Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book: The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware

I love this book. I mean, I *really, really* love this book. It's a fairly short book, only 164 pages, but the information in there is just...wonderful.

It's meant, I think, not as a comparison between Orthodox theology and Western theology, but more a simple statement of 'this is what we believe'. This is what was believed from the beginning, that the West has lost in their scientific drive to quantify and explain and bottle everything and label it neatly.

The book itself is what I would term an overview, rather than an in depth exploration of every aspect of Orthodox theology. It'd be impossible to be in depth in the number of pages, but Bishop Ware does an excellent job of touching on all the key subjects, for example, the existence of evil, sin, the Trinity, 'original' sin, the Incarnation, a sacramental world view, our personal relationship with God, God's essence and His energies.

He explains the concepts simply, but not simplistically. It's a good book for everyone, on every level, to get started with. You get a base from which to start. New concepts, new words, new ways of thinking that you can follow from there to learn more. He includes a metric *ton* of quotes from the Bible and the Fathers, which, if I started quoting my 'favorites', I'd just wind up quoting the entire book.

Orthodoxy, to me, feels more *organic* than Catholicism, or Lutheranism, or any other Protestant faith that I've experienced or looked at. It's not about making theology and faith fit into the scientific world, but understanding that the two things are not separate, and have to be experienced as they are. It's the same thing when I attended the Orthodox service. It's a ritual, the Divine Liturgy. Certain words and actions are done at certain points, with great reverence, and they are done essentially the same way, every single time. But it's less...artificial? I think I want to say. People are reverent all the way, but not mechanical about it. People walk it and out, and no one glares. Anyway. That's kind of beside the point, but there you go.

Now, this book covers, as I said, theology. Bishop Ware does have another book, called The Orthodox Church, which is an overview of history. I also recommend that book as well. He has a very personable way of writing that draws you in and makes everything absolutely fascinating.

If you intend to attend a Divine Liturgy, I'd recommend studying up first. Because it's nothing like a Protestant service. Catholic Mass is similar, but not really the same feeling either. I think a Catholic has a better chance of not getting lost than a Protestant, but I'd still say read up first. The two things I found *extremely* helpful in knowing what was going on even if I couldn't understand what was being said were this link to the text for the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (which is the Liturgy most commonly in use). The second thing (which I actually read first) is the book Let Us Attend by Fr. Lawrence Farley. This book goes over each 'section' of the Divine Liturgy, and explains not just what is happening, but some of the historical context for what is happening. For instance, at one point, right before the recitation of the Creed, the deacon or the priest will call for the guarding of the doors. And that seems a little odd, until you remember that for the longest time Christianity was a persecuted faith, and someone did, actually, need to guard the doors to try and safeguard the Christians within.

So, that's about it. Awesome book, everyone should read it. It's available at Amazon here: The Orthodox Way, and is inexpensive as a brand new book, though they do of course have sellers with used ones available. If I had a rating system on these books, this one would get 5 stars. :)


  1. Thanks the review and high recommendation. I need to put this on my "buy" or "find at the library and read" list. I am curious about the Orthodox view of some of the topics you mentioned.

    Glad you shared this.

  2. Hurray! I'm glad you're reading a book you like this time. It looks interesting, and is going on my list now. :)

    I did tour a Greek Orthodox church with my Greek class, maybe I will go back for an actual service after I learn more about it.

  3. It's a huge favorite of mine as well. I completely agree that it's suitable for every possible type of reader. It came to my hands eight years or so after my return to the Orthodox Church and though it is an introductory type of book i was so excited while reading it. I'm glad you posted about it, so that other people may read it as well!

  4. Susanne,

    Yes, definitely. I'm not sure you'd find it in a library, or at least I've never found a copy in any of ours around here. But it's not expensive to buy. A new copy is $11 on Amazon, and the sellers have them listed starting at around $3 for a used copy.

  5. Sanil,

    I was happy to pull something out of the hat that I knew I'd enjoy after the debacle that was Armstrong. And now I'm onto another book I've enjoyed before. :)

    *nods* If you get the chance, I'd go.

  6. Ann,

    It's was recommended to me as an introductory book by another Orthodox lady I'd met on the internet, and I am *so* glad she told me about it. It's really a very excellent book and I recommend it to anyone that'll listen. :)


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