Author Archives: Father Andrew

On the Present Difficulties in the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox world is going through a difficult period. Regardless of where you live and which Local Church you belong to, all the divisions are centred on the Ukraine. Indeed, they have been, even before the Patriarchate of Constantinople created its own grouping there on US orders in 2019. Now the problems are much more serious.

We have no doubt, like it or not, that the Russian Federation will win in the conflict in the Ukraine. Then unity with the Church in Moscow will come in the Ukrainian Church. The problems of those who elsewhere, under political pressure from Western governments or otherwise, object to the Russian Church’s policies in the Ukraine, whether they are in the Baltics, Moldova, Western Europe, North America, or elsewhere, will be solved.

We are surprised by none of the dissidence in various foreign sections of the Russian Church in the Diaspora, especially in Western Europe, as we were told exactly what the intentions were in March 2021. We reported them. Then nobody, including a now removed Moscow Patriarchal bishop, listened to us. Indeed, we were punished for reporting the truth.

Here is a wise parable:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BMZbAV-YdE

 

The Orthodox Church: 200 million Faithful and 1,000 Bishops

This is an update as a result of recent events. We now have the most accurate statistics we can obtain in the light of new demographics and polls (Wikipedia is of little help here). If any reader has more accurate figures, please inform us, so that we can make corrections.

 

The Orthodox Church is a family of Local Churches, just like the Churches of the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Romans, the Thessalonians, the Colossians etc, as described in the letters written to them by the holy Apostle Paul. Each of the Local Orthodox Churches has a main administrative figure, a chief bishop known as a Patriarch, or in the case of smaller Churches, a Metropolitan or an Archbishop. However, the Church as a whole has no earthly head, because the head of the Orthodox Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. His authority is expressed in the Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit as revealed particularly through the Holy Scriptures, Church Councils and the saints. Below you will find details of the 16 Local Orthodox Churches and their approximate sizes, totalling: Bishops: 1,003. Priests: 80,092. Parishes: 72,493. Monasteries: 3,008. Faithful: 200,000,000.

 

Russia: Bishops: 419. Priests: 40,000. Parishes: 36,878. Monasteries: 1,000. Faithful: 144,000,000

This is a multinational Orthodox Church and accounts for over 70% of all Orthodox. It cares for Orthodox living on canonical Russian Orthodox territory, spread over one fifth of the planet (the former Soviet Union except for Georgia, plus China and Japan) and peopled by over 62 nationalities, with autonomous (semi-independent) Churches in several countries outside Russia. Its territories include the Russian Federation, the Ukraine (with its fully-independent Church), Belarus, Moldova, Transcarpathia (the main part of Carpatho-Russia), Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Baltic Republics. The Russian Church also includes the autonomous Japanese Orthodox Church and the Chinese Orthodox Church, as well as Exarchates in Belarus, Western Europe, South-East Asia and Africa.

 

Romania: Bishops: 59. Priests: 15,513. Parishes: 13,527. Monasteries: 637. Faithful: 18,800,000

Also known as the Patriarchate of Bucharest, apart from in Romania there are also many Romanian parishes in the Diaspora. This is especially in Western Europe, where the Autonomous Metropolia of Western and Southern Europe has two million faithful, six bishops and 677 parishes.

 

Greece: Bishops: 100. Priests: 9,117. Parishes: 8,000. Monasteries: 598. Faithful: 10,000,000

Under the Archbishop of Athens, this Church cares for all Orthodox in Greece.

 

Serbia: Bishops: 45. Priests: 3,000. Parishes: 2,974. Monasteries: 204. Faithful: 8,000,000

The canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Belgrade covers Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. There are also many parishes in the Serbian Diaspora.

 

Bulgaria: Bishops: 27. Priests: 1,500. Parishes: 2,600. Monasteries: 120. Faithful: 4,500,000

The Patriarchate of Sofia covers Bulgaria and a number of churches in the Diaspora.

 

Georgia: Bishops: 47. Priests: 1,100. Parishes: 550. Monasteries: 172. Faithful: 3,500,000

The Patriarchate of Tbilisi covers Georgia and a small Georgian Diaspora.

 

Constantinople: Bishops: 130. Priests: 5,935. Parishes: 3,196. Monasteries: 148. Faithful: 3,050,000

This includes Greek Orthodox in Istanbul (about 1,000), those on Greek islands such as Crete and Rhodes (700,000), and above all the Greek Diaspora in the Americas, Western Europe and Australia. There are also ten parishes in Finland and small groups of other Non-Greek Orthodox elsewhere. It has 58 titular bishops.

 

Antioch: Bishops: 41. Priests: 408. Parishes: 496. Monasteries: 32. Faithful: 3,000,000

The canonical territory of the Arab Patriarch, who lives in Damascus, includes Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq.

 

Macedonia: Bishops: 10. Priests: 500. Parishes: 500. Monasteries: 20. Faithful: 1,300,000

This Church looks after Orthodox in North Macedonia and in the Diaspora, in Australia and elsewhere.

 

Alexandria: Bishops: 38. Priests: 350. Parishes: 850. Monasteries: 3. Faithful: 1,000,000

Although for historical reasons its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate is in Egypt. It also cares for St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai, but most of its faithful are Africans in over 54 African countries.

 

Cyprus: Bishops: 17. Priests: 600. Parishes: 628. Monasteries: 28. Faithful: 650,000

Under an Archbishop, this Church cares for all Greek Orthodox in Cyprus

 

Poland: Bishops: 12. Priests: 420. Parishes: 237. Monasteries: 13. Faithful: 600,000

Under the Metropolitan of Warsaw, this Church cares for Orthodox of all origins who live mainly in eastern Poland.

 

Albania: Bishops: 8. Priests: 154. Parishes: 909. Monasteries: 1. Faithful: 200,000

Under the Archbishop of Tirana, this Church cares for Orthodox in southern Albania, many of whom are of Greek origin.

 

The Czech Lands and Slovakia: Bishops: 5. Priests: 197. Parishes: 240. Monasteries: 4. Faithful: 170,000

Led by a Metropolitan, this Church cares for Carpatho-Russian, Slovak and Czech Orthodox, as well as large numbers of Ukrainian Orthodox immigrants.

 

Jerusalem: Bishops: 23. Priests: 50. Parishes: 50. Monasteries: 25. Faithful: 130,000

Although its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, the flock consists of Palestinian Orthodox in Palestine and the Jordan.

 

North America (OCA): Bishops: 13. Priests: 1,098. Parishes: 699. Monasteries: 3. Faithful: 100,000

This Church began from the descendants of Slav immigrants to North America from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is now a multinational group, not recognised by all but destined to be part of a future North American Orthodox Church.

 

 

Two (?) New Local Churches and Controversy

In a single week the number of universally recognised Local Churches has apparently gone up from 14 to 16. First, the Serbian Orthodox Mother-Church granted autocephaly to the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Thus a schism that has lasted well over fifty years has at last been overcome and the 1.5 million Orthodox of North Macedonia have now entered back into communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church and hopefully with the whole Orthodox family. There is rejoicing at this.

However, today (27 May) a Council (not Synod) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, meeting in Kiev, has declared its autocephaly (without ever using that actual term), though it has not been granted it by the Mother-Church in Moscow. This is problematic, as the Mother-Church must first grant autocephaly, as in the Serbian example. We fear problems and divisions ahead. Of course, we well understand why the Kiev Council has been forced into this by the Kiev government and by the general tragic situation. A great many canonical Ukrainian Orthodox churches were being stolen, closed or handed over to schismatic groups by the nationalist Kiev government authorities in Central and Western Ukraine, as the UOC was under Moscow. Here there are many questions:

Was the decision reached freely? Was this the only solution? In declaring full independence, does the Council actually mean autocephaly? How will out-of-touch Moscow react? Should centralised Moscow have granted the Ukrainian Church at least autonomy previously, as we and others have long suggested? (For example, our March article on the possible reconfiguration of the Russian Church, suggesting large-scale autonomy, and many other articles years before that). What will happen as the UOC enters into negotiations with other groups, many of whose members left the Church only for political reasons? Will there at last be unity in the Ukraine, as the UOC wants to negotiate with at present schismatic groups in the Ukraine? How will this affect the Diaspora? What about churches, clergy and people in the Diaspora that are largely Ukrainian-dominated (like one in London)? Will the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accept or open churches in the Diaspora, as it suggests it will do in its Council’s statement?

Of course, we do not even know the borders of the future Ukraine. So far Russian forces have completely taken or almost taken five largely Russian-speaking provinces: Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhe and Kharkov. Given the rout of the Kiev forces, with hundreds deserting or surrendering every day, Russia may also soon take Odessa, Nikolaev and Dnipropetrovsk, so as to join up with Transdnestria.

