Category Archives: Ancient Western Holiness

Towards a Map of Western European Holiness

By origin the word Europe means ‘the land of the sunset’, that is, the west, for it lies at the western tip of the 54.5 million square kilometres of the Eurasian Continent. Measuring 10.5 million square kilometres, only one fifth of the whole of Eurasia, Europe from a Church viewpoint can be divided into three parts. Over 50%, or 5.5 million square kilometres, 4.5 million square kilometres in Russia and just over 1 million in the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, is canonical Russian Orthodox territory. The second part covers 1.4 million square kilometres and is the territory of various Local Orthodox Churches, the Romanian, Serbian (whose territory includes all of ex-Yugoslavia), Greek, Bulgarian, Polish, Czecho-slovak, and Albanian. This is two-thirds of Europe. There remains the final third of 3.6 million square kilometres.

This may be called Western Europe, even though it includes Central Europe, Hungary and Finland. The name can be justified because this part of Europe has for nearly one thousand years been isolated from the Church. This was as a result of the spiritual delusions, and so intellectual and political disaffection, jealousy and hostility towards the Church, of the governing elite of Western Europe. In other words, this is ex-Catholic and ex-Protestant Europe. Going from west to east and north to south, this means the 25 countries of: Iceland, Ireland, the British Isles (the three countries of Wales, England and Scotland), Norway, Denmark (and the Faeroes), Sweden, Finland; the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany; France, Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hungary; Portugal, Spain, Andorra, Italy, San Marino and Malta.

There exist many maps of this Western Europe. Some show the borders of the various states and the main cities; others show seas and lakes, hills and mountains; others show population density; others show the main roads and railways; others show the longevity of the population. And yet, although a millennium ago this Western Europe had a history of holiness, that is, of Orthodoxy, because this history has been forgotten, there is as yet no map showing the places hallowed by its saints who received the holiness brought to it from the east. If we drew up such a map of its saints, we would find huge variations. For example, in the very sparsely-populated Nordic countries, over one third of the area, we find little holiness, with no known native saints in Iceland and Finland and only a handful in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

However, in the rest of this Western Europe we find a very different situation. The centre of its holiness is what is now Italy (and San Marino), close to the source of the Faith in the East with the capital of Rome. From here holiness spread north to Gaul, now France, the second centre of holiness, to southern England and from there to the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and from there to Austria and Hungary. From Gaul holiness also spread east to Switzerland, south and west to Andorra, Spain and Portugal, and north to what is now Belgium and above all to the thebaid of saints in Ireland, converted by the monastic life brought to them from Egypt via Gaul. Their influence spread back to east and south, to all the Celtic lands, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany, and also to northern England, Belgium, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The first saints of this First Western Europe are of course the leading apostles, Peter and Paul, together with St James the Apostle in Galicia, as well as a huge number of internationally-venerated martyrs, especially in Rome, like St Pancras of Taormina (1st cent.),  St Clement (100), St Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107), Sts Sophia, Hope, Faith and Love (2nd cent.), St Tatiana (225), St Cecilia (230), St Hippolytus of Rome (c. 235), St Agatha (251), St Lawrence (258), St Eugenia (262), Sts Chrysanthus and Daria (283), Sts Sebastian and Comps (287), St Maurice of Agaunum and the Theban Legion (287), St Anastasia of Rome (304), St Lucy of Syracuse (304), Sts Agapia, Chionia and Irene (304), St Vincent of Spain (304), St Eulalia of Barcelona (304), St Januarius of Pozzuoli (c. 305), St Alban of Verulamium (c. 305), St Pancras (early 4th cent), St Agnes (c. 350).

It includes Church Fathers like St Justin Martyr (165),  St Irinei of Lyon (200), St Hilary of Poitiers (368), St Ambrose of Milan (387), St John Cassian (433), St Vincent of Lerins (445), Blessed Jerome of Stridon (c. 420), St Leo the Great (461), St Gregory the Great, called the Dialogist (604), St Maximus the Confessor (662). It includes pious bishops with Gallo-Romans like St Martial of Limoges (c. 250), St Saturninus of Toulouse (257), St Julian of Le Mans (Cenomansis) (3rd cent), St Paulinus of Nola (431), St Germanus of Auxerre (448), then later St Remigius (533), St Germanus of Paris (576), St Gregory of Tours (594), St Leander (601), St Valery (621), St Fulgentius (633), St Isidore of Seville (636), St Eligius (660), St Omer (670), St Amand (675), St Julian of Toledo (690), St Lambert (705), St Hubert (727), St Gregory of Utrecht (776).

It includes monastic founders like St Martin the Merciful of Tours (397), St Genevieve of Paris (500), St Benedict of Nursia (550), St Martin of Braga (580), St David of Wales (589), St Columba of Iona, Enlightener of Scotland (597), St Columban of Luxeuil (615), St Hilda of Whitby (680), St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (687), St Odile of Alsace (720). It includes confessors who evangelized whole stretches of this Europe, like the Roman-Britons St Ninian, Apostle of the Picts (450), St Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland (461), the English St Willibrord-Clement in the Netherlands (739) and St Boniface of Fulda, martyred in Frisia (754), St Anschar of Hamburg (865). It includes pious kings and queens, St Bathilde (545), St Oswald (642), St Clotilde (680), St Edmund of East Anglia (869), St Edward the Martyr (879), St Olaf of Sweden (950), St Olaf of Norway (1030).

The list of saints is immense. There are some ten thousand names of saints of Western Europe, martyrs and confessors, men and women, internationally-venerated and only locally-venerated, some with highly detailed lives, others little more than names. Forty-five years ago we began work on the Saints of England, despite the lack of any encouragement. Then thirty-five years ago we began work on the Saints of what is now France. However, that work was interrupted by the negativity of the then Exarchate in Paris and other concerns, one of which was work on the Saints of Iberia twenty-five years ago. That work helped lead to their recent adoption into a feast of the Diocese of Iberia under Archbishop Nestor. Now with a real Russian Exarchate for Western Europe in Paris, we will be turning our attention back to the Saints of what is now France.

