Monthly Archives: August 2021

The Tragedy of Afghanistan

Long before the Marxist invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the Western world was involved in political manipulations there. Indeed, they were what provoked the (foolish) Marxist invasion, as the Soviet Union, like the Russian Empire before it, always feared encirclement by aggressors. Its fear was real, as it came from continuous invasions of it, from the 13th century onwards. The Soviet Union did not want foreign missiles on its border with Afghanistan. After all, the positioning of missiles on the Soviet border with Turkey was after all what had provoked the 1962 Cuban Crisis, which was resolved only when the West backed down and withdrew their missiles, which led to the Soviets withdrawing theirs from Cuba.

The futile invasion of Afghanistan cost the US taxpayer well over $2 trillion (and the British taxpayer £35 billion). It was where the CIA trained Osama Bin Laden in terrorism, with consequences that are well-known. Far worse, it cost the US and Britain (and other NATO followers) thousands of lives. Far worse, it cost the Afghan people hundreds of thousands of lives from invaders (‘international or coalition forces’ or ‘the international community’ in BBCspeak) and millions of refugees. All for nothing. The West never learned the lessons of other lost wars: you cannot win a war when the people do not support you; you cannot impose your alien culture on people who have a culture ten times older than your own; you must respect others, not trample them down.

In reality, the rural masses – as opposed to the Westernised urban elite- want their country back. This is a repeat of what happened in Russia after 1917 and what happened in Iran after 1979, when the masses revolted against the highly Westernised urban elites. In the first case Marxism came to power, in the second case Shia Islam. In both cases foreign intrigues produced the opposite of what they sought, an anti-Western instead of a pro-Western regime.

Afghanistan is another example of the consequence of meddling in another country’s and another culture’s affairs because you think that you can ‘westernise’ the people. All you do in fact is alienate them. The Afghans have now defeated the British Empire, the Marxist Empire and the American Empire, in this ‘graveyard of empires’. Kabul will surely fall soon – it only ever was an enclave, financed at huge cost, in a country that was always largely controlled by the Taliban, who were Western-trained and Western-armed.

Amid the humming of shredders in embassies and the roar of helicopters and transport planes taking away escaping Westerners and Westernised, the Taliban are now ever stronger inside the gates of Kabul. They are now armed with the American weapons left there en masse and reinforced by the so-called Afghan Army which immediately surrendered to their brother-Taliban with all their US equipment and without a shot being fired. Kabul’s return to the Taliban may not be in a month or two, as the patronising Western media are suggesting, it may only be in days*.

Foreign troops went to Afghanistan and imposed themselves, supposing that they owned the place. The locals with their age-old Eurasian cultures and languages did not like imperialism. After twenty years the invading troops have been forced to run. Now Taiwan may return to China, the Ukraine (or the 80% Non-Hapsburg part) may return to Russia – similarly elsewhere.

The Marxist Soviet Empire could never do anything in Afghanistan because it held to an atheist ideology. The same was true for all practical purposes of the British and American Empires. As a result of its atheism, the Soviet Empire disappeared thirty years ago. Today an Orthodox Russia might be able to help Afghanistan, as it could respect the religious values of the Taliban, though of course without fanaticism. However, is Orthodox Russia strong enough? It seems unlikely. Let us pray for all those who suffer so much in this much-suffering country.

14 August 2021

*In fact it was the day after this was written.



St Chad of Lichfield

We have already spoken elsewhere of the family character of much of Old English Christianity. Another illustration of it is without doubt that of the four brothers, St Cedd, Apostle of Essex, St Chad of Lichfield, St Cynibil and the priest Caelin. Of these four the best known and most loved is certainly St Chad who has thirty-three ancient churches dedicated to him and whose Christian name is still in use as a baptismal name today. Who was he?

Chad came from the North of England and he is linked with St Aidan of Lindisfarne, who sent him to Ireland to learn the monastic life. On his return, he became Abbot of the monastery of Lastingham (in Yorkshire) which his brother St Cedd had founded. In 664 he was chosen against his will by Oswy, King of Northumbria, to be bishop and Chad obediently received consecration as Bishop of York. The Venerable Bede says he was, ‘a holy man, modest in all ways, learned in the Scriptures and careful to practise all that he found in them. When he became bishop, he devoted himself to keeping the truth and purity of the Church, practising humility. After the example of the Apostles he travelled on foot when he preached the Gospel in towns of country, cottages, villages or strongholds’.

In 669 St Theodore of Canterbury appointed Wilfrid, who had at long last returned from Gaul, as Bishop of York and Chad humbly retired to his monastery of Lastingham. When Theodore found Chad’s consecration by a simoniac and two dubious Celtic bishops unsure, Chad merely answered ‘If you find that I have not duly been consecrated, I willingly resign the office, for I never thought myself worthy of it, but though unworthy, in obedience submitted to it’. Given such humility and ‘outstanding holiness’, Chad was not allowed to stay and Lastingham for long and Theodore soon named him Bishop of Mercia. Theodore told Chad that on long journeys he should ride on horseback and since is huge diocese covered seventeen counties from the Severn to the North Sea, this was most practical advice. Bede tells us that Chad administered the diocese ‘in great holiness of life after the example of the early Fathers’.