Thus, it now looks as though all these more heavily-populated  eight provinces of the Eastern Ukraine/Novorossija will, as the Crimea did in 2014, join Russia. Presumably, they will also, with their 20 million population (half the total of the Ukraine), also Join the Russian Church, still leaving it with some 130 million faithful. This will leave the sixteen provinces of Western and Central Ukraine, with some 10 to 15 million Orthodox, under the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church – presuming that Western provinces do not return to Poland, Romania and Slovakia, so restoring the 1930s borders. However, with the remnants of the routed Ukrainian Army collapsing in the Donbass and rumours, but only rumours, of an imminent coup d’etat in Kiev, the situation is very fluid.

We, canonically and safely living our Orthodox lives in a sister-Church, can only pray for Metr Onuphry and all concerned. We have as fathers steered the ship of the Church to remain outside devious political pressures and keep ourselves free. This, as everywhere, has been essential in order to retain the multinational ethos of the Church and protect our flocks and our churches. We all want a situation where all are free to worship God in the Orthodox manner.

The Russian Church has been in chaos for well over a year now, in the Diaspora, in Lithuania, which also seeks autonomy, and above all in the Ukraine. It has been thrown left and right by sinister political forces and has even rejected its own most faithful members of half a century’s standing because of raison d’etat. But God is not mocked. You will see. All of this was predicted.

The City of Colchester

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-61509353

The news that Queen Elizabeth has made the town of Colchester into a City as a present on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee is most welcome.

Once the Capital of the Celtic Trinovantes tribe, then briefly the Capital of Roman Britain, when London was still wild marshland (a possible meaning of its name), Colchester has long been known as Britain’s oldest recorded town. Its Celtic name was Camulodunum, the fortress of the Celtic war-god Camulos. Its Roman name appears to come from the word Colne, the Celtic name of the local river (there are several other Celtic-named River Colnes in England) and chester, from the Latin castra, meaning a Roman camp. Thus, for the Romans Colchester was a ‘civitas’, which is the Latin word from which is derived the modern word ‘city’.

Its crest shows the three crowns of St Edmund of East Anglia, King and Martyr (+ 869), Patron-Saint of East Anglia and Co-Patron of England, against a background of the Cross of Christ. The connection with the Cross goes back to its finder, St Helen, who is reputed to have visited Colchester together with her son Constantine. He was a military leader in Roman Britain and was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire on 25 July 306 in York. Later he opened the First Universal Council of the Church in 325, which took place just outside New Rome, the City he founded, which later became known as Constantinople. Today a statue of St Helen holding the Cross, stands on top of Colchester City (no longer Town) Hall facing south-east – towards Jerusalem, where she found it.

With the largest Orthodox church outside London (and probably as big as any in London), both in terms of the building and the multinational parishioners, we wonder if Colchester may not yet also become a City in the sense that it will one day have an Orthodox bishop?

May God’s Will be done.

Who Will Win?

Some reading this title may think I wish to talk about the Ukraine and Russia. Of course, I do not. That is not what is important in the long-term. This title is about the battle for the Church.

Who will win?

Will it be the scribes and pharisees, many of them in the highest positions in the Church hierarchy? After all, they crucified Christ. In the last century, they disgraced and exiled St Nectarius, Metropolitan of Pentapolis, and slandered St John of Shanghai and Western Europe (as we call him here), right up until the present day from 1992 to 2022, as I have witnessed myself. These false brethren have always been active in the Church against the Church and they rejoice together with satan when churches are closed and they rant when they are opened. They are the right-wing, the sectarians, the misogynists and hypocrites, the anti-missionaries and anti-pastors, who not only act against the canons, but also act against Love, the Gospel of Christ, replacing the spiritual with mere moralism. This is the betrayal of Judas

Or will it be the Saducees who swim with the secular tide, the might of this world? After all, they rejected Christ, because He rose from the dead, defeating the Death that they worship, in deed and thought. These false brethren condemn the great saints, from St John Chrysostom to St Nicholas of Ochrid, who spoke the Truth when it was unfashionable to speak the Truth. The Saducees are the left-wing, the modernists, who follow the mob, zombified by the State, who have television-sets instead of brains, who are ready at any moment to shout, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him, His blood is on is and on our children and on our children’s children’. They declare that Might is Right, worshipping the world, whose prince is the devil and which, as the Apostle says, lies in evil. This is the betrayal of Pilate.

Or will it be the Saints and those who love the Saints, who are Saints because they love Christ?

I will tell you the answer now:

The Saints and those who love the Saints will win, because Christ, Whom they love, has already won. All other thoughts are illusions. Whatever happens in the short-term, in the long-term you should tremble and shiver, for God is not mocked. And we know that, even if you do not.

On the Possible Reconfiguration of the Russian Orthodox Church

Foreword: Russia and the Ukraine in Conflict

The possible military, economic and geopolitical consequences of the conflict in the Ukraine are much discussed. But what can we say of the ecclesiastical consequences? Both Russia and the Ukraine are ethnically more or less identical, both have majorities which are nominally Russian Orthodox Christians, so that both are dependent on the same Russian Orthodox Church, centred in Moscow. And yet a military conflict is under way between the two countries and there are many in the Ukraine who now do not want to recognise any administration in Moscow, even stating that the Russian Orthodox Patriarch should be tried for war crimes. Let us look at the general background to this situation.

Introduction: The Orthodox Church and Geopolitics

The Orthodox Church is a Confederation or family of 14 universally recognised Autocephalous (= fully independent) Local Churches, with some 200 million adherents in all. Each Local Church is led by a Patriarch, Metropolitan or Archbishop, depending on its size. With 142 million members, over 70% of the total, the Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of these Local Churches, followed by the Romanian (19 million), the Greek (10 million) and the Serbian (8 million). The remaining 19 million Orthodox belong to the other 10 very small Local Churches, each numbering on average about 2 million members. Although these Churches are based in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, several of them have ‘diasporas’, that is, emigrant minorities and missions, often going back several generations, in Western Europe, North America, Australia and outside their Eurasian homelands. These diasporas number millions.

Most of these smaller Local Churches are precisely that – local, that is, national. Thus, it is extremely rare, for example, to find a Non-Albanian member of the Albanian Orthodox Church or a Non-Georgian member of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The largest exception is the Russian Orthodox Church, which is multinational, with over sixty nationalities inside and outside the Russian Federation. Indeed, well over a quarter of all Russian Orthodox churches and clergy are to be found in the Ukraine, even though the Russian Orthodox administrative centre is in Moscow. That administration, known as ‘The Moscow Patriarchate’, is led by its Patriarch, whose title is ‘of Moscow and All Rus’ (‘Rus’ meaning the East Slav lands).

For well over a century, the Western Powers, with their State-controlled religions, have been trying to control the Orthodox Church. This has followed the well-worn model of how the USA came to control Roman Catholicism after the Second World War, protestantising or secularising it at the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965. Then, in 1978 it helped appoint the Polish Pope Woytila (‘John-Paul II’) to undermine the Soviet Union and in 2013 Jorge Bergoglio (‘Francis I’) to impose its post-Christian agenda. As for the Orthodox world, in 1948 the US State Department took over the small, politically weak but ancient Church of Constantinople in Istanbul, and has ever since tried to use it to manipulate the internal affairs of the whole Orthodox Church and ‘vaticanise’ it too.

It is in this context that the multinational nature of the Russian Orthodox Church is not only a strength, but also a weakness. For some Russian Orthodox living outside the Russian Federation and Belarus, ‘the Moscow Patriarchate’ administration, appears to be simply a department of the Russian State. This is nothing new. It happened during the pre-Soviet period and notably the Soviet period, when anti-Soviet Russian Orthodox immigrant groups, now variously called ROCOR, the OCA, the Paris Archdiocese, as well as Ukrainian and Belarusian jurisdictions, broke away from the enslaved Church administration held hostage in Moscow.

The pressure to split from the Mother-Church came and comes not only from the people, but also from political pressures from States under which Russian Orthodox have lived. We can see this very clearly in the USA, where émigré groups have been infiltrated, creating bishops, in fact CIA assets. In the UK, Germany and France a similar pattern can be observed. This movement is spreading to the hostage Russian Orthodox episcopate in the Russophobic Baltic States, Moldova and above all in the Ukraine, where several, large-scale splits have occurred, with millions leaving the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. How can such nationalist splintering effects be avoided by Moscow?

Against Splintering

Unlike the Church of Constantinople in Turkey, which is financially dependent on politicised Greek Americans, the Russian Church is free of systematic US interference. However, as we have said, it does have its own internal traitors and they are US assets. Moreover, the Russian Church also has its own issues, all of which go back to the westernisation of Russia which began intensively 300 years ago, though all these issues have much worsened since 1917. These issues are: Russian nationalism (which undermines the ethos of a multinational Church), centralisation, bureaucracy and corruption.

As we have said, on top of these we now have the conflict in the Ukraine. This has caused division in the Russian Orthodox Church, not only among westernised fringe members of the Church, some of whom belong to an American-based marginal group called ‘Public Orthodoxy’, but above all in the Ukraine itself, as well as in the Baltics, Moldova and Western Europe. Although some of these divisions may be nationalistic or of the spiritually feeble politically correct variety, they are nevertheless very real and above all long-term, sometimes going back well over a century.