The Imperial Guard to Light the Lamps of Europe

The warning came to Europe at Fatima over a hundred years ago in 1917, through the last innocent European children in provincial Portugal: If you do not repent, you will end up like the atheist Soviet Union and so suffer yet another period of bloodletting with tens of millions dead. And so it come to that and since then neither Catholicism, because it pharisaically deformed the message of Fatima, nor its offshoot Protestantism, has repented and so returned to Orthodoxy, even after so many chances given. Thus, Western Europe has become a self-justifying Sodom and Gomorrah. Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Union itself, atheism collapsed, 100 million were baptised and people are gradually, returning to an active and meaningful Faith and the values and culture of Christian Civilization.

Europe has lost its faith, abandoning itself to its weak and illogical powers of reasoning, and so has made itself insane. Now it has neither identity, nor nation, nor honour. This is why it says: Kill them like pigs; they are only human-beings. And though the incinerators of Hitler have gone, they are open in European hospitals and clinics to burn the bodies of millions of murdered children every year and of hundreds of those who, having lost faith, have chosen euthanasia-suicide, and they are open in cemeteries to burn up the bodies of the dead, as nothing but biowaste, the rationalization of Hitler, who had human bodies made into soap and human skin made into lampshades.

Europe has lost its faith, abandoning itself to its weak and illogical powers of reasoning, and so has made itself insane. It has no other source of knowledge or apprehension of the world except itself and so, looking at its own sorry self-reflection, it has become dependent on anti-depressants of all names, legal and illegal. This is why Europe no longer has anything of spiritual or moral import to say to the world, for spiritual life, which it denies, is the source of moral life. Having lost the first, it has lost the second, and so wastes itself in futility and superficiality, following ‘religiously’ every passing fad and fancy, however absurd and defiguring, without any moral compass or direction.

Europe has lost its faith, abandoning itself to its weak and illogical powers of reasoning, and so has made itself insane. This is why it invents its own self-justifying morality, which is only hypocrisy and contradiction, as is apparent to every civilization outside Europe and even to those who still believe but still live in Europe. It is especially obvious to Russian and other faithful Orthodox who live in Europe. We are Europeans, but we are also Christians and so have nothing in common with the spiritual illness of the Anti-Civilization of Western Secularism, which pervades the anti-people European elites and their self-deluded elitist fake news media. Theirs is the path to suicide, a path they celebrate as ‘freedom’.

This is why we must pray to the Saints of Old Europe to save it, for they evangelized it; this is why we must value the oldest places of Europe, often the most famous, for they exist because they were founded in the first millennium, when Europe was still authentically Christian, that is, Orthodox. This is why, in the cities and towns and villages and once holy places and shrines of Europe, we must light the lamps, witnessing to the peoples who live here that there was – and is – Another Europe, the Old Europe, the Europe of the Saints of God, the Europe that loves Truth and Mercy, the First Europe, ‘the Europe before Europe’, which never accepted its thousand-year long aberration, from which it must first be cleansed.

Let faithful Orthodox therefore form an Imperial Guard, a Europe-wide force of dedicated Orthodox, whose emblem is the double-headed eagle, the words ‘For the Faith’ written underneath the emblem in the language of the guard, male or female, and, underneath that, his or her national flag. This would channel the idealism of all faithful Orthodox, including young people, perhaps organized in detachments dedicated to the local national saint, deepening our identity and purpose. Keeping faith with the Orthodox Empire, at present Emperor-less, we are asked to call Europe, many centuries ago part of our Empire (read St Bede the Venerable), to repentance, to save Europe, people by people, by ourselves being faithful to and witnessing to the Church of God.

Let us rewrite each of the national anthems of Europe, with new words, keeping only the melodies. This will be the Europe that has an identity, nation and family, that has strength and honour, because it confesses the Faith of Christ, the lodestar of our lives.  In every Imperial Guard home and family in Europe let us light a lamp before the holy images as the lamp that burns within the soul of each Imperial guard as we pray there. Praying and working, we await the return of the Christian Emperor. Let us prepare the places where we live for his coming, so that he may not be ashamed to visit us when he comes. Let us now therefore cleanse our homes and, above all, cleanse our hearts.

Holy Suffolk

Holiness is the Christian Orthodox ideal: we look not at rank or riches, but at holiness, for it is one of the four signs of the Church and the one which is personally accessible.  It is why all Orthodox speak of the Holy Land, the Holy Mountain, Holy Russia and of making pilgrimages to holy places, the places of the saints. Locally, in England, we speak of Holy Island, the monastery of St Cuthbert in Lindisfarne, and also of one county as holy: Holy Suffolk. What is the origin of this latter name?

When the pagan Danes invaded the Kingdom of East Anglia in the ninth century, martyring St Edmund in Hoxne, among the ‘southern folk’ of the Kingdom, later called Suffolk, they found so many churches and so much piety that they called the region ‘gesaelig’, meaning ‘blessed’ or ‘holy’. This by corruption in the Middle Ages became ‘seely’ and today ‘silly’, hence the name ‘Silly Suffolk’. Incidentally, the root of this word is the same as the Greek ‘salos’, which means foolish for Christ; any fool for Christ’s sake is known as ‘salos’ in Greek. As the Apostle Paul writes, foolishness (‘silliness’) in this world is wisdom before God.

Thus, we know that there were already 417 churches in Suffolk in 1066 – for a population that could not then have been more than 50,000: one church for every hundred or so people. Moreover, what had become known at that time as Suffolk (the region of the southern folk of East Anglia) was by the twelfth century divided into three parts: about one third in the south-east was called St Audrey’s Liberty, for this centred on Rendlesham, which had been owned by St Audrey (pedants call her ‘Etheldreda’). She was baptised by St Felix who lived there and after whom nearby Felixstowe, where St Felix founded a monastery, is named. The other two-thirds was divided into St Edmund’s Liberty or west Suffolk, centred on Bury St Edmunds, and into what was called the ‘Geldable’ (= the taxable, that is the area subject to central secular taxation). Thus some two-thirds of the modern county was dedicated to the Church, through St Audrey and St Edmund.

