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Which spiritual books are people reading?


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#1 Nina

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 06:17 PM

Dear friends,

Which Orthodox patristic/spiritual book are you reading/re-reading at the moment, (or have just finished reading/re-reading)? I would like very much to hear from you all and receive new recommendations.

These days I am reading a simple book, but so incredible, powerful and moving. Its title: The Hermitess Photini. I have not finished it yet, but until now I know that the Hermitess Photini abandoned the world and was a cave-dweller in the wilderness near the Jordan River. On her first day in the wilderness she saw in her sleep St. Mary of Egypt, who encouraged her and told her that "Christ the Bridegroom will strengthen you in your struggle and will help you receive the crown of ascesis."

The Hermitess was such a well educated person and was raised with much love from her parents (although her mother passed away while Photini was still a child). She traveled a lot because of her father's trade and she could have had all the joys and comforts of the world because she did not lack the means, but her soul longed for Christ. As an adult she spent much time in the cemetery contemplating about the vanity of life and the rest of the day she would spend it at the library studying.

There are many insightful moments about life in this book, but one of the most insightful and moving moments I have encountered up to the point I have read, is when the Hermitess receives an Easter egg from the Archimandrite Joachim, who providentially met her at Jordan's side, during the Bright Week of 1890 (and who wrote her life's story). While holding the Easter egg in her hands and saying "Christ is Risen!" she had tears in her eyes because:

"I haven't eaten an Easter egg for six years."

"Aren't there any eggs of partridges or of other birds here in the wilderness?" [Archimandrite Joachim asked her]

"Yes, there are many, and I have come across many partridge nests, some with eggs, others with chicks. Across the Jordan, there are also eggs of wild ducks and geese, but I didn't take any of them because I didn't want to grieve the mothers, who entertain me with their singing in the monotony of this wilderness."

(p.51) What a love!!!!

The Hermitess Photini struggled with "the hater of good" and because of her love and honor for the Theotokos (she read the Salutations to the Theotokos daily in addition to her prayers for God), she begged Theotokos for help. Instantly the Theotokos appears to her and says: "Fear not; only have your hope in me."

#2 Paul Fowler

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Posted 17 June 2007 - 08:09 PM

"Spiritual Classics from the Early Church", an anthology edited by Robert Atwell.

published by The National Society/Church Publishing House 1995
ISBN 0 7151 4827 3

contains writings by St Cyprian, The Desert Fathers/Mothers, St Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nyssa, St John Chrysostom, The Blessed Augustine of Hippo, St Benedict, St Gregory the Great

In XC


Paul F

#3 Mourad Mankarios

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 04:52 AM

The Inner Kingdom by Bishop Kallistos Ware
New Seeds of Contemplation by Fr Thomas Merton

#4 Nicolaj

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 08:47 AM

I read currently the Russian Pilgrim as I usually do were it is fasting time. I think I know it well but as with the Holy Scripture and the Philokalie I always see new points and am every time gratefull for the way it helps me keeping on the road.

#5 Peter Farrington

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 09:01 AM

I'm reading through The Commentary of the Gospel of St John by St Cyril of Alexandria.

Peter

#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 03:35 PM

At present I am juggling a host of books

Wounded By Love by the Elder Porphyrios
The Orthodox Church by Sergius Bulgakov
The Faith of the Chosen People by St Nikolai (Velimirovic)
Entering the Orthodox Church by Metr Hierotheos (Vlachos)
Living Without Hypocrisy; Spiritual Counsels of the Optina Elders trans and edited by Archim. George (Shaefer)

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#7 Sophronia

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 03:53 PM

I am reading "We Shall See Him As He Is" by Archimandrite Sophrony. It is awesome.

#8 Kris

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 04:06 PM

I've started reading My Life in Christ by St. John Kronstadski after seeing it recommended by St. Theophan the Recluse. Every line is filled with the Holy Spirit.

#9 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:48 AM

I am starting over again today with Matthew 1:1

#10 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 04:50 AM

Nina, at the moment I am reading volume 4 (Family Life) of Elder Paisios of Mount Athos words. These books have been published by the Holy Monastery of the Evangelist John the Theologian, Souroti, Thessaloniki. If I remember correctly, you mentioned that you had visited this monastery.

These 4 volumes are in Greek (one of the nuns told me that these particular books are in the process of being translated) but the wording is not too complicated so I'm having no trouble reading them.

I highly recommend them.

