Fifteen Authors

Macrina Walker has tagged me in a meme called “Fifteen Authors.” One lists fifteen authors within fifteen minutes, authors who’ll “always stick with you.” Here is my list, in roughly the chronological order of my encountering them:

1.) God the Holy Spirit “who spoke through the Prophets” as author of the Bible, the single most important book in my life and on my shelves and in my heart.

2.) Rabbis of the past: I was trained in classical Hebrew, and gained a deep appreciation for their methods of interpretation, which methods were reflected in Jesus’s sayings in the Gospels, and here and there in later Christian tradition. I thus came to understand my own tradition better only through the help of Rabbinic Judaism’s legacy.

3.) Soeur Marie Keyrouz — a musician, of course, but her “Ya Sakbin” on her CD Cantiques de l’Orient had two important effects on me: 1.) I was amazed to hear the faith in her voice, and, through the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit, considered that if someone could have such faith, so could I; 2.) led me to think of the East as a possible home, away from what was for me a desert in the West.

4.) St Basil the Great: Particularly his”On the Holy Spirit” is responsible for my looking to the Greek Fathers, and Eastern Orthodoxy as my soul’s home.

5.) Metropolitan Kallistos: in the middle of reading The Orthodox Church, I called to speak to a priest about converting.

6.) Metropolitan John Zizioulas: an Archimandrite friend, one of the first Orthodox priests I got to know in my area, shared with me an article by Zizioulas that he’d translated.

7.) St John of the Ladder: The Ladder of Divine Ascent was my introduction to Orthodox monastic literature.

8.) St Nikodemos the Hagiorite: although The Philokalia was my introduction to, among others, St Maximus the Confessor, I recall an instruction from the Archimandrite I mentioned above: “Well, stop reading about prayer and pray!” That’s something we all need to keep in mind and in heart and in practice!

9.) St Dionysius the Areopagite: Easier to feel than to describe, and that’s the point, isn’t it?

10.) St Ephrem the Syrian: my training in Hebrew led me to a great love of St Ephrem’s form of expression, which is so resonant of the Hebrew psalms.

11.) Fr John Romanides: provided helpful training on understanding the history of the Church, a subject much of which I had to unlearn.

12.) Fr Andrew Louth: someone recommended Discerning the Mystery, and it is an astounding book. I now keep an extra copy of it to give away as the need arises.

13.) Fr Georges Florovsky: the clear-sighted Father of modern times, whose instruction is like refined gold. What skill as a teacher in such difficult times!

14.) St Isaac the Syrian: such a treasury of Orthodoxy and purity of vision toward application in our lives (monastic and not) that I wish I’d run across him much earlier.

15.) Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos: he describes living Orthodoxy in the modern world, right this minute.

I will decline to tag others, as even the appearance of such a chain letter mentality rubs me the wrong way. But that was fun!


    1. Yes, please do! Consider yourself tagged, if that will inspire in you perhaps the slightest scintilla of feeling obliged toward it. Not that you would be, mind you. Yet, I’m sure I will find it interesting.

      I can say I found it remarkable how quickly I thought of fifteen. One thinks fifteen is such a large number for such things, but I had the names all down in about five minutes. Fascinating!

      My list is sure to stick with me. Especially number one!

  1. Kevin,

    Thank you for this list. Since I am not very familiar with the Orthodox Church, I am not familiar with some of the writers you mentioned. In the near future, I will try to read some of the books you mentioned in your post.

