December 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In yesterday’s blog entry, I suggested the Sunday Gospel & Epistle readings (with the notes in the Orthodox Study Bible) as a starting place for regularly reading your Bible. This does provide a place to start and become familiar with what we hear most often, but it doesn’t provide us with an overview of what the Bible is all about. There are stories we may have heard of or be familiar with in passing, but we aren’t certain with where they fit into the Bible itself. One resource I learned about this past Summer is the “Essential 100” (or “E100”) readings of the Bible. Available from the Greek Archdiocese’s Department of Youth & Young Adult Ministries, this convenient list can be downloaded here.
Unlike other Bible reading programs, this does not follow the “calendar” approach of attempting to read the entire Bible in one year or anything like that. The readings consist of 20 groups of 5 readings associated with major stories of the Bible. For example, the first set of readings for the Old Testament explore the topic “In the Beginning” and consist of the following stories:
And here’s an example of the set of readings for “The Teachings of Jesus”:
- Sermon on the Mount – Part 1
- Sermon on the Mount – Part 2
- The Kingdom of Heaven
- The Good Samaritan
- Lost and Found
One possible way of approaching this is to do one reading each weekday (taking the weekends to rest/catch up). In approximately five months, you can have a good overview of all of the major teachings/readings of the entire Bible.
December 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Probably the most common response people initially have to reading the Bible for themselves is being overwhelmed where to start. This is a natural response when presented with a book that’s over an inch thick, printed on very thin pages, and (in the case of the Orthodox Study Bible) with a page count of over 1,800 pages long.
Part of being overwhelmed can also be the assumption that one needs to start by picking up the Bible and reading it from cover to cover like any other book. Instead, it should be thought of as a companion who will be a constant part of your life from here on out. As with any new “friend,” your initial steps should be introductory, becoming acquainted with the Bible and its contents. The more time you spend with it, the more familiar you will become with its depth and breadth. A few recommendations on getting started:
- Purchase your own copy of the complete Orthodox Study Bible. It’s not enough to have a family copy; you should have your own personal copy to refer to whenever you want.
- Pick a quiet time when you have no distractions and 15-30 minutes uninterrupted time. Sit down with your Orthodox Study Bible and browse through the contents. Don’t worry about jumping in and reading. Simply skim through to familiarize yourself with the various contents and features.
- After this initial session, pick another quite time with the Orthodox Study Bible. Read Bishop KALLISTOS’ article “How to Read the Bible” (pgs. 1757-1766) for a general treatment of an overall approach to your Bible reading.
- After this second session, pick another quiet time with the Orthodox Study Bible. Read Bishop BASIL’s article “Overview of the Books of the Bible” (pgs. xv-xx). This article will give you an overview of each specific book and the entire scope of the Bible.
- Each week, use your church calendar and spend the week reading and re-reading the two lessons prescribed for the upcoming Sunday’s Liturgy. Read the study notes associated with the reading. This will prepare you for hearing Sunday’s homily.
- Once you’ve taken these initial steps, speak with the priest for advice on a next step in reading and studying the Bible.
November 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
One of the most basic devotional practices in the Orthodox Church is to follow the Church’s cycles of fasting/feasting, saints’ days, and prescribed daily readings of the Church. There are many print and digital resources to help the faithful in following these cycles, but a personal favorite of mine is the Daily Reading Mobile app. Prepared by the Department of Internet Ministries of the Greek Archdiocese, this app allows iPhone, Android, and Nokia users to access on the go the fasting rules, readings, and saints for a given day. No more need to consult calendars, look things up in books, search the Internet, etc.!
November 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
One of my primary resources in preparing homilies or bible studies is the Orthodox Study Bible. With the advent of digital technology, I have found electronic versions available for various platforms (desktop, iPhone, iPad). The best version I have come across is available from Olive Tree Bible Software for the iPad.
November 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Church History by Archpriest John W. Morris
July 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This common commemoration of the first Six Ecumenical Councils is held on the Sunday between the 13th and the 19th of July.
The Ecumenical Councils are the greatest battles of Orthodoxy with heretics. Under today’s date, the Church jointly commemorates the first Six Ecumenical Councils:
- The First Ecumenical Council in Nicea, 325 A.D. with 318 holy fathers participating. This Council is commemorated separately on May 29 and on the Seventh Sunday after Easter. This Council refuted the heresy of Arius against the Son of God.
