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Author Topic: Requesting reading recommendations  (Read 2243 times) Average Rating: 0
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cothrige
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« on: November 27, 2006, 06:38:52 PM »

Let me offer a little background as I feel that it may bear on what I am hoping to learn.  I am a practicing Roman Catholic with a fairly good understanding of my Church and its ritual.  For quite some time, perhaps three years, I have felt drawn by the Spirit towards Orthodoxy.  I inquired at the only Church available locally and began regular attendance which lasted for perhaps six to seven months.  Unfortunately any possibility of actually formalizing any association was denied to me and I was unable to continue attending.  For this reason I am left with no local option for inquiry or learning.  At the time this happened I was knocked very low spiritually and wondered if perhaps my motives had been unworthy.  However, after more than a year of prayer and thought I find that nothing has changed for me and I am unconvinced of this possibility.

At this time relocation is impossible though I am hopeful that perhaps this may change at some future date.  With that in mind I am thinking that this time may be used for good, in preparation of what may be able to be worked out one day.  To date I have read some basic books which I have had available to me, i.e. The Orthodox Church by Ware, Introducing the Orthodox Church by Coniaris (this one was of little use as it discussed basic introductory Christianity, and not Orthodoxy as such), Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Pomazansky (this one seemed very decent), and the Orthodox Way by Ware (rather confusing), but of course I would like to learn more.  I am especially interested, at this particular time, in personal prayer and the outward actions surrounding this.  I would like to find something which can help me understand the prayer life of Orthodoxy in a manner that I as a Catholic can understand.  How is it similar and how is it different?  What is an icon corner, and what rituals are commonly used?  These kinds of things.  I don't think I need something aimed at teaching what Christian prayer is as a concept, but rather a more specific treatment which can help me understand what may be in store should I ever find a way to relocate.

I know this is very vague and open ended but with the near infinite number of choices available via the web and catalogues, and a very finite bank account, I don't know what to trust.  Substantive and reliable information can be hard to find and just buying things one at a time will quickly exhaust my resources and probably lead me down fruitless paths.  For this reason I am hoping to find advice from those who may know.  I appreciate any recommendations or advice which can be offered.

Many thanks,

Patrick
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2006, 01:16:05 PM »

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum, Patrick.

I will get up a list of books that I have found helpful for me / my family and post them here in the next day or so.

Once again Welcome! Cheesy

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2006, 03:12:39 PM »

Welcome, Patrick. Smiley You have already read the introductory books I would recommend, having benefitted from them myself when I was inquiring into the Church from a Roman Catholic background. As for books treating prayer specifically, one I read early on that helped me a lot is The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues his Way...this is a book about the Jesus Prayer in particular, but the writer's way of approaching prayer in its beautiful simplicity really helped me feel more comfortable praying than I ever had. Also, I just recently finished reading A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos which, for me, was a little more advanced in nature and again focuses on the Jesus Prayer, but like Way of the Pilgrim I was able to learn much from the Elder in the book about general attitudes toward prayer and the simplicity of heart that is required. I hope these help. Smiley

In Christ,
Donna Mary
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2006, 05:20:43 PM »

Hello Donna Mary,

Many thanks for the recommends.  These definitely sound like they could be interesting.  I worry that A Night In The Desert of the Holy Mountain may be more meat than I may be ready for.  This is literally judging the book by the cover, or title in this case, but would you say it is very advanced spiritual reading in regards to Orthodox understanding?  I suppose I am hoping to avoid something so introductory as to avoid anything of substance in regard to methodology and such, but I would hate to bite off more than I am ready for and get lost, if you know what I mean.

The Jesus Prayer interests me as I have always found it to be such a profound and beautiful prayer.  But, I find myself wondering about its use.  So much about it, in what little I have found to read, seems to relate to the monastic life that I wonder if these books about it are more about that lifestyle than a lay person.  Would the lay Orthodox life be centered around that particular prayer or is it more varied with morning and evening prayers and so on?  I suppose I am wondering how central the Jesus Prayer is to the life of an everyday Orthodox person?

Many thanks for the help,

Patrick
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2006, 05:21:50 PM »

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum, Patrick.

I will get up a list of books that I have found helpful for me / my family and post them here in the next day or so.

Once again Welcome! Cheesy

In Christ,
Thomas
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Many thanks for the welcome, and I look forward to the list.

Patrick
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2006, 09:20:24 PM »

My perspective is that of a practicing Roman Catholic and happy to remain so. Having said which there is a pocket sized manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers produced by the SVS Press which I use some of the Morning and Evening Prayers from. It certainly seems to me to give an insight into the prayer life of the Orthodox worker at home and in Church.

Oh yes and this might be interesting http://pomog.org/index.html?http://pomog.org/psalter.shtml which has Orthodox Prayers and readings from the Psalter.