    Claude Mariottini

    1. You’re very welcome, Claude!

      Here are links to editions and titles for each, for your convenience:
      1.) I’m sure you have multiple copies of the Bible!
      2.) For Rabbinic literature, Jacob Neusner has translated the entire corpus. It is nearly all published now. In addition to fine, clear translations in a contemporary idiom (neither pedestrian nor elevated), he separates the texts into sense units, using an outline form, which is superior to the traditional citation (which he also includes) by page + recto/verso (e.g. 42a). Two excellent introductions to the works (dates, etc) are Strack/Billerbeck Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, and Neusner’s own Introduction to Rabbinic Literature. I’d read Strack first and then Neusner, and then dive into the translations/originals after that. New Testament scholars are often surprised by how what they’ve been told is “midrash” is actually quite different. In fact, Christian readers in general are often surprised in reading the rabbinic documents, as they are not what they’ve been told they are, a continuing problem.
      3.) Soeur Marie Keyrouz is a Lebanese nun of the Order of St Basil. She sings in Arabic and Syriac. Her website, with discography, is here.
      4.) A fine and nicely portable translation is available in the Popular Patristics Series published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, here.
      5.) Metr Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Church is widely available. (Timothy Ware was his name before taking monastic vows, itself before his ordination.) This book is an excellent place to start your reading on Orthodoxy. It is often paired with his The Orthodox Way.
      6.) Metr John Zizioulas’ collection of articles Being As Communion created something of a storm in European philosophical circles when it was released. It’s somewhat challenging, but rewarding.
      7.) A beautifully produced translation of The Ladder of Divine Ascent is produced by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, and is available from the monastery bookstore.
      8.) The Faber & Faber-published English translation of the Philokalia has Metr Kallistos Ware as its sole surviving participant. The first four volumes have been published (1, 2, 3, 4), but it’s unknown (even to the publisher) whether we’ll have the fifth. Constantine Cavarnos has translated two volumes (available on this page) of selections. The latter translation is superior, though woefully incomplete in the autumn of Dr Cavarnos’ days with us.
      9.) A complete translation of the works attributed to St Dionysius the Areopagite appears in a volume in the “Classics of Western Spirituality” series. The introduction alone is worth the price of admission.
      10.) A large selection of the multitude of St Ephrem the Syrian’s hymns in translation is included in another volume of the “Classics of Western Spirituality” series. Another set of translations is found in the above-mentioned SVS press Popular Patristics Series volume St Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on Paradise. And Sebastian Brock’s book, The Luminous Eye includes a number of translations and a sensitive reading of the Saint’s voluminous work.
      11.) Fr John Romanides’ works are mostly not translated into English, but much is. His Patristic Theology is a classic. A number of Romanides’ articles are available in translation here.
      12.) Fr Andrew Louth’s Discerning the Mystery is now available again in an affordable edition from Eighth Day Press.
      13.) Fr Georges Florovsky’s Collected Works is unfortunately out of print, and the volumes are rare enough to be priced quite high. A good library collection will have the complete set. Various chapters are online. I’m hoping to be able to provide electronic book copies of all these volumes in the near future.
      14.) I’ve posted on English translations (avoid Wensinck!) of St Isaac’s works here before. The post also includes some good books including excerpts from St Isaac. St Isaac the Syrian is often described in terms of being the greatest mystic of the Orthodox Church. I am not one for superlative labels, but St Isaac’s writings truly draw one into a space of genuine self-examination and contemplation, all in the most Christian manner of psychotherapy: the healing of the soul. His writings need to be better available and better known by all Christians. There has been mention that Holy Transfiguration Monastery will soon have a second edition available of the First Series (alone?). We shall see. There has been talk of that for years, with nothing appearing. May my cynicism be promptly proven without merit!
      15.) Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos is very well-known in Greek Orthodox circles, and is becoming more and more well-known in general. A list of his available titles in English translation (and other laguages!) is here. The strength of his teaching lies in its truly Patristic nature, not that he is drawing us backward into a study of ancient Fathers, but that he embodies the Patristic mindset in the modern world, as, of course, the Fathers did in their own day. Three of his books in English are most talked about amongst Greeks whose opinion I value greatly: Orthodox Psychotherapy, The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition, and A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, the “Holy Mountain” being Mount Athos, the monastic republic on the Chalkidike Peninsula in Greece.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Thank you for another wonderful post, Kevin. Your commentaries on the books are very helpful. More to add to the wish list, but Christmas is around the corner along with some extra money for books.

    Thanks to you, yesterday at the monastery I purchased the first slim section of the Evergetinos. I’m about half way through it, and finding it a treasure. I’m also about a third of the way through The Precious Pearl and it too is excellent. So much good literature…but like you said, the reading and doing can get out of balance.

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