For instance, in the Ukraine itself a third of the canonical (let alone uncanonical) episcopate today refuses to commemorate the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill at services, seeing in him an enemy of the Ukrainian people. For their people, even the word ‘Moscow’ in the title ‘Moscow Patriarchate’ is a dirty word and they see the Patriarch not as a representative multinational figure, but as a corrupt nationalist stooge of an enemy Russian government. Below we make suggestions which might be of use in finding solutions to these critical problems.

First of all, there is the very name ‘the Moscow Patriarchate’. Given how Western aggression has pushed the Russian Federation to embrace Asia and sometimes made the Russian Church favour relations with traditional Islam (and traditional Non-Christian religions in general) over relations with non-traditional secularist Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, some have suggested that the Russian capital itself could be moved from the megalopolis of Moscow. The new capital would be the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, on the very frontier of Europe and Asia. This city is also marked by the historic events surrounding the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II and his Family in 1918.

If that happened, the present ‘Moscow Patriarchate’ would have to be renamed ‘The Patriarchate of Ekaterinburg and All Rus’. However, this is for the moment a purely imaginary discussion. It is our suggestion that the administration of the Patriarchate of Moscow might rather be moved some thirty miles to the north-west of Moscow, to the historic, seventeenth-century monastery complex and patriarchal residence of New Jerusalem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jerusalem_Monastery#:~:text=History%20The%20New%20Jerusalem%20Monastery%20was%20founded%20in,its%20name%20from%20the%20concept%20of%20New%20Jerusalem). This would give the Patriarchate the new title of ‘The Patriarchate of New Jerusalem and All Rus’. This would avoid any Soviet connotations of the title ‘Patriarchate of Moscow’. Also totally unrealistic? Perhaps. However, we also have a solution other than renaming or ‘rebranding’.

The Solution of Autonomisation

At present the Russian Church is divided administratively into Autonomous (self-governing, but not fully independent) Churches, Exarchates and Metropolias. The difference between these administrative terms is the level of independence from the Centre, with an Autonomous Church being much more independent than an Exarchate and an Exarchate much more independent than a Metropolia. Each of these administrative divisions is composed of a number of dioceses, each of which is in turn headed by an archbishop (more senior) or a bishop (more junior), under each of whom there is a network of parish and monasteries.

In order to overcome the fourfold problems we mentioned above, Russian nationalism, centralisation and hence bureaucracy and hence corruption, we suggest that the whole multinational structure of the Russian Church be decentralised into regional Autonomous Churches. This would do away with the intermediate ‘Exarchates’ and keep Metropolias as structures only inside the Russian Church and inside each new Autonomous Church. Two such Autonomous Churches already exist – the Russian-founded Japanese and Chinese Orthodox Churches. These two are and must be autonomous because they are in the territories of different states. Why not be consistently logical and do the same elsewhere?

What we are suggesting is that this principle of Autonomous Churches be extended to replace the present Exarchates and Metropolias in Non-Russian territories. Only the heads of Autonomous Orthodox Churches, although still part of the Russian Orthodox Church, would actually commemorate the Russian Orthodox Patriarch. (This would avoid the present political tensions and conflicts about his commemoration). Thus, the following new Autonomous Orthodox Churches could be founded:

  1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Replacing the present ‘Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate’, this would cover the territory of the new Ukraine. True, the latter’s borders are yet to be established, but it would surely include at least the nine central provinces of the present, Communist-created Ukraine. The seven provinces of the west of the present Ukraine, in Galicia and Transcarpathia (eastern Carpatho-Russia), might join, or rather return to, other countries politically, such as Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Ecclesiastically, local Orthodox there might join the Belarussian (see below), Polish, Czechoslovak and Romanian Local Orthodox Churches. Church autonomy in the new Ukraine would surely help lead to the collapse of present anti-Moscow nationalist and schismatic groups there.

  1. The Belarusian Orthodox Church

This would replace the present Exarchate of Belarus and cover the territory of Belarus.

  1. The Moldovan Orthodox Church

This would replace the present local structure and cover the territory of Moldova, minus Transdnestria, added to it by Stalin, which would certainly choose to become part of the Russian Federation.

  1. The Baltic Orthodox Church

This would group all Orthodox in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Autonomy here might well be the end of the present sectarian grouping in Estonia under the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as quelling pressures from Russophobic Baltic State politicians for the local Orthodox to be more independent of Moscow. In Lithuania they are even attempting to ban the Moscow Patriarchate wholesale and a schism is already in progress.

  1. The Central Asian Orthodox Church.

This would group the five million or so Orthodox in the five ‘stans’ of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

  1. The North American Orthodox Church

This would cover the territories of the USA, for the moment including Alaska and Hawaii, and Canada. It could finally regroup the three present groups of Russian origin, as well as of other Orthodox origins, in English-speaking North America. By ending the old structures of the ‘Orthodox Church in America’ or ‘OCA’ (after over 50 years still not accepted as canonically autocephalous, or fully independent, by most Local Orthodox Churches) and of the rather sectarian American Synod called ‘ROCOR’, combining them with the parishes under the present Moscow Patriarchate in North America, a long-awaited move towards unity would take place.

  1. The Western European Orthodox Church

This would replace the present Western European Exarchate, which includes Russian Orthodox in many countries in Western Europe, but would be extended to include Russian Orthodox in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Scandinavian countries and Finland. It would also provide the structure to integrate the canonical elements of the Western European churches of the American ROCOR (see above) and of the Paris Archdiocese. The latter two organisations are both left over from the post-1917 period and perhaps lost their relevance after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is time to recognise this and for them to become parts of an Autonomous Local Church here.

  1. The South-East Asian Orthodox Church

This would replace the present South-East Asian Exarchate, which includes countries as diverse as Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines.

Now we come to even more adventurous possibilities – perhaps to come in the more distant future:

  1. The African Orthodox Church

This would replace the present Exarchate of Africa – if that controversial Exarchate is to be continued.

  1. The Orthodox Church of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

Based in Mexico City, this new structure would provide an opportunity to unite all present missions in this area.

  1. The South American Orthodox Church

Based in Brazil, this new structure would provide an opportunity to unite all present missions on this Continent.

  1. The Orthodox Church of Oceania

Based in Sydney, this new structure would provide an opportunity to unite all present missions in Australia, New Zealand and the islands of Oceania.

  1. The South Asian Orthodox Church

This would provide such a new structure to unite all present missions in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Such decentralisation would bring the total number of Autonomous Orthodox Churches within the Russian Orthodox Church to fifteen, up from the present two. It is our thought that if some such decentralisation is not allowed, then various groups will break off from the Russian Church altogether. It is in order to avoid any further divisions or splintering, promoted either by nationalism or by geopolitics, that we put forward this suggestion of decentralisation, that is, the right to diversity within Russian Orthodox unity.

Of course, perhaps none of the above will happen and it will be up to other Local Churches to carry out missionary work. As we have said many, many times before over the decades, all is conditional. Suicidal and anti-missionary tendencies are clearly present in the Russian Church and maybe others will have to take up the beacon of missionary Orthodox work outside the Russian Federation, Belarus and the south-eastern Ukraine. Some, like the Patriarchates of Constantinople (especially in North America and Australia), Bucharest (especially in Western Europe) and Antioch (especially in South America), are already doing so. The future of the now highly politicised Russian Orthodox Church will remain in the balance, as long as it continues to place raison d’etat above the canons. Time will show us.

 

The Ukraine and Pre-Apocalyptic Times

The end will be through China. There will be some unusual outburst and a Divine miracle will take place.

St Aristocleus the Athonite, 1918

There will be three Easters after my death. The first will be bloody, the second will be hungry and the third will be victorious.

Elder Iona of Odessa, 2012

I have been asked several times over the last two months to write about the conflict in the Ukraine or to take sides. I have been silent all that time. I did not wish to speak, for every armed conflict and all innocent victims are tragedies. This is a matter in which prayerful silence is best. Now at the Feast of the Resurrection,  I will only say the following:

The Crucifixion showed people as they really were: some showed treachery like Judas, some showed Cowardice and washed their hands like Pilate, some called for crucifixion and crucified like the Pharisees, others helped carry the Cross, others took down the Most Pure Body, and others prepared to anoint it. For at the Crucifixion, the greatest crisis in all human history, as at every crucifixion and crisis (which is the Greek word for ‘Judgement’), the true nature of all is revealed. The crisis in the Ukraine is no exception, with politicians and churchpeople declaring their true natures. Some behave like Judas the Traitor, Pilate the Coward and Caiaphas the Deceiver, but others carry the Cross, take down the Body and anoint Him.

