Thursday, February 19, 2009

Orrologion Must Reads

I do not have Orthodox "must reads." I don't know enough about the condition of anyone's soul (truth be told, not even mine own) to know the medicine best suited for its healing.

However, if I had to provide a list for someone who insistently demanded it of me, I might start here:

  1. The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware (formerly known as Timothy, now a Metropolitan)
  2. The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware (formerly known as Timothy, now a Metropolitan)
  3. The Way of a Pilgrim by Anonymous (I still like the translation by R.M. French the best)
  4. Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander
  5. Father Arseny, 1893–1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father by Anonymous, tr.Vera Bouteneff
  6. Saint Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov - especially the first part of this book which was also published separately as The Monk of Mount Athos: Staretz Silouan, 1866-1938.
  7. Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works by Hieromonk Damascene Christiansen
  8. Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed. Daniel Clendenin
  9. Great Lent by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
  10. The Orthodox Faith, vols. 1 - 4, by Fr. Thomas Hopko

I thought these books would offer at least some insight into various aspects of Orthodoxy that are important to be aware of. The two books by Ware give a strong overview of the Church, touch on spiritual traditions, patristics, liturgical and historical issues - as well as relations with the West and other Christians. Way of the Ascetics goes further in presenting, simply, the spiritual traditions of the Church and personal ascetic exertion. The Way of a Pilgrim is really sort of a saint's life, as is Father Arseny (which also introduces religious persecution under the Bolsheviks) and Saint Silouan (which introduces Mount Athos). Father Seraphim Rose and Clendenin's Reader are probably the most 'controversial' on this list. First, Clendenin has edited a very good selection of Orthodox writings from a number of sources and 'schools' within Orthodoxy inlcuding Ware, Schmemann, Florovsky, Meyendorff, V. Lossky, Stavropoulos, Nassif, Bulgakov, Ouspensky and T. Weber. Second, Father Seraphim Rose offers a look at the life of an American facing many of the Orthodox religious issues of his day thus raising both his own 'camp's' position, as well as those to the Left and Right of him. Most important is a presentation of a modern American who became Orthodox and a monk, which is simply a statement that conversion is possible and Orthodoxy is not simply Greek or Russian, etc. It also presents a picture of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Hopko's Rainbow Series is a very useful presentation of all aspects of Orthodoxy, especially the basic facts of the Liturgy, Orthodox history, her thoughts on various doctrines, etc. A very good primer. Schmemann's Great Lent is him at his best, which to me is as a pastor. He presents the meaning and mind of the most dramatic elements of the Orthodox calendar very well, step by step. I think these books give one a taste for the various wings of the mansion of Orthodoxy; after reading these, one can explore further by reading other books mentioned in these texts or that are similar to them.

Credit: Orrologion.

- V.

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