Indeed, a more or less straight diagonal line can be drawn from Felixstowe in the south-east corner of Suffolk, on to Bury St Edmunds and then to Ely, which borders Suffolk,  just beyond its north-west corner. The monastery in Ely had been founded by St Audrey who had been born in nearby Exning in Suffolk. This straight line forms a heavenly path for pilgrims, a spiritual way, a mystical road, connecting the three best-known saints of Suffolk: St Felix, Apostle of East Anglia, St Edmund, King of East Anglia and St Audrey of Ely. This is part of that mystical conscience of the other England, beyond modern traffic and roads, towns and shops, noise and bustle. It is a tiny fragment of holiness in today’s Suffolk, pointing us to our Orthodox destiny.

Holy, Felix, Audrey and Edmund, pray to God for us!

 

 

 

 

One Hundred and Twelve Saints of the English Thebaid

Introduction: The Fen Thebaid

The first great monastic site in history developed in the fourth century in the province of Thebes in Egypt and here thousand of monks and hermits lived the monastic life. Hence the word Thebaid can be used to describe a region inhabited by monastics not only in Egypt, for example, in Ireland (The Irish Thebaid), on Mt Athos (The Athonite Thebaid), in the wild forests of Russia (The Northern Thebaid), and in this case in the English Fens (The English Thebaid). Here there lived at least one hundred and twelve saints.

Fen is a common word of Germanic origin which means marshland. English place-names like Fenton, Fenchurch and Vange are all formed from this word. The well-known former marshland region called the Fens, or the Fenlands, is a very low-lying plain in eastern England around the coast of the Wash. It is constituted by almost all of Cambridgeshire, together with western Norfolk and southern Lincolnshire. In early English times these then wild and undrained marshlands represented a no-man’s land between East Anglia to the east and the East Midlands (East Mercia) to the west. Indeed, in the seventh century the Fens were very sparsely populated, attracting outcasts, some of British origin who gave their name to the town of Chatteris, who lived off fishing and wildfowling.

Altogether covering an area of about 1,500 sq mi (4,000 km2), the Fens were once characterized by at least six shallow but large lakes, called meres (e.g. Soham Mere, Whittlesey Mere, drained only in 1851), shores, called bech or beach (e.g. Holbeach, Landbeach, Waterbeach, Wisbech), streams (called ‘wells’), bridges and islands. Island sites are indicated by place-names ending in -y (e.g. Ely), -ey (e.g. Bodsey, Coveney, Higney, Ramsey, Thorney, Stuntney, Whittlesey) and -ea (e.g. Eastrea, Horningsea, Manea, Stonea).

Most of the Fens were drained only in the seventeenth century, though some more viable parts much earlier, even in Roman times, resulting in a flat, low-lying agricultural region. The drained Fens depend on a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers (dykes and drains) and pumping stations. With the support of this drainage system, the very fertile Fens became a major agricultural region.

The Fen Saints

In the early Christian (Orthodox) period of pre-Norman (English) England, monks and nuns sought the isolation for prayer and ascetic life that could be found in the marshy and impassable wilderness of the Fens. Their hermitages on Fen islands became centres of monastic life, disrupted by Danish pagan raids, but revived by the mid-10th-century monastic revival. After 1066 these refounded communities developed as big businesses with large estates and huge income.

Thus, the gravel islands of the undrained Fens were once awash with hermits, holy men and women, who strove to emulate Christ’s fasting in the desert. For example: St Audrey settled in ‘Cratendune’ before founding Ely; St Guthlac and his disciples occupied Crowland; Peakirk was home to his sister St Pega; Thorney was settled by the siblings, Tancred Torhtred and Tova, who were martyred by the Danes in 870.

These, and the retreats of lowlier anchorites, such as Boda of Bodsey, Godric and Throcken of Throckenholt, Edwin of Higney and the anonymous hermits of Singlehole on the former island of Eye near Peterborough, were destined to be transformed into rich farms by greedy post-Conquest abbots. They began to colonize the fenland on the edge of their domains and had no interest in the ascetic life and unceasing prayer, just the opposite.

Thus the Fens have been referred to as the ‘Holy Land of the English’ because of these monasteries, especially the so-called ‘Fen Five’: Ely, Crowland, Peterborough, Ramsey and Thorney.  Even after the final fall of Orthodox England in 1066, the Fens later remained a place of refuge and resistance and it was here that the English hero Hereward the Wake based his liberation movement against the illegitimate and greedy Norman invaders, usurpers and occupiers.

St Felix, St Audrey and Ely

The founder of Fen Orthodoxy was effectively St Felix (+ 647), the Apostle of East Anglia. Coming from the east, Suffolk and Norfolk which he evangelized, he founded a monastery on the very eastern edge of the fens. This was in Soham (now in Cambridgeshire), once famous for its mere, but which was drained some 300 years ago. He baptised and became the spiritual father of at least four and possibly six, sainted daughters of the East Anglian King Anna, among them St Audrey of Ely (c. 636-679) and St Seaxburh of Ely, who had been born in Exning in west Suffolk, not far from Soham. After his repose St Felix’ relics long remained in Soham.

As an East Anglian Princess, St Audrey (the spelling of her name Ethelthryth was more or less pronounced ‘Eltry’ (Audrey) already in the seventh century) founded the double monastery in Ely (now in Cambridgeshire and only 14 miles to the north of Cambridge) in 673. Though married twice for purely dynastic reasons she had remained a virgin. As a young woman, she had lived almost as a nun on the Isle of Ely, as this was her own land, which she had received as her dowry and added to the Kingdom of East Anglia. St Bede the Venerable who recorded her life in detail relates how after her repose her incorrupt relics worked many miracles.