The problem of the last century was precisely that the Western world did not heed the prophets sent to it. On the one hand, St Justin (Popovich) defended the Church against the spirit of Papist tyranny, no matter where it came from, and, on the other hand, Solzhenitsyn clearly foretold the present war in the Ukraine and declared to the US government: ‘No, I cannot recommend your society as the ideal for the transformation of ours’. As a result, today we face the struggle against the political powers of totalitarian Secularism, with its ‘liberal’ censorship and ‘Might is Right’ because ‘West is Best’.

Now, in the present century, we await the time of the fulfilment of the prophecies of St Seraphim of Sarov, St Anatoly of Optina, St John of Kronstadt, St Seraphim of Vyritsa, St Laurence of Chernigov, of the New Martyrs and Confessors, of the Imperial Martyrs and their companions, and of such recent righteous as Elders Nikolai Pskovoezersky (2002) and Iona of Odessa (2012). What is happening in the Ukraine is on both sides a struggle between the Christian Civilisation of Godmanhood and the Secularism of Humanism – Mangodhood. More exactly, it is a struggle to purge the wheat of Orthodox Christian Civilisation from the chaff of the world, and to restore it to the Risen God. To the demons of this world, we must oppose our saints, old and new.

Commemoration of Our Father among the Saints Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Enlightener of Northumbria

THE 31ST DAY OF THE MONTH OF AUGUST

Commemoration of Our Father among the Saints Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Enlightener of Northumbria

At Vespers

At Lord, I have cried, 6 stichira: 3 for the Deposition of the Sash of the Mother of God and 3 for the holy hierarch, Tone VI, Spec. Mel.: ‘On the third day…’

Arise, you Christian peoples, and let us praise the wondrous Aidan, a hierarch blessed by God, a tireless husbandman of the vineyard of the Holy Church; and with cries of jubilation let us proclaim before all nations that he is our fervent intercessor before the throne of the Lord of lords.

O Lindisfarne, thou Holy Isle, washed everlastingly by the waves of the sea, as thou didst behold the spiritual struggles and feats of the holy hierarch Aidan, thy very stones bear witness to the glory he has won with Christ. Wherefore, as thou art exalted above the tides, raise us up to praise him.

Kings and nobles honoured thee, but thou gavest their gifts to the poor in Christ, thereby showing thyself to be a model of Christian virtue and love; wherefore, thou hast been crowned in the heavens by the right hand of the Almighty, O glorious Aidan.

Glory, Tone II.

The islands of the sea leap for joy at thy memory, O Aidan, for on the Isle of Scattery, in the Ireland of thy birth, thou didst first undertake the monastic life with the venerable Senan, on the blessed Island of Iona in the land of the Picts thou didst attain spiritual maturity under Segenius, and found thine own monastery on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne on the coasts of Northumbria. Wherefore, in thee were the words of Isaiah the Prophet fulfilled, for thy sake was the glory of the Lord revealed in the isles of the sea, and the name of the Lord made glorious therein.

Now & ever, for the Deposition.

Aposticha of the Deposition and Glory, Tone VIII.

With the right-believing Kings Oswald and Oswin thou didst plant the Faith of Christ among the English, as a true apostle and disciple of the Saviour, O holy Aidan; and caring for orphans and children as an attentive father, thou didst instil in them true piety and the knowledge of God; and with coins entrusted to thee in Christian love thou didst purchase the freedom of many who languished in bitter thralldom and captivity. O holy hierarch, look down from heaven upon us, thy sinful children: by thine example teach us the virtues and lead us to the vision of God, and by thy supplications ransom us, the wretched, from slavery to death and the devil.

Now & ever, of the Deposition.

Troparion of the holy hierarch, Tone I.

A son of Ireland, transplanted to Iona, the isle of saints, tended there, thou didst grow to spiritual fruition; and when the field of Northumbria was ready to receive the seeds of the Christian Faith, thou wast sent there to plant the crop of salvation. Wherefore, labouring diligently day and night, thou didst produce a rich harvest for Christ. O godly Aidan our father, beseech Him earnestly that our souls may find mercy.

Glory… Now & ever… Troparion of the Deposition.

 

At Matins

At ‘God is the Lord’, the troparion of the Deposition, twice; Glory…. that of the holy hierarch, Now & ever…. that of the Deposition, once.

After the readings from the Psalter, the sessional hymns of the Deposition.

Canon I of the Deposition, with 6 troparia, including the irmos, which is sung twice; Canon II of the Deposition, with 4 troparia; and this canon of the holy hierarch, with 4 troparia, the acrostic whereof is “Eire, Scotland and England praise Aidan”, Tone I.

Ode I

Irmos: Let us sing a new hymn to the Lord Who made the impassable Red Sea dry land. He caused the children of Israel to cross it, and covered the adverse foe with the sea.

Eireann’s child Aidan, growing in wisdom and stature in the land of the Picts, became a true apostle and father to the English, so that multitudes came to sojourn on earth as they were angels and dwell now in the heavens.

Iona, the sacred isle of the venerable Columba, nurtured thee, O Aidan, with the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the fathers, so that thou didst excel in the monastic struggles, in prudence and all the virtues.

Rejecting the acquisition of worldly power and material possessions, like the disciples of Christ thou didst go humbly among thy flock, O wondrous hierarch, preferring to walk upon thy beautiful apostolic feet, rather than to ride.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Ever-virgin art thou, O all-holy and blessed Sovereign Lady, Queen of all creation, for the Son and Word from before eternity has preserved thy purity undefiled, from thy birth to this day, and time without end.

Katavasia: The irmoi of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Ode III

Irmos: O Lord, establish the Church which Thou hast acquired by the power of Thy Cross, whereby Thou didst vanquish the enemy and hast enlightened the whole world.

Senan, thy tutor in faith and piety, sent thee to Segenius to train as a champion in the contest against all manner of temptations; and, strengthened by the supplications of both preceptors, O Aidan, thou didst vanquish the hordes of Satan.

Called to the episcopate because of thine exceeding great discretion, thou didst tend the sheep and lambs of thy flock for Christ, the Chief Shepherd, Who has crowned thee gloriously with an unfading wreath.

O the grace which filled thee, body and soul, O wondrous Aidan! For, sensing the power of the Almighty working in thee, the waves of the sea stilled their raging when the oil thou didst provide was poured forth thereon.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Tenderly didst thou feed thine own Creator at thy breast, O Virgin Mother; wherefore, He Whom thou didst cradle in thine all-pure arms took thy pristine soul into His own hands when it departed from thine immaculate body.

Kontakion of the holy hierarch, Tone V.

With great pastoral prudence, O holy hierarch Aidan, thou didst feed the lambs of thy new flock with the milk of piety; and when they were filled with such wholesome spiritual sustenance, thou gavest them the solid food of Orthodox teaching, thereby confirming their souls in godly reverence and true devotion.

Ikos: Arise and praise Aidan, O Northumbria! O Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, rejoice and be glad! Ye kings and princes, lords and commons, lift up your voices in jubilation! For the blessed hierarch ever imparts to your land the mercy and favour of the Most High, shedding the rays thereof on your cities, villages and towns. Wherefore, let the streams of the Humber carry his fame to all the world, and let the cities of York, Durham and Bamburgh declare his glory to all Christendom, that every nation may glorify God, Who is wondrous in His saints, that He may confirm our souls in godly reverence and true devotion.

Sessional hymn of the Deposition; then, Glory…. that of the holy hierarch, Tone VIII, Spec. Mel.: ‘Of the Wisdom…’

Well didst thou heed the words of David the Psalmist, O Aidan, for thou didst take care not to be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose jaws must be held with bit and bridle; wherefore, when a costly steed was bestowed upon thee by the pious king, thou didst straightway give it away to a poor man, reproving the sovereign when he protested at thy liberality, for the poor in Christ, who are always with us, are higher in value than all the horses of this world.

Now & ever…. Sessional hymn of the Deposition, again.

Ode IV

Irmos: Thy grace has shone forth upon the nations, and the ends of the earth have beheld Thy glory, for by Thy Cross Thou hast saved the whole world.

Let all the ends of the earth rejoice today in the memory of the holy hierarch Aidan, who cast down the idols of the heathen and shone forth the grace of God in the Kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia.

All Orthodox nations exult greatly today, praising the apostolic struggles and journeys of the wondrous Aidan, by whose tireless efforts the Faith of Christ was established.

Now let us all emulate the blessed Aidan, the model for monastics and paragon of Christian virtues, that having like him pleased our heavenly Master, we may enter into His gracious joy.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Despairing of our salvation because of our manifold transgressions, in fear we flee to thee, O most immaculate one; and, clasping thy precious feet, we beseech thy mighty intercession.

Ode V

Irmos: Once, the seraph, taking up tongs, took up a burning ember and touched it to Isaiah’s lips; and, purified, he proclaimed unto all: Learn ye righteousness!

Alms didst thou constantly receive from the mighty of the world, O Aidan; and these didst thou straightaway give away among the poor and needy. Wherefore, great is thy treasure in the heavens.

Neither silver nor gold didst thou keep for thyself, O friend of the Most High, but didst hold the poor in spirit to be thy true treasure; and therein thy heart didst delight, O God-bearer.

