I know...I’m a slow reader. But I did get “Cloud of Witnesses” by David N. Bell finished and I thought I ‘d share a few thoughts about it.
First of all, for a book about church history and theology it is very readable and non technical for us layman and it is at times funny. (That’s always a plus for me). I like how the author handles church history honestly, not painting a perfect picture because, of course, the Church isn’t perfect. The description of Constatine comes to mind. He honestly tells of all the good he did for the church- making Christianity legal is pretty cool, don’t you think?- but he admits his flaws and his sins- And by the way, what’s with him getting baptized by an Arian Bishop, anyway?
David Bell covered the council of Nicea extensively and talked about all the early important Church Fathers and their contribution to Christian Doctrine. Again, this could have been presented in a very dry, academic way but, thankfully, was not- it was thoroughly readable and I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to get a brief overview of Church Doctrine.
One thing I know very little about is the council of Calcedon and the departure of the Coptics, Armenians and some other group I don’t now quite remember. The sad thing is from what I understand today, the Eastern Orthodox church is in discussion with these groups and both sides have concluded they believe the same thing...so why are we not in communion with each other? I know, Orthodoxy is all about being patient! I must admit that while I was reading about the disagreement, I did have trouble keeping it strait. What exactly were they fighting about? Other than 1054 AD, this was the biggest split ever. I do want to learn more about it, though.
So now I started reading “Way of the Pilgrim” which is about the Jesus prayer. This could be very helpful (and convicting!) and I am looking forward to reading it. I have been using my chotki more (gift from Deacon Ken) and it is amazing how such a tool, if I may call it that, is helpful in prayer.
With money I got from my birthday, I purchased an Orthodox Study Bible, Old and New testaments. I want all out and got the cool leather one. I am right now reading the Wisdom of Sirach. (Since I am now 50, I feel as if I have to make up for lost time so I am now reading the books I once rejected as apocryphal). I am also following the daily lectionary and using the St Philip’s Prayer Manuel and common Discipline from the Fellowhsip of St. John the Divine for my daily prayer rule.
Two weeks ago I didn’t go to Vespers because I was spending time with my wife whom I hadn’t seen due to our very busy lives and last week I didn’t go because I was working 12 hour shifts at the Air Force and was, frankly, quite exhausted. This Friday, I officially retire from the Air Force. (My last work day with them was Sunday) so I should have more time and less exhaustion to pursue other things. I know I don’t owe you, dear reader, an explanation as to my church attendance but I thought I’d give it anyway. I am serious about Orthodoxy and hope to work through all I have to in order to convert.
So, God willing, I will be in Vespers this Saturday.