“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware

I was first introduced to Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way on September 2, 2006 when it was given to me after a chance meeting with an Eastern Orthodox priest. This priest, whose name I do not know, gave me five books about the Eastern Orthodox Church after briefly taking to me in a hotel restaurant in Los Angeles. Of the five books the priest gave me, Ware’s The Orthodox Way stood out because of its spiritual depth and simple prose. Twelve years later I can honestly say that this book changed the course of my life by introducing me to the path of the mystic.

The book itself isn’t that long, just six short chapters bookended by a prologue and epilogue. The purpose of the book is to introduce the reader to the “fundamental teachings of the Orthodox Church”[1] without being exhaustive or too technical. Rather, Ware lays out “some of the decisive signposts and milestones upon the spiritual Way.”[2] He does this by addressing six different facets of God as noted by the chapter titles: “God as Mystery,” “God as Trinity,” “God as Creator,” “God as Man,” “God as Spirit,” and “God as Prayer.”[3]

Though each of these chapters are packed with amazing gems, the first chapter, “God as Mystery,” was the one that had the most lasting impact on my life. The overall gist of this chapter is that God cannot be known strictly by intellectual reason or as the “conclusion to a process of reasoning.”[4] Rather, knowing God means knowing him as a person who loves and cares for us. Faith in God is, after all, “not logical certainty but a personal relationship”[5] that embraces the presence of doubt while still embarking on the journey.

At the time of my first reading of The Orthodox Way, I was an associate pastor of a small church and a graduate of Vineyard Leadership Institute (a two-year Bible and leadership training program). The temptation to logically figure out God was strong both because of my previous studies and the demands of the church. Through this book I was able to “embrace the mystery of God without having to understand everything.”[6] It gave me the freedom to embrace the unknown while still using my mind and intellect for the glory of God. As St. Gregory of Nyssa (one of the great intellectual Church Fathers) said, “God’s name is not known; it is wondered at.”[7]

Another gem within Ware’s book is his liberal use of quotes from the Church Fathers and Orthodox service books.[8] Most of these quotes were placed before and after each chapter, though he does sprinkle them throughout the body of the chapters. It was through reading these quotes that I was introduced to the Desert Fathers, although it would be years later before I fully realized the spiritual wisdom of these passionate followers of Jesus.[9]

Time does not permit me to expound on the other gems lying within the pages of Bishop Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way. For far too long the Protestant church in the United States of America has ignored our sisters and brothers in the East. The time has come for us to learn from the Eastern Orthodox Church for “they have a rich heritage of following God and seeing things that we have never seen.”[10]

 

Endnotes

[1] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 9.

[2] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 9.

[3] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 5.

[4] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 16.

[5] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 16.

[6] Joshua S. Hopping, “Embracing The Mystery Of God”, Wild Goose Chase (blog), September 24, 2010, accessed February 19, 2018.

[7] Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Song of Songs, quoted in Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 14.

[8] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 10.

[9] Joshua S. Hopping, “Simplicity and Self-Sacrifice: Lessons from the Desert Fathers” (final paper, St. Stephen’s University, 2016), Wild Goose Chase (blog), released in three parts on November 9th, 11th, & 13th, 2016, accessed February 19, 2018.

[10] Joshua S. Hopping, “Embracing The Mystery Of God”, Wild Goose Chase (blog).

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