Daily Archives: March 25, 2020

Article Number 1200 on this Blog: Thanksgiving for April 2019 to April 2020

The Truth will set you free (John 8, 32)

A year ago, in 2019, there came to us revelation upon revelation amid the visit of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God. The rest of that year followed the same course, with great events, both in Church life and in personal life. The schism created by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Ukraine had become worldwide and that Patriarchate, with its adoption of many secular values, fell out of communion with the Russian Church. The positive result was the miraculous and long-awaited return of the Orthodox half (58% to be precise) of the Rue Daru Archdiocese from Constantinople to the Russian Church. This followed less than a year after the establishment of the Exarchate for the new Russian-speaking emigration to Western Europe, centred in Paris.

Another miracle took place when in July 2019, after more or less fifty years without a resident bishop in good health, our Diocese of the Church Outside Russia was at last received a resident Bishop Irenei, moreover with the title ‘of London’, which I had much encouraged, and ‘of Western Europe’, for which I had also been pleading for very many years. On the 35th anniversary of my ordination to serve at the altar, I gave thanks for this to the parish in front of Bishop Irenei when he visited us.

At this point, in early 2020, I had seen my many hopes of nearly half a century realised: The Saints of the Isles and other Western European Saints had been recognised by the Church and some included in the official calendar (despite the hostility of some); the Russian Church was One, as the Moscow Patriarchate was slowly becoming deMoscowised, that is de-Sovietised, which had allowed ROCOR to be in communion with the Patriarchate and the Rue Daru Archdiocese to return from schism to the Patriarchate; the Church had effectively been cleansed by the Phanariot schism; there was a Moscow-run Exarchate for the new generation in Western Europe and for the native Orthodox in the Isles and those who wished to integrate Western Europe but remain truly Orthodox; there was our own Bishop, whom I had had petitioned to be sent to us from the USA.; in Moscow an Orthodox missionary society dedicated to our very own St Felix of Felixstowe, Apostle of East Anglia, had been founded. On top of this, on 1 February 2020 the UK had refound its freedom, by leaving the insular EU straitjacket after 47 years.

Then my eldest son found a little church in Little Abington, between Cambridge and Haverhill, for sale. That was on Thursday 13 February 2020. I managed to view it inside the following Sunday afternoon and the day after that, 17 February, I received a loan to buy it. Two days before the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on 6 March, we heard that we had obtained it after an auction process. This was a miracle. Little Abington is seven miles to the south-east of Cambridge, where we had first searched for a church forty years before, in 1980, but had been let down by the powers that then were. This place was where three counties, Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, joined. It was the third church I had founded. (As someone said Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge made a triangle). The three churches were to represent unity in diversity. It was also near Cambridge, that centre of anti-Trinitarian theology, which we thus challenged.

On a personal level, I had known Little Abington almost all my life – it was on the very edge of all those villages, where for centuries my ancestors had been born, lived, worked and died. And all those villages, the Abingtons, Ridgwell, Hadstock, Bartlow, West Wratting, Shudy Camps, Castle Camps, Great Chesterford, Steeple Bumpstead, Helions Bumsptead, Sturmer, Kedington, Withersfield, Stambourne, Baythorn End, Hundon, their names poetry and music to me, were all haunted not by the cold conceits of atheist Cambridge, but by the humble martyr St Edmund. Clearly, there would have to be an icon of him on the iconostasis as THE local saint. Moreover, the church here was a church that had belonged for 100 years, since it had been built, to the Non-Conformist ‘United Reformed Church’. This was a Protestant group to which many of my local forbears had belonged.

When, by the grace of God, we obtained the church, someone said that ‘at last Fr Andrew has been unleashed’. I had been frustrated for over thirty years before Colchester had come in 2008, Norwich in 2015 and now Little Abington in 2020. The three churches were all very different, but united in our One Faith. There is justice; we had overcome our anti-missionary enemies, and there were so many of them who had not wanted a church here, through forty years of patience.

Glory to God for all things!

 

The Churched, The unChurched, Consumerism and Holy Communion

The Church has always been composed of the Churched and the unChurched, those who fear nothing and those who are fair-weather Christians only. However, these two groups, the former always being smaller than the latter, are not two separate groups, with no passages from one to the other. We are saved together. For all those who are Churched were once unChurched, as there is no such thing as ‘a cradle Orthodox’, though some persist in saying such falsity. And all who are unChurched may one day become Churched. Thus, I can say as a parish priest that most of my Churched parishioners were relatively recently unChurched and have been Churched only over the last twelve years.

This is why we reject any form of censorious and condemning phariseeism on the part of the Churched, a kind of Protestant ‘I have already been saved and you have not’ attitude. Similarly, we also reject both the excesses of over the top ‘neophytism’ and lax, anything-goes liberalism on the part of the unChurched. The Churched and the unChurched together combination is spiritually beneficial. On the one hand, the unChurched help prevent temptations of phariseeism and ‘ghettoism’ among the Churched. On the other hand, the Churched protect the unChurched from the twofold temptations of ‘convertitis’, zeal not according to knowledge, or a falling back into the worldly baggage with which the unChurched first came.

Much has been written for the unChurched, especially by authors of the Russian Diaspora. Surrounded by Non-Orthodox and Orthodox who knew very little, as intellectuals, philosophers and artists, they wrote for the educated in order to explain themselves. Such, for example, were the interesting books by Metr Antony (Bloom), Metr Kallistos (Ware), Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr John Meyendorff and Fr Sophrony Sakharov, among many others. They were good at doing this because most of them came themselves from unChurched, though highly intellectual, rationalistic and wealthy, even aristocratic, backgrounds, with hardly any real experience of the inner Church.

Thus Metr Antony had been an atheist, Metr Kallistos an Anglican, Fr Sophrony had lapsed as a young man into Hinduism with its ashrams and mantras, and, by their bourgeois pianos, Fr Alexander and Fr John had little concept of ascetic and monastic life. Such writers give a very introduction to the Church for the University-educated. Once the contents of their books have been understood, however, we can move on from the ‘starters’ which they provide to the main course, the serious food, the food for the soul, not for the brain, the food of the saints and  the martyrs.

Today the secular baggage which the unChurched of all nationalities (we live in a globalised world) bring often contains a magical attitude towards the Church, that of consumerism. For them what the Church provides can be selected, just as people selects products from supermarket shelves. Of course, this is wrong: the Church comes as a whole package; you cannot choose one thing against another. When we go into the forest, we do not look just at one tree in isolation, we look at the whole forest. This consumerist attitude also implies a magical attitude towards holy communion. Holy communion is not a panacea, which automatically cleanses. It is effective only if we prepare for it, confess for it, dress properly and modestly in church, and live in the Church, live in Christ. The Church is a whole, it is Life, not a hobby or an ‘add-on’, it is everything.