by Matushka Constantina R Palmer
Published by: Conciliar Press, 2012

I have just put down this amazing book, and as I sit to write this review, which I knew I would write not one full chapter into the text, I am nearly at a loss as to where to begin and how to proceed.

As I turned the page to Knot Thirty-three, the final chapter, I felt a definite sadness. I wasn’t ready to be separated from this book, but I knew that the end was near. Finishing the book left a hint of that sadness, but the pervading feeling was one that accompanied me throughout my reading – joy. I have not read a book that brought me such spiritual joy in years. Every story, every chapter, and my soul soared. It is not an exaggeration to say that my prayer flowed better these last few days, while being inspired by this book, than it typically does. The book is, as Elder Porphyrios would say, a walk down the ascetic path of joy.

Matushka has divided the book into 33 knots, or chapters, bringing to mind the 33 knot prayer rope that many Orthodox Christians wear on their wrists to remind us to pray throughout each day. Within each chapter is a series of vignettes. These stories are varied – scenes from her visits to the monastery, talks with holy elders and the nuns, work, reflections, remembrances. These vignettes are presented to us very simply; we are allowed to be there during the events and conversations. We become very fond especially of the nuns, but of all the people we are introduced to in our reading.

Having my degree in Literature (and this being a book review) I will also offer the opinion that the book is beautifully written. Matushka has a style of writing that is very fluid. Her sentences flow smoothly together, as do the stories and the chapters. The writing is simple, not ornate or “flashy,” and when combined with the content the experience is almost of being dragged through the book. Pulled, but very willingly.

Whether you have spent time in a women’s monastery or not, this book is immediately accessible to all. Potentially confusing things are explained without distracting, allowing the stories to be at the forefront at all times. In this book we encounter, even experience, the joy of Christ and the joy of the Christian life. I fear that sometimes we see following Christ as quite a burden in this fallen world – this book reminds us time and time again that “through the Cross JOY has come into all the world.”

Whether you’re a bibliophile, like me, or even if you tend not to do much reading, this book is worth your time. It a beautiful book, an exquisite experience of our Faith, and a joyful inspiration for our lives in Christ.

The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women’s Monastery may be purchased HERE

Matushka Constantina’s blog may be found HERE

Author Matthew Jackson