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 compares and contrasts Orthodox Christianity with other faiths. 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 is willing to help those who are searching.
- The Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post Nicene Fathers – this treasury contains thousands of pages of historic works ranging from the Apostolic era to about the period of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Not all authors are saints of the Church but many are.
- 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:
- Pravmir.com, like Pravoslavie, is updated daily with articles by various clergy and laity. They occasionally feature some of my articles.
- 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 simply a philosophy. 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 condenses much of the good commentary from the first thousand years of the Christian East and compiles it in an abbreviated form that is organized verse-by-verse. If you desire to understand how Christians have understood scripture throughout the ages, this is a great source. However, due to it currently being out of print, I would recommend the following item:
- The Catena Aurea – a little less than 800 years ago, Thomas Aquinas compiled much of the great biblical commentary on the Gospels from the Christian East and West (including Bl. Theophylact’s commentary mentioned above) and placed it in this “golden chain” of enlightened commentary.
The entire series on the Four Gospels is over 2,000 pages, so it is dense. For this series, Aquinas leaned heavily on Ss. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jerome, Bede, Ambrose, and Augustine. Additionally, he features Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Photius the Great, Athanasius the Great, and many others. The series linked here is one that I’m revising, so by buying from this link you help support my publishing endeavors. It can also be read freely online here.
- Orthodox Dogmatic Theology – An excellent, deep read on the basic theology of Orthodoxy. It is like taking a catechism course, and is often 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 Eastern 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 Orthodoxy; 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 Met. Kallistos Ware on the history of the Orthodox Church and many of their practices.
- The Orthodox Way – Another popular book by Met. Kallistos. This one dives more into the theology: what we believe and why.
- Two Paths – For those coming from a Roman Catholic background, this may prove helpful. The author, after many years of research and prayer, converted from Catholicism to Orthodoxy. Unlike other converts, he has no ax to grind against the Roman Catholic Church. He speaks quite fondly of it, but he feels it has drifted too far away from the original Christian faith.
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.
- A Good Prayer Book – Prayer is the beginning, the end, and everything in between when it comes to developing the spiritual life and drawing closer to God. For years, the Jordanville Prayer Book was my go-to, but that has been replaced by Orthodox Christian Prayers from St. Tikhon’s Monastery. Both are good, but the latter has a beautiful design and layout as well as slightly updated English that is easier to read and understand.
- 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) and deals with many of the issues and questions facing young people even today.
- Spiritual Struggle (St Paisios of Mt Athos) – As the title suggests, it is about our struggle against the flesh that tries to bring us down. It is easy to read, extremely informative, and very practical. 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.
- 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.
- Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit (Dr. Herman Middleton) – Interested in learning more about recent elders and saints in the Orthodox Church? This wonderful and approachable book provides a brief bio for numerous contemporary Greek Elders along with a few pages of their teachings. Includes elders such as St. Paisios, St. Porphyrios, Elder Iakovos of Evia, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, etc.
- Becoming Human: The Healing Journey into the Orthodox Church – A book I wrote with non-Orthodox people in mind. It’s about finding healing and spiritual wholeness in the practices and teachings of the Orthodox Church. I’m presently using it as part of my catechism and for new converts.
10 thoughts on “Resources”
Jeremiah, I’d would like to recommend one more book: Christ Is in Our Midst: Letters from a Russian Monk.
I read the description of the book and it sounds powerful and sublime. Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll have to add that to my reading list.
Jeremiah, I have noticed that in your list of books, there is “Letters to Spiritual Children” by Abbot Nikon Vorobiev. If you want, you can also check a few books by Prof Alexei Osipov, who was a spiritual son of Fr Nikon. Prof Alexei Osipov is a well known Russian Orthodox theologian, professor and lecturer from Moscow Orthodox Theological Seminary. He shares some controversial ideas but I still consider him #1 Orthodox theologian in modern Russia. In his public lectures, Prof. Osipov always remind us Russian laymen that the essence of Orthodox faith is neither doctrines nor rituals but proper spiritual life.
And yes, please, try to get “Christ Is in Our Midst: Letters from a Russian Monk”. It’s short and simple, however, it’s one of my favorite books on Orthodox spiritual life, along with the books by St Ignatius Brianchaninov and St. Theophan the Recluse.
Prof. Osipov’s books:
Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
Two of Prof. Osipov’s lectures with the same title: “Why Orthodoxy is the True Faith”.
PS If you want to open the books in the browser, please copy and paste the links together with “.pdf”
Thank you, Alex. I will look into those. I’ve heard the Search for Truth on the Path of Reason book is a good read.
One more book on Orthodox teachings and doctrines that I would like to recommend:
Elder Cleopa of Romania “The Truth of Our Faith”
Yes, another good one.
Jeremiah, here are some more online resources. I am sure you are aware of them:
Pravoslavie / Orthodox Christianity
Pravmir / Orthodox Christianity and the World. (The Daily Website on How to be an Orthodox Christian Today)
On Earth As In Heaven
I am familiar with all but the last one, but it appears to have some good articles on it. Thank you for sharing, Alex.
I am an Orthodox enquirer. Since you are talking about books, I noticed a reference to “The Way of a Pilgrim” in one of the portions of this site. This book and the practice of “The Jesus Prayer” set my heart on fire 35 years ago. I am now reading “My Elder, Joseph the Hesychast” and “The Teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church” published by the Dormition Skete, which was purchased for me by the local, holy and loving Greek Orthodox priest with whom I am meeting. I use “Orthodox Christian Prayers” published by St. Tikhon’s. I have been attending the Divine Liturgy at my local Greek Orthodox Church since the beginning of November. I come from a similar background as you. I am finding the Lord anew in the spiritual life of the Church. And really, isn’t that what this is all about? “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom”. Pray for me Father