Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 27, 2008

Stumbling Upon the Living God

I came to this Church in part in search for the Living God. “Gee… didn’t know he was… like dead or anything.” Yep. Neither did I… but folks seemed to act that way, and in truth, I guess I realized I did, too. How that changed is a step-by-step process that if I really knew all the steps, well… I wouldn’t be stuck in my fakin’ it two-step shuffle along. But that’s not really why I bring this up.

I bring up the “The Living God” because I just received this two-volume set by that name. It’s a catechism translated from the French by Olga Dunlop and put out by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. So far, it seems exceedingly good. The ambition for the group of Orthodox priests that wrote it was to explain Orthodoxy through prayers, scripture, icons and liturgy to a Western audience. The catechism focuses on Orthodoxy’s ecclessial nature. And I like it.

I like it because so far, unlike so many others, it seems to strike out for a definition that stands on its own rather than attempting a compare-and-contrast approach that would risk polemics, or a here-are-the-elements approach that could risk systemization or philosophy. No, “The Living God” is a narrative told in music, psalm, scripture, and picture (icon). It lacks the body language… but what’s a two-dimensional guy to do? About the only nice-to-have I can think of would be a coffee-table-size version in full color on fine high contrast paper…. like an art book. My reason for suggesting this is that the icons in B&W are sometimes harder to see (too small or too dark) and this might have overcome that… but hey… you go with what you’ve got. And most folks don’t expect anything French to sell too well here in the States…. tradition or something.

Anyway, I expect to post more on this as I progress…. and like all my other intentions – yeah… I hope so. But for now I am curious whether anyone else has visited these pages.


  1. I have read both volumes in their entirety, and I can testify that they are indeed outstanding, for the reasons that you stated. This would be an excellent set of books to use as the basis for a catechumen/inquirers’ class.

    May the Lord bless you.

  2. Thank you, Father.

    Appreciate your insight on this, too. Not sure this would be my first recommendation to an inquirer… I think sticking with Ware’s “The Orthodox Church” remains a good way to go. Then maybe the Hopko series.. and then on to this.

    Just seems there’s a lot of “stuff” we have to work through as we try to enter the church! Some of this is just cruising to get to the “all clear” button, dump the baggage, and then we can settle to a point where we’re hearing less static and more signal. Kind of think this series comes in handy there. But defer to the more experienced.

  3. Hi Jtth, I got the books a few years ago and liked them a lot, but I had been Orthodox a while so I kind of “got” it because I was familiar with the liturgical cycle. I think it would be a great first year after reception continuing education text, but handing it cold to someone just walking in the door…I think it assumes too much and you’d be trying to explain things that someone had never seen or heard before THEN trying to make the point of what that means in the life of the Church. But, that said…depending on how a class was structured they could be used, they are excellent resources.

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