Ware lecture postponed

February 12, 2010

I drove down to Maryland on Monday, meaning to attend a lecture that was to be given on Tuesday, February 9th at the Catholic University of America by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware titled “An Insider’s View: Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue Today.” As it turned out, because of the blizzard which hit the Northeast this week, the lecture did not take place; it has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 16th, at 6:30 p.m. in Caldwell Auditorium, after a prayer service and a reception in the same building (4:30 and 5:30 respectively). Since snow is again forecast for Washington, D.C. next Monday, I would advise anyone who plans to attend the event to call Eastern Christian Publications beforehand to make sure that the lecture is still going to be held (703-691-8862). As to whether I shall drive down a second time to attend it, I remain undecided.

11 Responses to “Ware lecture postponed”

  1. Veritas Says:

    Well, that’s unfortunate. Good to hear the lectures still on though.

    If you do decide to attend, would you be willing to post your opinion of the lecture?

    Thanks, Peter


  2. bekkos Says:


    As it turns out, I will not be driving down to Washington, DC today to attend Metropolitan Kallistos’s lecture, if in fact it is still going to take place. But I did hear the Metropolitan give a talk yesterday evening at a church in South Jersey, St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Tom’s River (a beautiful church, with some of the best iconography I’ve seen in New Jersey). The subject of yesterday’s talk was Lent. Most of the things His Eminence said I had heard him say before, in one way or another, but it was good hearing them again, and good seeing again my old tutor in person after many years. I took some notes on the talk, and will try to summarize what he said.

    Metropolitan Kallistos made the point that the word “Lent” is related to the word “lengthen”; in earlier English, it simply meant “spring,” and referred to the lengthening of the day. He drew a certain contrast between the practice of Ash Wednesday and something he has seen in Greece: on the first day of Orthodox Lent, Clean Monday, people in Greece go outdoors to the hills, have a picnic, and fly kites. The point he wished to draw from this was that repentance does not consist in self-loathing and obsession with guilt; it has to do with being open to something new. The word for repentance in Greek, metanoia, means literally a change of one’s mind. He cited St. John Climacus: “Repentance is the daughter of hope, and the denial of despair.” The contrast between Judas and Peter was discussed at some length; both sinned, but Judas was unable to receive forgiveness (or, as Metropolitan Kallistos put it, he was unable to forgive himself); Peter, by contrast, when he saw Jesus stand on the shore, jumped into the water and swam to him, and it was only after answering three times, in reply to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” “Yes, you know that I love you,” that Peter’s forgiveness was made complete. There is, Metropolitan Kallistos said, a power to the spoken word. “Let us try to have Peter’s repentance, the repentance that leads to new hope.” Metropolitan Kallistos speculated on the question of what would have happened if Judas had not hanged himself, but had come back after the resurrection and sought Jesus’ forgiveness; he thinks that Jesus would have forgiven him. But Judas deprived himself of that opportunity. Lent is a time to forgive others; it is a time also to forgive ourselves, something which Judas could not do.

    Metropolitan Kallistos is a great lover of drawing threefold divisions or distinctions in his speeches, and, in yesterday evening’s talk, he was true to form. He noted that there are three things to be considered with respect to our observance of Lent: Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.

    Concerning fasting, Metropolitan Kallistos first related an anecdote concerning the English literary critic H.D. Lewis, who drew a sharp, Platonistic dichotomy between body and soul; his students used to say of him, “He doesn’t go for a walk; he takes his body for a walk.” Both body and soul should take part in spiritual combat. But fasting is not merely a question of food and drink.

    Concerning prayer: Christ, in his language, links prayer and fasting together. (“This kind does not come out, except by prayer and fasting.”) Fasting without prayer makes us tense and irritable. However much we may fast, there is always someone who fasts more than we do: the devil fasts continually, Metropolitan Kallistos said, but he doesn’t pray.

