Hello Mina and Johnathan
Johnathan, first my dear friend, is something not true just because a synod of Orthodox bishops proclaims it to be false? If this is the case, OO and EO should abandon any formal talks of reunion, since synods from both sides have condemned the other. On top of that, from an objective point of view (in the case of one who isn't Orthodox, nor a Christian in general), how is one to discern what apparitions are true. Why accept Zeitoun and not Lourdes, Gautalope (err...sorry Pedro, horrible speller), or Fatima? The only arguement I ever hear as to why not to accept it (that is Lourdes) is that it wasn't what the early Fathers taught, and thus invalid. But if one honestly takes a look at church history and dogmatic development, he will see that even within Orthodoxy there is a "development of faith" (such as the trinity, christology, etc.). It also seems highly dishonest to accept all apparitions within ones own canonical church, and any and everything that happens outside as "from the devil." Perhaps as a side note, since leaving the Catholic church, I've decided to stay away from all "apparitions and so called 'holy men and women'"; that is, Zeitoun as well as books on the after death miracles of Pope Cyril the 6th. I have nothing against them per se, but I will quite simply say, I honestly believe that the Catholic church has had more "signs of wonder" then I've ever found in Orthodoxy. So, I've tried to devote myself to normal theological studies and how to reach perfection in prayer (which, I've failed so far at miserably), and turned away from being a modern "mystic" (haha, just read teh life of Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio; seems the harder you fast, the more times you beat yourself with a leather whip, beat your chest, etc. the more "mystical" you'll be). I would suggest, however a few books on the life of Francis of Assisi and his early spiritual sons and Padre Pio. Personally, I find these men to rival the early desert fathers in humility and holiness, if not surpassing them. However, since they were of the See of Rome, sadly my outward devotions to them had to be put to an end (though, I still have a rather large statue of the Francis in my room). To put it simply, like Gregory of Nazianzus, I've tried to find, as teh Buddha said "the middle ground." Okay, lol, gotten off the subject a bit. Now...Mina brings up a good point.
What did Mary mean by "I am the Immaculate Conception." Personally, even when I was a Catholic, I had my doubts as to the Catholic understanding of Mary being born w/o sin. It seems that Mary didn't even have to try to obtain salvation, since it was given to her before her birth (that is, born without sin). On top of that, it appears to deny the idea of "free will", since Mary seems that she wasn't able to sin. However, from my limited study in patristics, I'd say that some fathers did believe Mary was sinless; and this I personally believe. Mary was sinless, due to the grace of God, yet still had the free will to sin. What are your thoughts Mina?
Johnathan, suggested readings and movies:
*The Little Flowers of St. Francis http://www.franciscanfriarstor.com/stfrancis/Little_Flowers_St_Francis/introduction.htm
*The Song of Berndette (movie)
*The Perfect Joy of St. Francis of Assisi (personally, reading the discourse between Brother Leo and Francis on what perfect joy truly is nearly brought me to tears everytime I read it when I was strongly considering becoming a son of Francis myself. Chapter 8 in "The Little Flowers...").
*Francis of Assisi, a Biography
*Padre Pio, a Man of Hope
*Padre Pio the Stigmatist
On top of that, as more objective readings, I would suggest the Carmelite saints (well, the 3 biggies): Therese of Liseux (the Autobio. of a Saint), Teresa of Avila (Interior Castle was lovely), and John of the Cross (read all his works, but "Dark Night of the Soul" was my favorite).