Despondency and all the fleshly passions didst thou dispel from thy soul by the rigours of abstinence and ascetic struggles, O venerable one. Wherefore, thou becamest a true model for monks.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Even the most eloquent of orators is utterly at a loss how to describe the mighty works which thine all-powerful Son has wrought through thee, O most pure Maiden.

Ode VI

Irmos: Emulating the Prophet Jonah, I cry out: O Good One, free my life from corruption! O Saviour of the world, save me who cry out: Glory to Thee!

Nailing the uprisings of thy flesh to the fear of God, thou didst earnestly take up thy cross and follow after Christ Jesus thy Lord, by Whose sufferings we have been redeemed.

Glory and majesty shine forth on this day of thy memorial, O blessed one; for having shed the old man like a garment, thou didst put on Christ, Who shines with uncreated light.

Lowly and humble, O Aidan, thou didst yet consort with kings, princes and highborn nobles, teaching them to repent, in that the mighty will be cast down and those of low degree will be exalted.

Hymn to the Mother of God: All-blessed art thou, O Lady Birthgiver of God, for within thy pure womb the Author of all deigned to dwell, so that it surpasses all the heavenly heights in glory.

Kontakion & ikos of the Deposition.

Ode VII

Irmos: O Lord God of our fathers, Who didst appear to the law-giver in the fiery bush and therein prefigure Thy nativity from the Virgin: Blessed art Thou!

Still now do the tides sunder thy Holy Isle from the coastal lands, O Aidan our helmsman; yet during thy life naught could part thee from the love of thy Lord.

Devoutly the pious Oswald granted thee the islands of the sea, O boast of monks: wherefore, on Lindisfarne thou didst found a mighty monastery; while Farne witnessed thy solitary struggles in prayer.

Prudence, the highest of pastoral virtues, reigned supreme in thy life, so that multitudes of the heathen, perceiving the light of Christ shining forth from thee, glorified God, crying: Blessed art Thou!

Hymn to the Mother of God: Robed in gold inwrought with many colours, the all-immaculate Queen and Mother stands in majesty at the throne of the Most High, mercifully interceding for her sinful servants.

Ode VIII

Irmos: Hymn the Lord, Who preserved the children in the burning fiery furnace and descended to them in the form of an angel, and exalt Him supremely forever!

At thy preaching, O godly hierarch Aidan, the hearts of men were opened to the teachings of Christ Jesus; for as thou didst teach, so didst thou live, conforming thyself to the divine precepts.

In time of strife, when pagan hordes strove to burn the royal city to the ground, O Aidan, thou didst set their malice at nought, and by the power of God didst turn back against them the very flames which they kindled.

Singing the praises of God, like the youths in the furnace, while fires threatened to consume Bamburgh, by thine entreaty thou didst preserve the Christian city unharmed by the flames, turning them back upon the evildoers.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Exalting thee among all women, Christ made His abode within thee, O pure Birthgiver of God, miraculously issuing forth from thee at His birth without breaking the seal of thy virginity.

Ode IX

Irmos: With hymns do we magnify Thee, the God and man, Who wast first begotten without mother, and then wast born without father.

As a good shepherd, and not a hireling, O Aidan, thou didst call upon the infidels to cast away their unbelief and to enter, rejoicing, into the fold of the Church, embracing the one true Faith.

Instructing believers in word and deed, O holy hierarch, thou didst strengthen them in the doing of good deeds, that their faith might be alive within them and bear the ripe fruits of piety.

Devoting thyself to monastic ideals, thou didst found many monasteries and convents throughout Northumbria, O most glorious one, nurturing generations of monastics in continence, and uprooting the passions from them like tares.

Again and again the timbers of the church where thou didst repose were utterly reduced to ashes, O holy Aidan; yet the wooden buttress whereon thou didst lean when thy soul took flight was never touched or consumed by the flames.

Hymn to the Mother of God: Now let us entreat the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the all-seeing Judge Who has forgiven mankind, Whose sufferings, resurrection and ascension the wondrous Aidan gloriously preached.

Exapostilarion of the Deposition; Glory…. that of the holy hierarch, Spec. Mel.: ‘Hearken, you women…’

Great was thy mastery of the Christian virtues, O Aidan, for thou wast utterly free of greed and avarice. Readily didst thou tend to the needs of the souls of thy new flock, unceasingly preaching to them the words of life. Wherefore, the sheep and lambs entrusted to thee by the Chief Shepherd greatly increased in number through thy pious ministrations.

Now & ever…. Exapostilarion of the Deposition, again.

At the Praises, 4 stichira of the Deposition; and Glory…. of the holy hierarch, Tone VI.

O royal Bamburgh, be thou exalted among all the towns of England, for within thy precincts did the holy Aidan commit his soul into the hands of his Master. And thou, O Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, whose soil was hallowed by the sacred remains of the athlete of Christ, shine forth upon us the grace of the Almighty, as the sun sheds its rays on the whole world, that, enlightened thereby, our eyes may clearly behold the straight and narrow path which Aidan trod and which leads us surely to the mansions of heaven.

Now & ever, of the Deposition.

At Liturgy

See rubrics for Deposition of the Cincture of the Mother of God.

 

Under English Eyes: Why did a Revolution Take Place in Russia?

Why did a Revolution in Russia (it was never the Russian Revolution) take place? Secular historians, whether Soviet or Western (spiritually, it is the same atheism) have expressed all sorts of theories in answer to this question. Churchmen, however, are unanimous: It is because vital sections of the population of the Russian Empire lost their faith in God beneath the weight of Western secularism. Atypically, one Englishman, never a member of the Orthodox Church, understood this. His name was George Shell and it is his witness which we shall now quote.

George Shell, also known by his pen-name of Gerard Shelley, was born in Sidcup, Kent, in 1891, and was a linguist, author, priest and translator. Brought up as a Roman Catholic, he learned French, German and Italian in his youth and was a graduate of Heidelberg, the Major Seminary and the Collège Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Before the Revolution he travelled widely in the Russian Empire, learned fluent Russian and met the Tsarina Alexandra and also Gregory Rasputin very many times. He was then in his twenties. After encounters in Imperial Russia and then misfortunes in the Bolshevik Soviet Union, he escaped back to England and became a writer, priest and translator from Russian. In March 1950 he was consecrated bishop of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain and in 1952 became its third archbishop. In 1959 Shelley’s Old Catholic Church opposed the Dogma of Papal Infallibility and during and after the Second Vatican Council he opposed the runaway changes of Roman Catholic liberalism. He died in 1980.

His eyewitness accounts of Russian life were recorded in his 250 pages of memoirs, ‘The Speckled Domes’, published in 1925. He recorded how the Tsar made contact with the peasantry, repeating ‘The King and the Commons’ alliance that was sought against the aristocracy in the Peasants’ Revolt of fourteenth century England, to develop a democratic monarchy, not unlike the attempts to save the Empire of Constantinople between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries under the Zealots and others. Here are extracts from that book. They answer the question as to who caused the Revolution and the bloodbath that followed it for three generations, the results of which are still plain to see in contemporary Russia:

 

‘To the vast majority of the Russian aristocracy, and especially to the intelligentsia, he (Rasputin) was a monster of iniquity. To a very select few – those, in fact, who had personal relations with him – he was a saint and the protagonist of a great ideal’ (P. 26).

‘He (a Russian intelligent (= a Westernised pseudo-intellectual)) delights in telling evil stories about the man or woman who believes and practices a code of faith and morals’ (P. 28).

‘I’m sure hell is paved with the minds of intelligents’, said Princess Galsin. ‘Their personal lives are sheer horror…They don’t believe in God or religion. They have no mystical motive to be righteous. They imagine all the good things will come automatically with the overthrow of the Tsar. It’s the system that’s rotten, they say. I rather think it’s themselves’ (Pp. 30-31).

‘What is Gregory’s (Rasputin’s) plan’?, I asked. ‘The rejuvenation of Orthodoxy and Autocracy, and the welding of the throne with the Russian people’ (P. 32).

‘Since I made the acquaintance of Gregory Rasputin, my experience of the spiritual forces of the world has been enriched beyond words…He is a prophet with all the grandeur and vision of a seer’ (pp 33-34).

He (Gregory) said: ‘I fight for the Tsar, the Faith and Fatherland. While I am alive no harm shall ruin them, but if I perish, so shall they!’ (P. 37).

He (Gregory) said: ‘I am sad for Russia. Faith and piety have forsaken the soul…Russia perishes’ (P. 49).

‘In Russia he (Gregory) wished to have a Peasant Tsar, one who would defend the interests of the Orthodox peasantry against the Atheistic, riotous-living landlords and bourgeois, who spent most of their time abroad or bullying their peasants’ (P. 50).

‘I realised that the fearful things attributed to Rasputin were, in many cases, the actual doings of his accusers. Perhaps no man in history has been so furiously calumniated’ (P. 53).