 
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2006, 09:52:20 PM »

My perspective is that of a practicing Roman Catholic and happy to remain so. Having said which there is a pocket sized manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers produced by the SVS Press which I use some of the Morning and Evening Prayers from. It certainly seems to me to give an insight into the prayer life of the Orthodox worker at home and in Church. 

Would that be a small purple paperback, "A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers"?  I have that one myself, and love it.  Unfortunately, being a basic prayerbook for Orthodox it includes a limited amount of explanatory information, and glosses on actions.  It also has a mass of hymns and anthems (Troparia and Kontakia) which are a complete mystery to me.  I agree that it certainly helps me to see the mind of the Church regarding much, and certainly has wonderful prayers, but I am hoping to find more explanation to go with the prayers themselves.  I hope to find something more along the lines of introducing when, where and most especially how these prayers are said by the Orthodox in their daily lives.

And I think that I just learn in this way.  I find that the idea of 'lex orandi, lex credendi' very much applies for me.  I recall when attending the Divine Liturgy in the local Orthodox Church I was completely mystified about the externals and I found this was an impediment to seeing the internals.  I am certain that many do  not find this to be so, but for me it was.  I ended up picking a little old lady out of the front who never seemed absent and just followed her at all times.  Some didn't seem in sync with her, and this had been a distraction for me at one point, but by simply mirroring her I had at least some grounding and could then listen and read and see perhaps why she chose this or that moment to cross herself, or to stand, or sit, etc. 

I have gathered that in private prayer there are many externals in the Orthodox prayer life.  I hope to learn more about when things are done, and by that perhaps why, and thereby find some greater depth of understanding.   Of course, I will also be preparing myself for any further opportunities of a greater commitment if and when such may arise.

Many thanks for the suggestion,

Patrick
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2006, 06:58:36 PM »

Yup, its the purple one. And well used it is too. Another one that might help is The Year of the Grace of the Lord by a Monk of the Eastern Church. Essentially it is a meditation on the Readings and Liturgical Prayers on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church. It tells why Orthodox do what they do and provides much profitable Christian reflection on the Christian faith lived out within the wisdom of 2000 years of tradition.

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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2006, 02:02:07 AM »

Do try to pick up The Law of God by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy. I'd consider it a catechumen's handbook, and it's definitely worth the price. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2006, 09:55:21 AM »

Dear Patrick,

Here are some of the books that may be of interest to you as you study:

1) The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Sloboskoy. Perhaps my favorite book about Orthodox Life and the only comprehensive treatment of the Orthodox Faith for the layman in English, Fr. Seraphim's work begins with Creation, Church History, and ranges through many of the predicaments of modern life in the Faith. It is a useful tool for catechesis, for family reading, for individual pondering, and should certainly be found in every Orthodox home. It is written by a Russian Orthodox Christian and thus leans more to Slavic practice and not the Byzantine practices of the Antiochian or Greek Orthodox Church, still it is an excellent book I used with my family.


2) Frederica Mathews-Green’s books (The Illumined Heart and At the Corner of East and Now), are light reading but present  journey to Orthodoxy and its practice from a popular lay writer.

3) Orthodox Christian Beliefs by Stanley Samuel Harakas. This book is based upon his highly popular question and answer column in the Orthodox Observer of teh GOA.  The answers he provides is to the most commonly asked questions of Greek Orthodox Laity.

4) I particularly liked Father Abramtsov's book The Orthodox Companion as a tool to learning the "how tos" of the faith  and practices---it for example illustrates how to do a metania.
5) A Catechetical Handbook of the Eastern Orthodox Church by Dr. Diomidis H. Stamatis. This comprehensive Catechism by a noted Orthodox Scholar comes highly recommended. The first part covers: What to Believe; The Existence of God; Incarnation; Redemption; Resurrection; Ascension; Judgment; The Holy Spirit; The Church and the Fathers; Remission of Sins; The End of Man. Part two covers: What To Do for Our Salvation; How To Be Sanctified; Daily Prayers; Spiritual Helps; Prayer and Worship; Divine Liturgy; Miscellaneous Topics. Part three focuses on: The Veneration of Icons; St. Isaac on Fasting; St. Chrysostom on Homosexuality; The Panagia; Women in the Church; Deaconess in the Early Church; Life After Death; Memorials; Monasticism; Ecumenism etc. Includes a Synaxarion of Selected Saints, the Celebration Dates of Selected Saints Throughout the Year, a Glossary and Bibliography. 592 pages.

6) St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality by John Meyendorff. A highly regarded discussion of Orthodox spirituality-the Desert Fathers, Byzantine hesychasm, the Russian Startzy, and above all Gregory Palamas, the fourteenth century Byzantine saint. This book addresses the basics of personal spirituality and enlightenment in the words of the Church Fathers.4. Participate in the services of the Church on a regular basis. This of course is without need to explain, attend Church services when you are able to, and participate to your best ability singing, praying, and supporting others in prayer.

