1. Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios by Elder Porphyrios
What can I say about a book that so completely transformed my mindset? I bought this book in Toronto during a seven hour stop over my husband and I had on our way to Seoul, South Korea in 2006. The flight from Toronto to Japan was something like seventeen hours. I didn’t sleep at all. I just read this book. This book is a prime example of how much one can learn from a saint’s intense devotion to Christ. The Elder’s simple but wise words and stories, his own simple manner and lifestyle transform the reader’s mindset toward hardships, illnesses, relationships, and all things in between. By reading this book I think I caught a glimpse of what it really means to be “wounded” by His love.
2. Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast by Elder Joseph
In his Confessions St. Augustine says, “Late have I loved You, Beauty so ancient and so new,” and I came to understand just how late I had come to loving the True Christ through reading this book. I received it as a Christmas gift in 2005. This book, or rather the words of this elder, are the reason I became Orthodox. I had wanted to be Orthodox for a while before reading this, but once I read it I could no longer deny what my heart was so strongly yearning for. The height of the Elder’s intense love conveyed in his letters is only matched by the strictness with which he dealt with himself and his synodia; knowing his reputation for extreme austerity lends a hint at his great love.
3. The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos compiled and edited by Holy Apostles Convent
I always say this is my favourite book and I think that is because I love the subject matter so much – the Mother of our God. This book is a composition of various writings by the Holy Fathers on the Mother of God, the information – edited so as to read in chronological order – is taken from the hymnography of the Church, treaties, homilies, and other sources. I bought it Pascha, 2006. It’s a whole life of the Theotokos, beginning from before she was born and ending with the story of how Mount Athos came to be known as her “garden”. For anyone wanting to know more about our beloved Mother, or anyone who knows most of her biography but would just love to occupy their thoughts and time with stories of her, this is for you.
4. The Purple Mantle by Aliki Kafetzopoulou
Although I’m in the process of re-reading this book in the hopes of writing a proper book review, I must include it here as I found it one of the greatest books for being able to completely capture your senses and draw you into a time and place very far away from our modern world. It also kindles a fire in your heart for struggling harder to love Christ more than mother, father, husband, etc. Truly, we are not worthy of Him if we are not willing to give up everything and everyone for His sake. This book brings this difficult teaching to life and presents it in such a way that it inspires you to strive for that goal, rather than feel discouraged you haven’t yet reached it.
I read this last summer while we were home in Canada. The sisters lent me their monastery’s library copy. The book offers a realistic insight into the unseemly state of certain aspects of Russian monasticism at that time in history, but also an incredible, intimate look at the life of a great female saint of our century. Abbess Thaisia describes miraculous events in her life, beginning at an early age, offering us a foundation for understanding just how high this saint’s spirituality soared. Her advice to her nuns to remain humble and simple, and all the other wonderful things she taught and wrote, are just as applicable to the layman’s life in our modern world as they were to the nun’s life in nineteenth century Russia.
6. Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters by Elder Paisios the Athonite
This book is a wonderful collection of stories about different holy fathers Elder Paisios the Athonite either knew personally or heard of who lived and struggled in the “Garden of the Panagia,” Mount Athos. Most stories are incredibly inspiring, while some offer firm warnings on the dangers of delusion and disobedience. This is the book I hope my book, The Scent of Holiness, resembles most. Although my book is told from my
worldly perspective, I would like to believe the quality of stories, the lessons and holy individuals I describe, will be at least one tenth as inspiring as the Elder’s stories are in this book.
I love reading about what books others like to read almost as much as I love reading books. So, I’d love to hear your favourites.