‘Truly religious minds, such as those of Rasputin….looked at this overwhelming wave of corruption with horror and alarm. Small wonder that the Empress and her followers looked for the salvation of Russia to the closer union of the throne with the peasantry, to whom the old traditions of Orthodoxy, religion and morality were still living realities. The intelligentsia had gone astray into the putrid wilderness of materialism, looking only for the establishment of a society of mere comfortable conditions, idealising sensual orgies as the Paradise of the system…Religion is a ‘peasant prejudice’. Yet it is curious that the Russian intelligent, having no desire to explore the higher forms of religious consciousness, goes down into the depths of materialism to explore the horrors of hell…In this atmosphere, Rasputin tried to work for the old ideals (P.  54).

‘She (the Empress) declared: ‘Petrograd society is rotten! There is hardly a soul to be relied on…The nobles and merchants were rotten. They had lost faith and worshipped materialism. They were untrustworthy, anarchical, evil-living….Even the highest and nearest are full of revolts and schemes’. ‘Rasputin was to tell me afterwards that the Tsar lived in daily dread of being the victim of a plot to dethrone him by several of the more ambitious Grand Dukes’ (P. 62).

‘Her (the Empress’) desire to reach the religious soul of the Russian people was reviled and deluged by those pretentious nobles with an orgy of calumnies. No doubt they felt they were being passed by, and that their position as knout-wielders to the populace was being undermined’ (P. 64).

‘Living in the neighbourhood of Rasputin, I had ample means for studying his views and observing his manners…Of all the wretched stories that were told about him, I could believe none, for there was not the slightest evidence in the man’s behaviour either at the Court or in the houses of his admirers to justify any suspicion of evil-doing. One has only to recall the base, disloyal, and abominably lurid stories about the Empress and her beautiful daughters – which the degenerate bureaucratic classes invented out of sheer malice and rank imaginativeness, to realise how low society had sunk. In a society of bribe-takers, robbers of State funds, and corrupt officials, Rasputin stood out like the giant figure of a saint moulded in rugged iron. He, of all men in Russia was immaculate…Rasputin’s life in the midst of a horde of howling, snarling enemies was both dangerous and burdensome. The infuriated aristocrats longed to have him assassinated’ (P. 65).

‘They (the Tsar and his wife) were to be deposed…The Tsar had received information that the British and French ambassadors were aware of the plot, and had assured the schemers of their moral and financial support’ (P. 67).

‘Although a peasant, he (Rasputin) had clear, well-defined ideas on a host of matters. No doubt they sprang more from a deep intuition and instinct rather than from a reasoned, scientific knowledge. There was so much of the Old Testament prophet in Rasputin that it may not be wrong to compare him to one of those strange, rugged seers who played so great a role at the courts of the kings of Israel…How, then, did Rasputin come to hold such a position in the eyes of the Tsar and Tsarina? The answer is quite simple. He fitted in with their creed and plan for the regeneration and salvation of Russia’ (P. 69).

‘With such intolerant and selfish views prevailing among the upper classes, the creed and plan of the Sovereigns was sure to meet with the most hostile and vindictive opposition. ..By their opposition to the Tsar’s new policy, the nobles were digging their own grave…In the Tsar’s rapprochement with the peasantry, they descried a menace to their hold on the land. Moreover, by identifying themselves personally with the peasants’ religion, the Sovereigns appeared to be turning aside from the materialism and spiritual nihilism of the nobles and intelligentsia…She (the Tsarina) told me that since the revolution of 1905, she and her Imperial husband had come to realise that the cause of all Russia’s misfortunes lay in the apostasy of the educated classes from the ideals of religion and morality’ (Pp. 70-71).

She (the Tsarina) said: ‘The Russian intelligentsia makes a god of materialism and science, and despises the secrets of religion. It is false! Their science will lead only to the shedding of oceans of blood, if they despise God’ (P. 73).

‘The intelligentsia wanted the Revolution at all costs; the nobles wanted the throne to uphold its prestige, and their position as batteners on (those who grow fat from) the land. Nothing was too bad or wicked to attribute to the Tsarina. All the evils that afflicted Russia were laid at her door. The nobles endeavoured to turn popular anger, due to their own corruption and mismanagement, against the Empress’ (P. 74).

‘When I returned in January 1917, the Staretz (Gregory) was no more. His ‘princely’ converts had lured him to his death, and talk of Revolution was in the air…I cannot help reflecting how futile the Russians were. The nobles, who feared the Tsar’s rapprochement with the peasants, have had their land taken from them, while the Revolutionary intelligentsia, whose dream of the downfall of Tsardom was so glorious and stirring, have bitten the dust under the blows of a bloodier knout, or are scattered over the face of their loveless West’ (P. 76).

 

The First 250 Years of Orthodox Suffolk (619-869)

Introduction: After the Romans

Already in Roman times south-eastern Britain was the first area to be settled by mercenaries and then traders (and pirates) of Germanic origin. This was natural as this region neighbours North-Western Europe. Already in the late third century the coastal areas of the south-east were called the ‘Saxon Shore’. For ‘Saxon’ (Scottish ‘Sassenach’) was then a generic term for all Germanic peoples, Saxons, Angles, Frisians, Swabians, Franks, Jutes or Danes, simply because the Saxons were the first to be encountered by others. These peoples had all moved down to the shores of what is now northern France, Belgium and Holland, seeking to cross the narrow sea and settle new land, mainly as a result of the rising sea levels where they had previously lived.

After the Romans had been forced to withdraw completely from Britain by 410, many more from these Germanic peoples sailed across the southern stretches of the North Sea and the Channel in the day or two it took. They had been invited to settle the newly vacated lands, some intermarrying with the descendants of the Ancient Britons, as well as of the various Celtic tribes, who had invaded Britain some 500 years before the Romans. Thus, the Jutes settled in Kent and southern parts of Hampshire, the minority Saxons settled in the south in what became Essex (the Saxons of the East), Sussex (the Saxons of the South) and Wessex (the Saxons of the West) and the majority Angles, who gave their name to the new land, settled most of the country in what became Mercia (the Midlands), Northumbria and East Anglia (Suffolk, Norfolk and eastern Cambridgeshire up to the Rivers Ouse and Cam, though these county names only came into being in the tenth century).

By the sixth century seven English kingdoms, four small (Kent, Essex, Sussex, East Anglia) and three large (Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex), had been formed. In time these would be united and create the united Kingdom of England, though this only really took shape in the tenth century thanks to the foundations laid by the heroic defender of Christian Civilisation, King Alfred the Great (+ 899). Thus, in the mid-sixth century the Kingdom of East Anglia was formed, under a royal dynasty named the Wuffings, named after King Wuffa (+ 578). It had royal centres along the Suffolk coast and the rivers of the ‘Wicklaw’, the territory  subject to the law of the ‘wick’ or trading centre, called Gippeswic (Ipswich), known as ‘the first English town’. The Wicklaw is represented today by south-east Suffolk and includes the Wuffings’ famous burial ground at Sutton Hoo and their ‘hall’ or palace at Rendlesham.

The Baptism of Suffolk

Faith in Christ came northwards to Suffolk from Kent through Essex. Sutton Hoo and the archaeological finds made there bear witness to this. For this location is most probably the site of the burial of King Raedwald, who ruled from 599 to 625 and was the first King of East Anglia to be baptised, though he was hardly practising, as his pagan wife persuaded him otherwise. His baptism took place in the early seventh century in Canterbury, as is recorded by St Bede. His burial site was famously uncovered in 1939.

King Raedwald was succeeded by his surviving son Eorpwald (+ 627), then by an interloper called Ricbert (+ 629) who had murdered Eorpwald directly after his baptism. Ricbert was succeeded by King Raedwald’s stepson, Sigebert, the future saint (+ 635), who had become a Christian in Gaul, where he had been driven into exile by Raedwald. Next came the short-lived King Aethilric (+ 636), a nephew of Raedwald, for both Sigebert and Aethilric were murdered by the pagan Mercian ruler and invader, Penda. St Sigebert was the first practising Christian King of East Anglia and in 631 he welcomed to his Kingdom from Gaul the Burgundian Bishop Felix (+ 647), whom he had met there. Felix was a disciple of the Irish missionary St Columban and would become the Apostle of East Anglia.

It has now been established that Bishop Felix most likely began his mission in south-east Suffolk at the old Roman fortress (called ‘Burgh’ in Old English and ‘Dommoc’ in Celtic). This is now Felixstowe, the town much later named after the saint. This is not far from the royal centre in Rendlesham, where the Kings of East Anglia lived and where a church, probably founded by Bishop Felix, was dedicated to St Gregory the Great, the Apostle of the English. From here Bishop Felix worked along the rivers. First, he sailed north-westwards along the valley of the River Orwell/Gipping in Ipswich (with a church dedicated to St Peter), and westwards along the River Stour in Sudbury (a church dedicated to St Gregory) in south Suffolk.

