Books And Orthodoxy: A Journey Home
By Jeremy Taluzek
I had spent several years in total darkness before I found Holy Orthodoxy—or rather, before Holy Orthodoxy found me. High school, as I am sure it is for many people, was a very painful and confusing experience for me. This is not to say that I have no good memories of it, but I was not able to enjoy it with peace of heart; I left the Evangelical Protestant church of my youth and embraced varying forms of atheism and nihilism. I cut myself off from Christ, and suffered many trials for it. And then I met this wonderful girl named Eleni Franck, and she told me that she was Greek Orthodox.
I replied, “Ortho-who? Are you Jewish?”
I began reading about this mysterious religion on Wikipedia, and was very intrigued by what I read. So I read more things. And became more intrigued. And then I eventually worked up the guts to ask her if she would take me to church some Sunday, and she was more than happy to do so. The first liturgy I attended at Sts. Constantine & Helen was a very baffling experience for me, because I had no idea what to expect. But it intrigued me even more, and I kept at my reading. Then she took me to Pascha, and to borrow the words of Clark Wilson, “It was like a two-by-four to the face.” Something in my heart was telling my brain, Take this seriously! I soon after picked up a copy of Bishop Kallistos Ware’s book, The Orthodox Church, from Eleni’s parish bookstore, and began studying a bit more seriously.
And then God in his grace led me to St. Luke’s through the PADS program, and I informed Father Andrew of my interest in Orthodoxy. One of the first things he did was wisely point me to the School of the Seventy board, explaining the system of books and points and worksheets. I thought to myself, Perfect! I had been reading various books about Orthodoxy before entering the School, but now I had a guided list of books to investigate. It was also the first step in making me feel at home in the parish, though I have only just realized that now. And what a wonderful home it is!
The School of the Seventy has been very important for my catechesis, because it has led me to read such books as The Faith by Clark Carlton, Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gillquist, and Let Us Attend! by Fr. Lawrence Farley. By far the most important, though, has been Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s masterpiece, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, which I never would have read, had not it been recommended by the School. My heart is flooded with joy every time I think about this book, because its wisdom seems to me to be boundless. It is a perfect showcase of Orthodox spirituality pertaining to Great Lent and Pascha; his exposition on the fall as “living to eat” rather than “eating to live” has made me very excited to enter the Lenten fast that is now upon us. This book also made me realize that I very poorly understood (and understand) the depth of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s gift of eternal life, and has been extremely uplifting, instructional, and edifying. I heartily recommend this book to everyone who wants to appreciate Lent in all of its splendor and richness, and the very heart of the Orthodox Faith. If you can’t spare the $14, I will be more than happy to lend you my copy!
Thank you, Else, for running such a wonderful program! It has really helped me to grow in faith, in ways that I am still uncovering! God bless you and the School of the Seventy, and to Father Andrew and St. Luke’s for bringing me home! God pay you all back your kindness.