Christian Classics Study Group

Holy Trinity in Utrecht has different speakers come to bring to life some of the great Christian writers and their works over the centuries. We have sessions every few months. 

Next session: Lectionaries in our Church
led by Rev David Phillips
6:30pm Friday 5 April, AD 2019

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Next session: Learning the Gospel by Heart
led by Anna van Laere
6:30pm Friday 7 December, AD 2018

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Next session: Irenaeus: On the Apostolic Preaching
led by the Rev Dr Jos Strengholt
6:30pm Friday 9 November, AD 2018

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Next session: Two Nights on Polycarp
led by the Rev Dr Jos Strengholt
8:00pm Wednesday 6 June, AD 2018
6:30pm Friday 29 June, AD 2018

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Next session: The Epistle of Barnabas
led by the Rev Dr Jos Strengholt
6:30pm Friday 13 April, AD 2018

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Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses
led by the Rev Dr Jos Strengholt
8:00pm Wednesday 21 March, AD 2018

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The Heidelberg Catechism
led by Martine Oldhoff
6:30pm Friday 9 February, AD 2018

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The Mystical dimension of the Liturgy
led by Dr Ineke Cornet
6:30pm Friday 13 October, AD 2017

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The Abolition of Man
led by David Dodds
6:30pm Friday 26 May, AD 2017

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Hadewijch: Writings of a Love Mystic
led by Renske Hoff
6:30pm Friday 3 February, AD 2017

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Julian of Norwich: The Revelations of Divine Love
6:30pm Friday, June 17, AD 2016 (St Alban’s Day)

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CCSG-RussianChurch (1)

19th Century Russian
Christian Classics
Friday January 15, AD 2016

Our next Christian Classics Study Group is next Friday January 15 6:30-9:30pm at the parsonage Hall.   Erik Heemskerk will introduce and guide our discussion.

1.  Erik will give a brief introduction to what is characteristic about modern (19th) Russian Literature and what is particular about its Orthodox Christian character.

2.  We look primarily at The Grand Inquisitor, which is an extract from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s celebrated novel, The Brothers Karamazof.  It can  download free here in English Translation:
or at
Here is a dramatization with John Gielgud on YouTube!
Here is a German audio recording.
(Here’s a short 6 minute YouTube video of Rowan Williams speaking about Dostoevsky.)

CCSG-tolstoy_1591046c3.  We will look also at some short stories by Leo Tolstoy (freely available English translations downloadable at these sites):
– Fr Sergius
English text:
An audio version in (American) English:
There is also a Russian 1918 silent film adaptation (with English subtitles that can be turned on or off):

– Master and Servant
An audio version in (American) English on YouTube is found here or on Libravox in German here.

Erik writes that,

“I’ve also been thinking about which story from Tolstoy is best to pick, because a lot of his stories are quite straight forward and have just a very good point. But I think these two (noted above) are both beautiful to read and interesting to discuss.

“I think the amount of pages to read will be around 170, so I think that’s enough to have good discussion and not too much to read.

“I had quite a lot of trouble making my choice.  So maybe we can suggest other stories which are not obliged reading. Like The Death of Ivan Ilyich, about which I have heard that it’s obliged in a philosophical medical course at the University.”
See English text here:
See Audio in (American) English:

We begin with dinner at 6:30pm, discussion 8 to 9:30, concluding with fellowship.
All are most welcome!

Please let Hanna know if you’re coming so we can plan the dinner.

Erik Heemskerk, is our Student Ministry Coordinator, and will be leading our next Christian Classics Study Group.  Erik is finishing his bachelor’s degree in Law and History and hopes to start his Master’s degree in International Relations in February.  

Ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire England

Aelred of Rievaulx:
“Spiritual Friendship”
Friday Nov 20, AD 2015

We have had a break from our Study Group over the summer, but will return on Friday, November 20th to look at Aelred of Rievaulx’s great work called “Spiritual Friendship”.  Aelred was the Abbot from 1147 to 1167 of the great English Cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx, near York in the North of England.

From the back cover of a translation comes this description:
“In a three-book Ciceronian dialogue Aelred defines human friendship as sacramental, beginning in creation, as God sought to place his own love of society in all his creatures, linking friends to Christ in this life and culminating in friendship with God in beatitude.”  Aelred, like all of the Early Church Fathers, considered what the Greek philosophers had to say on important subjects and then built on that knowledge from the gift of divine revelation in Scripture.

This work on spiritual friendship is key to understanding and improving relations between spouses and all friendships and to understanding the relation between our friendships here on earth and our love for God.

An English translation of this work by Lawrence C Braceland is available through Amazon, and other translations are also available. More information will soon be available on our website.

We begin with dinner at 6:30pm, discussion 8 to 9:30, concluding with fellowship. All are most welcome!

Please let Hanna know if you’re coming so we can plan the dinner.

clement 1The letter of Clement to the Corinthians.
Friday June 26, 6:30pm

Peter Boswick will lead us in a discussion of this very early Christian writing by St Clement.

