dalai Lama, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together, which is about 40% autobiography, 40% interpretation of world religions, and 20% program for compassionate relationships between religions. The Dalai Lama attempts to move us beyond violence into understanding.
  • September 25, 2013
    Fr Gabriel turns to his great love, Biblical studies, and discusses two books from the mid-20th Century that were and continue to be deeply influential in his life. These were written by the British scholar C. H. Dodd, who was called the greatest New Testament scholar of his era. Dodd's books were small—Fr. Gabriel calls his writing "concise, clear, and succinct"—but they were of great importance to many Bible students. These two books are The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development (1936) and According to the Scriptures (1952). In the first of these, Dodd traced the roots of New Testament documents, not through theology primarily but through the need for preaching texts. In the second, Dodd gives a thorough presentation of major Old Testament passages shared by early writers to substantiate Jesus as Messiah.
  • July 31, 2013
    In this segment, Fr. Gabriel muses momentarily on his own intellectual history of reading, and then discusses one of his all-time favorite books, which he has read many times: Fr Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World.
  • June 19, 2013
    This week, Fr. Gabriel looks at the work of Boris Pasternak, the great Russian poet whose one novel, Doctor Zhivago, was made into a movie in the mid-sixties, and both book and movie remain enduring classics. Fr. Gabriel spoke about the novel at the Branigan Library in Las Cruces on the occasion of the publication of a new translation. A written copy of this essay is available on the church website.
  • May 8, 2013
    In this series, Fr Gabriel will offer reviews of books from a wide range of interests that have touched him and which he believes either have touched or could touch you. The series will cover novels and poetry, as well as theology, New and Old Testament studies, and specifically Orthodox books. Stay tuned! We hope that you will enjoy these reviews.
  • May 22, 2013
    In this segment, Fr. Gabriel talks more about his fascination with language and then moves into a consideration of the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, best known in the United States for his novels Closely Watched Trains, I Served the King of England, and Too Loud a Solitude, the first two of which were made into award-winning movies. Hrabal was a comic writer with an ironic edge and a great example of those relatively few writers who managed to slip through barriers that the communist regimes erected against intellectuals and artists. Fr. Gabriel ends with portions of Hrabal's novel Gaps, the third in a trilogy about his life written from the viewpoint of his wife Eliska.
  • June 5, 2013
    This time Fr. Gabriel turns from the writers of the other Europe, symbolized by Bohumil Hrabal's work which he spoke about last time, back to the Church. Again looking at the life and overall work of one particular person, he turns to his favorite writer on prayer, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (memory eternal), Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in England. After an overview of Metropolitan Anthony's life, Fr. Gabriel reads excerpts from two books, Beginning to Pray and Living Prayer. There are two important websites for those who want to learn more about Metropolitan Anthony:, which contains his writings; and, the official site.
  • October 9, 2013
    Fr. Gabriel, reflecting on several comments recently made by parish members, turns to a consideration of The Mind of the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, a book he has read five times and which he wishes everyone would read. Metropolitan Hierotheos describes the mind of the Christian and details the twin engine for its development: sacramental life and ascetic discipline.
  • October 16, 2013
    David Jones (1895-1975) is the subject of this podcast. Not generally well-known in the United States, David Jones has been the subject of ongoing exploration by many people here and abroad regarding the overlap and cross-fertilization between art and faith, specifically Christian faith. Jones was an Anglo-Welsh artist who specialized in line drawings and watercolor but whose epic poetry was of equal importance to his artwork. Father Gabriel has long appreciated Jones's work and invites you to listen in as he unveils Jones for you.
  • March 12, 2014
    After considering the issue of pride, Fr. Gabriel turns back to books—particularly to books that relate to the issue of sin and grace. So this week we look at the twofold work by Archimandrite Sophrony on the life and teaching of St. Silouan the Athonite, The Monk of Mount Athos, and Wisdom from Mount Athos. Many people have been touched by these books (available also in one volume entitled St. Silouan the Athonite), and Fr. Gabriel has turned to them for his lenten reading again this year.