Effie

#11 John Charmley

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 07:45 AM

Dear Nina,

Nicholas Cabasilas, A commentary on the Divine Liturgy
Eusebius, The History of the Church
and St. Cyril of Alexandria's Scholia on the Incarnation

I am most grateful to Matthew Steenberg for putting me onto the first of these books, which is most edifying; and to Peter Farrington, for making the third of them available in an edition along with other writings of St. Cyril. The second of them is the text we are reading with our bishop who is giving a series of lectures on the early Church.

In Christ,

John

#12 Mary

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:40 PM

I always read several books simultaniously, because I have the attention span of a 2yr old and need to keep changing activities... But mostly, I've been working my way through 'Wounded By Love' by Elder Porphyrios.

What a totally wonderfully amazing man! How anyone can tell the story of his own journey in such humility that you can actually sense his humility, is totally beyond me! I got stuck today on pg 109:

Christ stands outside the door of our soul and knocks for us to open to Him, but He doesn't enter. He doesn't want to violate the freedom which He Himself gave us... Christ is courteous. He stands outside the door of our soul and knocks gently. If we open to Him, He will enter us and give us everythign - Himself - secretly and silently.



I couldn't read any further than that. How could I? How many times I've left my Lord and King standing at the door and waiting for me to open it for Him? How could I be so full of myself that I can't hear Him knocking?

Such a powerful picture for me, because I've been preparing our house to make room for a special guest, who will spend a week with us. I imagined him standing at the door and waiting, while I... so lost in whatever I'm doing, that I leave him at the door... If it shocks me so to think of leaving my friend outside, how much more appalling to leave Christ Himself outside?!

I hope He will come in, and stay, even though my soul and my heart will never be perfect enough to welcome Him as He deserves. But I'd rather open the door and let Him into a messy heart, than leave Him standing outside.

Lord have mercy!

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 03:44 PM

Living Without Hypocrisy- Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina
wonderful, wonderful; and good to read a few pages at a time.

Human Image: World Image by Philip Sherrard

The first 90% of the book is very good with some extremely good insights. The last chapter as a friend of mine would say, is 'a total die-saster'. Now I understand the criticism of Sherrard for being a Platonist. There's a lot of very flawed theology in this last chapter. A shame as the book really heads in a good direction. The problem I think is just that Sherrard read too much other literature without a sufficient grounding in Orthodox theology. The alarm bells went off when I came across a negative comment in this chapter about St Gregory Palamas' 'natural science' as expressed in the 150 Chapters. This is understandable I think when you understand Sherrard's very heavy intellectual investment in what is really an emanationist cosmology.

Justin Martyr His Life & Thought by LW Barnard

Yes, decent books 40 years old can be stumbled on in city libraries. I wouldn't want to totally rely on this book but it did remind me that non-Orthodox commentary can also give helpful insights. But the author of this book is unusually sober and modest in his aims which probably helped.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Andrew

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 04:02 PM

Words of Life - by Elder Sophrony. Much to chew on! I try to read this on breaks during work, or in the morning.

The Priest's Service Book - translated by Archbishop Dmitri. Not that I'm a priest, but it has been good to read over certain parts, for various reasons. I especially look at the proskomedie and the anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

Monastic Wisdom of Elder Joseph - one of my favorites. The fathers of the various monasteries of Elder Ephraim read a chapter a day from this. I think I'm going to pick up that practice. It is a very encouraging book, especially for men I think.

Counsels from the Holy Mountain, by Elder Ephraim - the Elder approaches the ups and downs of the spiritual life and all spaces between in this collection of his homilies and letters to spiritual children. He carries the life, teaching, and energy of Elder Joseph within him! This is another encouraging book.

Orthodox Spirituality, by Met. Hierotheos Vlachos - this was the main "textbook" of a retreat I went on last week.

Reflections of a Humble Heart - this small book contains so much. I cannot recommend it enough. "I am thine, save me!" This is especially a good book to read before Pentecost.

On Prayer, by Elder Sophrony

Not too long ago I finished Salt of the Earth by the New Martyr Pavel Florensky, which was a wonderful book.

I read little bits of various books at the same time in a somewhat haphazard manner. It keeps things interesting!

#15 Katherine Clark

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 09:13 PM

It's good to see that some of you are like me. Reading more than one thing at a time. I've been known to carry around several at a time during the day...You just never know when there will be a moment and what you will feel like at the time.
My friend and I are reading aloud Victory in the Unseen Warfare- this is the first of a trilogy-a sort of modern adaptation of the famous Unseen Warfare. It's short and rather easy to read and discuss.

