In the 21st century, technology plays a crucial role in the lives of most Christians in the West. Even some monasteries have Facebook pages and smartphones.
My focus today is on apps. There are good Orthodox apps out there that are beneficial to those who like to have scripture, prayers, writings of the fathers, and the daily saints with them at all times. Due to the multitude of available apps and my limited time, this is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide, but just a review of the apps I have used.
Lives of the Saints & Daily Readings
Orthodox Calendar – This is a wonderful app that defaults to the Julian Calendar. It contains the lives of the saints, fasting regulations, daily tropars and kondaks, and the daily scriptures. For the lives of the saints, it usually shares several saints per day with biographies that are sometimes quite extensive. It contains a wealth of information on the saints, far more than any other app I’ve seen, and is quite enjoyable to read. The calendar is adjustable to select any day of the year (so you can use it even if you’re on the New Calendar, just go forward thirteen days). It utilizes liturgical language for the daily troparia. The only thing it doesn’t include is a built in prayer book. Google Play Store link here, and iTunes app here.
Daily Readings – This app, released by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, is a good app for reading lives of the saints, fasting regulations, daily tropars and kondaks, and daily scripture. The paid version contains a useful glossary full of liturgical words that are good to know. It is a work in progress, and usually there are only one or two saints whose lives you can read about per day. The entries tend to be brief. One useful feature is that it pulls up the applicable prayers for the current time (i.e. at noon it will pull up the sixth hour prayers and meal time prayers). Any section of the built-in prayer book can be accessed at any time. It is based on the New Calendar, but any day of the year can be pulled up. It utilizes modern language for prayers, troparia, etc. It seems to be a little more feature-rich on the iPhone, but can be downloaded for Android here.
The Prologue of Ochrid (St. Nikolai Velimirovich) – This is not an app, but it is my favorite resource for daily reading of the lives of the saints. The website automatically updates for the day that you visit it, though any day of the year can be selected. I am very grateful to the Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese for making this splendid work freely available online. Alternate link to purchase the print edition.
English Orthodox Prayers (free) – This app is a slightly abbreviated version of the Jordanville Prayer Book, which is the one that I mostly use. Therefore I love this app! If I’m traveling, it has all the necessary prayers (morning, evening, pre-communion, etc) and I don’t have to take a prayer book with me. Unfortunately, it is only available for Android.
Orthodox PrayerBook – A simple app that contains several useful features: a great variety of prayers, daily fasting requirements, daily troparia, and it allows one to select from three different diocese (Antiochian, OCA, Greek) for daily variables. It utilizes liturgical language. iTunes only.
Bibles…Oh the Choices!
Eastern Orthodox Bible (EOB) – For those who are familiar with this, they will find that having the text of this Bible for such a low price is quite a steal. It is a New Testament that was translated by the Orthodox. Unlike the Orthodox Study Bible, which is the New Kings James text with Orthodox commentary (meaning it was translated by Protestants with slight Protestant biases), the EOB text was translated with the Orthodox in mind. iTunes store only. More information on it here.
Holy Bible (RSV) – Fr. Thomas Hopko’s favorite English translation of the Bible was the Revised Standard Version. It has a few issues with Protestant theological leanings, but overall is better than most English translations. This app itself has room for improvement. It does not remember your last chapter read, and bookmarks are not interactive (can’t be clicked). So each time you open it you have to scroll through the menus to find your last book/chapter. It also has ads. But, if you must have the RSV, then here it is: Android only.
The Orthodox Study Bible (NKJV) – I have a hard copy of this Bible, but I have not used the electronic form. In general, it is a good starting place. The commentary seems to focus largely on the differences between Protestant beliefs and Orthodox theology. Those who frequently read patristic commentaries (i.e. Saints Chrysostom, Theophylact, Augustine, etc) will probably find the commentary in the OSB to be lacking. However, for most people, especially new converts, it will probably be sufficient. The real jewel here, in my opinion, is the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, the only affordable option is in the iTunes store. For Android users, Olive Tree offers it for a whopping $39.99, which is more than the print version costs!
NKJV Bible by Olive Tree – For those who appreciate the NKJV, but don’t need the commentary of the OSB listed above, and don’t want the ads or frustration of the RSV listed above, this app seems to be a good, free alternative. It doesn’t have the full Old Testament like the OSB since it’s a Protestant work, but it is sufficient for studying the New Testament.
Other Useful Apps
Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) – One of the more popular apps. With it, you can stream music and podcasts. For those who are fans of the AFR service, you will likely enjoy this. Google Play store, and the iTunes link.
Orthodox Prayers and Services – One of the most in-depth works I have seen in an app. It contains a library of Bible commentaries, patristic homilies, liturgical services, prayers, saints, and writings of the fathers. I was greatly impressed with it. The catch: it can take several minutes to open and it may crash older, slower devices. I think it downloads the entire library into your device’s memory rather than loading entries as they are selected. The app is a wonderful idea, it just needs to be designed a bit better to make it easier to load. Google Play only.
My list above certainly does not include every Eastern Orthodox app available in English for the iPhone or Android systems. Within a year of publishing this blog, many new apps were introduced and I haven’t had time to review them all. Feel free to leave me a comment below if you have any favorites that I left out. Additionally, if you can read Russian or Greek, you will have quite a vast selection of beautifully designed apps available on both platforms.
BEWARE OF THE PILGRIMAPP
The contents of this app are a mixed bag. The Daily Prayer Rule seems pretty standard and Orthodox. But the rest of the content is where there is trouble. The description of the app itself is quite revealing, “We are deeply appreciative and humbled by the many great expressions of Orthodox teachings and faith.” In other words, they are not Eastern Orthodox, but have been inspired by various groups who consider themselves to be Orthodox. There are hundreds of these types of groups, and some of them are apples that have indeed fallen very far from the parent tree of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Some problems with this app:
There’s a Kiloran Liturgy that is not in line with Orthodox theology. For example, the following petition contains theological errors,
Let us all pray for the church…to unite the broken body of Christ, to perfect it with Your love.
While this sounds nice, neither Christ nor His body are broken or imperfect; we as individuals are, but He is not. The Apostle Paul writes that the Church is the “pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and that “the church…is His [Christ’s] body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23)
We cannot one moment say that Christ’s Body, the Church, is the pillar and ground of truth, and the fullness of God and at the same time call it “broken” and imperfect. The above petition, in my opinion, shows a very poor understanding of ecclesiology.
Also, used in the Kiloran Liturgy is the Apostle’s Creed instead of the standard Orthodox creed that has been in use since AD 381. The Apostle’s Creed is popular among some heretical groups due to a lack of Trinitarian emphasis.
There’s a section called Reflections/Readings which contains readings I feel mixed about. Some of it is good, some of it not so much. There’s a section on Unceasing Prayer in which the Jesus Prayer is surprisingly not mentioned.
There’s “Orthodoxy in Brief” that says the Orthodox are “theologically unified,” which is an odd statement since they are not representing one particular “Orthodox” group, but hundreds of groups that differ significantly and are not in communion with one another. There are also other subtle omissions in this article that attempt to present a false unity among pretty much any group that utilizes the label “Orthodox.”
What apps do you use, and which ones would you recommend? This list is in no way exhaustive, so let us know if you use an app not listed here and tell us what you like about it.