Metropolitan Kallistos Ware died on 24 August 2022 at the age of 87. He was born in Bath on 1 September, 1934. His mother came from an academic family, with the philosopher and ancient historian R. Collingwood in the family. His father was an army officer. He went to Westminster School, and then to Magdalen College in Oxford, where he took first classes in the first and second public examinations for Classics (or in Oxford parlance, Mods and Greats) and then also in Theology. He had been accepted for ordination training in the Church of England but by that point his doubts about Anglican coherence were growing and so he first of all withdrew from Anglican communion in about Easter 1957 and around Easter 1958 he was received into the Orthodox Church, as a member of the Greek Orthodox community in Britain. He subsequently was admitted as a monk of the community on the Greek island of Patmos (in 1966), and was ordained deacon (1965) and priest (1966). He became as tutor and lecturer in Patristics (the study of the doctrine of the Christian Church in the first centuries), from 1966 was Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford, and from 1970 a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1982 he was consecrated titular Bishop of Diokleia and subsequently named as titular metropolitan in 2007.
But all of this you could find out elsewhere, so let me tell you something of Fr Kallistos as I knew him. Other things you can look up elsewhere. I had met him when I was an undergraduate studying Law at Magdalen in Oxford, and liked him. Although he was always available to those who were seriously considering Orthodoxy as their spiritual path there was never a sense of proselytism about him. Through him I was got to know Nicolas and Militza Zernov and their quite frequently terrifying tea parties (terrifying at least to me) where Nicolas would dictate the subject of conversation. As a second year undergraduate reading Law from a Birmingham direct grant school, I sometimes did not understand the subject, let alone what we were expected to say.
Fr Kallistos combined being a university academic with being parish priest of the Greek Orthodox parish in Oxford which, in a way unusual at least at that time, shared a church with the Russian Oxford parish. It was a joy to me when I was told in my second year at Saint Stephen’s House, training for ordination and taking the Oxford theology degree, that he was to be my tutor for Patristics. Tutorials were not at Pembroke College but at his house in Staverton Road in north Oxford. He was remarkably organized (at my first tutorial he took out a little note book and entered into it not only my name, but also my schooling, my A-level subjects, and my results on my finals in Law – paper by paper). Essays (the usual practice was that I would read a weekly essay and then he would comment, question, criticize, and very occasionally commend) were listened to intently, as though what I was saying was really of interest. I also went to his lectures on later period of Patristic Christology and still have my notes. They also were a model of organization, with an occasional dry note of donnish humour – ‘My abbot decided that my monastic name was to be Kallistos. I never understood why. It means most beautiful.’
When I returned to Oxford a few years later to be Dean of Divinity, Chaplain and Fellow of New College, our paths crossed again. My Greek was not up to my pursuing post-graduate study on Cyril of Alexandria, as he would have liked me to do, but he did make helpful comments on the work for my doctorate on the sinlessness of Christ. But we were involved together in the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius, and in the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop (as by then he was) Kallistos was always insistent that the Fellowship should work two ways – I think he felt it tended to operate simply as a way of telling non-Orthodox about Orthodox and was quite determined that there should be times when the focus was the other way around. And he was a star in his encouragement of the ESBVM, not least to me in my term as Chair of the Oxford branch.
By the time I went back to Oxford once more to be Principal of Saint Stephen’s House, our paths crossed again (to be honest we had not fallen out of touch). There was less time for other activities but I remember having him to the House as our Holy Week speaker and a spell-binding series of addresses on the Holy Spirit and the events of Holy Week. He understood the Church of England traditionalist position on the ordination of women to the priesthood, but to be honest he was much more concerned about the apparent hesitations of the Church of England on matters of the Trinity, Incarnation and Redemption.
Apart from the hugely successful The Orthodox Church and what is a I suppose a sort of sequel in The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos has not left a great series of books. There are many articles, lectures (published and unpublished), and reviews and I hope some of them might be collected together for publication. He also did great work as a translator of classic Orthodox texts, especially liturgical and spiritual. But his primary delight was as a teacher – a teacher face-to-face, as tutor or lecturer. May he rest in peace and be gathered into God’s glory – where sorrow and pain are no more.
Fr Jeremy Sheehy is the Rector of
Swinton and Pendlebury.