    Concerning almsgiving: the Greek term for this is better translated as “acts of mercy” or “acts of practical compassion.” A fast without love is a fast of the demons. It is important, His Eminence said, to give, not only of one’s money, but of one’s time, to share oneself with others. Whom have I been neglecting? Whom ought I to visit? Who is waiting for a letter from me? Such are the questions we ought to be asking ourselves. We should bear in mind the story we heard two Sundays ago, of the Last Judgment, with the separation of humanity into sheep and goats. The criterion of judgment is how we respond to those around us who are in need. Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those around us, but especially those who are in any sort of pain or distress. St. John Chrysostom said: “Give bread, and receive paradise.” He also said: There are two altars. One of them, the one in church, we treat with the greatest of respect, we cover it with expensive cloth; the other, which we see every day, we treat with contempt. That other altar is the destitute and poor in our midst.

    Our lives, as persons, are structured around relationship; and fasting, prayer, and almsgiving imply three distinct kinds of relationships. Fasting is concerned with one’s relationship with one’s own body, that is, with oneself; prayer has to do with one’s relationship with God; almsgiving has to do with one’s relationship with one’s neighbor.

    Metropolitan Kallistos went on to speak of particular things we ought to do during Lent. He said that each of us should make a point of going to confession at least once during Lent, with deep seriousness. We should see Lent as an opportunity that God is presenting to us; given such an offer, do we dare refuse?

    We should choose a moment during Lent when the priest has time to listen to us, when we have time to open our heart. I.e., not ten minutes before liturgy.

    In the sacrament of confession, three persons are involved: (1) I, the penitent; (2) the priest; (3) Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    With regard to ourselves, some people ask the question: Why is it not enough just to confess my sins privately to God in my prayers at home? Doesn’t God forgive me then? Metropolitan Kallistos said, Yes, God does forgive when we confess our sins at home. But there is great power in the uttered word. He gave the example of a man who confessed a sin to St. John Maximovitch, then bishop of San Francisco; he told him that, while he intellectually understood that what he had done was a sin, he felt no compunction, his heart felt dead. St. John told him to go and kneel before the community and ask forgiveness; he did so, and at that point he began to weep; he then went back to the priest and received absolution. There is, said Metropolitan Kallistos, great power in the spoken word; that is something that the saints of old knew; people like Freud and Jung rediscovered it in the early twentieth century.

    With regard to the priest, His Eminence stressed the point that the priest is there to bear witness to the community. None of our sins, even the most private, are sins against ourselves alone; all sin frays the bonds of society and of community. He also noted that priests have to learn how to hear what people are saying; he related the story of a man who, when he was a young priest, twice made a long confession to him, on two successive weeks; when he tried to tell the man that he had heard the same story before, the man curtly told him that it was his job, as a priest, to listen, and his own job, as penitent, to speak. The man died later that very week; that confession was the last one he made in his life. Metropolitan Kallistos said he learned from this the need for patience; it is clear that this man needed to get something important off his heart before he died.

    Finally, His Eminence stressed that it is Our Lord Jesus Christ who forgives us, not the priest.

    In closing, Metropolitan Kallistos said that, whatever you or I choose to do during this Lent for our salvation, let us not put it off. The devil continually tries to get us to look to yesterday, or to put things off till tomorrow; but scripture and the Church proclaim that this is the day of salvation. He cited the well-known story of St. Herman of Alaska. On a merchant ship, on which the monk Herman was a passenger, there was a debate over what was the most important thing in the world, what thing each man cared about the most. One man said that what he cared most about was getting a promotion; another said he cared most about returning home to see his wife and children. They asked St. Herman. He said that, in his humble opinion, the thing that is most important in the world could be summed up in this way: from this day, from this hour, from this moment, let us love God most of all. With that thought, Metropolitan Kallistos closed his talk.

