65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book destined to become a classic
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...
Published on November 4, 2007 by Jim Forest
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best for Last
In the very first pages Archimandrite Webber sets what he calls the foundation for the rest of the book to come. This foundation is one of the various paradigms, hierarchies, or anatomies of the soul's powers or faculties. He chose an anatomy which I have only heard of a few times and only by very few scholars. Of the various paradigms he chose, what I believe to be the...
Published on June 15, 2010 by Theophan Edwards
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book destined to become a classic,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (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.
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound but eminently approachable introduction to the goals and means of Orthodox spirituality,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (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. If you want a gentle and friendly--but still rigorous and spiritually challenging--introduction to the Orthodox faith, but find Frederica Matthewes-Green's books too cutesy (and nothing against Matushka, she focuses on her own important demographic), Fr. Meletios Webber's book is well worth reading.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Gift,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (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.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A significant volume, getting to the heart of the faith!,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (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.
The book is divided into two parts. The first, "Life is a Mystery," discusses the mind, heart, mystery, our relationship with God, distraction and prayer, making a sanctified effort, the sanctification of time, sacred places, and icons and the incarnation. The second part, "The Mysteries of the Church," discusses the Mysteries (often called "the sacraments") including birth and baptism, chrismation, Holy Communion, confession and forgiveness, anointing of the sick, marriage and ordination.
The first section alone is worth the purchase price of the book, and shows clearly how an Orthodox Christian mindset (or rather "heart") is different in many ways from what we may have learned in Western Christianity. At first I had trouble seeing how the second part of the book connected to the first, but in the end it works together beautifully.
I highly recommend this book to my fellow converts to the Orthodox Christian faith, as well as to inquirers, catechumens and others who would be interested in looking past the outward trappings of Orthodoxy to see how a relationship with God in this context can transform the heart.
I'll close with a quote from the last paragraph of the book, which more or less summarizes what it's all about:
"It is worth remembering that it is the act of seeking the place of the heart which is our goal, our highest aspiration, not the actual finding of it. It is the journey, not the destination, which is of utmost importance."
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get out of your head and into your heart.,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)After the first couple chapters of Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Archimandrite Meletios Webber--Fr. Mel to those he pastors--you are not quite sure if you are in an Esalen yoga retreat class or a Marin County spirituality workshop in the 70s. Yes, this is definitely a "get out of your head and into your heart" kind of book. At the same time it makes for classical eastern Orthodox scholarship. Though a down to earth book, those I feel will be attracted to this work are the rather heady, bookish sort. If so, this volume will serve as good medicine for the right folk.
Webber starts out letting us know that the West got lost pretty much at the trailhead in matters of the head and heart. He translates nous as heart and not mind. He points us to a Philokalia directive of St. Markarios that the nous is indeed the "eye of the heart"; and of St. Diadochos (5th Cent.) that it is this nous business which is a key anchor point of our lives if our spirituality is to work--"innermost aspect of the heart". Here we plug into and stay connected to our true selves and into each other, how we best commune and communicate with self, our fellows and with God. Webber addresses well the disintegration, fragmentation and estrangement that plagues us and our often limping religiosity.
His call for us to return to the heart and to experience and to mystery is accompanied by a parallel warning. Danger ahead is the bodiless mind embracing and theologically fatal path of dualism (body bad; spirit good) endemic in the West. The tone of Webber's book is refreshing, like the way he suggests that perhaps calling our bishop "your eminence" might be a bit dated.
If you are an academic, you might be offended at his style as Webber works to keep things simple. He tells fun stories yet he is far from an Erma Bombeck protégé. Those under the author's tutelage will tell you he's a man of letters. He retired (in a ceremony hosted by Kallistos Ware, his mentor) in recent years as a parish priest to write. Yet God yanked him back into the pastorate to serve as head of a dozen or so monks at St. John's Monastery near Redding where he leads a group of rather bookish monks previously lead by the new Metropolitan of the OCA. Hopefully Achmandrite Webber's contemplative digs of late will yield many more such helpful books. Fr. Melitos has a Greek background yet as a Celtic redhead convert to the Eastern church he has a British humor and an Oxford head on his shoulders which brings a good mix that comes together well in his writing.
I liked this book better than the one on sobriety and the 12 steps. In both Webber is at the same time simple and complex. This book on the Sacraments soulfully explores the mystical theology of the Eastern church. Not surprising as I'm told the predecessor and founder of the monastery Fr. Meletios now shepherds came to the East through Lossky 's book by that same title. This is good. I look for many other helpful titles from this Orthodox author.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Reflections,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)Bread & Water, Wine & Oil provides sustenance for the soul. I found the book to be wise, profound and eminently practical. Webber has a fine-tuned mind and a fluid way with words. I cannot recommend this book enough.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The new introductory text for Orthodoxy?,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)This book is a very good introduction to the Orthodox Christian experience of God. It is divided into two parts: the first is entitled, "Life as Mystery," while the second is called "The Mysteries of the Church." In my opinion, the first part makes this read worth your time, and chapters one and two alone are worth the purchase price of the book! The author's psychological training is very evident during his discussion of "The Mind, the Heart & Mystery," and his elaboration upon the difference between the functions of the mind and the heart opened my eyes on the topic like no other theological text. The portion of the book dealing with the mysteries of the Church is, quite frankly, less distinctive than the author's treatment of "Life as Mystery," given that the material is covered elsewhere in classic texts by Bishop Ware (The Orthodox Church: New Edition) and Protopresbyter Schmemann (For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy). The virtue of this work is that it combines a prolegomena to Orthodox theology with a tour of what western Christians would call the sacraments of the Church, which would be particularly useful for a catechumen or someone looking at Orthodoxy from the outside. If you are new to Orthodoxy (or on the outside looking in, as I am) and have not read Ware or Schmemann, I highly recommend this book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Wonderful,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)This is the best, the gentlest book I have ever read as an introduction to Orthodoxy. I want to read it until I remember every word. Orthodox Christianity can be difficult for a Western Christian to understand but this volume is the remedy for such confusion. Simply a wonderful, wonderful book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Author Update,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)I just had the pleasure of having Fr. Webber speaking at our clergy retreat this week. He's had the wonderful opportunity of having been nurtured at Oxford along with Archbishop Anthony Bloom (of blessed memory), Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Nicholas Zernov, Archimandrite Sophrony, and others. It's too bad that most of you do not have the opportunity to experience him in person. His humble demeanor and British wit is very endearing. This book is the next best thing. I did want to update the bio for him; he is currently serving as the abbot for the St. John of San Francisco monastery in northern California.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good foundation book,
This review is from: Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God (Paperback)I really liked the simplicity of this book. Archimandrite Meletios Webber takes you through many of the foundational beliefs of the Orthodox system. It doesn't get too watered down on some of the more complex topics nor too complicated. Just a good overall look at what entails one as a believer.
He also gives some insight into how the Orthodox faith approaches some of today's questions that spiritual seekers have. If you want a nice read and some basics of faith this book will work. Regardless of your denomination, this book can bring about some insight with its overall message.
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Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God by Meletios Webber (Paperback - October 9, 2007)