Resources for learning more about the Orthodox faith:
- Ancient Faith Radio – Many people begin their journey here. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick’s Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy is an excellent place to start, it will help you understand the differences between Orthodox Christianity and other faiths out there. If you’re coming from a Protestant background, it might be useful to listen to the first two or three podcasts in Fr. Thomas Hopko’s series on bishops. These initial podcasts discuss what life looked like in the early church.
- Journey to Orthodoxy – A site that features stories from people all over the world who have converted to Orthodoxy. It is encouraging to see how others have made the journey. Fr. John Peck, the site admin, is a good guy and if you have questions he will often times personally answer them.
- General Information Sites: Want to know about a particular saint, or why we keep the Apostles Fast, or why Orthodox clergy have beards and long hair, and other innumerable topics? I would highly suggest these sites:
- OrthoChristian.com is the English edition of Pravoslavie. It contains current news for the world of Orthodoxy as well as reflections on current events. There are resource pages for the major feast days, an Orthodox calendar, and a variety of articles on the Orthodoxy journey, including translations of the holy fathers. It is a site that I frequently visit.
- Orthodox Christian Information Center: This site has over 850 thought provoking articles on an array of topics, many of which relate to everyday life, church customs, and writings of the fathers.
- Orthodox Wiki – Like most wiki sites, it has a lot of general information and is good for a quick reference on something such as looking up a particular saint’s life.
- Your local Orthodox Parish – This is by far the best place to start. Click on the link for a map. Most Orthodox priests love to sit down with someone who is curious about Orthodoxy. A few months into my journey, this is what I was doing. Also, the Orthodox faith is a way of living and being, and not a philosophical belief system. It requires community to fully engage. Therefore, I strongly recommend people establish face-to-face relationships with others on their journey.
- The Explanations of the New Testament by Blessed Theophylact – Regardless of your background, one of the most important parts of developing a solid faith is the proper understanding of scripture. St. Theophylact basically takes all of the wisdom from the fathers before him, compiles it, and abbreviates it into an organized verse-by-verse commentary. If you desire to understand how the Orthodox interpret scripture, this is by far the best source that I know of. Highly recommended!
- Orthodox Dogmatic Theology – An excellent, deep read on the basic theology of Orthodoxy. It is like taking a catechism course, and has been used in Orthodox seminaries as a textbook.
- The Gurus, The Young Man, and Elder Paisios – Coming from a charismatic background, I wanted to know that the Orthodox Church was not simply some stuffy, dead religion that happened to have beliefs that were more accurate than other churches. I wanted to see that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the Eastern Orthodox Church; this book helped with that. It is the fascinating account of a young man who dabbles in many Eastern religions before coming to Christ in Orthodoxy. He too was looking for an authentic spiritual experience.
- Surprised by Christ – A book written by a Jewish convert that I found to be a very intriguing read. His story is interesting as he goes from Jew to Evangelical Christian to Eastern Orthodox. His theology is also quite solid and he deals with a lot of the theological hurdles that potential converts face. It is a highly recommended read.
- The Orthodox Church – A very popular book by Archbishop Kallistos Ware on the history of the Orthodox Church and many of their practices.
- The Orthodox Way – Also by Archbishop Kallistos. This one dives more into the theology: what we believe and why.
Developing The Spiritual Life
These books relate to the spiritual struggle and how one can live the Christian life daily. If, instead of only reading about Orthodoxy, you would also like to dive into the spiritual depths of the Orthodox life, then these books are highly recommended. If you are already Orthodox, these are invaluable resources that for many years have helped Christians live the beautiful faith.
- The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It (St Theophan the Recluse). A compilation of short letters written to a young lady who, like so many of us, was searching for her purpose in life. St. Theophan is approachable and easy to understand. He also lived fairly recently (in the 1800’s) compared to other saints.
- Spiritual Struggle (St Paisios of Mt Athos) – As the title suggests, it deals with the struggle in which we are engaged against the flesh that tries to bring us down. One of my favorite books. St. Paisios, who fell asleep in the Lord in the 1990’s, was quite aware of the situation of modern man and had a gift for making the spiritual struggle easy to understand.
- The Arena (St Ignatius Brianchaninov) – A heavy book that is loaded with scripture and depth. He sees things in black and white and has no tolerance for fooling around with sin. Reading it brought me to a turning point in my own life.
- Unseen Warfare (St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain) – A wonderful book by one of the two saints who compiled the Philokalia. In it, he takes many of the deep teachings found in the Philokalia and breaks them down into brief, practical, and approachable lessons that one can apply to their everyday life.
- Letters to Spiritual Children (Abbot Nikon) – a short book containing over 70 brief letters, many of which are written to lay people. One of the central themes is suffering, and those who have had a difficult life of suffering will probably find his letters encouraging. From his interactions with the Soviet Communists, he knew hardship firsthand.
- Wounded by Love (St. Porphyrios) – A touching book about a boy who knew he wanted to be a monk. He sneaked onto Mt Athos (children aren’t normally allowed) and grew up in the monastic setting. The book reveals a dynamic zeal and pure innocence that he carried with him his entire life. About one third of the book is his story, the second two thirds are his teachings. Read with a box of tissues.