The Orthodox Churches and the West

Volume 13 of Studies in Church History
edited by Derek Baker

Being temporarily outwitted by some hairy coding problems in Krita, I’m trying to clear some square metres of floor space by doing Fading Memory entries on books I’ve read in December, when I didn’t have time to write anything. And Fading Memories was, after all intended to be a faithful log of my reading so I wouldn’t forget what I had already read before. So, without further ado, a few notes on this curious book I borrowed from the Church library. (Which I’m librarian of for the Western section, with Julia doing the Cyrillic section. Not that I cannot read the Cyrillic script, if there’s one thing that has always come easily to me it’s been learning scripts, but my Russian has really detoriated since 1992, when I spent a year learning the language well enough to read a grammar of Tangut published in Leningrad.)

Anyway, this book, published by Blackwell in Oxford in 1976, is typical of its kind: a regular series where scholars in a particular discipline can publish their papers, somewhat thematically ordered, but not too much, most of them read at one particular conference. The kind of book someone who hasn’t published in it buys if one paper turns out to be really interesting, against all expectation, or which you have a subscription to if it’s your field.

However, it turned out to contain a nice paper by Bishop Kallistos on the secret conversion to Orthodoxy by an English peer in the first half of the nineteenth century and a really amusing account of corruption in the Greek church under the Turks — a bishop was said to eat lakes of yoghurt for breakfast and mounds of filleted sardines for lunch. Poor man… The article by Nicolas Zernov on the Russian diaspora in the west and its effects on the Christian West is probably why my unknown predecessor in the library has bought the volume; it’s interesting, but a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes. And so the collection winds to its somewhat weary end: twenty papers from the late seventies, I should not expect all of them to be interesting in 2004.