St Clement of Rome was an early bishop, perhaps even appointed as Bishop of Rome by St Peter himself in the late 1st century.  This written work attributed to him is the earliest of Christian works preserved (Probably between 70-100 AD), and counted among the works written by those who are called the Apostolic Fathers, i.e. those who knew the Apostles.  In many churches at the time this letter was used as scripture in the church.

The Letter, which is actually from the Church in Rome, draws a beautiful picture of early Christian church life.  Just as today, being church together wasn’t always easy.  The Church in Corinth was divided.  And Clement tried to show them the way back to unity.  Clement speaks about:

(a) the key threat to church unity,
(b) the essence and expression of this unity in the church,
(c) and he commends a way to restoration to church unity.

Definitely something we can learn from.

Here is the letter to Clement in a modern translation with Peter Boswijk’s own divisions of the text to help in understanding the arguments of the letter:

1 Clement (in Word)   1 Clement (in PDF)

However, there are other good translations in English or in Dutch.

Here are some additional links suggested by David Dod (thanks!):

We begin with dinner at 6:30pm, discussion from 8 to 9:30, and concluding with a time of fellowship.  All are most welcome.

Please let Hanna know if you’re coming so we can plan the dinner.


Boethius being recalled to himself by Lady Wisdom & Fortuna turning her wheel

The Consolation
of Philosophy
by Boethius
Fri Mar 6, AD 2015

The next text we are considering is a famous  work by Boethius from the 6th century (it is only about 150 small pages of text). Boethius was a Christian advisor to Emperor Theodoric, but was wrongly accused by envious rivals of treason. He was convicted and, while waiting in prison to be executed, he wrote this important work, one of the most widely read books after the Bible by scholars in the West for 1000 years.

Boethius ponders important questions for people of faith, including: (1) the question of theodicy: if God is all powerful and all loving, why do the righteous suffer? and related to this, (2) Boethius is interested in the connection between fortune and God’s Providence (the image of “the wheel of fortune” comes from this work), and, (3) if God has all knowledge of the future does that take away our free will (or, if our salvation is all God’s work, is there any point in praying)?  Boethius uses prose and poetry in a dialogue between himself and Lady Wisdom in this work full of consolation and of hope.

The English translation that I am suggesting is (linked to

Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy (Loeb Classical Library) (this edition includes the Latin original text and Boethius’ Theological Tractates)  Click here to download the first few pages to wet your appetite!

However, I’m sure there are other good translations in English or in Dutch.

Arend Smilde, one of the participants at our last gathering, has shared with me a very helpful article on Boethius’ Consolation written by C.S. Lewis (though I’m not sure why he thinks the work was not, as the tradition holds, written while he awaited death in prison!).  You can click here to download it.

We begin with dinner at 6:30pm, discussion from 8 to 9:30, and concluding with a time of fellowship. All are most welcome.  Please let Hanna know if you’re coming so we can plan the dinner:

The Accolade (1901), Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922)

The Mysterious Charles Williams!

Friday January 16, 6:30pm

click here for links to download reading materials

We turn from Dante to Charles Williams (1886-1945). Williams’ novels – or, ‘metaphysical thrillers’ – first brought him the attention, then friendship, of T.S. Eliot and of C.S. Lewis, whose Allegory of Love he had been reading in proof as part of his work at the Oxford University Press. During World War II he moved to Oxford and became an active member of the literary circle, the Inklings, which included Tolkien, Lewis and Dorothy Sayers.

A great ambition of Williams from around 1913 was a verse retelling of the King Arthur stories, which would do justice to the Quest for the Holy Grail. It resulted in two volumes of a new cycle, which together constitute the major imaginative work about the Grail in the twentieth century, even though he died before completing it. Eliot said, “no one who has known both the man and his works would have willingly foregone either experience.”

We will read samples of his poetry and prose, including some from The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (which Rowan Williams, as a young Cambridge don, always had his students read) – in the context of his life, not excluding the dark aspects which only began to become widely known in the 1970s and 1980s.

David Llewellyn Dodds will introduce us to the works of Charles Williams. David is a member of the Arnhem – Nijmegen Chaplaincy and is an expert in Williams poetry and prose. He is currently working on a complete critical edition of Charles Williams’ unpublished Arthurian poetry and prose.

The evening at the Parsonage began with supper at 6:30pm followed by a presentation and discussion (7:45pm) and we ended the night with drinks and fellowship at 9:30pm.


Dante’s Divine Comedy

Friday November 14, 6:30pm

This poem has been described as the greatest work of moral theology ever written! Composed over a period of 30 years in the early 14th century by Dante Alighieri, it uses images of the afterlife as an allegory of the soul’s journey to God in this life. It is all about love!

Our Chaplain, David Phillips, introduced this work and we heard and discussed parts of the poem in a prose English translation. The evening at the Parsonage began with supper at 6:30pm followed by a presentation and discussion (7:30pm) and we ended with drinks and fellowship at 9:30pm.