The Orthodox Church, by Bishop Kallistos (but published under his lay name, Timothy Ware, as he was still a layman when he wrote the first edition in the sixties). Many regard this as the best overall introduction to Orthodoxy. Now retired, the author was a professor at Oxford. Also highly recommended is a companion book by Bishop Kallistos, The Orthodox Way, on the theological basics of Orthodoxy, with lots of outstanding quotations from ancient and modern Orthodox sources. (There is a new edition recently published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.)
The Year of Grace of the Lord by Father Lev Gillett, writing anonymously as “A Monk of the Eastern Church.” Father Lev provides meditations on the Gospel arranged to follow the calendar. At the same time it is a book on sacred time, the liturgical seasons and feasts. There are invaluable endnotes about the way the feasts developed and the Church calendar came to take its present shape.
The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Oliver Clement. For many this will be an introduction to the Church Fathers as there is hardly a page in which they are not quoted. Clement reminds his readers that Christianity was originally a mystical religion; to the extent that churches have lost their mystical center, they become bone dry and lifeless. He chides churches in the west for driving so many to seek spiritual life outside Christianity. (New City Books, 57 Twyford Ave., London W3 9PZ, England; £15)
The Living God, a two-volume Orthodox catechism originally published in France. (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)
For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann, one of the great Orthodox writers of the 20th century. This is a presentation of the Orthodox understanding of sacraments and the sacramentality of all creation, a book Thomas Merton loved and often recommended it. Don’t miss the essay toward the back of the book, “Worship in a Secular Age.” (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)
The Meaning of Icons by Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky is the best introduction to icons and their theology and is also full of good icon reproductions. The book explains in detail all the festal icons used in the course of the liturgical year as well as icons in use throughout the year. (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)
Praying with Icons by Jim Forest. This is an introduction to icons with an emphasis on their integration into prayer life. Illustrated. (Orbis Books)
Behold the Beauty of the Lord by Henri Nouwen. Insightful meditations on four important icons. (Ave Maria Press.)
St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality by John Meyendorff. This is a small book, gracefully written, full of photos and icons.
There is a companion book of similar design, St. Sergius and Russian Spirituality by Pierre Kovalevsky, focusing on the development of traditions of spiritual life in the Russian Church. (both from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)
The Invocation of the Name of Jesus and The Jesus Prayer, both by Father Lev Gillett but published anonymously as “A Monk of the Eastern Church.” The first is a booklet from the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, in Oxford, England. The second a small book with a foreword by Bishop Kallistos, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. (Also worth mentioning: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, the only novel ever written to feature the Jesus Prayer.)
The Essence of Prayer combines several smaller books by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, head of the Russian Orthodox Church in England. Metropolitan Anthony was a medical doctor in France who was active in the Resistance during the years of German occupation. After the war he became a priest. His writings on prayer and liturgy go deep and have a sharp and brilliant edge. (Darton, Longman & Todd, London)
The Russians and Their Church by Nicolas Zernov, an introduction to the Russian Church by a great Orthodox writer. Zernov was for many years a professor at Oxford and was a founder of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius. (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)
The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander. An introduction to Orthodox ascesis. (Mowbrays)
Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Fr Meletios Webber. A compelling introduction to spiritual and sacramental life. (Conciliar Press)
Traveling Companions by Christopher Moorey. An excellent introduction to many of the saints commemorated in the Orthodox calendar. (Conciliar Press)
Women and Priesthood, edited by Thomas Hopko, with essays by Bishop Kallistos, Kyriaki FitzGerald, Deborah Belonick and others (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press).
The Ministry of Women in the Church by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (Oakwood Publications).
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