ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Timothy Ware was born in Bath, Somerset, in
1934 and was educated at Westminster School and
Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a Double
First in Classics, as well as reading Theology.
After joining the Orthodox Church in 1958, he
travelled widely in Greece, staying in particular at
the monastery of St John, Patmos, and he is familiar
with the life of other Orthodox centres such
as Mount Athos and Jerusalem. In 1966 he was
ordained priest and became a monk, receiving the
new name of Kallistos. Since 1966 he has been
back at Oxford as Spalding Lecturer in Eastern
Orthodox Studies at the University. He also has
pastoral charge of the Greek parish in Oxford. In
1970 he became Fellow of Pembroke College,
Oxford, and since 1973 he has been a member of
the international Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal
Commission. In 1982 he was consecrated
titular Bishop of Diokleia and appointed assistant
bishop in the Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira
and Great Britain (under the Ecumenical Patriarchate).
His other works include Eustratios
Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church under
Turkish Rule (1964) and The Orthodox Way
(1979). He is also co-translator of two Orthodox
service books, The Festal Menaion (1969) and
The Lenten Triodion (1978), and also of The
Philokalia (in progress: three volumes, 1979, 1981
Unknown and yet well known. 2 Corinthians vi, 9
'ALL Protestants are Crypto-Papists,' wrote the Russian theologian Alexis Khomiakov to an English friend in the year 1846. (From a letter printed in W.J. Birkbeck, Russia and the English Church, p. 67.) ... To use the concise language of algebra, all the West knows but one datum a; whether it be preceded by the positive sign +, as with the Romanists, or with the negative —, as with the Protestants, the a remains the same. Now a passage to Orthodoxy seems indeed like an apostasy from the past, from its science, creed, and life. It is rushing into a new and unknown world.
Khomiakov, when he spoke of the datum a, had in mind the fact that western Christians, whether Free Churchmen, Anglicans, or Roman Catholics, have a common background in the past. All alike (although they may not always care to admit it) have been profoundly influenced by the same events: by the Papal centralization and the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages, by the Renaissance, by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. But behind members of the Orthodox Church — Greeks, Russians, and the rest — there lies a very different background. They have known no Middle Ages (in the western sense) and have undergone no Reformations or Counter-Reformations; they have only been affected in an oblique way by the cultural and religious upheaval which transformed western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Christians in the west, both Roman and Reformed, generally start by asking the same questions, although they may disagree about the answers. In Orthodoxy, however, it is not merely the answers that are different — the questions themselves are not the same as in the west.
Orthodox see history in another perspective. Consider, for example, the Orthodox attitude towards western religious disputes. In the west it is usual to think of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as opposite extremes; but to an Orthodox they appear as two sides of the same coin. Khomiakov calls the Pope 'the first Protestant', 'the father of German rationalism'; and by the same token he would doubtless have considered the Christian Scientist an eccentric Roman Catholic. (Compare P. Hammond, The Waters of Marah, p. 10.) 'How are we to arrest the pernicious effects of Protestantism?' he was asked by a High Church Anglican when visiting Oxford in 1847; to which he replied: 'Shake off your Roman Catholicism.' In the eyes of the Russian theologian, the two things went hand in hand; both alike share the same assumptions, for Protestantism was hatched from the egg which Rome had laid.
'A new and unknown world': Khomiakov was right to speak of Orthodoxy in this way. Orthodoxy is not just a kind of Roman Catholicism without the Pope, but something quite distinct
from any religious system in the west. Yet those who look more closely at this
"unknown world" will discover much in it which, while different, is
yet curiously familiar. "But that is what I have always believed!"
Such has been the reaction of many, on learning more fully about the Orthodox
Church and what it teaches; and they are partly right. For more than nine
hundred years the Greek East and the Latin West have been growing steadily
apart, each following its own way, yet in the early centuries of Christendom
both sides can find common ground. Athanasius and Basil lived in the east, but
they belong also to the west; and Orthodox who live in France, Britain, or
Ireland can in their turn look upon the national saints of these lands — Alban
and Patrick, Cuthbert and Bede, Geneviève of Paris and Augustine of Canterbury
— not as strangers but as members of their own Church. All Europe was once as
much part of Orthodoxy as Greece and Christian Russia are today.
