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Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God Paperback – November 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Fr. Meletios Webber is an Orthodox priest, and resides in the Netherlands. He graduated with a degree in theology from the University of Oxford. Fr. Mel also has a doctorate in counseling and many years of experience as a therapist. He is the author of Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Examines the Twelve Steps (Conciliar Press, 2003).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Conciliar Press; 1st edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888212918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888212914
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Jim Forest on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
A key passage at the beginning of "Bread and Water, Wine and Oil" focuses on the on the Orthodox use of the word "mystery":

"One of the most noticeable features of Eastern Christianity is that it is this word, `mystery,' rather than the word `sacrament,' which describes those actions of God which have a specific, decisive and eternal significance in the lives of those who take part in them. Everyday substances -- oil, water, bread, wine -- together with simple actions -- offering, blessing, washing, anointing -- become the means by which God intervenes in our lives. These interventions -- in which God does all the work, and our only contribution is to be prepared and present -- color and shape our lives beyond the extent that would be possible through any human encounter. However, unlike most human interactions, they do not take us from a place of ignorance to a place of knowledge. Rather, the Mysteries lead us deeper and deeper into the Mystery -- the Mystery which is the presence of God Himself."

Mystery, in the Orthodox sense, has nothing to do with mystery novels and films. The divine mystery has no solution. As the author writes:

"In the East, on the other hand, a mystery is an area where the human mind cannot go, and where the heart alone makes sense, not by `knowing,' but by ;being.' The Greek word mysterion leads you into a sense of `not-knowing' or `not-understanding' and leaves you there. All a person can do is gaze and wonder; there is nothing to solve."

Father Meletios's book is a profoundly challenging book about the journey from the mind (always struggling to explain, solve and de-mystify, yet always seething with emotions and passions) to the depths of the heart, the center of being rather than of knowing.

"Bread and Water, Wine and Oil" seems likely to become a Christian classic, the sort of book the reader returns to again and again and keeps recommending to friends.
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Format: Paperback
In BREAD & WATER, WINE & OIL Father Meletios Webber offers an explanation of aspects of Orthodox faith that benefits from his individual experiences. An English convert to Orthodoxy, Fr Meletios also has training as a psychologist. Initially Fr Meletios both applies psychological concepts to the Orthodox faith, which we modern people might swiftly understand, and sets the secular science of psychology in harmony with the teaching of the Church Fathers. He draws a distinction between the "mind", our ways of thinking which can only distract us from religious faith, and the "heart" (his translation of Greek nous), a human being's deeper insight. Orthodox practice, Fr. Meletios explains, is directed towards nourishing the heart, creating nothing less than a relationship with God, and its rich symbolism of bread and water, wine and oil serve that end. Part I clarifies issues of prayer, fasting (why and how do we fast?), the use of icons, and the church building. In Part II, each of the Orthodox sacraments receives its own chapter. Fr. Meletios walks through the steps of the church's ceremonies surrounding these, explaining the equally vital but distinct roles of both clergy and people in each. For converts coming from denominations without a sacramental tradition, this will prove very helpful to understanding what all is going on in church.

As a catechumen in the Orthodox Church with training in Classical Greek and an academic bent, I've read dozens of books on Orthodox practice written in specialist terminology and abundantly footnoted. But few books have impressed me as much as Fr. Meletios' work here, which casts greater light on Orthodoxy for the Western convert with the most simple of tones.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Manis on January 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend "Bread & Water, Wine & Oil." Father Meletios states it best: "We (Orthodox Christians) identify ourselves most clearly by being quite sure who we are not." True to his "who we are not" theme, Father Meletios explores every dimension of Orthodoxy and its Mysteries, and richly interprets the almost unexplainable. Anyone seeking Orthodoxy will find his engaging style, and clarity of thought about Orthodox teachings most illuminating and spiritually eloquent. Those already engaged in the Orthodox spiritual life will be refreshed with deeper understanding. His genuine and practical anecdotes connect an ancient Faith with modern life, ever so adeptly. Father Meletios' writings are an immeasurable gift to his readers, and I am grateful for his monumental effort. This book is to be read carefully and savored. It is a treasure; certainly it will be an enduring one. Thank you, Father Mel, from one of the lucky ones who has grown under your spiritual guidance.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By X. Libris on July 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Bread & Water, Wine &, Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God, by Archimandrite Meletios Webber

This is a significant book, one that could only be written by someone who has not only studied, but lived the Orthodox Christian faith for more than 35 years. I purchased my copy of "Bread & Water, Wine & Oil" in 2008 at the monastery in northern California where, less than a year later, Archimandrite Meletios would be installed as abbot. This says something about the respect that the Orthodox Church has for the ministry of this monk, priest, psychologist and author, who replaced the founding abbot after his elevation as Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America.

I first encountered the work of Archimandrite Meletios when I read his excellent examination of the Twelve Steps (Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.) entitled "Steps of Transformation." Shortly after reading that book several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear him speak at a local retreat.

What makes this book significant is that the author shows how God can use very ordinary, but essential, elements such as bread, water, wine and oil, not to mention fallible human beings, in order to draw us into his presence in a profound way. This book is all about getting out of the head and into the heart, which is what the great mystical writers have been pointing to throughout Christian history.

It is not surprising that this volume was published by Conciliar Press, well known for producing materials by, about and for converts to the Orthodox Christian faith. Many of us converts studied our way into the faith, examining things like Church history, theology and the Scriptures to find our way "home." What sets this volume apart is that the author moves us from the head knowledge into the heart.
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