Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, The Orthodox Church, translated by Joseph Roilidis, Akritas publications, “History and Culture Series no 2”, 1996, pp. 563.
The book is separated in two parts. The first one concerns the History and the second one the Faith and Worship of the Orthodox Church. Starting from the beginnings of the Christian Church during the Pentecost (Acts 2,2-4), it develops the formation of the local Eucharistic community headed by bishop Ignatius of Antioch, and at the same time unfolds the relation of this local unity with the unity of the Church Universal in Cyprian of Carthage. The book stresses the importance of the Ecumenical Councils already in the period of the early three centuries, but also the establishment of the Church with the blood of martyrs during the Persecutions’ period. It deals with the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, which articulated the basic dogmatic teaching and which coming out from the catacombs, had been recognized as the official religion of the Empire.
The writer explores the issues that in his opinion determined the future of the Church: The alienation of the Eastern from the Western Christendom whose peak was the Schism (1054), and the first attempts of reunification (Lyon 1274, Florence 1438-9), as well as the hysichast controversy. He also writes extensively on the conversion of Slavs and the “baptism” of Russia. Particularly informative for the reader is the report on the course of Orthodoxy in the 20th c. in the areas of mission, diaspora and “Western Orthodoxy”.
The historical introduction on the formation of the Orthodox Church given in the first part of the book, allows the writer to bring in the light dull points as well as deformities of christian faith in the historic course of orthodox nations. One of them is the problem of Nationalism. Kallistos brings also our attention to other problems coming from the period of the Ottoman occupation, such as the involvement of superior administration in a system of corruptness and simony and the bequeathing of conservatism due to the defensive attitude that Orthodoxy adapted during the Ottoman occupation.
At the same time, according to Kallistos, there is the “pseudo-education” of Orthodox Theology. The low level of education and the fact that the Greeks who wished a higher education, were forced to study in Universities in the West, led to the alienation of orthodox criteria and to “Latinizing” or “Protestant-influenced” interpretations of Orthodox Church and Theology.
In the second part of the book the Faith and Worship of the Church are developed with in a live, non-scholastic, non-obsolescent, based on experience way. The problem of unity of Christian Churches is soberly examined and finally, proposed bibliography is presented.