St Seaxburh (c. + 699), St Audrey’s sister and successor, had been married for real and been Queen of Kent. Both her daughters became saints. Once widowed she became a nun under St Theodore of Canterbury, founded convents and became an abbess in Kent. Following her sister’s repose she returned to her native East Anglia and became Abbess of Ely, devoted to her sister’s memory. She was succeeded as abbess by her daughter St Eormenhild (early 8 c.), who was in turn succeeded by her daughter, St Werburgh (8 c.).

Around Ely there formed a group of hermits and hermitesses. These included:

St Owin (+ 672), St Audrey’s monastic steward and a very practical man, lived in Ely and on an island in Haddenham near Ely, but later became a monk in Lichfield under St Chad.

St Huna (+ 690) was a priest-monk and the chaplain of St Audrey and also buried her. After her repose, he left Ely to live as a hermit on an island, later known as Honey Hill or Honey Farm, located just outside the town of Chatteris in Cambridgeshire. St Huna was considered a holy man and his grave on the small island was known for healings and miracles. Later St Huna’s relics were translated from Chatteris to Thorney, also in Cambridgeshire, at the time more a collection of hermits’ cells than a monastery, just as in Egypt.

St Wendreda (correctly Wendreth – late 7 c.) lived in March (Cambridgeshire). She may have been a sister of St Audrey and have grown up in Exning, where there seems to have been a holy well named after her. She became a nun on an island in what is now March (meaning the borderlands), where now stands a medieval church dedicated to her. She excelled in healing sick people and animals. Here she may well have become an abbess and she remains the patroness of the town to this day.

St Guthlac and Crowland

St Guthlac (673-714) was the English St Antony the Great and lived as a Desert Father in the Fens. He has a detailed life, written soon after he reposed by a monk Felix. He was the son of a noble of the English Kingdom of Mercia (The Midlands) and as a young man fought in the Mercian army. Aged 24, he then became a monk at Repton in Derbyshire in the East Midlands. Two years later he sought to live the life of a hermit, and comforted by St Bartholomew, in 699 he moved out to the island of Crowland (meaning the hump land, as it is on a dry area and earlier known as Croiland and Croyland) just over the border from Cambridgeshire in Lincolnshire. This was to become the second great centre of Fen holiness after Ely. Guthlac built a small chapel and cells on the site of a plundered barrow on the island and lived there until his repose on 11 April 714. Timbers are preserved in the present Crowland Abbey and some say that these were part of the cell in which St Guthlac lived. His relics could be buried in this area. Felix, writing within living memory of Guthlac, described his hermit’s life:

Now there was in the said island a mound built of clods of earth which greedy comers to the waste had dug open, in the hope of finding treasure there; in the side of this there seemed to be a sort of cistern, and in this Guthlac the man of blessed memory began to dwell, after building a hut over it. From the time when he first inhabited this hermitage this was his unalterable rule of life: namely to wear neither wool nor linen garments nor any other sort of soft material, but he spent the whole of his solitary life wearing garments made of skins. So great indeed was the abstinence of his daily life that from the time when he began to inhabit the desert he ate no food of any kind except that after sunset he took a scrap of barley bread and a small cup of muddy water. For when the sun reached its western limits, then he thankfully tasted some little provision for the needs of this mortal life.

His ascetic life became the talk of the land and many visited him during his life to seek spiritual guidance from him as an elder. He gave sanctuary to Ethelbald, future King of Mercia, who was fleeing from his cousin. Guthlac foretold that Ethelbald would become King and Ethelbald promised to build a monastery if his prophecy turned out to be true. Ethelbald did become King and, even though Guthlac had reposed two years previously, he kept his word and started building the monastery in Crowland on St Bartholomew’s Day 716.

His eighth-century life describes the entry of the demons into Guthlac’s cell:

They were ferocious in appearance, terrible in shape with great heads, long necks, thin faces, yellow complexions, filthy beards, shaggy ears, wild foreheads, fierce eyes, foul mouths, horses’ teeth, throats vomiting flames, twisted jaws, thick lips, strident voices, singed hair, fat cheeks, pigeons’ breasts, scabby thighs, knotty knees, crooked legs, swollen ankles, splay feet, spreading mouths, raucous cries. For they grew so terrible to hear with their mighty shriekings that they filled almost the whole intervening space between earth and heaven with their discordant bellowings.

Felix records Guthlac’s foreknowledge of his own death, conversing with angels in his last days. At the moment of death a sweet nectar-like fragrance came out of his mouth, as his soul left his body in a ray of light, while angels sang. Guthlac had asked that his sister St Pega (pronounced Pea-ga) be present at his funeral. Arriving the day after his repose, she found the island of Crowland filled with the scent of ambrosia. She buried his body on the mound after three days of prayer. A year later Pega had a divine calling to move the tomb and relics to a nearby chapel: Guthlac’s body was discovered incorrupt, his shroud shining with light. Of his disciples we can mention:

This St Pega of Peakirk (c. 673-719) was an anchoress on a barrow in what is now the tiny and tranquil village of Peakirk (‘Pega’s church’) near Peterborough (in historic Cambridgeshire) and not far from St Guthlac’s hermitage. As we have said, when Guthlac had realized that his end was near in 714, he invited her to his funeral. For this she sailed down the River Welland, healing a blind man from Wisbech on the way. Some think that her relics may be buried there to this day, beneath the chancel of a former small chapel, now known as St Pega’s hermitage and a private house, where she had lived.

Sts Bettelin (early 8th c.) was a disciple of Saint Guthlac and hermit who lived an ascetic life of unceasing prayer, received counsel from his elder on his deathbed and was present at his burial. After the death of Guthlac, St Bettelin and his companions continued to live in Crowland.

St Cissa (early 8th c.) was also a disciple of St Guthlac and became an Abbot of Crowland. His tomb was placed next to St Guthlac’s and like it this was also destroyed by the Danes. His relics were translated to the nearby monastery of Thorney in the tenth century.

