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Mirkwood

May 21, 2010

A big part of my journey into the Orthodox Christian Church have been podcasts. They not only introduced me to Orthodoxy, but have been a continued source of education, inspiration and growth in the faith. I have had a lot of my old beliefs blown away, many questions answered, had even more questions come up and have had 2000 years of Christian history opened up to me. I have found that the ancient beliefs of the Church are not some rigid “cage” to be escaped, but a living framework upon which the body grows and lives. I haven’t even listened to a quarter of the podcasts on Orthodoxy that are out there, but the ones I have heard have deeply enriched my life.

To me, the scene in Mirkwood when Bilbo climbs up the tree and sees above the canopy of the forest for the first time, reminds me of how these podcasts first struck me. When Bilbo breaks through, he is able to see a world of beauty, where before he was groping in the dark of the forest, unaware that such beauty was just above his head. I felt like I was groping around in the dark of this world, when I heard of the Orthodox Church, I learned that God was “everywhere present and filling all things”. As such I have become aware of a world I never knew existed. I thought I did, but I really just groped and hoped, so to speak. The podcasts are like a glimpse into that world I never knew was right there.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean that I have become aware of a reality “Up there” that I can cling to “down here”. It’s more like when Elisha prays that his servant would have his eyes opened to see the heavenly host around them.

I would like to share the podcasts with you, along with their general content and how they have effected me, or what have learned from them. I already mentioned  couple of them in earlier posts, but I will include them here, as I only gave them a minor mention.

The first podcast is Journeys To Orthodoxy. This podcast is a series of interviews with people that have come into the Orthodox Church from various backgrounds. I mentioned this one a few posts back. These interviews changed my life by introducing me to Orthodoxy. I originally found them on iTunes, but they have since been taken off. They can be found on the Icon New Media Network website. There are a lot of other good podcast series on that website as well.

The next one I found was Glory To God. This is the podcast version of the blog by Father Stephen Freeman called Glory To God For All Things. They are 5 to 15 minute reflections on the Orthodox Faith. His first several podcast were his thoughts on the two-story universe versus a one-story universe. The idea is that most of Christianity views God as “up there” while we live “down here” (two-story), whereas the Orthodox believe God to be “everywhere present and filling all things” (one-story). I have found Fr Stephens reflections to be very profound and always challenge the way I have viewed things in the past, or the way I have done things. The nice thing is, they are not too long, but packed full of depth.

I think the next one I found was Beyond The Veil by Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou. She is a professor at University of San Diego who teaches a overview course on the Bible. She did her Doctoral Dissertation on the Book of Revelation and translated the first commentary on it by Andrew of Caesurae. This podcast is a study of Revelation from an Orthodox perspective. She completely dismantles the Dispensational view of the Rapture in the first couple podcasts, but switches gears into teaching the general patristic understanding of that book. There are only a dozen podcasts so far and they are slow coming, as she has a pretty busy schedule and another podcast she does. This podcast is on Icon New Media Network. As a former Evangelical, the book of Revelation dominated all other books of the Bible in their importance. Anything that hinted of Amillennialism was suspect. I have come to realize that my former view was attached to another heresy centuries earlier, and that the Church Fathers never interpreted Revelation in a strictly literal fashion.

About the same time I found another one by Presvytera Jeannie on Ancient Faith Radio, called Search The Scriptures. This is a podcast version of the University class she teaches on Introduction to the Bible. It is an overview that covers the Bible and Tradition, translation, canon development, interpretation, etc. The first couple dozen are very in depth, and are about an hour long. She does a study of the Trials of Christ by the Jews, then the Romans. Very fascinating stuff. The podcasts that are overviews of the individual books of the Bible are a mix of patristic (Church Fathers) interpretation and scholarly understanding. All of it is from an Orthodox perspective. This podcast had a huge influence in showing me that the Orthodox Church was not a bunch of superstition and empty ritual, but had an intelligent approach to the Scriptures, as well as a sacramental one. I also learned that the Bible and Tradition are not mutually exclusive, but rather the Bible is a written form of some of the early traditions. Very eye-opening. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Presvytera Jeannie by email. She answered a lot of questions for me, and helped clear up a lot of issues. I have also had the pleasure of attending Liturgy one Sunday, at the parish her husband is the pastor of, in Temecula, CA. It was nice to meet someone face to face, who was shaping my understanding of Orthodoxy.

My friend Shawn Wallace turned me on to a podcast called Speaking The Truth In Love by Fr Thomas Hopko. This is a series of topics and reflections by a retired Orthodox priest and for professor and dean of St Vladamir’s Orthodox Seminary. As my friend Shawn aptly pointed out, “He knows some stuff.” A lot of his podcasts cover the Church Calender. By which I mean he covers a topic, or series of topics, depending on what part of the Church year it is. Some are instructional topics, and others address issues within Orthodoxy that he believes need to change. One of the best (in my opinion) is a series done from Albania. He talked to the Patriarch who went there in 1992, after the communist government once again allowed Christianity to be legal once again (all religions were illegal, actually). Then he talked to missionaries, seminary students and lay-workers. I was excited to hear that Orthodox Christianity has such a great work going on in Albania. One of the main things that helped me past a rocky point was his teaching on the Protoevangelium of James. Someone put a question to me that nearly stumbled me on my journey. An acquaintance pointed me to it when I was wondering if the Orthodox Church bought the account of the protoevangelium as Scripture. Fr Thomas helped me tremendously. It was a stumbling block God used him to help remove from my path.

