Visitors of Ellopos Blog ask to know what books would be more appropriate for them in order to gain a better understanding of the Orthodox spirituality. I would not classify this question as ‘illegal’, but it contains something repulsive, suggesting the idea that we can understand Orthodoxy from a book.
A book may help at the right time, to some extent, and again, not everyone, but one who can get such an assistance. Which book that might be, depends on age, general interests, character, etc., in conjunction with the conditions above. Saying these I’d like to warn parents in particular, to not think that if something prevents their child, this must be certainly the lack of study or ignorance of the ‘best’ book, in order for them not to be tortured how to turn their child’s attention to the reading of a book.
If, weighing the circumstances, they infer that a book would indeed be useful to their child or friend, then, as a general counsel, I would suggest the giving of books that they read and admire themselves – not what an ‘expert’ recommends, because with a gift we convey also our own relationship with this gift, so that even on a good book, if we give it being ourselves irrelevant, we graft our irrelevance onto it. I remind that we don’t discuss about medical or legal knowledge, but for things that do not have their substance objective.
Another important rule is not to give to an atheist or enemy of faith and religion, works of the Fathers, no matter how much we admire these works. The very fact that these works come immediately from a religious environment, would make them appear to their recipient as ‘fanatical’ and unreliable, if not completely insignificant. This would harm the value of the Fathers in the mind of such persons, so that even if they changed their mind later on, a depreciation would continue to exist, probably for a long time.
We don’t talk with anyone about issues we consider as valuable, but only with those we are absolutely certain they will respect what we respect, they will share the same feelings, and even then, only at the right time, and rarely.
It is evident from these, that I can not recommend books as gifts to others. To whoever have the question stated at the beginning, seeking to support themselves, I’ll try to talk about books that I would give them if I knew them, and according to my specific knowledge about them.
Cf. OnLine: Schmemann, A History of the Orthodox Church
To an atheist who, despite his atheism, would ask to be ‘informed’ about Orthodoxy, I would suggest the reading Plato. If even Plato fails to make him understand that atheism is identical with stupidity, why should I expect for him to find a better help elsewhere? On the other hand, if his lack of thinking made him despise Plato, at least I saved him from despising the major, namely Orthodoxy.