The Fen Martyrs

When the Danes attacked East Anglia and the Fens in the ninth century, they martyred the East Anglian King, St Edmund (+ 869) in Hoxne in Suffolk and at least one hundred others. These included:

Abbot Theodore of Crowland Monastery in Lincolnshire and with him Ethelred, Askega, Swethin, Elfgete, Sabinus, Egdred, Ulric, Grimkeld, Agamund and other monks (+ c. 869). Some think that a skull conserved in Crowland Abbey, though sadly unavailable for veneration, may be that of St Theodore.

Abbot Hedda with eighty-four monks of Peterborough Monastery in Cambridgeshire, founded in 655, whose site is now occupied by the twelfth-century Peterborough Cathedral (+ c. 869). St Hedda’s ‘shrine-stone’ survives in Peterborough Cathedral.

The hermits Tancred, Torhtred and the anchoress Tova, three siblings, were martyred near Thorney Monastery in Cambridgeshire (+ c. 870).

Conclusion: Academia or Holiness

The Fens, the majority of which lie in Cambridgeshire, were once notable for the port of Cambridge, by the bridge over the River Cam. Situated at their southern limit, this location on the river by a bridge was the very reason for Cambridge’s existence. However, as we know, Cambridge has for centuries no longer been a port and rather became famed as a University, as a centre of rationalistic thinking and brainpower. In this way it opposed itself to the ascetic life of the Saints of the Fen Thebaid to the north. What a witness it would be if there were once more an Orthodox church in the Fens, expressing our veneration not of rationalism, but of asceticism, not of scientists, but of ascetic fendwellers, not of brainpower but of spiritpower. May God’s Will be done.

 

 

 

The Remaining Holy Relics of the Native Saints of Great Britain

At the Reformation most holy relics in Great Britain were destroyed by fanatics or else taken abroad, only a few survived. However, some have been returned in the modern era. Below the writer Dmitry Lapa has compiled a list of the saints whose relics are still present (though sometimes concealed):

St. Alban (his shoulder bone was returned to St. Albans Cathedral, Herts, from Cologne in 2002);

St. Audrey of Ely (Etheldreda) (her incorrupt hand is available for veneration in the RC church in Ely, Cambs and a particle of her relics is in St. Etheldreda’s RC Church in Ely Place, London);

St. Augustine of Canterbury (a particle of his relics is in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester and another in St. Augustine’s RC Church in Ramsgate, Kent);

St. Bede of Jarrow (his tomb with relics has been preserved in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral since the eleventh century and not destroyed by the iconoclasts because his authority as a historian was great; a particle of his relics is also in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester);

St. Birinus of Wessex (a portion of his relics is believed to rest in Dorchester-on-Thames Abbey, Oxon where miracles occur, and some in Winchester Cathedral, though concealed);

St. Boniface of Germany (two relics of the saint and a piece of his tomb were  brought to his birthplace in Crediton, Devon, from Fulda in Germany not long ago and placed in the local RC church; another particle of his relics is housed in All Saints’ Church in Brixworth, Northants);

St. Chad of Lichfield (several of his relics are venerated in the RC Cathedral in Birmingham);

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (his shrine was buried under the floor of Durham Cathedral at the Reformation and elevated again in the nineteenth century, his relics as well as some personal relics survive and miracles occur; a particle of his relics is also in St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester);

St. David of Mynyw and St. Justinian of Ramsey (what is believed to be their relics rest in the restored shrine of St. Davids Cathedral, Wales);

St. Eanswythe of Folkestone (her reliquary was uncovered during building work in 1885 in Folkestone church);

St. Edmund of East Anglia (a small particle of his relics is available for veneration in the RC church in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk; his supposed major relics were returned to England from France in 1901 and rest in a reliquary in the Fitzalan Side-Chapel of Arundel Castle in West Sussex);

St. Edward the Martyr (his relics were discovered by an amateur archaeologist, J. Wilson-Claridge, among the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey in Dorset and are sometimes available for veneration at St. Edward’s Brotherhood in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey);

St. Frideswide of Oxford (her relics were mixed with the bones of a woman and buried under the floor of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford after the Reformation; a couple of years ago somebody’s remains were found under the floor during repair work—some of them are believed to be St. Frideswide’s; their whereabouts are unknown: some say they were soon reburied either under the saint’s restored shrine or under her symbolic gravestone, and others say they were even interred in a local church graveyard);

St. Hedda of Winchester (his relics are in Winchester Cathedral, albeit hidden after the Reformation and the exact location is unknown);

St. Hibald of Lindsey (his supposed tomb with relics was discovered under the chancel floor in the church in Hibaldstow, Lincs, in 1866);

St. John of Beverley (his relics were hidden during the Reformation under the floor of Beverley Minster in East Riding of Yorkshire; today his grave is marked there and miracles occur);

St. Kentigern Mungo (his relics most likely lie in the tomb of the lower crypt of Glasgow Cathedral);

St. Melangell (the ancient bones of a woman, most likely Melangell,  were discovered in the former apse of the church in Pennant Melangell in Powys, Wales, during a 1958 restoration project and later placed in the reconstructed shrine; miracles occur all year round);

St. Mildred of Thanet (in 1953 a portion of her relics, which for centuries had been kept in Deventer, Holland, was returned to England and enshrined in Minster Convent in Kent);

St. Swithin of Winchester (his relics were hidden during the Reformation and are still in Winchester Cathedral under the floor, somewhere near his former shrine);

St. Teilo of Llandeilo (his supposed head relic is kept in the chapel which bears his name in a specially constructed reliquary in Llandaff Cathedral in Wales);

St. Tewdrig, King of Glywysing and Martyr (his coffin with relics was rediscovered in the seventeenth century by the Bishop of Llandaff at St. Tewdrig’s Church in Mathern, Monmouthshire);

St. Urith (it can be said with high degree of certainty that her relics still lie under the church floor in Chittlehampton, Devon, a long way below the slab that covers them);

St. Winefride of Holywell (her finger-relic is kept in the RC Cathedral in Shrewsbury, Salop, and another particle of her relics belongs to Catholics in Holywell, Anglesey);

St. Wite (still intact in the church in Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset).