I found Our Life In Christ and checked it out on a whim. Steve Robinson and Bill Gould are a couple of laymen (I think Steve is a Deacon now) who came out of Evangelicalism to the Orthodox Faith, and had a heart to teach God’s Word. Steve was formerly a pastor, and found radio to be an avenue for his gift to be used. A lot of these podcasts are digitized versions of actual radio broadcasts on a Protestant radio station in the Phoenix, AZ area. They cover a lot of topics, but mostly the basics of the Orthodox Faith. They get very in depth and sometimes take a long time to finish a topic. Actually, this podcast is archived, as they hove not put out a new one in about 18 months. I found this podcast series to be one of the most instructional in my new journey. I would listen to these guys for hours on the way from home to Monterey and back. One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was when they mentioned a monastic teaching that says zeal is not necessarily a godly thing, and may actually be nothing more than the sin of pride. This subject made me seriously examine myself as I sought to enter the Church and take a good hard look at my heart and motives. This really helped me ask for and to seek humility as a catechumen in the Orthodox Church.

About this same time I found one called The Intersection of East and West by Deacon Michael Hyatt, who is also President of Thomas Nelson Publishing. It is a bible study done at his home parish in Nashville, TN. I find it fascinating and encouraging that so many in prominent Protestant circles find their way into Orthodoxy. The most helpful series of lectures have been on the 7 Ecumenical Councils, and the study on For The Life Of The World by Fr Alexander Schmemman. The format is very reminiscent of a Protestant Church Bible Study. But overall, very good.

One of my favorites is The Illumined Heart with Kevin Allen of St Barnabas Church in Irvine, CA. These are mainly interviews of people who have come into Orthodoxy, much like Journeys, only a bit shorter. The very first interview I was able to listen to was a priest named A. James Bernstein. He was raised Jewish, became Christian, helped found Jews For Jesus, then became Orthodox. What I found so intriguing was that he had come from Judaism. As a person with some ethnic Jewish background, I wondered about if there were really any ancient Jewish roots within the Orthodox Church. After listening to Fr James, I knew that the Orthodox claims to Apostolic Tradition must be true. There were many other interviews that impacted my journey, but Fr James’ has been the most profound for me. I bought Fr James’s book Surprised By Christ and read it. It is an excellent read and I recommend it to anyone considering the Orthodox Church, especially a Jewish person, or Evangelical Protestant of a pro-Israel persuasion.

Next are the two series by Fr Andrew Steven Damick: Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy & Roads From Emmaus. The first is a sort of comparative religions study, comparing all in contrast to Orthodoxy. I found the roots of Protestantism in the US to be most fascinating. I have come to understand my upbringing a lot better. The second covers various topics. They seem to both be in the format of a lecture series, and/or a bible study at the parish. They don;t have a lot of podcasts yet, but I look forward to Fr Andrew’s teaching every time the podcast renews.

The Path and The Saint of the Day are both excellent resources. The Path is the daiey Lectionary reading of the Epistle and Gospel readings, with a patristic commentary. It is nice to both hear the Word and read it daily. Saint of the Day simply reads an excerpt from the daily commemoration of the saint remembered by the Church on that given day of the year. Very good to learn the lives of those who have gone on and conquered before us.

There are so many other great podcsts that I have not been able to check out so far. Most can be accessed on the iTunes store under Ancient Faith Radio, Icon New Media Network, or Orthodox Christian Network. I hope these few are a blessing to some of you, as they have been to me. I also hope that you find many more.

Additionally, I wanted to say that the videos on the right, listed as “Our Journey Home” parts 1, 2 & 3 are the conversion stories of my parish priest and his wife. Check them out. They are fascinating. He is a very pastoral and kind priest. I really appreciate his ministry within our parish.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sean permalink
    May 22, 2010 1:20 pm

    I happen to have met briefly with the Archbishop of Albania and I have also read a lot about his work. A wonderful theologian and an enthusiastic missionary. Yet, the first thing that comes in your mind when you meet him is how kind and gentle and loving he is. There is an article about him written in 2002 by Jim Forest, that says a lot about what kind of a man, a christian and a bishop he is:

    http://www.orthodoxalbania.org/English/Archbishop/AB%20Forest1.htm

    (The whole article is 7 parts)

    • May 22, 2010 2:30 pm

      Cool. Thanks for that. I will check it out. I thoroughly enjoyed his interview. A very godly man, he seemed to me.

      • Sean permalink
        May 23, 2010 3:21 am

        I can assure you, he is. In the very best sense of the word.

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