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

 

A Request From Moscow

I read very sad news last night that someone whom I had known for years passed away in June. Her name is Natalia, aged 80. Her husband, Dmitry, is a famous professor from the university where I studied between 2003 and 2013. They are very spiritual and sincerely Orthodox people, with no signs of hypocrisy, phariseeism or neophytism at all. They were a very united couple who lived together for over 50 years. They converted to the faith after the very early death of their son in the 1980s. And between 1994 and 2019 they performed a very great feat: they organized and ran a centre for the Orthodox education of military servicemen in the centre of Moscow, formally attached to St Tikhon’s University of Humanities, but in fact carrying everything themselves on their shoulders, with very limited resources, in poor premises, and many other problems – day after day till late evening for 25 years, inviting some of the best priests as their teachers.

We first met them both in 2004 and between 2004 and 2006 we regularly attended the lectures that they organized (absolutely on a voluntary basis). It was they that acquainted us with Fr X and Fr Z in the 2000s. They also have a daughter and four grandchildren. They were a very, very beautiful couple. It is a pity that her husband has been widowed now. I contacted them by email last year and they replied several times, but not this year. As early as 2004 Dmitry arranged for me to read a report at one of our most prestigious universities for which I received a grant. I remember Natalia had cancer in 2004 or so, but after serving a single moleben everything was healed at once. Their labours were incredible, based on enthusiasm and love. Please can you remember her? Thank you.

John Ballard (1934–1953)

 

The Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone born of the Spirit …

(John 3, 8)

My dream was a glimpse of the world beyond sense,
All beauty and wisdom are messages thence.

(John Masefield, Right Royal)

A few miles from the little town where I lived as a child, there was a boy called John. Born in the 30s, he had grown up through the war years. And then tragedy struck – he developed poliomyelitis, that disease which caused so much havoc until scientists led by Enders discovered the vaccine which would put an end to it by the late 50s. I can still remember my mother taking me to vaccination and hearing the story of how only a few years before a neighbour’s child had been paralysed and then had died from ‘polio’.

John was such a child. Aged 17, he had to lie in a plaster ‘boat’ when not having physiotherapy. Many young people in such a situation would have felt angry and frustrated, their minds darkened by bitter thoughts. Not so John. As his illness progressed he was gradually illumined by grace and he saw the whole world as it really is, transfigured by the love of God and filled with the signs of His presence to comfort man and recall him to his eternal destinies. Those last years John must have lain awake for long hours at night. He had seen the inner meaning of things, hidden to the healthy, and he wrote several poems. This one is entitled God’s Love:

The little lanes that wind and twist
Were made by God above.
He our little world has kissed,
To help us find His love.

He made the tiny snowdrops white
That peep up from the snow:
Such comforts gave us in our plight
That we His love might know.

The apple-blossom overhead,
Bluebells ’neath our feet
That we the right path may tread,
And so His love may keep.

The cowslips in the meadows green,
A sky of bluest blue,
Weeping willows by the stream,
Prove that His love is true.

The golden leaves fall to the ground
And drop amongst the heather;
Their thread of life had been unwound,
But His love lasts for ever.

The birds, the trees, the clouds, the sky,
The sheep and fishes too,
Are yours to have until you die –
Given by His love to you.

This was written in June 1951. I can imagine him in that hospital, where a few years later my grandmother was to pass away, God rest her. As the seasons passed, he would look out of the window and see or recall first the snowdrops, then the apple-trees with their ‘blossom overhead’, followed by the cowslips and then the golden leaves, knowing that his own ‘thread of life’ would soon be unwound, but knowing also that all the beauty that he saw was ‘his to have’ until he died and that beyond death God’s love ‘lasts for ever’. Later these words would be set to music and be sung as a hymn to the Creator by thousands of local children who had never known their author.

In the spring of 1953, John caught a cold, and died, mourned by his friends at Black Notley Hospital, to whom he had endeared himself: his thread of life was unwound, but his memory lasts for ever.

July 1994

(Chapter 72 from Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition)

The Lives of St Edmund and St Audrey

The iconostasis of our new church, whose opening was so long delayed, at 14, High Street, Little Abington (CB21 6BG) in south-east Cambridgeshire portrays its patron saint, St Edmund the Martyr, King of East Anglia, and also a second local saint, St Audrey of Ely. Therefore we have decided to publish simple and short Lives of both saints for visitors, both on paper and also here below:

St Edmund, King and Martyr (841-869)

‘The English nation is not bereft of the Saints of the Lord, since in the English land lie such saints as this holy king….and St Audrey in Ely’.