When Khomiakov wrote his letter in 1846, there were in fact few on either side who knew one another by personal contact. Robert Curzon, traveling through the Levant in the 1830s
in search of manuscripts which he could buy at bargain prices, was disconcerted
to find that the Patriarch of Constantinople had never heard of the Archbishop
of Canterbury. Matters have certainly changed since then. Travel has become
incomparably easier; the physical barriers have been broken down. And travel is
no longer necessary: a citizen of western Europe or America need no longer leave
his own country in order to observe the Orthodox Church at first hand. Greeks
journeying westward from choice or economic necessity, and Slavs driven westward
by persecution, have brought their Church with them, establishing across all
Europe and America a network of dioceses and parishes, theological colleges and
monasteries. Most important of all, in many different communions during the
present century there has grown up a compelling and unprecedented desire for the
visible unity of all Christians, and this has given rise to a new interest in
the Orthodox Church. The Greco-Russian diaspora was scattered over the world at
the very moment when western Christians, in their concern for reunion, were
becoming conscious of the relevance of Orthodoxy, and anxious to learn more
about it. In reunion discussions the contribution of the Orthodox Church has
often proved unexpectedly illuminating: precisely because the Orthodox have a
different background from the west, they have been able to open up fresh lines
of thought, and to suggest long-forgotten solutions to old difficulties.
The west has never lacked men whose conception of
Christendom was not restricted to Canterbury, Geneva, and Rome; yet in the past
such men were voices crying in the wilderness. It is now no longer so. The
effects of an alienation which has lasted for more than nine centuries cannot be
quickly undone, but at least a beginning has been made.
What is meant by "the Orthodox Church"? The
divisions which have brought about the present fragmentation of Christendom
occurred in three main stages, at intervals of roughly five hundred years. The
first stage in the separation came in the fifth and sixth centuries, when the
"Lesser" or "Separated" eastern Churches became divided from
the main body of Christians. These Churches fall into two groups, the Nestorian
Church of Persia, and the five Monophysite Churches of Armenia, Syria (the
so-called "Jacobite" Church), Egypt (the Coptic Church), Ethiopia, and
India. The Nestorians and Monophysites passed out of western consciousness even
more completely than the Orthodox Church was later to do. When Rabban Sauma, a
Nestorian monk from Peking, visited the west in 1288 (he traveled as far as
Bordeaux, where he gave communion to King Edward I of England), he discussed
theology with the Pope and Cardinals at Rome, yet they never seem to have
realized that from their point of view he was a heretic. As a result of this
first division, Orthodoxy became restricted on its eastward side mainly to the
Greek-speaking world. Then came the second separation, conventionally dated to
the year 1054. The main body of Christians now became divided into two
communions: in western Europe, the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope of Rome;
in the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Church of the East. Orthodoxy was now
limited on its westward side as well. The third separation, between Rome and the
Reformers in the sixteenth century, is not here our direct concern.
It is interesting to note how cultural and ecclesiastical
divisions coincide. Christianity, while universal in its mission, has tended in
practice to be associated with three cultures: the Semitic, the Greek, and the
Latin. As a result of the first separation the Semitic Christians of Syria, with
their flourishing school of theologians and writers, were cut off from the rest
of Christendom. Then followed the second separation, which drove a wedge between
the Greek and the Latin traditions in Christianity. So it has come about that in
Orthodoxy the primary cultural influence has been that of Greece. Yet it must
not therefore be thought that the Orthodox Church is exclusively a Greek Church
and nothing else, since Syriac and Latin Fathers also have a place in the
fullness of Orthodox tradition.
While the Orthodox Church became bounded first on the
eastern and then on the western side, it expanded to the north. In 863 Saint
Cyril and Saint Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavs, traveled northward to
undertake missionary work beyond the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire, and
their efforts led eventually to the conversion of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia.
As the Byzantine power dwindled, these newer Churches of the north increased in
importance, and on the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 the
Principality of Moscow was ready to take Byzantium’s place as the protector of
the Orthodox world. Within the last 150 years there has been a partial reversal
of the situation. Although Constantinople itself still remains in Turkish hands,
a pale shadow of its former glory, the Church in Greece is free once more; but
Russia and the other Slavonic peoples have passed in their turn under the rule
of a non-Christian government.
Such are the main stages which have determined the
external development of the Orthodox Church. Geographically its primary area of
distribution lies in eastern Europe, in Russia, and along the coasts of the
eastern Mediterranean. It is composed at present of the following self-governing
or "autocephalous" Churches
(After each Church an approximate estimate
of size is given. Like all ecclesiastical statistics, these figures are to be
treated with caution, and they are in any case intended merely as a rough
comparative guide. For many Orthodox Churches, particularly those in communist
countries, no up-to-date statistics are available. For the most part the figures
indicate nominal rather than active membership):
The four ancient Patriarchates: Constantinople,
Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Though greatly reduced in size, these four
Churches for historical reasons occupy a special position in the Orthodox
Church, and rank first in honor. The heads of these four Churches bear the title
Eleven other autocephalous Churches: Russia, Romania,
Serbia (in Yugoslavia), Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Poland, Albania,
Czechoslovakia and Sinai.
