Constantina R. Palmer is a Canadian young woman who converted to orthodoxy as an adult and who travelled with her husband to study at Aristotle University at Thessaloniki, she to study iconology and he, theology. In addition to ‘book-learning’ they “sought the guidance, friendship and instruction of nuns” and visiting priests, and spent many hours not only as visitors to the monasteries but as fellow workers.
Her book, The Scent of Holiness is sub-titled “lessons from a women’s monastery" Just as a rosary is made up of 33 knots, so too is her book composed of 33 chapters, which she has renamed ‘knots’. One of my favourite stories is of a Sister Agathi who told Constantina that tears did not come naturally to her when reflecting on [her] sins”. She felt badly enough to confess this and was comforted when the priest told her “that for a person who does not cry easily and struggles to shed tears over his or her sins, it is enough for that person to merely sigh. One deep, heartfelt sigh from a person with this kind of character can equal a lifetime of tears by someone else with a different character.” Constantina is a delightful story-teller and the book is both an encouragement and an inspiration to those of us who can’t get away anytime soon to visit a monastery but who would love to know what it is like. You can buy the book from our bookshop for $20 or take it out from the library for free. -- review by Wendy McGee, librarian, Three Hierarchs Library