7) The Way of the Fathers: Exploring the Patristic Mind, by Fr. John Chryssavgis.  Too often we try to read the Church Fathers with our modern mindset, the book helps the you to understand and begin to think like the Patristic fathers, an important skill needed as one reads them. This is an impressive introduction to the "way of the Fathers," using an approach that goes beyond knowledge to silence and love in the understanding of God. Archimandrite Vasileios of Mt. Athos writes in the Foreword, "The great Fathers are not intellectual giants of human theories, but inspirational mystagogues (inviting) us all into the kingdom of God." Chapters include: A Vision of History; The Age of the Fathers; The Making of Patristic Theology; Methodology of the Fathers; The Church Fathers: Yesterday and Today; Reading the Fathers etc. 218 pages.

CoolChrist in His Saints By Patrick Henry Reardon. This is a good Orthodox book on the Saints and their witness of the Christ. Father Patrick Henry Reardon examines the lives of almost one hundred and fifty saints and heroes from the Scriptures— everyone from Abigail to Zephaniah, Adam to St. John the Theologian. This well-researched work includes many Bible personalities: Old Testament saints, New Testament saints, “Repentant saints,” “Zealous saints,” “Saints under pressure” Christ in His Saints is far more than just a biblical who’s who. These men and women represent that ancient family into which, by baptism, all believers have been incorporated. Together they compose that great “cloud of witnesses” cheering us on and inspiring us through word and deed. This may be a good introduction to their role as witness and window to heaven

9) A Beginner Guide to Prayer   by Michael Keiser. This is a book for those struggling to establish an effective life of prayer. It speaks to the average man or woman on the street who desires a deeper relationship with God but is unsure how or where to begin. Drawing from nearly 2000 years of Orthodox spiritual wisdom, the author offers warm, practical, pastoral advice whose genius is to be found in its homespun simplicity and straightforwardness of style. This book may be helpful in enriching your prayer life by giving you spritual direction in making prayer a meaningful and regular part of your life.

If you are married or contemplating marriage you may wish to read a little on the Orthodox Christian view of Marriage as a “green martyrdom” and the meaning of the Christian marriage:

1)  The Meaning of Christian Marriage Bp. Mitrophan Znosko-Borovsky, trans. Matushka Maria Naumenko. Perhaps no single aspect of the Christian life is under such concerted assault in our days as is the holy state of matrimony. Bp. Mitrophan, in a few words, outlines the nature of Christian marriage and encourages those who enter therein.

2) Marriage as a Path to Holiness byDavid & Mary Ford. Lives of over 130 married saints of the Orthodox Church, with an introduction summarizing the Orthodox Tradition concerning marriage.

Now that you have about three years of reading, between my recommendations and the others. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

In Christ,
Thomas



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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2006, 11:17:36 AM »

There was a thread a few months ago, whose purpose was to develop a "reading list of books that would help one grow in the practice of the Orthodox Faith." Thus, much of it would be quite applicable here.

Here's the link to the thread: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9191.msg122920.html#msg122920

Here's my own response: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9191.msg123194.html#msg123194

As I say in that post, the best single volume on prayer and spirituality is called The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology. It is a compilation of sayings, pieces of advice and quotes -- all gleaned by a monk from his life's readings of Orthodox spiritual fathers (Greek and Slavic). It is thus an excellent summary, which represents a rather broad consensus of practices, opinions and spiritual insights. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0571191657/qid=1149612915/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/103-3267059-6579009?s=books&v=glance&n=283155
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2006, 05:12:39 PM »

Two Paths: Papal Monarchy - Collegial Tradition : Rome's Claims of Papal Supremacy in the Light of Orthodox Christian Teaching by Michael Whelton
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2006, 06:12:49 PM »

I found an online version of The Law of God
http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/law_of_god_slobodskoy_1.htm

There are three parts to it.
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2006, 06:45:10 PM »

I cannot thank you all enough for the fantastic lists of books.  I will have to go to some online stores and see what I can find, though just where to start on this may be tough.   The Law of God certainly seems highly recommended, and The Orthodox Companion that Thomas listed also seems like it may be just what I am looking for in a practical guide.   It am intending to save a copy of these titles so that I can build things up in the future, even beyond what I may be able to find right now.  Knowing what has been used by real people here will be very useful.

Thomas, I agree, and would love to attend the services regularly, but unfortunately that is quite impossible at this time.  In the meantime I am forced to read and exchange information with others in hopes of learning what I can.  That drastically limits me of course, as participation would surely be matchless for real growth and learning, but I will work with what I have.  These recommendations are certainly a great leap forward in finding information, and that is at least a good start.

Many thanks again to all for the suggestions,

Patrick

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