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Publisher's Summary

Every monastery exudes the scent of holiness, but women's monasteries have their own special flavor. Join Constantina Palmer as she makes frequent pilgrimages to a women's monastery in Greece and absorbs the nuns' particular approach to their spiritual life. If you're a woman who's read of Mount Athos and longed to partake of its grace-filled atmosphere, this book is for you. Men who wish to understand how women's spirituality differs from their own will find it a fascinating listen as well.

©2012 Constantina R. Palmer (P)2018 Constantina R. Palmer

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What listeners say about The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women's Monastery

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

We are not saved alone, but only in relationship.

The positive
Hearing the book left me with a decidedly different viewpoint than when I read it via Kindle in 2017. The book was narrated by the author and, even though she was striving to be neutral in her reading, it was very easy to tell that she was deeply affected by her experiences at the monastery/monasteries she visited. The stories came to life and I found myself smiling and re-winding and sometimes even cringing in sympathy with her stories. Her engagement with the story is what gave it more life than the printed version. I imagine she spins quite a good yarn in person.

This book is not meant to be a juicy "tell-all" about the ongoings behind the walls of women's monasteries, nor is it meant to be a theological treatise. It is a glimpse through the eyes of one young convert who chose to visit and grow in relationship with women monastics. You will find a few sparkly theological bits scattered here and there but that is not the point. If you read this book looking for deep theological musings you will be disappointed.

This is book is about a young woman visiting Orthodox monastics and her relationships with them. The lessons she learned about herself and about being Orthodox are found in those relationships told through brief vignettes that, at the end of the book fold into one message: We are not saved alone, but only in relationship. Even the hermits come to communion.

It's a lovely little book and I recommend it highly.

The negative
There are a few technical issues at the beginning and the end of the audiobook. KInd of an annoying echo or hollow sound during the introduction and first couple of chapters, and again in the epilogue. The chapters in between do not have this issue. I was afraid the echo would continue throughout and I would not have been able to listen to the entire book with that going on. It would have been too distracting.

4 stars.

Full Disclosure #1: I was given an Audible credit to purchase this book in return for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to do this, AFP!

Full Disclosure #2: I read the Kindle version in July 2017 so this is my second read. The first time I read this book, I was unable to get past the format in which it was written, by which I mean I was not sure if it was supposed to be a travelogue or a travel-diary or just a collection of entries from a diary strung together based on a loose relation between what seemed to be just a rand0om bunch of stories. To be honest, other than gathering a few thought-provoking quotes I didn't get a lot out of it at that time. The audio version was much, much more accessible for me for the reasons I state above.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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With simplicity and an open heart..

The author, Constantina Palmer, reads with warmth and naturalness. There were no problems with the audio. After listening I did go over a paperback version I own (without having read) to highlight and reread relevant sections (it was that good!).

This book is a delightful surprise. Constantina Palmer documents her experiences in an unnamed Greek monastery through a series of stories about the nuns, her encounters with them, and their stories (as recounted to her). These stories describe the ordinariness of the nuns lives--filled with work and prayer--and yet reveal the struggle for virtue through watchfulness and prayerful engagement with the tasks at hand. These aren't grand stories of spiritual adventure overseas. Palmer does introduce holy elders with spiritual gifts, but most of the wisdom is gleaned while doing rote chores, or getting a sobering word from those same elders. In this way, the book is wonderful. It is completely down to earth, open, and heartfelt. The charming simplicity with which these stories are told serve to highlight that great Christian virtue--humility.

I gained a great deal of inspiration from this book. There are many lessons to apply to ones own life inside, and many examples to follow. It goes without saying that this is not a theological book. It's a book for everyone. The audible format worked particularly well for listening to while running across town--often a chapter or section would last just long enough to get to a destination. Highly, highly recommended.



2 people found this helpful

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Inspiring

I had read this book a few years ago, but listening to Presbytera Constantina read it personally was such an inspiring experience. I recommend this book to everyone eager for peace and a reenchanted view of our crazy world.