Blessed John the Wonderworker- Finding myself quite interested in St. John and having the book in my library, I started reading and got hooked again on his work and the miracles people have reported. Seeing God as the real source and true foundation of life....not seeing the "seen" as all there is-it and such things help.

The Roots of Christian Mysticism-Clement- Frankly, I'm not happy with the snitches and snatches. However, given my very limited patience and understanding, I suspect I need some explanations around the quotations as he gives. I'll be better prepared for the real thing.

The Life in Christ Nicholas Cabasilas- It is wonderful to read a work written for those of us "in the world". There is much written "for the monks and nuns". It's good to hear the words of one writing for those of us who live in the world. Perhaps the sermons of St. John Chrysostom would also be helpful here. Being encouraged to live "into" the services of the Church seems a very reasonable path for one such as I am.

By the way I love reading Living without Hypocrisy. It's one like a devotional book that can be picked up and sections read at random. Always a treasure.

In my pre-Orthodox days I read and re-read Julian of Norwich. Do any of you still read her work? What do you all think?

Thanks for the opportunity to share

#16 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 03:00 PM

The latest batch of Orthodox books I bought :

1. Walking with Christ every day – this is in Greek and is wonderful. The author who is an archmandrite doesn’t make any comments. He devotes each day of the year to one of the Orthodox fathers and simply quotes him. A lovely book.

2. Elder Joseph the Hesychast – Struggles, Experiences, Teachings - this is in English
I read it through very quickly. Haven’t studied it yet.

3. Wounded by Love – the Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios – haven’t even opened it yet.

4. Meditations in a deserted place – this is in Greek and it’s an interesting book. It is written by Konstantinos Papanicolaou, an archmandrite and a journalist. He follows Christ’s footsteps in Palestine and discusses present day Greece and its people, society in general and what role the Orthodox religion plays in our lives today.

5. Vol. 4 Elder Paisios – Family Life – this is the one I’m reading now.




Effie

#17 Vera L.

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 10:42 AM

I am reading the BEST book at the moment,
"The Orthodox Church on Virginity and Chastity" (Pravoslavnaya Tserkov o Devstve i Tselomudrii)
It's in Russian, but it is one of the best books I have read! It has excerpts from the works or different Saints and also from contemporary priests (and even Orthodox psychologists) on marriage, monasticism and generally about living a chaste life. Each section also includes Lives of Saints.
I bought it in Sergiev Posad. If anyone ever goes there, have a look in the bookshop... So MANY awesome books!

In Christ,
Vera

#18 Nina

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 01:21 PM

Dear friends,

Thank you very much for all the recommendations. Some of the books you recommend I have read and some not, so I am compiling a list. I hope you can continue to recommend more as you read. I did not finish my book about the Hermitess Photini yet.

Vera, thank you for your recommendation also. Please can you tell me where Sergiev Posad is?

#19 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 02:02 PM

Vera Laptev wrote:

I bought it in Sergiev Posad. If anyone ever goes there, have a look in the bookshop... So MANY awesome books!


I know, I know. Isn't it an amazing place?

One thing I experienced in this book store, indicative of the changes occurring throughout Russia, is the number of Russian people and priests who spoke to me in English and helped me find suitable books. My Russian is limited so it was very kind to have have others suggest books with simpler Russian.

One interesting difference from the west in their religious book selection was a number of shelves devoted entirely to the effort in what in Russia is called the Great Patriotic War (WWII). There is a book about General Zhukov by his daughter which I saw in many of the Orthodox bookstores which almost seems to be a best seller right now.

There are few suitable words to describe the scale of the struggle & sacrifice endured by the Russian people during the War. From what is being published it appears that the Church played a much larger role in this effort than most of us in the west knew. But the present portrayal of this effort by the Church is also part of its attempt to describe its place within the new Russia. If one takes the number of religious books on this subject as a sign (and it really is quite different from what one sees in the west as a being part of an Orthodox focus) then the Church in Russia has a place within society quite different from what we are used to.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#20 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 June 2007 - 11:15 PM

FWIW, I have started to re-read Vladimir Lossky's The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. I think I might be able to appreciate many of his finer points at a deeper level this time. I have to smile at some of the rather silly and naieve margin notes I scribbled the first time through.

What a powerful book!




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