A second area of coastal mission was at the north-east Suffolk royal centre in Blythburgh, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and then further north by the  Suffolk border near Flixton. He also established a church dedicated to the Mother of God in nearby South Elmham, others dedicated to St Michael at Oulton and to St Andrew at a second place called Flixton, this one near Lowestoft. Next he founded another church at Reedham across today’s border in Norfolk. (Both Flixtons were probably named after St Felix). Thirdly, he founded a monastery in the fens at Soham, now in Cambridgeshire, near the royal centre in Exning in Suffolk and perhaps also found a church in what is now Cambridge (also dedicated to St Peter?). Finally, he established churches along the rivers in north-west Norfolk at Babingley (now dedicated to St Felix) and Shernborne (Sts Peter and Paul).

King Anna and Family

From 636 to 654 there came the rule of King Anna, King Aethelric’s brother, whose wife was probably a relative (a grand-daughter?) of the earlier King of Essex, Saebert (+ c. 615). Anna lived mostly at the royal centre at Exning, guarding the Suffolk border of East Anglia against the Mercians. Anna was the father of a dynasty of saints who, following on from Bishop Felix, Christianised East Anglia. The most famous of these is St Audrey (Aethelthryth) (+ 679), baptised by Bishop Felix in Exning. She became famous as the Abbess of Ely just across the Suffolk border in what is now Cambridgeshire, and had fenland disciples there like the priest St Huna of Chatteris and St Owin of Haddenham.

St Audrey had other saintly sisters. These were: Seaxburgh, Abbess of Minster in Sheppey in Kent, Withburgh, the hermitess of Dereham in Norfolk (+ 743, aged about 90), and Ethelburgh and a stepsister, St Saethrith, who both lived in the convent of St Fara in what is now France. She also had a brother, St Jurmin (Eormen). He was murdered in Blythburgh in Suffolk and his relics were enshrined in Bedricsworth, later called Bury St Edmunds. Another saint, Wendreda (Cwendrith), to whom is dedicated the church in fenland March, may have been connected to the family.

St Felix was succeeded by Bishop Thomas and then Bishop Boniface. After King Anna, killed in battle by Penda of Mercia, together with his son Jurmin in 654, came briefly Anna’s brother King Aethelhere (654). He was also killed in battle by Penda, though Penda died in the same battle. Next came King Aethelwald (654-664), the fourth and last nephew of Raedwald. He assured the Church bonds with the kingdoms of Essex and Kent. Indeed, in about 660 St Cedd of Essex baptised the King of Essex at Rendlesham, King Aethelwald perhaps standing as godfather.

It was in this year of 654 that St Botolph (Botwulf) (+ 674) founded a monastery on a promontory or ‘hoo’ (as in Sutton Hoo) at Iken by the River Alde near the Suffolk coast. From here he went out and founded other churches both dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul, possibly these are the churches at Eye and Hoxne, which also later became church centres in their own right. The village of Botesdale in Suffolk is also named after the saint. This is not far from where the Irish ascetic St Fursa (Fursey) and his disciples, like St Foillan, St Utan and St Dicul (of Dickleburgh in Norfolk), had earlier laboured in a monastery, probably at Burgh Castle by the south-eastern coast of Norfolk. Fursa had made his way to France before 651 when all the remaining monks with Foillan were driven out by the long-lived pagan Mercian invader, Penda.

Consolidation and Missionary Work (664-749)

With the death of King Aethelwald in 664, there came to an end the 35-year long reigns of the four nephews of King Raedwald. There now came a long period of peace and consolidation under two East Anglian rulers, father and son, the two reigns totalling 85 years, so giving continuity. The first was King Aldwulf (664-713), son of King Aethilric (+ 636), with a reign of 49 years. During the reign of King Aldwulf, East Anglia was divided into two dioceses, with a see in south-east Suffolk at what is now Felixstowe, and in north-east Suffolk, probably at what is now South Elmham (then called Helmham). Probably in the ninth century this centre was transferred to what is now called North Elmham, not so far away in south Norfolk.

It was in this period that the port of Gipeswic (Ipswich) developed as a great trading centre, facing the northern Continent, the Rhine and Scandinavia across the North Sea. In fact, this Sea could perhaps better be viewed as a lake, on whose western shore lies Ipswich. Two more churches, dedicated to the Mother of God and St Augustine, were built here. Pottery, now known as ‘Ipswich Ware’, was made, ships were built and textiles, jewellery, leatherware, antlerware and baskets were manufactured. Frisian merchants were very active, as Ipswich was the commercial centre of East Anglia. ‘Gipeswic’, the third biggest English port and trading centre (‘wic’) after London (‘Lundenwic’) and York (‘Eoforwic’) and situated between them.

In this way East Anglia also became one of the most important centres for missionary work for north-western Europe. Thus, the local veneration for St Botolph was taken there and later reached Scandinavia and from there Kiev, making him a patron saint of travellers. Later an English missionary to Utrecht called St Eadwulf (later deformed into Adulf), possibly related to St Botolph (Botwulf), also reposed at Iken.

During the reign of King Aldwulf’s son, King Aelfwald (713-749), developments went further. East Anglia controlled its economy, developed international trade and towns, promoting churches, monasteries and literacy, sending forth its light into the world, breathing the Gospel both into Mercia to the west and to north-western Europe, to the east. Thus, in 714 Aelfwald’s sister, Edburgh, who may have been identical with St Edburgh, Abbess of Minster in Thanet in Kent, provided a coffin for the great fen ascetic, the Mercian Guthlac of Crowland. Aelfwald himself commissioned the Life of the saint, written by a certain monk Felix, the name suggesting his East Anglian origins. At the same time King Aelfwald of East Anglia, with its two bishops in Felixstowe and South Elmham, helped the Mercian King Aethelbald to power after the death of the evil King of Mercia, Ceolred, in 716.

His sister Edburgh continued to play an important role and is believed to have become Abbess of Ely and then went to Minster in Kent, if she is indeed identical to the Abbess of Minster. In any case in the thirteenth century a chapel dedicated to her, St Edburgh, is recorded at Thornham in north mid-Suffolk. Abbess Edburgh came under the influence of the great English missionary Boniface of Crediton and became one of his most devoted disciples. Boniface, born in c. 675, had first gone to Friesland as a missionary in 716 and was to spend most of the next almost forty years in what is now western Germany, Luxembourg and Holland, totally reorganising the Church of the Franks and becoming the ‘Apostle of the Germans’.

King Aelfwald’s Achievements And After

Under King Aelfwald, East Anglian mints began to issue more and more coins. Ipswich, facing north-western Europe, became even more important, as Aelfwald laid out a new town on a rectangular grid pattern, the plan of which is visible today. Potteries were in full production and long continued this production, being the most important pottery centre in south-east England. There was a busy market, butchers and bakers’ shops and workshops for making clothing, saddlery, bagpipes, shoes and combs, as well as for metalwork and timber construction, of carts for example. In the centre of the town (where now stands the Town Hall) a church dedicated to St Mildred of Minster in Thanet in Kent was built. The link to her would be through King Aelfwald’s sister, Abbess Edburgh, who we believe succeeded St Mildred as Abbess of MInster in Kent. About this time a church in Utrecht was also dedicated to St Mildred, and this must also have been the result of the direct connection with the port of Ipswich.

Ipswich, between the ports of London and York, presented East Anglian commerce and culture directly to the Rhine mouth ports, among them Utrecht. Abbess Edburgh of Minster maintained her close friendship with St Boniface throughout his correspondence. As Abbess of Minster in Thanet, as we believe, she was the teacher of his closest companion, Leoba, who was buried with St Boniface in Fulda in what is now Germany. If Abbess Edburgh (+ 751) is synonomous with the East Anglian King’s sister, she represents the high point of East Anglian royal culture in Kent, through her knowledge of the Scriptures, poetry, calligraphy and her connections with Ely. She had a command of Latin and a good understanding of theology, like her brother, as is witnessed to by a surviving letter from him, probably taken to St Boniface by ship from Ipswich. Thus, Aelfwald’s kingdom had one of the major ports of the North Sea coastal rim, a new urban centre with a pottery quarter and industry, a minting organisation, several monasteries and two dioceses, all under royal patronage.

However, King Aelfwald had no successor and little East Anglia began to slip under the dominance of a much larger Anglian Kingdom, that of Mercia, the Midlands. Thus, Aelfwald was succeeded by a certain Beonna and Aethelberht who divided the Kingdom between them, perhaps one in what we now call Suffolk and the other in what became Norfolk. Then came a King Aethelred who was based in what later became Bury St Edmunds. However, all this time real power lay in the hands of King Offa of Mercia (c.765-796). Nevertheless, at this time the monastic centre in Brandon assumed importance, perhaps with Offa’s patronage.