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WOW! I loved this book! So enjoyable!

Another reviewer stated they were disappointed when this ended. That is how I felt too. Listening to this was like being swept off to a far away land and I looked forward to hearing the next adventure. The narration was excellent as well. I learned much from this book and have just ordered her next book as well in hopes of more of the same.

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Interesting and thought provoking

There is a lot in this that gave me thought and more that I found informative and interesting.

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incredible humbling stories

this is a great book to listen to if you want to learn more about Greek monasticism and if you want to deepen your love for the Orthodox Church

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Thoughtful

This is a thoughtful and enjoyable collection of stories of living Orthodoxy. It provides love and hope through everyday events.

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Review from Susanna Ridenour

4.5 stars. I loved this book, the sweet and beautiful stories, the mix of holiness and humor in the nuns' lives. I found it touching how Constantina ended the book with Sister Marcella's death. I would have preferred to read this in text, as audiobooks don't seem to be for me, but I still feel like I got a lot out of it.

"Go and cling to a man who fears God, and from the fact that he fears Him, he will teach you to do likewise."

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I never wanted this to be over!

Truly a wonderful book! every orthodox woman should read this. These stories warmed my heart so much.

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Pearls of Wisdom from Orthodox Nuns and Novices

The Scent of Holiness by Constantina R. Palmer is a must listen for anyone who desires to learn from the pearls of wisdom that comes from contemporary Orthodox nuns and novices. Although some books with monastic wisdom tend to be more solemn, Constantina does a beautiful job of using a storytelling format to convey the messages. This format makes the wisdom both easier to digest and humanizes monastics. I especially appreciate the humanizing aspects of this book because it reminds me so much of the nuns and novices that I have developed relationships with in a Coptic women’s monastery in the U.S.

It is because this book is full of stories that it makes Constantina’s narration of her own writing all the more meaningful. I will mention that the recording of the intro to the book felt just slightest bit choppy to me, but once the book itself started, the audio is very smooth and easy to listen to. The thoughtfulness and effort that went into the making of this book is evident, even with the smallest details as with the number of chapters (33) and calling each chapter a “knot,” as on a prayer rope, did not go overlooked.

Even further, I loved that Constantina took every story, no matter how small it may have seemed, and helped us see how we could be taking each opportunity to learn and grow closer to Christ. It is a perfect reminder that there is nothing so small or menial in our lives that cannot be directed towards God.

While I would recommend this book to everyone, I especially think women should read this book. Often, the lives of women monastics go overlooked, and this is a beautiful book both for young women and seasoned women alike who need some encouragement to keep living a life of holiness. I will without question be listening to this book again and because of how much I enjoyed it, I even sent the audible link to two friends while listening to it. A third person heard a snippet of this book while I was playing it on a car ride, and she is looking forward to listening to it as well.

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  • 04-10-21

A window into a beautiful, miraculous world.

....Where do I begin? First of all, just to say I would recommend it wholeheartedly and not just to women. From the title and cover it might look as if it is aimed at women but I loved it too.

The Eastern Church to a Western mind can seem at times mysterious with prayers to saints and the use of icons. For me one of the attractions is that it is rooted in history and doesn't waver and just follow the latest cultural ideas. It has the intellectual rigour of the best of Western Christianity but without the dryness. It also has the focus on the miraculous but without the money hungry prosperity preachers. Quite the opposite as Eastern Orthodox elders, monks and nuns shun wealth and seek humility.

There are numerous miraculous accounts in this book related to saintly, ascetic believers which are really inspiring. Constantina is not a nun but spent a lot of time with them. Just as Constantina became part of monastery life without actually becoming a nun, you as the listener also feel part of it...perhaps that is a result of prayers for the book...I don't know.

I wouldn't necessarily want to be a monk, it's for the few but there are so many lessons to learn from nuns and monks and this beautiful book allows you to experience a bit of their world, which is actually very out of this world!