We have come a long way in the study of Orthodoxy in English since Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) completed his groundbreaking work, The Orthodox Church, in 1963. Almost 50 years later, Ware’s book is still the best place to begin, but for those who wish to wander farther in the field, and for the more experienced student, there are great riches. These are two of the most recent.
The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity
The Orthodox Christian World
These books are complementary. McGuckin’s Encyclopedia follows the usual format for such reference books, with entries and brief bibliographies for well more than 300 subjects, arranged alphabetically and with useful cross references, a complete list of entries, and an index. All this makes for easy use. To add to the Encyclopedia’s general utility, McGuckin includes “Foundational Documents of Orthodox Theology” and nine texts from the Creed of Nicea (325) to portions of St. John of Damascus’s “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” preceded by a short but insightful introductory essay.
Casiday’s volume, on the other hand, is a collection of 53 essays, divided into three sections: “Orthodox Christianity around the World,” “Important Figures in Orthodox Christianity,” and “Major Themes in Orthodox Christianity.” In this last section one finds the usual subjects, like hagiography, the Philokalia, and music, but there are also some interesting and fresh subject areas, like the relationship of Jewish apocalypticism and Orthodox mysticism, mental health, and the relationship of Orthodoxy to world religions. These essays are substantial, usually with notes and fairly extensive bibliographies, and there is an index.
Both McGuckin and Casiday cast Orthodoxy in its broadest term to include non-Chalcedonian traditions. This is helpful, especially as there remains little in English on these churches for the non-specialist. With world attention focused on the region, it is helpful to have articles on Syrians, Assyrians, Copts, and Ethiopians. As these communities face continued pressure in their mother countries, their communities in the United States continue to grow, and these books will help local clergy and congregations to be good neighbors and informed friends.
Most clergy will not be able to afford either of these reference tools, but they are just right for parish libraries, and those who have access to library copies can count on their reliability.
The Very Rev. Peter Eaton
St. John’s Cathedral, Denver