There are other places, where according to tradition saints’ relics may still be present. Among them are:

St. Bertram (Holy Cross Church in Ilam, Staffs);

St. Eata (the crypt of Hexham Abbey, Northumb.);

St. Oswald of Worcester and York (Worcester Cathedral);

St. Wilfrid of York (either Canterbury Cathedral or Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire);

Sts. Oswald of Northumbria and Hilda of Whitby (Durham Cathedral);

Those of some of the holy archbishops of Canterbury (buried around St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, where their grave markers survive).

The supposed relics of St. Alfred the Great and St. Edburgh of Bicester have also been under investigation lately, but results are inconclusive.

 

 

 

 

Martyrs Under the Danes

The ninth-century Danish invasions of England produced a host of martyrs for Christ. As a result of the Viking incursions, monastic life in England and in other parts of Britain was virtually wiped out. Moreover, the Danish pirates returned in the late tenth century after the murder of St. Edward the Martyr and continued their ravages and carnage. The following martyrs laid down their lives for Christ over that period (compiled by Dmitry Lapa):

St. Alkelda, a princess who chose to become a nun and anchoress in Yorkshire but was strangled by two Danish women during one of the first raids (+ c. 867; feast: March 28; the church in Middleham in North Yorkshire is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Alkelda, whose supposed coffin with the relics was discovered under the church floor in 1878; local healing wells and another church, in Giggleswick, bear her name too);

St. Ymar, a monk of the monastery in Reculver in Kent, who was slain by the Danes in 830 (feast: November 12);

Abbot Beocca, Hieromonk Ethor and with them ninety monks of Chertsey Monastery in Surrey, now on the outskirts of London (+ c. 869; feast: April 10; a modern Orthodox service to the Martyrs of Chertsey exists);

Abbot Theodore of Crowland Monastery in Lincolnshire and with him Ethelred, Askega, Swethin, Elfgete, Sabinus, Egdred, Ulric, Grimkeld, Agamund and other monks (+ c. 869; feast: April 9);

Abbess Ebbe (Aebbe) the Younger together with her nuns in Coldingham Convent in what is now the Scottish Borders region of southern Scotland, which then belonged to the English kingdom of Northumbria (+ c. 870; feast: August 23; a contemporary Orthodox service to St. Ebbe exists);

Abbot Hedda with eighty-four monks of Peterborough Monastery in Cambridgeshire, founded in 655 and whose site is now occupied by the twelfth-century Peterborough Cathedral of Sts. Peter, Paul and Andrew (+ c. 869; feast: April 9; St. Hedda’s “shrine-stone”, which resembles a medieval reliquary but without a cavity in it, survives in Peterborough Cathedral);

The hermits Tancred, Torthred and the anchoress Tova, three siblings, were martyred near Thorney Monastery in Cambridgeshire, in the Fens (+ c. 870; feast: September 30; Thorney Monastery was refounded by St. Ethelwold of Winchester in the tenth century);

Bishop Herefrith of the province of Lindsey in what is now Lincolnshire, was most probably slain on the site of the town of Louth (+ c. 869; feast: February 27; his relics were translated to Thorney);

St. Fremund, a Mercian English prince who chose to live as a hermit on an island in prayer but was murdered by the Danes (+ c. 866; feast: May 11; his relics were kept in Offchurch in Warwickshire, then in Prescote in Oxfordshire, and finally in the village of Cropredy in the same county, and a portion of them was later translated to Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, and numerous miracles occurred);

St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, was martyred by the Danes in 869 and venerated both as a martyr for Christ and as a righteous king of holy life (feast: November 20; he is the first patron-saint of England);

St. Ragener, a soldier-martyr and probably St. Edmund’s nephew, slain in Northampton in about 870 (feast: November 21; his relics were discovered in St. Peter’s Church in Northampton in the twelfth century and many miracles were recorded);

St. Suneman, a hermit of St. Benet Holme Monastery (in honor of St. Benedict) near Ludham on the River Bure in Norfolk, was slain in the ninth century (no feast is known;

Hieromartyr Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, was captured by Vikings and then martyred by them in Greenwich near London in 1012 (feast: April 19);

St. Eadnoth, a monk from Worcester who was later Abbot of Ramsey in Cambridgeshire and Bishop of Dorchester and killed by the Danes in 1016 (feast: October 19);

St. Werstan, a monk of Deerhurst who lived as a hermit in the Malvern Hills on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire border and was martyred in the 1050s (no feast-day is known, Malvern Priory stands on the site of his cell).

The Western God is Dead and Buried, but the True And Living God is Returning

Our God is a consuming fire

Heb 12, 29

I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.

St Alban of Verulamium

Introduction: The Western God’s Funeral is Over

The thousand year-long funeral of the Western god is over. This much is clear to everyone. True, very small groups of the elderly still huddle in surviving churches, true, other buildings are packed with swaying crowds of happy-clappers – only in reality they are not attending churches, but feel-good American entertainment shows. Thus, former church-buildings have become fitness clubs, restaurants and shopping centres for the cult of the body and ‘wellness’. People are told to ‘spoil and pamper themselves’, because ‘you’re worth it’, with personal trainers, life coaches, leisure centres, spas, hot tubs, jacuzzis, beauty salons, massage parlours, cosmetic surgery, gourmet restaurants managed by ‘celebrity chefs’ and gastropubs with ‘fine wine’. Physical impurity of all sorts must be purged – go vegan and gluten-free; as for spiritual impurity, it has never been heard of. However, all manner of utterly irrational superstitions are available for mental wellness; mindfulness, gurus, astrology, magic crystals, feng-shui, tree-hugging – anything goes, providing it is fashionable. So all Westerners have become ‘fashion victims’. But how did the Western (and Westernized) world reach this point of killing its own god?

