A dear family member asked me to compile an ordered list of books one should read in order to become theologically informed and patristically rooted. By the time I was done, I realized that what I wrote resembled a letter more so than a list. I thought it would be worth sharing with my larger family here at Humanity Vivified. To ease getting these books, I included a link so you can purchase them right if they seem a good fit for your sacred journey with God.
One must begin with the cleansing of the mind and heart before they are ready to receive God in their inner being which is the main objective or telos of theology. To this end, one would begin with the preaching of the Church on what it means to be Christian. Readings for this aspect of Christian learning include:
Matthew 5-8 (Christ’s Sermon on the Mount)
Acts 2:14-47 (The sermon of Peter)
Acts 6:8 – 7:53 (The sermon of Stephen)
Acts 17:22-34 (The sermon of Paul)
On the Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus of Lyons
Give me a Word: The Alphabetical Sayings of the Desert Fathers
On Wealth and Poverty by St. John Chrysostom
On Social Justice by St. Basil the Great
On Marriage and Family Life by St. John Chrysostom
The Way of a Pilgrim
Life of Moses by St. Gregory of Nyssa
Reading those wont miraculously turn us into prayerful beings with all our passions eradicated from our hidden man of the heart but will certainly give us the tools to get there. The aforementioned books help us cultivate wisdom and live Christianly. Once we are seriously working on ourselves, we can move to the theology of contemplation of God which answers the following questions: Who is Christ? Who is God? How do we understand the Trinity? What is the Church (and sacraments)? Who are we as members of the Church in relation to God?
Readings for this aspect of Christian learning include:
The Gospel of John
Catechetical Discourse by St. Gregory of Nyssa
Lectures on Christian Sacraments by St. Cyril of Jerusalem
On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius of Alexandria
On the Human Condition by St. Basil the Great
Works on the Spirit by St. Athanasius of Alexandria and Didymus the Blind
On God and Man by St. Gregory the Theologian
On God and Christ by St. Gregory the Theologian
On the Unity of Christ by St. Cyril of Alexandria
I pray that you enjoy your journey of knowledge of God with the saints who wrote these discourses and were well pleasing to Him. These books explore the mystery that is hidden from before all ages, yet the mystery is never wholly revealed. If it is wholly revealed, it ceases to be precisely that, a mystery. The mystery is best lived rather than revealed; and it is best lived before God in one’s icon corner with our eyes closed contemplating God in silence away from all words and formulations accepting His uncreated grace that works our unity with Him forever. Words, formulations, and books are only the beginning. I do not claim to have reached that, but it is the promise of these saints that eventually we will join their fellowship and attain the promised union with God.
Andrew N. A. Youssef”
Note: All the books selected here are before any substantial schism has taken place in Church history. This is the deposit of faith which all Apostolic Christians can (or at least should) agree on. The only exception is Way of the Pilgrim which is a classic novel exploring the Christian life of ceaseless prayer.