“More than the sum of its parts,” was a phrase that came to mind when I finished The Sweetness of Grace: stories of Christian trial and victory by Matushka Constantina Palmer. However, that phrase doesn’t quite convey what I want it to. You see, it isn’t the sum of the parts that makes this book what it is, because each story carries within it the whole: the grace of Orthodoxy as lived by faithful Orthodox Christians.
Mat. Constantina admits in the introduction that it is her skills as a storyteller, not her masters degree in theology, which bring these stories to life, but I must disagree slightly. Matushka is an exceptional storyteller, but she also has the intimate knowledge of the Holy Fathers and their writings which provides the lens through which the light of the stories shine. Much like my spiritual father who has a (to me) phenomenal and encyclopedic ability to pull out exactly the right anecdote from an elder’s life, a quotation from a saint, verse from holy scripture, or story from the Prologue, Matushka roots every story solidly in the Church’s Tradition. This in turn brings a deeper understanding of the scripture or precept.
All of this might make the book sound too exalted to read! Do not be deceived on this front; just like Matushka Constantina’s first book, The Scent of Holiness, this one is extremely approachable, easy to read, and enjoyable. I read the first third in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. After all, it is a collection of stories. The Lord himself taught us in parables, or stories, as the best way to capture our attention and instruct us. There is nothing insignificant about the humble story.
I recommend this book very highly. You will likely read it as I did, in huge gulps, but then you will return again and again to savor individual stories. Both The Sweetness of Grace and The Scent of Holiness [review here] should be in every Orthodox Christian’s library. Thank you, Matushka, for your labors in collecting and sharing these stories with us.
The Sweetness of Grace: stories of Christian trial and victory is available from Ancient Faith Publishing. I received a free copy in return for my unbiased review.