In Lincolnshire, also part of Chad’s diocese, he founded a monastery at Barrow. He established his See in Lichfield and in a house nearby lived the monastic life ‘with seven or eight brethren for prayer and study as often as he had spare time from the labour and ministry of the Word’. Chad ruled his diocese with great success but unfortunately his rule was not to be long. One day at the end of February 673 we are told that a monk Owen, or Owini, heard ‘sweet and joyful singing coming down from heaven to earth’ over the roof of the church at Lastingham, where Bishop Chad was praying. Chad asked Owen to assemble the brethren to whom he then foretold his death, saying: ‘The welcome guest has come to me today and deigned to call me out of this world’. Chad asked the monks for their prayers and advised all of them to prepare for their deaths ‘with vigils, prayers and good deeds’. When Owen asked about the singing, Chad told him that angelic spirits had come to him and they had promised to return within seven days to take him with them. And so it was that after only two and a half years of governing the diocese, Chad caught the plague and having received communion, on 2 March 672, ‘his holy soul was released from the prison of the body … he regarded death with joy as the Day of the Lord’.

The Venerable Bede lists Chad’s virtues – continence, right preaching, humility, voluntary poverty (non-possession) – and says that Chad was filled with the fear of God. So sensitive was he that even a high wind would remind him of the mortality of man and the judgement to come and he would at once call on God to have mercy on mankind. During a storm he would enter church and pray ardently with psalms until it was over. Such was Chad’s spiritual sensitivity and awareness of the closeness of God and the righteousness of His judgement. Bede later recorded how one monk saw St Cedd, who had died earlier than his brother, come down from heaven with angels to take Chad’s soul back with them. Chad was buried at Lastingham and his relics worked many miracles, including the healing of a madman. Later his relics were translated to Lichfield and the veneration of St Chad continued right until the Reformation – for nearly 900 years. Then his relics were dispersed and many of them lost of destroyed, although some survive and are now kept in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham – situated in Chad’s diocese of Mercia. And to this day in the Cathedral library of Lichfield is conserved a very early Gospel called ‘the Gospels of St Chad’; it may perhaps have been used by St Chad himself.

Of the many ancient churches dedicated to the Saint, two are in his first diocese in Yorkshire and Middlesmoor and Saddleworth, but the others are to be found in the Midlands, in Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire. In Lichfield he is remembered at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Chad and in an ancient parish church. Two villages are also named after him, Chadkirk in Cheshire and Chadwick in Lancashire. It would seem that many of these dedications actually represent churches founded by the Saint himself as he walked or rode from village to village all those years ago, preaching as he went. The number of churches dedicated to him in his all too brief episcopate in both Yorkshire and the Midlands shows just how much he was venerated after his righteous repose. Typically, most of the dedications to the saintly bishop are in quiet country villages, like a Bishop’s Tachbrook in Warwickshire or at Tushingham in Cheshire; and so his quiet and humble spirit even today still takes us from the madding crowd of this present and troubled and noisome world.

Holy Father Chad, pray to God for us!

Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition, October 1994

July 2021


Questions for an Interview with Fr. Andrew Phillips on the Bulgarian Edition of ‘Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church’.

  • Father Andrew, to begin our interview, let us note that you are one of the serious researchers of Orthodox Christianity in England. Your many works pay attention to the spreading of Christianity before the schism of 1054. Tell us first how did it happen that you decided to dedicate yourself to this mission – to find and spread information and facts about the spreading of Christianity in England.

I was born and brought up not in London, which is the Norman capital of Britain, but in the English countryside. Here there still survived English traditions. There I lived near or heard of saints and places connected with saints, of whom I knew nothing. Adults seemed to know very little either. They would say, for example: ‘That was all a long time ago’ or ‘Things were different then’, or simply ‘He was a saint’. But nobody could tell me what a saint was. All I knew was that there was a special atmosphere around those saints and places, something warm and pleasant, something that made me feel at home.

So when I was eight years old I began trying to find out about them, asking people and looking for books about these saints. Who were these mysterious people with unfamiliar names? Even then I felt that they had a special aura about them, which was quite different from the atmosphere surrounding other more recent figures and places. I began realising that their values were quite different, but they were values with which I identified. By the time I was twelve, I knew that I belonged to them. Imagine a Bulgarian child hearing of St John of Rila and trying to find out about him. Who was he? When did he live? What did he express, write and believe? Why does he have this special atmosphere? What was this Church that he belonged to?

When I was twelve, I opened a mysterious book called ‘The New Testament’. I realised that the atmosphere and values expressed there were also mine and that they were identical to the atmosphere and values of these old saints. The New Testament, the words of Christ, explained them. When I was fifteen, I understood that somewhere there must be a church with these values. I could not find one. They all seemed empty inside. However, when I was sixteen, I managed to visit a Russian Orthodox church. Immediately, I felt at home and knew that this was my place, both the Church of the Gospels which Christ had spoken of and the Church of the old saints I had heard of in childhood. Their spirit was identical. I had found my identity, the world that I belonged to, Orthodox Christian Civilisation, of which the old saints in England had been tiny fragments a long time ago.