- The Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, 381 A.D. with 150 holy fathers attending. This Council is commemorated separately on May 22. This Council refuted the heresy of Macedonius against God, the Holy Spirit.
- The Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus, 431 A.D. with 200 holy fathers participating. This Council is commemorated separately on September 9. This Council refuted the heresy of Nestorius against the Mother of God.
- The Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, 451 A.D. with 630 holy fathers participating. This Council is commemorated separately on July 16. This Council refuted the Monophysite heresy.
- The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, 553 A.D. with 160 holy fathers participating. This Council is commemorated separately on July 25. This Council refuted the heresy of Origen.
- The Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, 691 A.D. with 170 holy fathers participating. This Council is commemorated separately on January 23. This Council refuted the Monothelite heresy.
- The Seventh Ecumenical Council which was convened in 878 A.D. with 367 holy fathers participating. This Council is not commemorated at this time but is commemorated separately on October 11. This Council refuted the heresy of Iconoclasm.
At these Councils, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, all these heresies were condemned and the Faith of Orthodoxy was defined and confirmed for all time.
–from the Prologue from Ochrid
July 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This Sunday, we commemorate the Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils. This commemoration falls on the Sunday between July 13 and 19. The best summary of this commemoration, its importance, and the work of these councils can be found on the Orthodox Church in America site.
June 7, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Note: this list is Fr. Matthew’s recommendations of the 10 most important books every Orthodox Christian should have and read. There are far more books available, but these are the “cream of the crop” to start with.
1. The Orthodox Study Bible (Complete) – every Orthodox Christian should have their own copy. The Bible is the Church’s book and this edition includes informative notes and study articles that inform our understanding of Scripture. ($30 from parish–sold at cost)
2. The Orthodox Church by Timothy (now Metropolitan Kallistos) Ware. ($11.56 from Amazon). Classic standard text describing the history, worship, theology, and spirituality of Orthodox Christianity.
3. An Orthodox prayer book. To believe is to pray. Every Orthodox Christian should have their own prayer book that they use on a daily basis. Several good editions are available.
4. The Illumined Heart: Capturing the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians by Frederica Mathewes-Green ($11.24 from Amazon). Copies were given to each family during their Theophany house blessing this year. Brief introduction to life as an Orthodox Christian
5. The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev ($5 from Light & Life Publishing). One of the most misunderstood and/or neglected aspect of Orthodox spiritual life is the mystery of repentance and how to prepare to make a good confession.
6. The Truth of Our Faith: Discourses from Holy Scripture on the Tenets of Christian Orthodoxy by Elder Cleopa of Romania ($20 from Light & Life Publishing). Explains many of the basic truths of the faith with ample refere
7. Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God by Archimandrite Meletios Weber ($15.95 from Amazon). Excellent survey of Orthodox spiritual & sacramental life.
8. The Faith of the Saints: A Catechism by St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic ($14.95 from Light & Life Publishing). A good catechism explains the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Beatitudes. This one is written by a 20th Century saint.
9. Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom ($9.95 from Amazon). A classic text on how to pray.
10. Victory in Unseen Warfare by Fr. Jack Sparks ($14.95 from Amazon). The first of three volumes of this contemporary adaptation of the spiritual classic Unseen Warfare.
October 3, 2010 § Leave a Comment
One of the things I’d like to do more of is provide recommendations for books that I have found especially helpful, both personally and in the course of pastoral ministry. Probably one of the chief ones having to do with how we relate to one another is Cloud & Townsend’s Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life:
Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, addresses specific issues that confront today’s Christians. Issues such as:
- Living a life out of control
- Having people take advantage of us
- Having trouble saying no
- Being disappointed with God because of unanswered prayers
- and Many more vital issues
A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. They impact all areas of our lives:
- Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
- Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.
- Emotional boundaries help us deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.
Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator.Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle, isn’t it? Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations When confronted with their lack of boundaries they ask:
- Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
- What are legitimate boundaries?
- What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
- How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
- Aren’t boundaries selfish?
- Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries? Boundaries is an essential tool for your tool box.