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The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women's Monastery

Narrated by: Constantina R. Palmer
Length: 6 hrs and 44 mins
5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

Regular price: $19.95

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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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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.

2 of 2 people found this review 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.



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The Scent of Holiness

Very good. Learned a lot. Will tell others to read or listen to it especially if they are Orthodox.

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Honey from the Rock

I once heard the saying, Honey from the Rock, and wondered what it could mean. Still not sure, but it comes to mind when I am thinking of how to review this book. Constantina does a great job at being authentic and telling her story and experiences while passing time as a companion in the lives of some monastic women, and men, that have done what few of us could even imagine. She shares with us her story as she builds relationships with the sisters through the years, and we get also to hear some pieces of their stories. I see where these individuals made hard decisions (rock) and through that commitment to God and each other, and even the world, sweetness is being poured out (honey) on us all.
Constantina talks about us all being in relationship at one point in her book, with each other, with God, and in the end I felt like I was being let into this relationship with the sisters and her. It was a great listen, but as someone else mentioned, I want to get the book and reread and underline important lessons I want to remember. I loved that the author was the reader, it made it all the more genuine. The technical part of the sound did feel a little amateur as it was inconsistent both in sound and speed. Easily over looked.

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The perfect piece of love and joy

I listed to this book while making Christmas baskets at a monastery that I myself have been going to since I was 11.
Each story that Constantina wrote brought a smile to my face because it reminded me of those little moments and lessons I myself learned at a place surrounded by holiness and nuns. The book itself will make you want to visit a monastery if you already haven't. Listening to the honest stories of Constantina and her experiences and relationships with the monastics, offers honesty, joy, and Orthodoxy in its simplistic and purest form.
Not only does the book offer peace to one's soul, it truly humbles a person and reminds us who we need to be.

Constantina wrote the book in 33 chapters or knots so that together the book would be a prayer rope and that is exactly what it is. Each story urges you to keep listening on and makes you realize how often we take our faith for granted. Each knot of the book reminds a person exactly just how close God is to us and how much He cares and loves us. To put it simplistically, the book is a piece of joy and love in our busy world today.