Abbot Aelfric of Eynsham, c. 1000

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 Jesus Christ, which was to go with him all his life. He learned to read and began to learn the Psalter by heart. After the death of the previous King of East Anglia, 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 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.

With Edmund’s reign begins a new age in the history of East Anglia. ‘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 a storm broke. The storm consisted of a full-scale Viking invasion, some twenty-thousand strong, which landed in East Anglia 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, a stretch of which is known as ‘St. Edmund’s Ditch’ and at the northern end there is an area called ‘St. Edmund’s Fen’.

In any case, in 869 the Vikings reappeared. In Thetford in the late autumn of 869 a pitched battle took place between them and Edmund’s forces. Edmund was victorious, but at great cost. Now outmatched, Edmund retreated towards Hoxne in the north of 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.

Because 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 wicked 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 guarding the head between its paws: ‘They were astonished at the wolf’s guardianship, and carried the head home with them, thanking the Almighty for all His wonders; 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, 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.

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 pilgrims 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. He was a very popular saint, with over sixty churches dedicated to him. Moreover, 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 are still those who keep St Edmund in their hearts and minds.

Holy King and Martyr Edmund, Pray to God for us!

St Audrey of Ely (630-679)

In the history of the Kingdom of East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and eastern Cambridgeshire), few figures stand out like St Audrey of Ely. She was born in 630, the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, in Exning in Suffolk. She received the name ‘Æthelthryth’, meaning ‘noble strength’. This name soon came to be pronounced more simply as ‘Audrey’. Audrey most certainly knew the great missionary Felix, the Apostle of East Anglia, after whom Felixstowe is named. He doubtless baptised and taught King Anna and his family, including Audrey. Indeed, he set up a monastery near Exning, in Soham.

On 8 March 647, Bishop Felix reposed and was buried in his monastery. Audrey was already strongly drawn to the monastic life. However, in c. 652 she had to marry Tondbert, a noble of the people living in the East Anglian fenlands, in what is now Cambridgeshire. As her dowry she received the Isle of Ely (Ely meaning ‘the island of eels’ from the many eels there), now in eastern Cambridgeshire, which thus became part of East Anglia. This political marriage soon ended in c. 655 with Tondbert‘s death.

Audrey’s marriage had not been consummated and she had remained a virgin. There followed for her five years of widowhood, during which she retired to Ely where she gave herself to prayer and the ascetic life, hoping to found a monastery. But in c. 660 Audrey had to marry once more – again for political reasons. This time it was to re-cement relations with the Kingdom of Northumbria by marrying Egfrid the King of Northumbria, then aged only fifteen. In this way Audrey, from being an East Anglian princess, became the Queen of Northumbria.

As Egfrid grew older, he came to demand that their marriage be consummated. Audrey was opposed and finally, with her husband’s consent, in 672 she separated from him and left for Coldingham where her husband’s aunt had founded a monastery. Here she at last became a nun. The following year, 673, she travelled south to East Anglia, returning to Ely. A legend from this period says that her husband, not yet remarried, changed his mind about letting her go and, pursuing her, was cut off by the high tide on the River Humber. Once across the Humber, she paused to rest at the village now called West Halton. Planting her staff in the ground, immediately it blossomed. For many years in the Middle Ages West Halton was known as the holy place of Audrey.

In Ely Audrey rebuilt the old church and set up a monastery. She lived in an exemplary way, a ‘heavenly life in word and deed’. Giving up royal luxury, she never wore linen, but only woollen garments. She did not wash in hot water and she first helped the other nuns to wash, following the example of Christ, Who washed the feet of His disciples. She ate little, only one meal a day, except at great feasts or in times of pressing need. Unless ill, she would remain in church at prayer from matins until dawn, in other words from about midnight until six in the morning. The results of these ascetic feats were that Abbess Audrey obtained the gift of prophecy. She reposed in 679, some seven years after she had become Abbess. So she ‘exchanged all pain and death for everlasting life and health’.