All except three of these Churches — Czechoslovakia,
Poland, and Albania — are in countries where the Christian population is
entirely or predominantly Orthodox. The Churches of Greece, Cyprus, and Sinai
are Greek; five of the others — Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia,
Poland — are Slavonic. The heads of the Russian, Romanian, Serbian, and
Bulgarian Churches are known by the title Patriarch; the head of the
Georgian Church is called Catholicos-Patriarch; the heads of the other
churches are called either Archbishop or Metropolitan.
There are in addition several Churches which, while
self-governing in most respects, have not yet attained full independence. These
are termed "autonomous" but not "autocephalous": Finland,
Japan and China.
There are ecclesiastical provinces in western Europe, in
North and South America, and in Australia, which depend on the different
Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches. In some areas this Orthodox "diaspora"
is slowly achieving self-government. In particular, steps have been taken to
form an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, but this has not yet been
officially recognized by the majority of other Orthodox Churches.
The Orthodox Church is thus a family of self-governing
Churches. It is held together, not by a centralized organization, not by a
single prelate wielding absolute power over the whole body, but by the double
bond of unity in the faith and communion in the sacraments. Each Church, while
independent, is in full agreement with the rest on all matters of doctrine, and
between them all there is full sacramental communion. (Certain divisions exist
among the Russian Orthodox, but the situation here is altogether exceptional
and, one hopes, temporary in character). There is in Orthodoxy no one with an
equivalent position to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. The Patriarch of
Constantinople is known as the "Ecumenical" (or universal) Patriarch,
and since the schism between east and west he has enjoyed a position of special
honor among all the Orthodox communities; but he does not have the right to
interfere in the internal affairs of other Churches. His place resembles that of
the Archbishop of Canterbury in the worldwide Anglican communion.
This decentralized system of independent local Churches
has the advantage of being highly flexible, and is easily adapted to changing
conditions. Local Churches can be created, suppressed, and then restored again,
with very little disturbance to the life of the Church as a whole. Many of these
local Churches are also national Churches, for during the past in Orthodox
countries Church and State have usually been closely linked. But while an
independent State often possesses its own autocephalous Church, ecclesiastical
divisions do not necessarily coincide with State boundaries. Georgia, for
instance, lies within the U.S.S.R., but is not part of the Russian Church, while
the territories of the four ancient Patriarchates fall politically in several
different countries. The Orthodox Church is a federation of local, but not in
every case national, Churches. It does not have as its basis the
political principle of the State Church.
Among the various Churches there is, as can be seen, an
enormous variation in size, with Russia at one extreme and Sinai at the other.
The different Churches also vary in age, some dating back to Apostolic times,
while others are less than a generation old. The Church of Czechoslovakia, for
example, only became autocephalous in 1951.
Such are the Churches which make up the Orthodox
communion as it is today. They are known collectively by various titles.
Sometimes they are called the Greek or Greco-Russian Church; but
this is incorrect, since there are many millions of Orthodox who are neither
Greek nor Russian. Orthodox themselves often call their Church the Eastern
Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Orthodox
Catholic Church of the East, or the like. These titles must not be
misunderstood, for while Orthodoxy considers itself to be the true Catholic
Church, it is not part of the Roman Catholic Church; and although
Orthodoxy calls itself eastern, it is not something limited to eastern people.
Another name often employed is the Holy Orthodox Church. Perhaps it is
least misleading and most convenient to use the shortest title: the Orthodox
Orthodoxy claims to be universal — not something exotic
and oriental, but simple Christianity. Because of human failings and the
accidents of history, the Orthodox Church has been largely restricted in the
past to certain geographical areas. Yet to the Orthodox themselves their Church
is something more than a group of local bodies. The word "Orthodoxy"
has the double meaning of "right belief" and "right glory"
(or "right worship"). The Orthodox, therefore, make what may seem at
first a surprising claim: they regard their Church as the Church which guards
and teaches the true belief about God and which glorifies Him with right
worship, that is, as nothing less than the Church of Christ on earth. How this
claim is understood, and what the Orthodox think of other Christians who do not
belong to their Church, it is part of the aim of this book to explain.