    After the talk, there was a reception, with lenten food prepared by the ladies of St. Barbara Church; I went to it, and stayed for something like 45 minutes. I wanted to get going, because it was starting to snow and I had a long drive still to make; but I also wanted to say hello to Metropolitan Kallistos, whom I hadn’t seen in something like twenty-five years. Copies of his various books were being sold, and Metropolitan Kallistos was signing them; I already own all three of his books, and didn’t feel like purchasing any new copies; but I thought it would not be out of place for me simply to wait in line and ask his blessing. When I reached the place where he was sitting, at the head table, he asked me, “Who are you?” I answered, Peter Gilbert. He said, “Ah yes, I thought I recognized you. You haven’t changed a bit.” I replied that he hadn’t changed much, either. He said he hoped I was doing good things; I said yes, some good things. I conveyed regards to him from some people he knows, an English couple who attend my parish in New Jersey. He gave me an icon card of St. Kallistos. And that was that. I left, recognizing that I too would have a hard time remembering the names of most students I had had decades earlier, if I should chance to meet them unexpectedly.

    So that, in brief, is my account of Metropolitan Kallistos’s lecture; and, as it has been snowing today, and my throat is somewhat raw, and I had to call the plumber this morning to fix a backed-up sink, I have decided not to spend five hours driving down to Catholic University today to hear His Eminence give his talk on Catholic-Orthodox relations, much as I would have liked to hear it.


  3. Fr Paul Says:

    Thank you for this Peter. It made good Ash wednesday reading.

  4. Veritas Says:

    Great speech Peter.

    I concur with Fr. Paul: very nice reading on Ash Wednesday.

  5. T. Chan Says:

    I believe there is a report of the lecture at Byzantine, Texas.

  6. bekkos Says:


    Thanks. From the description given there by Eric Sammons, who wrote the report, it sounds like the lecture was a revised version of a previous lecture I have heard by Metropolitan Kallistos, titled “The Orthodox Church and the Primacy of the Pope: Are We Any Nearer to a Solution?”, which was given a couple of years ago at one of the Orientale Lumen conferences in Constantinople; I didn’t attend that lecture in person, but I have it on DVD. There was there the same comment at the beginning about the changed situation since Florence, and the same stress upon articulating a right understanding of the regional level of Church organization, if one is to gain a balanced view of the universal and local levels. What seems most new in this past Monday’s lecture is the discussion of Apostolic Canon 34 and the question of the recently leaked draft from the Committee about the papacy in the first millennium.

    I am glad that Metropolitan Kallistos, in reply to Mr. Sammons’s question, “agreed that it is vitally important that the leaders of the churches make these discussions [concerning the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the early Church, and the implications of this for ecclesiology] a reality in the pews, and admitted that they had not done a good job of that.” To say that they had not done a good job of that is, from the Orthodox side at any rate, a serious understatement: I have never heard the subject discussed from the pulpit, and I would assume that most priests and bishops regard the issue as radioactive, to be approached only with great caution and with suitably protective clothing.


  7. T. Chan Says:

    Dr. Gilbert, you’re welcome — what would be your recommendations for books that give a (mainstream?) Orthodox understanding of the papacy? (I’m looking for something lengthy and “scholarly,” rather than a shorter, more popular treament.) Thank you!

  8. Veritas Says:

    T. Chan,

    Please don’t take this as a recommendation coming from Dr. Gilbert in any way; I just thought I’d chime in with some of my own recommenations.

    I should say from the outset that I am Catholic; having said that, I’m not sure if there is really a “mainsteam” treatment of the papacy by the Orthodox — largely because I’m not so sure what constitutes “mainstream” for the Orthodox churhces. You’ll find anything from the “Antichrist” proclamation, to others who simply say that the papacy (along with the Catholic Church) is heretical, without such gratuitous efforts.

    A very charitable and fair treatment — in my humble opinion — coming from the Orthodox side is from that of: Olivier Clement, You Are Peter: An Orthodox Theologian’s Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003). However, this treatment is rather short (I believe you sai you wanted something lengthy), consisting of 112 pages.