Some History

After the Western world had denied and then lost the knowledge of the real God a thousand years ago, it substituted its own rationalist and scholastic god for Him. This substitute god, represented by a Western man called ‘the Vicar of Christ’, from whom, they claimed, flowed all authority, was idolized for hundreds of years. This idolatry came because he justified all manner of Western aggression, from massacres in Western Europe (southern Italy, England, Iberia, Wales, southern France, Ireland) to ‘Crusades’, from Inquisitions to the ruthless genocides of Western ‘explorers’ (=murderous pirates and thieves) like Columbus, Da Gama and Cortez. After a few centuries the self-invented Western god’s authority was extended to others, ‘democratized’, and this justified the plundering and looting of the whole planet outside Western Europe with colonial empires, violent Revolutions in England, France and Russia (including the ‘Industrial Revolution’), World Wars, the Holocaust of the Slavs (30 million dead), the Atomic bomb and the invasion of and genocide in Iraq (which the Western god ‘told’ George Bush to do).

The Nature of Western Civilization

Thus, it can be said that the essence of Western Civilization is self-worship, the worship of Western man, which it calls humanism. After the Reformation this worship was, as we have said, gradually extended down the centuries in the name of ‘equality’, from one Western man to all rich Western men, then later from rich Western men to poor Western men, from Western men to Western women and, much more recently, from Western men to anyone of any colour, race, religion and ‘sexual orientation’, as long as they accept the Secularism inherent in Western ‘Civilization’. Therefore, today, the Western world no longer needs a god to justify itself; it is its own god. This was already recognized quite clearly by nineteenth-century intellectuals like Darwin and then Nietzsche, who openly proclaimed that the Western god ‘is dead’. Today this is repeated by spiritually empty intellectuals like Dawkins, who constantly proclaims that God is a myth. And he is right: the Western god, first proclaimed 1,000 years ago, is indeed a myth, but that god is in no way related to the True and Living God, as proclaimed by the Western Orthodox St Alban, who was martyred by Western pagans for proclaiming this well over 1700 years ago.

Dawkins’ arrogant and preening proclamation is true, but it is also suicidal. This is because, since the Western god, angry, vengeful, racially prejudiced, favouritist, puritanical, persecuting, spiteful, punishing, militaristic and just plain evil as he enjoys seeing the victims of death, is dead, this means that his own Western Civilization is dead, fit only for the museum. For it was this nasty-minded god who lay at the root of post-Christian Western Civilization after 1054. For with his so-called ‘atheism’, Dawkins condemns himself and everything he stands for. His ‘Western values’ are merely the ultimate and most logical development of Western Civilization’s own, self-invented god. This atheism, belief in self, has not brought progress, but simply a return to the old paganism, as among the globalist Romans, who believed in any gods, except in the True and Living God. The new gods of today are simply the old pagan gods revived. Western values mean believing in Anything. Christian values proclaim faith in Something, the Living God. However, only a few Western people have been able to step outside the ‘delusion’ (Dawkin’s word) of the self-justifying bubble of their Western ‘Civilization’ to understand this and accept Christ.

Why? Because repentance is far too hard for them; self-justification is far more attractive. Thus, only a few Western people (though it is quite obvious to those outside ethnocentric Western Civilization) have so far realized that the Western world has not buried the real God, just its own thousand year-old Western false god, its idol. Western people, who, amazingly, call themselves ‘atheists’ (which only means that they no longer believe in the Western myth of god) need to be warned: The real God is not dead and buried, but alive and acting and He is coming back. His return is coming from the Holy Spirit, Who ‘blows where He wishes’ and Who has reconnected the inspired in the West with Orthodox Civilization. This Civilization is quite different from Secularist Western Civilization because this is Christian, whereas Western Civilization has not been really Christian for a thousand years. To find a Western Civilization that was Christian, you have to go back a thousand years, in other words, go back to a time when there was no such thing as ‘Western Civilization’, when Western Europe was simply a small, provincial and little developed part of Orthodox Christendom, whose centre was and is in the East, close to Christ.

The Attempt to Destroy Orthodox Civilization

The essence of Orthodox Civilization is the True and Living God and its direction is heaven, and not some Western self-idolatry, whose direction is hell. For the last hundred years in particular (though it had been patently obvious since 1054 or 1204), we have seen how Western Civilization has tried to destroy Orthodox Civilization, betraying and usurping the most Christian Emperor when he was on the brink of victory in the Western-initiated Great War in 1917 and soon afterwards bribing the Patriarchate of Constantinople into enslavement. It even forced that enfeebled Patriarchate, and any others who were so weak that they would follow it, to abandon the Christian calendar! Thus, the schismatic events in the Ukraine of the last few weeks, actively and openly supported by the US and British ambassadors in Kiev and Athens, are only the latest results of the thousand-year attempt of Western Civilization to divide and rule, and eventually, as they hope, destroy and conquer, Christian Civilization. The centre of this Christian Civilization has for centuries, and at no time more than now, been the Russian Orthodox Church. It is why we belong to Her, defending Her against all and confessing Her faith without hesitation.

Conclusion: The Future

Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is as ever supported by all other faithful Orthodox, especially those in the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Serbian, Georgian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czechoslovak Orthodox Churches, by monastics everywhere and many others. The battle today is between two diametrically opposed Civilizations. On the one hand, there is Western Civilization, which is in fact not a Civilization at all because, unlike all other Civilizations in world history, it is not based on faith in God and the spiritual inspiration behind all culture. Its aim has always been the conquest of the planet (‘globalism’), justified by its imagined superiority, which is leading directly to the destruction of the planet – hell on earth. On the other hand, there is Christian Civilization, whose centre is without doubt the martyred Russian Orthodox Church, supported by all other faithful Orthodox. Our aim is heaven on earth. It is clear that although those on the fringes of the Orthodox Church may be falling away, as they have been for the last four generations, that the chaff is being sifted from the wheat (and so much the better), the Church will be victorious in the end. This is because the Church is not ours, but Christ’s and He is invincible.