Audrey was followed as Abbess by her sister, Saxburgh. In 696, the latter decided to have her sister’s bones taken from the wooden coffin in which they had been buried, in order to place them in a stone coffin and have them translated to the church. The monks found a Roman stone coffin near the city walls of what is now Cambridge.

The day for the translation, 17 October 696, came. The monks prepared to open the wooden coffin containing Audrey’s remains. As she went with others to open the coffin and wash the bones, Abbess Saxburgh was heard to cry out in a loud voice: ‘Glory to the Name of the Lord’. She had discovered that her sister’s body was incorrupt, ‘as if she had died and been buried that very day’. Proof was given by the monastery doctor, who had treated Abbess Audrey for a tumour on her throat three days before she had reposed. Only a scar remained.

‘All the linen cloths in which the body had been folded looked as fresh and as new as the day they had been wrapped around her pure body’. It is said that St Audrey had welcomed the pain from the tumour on her neck and any pain of that kind as a punishment for her vanity when as a girl, she had worn jewellery around her neck. She had come to wear ‘a burning red tumour instead of gold and pearls’: ‘They washed the soulless body and bound it with all honour in new garments, and carried it into the church, making glad with hymns, and laid her in the coffin where she lies until now in great honour for men to marvel at.

Several miracles took place. Firstly at the touch of the linen robes in which her body had been lying all those years, demons were expelled from the possessed and illnesses were cured. Secondly the wooden coffin itself cured eye diseases and failing eyesight, when the faithful placed their heads on it. And thirdly it was found that the sacred body fitted perfectly the Roman stone coffin, as if it had been made for it.

The Venerable Bede, writing a few years after these events, wrote the following of St Audrey: ‘Queenly by birth she wore an earthly crown most nobly, but a heavenly crown pleased her more. Scorning the marriage bed, she remained a virgin wife for twelve years, then sought the monastic life. She came most pure to her heavenly spouse, virgin in soul’. And later Abbot Ælfric, the author of many saints’ lives, wrote of ‘the English maiden who had two husbands and nevertheless remained a virgin’.

As a result of St Audrey’s holiness, Ely was to become the great sanctuary of East Anglia until its sack by the Vikings in 870. Of this event it is related that when one of their warriors opened her coffin, thinking it to be a treasure-chest, and saw the intact body, he was fear struck and fell down dead. Exactly one hundred years later, in 970, during the great period of national revival, monastic life was restored in Ely. Once more it became a great centre of monasticism and industry and the twelfth-century Book of Ely records the presence there of a Greek bishop during King Edgar’s reign. It was especially famed for its embroidery.

After the Norman Occupation of 1066, St Audrey’s shrine became the last centre of English physical resistance to the Invader.  In Ely in 1070–1 under Hereward ‘the Last of the English’, there gathered forces to resist the Normans. Thus St Audrey, Mother of East Anglia, became the champion of the native cause, her shrine the rallying point for the English resistance movement. Inspired by St Audrey’s ‘noble strength’, all refused to recognise the occupier and warmly welcomed Hereward and his army of resistance. All who joined Hereward had to take an oath of service over the shrine of St. Audrey and promise to labour with them ‘body and soul’.

When the Norman Duke William through witchcraft and betrayal entered St Audrey’s sanctuary, it is recorded that, ‘standing far from the holy body of the virgin, he threw a gold coin onto the altar, not daring to come any closer for fear that the judgement of God might come upon him because of the wicked deeds which his followers had committed in the house’.

Throughout the Middle Ages, by virtue of the incorrupt body of St Audrey, Ely was to remain one of the greatest shrines in the land, a symbol of England’s former spiritual greatness. In all, thirteen churches were dedicated to St Audrey. She was surrounded by miracles and was one of the most popular saints in the land, especially in East Anglia, and girls were named after her.

Although the shrine was destroyed by the men of greed in 1541, today, over thirteen hundred years on since the revelation of St Audrey’s incorruption, relics of the Saint still remain in London and her hand, still incorrupt, is revered at the Roman Catholic church in Ely. And, visible for some twenty miles around, still there towers Ely Cathedral itself. Built on the site of Abbess Audrey’s monastery, it stands as a memorial to the witness of St Audrey’s ‘noble strength’, that essential Christian Faith of the first millennium which Orthodox Christians everywhere are honoured to share with St Audrey, Mother of East Anglia.

