November 20, 2010

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware On Traditional Orthodox Clerical Attire In the West

By Kyriacos C. Markides

I had already made arrangements to interview Kallistos Ware, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and leading scholar of Eastern Orthodoxy at Oxford University. An Anglican convert, Bishop Kallistos did more than anyone I knew to create bridges and understanding between Eastern Christianity and the West, making the spiritual wisdom of Eastern Christianity accessible to readers and spiritual seekers throughout the world....

After checking in at the Galaxy Hotel, a homey English inn, I walked the distance to our appointment on Canterbury Road. Conscious of British punctuality, I rang the bell of the Saint Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality at exactly one o'clock. Bishop Kallistos opened the door and welcomed me warmly. It was the second time I had met with him, the first being four years earlier. Tall and gentle looking, the sixty-six year old bishop wore the black robes of an Orthodox monk, his face hidden behind a white, robust beard. As with my earlier visit I felt as if I were meeting a resurrected stately prince of Byzantium, right in the heart of Oxford.

"How do they relate to you in this town, seeing you dressed in your black cassock?" I asked as we walked to an Italian restaurant nearby.

"They are accustomed to seeing me around by now," Bishop Kallistos replied in jest. "Most people, of course, don't understand what I represent but they are used to my strange appearance. When I was ordained a priest, my elder on the island of Patmos, Father Amphilochios, told me that I should always wear the black cassock and let my beard grow. He said that in this way I would constantly be acting as a witness of Orthodoxy in the West."

From Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality, pp. 148-151.