Abba: The tradition of Orthodoxy in the West, a festschrift for Bishop Kallistos Ware
Book title: Abba: The tradition of Orthodoxy in the West, a festschrift for Bishop Kallistos Ware
Author: John Behr, Andrew Louth, Dimitri Conomos, editors
Publisher: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press
Church Times Bookshop £n/a
ARCHBISHOP GREGORIOS of Thyateira & Great Britain writes, in his prologue to this collection of essays, of meeting almost 40 years ago “an intense, rather underweight young layman” called Timothy Ware. Some years before, Ware had become Orthodox, and was on the point of publishing his best-selling book The Orthodox Church and his scholarly study Eustratios Argenti: A study of the Greek Church under Turkish rule.
Before long, the layman Timothy became the deacon Kallistos; and some time later, now professed as a monk of the Monastery of St John the Divine on Patmos, the deacon became a priest, and was appointed as Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox Studies in Oxford.
In 1982, he was ordained an assistant bishop in the archdiocese of Thyateira & Great Britain, as titular Bishop of Diokleia. For 35 years until his retirement in 2002, Bishop Kallistos, known affectionately to many generations of students as Super-K, was a distinguished member of the faculty of theology in Oxford, and devoted himself to teaching patristics.
Abba is an academic tribute to Bishop Kallistos and his contribution to Orthodoxy. Like any festschrift, it includes articles on a variety of topics by well-known scholars, mostly Orthodox, some Anglican or Roman Catholic, who have been associated with him or taught by him. Among them is a biographical sketch and an account of his association with Mount Athos.
Appropriately, the majority of contributions study various aspects of the early monastic tradition, both historical and spiritual. Others touch on theological themes of contemporary interest, to which the Orthodox tradition offers a distinctive contribution. Some essays are of specialist interest, other of more popular appeal.
One article looks at Orthodoxy in the British Isles. It reiterates the claim that until the schism between East and West in 1054 Christianity in Britain was Orthodox, and it looks forward to a third millennium in which the author thinks it not absurd to foresee these islands as being Orthodox once more. Given his estimate of 50,000 for the current number of practising Orthodox, that is perhaps optimistic.
Bishop Kallistos has certainly made an important contribution to the understanding of Orthodoxy in Britain, and as Greek parish priest in Oxford, and assistant bishop in the Greek archdiocese, he has done much to build up the Orthodox community here.
But the Church in these islands has always been part of Western Christianity, even if not without contacts and affinities with the East, as another contributor affirms. The vast majority of Christians in Britain will remain Western in tradition, in spite of “the modernism and eccentricity” the writer believes have overwhelmed British Christendom.
That is the one partisan note in this tribute to a distinguished scholar and pastor who has done much to foster ecumenical relations with the Anglican Church of his early years and other Christian Churches, and whose writings have made a significant contribution to Christian theology and spirituality in this and many other countries. The bibliography at the end of the book is impressive: may “retirement” enable Bishop Kallistos to write still more.
Canon Wybrew is Vicar of St Mary Magdalen’s, Oxford, and a former Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem.