Two books influenced me greatly on our journey home to the Orthodox Church.
“The Orthodox Church” and “The Orthodox Way” both by Timothy Ware; also known as Bishop Kallistos Ware. In fact, if anyone reads either of these books (hopefully both) they’ll be introduced to knowledge, wisdom, history, and truth, that is so compelling that they’ll either have to say, “Yes! This is THE Church…thank God ! I’ve finally found it…” or they’ll put their hands over their ears, and eyes, and say “Nah-nah-nah-nah…” (translation: what I just read is biblical, good, right, and true…but I don’t want to hear it, because it looks so different from my evangelical, protestant, non-denominational spiritual, fellowship, worship center/church experience. Thus it can’t be right and it must be wrong.)
Nevertheless, at minimum, every Christian, or anyone who wants to know what Christianity really is, where it’s from, and what it has always believed, owes it to themselves, and should read these two books. They are (eternal) life changers. In fact, do like I did. I went to them actually looking for “false doctrine” and “unbiblical practices” so that I could confidently brand them heretics. Trust me, your’e in for a wonderful, and amazing experience, especially if you’re a typical American (like me), who knows very little about history, antiquity, continuity, and the scope of life and events outside the walls of our 50 states and our ‘long’ 200 years of history. You’ll soon discover that the roots of The Church, the One Body of Christ, emerged unified from Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Rome… way over there…across the sea, and that One Body is still here today. She was born One. And was not created to be divided and “split” into 20,000 plus branches or non-denominations etc. “I will build My Church,” (emphasis on singular not plural) said Jesus. So, here is a brief excerpt from Bishop Kallistos Ware from his book “The Orthodox Way” to get you started. Read and discover the beautiful heritage that has been passed to us.
…to be a Christian is to be a traveller. Our situation, say the Greek Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: we live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey of time into eternity.
One of the most ancient names for Christianity is simply”the Way”. “About that time”, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, “there rose no little stir concerning the Way” (19:23) Felix, the Roman Governor of Caesarea, had “a rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (24:22) It is a name that emphasizes the practical character of the Christian faith. Christianity is more than a theory about the universe, more than teachings written down on paper; it is a path along which we journey – in the deepest and richest sense, the way of life.
There is only one means of discovering the true nature of Christianity. We must step out upon this path, commit ourselves to this way of life, and then we shall begin to see for ourselves. So long as we remain outside, we cannot properly understand. Certainly we need to be given directions before we start; we need to be told what signposts to look out for; and we need to have companions. Indeed, without guidance from others it is scarcely possible to begin the journey. But directions given by others can never convey to us what the way is actually like; they cannot be a substitute for direct, personal experience. Each of us is called to verify for himself what he has been taught, each is required to re-live the Tradition he has received. “The Creed”, said Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, “does not belong to you unless you have lived it.” No one can be an armchair traveller on this all-important journey.
No one can be a Christian at second hand. God has children, but He has no grandchildren.
To many in the 20th century West, the Orthodox Church seems chiefly remarkable for its air of antiquity and conservatism; the message of the Orthodox to their Western brethren seems to be, “We are your past”. For the Orthodox themselves however, loyalty to Tradition means not primarily the acceptance of formulae or customs from past generations, but rather the ever-new, personal and direct experience of the Holy Sprit in the present, here and now..
The Orthodox Way is a way of life.
It’s not just “going to church on Sun-day“.
Rather, it’s being the Church every-day.
The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant.
It’s orthodox, but not Jewish. It’s catholic, but not Roman. It isn’t non-denominational – it’s pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the day of Pentecost
2000 years ago.