Annotated Bibliography

Basic Introductions to Orthodoxy

  1. The Orthodox Church

Author: Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware

Notes: Published over thirty years ago, The Orthodox Church has become established as the standard introduction to the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy continues to be a subject of enormous interest in America. This book explains the Orthodox views on widely ranging matters as Ecumenical Councils, Sacraments, Free Will, Purgatory, the Papacy and the relationship between the different Orthodox churches. Part One describes the history of the Eastern Church over the last two thousand years; and Part Two explains the beliefs and worship of the Orthodox Church. This can be a long read, but worth it.

  1. The Faith: Understanding Orthodox Christianity: An Orthodox Catechism

Author: Clark Carlton

Notes: The Faith is a simple introduction to Orthodoxy. It is a beautifully written book that answers the basic question, “What do the Orthodox believe?”

  1. Introducing the Orthodox Church: Its Faith and Life

Author: Father Anthony Coniaris

Notes: A practical book for the inquirer and potential convert to Orthodox Christianity. It is different in a number of ways, all of which commend this volume to wide use by pastors whose task it is to introduce the members of their inquirers classes to an Orthodox way of life which will touch their lives in a full and complete way (Fr. Stanley Harakas). Chapters include: What We Believe About the One Apostolic Church, the Nicene Creed, Jesus, the Holy Trinity, the Divine Liturgy, Salvation, the Church Fathers, the Church Year, Symbols, the Sacraments, the Saints and the Theotokos, Life After Death, the Bible, Icons, Prayers for the Dead, and Prayer.

The Study of Scripture

  1. The Message of the Bible: An Orthodox Christian Perspective

Author: George Cronk

Notes: A basic introduction to the organization and content of the Bible. In the Orthodox Church, the reading of Scripture must be influenced by the life of the Church--the Church after all existed before the Bible. The Orthodox Church also does not take a literal reading of Scripture like those who believe in, say, a literal six-day creation. Rather, the contents of the Bible contain all that is spiritually true in the context of ancient storytelling. It describes the construction of the Bible: Old Testament laws and history, wisdom literature and prophets, New Testament gospels, Pauline epistles, catholic epistles, and Relevation.

  1. Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and Its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church

Author: Father John Breck

Notes: The Eastern Church Fathers stressed that the Bible does not “stand alone” but was born and shaped in a community of faith. They understood Scripture to be an essential element of Holy Tradition: the apostolic witness passed down and developed into the fundamental teachings of Orthodox Christianity. This book describes the way Eastern patristic writers used Scripture in elaborating what would become the body of Orthodox doctrine. It begins with a discussion of the aims and methods of biblical interpretation as they were developed among the Church Fathers. The second section introduces the reader to how the Fathers interpreted the text. The final section takes up several crucial issues concerning the Orthodox doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Christ in the Psalms

Author: Father Patrick Henry Reardon

Notes: The Psalms run like a golden thread through the beautiful garment of Orthodox worship. In addition to inspiring the public prayer of the church, the Psalms are an indispensable part of the private devotions of all who seek a closer relationship with God. Most important, however, the Psalms point toward the ultimate liberation of humanity from sin, death and despair through Jesus Christ. Father Pat Reardon, drawing on his long experience as an Episcopal minister, and then as a priest in the Orthodox Church, has produced a work of depth and devotion. He tightly understands that one cannot truly probe the deep meaning of the Psalms unless one understands them in the light of the redemption brought by Christ. Fr. Reardon beautifully relates each Psalm to its place within the Divine Liturgy and shows us how they reveal Christ to us, if we prayerfully study the Psalm text.

The Study of Liturgy

  1. An Explanation of the Divine Liturgy in the Greek Orthodox Church

Author: Father Simon Thomas

Notes: A basic and brief explanation of the Divine Liturgy. This booklet is designed to be an introduction to the meaning of the various aspects of the Liturgy.

  1. Journey to the Kingdom: An Insider’s Look at the Liturgy and Beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church

Author: Father Vassilios Papavassiliou

Notes: The Orthodox Liturgy is not just an act of worship, but a potentially life-changing journey. Father Papavassiliou takes you through this journey with clarity and passion, exploring the Liturgy as a reflection of heavenly worship, and an invitation to enter the Kingdom of God. The hymns, prayers, creed and actions of the Liturgy are explained, covering subjects such as Communion, Trinity, baptism, sainthood, Resurrection, and much more.

  1. The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom

Author: Father Alexander Schmemann

Notes: The Eucharist is the crowning achievement of the well-known liturgical scholar, Father Alexander Schmemann. It reflects his entire life experience and thoughts on the Divine Liturgy, the Church’s central act of self-realization.

  1. A Guide to Byzantine Iconography: Volume One

Author: Constantine Cavarnos

Notes: A detailed explanation of the distinctive characteristics of Byzantine iconography, of the traditional pattern of decorating Eastern Orthodox churches with panel icons, wall paintings, and mosaics, and of the chief Doctrinal, Liturgical, and Festal icons; together with a concise systematic exposition of Saint John Damascene's defense of holy icons.

