Book Study - what book?

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Bishop_Irineos
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Book Study - what book?

Postby Bishop_Irineos » Mon 5 September 2016 12:43 am

Our mission is planning to host a six week book study this fall. What book would you recommend that would be helpful to the faithful, but also not over the head of an inquirer or a local who wants to participate?

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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Maria » Mon 5 September 2016 3:35 pm

For some, Timothy Ware's (Kallistos Ware) The Orthodox Church, is a good starter.

Then you can point out the errors in his ecumenistic way of thinking.

People must know the difference between World Orthodoxy and True Orthodoxy as the World Orthodox will accuse us of being Donatists, heretics, schismatics, and worse. These accusations must be refuted immediately.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.

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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Bishop_Irineos » Mon 5 September 2016 5:59 pm

I did a study on that book a couple of years ago. It's a bit long for a six week study, and as you pointed out - there's a lot to correct! Have you ever read Flames of Wisdom? It was recommended, but appears to be a collection of writing of the fathers. I am wondering if there is any commentary in there as well.

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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Barbara » Tue 6 September 2016 2:40 am

Would a life of a Saint work for this purpose ?
I am thinking specifically of Hieroschemamonk Feofil of the Kiev Caves. That book contains no theology to speak of, but is very rich in eternal lessons applicable to anyone anywhere !

However, the reader must appreciate the concept of Sainthood to some degree to grasp what a Fool-for-Christ is [ as was St Feofil, a truly outstanding one ]. Thus Protestants might be pushed away if not at all open minded about holy people.

However, there is no reference to the Mother of God in this book. Only to God and the Savior. That might help with Protestants : one less obstacle from their point of view.
[ I assume you are an island in a sea of Protestants there in Texas, Fr Irineos. ]

This book is not too long, therefore easy to cover in 6 weeks, and is readily available from the original publisher, Holy Trinity Publications, Jordanville, NY. It seems that one could open it almost anywhere and find much material for lively, thoughtful discussion. That way, people coming in late to the study group would not suffer from missing out on previous sessions.

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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Maria » Tue 6 September 2016 4:38 am

You cannot go wrong with reading from the lives of the Saints or the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

When I was a catechumen, the priest would start each weekly evening discussion by giving a brief but powerful review of one of the twelve Apostles using the book from Buena Vista or he would discuss the saint of the day. Next, he would take a selection from the Didache, or one of the earlier defenders of the Church, such as St. Justin Martyr or St. Ignatios of Antioch. Then he would discuss one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Finally, we would end the evening by discussing some of the pre-selected writings from the Philokalia that would tie the topics together.

We would be given a syllabus, so we had a chance to read the selected readings beforehand. His class would be attended by many parishioners as every class was unique.

Several times during the year, we would have a Saturday Day of Recollection, in which we would read and discuss areas of importance. I remember discussing a chapter from the Brothers Karamazov during Great Lent. It was an excellent, and the discussion was made more relevant because some of the parishioners had taken the time to pre-read the selections and reflect upon them.
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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Maria » Tue 6 September 2016 4:57 am

My former priest had such a diverse collection of catechumen who would come and go, that he decided it was best to meet with these people individually in person, by email, or on the phone. We had catechumen from the Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and various Protestant groups: (1) mainline Anglicans, Episcopalian, and Lutherans, (2) Fundamentalist Baptist, (3) Evangelical (4) Pentecostal and Charismatics, and (5) Messianic types. Then we also had those with very different backgrounds like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Buddhists, and other Eastern Religions as well as agnostics and atheists. Many of these people had dated an Orthodox Christian or were engaged to one. Others came to "Look and See" because one of their friends or relatives had recently converted to Orthodoxy.

Because of the different reasons for looking into Orthodoxy, one catechumen class could not and would not satisfy them. Father had to meet with them privately and ease their concerns, and guide them sometimes kicking and screaming into Holy Orthodoxy.

Neither could one book satisfy all catechumen because they were all on a different page. For example, one particular person, who was a Messianic Jew -- not really Jewish, but a wanna be type -- would come and argue with just about everything the priest said. She had been received into the Orthodox Church, but had relapsed when her friends told her that the Rapture was near. She feared being Left Behind. It got to the point that she was no longer welcomed to come to the general discussion because she was so disruptive and had so many fears and personal issues.

This is why the priest held a weekly class for everyone in the parish. He would pick the topic and try to keep the discussion on topic.

If a particular topic interested many of the participants, and needed to be covered in more detail, especially a recently publiched book or article, then he would have a Saturday Day of Recollection or even a weekend retreat, where he would go more into depth. That retreat would be advertised by word of mouth, on the banner outside the church, by flyers, or even in the local newspaper.
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Re: Book Study - what book?

Postby Barbara » Wed 7 September 2016 2:20 am

That sounds very realistic that so many differing religious backgrounds might create a scene. At minimum, make it exceedingly trying for the Priest to address each widely divergent mindset. Your Priest must have worked hard, Maria, to meet with these sometimes recalcitrant people collectively and then individually.

I think the idea of advertising in the local newspaper is excellent, because that will attract those people who are interested but would not have a way to hear about Orthodoxy otherwise. Assuming the paper does not charge too much for an ad, that might be a viable option. Or even to put up flyers at a local Catholic bookstore or parish hall, for example. [ If allowed. ] Catholics will always be the most likely converts, I suspect. Other people may not agree.
If in the South, where Baptists and other Protestants are strong, then maybe try putting up a notice at a Christian bookstore or the meeting places of various "Christian" denominations.

One could conceivably approach even the 10 step programs like OA [ Overeaters Anonymous ]. They must have some kind of bulletin board at their venues. I think there is a Gambler's Anonymous, isn't there ? One could find a Saint who had been let's say an early Byzantine gambler before his conversion to the Church. After all, these 10 step programs train people to acknowledge ' a higher self '. Why wouldn't some of the more spiritual among the participants be restless with that simplistic term and be seeking to know deep truths about God ?
If shown the beauties of the Orthodox Liturgy, some souls may drop their addiction in awe and embark on a quest for true healing within the Orthodox Church. After all, many get into these and other bad habits because of feeling empty. If they find an entire new world in Orthodoxy, preferably True Orthodoxy, they would be 'filled up' spiritually. As opposed to past habits of opening the refrigerator door to search for fulfillment in - haha - devil's food cake !

On a healthier note, what about health food store bulletin boards ? Flyers posted in any of these places hopefully would cost nothing. One could discuss fasting from a SPIRITUAL point of view to an audience which is already interested in, for example, vegetable juice fasting, or apple cider vinegar & honey & cayenne fasting. This could be a connection to intrigue the audience.

An example to be cited here might be Elder Melchizedek of the Roslavl Forests. He was 95 when he was unceremoniously kicked out of the White Bluff Monastery where he had resided for half a century [!]. He had to leave with no possessions and become a desert-dweller. Then at age 118, when his disciple asked the White Bluff monks whether the 2 could return, they refused. This Elder reposed at the ripe old age of 125. He was fit as could be, often mistaken for someone half his age. How did he do this ? This could be a jumping-off point for discussion of asceticism. This Elder was a disciple of disciples of St Paisius Velichkovsky so a Priest could bring in the Jesus Prayer and from there, show slides of beautiful Orthodox services and historic Cathedral interiors as a backdrop to explaining the tenets of traditional / True Orthodoxy.


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