  • When you were researching this subject did you come across something that made a particular impression to you and remained etched in your memory? Something which you kept with yourself and remember well.

I think what impressed me as I did more research in my late teens and twenties was the parallels between the lives of these saints and those of Orthodox Eastern Europe, Russia, Greece and the Middle East. For example, I understood that Orthodoxy had come to Ireland from Egypt via Gaul. Later, indeed, I discovered that there are some fifty ancient Irish manuscripts at St Catherine’s monastery on Sinai! Or that the lives St Seraphim of Sarov in nineteenth-century Russia and St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in seventh-century England are astonishingly similar. I realised that time and space, history and geography, are nothing before the Eternal God.

  • At the end of 2020 your book Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church was published in Bulgaria. In it you deal chiefly on the evangelisation and the mission organized by St Gregory the Great and St Augustine of Canterbury. Christian evangelization however reaches further into Ireland and Scotland. Tell us more about the spreading of Christianity in these lands?

I wrote that book in 1988, so it has come to Bulgaria after 32 years!

The evangelisation of the Isles is very varied and there are many threads. For example the Celts in what is called Wales very much kept the Roman Christian inheritance which had come in the first four centuries after Christ. This is what lies behind the myths of King Arthur, fighting against the pagan English in order to defend the spirit of Roman Christianity. By the way, Arthur itself is a Roman name, meaning ‘Little Bear’. Many of the Welsh saints had Roman names like Ambrose or Justin, though the greatest is called David. Legend has it that in the sixth century he was consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. The light from the East, and Christianity began in the East, in Asia, in Jerusalem, not at all in Europe, had to enlighten the West. From sunrise to sunset, east to west.

On the other hand, the Irish, who had never been Romanised received their Christianity from Egypt via Gaul. Here St Martin of Tours and his followers played an important role in transmitting the monasticism of the Egyptian Desert to Ireland. From Ireland this was taken by St Columba to Iona in what we now call Scotland. From Iona the Irish monastic influence spread southwards to Lindisfarne in Northern England and further south still to the Midlands and southwards.

Finally, there was the mission of St Augustine, sent by St Gregory the Dialogist from Rome to convert the English. (He had no knowledge of the situation in Wales, Scotland and Ireland). This mission was successful in the South of England, but the rest of the country was converted by the Irish influence. However, the future National Church was organised by this southern mission.

So the conversion of England was an Anglo-Celtic evangelisation. Influences came from Egypt, Gaul, Rome and then were assimilated by the local peoples, principally by the Irish and the English.

  • If one enters deeply into the subject of Christianity in Britain, he will see that there is a certain difference between English Christianity and Celtic Christianity. What is the difference between the two and to what can we attribute it?

As we have said, the British Isles and Ireland were evangelised from two places: Continental Europe and Egypt. I am not keen on the word Celtic in this historical context, it has Pagan/New Age connotations. It can often be replaced by the word ‘Irish’, but we can keep the word Celtic if we give it a Christian sense.

If we simplify the situation, we can say in general that administration and organisation came from Rome and affected the English more, whereas asceticism came from Ireland and influenced the Celtic peoples more. Of course, as we have said, the two influences merged. We have to see that the Isles (the British Isles and Ireland) are an Anglo-Celtic domain. The English need the Celts, the Celts need the English. Both organisation and asceticism are essential. Here there is a mystery, which is contemporary and even has a political dimension. The two peoples need one another.

  • Today the English Church is very different from what it was before. Do you consider that there is any opportunity at all in time for it to return to its deeper roots?

It depends what you mean by the English Church. There is really no such thing. In England 97% of people have no real and practising attachment to any Christian religious organisation. Perhaps 1% belong to Anglicanism (the State Church), 1% belong to various other Protestant groups and 1% to Roman Catholicism. All these organisations are dying out, very rapidly.

Once you have lapsed into heresy, that is the end of the road. For example, we receive English people into the Church who, like myself, were never Christians before. They have not been tainted by heterodoxy so they are receptive to the Church. As the Gospel says: ‘If a corn of what falls into the ground and does not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit’ (Jn. 12, 24).

  • Which English saint do you most often pray to and who are the most revered and worshipped saints of England among Orthodox Christians today?

I live in a town called Felixstowe, named after a saint called St Felix (+ 647), who nearly 1400 years ago came from Gaul and brought Christ to Eastern England, where I was born and live. The other saint is St Edmund, who was King of East Anglia, but was martyred by the pagan Vikings in 869. His memory is very much alive here and even his life is known to many in this region. We are just opening a new church dedicated to him. The saints live!

There are perhaps four other saints who are still revered. These are St Alban the Protomartyr (+ 305?) (and was recently added to the official Russian Orthodox calendar), St Cuthbert (+ 687) (especially in the North of England), St Audrey (+ 679) (especially in the East of England) and St Hilda (+ 680) (especially in the North).

June 2021