  1. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha

Author: Father Alexander Schmemann

Notes: This Lenten classic examines the meaning of Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, and other neglected or misunderstood treasures of Lenten worship. Schmemann draws on the Orthodox Church’s sacramental and liturgical tradition to suggest the meaning of Lent in our life. The Lenten season is meant to kindle a ‘bright sadness’ within our hearts. Its aim is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for recovery of this relationship. The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.

  1. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy

Author: Father Alexander Schmemann

Notes: An approach to the world and to life that stems from the liturgical experience of the Orthodox Church. Deals with the issues of “secularism” and Christian culture, viewing them from the perspective of the Church as revealed and communicated in its worship and liturgy.

Reading the Fathers: The Witness of the Saints

  1. The Way of the Fathers: Exploring the Patristic Mind

Author: Deacon John Chryssavgis

Notes: This is an impressive introduction to the "way of the Fathers," using an approach that goes beyond knowledge to silence and love in the understanding of God.

  1. Athanasius: The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus

Author: Athanasius of Alexandria, Robert C. Gregg (Translator)

Notes: This book is a biography of Saint Anthony the Great, the founder of Christian monasticism. Written at the request of the desert monks of Egypt to provide “an ideal pattern of the ascetical life,” it immediately became astonishingly popular. From a literary perspective, it created a new Christian genre for the lives of the Saints.

  1. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection

Author: Benedicta Ward (Translator)

Notes: ‘Give me a word, Father,’ visitors to early desert monks asked. The responses of these pioneer ascetics were remembered and in the fourth century written down in Coptic, Syriac, Greek, and later Latin. Their Sayings were collected, in this case in the alphabetical order of the monks and nuns who uttered them, and read by generations of Christians as life-giving words that would help readers along the path to salvation.

  1. Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father: Being the Narratives Compiled by the Servant of God Alexander Concerning His Spiritual Father

Author: Vera Bouteneff (Editor/Translator)

Notes: It is one of the great mysteries of life that in atmospheres of the harshest cruelty, a certain few not only survive but emerge as beacons of light and life. Father Arseny, former scholar of church art, became Prisoner No. 18376 in the brutal “special sector” of the Soviet prison camp system. In the darkness of systematic degradation of body and soul, he shone with the light of Christ’s peace and compassion. This narrative, compiled from accounts of Father Arseny’s spiritual children and others whom he brought to God, gives stirring glimpses of his life in prison camp and after his release. It also tells the stories of people whose lives, often during times of almost unimaginable crisis, were touched and transfigured through their connection with Father Arseny.

The Study of Theology

  1. The Orthodox Way

Author: Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware

Notes: This book is a general account of the doctrine, worship, and life of Orthodox Christians. It raises the basic issues of theology: God as hidden yet revealed; the problem of evil; the nature of salvation; the meaning of faith; prayer; death and what lies beyond. In so doing, it helps to fill the need for a modern Orthodox catechism. Yet this book is not a mere manual, a dry-as-dust repository of information. Throughout the book, the meaning of Orthodox doctrine for the life of the individual Christian is revealed. Doctrinal issues are seen not as abstract propositions for theological debate but as affecting the whole of life.

  1. Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology

Author: Father Andrew Louth

Notes: With an estimated 250 million adherents, the Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian body in the world. This absorbing account of the essential elements of Eastern Orthodox thought deals with the Trinity, Christ, sin, humanity and creation as well as praying, icons, the sacraments and liturgy.

  1. The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700

Author: Jaroslav Pelikan

Notes: The line that separated Eastern Christendom from Western on the medieval map is similar to the “iron curtain” of recent times. Linguistic barriers, political divisions, and liturgical differences combined to isolate the two cultures from each other. Except for such episodes as the schism between East and West or the Crusades, the development of non-Western Christendom has been largely ignored by church historians. This book explains the divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom, and identifies and describes the development of the distinctive forms taken by Christian doctrine in its Greek, Syriac, and early Slavic expression.

A Historical Overview

  1. Formation and Struggles: The Birth of the Church to A.D. 200

Author: Veselin Kesich

Notes: This book focuses on the early beginnings of the Orthodox Church in the second century, one of the most pivotal periods in Orthodox history. It is written for the general reader and deals with central issues of Orthodox identity such as the beginnings of Christianity, the formation of the Bible, the rise of bishops, and the position of the Roman church in the second century.

  1. Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Church from 450-680 A.D.

Author: Father John Meyendorff

Notes: This book describes the expansion of Christianity in the East and the West in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries - from Ireland and the Indian Ocean and from Germany to Nubia. It exposes the tensions which arose between the inevitable cultural pluralism and the needs of Church unity, an issue which stands at the center of modern ecclesiological concerns. It discusses the debates on the identity of Christ, formally solved by the decrees of the great ecumenical councils, but which left Christendom divided. It defines the problems raised by the arbitrariness of Eastern Roman emperors and by the gradual development of Roman primacy.

