The Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has been the go-to book for introducing Orthodoxy to the English speaking world. The book is broken into two sections. The first section examines the history of the Orthodox Church, since its history is different in many places from that of the western (Catholic or Protestant) church. The second section addresses the sacramental life of the Orthodox Church. This book is an excellent resource for catechism or for people who have been in the church for a very long time and would like to explore their faith more deeply. Available here in paperback and other formats.
The Orthodox Way
In many ways The Orthodox Way is an excellent companion to The Orthodox Church. Where the latter book is more one for information and knowledge, the Orthodox Way is a book that sheds light on the spiritual depths of the Orthodox faith. It is one thing to learn and to know; it is a wholly different thing to pray. This book is an excellent resource, citing both patristic and contemporary sources, into the depths of Orthodox prayer and contemplation. Available here in paperback and other formats.
The Orthodox Faith
Written in short but clear segments, each volume presents a different aspect of the faith. Volume 1 addresses Doctrine and Scripture. Volume 2 discusses the matters surrounding Orthodox worship (since Orthodox means correct (ortho) worship (doxa, can also mean glory or teaching)). Volume 3 represents an expansion of Fr. Hopko’s treatment of Church History. Dr. David Ford has contributed to the text, bringing the study of Orthodox church history up to today’s events. Volume 4 addresses prayer, fasting, repentance, the virtues, witness in the world, and communion with God. This series is a very helpful and thoughtful effort towards introducing people to the beauty and the richness of the Orthodox faith. Available here.
The Orthodox Church
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov’s book, The Orthodox Church, addresses the concepts of conciliarity (sobornost), of salvation as a process of becoming divine, and of truth and infallibility in the Church. Fr. Bulgakov writes from within the context of the ecumenical community, addressing the key issues and providing a basis for Western Christians to understand their brothers and sisters in the Eastern Church. Useful also to the Orthodox, the book provides answers and directions to the most commonly asked questions that are addressed to the general membership of the Church.
Fr. Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944), former Dean and Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris was a prolific writer, powerful preacher, and profound confessor. Though controversial for his creative approach to theology he will remain as a great and seminal thinker who has contributed more than other toward shaping the direction and ethos of modern Orthodox theology.
Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers
The basis for a healthy Christian understanding of the mind and the cure for what ails the soul, this profound work gives a true view of the inner working of the mind and heart from an Orthodox Christian perspective, rather than just modern speculations.
The study of the patristic texts and particularly those of the hesychast Fathers of the Philokalia, many years of studying St. Gregory Palamas, association with the monks of the Holy Mountain, many years of pastoral experience, all brought Metropolitan Hierotheos to the realization that Orthodox theology is a science of the healing of man and that the neptic Fathers can help the modern restless man who is disturbed by many internal and existential problems. Available at Eighth Day Books
For the Life of the World
Father Alexander Schmemann was one of the greatest voices of Orthodoxy in America in the twentieth century. A product of the Russian emigration to the west after the rise of communism, Fr. Alexander was first a part of the Academy of St. Sergius in Paris before making his way to the US where he served as dean at St. Vladimir’s Seminary from 1962 until his death in 1983. This book has been published in eleven different languages. In For the Life of the World Fr. Alexander suggests an approach to the world and life within it, which stems from the liturgical experience of the Orthodox Church. He understands issues such as secularism and Christian culture from the perspective of the unbroken experience of the Church, as revealed and communicated in her worship, in her liturgy – the sacrament of the world, the sacrament of the Kingdom. You can purchase it here.
We Shall See Him as He Is
Father Sophrony (Sakharov) was a very much sought-after and highly respected monk who founded the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex, England. He was the spiritual son of St. Silouan the Athonite and amongst his many books he wrote a spiritual biography of Saint Silouan which remains highly popular to this day. Fr. Sophrony wrote two books that speak of his spiritual journey: His Life is Mine, and this book, which delves more deeply and is more intended for an Orthodox reader. Within it is found many of Father Sophrony’s key ideas of the nature of a person’s journey towards Christ and his or her ultimate divinization. Available here.
The Beauty of the Infinite
Western culture is in a bit of disarray. Part of the problem is that the philosophical underpinnings of western culture are fragmented at best and bent towards nihilism at worst. While philosophers like Alisdair McIntyre and theologians like John Milbank have written groundbreaking works in this area and should be read, Dr. Hart has done a similar thing with a particular emphasis on the philosophical importance of beauty. While his writing is not simple in any way, it reflects his emphasis on beauty by echoing it even in the prose he uses. A dictionary might be a useful companion for this book, but it is well worth the effort. Available here.
Being as Communion
The voice of Metropolitan John Zizioulas may turn out to be the fresh voice for which theology and especially ecclesiology have long been waiting. In the context of a complete theology, which includes extended consideration of the major theological topics the Trinity, Christology, eschatology, ministry, and sacrament, but above all, the Eucharist the author propounds a fresh understanding, based on the early Fathers and the Orthodox tradition, of the concept of person, and so of the Church itself. His consideration of the local church as ‘catholic’ in the literal sense, and the need to understand the universal Church not as a superstructure but as the communion of all Churches, provides the program for the ecclesiology of the future. Available here.
Bible: New Oxford Annotated with Apocrypha
There are no good translations of the Bible into English. Some “translations” are more “interpretations” that are disguising a theological bias. While the RSV also has flaws, it’s the best translation out there for English, and if you go further back it’s actually better.
Orthodox Study Bible
Both testaments in English. The Old Testament was translated in-house, the New Testament is the NKJV. The NT footnotes are very good, there are liturgical references throughout, and there are a number of useful helps in the back of the volume which all greatly add to the value of this edition of the Bible.
The Popular Patristics Series
Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press has been publishing volumes of great early church writers for decades. Newer volumes have the Greek and the English on facing pages which greatly improves the reader’s ability to understand matters of theological and linguistic importance without the need to have a different book nearby. The series is of great value for anyone who cares about the church and its writers. Highly recommended.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s great novel that explores the depths of the human condition with great clarity and feeling. Sections of this book speak to the depths of Orthodoxy like few works – fiction or non-fiction – can. Available here.
Laurus is a novel telling the story of a fool for Christ and his heartbreaking, beautiful, and profound journeys. Many figures are encountered along the way, from the rich and powerful to the poor and abandoned. Wide varieties of human nature are on display, and even another fool, who constantly battles over imagined territorial boundaries. By the end of the tale you’ll wonder who is the wise one and who are the fools? Available here.
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