Next there appeared the figure of the son of King Aethelred, King Aethelbert (Albright). He seems to have come to power after his father in the 780s and pursued a line, independent of Mercia. However, in 794 this King Aethelbert was beheaded outside Hereford in western Mercia, presumably by King Offa, and ever after venerated as a martyr with many dedications of churches in Suffolk, especially at Hoxne and near Ipswich at Albrighteston (named after him) and near Felixstowe, but also across the Suffolk borders, to the north in Norfolk and to the south in Essex. After this royal murder, Offa invaded East Anglia and subdued it after a battle at Blood Hill, near Claydon outside Ipswich.

St Aethelbert was succeeded by a new puppet of Mercia, King Edwald, who reigned at least into the 810s. The next shadowy figures who emerge are a King Athelstan (c. 821-845), still it seems under Mercian patronage, who had faced an attack from the Danish Vikings in 841, and then a King Athelwerd (c. 845-855). Viking attacks were to be faced again, this time by the greatest East Anglian of them all, King Edmund (841-869).

King Edmund

Of royal origin, Edmund was born on Christmas Day 841 and was brought up in piety. ‘From his earliest youth, he followed Christ wholeheartedly’. In particular the young Edmund learned to love the name of Christ, which was to go with him all his life. He learned to read and began to learn the Psalter by heart. Edmund was called to become King in 855, aged only fourteen. Chosen King at what is now Caistor St Edmund, just to the south of Norwich, in 856 Edmund was probably anointed and crowned King of East Anglia at Bures on the border of Suffolk and Essex. This town commanded the strategic crossing-place over the river between East Anglia and Essex.

‘Edmund the blessed, King of the East Angles, was wise and honourable, and always glorified by his noble conduct before Almighty God. He was humble and devout, and continued so steadfast that he would not yield to shameful sins, nor in any way did he bend aside his conduct, but was always mindful of the true teaching…. He was bountiful to the poor and to widows even like a father and always benignly led his people to righteousness, and controlled the violent and lived happily in the true faith’. So reads the Life of St Edmund written in the tenth century, which concludes: ‘He was raised up by God to be the defender of His Church’.

It was into this world that in 865 the storm broke. The storm consisted of a full-scale Viking invasion, some twenty-thousand strong, which landed on the Suffolk coast, but then went north towards York. It may be that at this time Edmund rebuilt the great earthworks to the south-west of his Kingdom near Little Abington, now in Cambridgeshire, a stretch of which is known as ‘St. Edmund’s Ditch’ and at its northern end there is an area called ‘St. Edmund’s Fen’. In any case, he fought alongside his friend, the future King Alfred the Great, in Nottingham. In 869 the Vikings reappeared and in the late autumn a pitched battle took place between them and Edmund’s forces at Thetford in southern Norfolk.

Edmund was victorious, but at great cost. Now outmatched, Edmund retreated almost certainly towards the centre at Hoxne in north Suffolk. The Vikings offered peace – at a price. A messenger came with the offer, an offer which meant the Christian Edmund becoming an under-king to the pagans. It is clear that he would neither see himself become the puppet ruler of pagans, nor would he flee from possible martyrdom. His reply to the messenger was: ‘I shall not submit to a pagan master for the love of earthly life; first you must accept our holy faith’. ‘I have vowed to live under Christ, to live under Christ alone, to reign under Christ alone’.

It would also seem that Edmund saw the possibility that in his own death his Kingdom might find peace: ‘I alone should die for my people, that the whole nation should not perish’. The Vikings now advanced on Hoxne. They surrounded Edmund who wished to imitate Christ, Who forbade Peter to use arms. The Vikings ‘bound Edmund and shamefully insulted him, beating him with clubs’. They tried to make Edmund renounce his Faith: ‘Living or dead, nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ. Christ’s Faith was his mighty shield’. ‘Then they led the faithful King to a tree and bound him to it tightly. Afterwards they whipped him for a long time and he always called with true faith on Christ the Saviour.

Saint Edmund

As a result of his faith and his calling on Christ to help him, the pagans became furious. They shot at him with arrows as if for their pleasure until he bristled with them, like St Sebastian. When the seamen saw that the noble king would not deny Christ but called on Him with steadfast faith, they beheaded him’. ‘His soul departed joyfully to Christ’. His last words were ‘Jesus! Jesus!’. It was Monday 20 November 869. Edmund was not yet twenty-eight years old; he had reigned for less than thirteen years. Thus he exchanged an earthly crown for a heavenly one, exchanging Kingdom for Martyrdom. After killing the King at Hoxne, the Vikings returned to their ships, throwing into thick brambles the head, which they had taken ‘that it might not be buried’. The story continues: ‘Then some time after they had gone, country folk came and were very sad, especially because they had not the head with the body’.

According to tradition, forty days later, on 30 December 869, their search was rewarded. In their desperation the searchers cried out, ‘Where are you?’ Incredibly they received an answer, which to them sounded like, ‘Here, here, here’. Following the sounds they found a grey wolf (Edmund’s own wolfhound?) guarding the head between its paws: ‘They were astonished…and carried the head home with them….; but the wolf followed on with the head, as if he were tame, and then turned back again into the wood’. Symbolically the wolf had been converted by St Edmund’s sacrifice, just as the sea-wolves, the Vikings, would also be converted by their victim. ‘Then the country folk laid the head by the holy body, and buried him with haste as best they could, and full soon built a church over him’.

The miracle of Edmund’s sacrifice was that within nine years the ‘sea-wolves’ who had martyred him were accepting the Christian Faith. Miraculously, the first Christian King of East Anglia after St Edmund was a former Viking, baptised Athelstan – the blood of martyrs had triumphed over enmity. Meanwhile, the lowly wooden chapel in Hoxne, where Edmund’s remains had been buried, witnessed miracles. ‘Wonders were often worked at the chapel where he was buried. At night some of the faithful would notice a column of light hovering over the shrine from evening until dawn. Then, one night a blind man and a boy who led him came through the woods. Lost, they saw a building, which they were glad to enter for the night. But once inside, they stumbled onto the grave and realised that this building contained a tomb. Nevertheless, they decided to stay. Hardly had they fallen asleep when they awoke, a column of light shining before them. At dawn the blind man awoke and for the first time in his life he saw day break. The miracle was told to others – a man blind from birth had regained his sight.

Already by 895 King Alfred had minted coins bearing the image of ‘St Edmund the King’. Other coins had also been struck, through the ironies of Providence, by Vikings, styling Edmund ‘Saint’. But it was not until 902, according to some traditions, that the Bishop who was responsible for war-torn East Anglia resolved to move the body of St Edmund to a more worthy place, to Bedricsworth, now called Bury St Edmunds. It lay and lies exactly at the centre of a cross drawn over the four counties of Eastern England, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

The Bishop with his clergy proceeded the twenty-five miles to Hoxne to fetch the relics. On opening the coffin, they were amazed for they saw not bones and dust, but their martyred King Edmund, his body incorrupt as if asleep and his head united with his body – only a threadlike seam around the neck bore witness to his beheading. The arrow wounds had also healed. ‘The devout multitude carried the body to the shrine in the new church, there to await in the same peaceful sleep the joys of the resurrection. In this manner took place the first translation of St Edmund, thirty-three years after his burial.

Conclusion: King and Martyr

As regards the church at Bedricsworth we are told that it was enriched with gold and silver in the saint’s honour. Indeed such was the veneration of the Royal Martyr Edmund at Bedricsworth, that the town was variously called ‘St Edmundstowe’, ‘Edmundston’ and ‘Kingston’ before becoming Bury St Edmunds. From this time on the monastery of St Edmund became richer. By 1044 its ‘liberty’ or patrimony came to include a third of Suffolk, including all of West Suffolk. Pilgrims began to come in great numbers and pilgrim ways developed, especially the road to Newmarket and the London road. Later, pilgrims brought in a pious custom of kneeling as soon as they caught sight of the monastery and then walking the last mile barefoot.

St Edmund became a national hero and his name, meaning ‘blessed protection’, became a reality as he was adopted as England’s Patron Saint, ‘a terrible defender of his own’, as we have seen again and again in recent times also, including in Little Abington, where now stands an Orthodox church in his honour. He was a very popular saint, with over sixty churches dedicated to him. Both after the First Reformation of the Roman Catholic Norman Conquest in 1066, when men became less sincere and righteous in their faith and miracles fewer, and also after the Protestant Second Reformation in the sixteenth century, when they tried to erase Edmund’s name from the land, there have still been those who keep St Edmund in their hearts and minds.

St Edmund’s martyrdom ended the periods of foundation and then of the consolidation of the Faith which had been brought to Suffolk two and a half centuries before, with the baptism of King Raedwald. After the Martyr-King of East Anglia, Christianity developed anew as the Faith of England and the English, unchallenged for 200 years until the fateful year of 1066, after which all changed. Edmund King and Martyr is the culminating example of the greatest era of English Orthodox Christianity and his martyrdom is the consecrated symbol of its passing. For the Church is confirmed by the blood of the martyrs.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

St Felix Orthodox Church,

Felixstowe,

Suffolk

4 November 2021