    You also may try picking up: The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church, ed. John Meyendorff (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992). I haven’t read the book in its entirety but there are a number of essays by giants such as Nicholas Afanassieff and Alexander Schmemann.

    I know your request was for Orthodox theologians/scholars, but if I could recommend a treatment by a Catholic scholar, it would definitely be: Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996). Like myself, Schatz, SJ, is a Catholic; but — also like myself — he is no Ultramontanist. Schatz also gives a balanced treatment; he shows a good detail of how the papacy developed. Some Catholics like to assert that a Vatican I belief always exsisted in the Church; I disagree with that assertion. But that does not then mean that the papacy is not a divine-ordained aspect of the Church. Anyway, I can feel myself starting to ramble. Just a few suggested readings.



  9. bekkos Says:


    (Sorry for the delayed response.)

    Veritas’s comment, that Orthodox views of the papacy run the gamut, is a fair assessment: there is the “papal antichrist” literature, which you can find if you go to almost any monastic bookseller in Greece and, I would assume, in countries like Russia and Serbia as well,* and, at the other extreme, there are people like Soloviev, who more or less accept the pope as being what he says he is, or, at the very least, who think the slogan “first among equals” is not a terribly precise way of describing the role the Bishop of Rome played in the early Church and who would like to see to see communion reestablished on something like the terms that obtained during the first millennium; I myself would fall into this last-named category. Clément’s book, mentioned by Veritas, also takes this view and is worth reading (although there are things in his book that I would criticize, especially his postscript). But I would not go so far as to say, with Veritas, that there is no mainstream Orthodox view. There is, among Orthodox, a common rejection of the claim of the First Vatican Council that the doctrinal pronouncements of the Bishop of Rome are binding ex sese, non ex consensu ecclesiae, that is, of themselves, not from the consent of the Church. Most Orthodox fear that such a doctrine gives the Bishop of Rome a blank check on which he can write whatever he pleases. And I confess that I share that worry, although I recognize that the Second Vatican Council sought to reaffirm the role of the bishop and of bishops’ conferences, and I also recognize that, in the absence of a final dogmatic court of appeal, like that of the Pope, there is a great danger of the Church being unable to speak with one common, authoritative voice on matters of pressing importance.

    The first book that came to mind when you raised the question of a “mainstream” Orthodox understanding of the papacy is one of the books Veritas has mentioned, The Primacy of Peter. It is a book I own, but my copy of it does not seem to be immediately at hand; what I remember of it is that it has historical essays by Meyendorff and Schmemann (with Meyendorff, in particular, stating some of the Byzantine responses to the Roman claims), and gives an assessment of the role of what St. Ignatius of Antioch calls “the Church that presides in love” from the standpoint of eucharistic ecclesiology; if I’m not mistaken, there is an essay in the volume by Afanassiev with that title. Granted, not all Orthodox are quite sure what “eucharistic ecclesiology” means, and I probably should count myself among the number of the not-so-sure: when authors affirm that “the eucharist makes the Church” and that the bishop is ontologically defined by his role as president of the eucharistic synaxis, or when they say that the word “catholic” in the early Church referred simply and exclusively to the “fulness” of the faith and not to its “universality” in terms of geographical extent, my mind grows dizzy from the metaphysical heights, and I recognize that I am in the presence of argumentation of such exquisite, self-referential completeness that any attempt to verify or question it by examination of evidence would be pointless. I do not mean to belittle these theses; I only mean to express my concern that, when stated as ideological premises, immune to historical verification, they make the attempt to understand the role exercised by the bishop of Rome in the early Church very difficult.