 

The Church and the Two Western Europes

The news has come that last week’s Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow agreed to include the names of three Irish missionary saints in Western Europe, Sts Gall, Fridolin and Columban, into the Russian Orthodox calendar. It is yet another step in bringing the Church inside Russia into line with the practices of the Church Outside Russia, which has a far greater experience of local Orthodox life and missionary work.

The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) began introducing such local saints into its calendar over 60 years ago with St John of Shanghai, his disciples Bishop (later Archbishop) Nathanael (L’vov) and Archbishop Antony of Geneva and then their disciples in England and the USA, just as it began using local languages in services. Thus, 40 years ago, the Church Outside Russia accepted St Edward the Martyr into its calendar, painted his icon and composed a service to him.

It now remains for the whole Church to accept all 10,000 Saints of Orthodox Christian Europe into its calendar, as was proposed by ourselves 43 years ago, in 1975, and has been ever since. The acceptance of the local languages and local saints of Orthodox Christian Western Europe into the Russian Orthodox Church’s spiritual and liturgical life and the rejection of divisive petty nationalism sets the Church against Western Europe.

Western Europe has consistently abandoned its saints, replacing them with popes, kings, knights, soldiers, philosophers, architects, conquerors, artists, explorers, inventors, writers, nationalists, dictators, scientists and mass murderers. It has, in other words, consistently abandoned the things of God for the things of man, it has abandoned the Spirit for the worship and justification of fallen man, of sin, of Heaven for Earth, of sacrifice for comfort.

As a result of this abandonment of Orthodox Christianity and the mixture of its vestiges with a host of isms issued from Roman paganism and barbarian heathenism, it did not adopt Orthodox saints into its calendar. Rather it set about attempting to destroy their Christian world and its civilization, notably in 1204 sacking and looting the Christian capital of New Rome, and then in 1917 sacking and looting the Christian Empire itself.

The European Orthodox thinker wonders and asks: ‘Where will all this end?’ And he receives the answer: ‘It will end with the end’.

7 July 2030: Historic Autonomy for the Ionan Orthodox Church

The Address of Metropolitan John of London and All Iona in the Church of the Four Saints on the Snowy Mountain, Isle of Man, Feast of All the Saints of the Isles, 7 July 2030.

 

‘It was in 1970 that our sister, the Japanese Orthodox Church, received its autonomy from our Russian Orthodox Mother Church. Its Metropolitan Nicholas of Tokyo stands here beside me today as an honoured guest. Now, sixty years later, our island archipelago, on the other side of the Eurasian continent from Japan, has in its turn received its autonomy from the Mother-Church. Today, our Church of the Isles of the North Atlantic – I.O.N.A. – has received autonomy from Patriarch Tikhon II and the Holy Synod in Moscow. The Patriarchal representative, our dear friend Metropolitan Seraphim of Volokolamsk, stands here beside me, together with the personal representative of Tsar Nicholas III, the servant of God Gregory Efimov. This is a most solemn day of victory, for which so many of us have waited and worked for so long.

From this place, the highest point on the Isle of Man, this isolated and yet central point, are visible the four nations that make up our Ionan Confederation. From here we can see England, for which I bear pastoral responsibility, and Ireland, Scotland and Wales, for which my dear friends and colleagues, Archbishop Patrick of Dublin, Bishop Andrew of Edinburgh and Bishop David of Cardiff, bear responsibility. Today we gather on this feast day of All the Saints of the Isles, who are present here with us spiritually, and we recall our long struggles. After and despite many false starts and many errors and many divisive events, our Church began to develop only over the last generation, when She at last started to obtain and build so many of her own churches and give financial help to our priests, thus rapidly expanding all through our lands.

Within a generation we have built a network of over 120 of our own churches and their full-time priests, one each in most counties and several in each capital city. We have even been able to build churches in Iceland and the Faeroes, also isles of the North Atlantic. From our pilgrimage centres in St Albans, on Lindisfarne, Skellig Michael, Iona and at St Davids, our first martyr, St Alban, the Wonderworker of Britain, St Cuthbert, the monks inspired by Egypt on Skellig Michael, the Irish monks of Iona, St David, consecrated, some say, in Jerusalem and now those from the Russian Church join with us. With autonomy, we have the best of both worlds, an ideal and balanced situation. On the one hand, no-one can suggest that we are a foreign colony, but on the one hand we receive vital spiritual support from our Mother-Church, for which we are so very grateful’.

 

After this address ‘Many Years’ was sung to His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon II and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, heartily thanking them all for all their assistance and generosity.

 

FEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS OF THE IBERIAN PENINSULA IS AT LAST TO BE PROCLAIMED IN OCTOBER 2018

The Orthodox feast of the Iberian Saints will be added to the liturgical calendars of the Local Orthodox Churches. The list of saints was first compiled by Fr Andrew Phillips in 1993. It has taken 25 years to reach this situation.

The initiative to add such a feast was made by the Orthodox bishops of Spain and Portugal, which met in Madrid last Friday. The meeting was attended by His Grace Bishop Nestor of Korsun (Russian Orthodox Church), His Eminence Metropolitan Polycarp of Spain and Portugal (Patriarchate of Constantinople), and His Grace Bishop Timothy of Spain and Portugal (Romanian Orthodox Church).

The bishops decided to petition the primates of their Local Churches to establish a date for the Orthodox veneration of the Iberian saints. It was decided to celebrate the new feast on the Sunday before the Spanish National Day, which is celebrated on 12 October. Thus, the new feast of All Saints Who Shone Forth in the Iberian Peninsula will be liturgically proclaimed and celebrated for the first time this year on 7 October in Madrid.