  1. History of the Byzantine State

Author: George Ostrogorsky

Notes: A bit like a textbook, this book succinctly traces the intricate thousand-year course of the Byzantine Empire. While his emphasis is on political development, he gives extensive consideration to social, esthetic, economic, and ecclesiastical factors as well. He also illuminates the Empire’s links with classical antiquity, as well as its effect on contemporaneous and subsequent European and Near Eastern history. It captures the full sweep, the grandeur, and the tragic course of Byzantium’s rise and fall, backed by the scholarship and authority of a lifetime devoted to its study. It is recognized as the basic history of the Byzantine Empire.

  1. The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence

Author: Steven Runciman

Notes: First published in 1968, this classic study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople traces the Greek Orthodox Church’s survival as the spiritual center of the Byzantine world during the four centuries of Turkish rule which followed the fall of Constantinople. Runciman was not Orthodox, but he had a profound commitment to Orthodoxy and believed that it enshrined the future of Christianity.

Prayer and Spirituality

  1. The Way of a Pilgrim

Author: Anonymous, Helen Bacovcin (Translator)

Notes: This enduring work of Russian spirituality has charmed countless people with its tale of a nineteenth-century peasant’s quest for the secret of prayer. Readers follow this anonymous pilgrim as he treks over the Steppes in search of the answer to the one compelling question: How does one pray constantly? Through his journeys, and under the tutelage of a spiritual father, he becomes gradually more open to the promptings of God, and sees joy and plenty wherever he goes. Ultimately, he discovers the different meanings and methods of prayer as he travels to his ultimate destination, Jerusalem.

  1. Orthodox Spirituality: A Brief Introduction

Author: Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Effie Mavromichali (Translator)

Notes: The spiritual person is he who partakes of and participates in the energies of the Most Holy Spirit; he, who has himself become a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. This does not constitute an abstract, emotional, or intellectual spirituality. The bearer of Orthodox spirituality par excellence is the Saint who is revealed through his teaching and his relics. The non-spiritual individual, who is deprived of the Holy Spirit, is the psychological and carnal person. It is precisely the above distinction which points out the differences between Orthodox spirituality and other “spiritualties.” The essence of Orthodox spirituality lies in its therapeutic effects. It cures a person’s infirmities and renders him an integrated person.

  1. Orthodox Spiritual Life

Author: Giorgios I. Mantzarides

Notes: An introduction to Orthodox spiritual life by one of Greece’s most distinguished scholars. The book covers basic themes such as self-knowledge and knowledge of God, sin and repentance, the Divine Liturgy, the saints, social action, and prayer. Each theme draws upon the wisdom of the Fathers of the Church and each chapter concludes with an excerpt from a significant patristic writer. Orthodox Christians need to know their roots better so that they may “follow the Fathers.” Orthodox Christians understand this to mean that they are not reducing the patristic tradition to an archeological artifact but accepting the living presence of the Fathers in the Body of Christ to which they also belong, and being led by their life teaching, their manner and mind.

  1. Thirty Steps to Heaven: The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life

Author: Father Vassilios Papavassiliou

Notes: Many laypeople have attempted to read the great spiritual classic, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, but have been frustrated in attempting to apply the lessons of this monastic text to their everyday lives in the world. In Thirty Steps, Archimandrite Vassilios interprets the Ladder for the ordinary Christian without sacrificing any of its beauty and power. Now you too can accept the challenge offered by Saint John Climacus to ascend closer to God with each passing day.

  1. Our Thoughts Determine our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Author: Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Notes: Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica was one of the most renowned spiritual guides of Serbia in the twentieth century. As a novice he lived in obedience to Elder Ambrose of Miljkovo Monastery, a disciple of the Optina Elders. From him Father Thaddeus learned the Prayer of the Heart and the selfless love that came to characterize his whole ministry to the suffering Serbian people. Born in 1914, Elder Thaddeus lived through all the suffering endured by Serbia in the twentieth century. Over the course of two World Wars, during the Communist takeover, and through the NATO bombings of 1999, he co-suffered with his people. He taught, counseled, and prayed for all who came to him in pain and sorrow. His words of love and hope provided spiritual balm for people from all classes of society.

  1. Beginning to Pray

Author: Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

Notes: This book has established itself as a modern spiritual classic. It has been read and loved by persons at all levels of spiritual development.

  1. The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History

Author: Father Andreas Andreopoulos

Notes: Millions of Christians around the world use the sign of the Cross—and have done so for centuries—as a gesture of blessing. It is practiced when alone, during worship, before sleep, upon waking, before eating, before travel, and many other times throughout the day. But, what does it mean? Where did it originate? What did the sign of the Cross mean to the first Christians, and how has this simple movement of the hand evolved over the centuries? The sign of the Cross is literally a tracing of the Cross of Christ onto the body. By so doing, Christians invite the mystery of the Cross into their everyday lives. Now and for the first time, this book explains the tremendous meaning, mystery, and history of this dramatic gesture shared by Christians worldwide. This readable account will fascinate and inspire all who desire to know more about the inherited spiritual practices of everyday life.