    Some other Orthodox books I might mention are the following:

    Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy (Crestwood, NY, 1994). This is a general history of the Church between 1071 and 1453 A.D., but, as the title implies, much of it is in fact taken up with the papal claims and the history of their assertion over the Eastern Church. Papadakis is a writer with whom I have some disagreement, particularly over his assessment of John Bekkos as a theologian; but he makes some valid points in this book; for instance, he notes that the medieval papacy’s policy of demanding personal declarations of submission from Greek bishops was not calculated to reassure the Greek Church that its traditional beliefs and practices, its autonomous ecclesiastical life, would be respected. And those medieval Greek writers who complained that Rome was acting towards their church, not like a loving mother towards a daughter, but like an angry master towards an abject slave, had some genuine grounds for their complaint. Still, Papadakis’s tone in this book, while not as unrelentingly strident as in his book on Gregory of Cyprus, suggests that he has an axe to grind. He seldom condescends to acknowledge that the medieval papacy, or the Crusaders, did some actual good.

    Michael Whelton, Two Paths: Papal Monarchy – Collegial Tradition. Rome’s Claims of Papal Supremacy in the Light of Orthodox Christian Teaching (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 1998). Written by a Catholic convert to Orthodoxy. It is a popular presentation, a work of Orthodox apologetics, and in that sense it probably could be called mainstream.

    Methodios Fouyas, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism (London; New York: Oxford University Press, 1972; reprinted, Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984). Not a study of the papacy as such, but a general comparison of the three churches. He tends to see greater affinities between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism than between Orthodoxy and Catholicism; this was, of course, written before some of the more notable modern developments in Anglican practice had taken place.

    Philip Sherrard, Church, Papacy and Schism: A Theological Enquiry (London: SPCK, 1978). The author argues that there are deep theological differences between “the Greek East and the Latin West” (to cite the title of another of his books), which underlie the differing ecclesiologies. The book is worth reading, whether one agrees with the author or not. On p. 14, he refers to the point about “catholicity” that I mentioned briefly above, and gives a succinct and eloquent statement of this point of view:

    “In its original and more profound sense, the word catholic when applied to the Church does not have this quantitative and geographical connotation, or at least it has it only in a secondary and derivative manner. Essentially, the Church is not catholic in relation to topography or space, or in relation to the fact that it embraces a multitude of local communities within a wider collectivity. Catholicity is not a collective term. What it essentially denotes is the interior integrity and spiritual plenitude of the Church. It has, that is to say, a strictly qualitative sense. It denotes fullness, completeness, what is essential rather than what is accidental. It has consequently, like the Church itself, trinitarian and christological roots. The Church is catholic because it lives in Christ. It is the expression of the fullness, the completeness or plenitude of the truth which is Christ. The catholicity of its head—Christ—is the principle of the catholicity of the Church as the body of Christ; and it is precisely its capacity to manifest divine life and truth in their fullness to all creatures that constitutes the catholicity of the Church.”

    Those are the Orthodox treatments of the papacy that come to mind. I hope you find this note helpful.


    * To give a brief specimen of this: one of the “famous sayings of Fr. Justin Popovitch” runs as follows: “The three great sins of humanity are the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the treason of Judas, and papism.” This is translated from the dedication page of Métropolite Michel Laroche, La papauté orthodoxe: Les origines historiqes du papisme du Patriarcat de Constantiople et de sa guerre ecclésiologique avec le Patriarcat de Moscou (Paris: Éditions Présence, 2004). Note that, in Laroche’s book, the word “papism” serves to designate an ecclesiastical tendency of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. One wonders: would Constantinople and Moscow still be in communion with each other, if they did not share the same polemics against the West in general, and against Rome in particular?

  10. T. Chan Says:

    Veritas, thank you very much for your recommendations, and Dr. Gilbert, thank you for your extended reply!

  11. Cristian C. Says:

    Michel Laroche’s own way in the Church reflects somehow these conflicts of jurisdiction: ordained deacon when he was 24 by Jean Kovalevsky, he will then belong to the Romanian Patriarchate, then in ’78 he joined the Greek Church, then he returned to the dear Romanians, then the Kiev Patriarchate.

    And there are still so many more Patrairchates to reach ….

    [Briefly, here:
    http://leblogdumetropolitemichellaroche.blogspirit.com/biographie ]

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