  • April 2, 2014
    Turning again toward contemporary Biblical studies, Fr. Gabriel swiftly surveys recent research into Jesus and Paul and then turns to one representative volume in current Pauline studies—The First Paul by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. Their names may be familiar as members of the controversial Jesus seminar, but this book is quite accessible, very well-written, and the authors give us clear and simple insights into how Paul is currently viewed in scholarly circles.
  • September 10, 2014
    Fr. Gabriel commends Fr. Eugen Pentiuc's new book from Oxford University Press, The Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Tradition. This is an important and unique new resource; nothing exists like it in the world of biblical interpretation. Though many aspects of Fr Pentiuc's book may be approached through monographs, essays, articles, and other books, no other resource pulls them together as does his. The two parts of the book are Reception and Interpretation, and his concluding chapter is on the Church's iconographic representations of the Old Testament. Highly recommended!
  • September 24, 2014
    In this review, Fr. Gabriel continues with further consideration of resources for Old Testament study. In an attempt to assist people to understand contemporary research and interpretation of Old Testament texts, this week he looks at two books by Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? and The Bible with Sources Revealed. The latter book may well be considered Friedman's masterpiece. Friedman's work is highly respected among Biblical scholars, and he has paid particular attention for years to the contemporary use of the documentary hypothesis, which relates to the compilation of particularly the first five books of the Old Testament. He teaches at UC-San Diego.
  • January 22, 2014
    Pani-matka Susan continues and concludes her reflections on books for St. Nicholas and the Christmas Season. Pani-matka Susan and Fr. Gabriel would be eager to receive suggestions of other books and resources that listeners have found spiritually nourishing for children at the Christmas season, and we will pass that information on at a later date.
  • January 9, 2014
    Fr. Gabriel interviews Pani-matka Susan about her favorite books that relate to Christmas and St Nicholas, particularly discussing ones that can be used in Sunday School and for family devotions, and two books that speak to Jewish-Christian relations at this time of the year. Included is the book that inspired their decade-long tradition of St Nicholas cookies (see website). We hope this will be helpful to people for next year's celebration.
  • November 6, 2013
    Oliver Davies is well known in Great Britain and Europe as a scholar of Celtic Christianity. He is the author of Celtic Spirituality in the prestigious series Classics of Western Spirituality from Paulist Press. Here Fr. Gabriel reviews his book Celtic Christianity in Early Medieval Wales. Listeners will not find this an esoteric offering at all, but rather a heartwarming regional appropriation of Orthodox Christianity.
  • November 21, 2013
    In this broadcast, Fr. Gabriel offers a survey of materials that open for us the Prayer of the Heart, commonly known as the Jesus Prayer. The key example is, of course, the anonymous 19th-century Russian text known as The Way of a Pilgrim, but there are numerous resources that lead us into the prayer other than that very popular book. Join us for an overview.
  • December 11, 2013
    Most listeners will be familiar with C.S. Lewis and his works of both theology and fantasy because he has had so much influence, particularly on people who have become Christian through his works. In this broadcast, Fr. Gabriel introduces the wider circle of his friends, known as the Inklings, a group that met in the 1930s and 1940s at the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford England for discussion of their literary pursuits and interests. Fr. Gabriel also includes a few readings from the wonderful Screwtape Letters (1942).
  • October 17, 2014
    Israel is very much in the news these days. The Gaza Conflict, the never-ending attempt at a peace process, the rise of anti-Semitism and the turn against Israel in recent years are very much upon us. As Christians we have a sense that Israel is our spiritual homeland and so we watch with interest and concern. Fr Gabriel introduces us this time to a noteworthy book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit, a major Israeli journalist and commentator. This book, which reads like a well-written novel, offers a narrative introduction to the history of contemporary Israel that will grab your attention and that leaves you with the questions that Israel itself faces as the country tries to move forward. This is not a work of either praise or condemnation, but an overview of the paradoxes and complicated issues Israel has either created or faces now and in the future.

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