Holy Mother Audrey, Pray to God for us!

 

 

 

 

Commemoration of Our Holy Mother Audrey, Abbess of Ely

THE 23RD DAY OF THE MONTH OF JUNE

Commemoration of Our Holy Mother Audrey, Abbess of Ely 

At Vespers

At ‘Lord, I have cried’, 3 stichira, Tone VIII.

O Virgin Queen, thou didst suffer the pains of ascetic struggle and thus gained grace through the necklace of thy virtues, to heal diseases of both body and soul, to drive out demons and protect all those who suffer: O venerable mother Audrey, do thou pray for us that we may obtain healing and great mercy.

In times of old the mere touch of thy burial robes bestowed sight on the blind and healing on the sick who faithfully beseeched thine aid. Now, O holy and venerable mother Audrey, boast of Ely, do thou pray for us in thy noble strength that we may obtain great mercy.

Fruit of the pious King Anna, together with thy holy family, thou wast fervent with the love of God in all purity and modesty and merciful to thy neighbour, O blessed and venerable mother Audrey. Therefore God endowed thee with the noble strength of grace and others, both men and women, followed thee: do thou beseech Christ to preserve in the Faith those who call thee blessed.

Glory…. Tone II.

With the sword of abstinence thou didst sever spiritual snares and bodily passions, and with the silence of prayer and fasting thou didst strangle all sinful thoughts, with the streams of thy tears thou didst water the whole fenland desert and cause fruits of repentance to grow in thine island-monastery, therefore, O holy Audrey, we celebrate thy holy memory.

Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

O Mother of God, save thy servants from dangers, for, after God, we all flee to thee as an indestructible rampart and protection.

Hymn to the Cross and to the Mother of God.

When the spotless lamb beheld her Child being dragged as a man willingly to the slaughter, she cried out through her tears: Dost thou seek to make childless me who gave Thee birth, O Christ? Why hast Thou done so, O Saviour of us all? Yet I praise and glorify Thine ineffable goodness, O Thou Who lovest mankind.

If there is a Polyeleion, then the hymn of the resurrection to the Mother of God, Tone VI: ‘The shadow of the law …’

Readings: Wisdom of Solomon 3, 1-9; Wisdom of Solomon 5, 15-23 and 6, 1-3; Wisdom of Solomon 4, 7, 16, 17, 19, 20 and 5, 1-7. 

At the aposticha, Tone I.

Thou didst desire the glory of the holy fathers and mothers, thou didst love incorruptible glory. Therefore, a Queen among men and twice Virgin-spouse, renouncing worldly pleasure and subjecting thy body to ascetic warfare, thou hast obtained the reward of thy labours and dost reign with Christ the King, O noble Audrey.

Verse: God is wonderful in His Saints, the God of Israel.

Together with thy holy sisters, thou, O Virgin-Queen, didst desire the fair beauty of Christ thy Bridegroom with good deeds and, adorned with the labours of the ascetic life, thou didst strive to attain to Him, wherefore thou now dost reign with Christ the King in His glory.

Verse: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Thou didst set course for the heavenly haven and calmly sail over the stormy oceans of the world. Without foundering thou didst pilot thy soul’s ship through the bitterness of sweet things, filled with the secret treasures of renunciation and heavenly life in word and deed.

Glory…. Tone VI.

O holy mother Audrey who art praised by all, this day thy sacred festival shines forth brighter than the sun, enlightening those in darkness and driving away the gloom of the demons from the fenlands and from our souls.

Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God or this hymn to the Cross and to the Mother of God, also in Tone VI.

When the Mother who gave Thee birth saw Thee crucified, O Christ, she cried: What is this strange mystery, O my son? How dost Thou die, crucified, O Giver of Life?

Troparion, Tone VIII.

In thee was preserved the Image of God, O noble Audrey, for thou didst take up thy cross and follow Christ. royal virgin, thou didst teach the multitude by thine example that the flesh is to be scorned as fleeting, while the soul needs great care as immortal. Therefore, O holy Audrey, now thou rejoicest with the angels.

At Matins

At God is the Lord, the troparion of the saint twice.  

Glory…Now and ever…and the hymn to the Mother of God or to the Cross and to the Mother of God, in the same tone.

After the first reading from the Psalter, sessional hymn, Tone V.

Thou didst valiantly persevere in ascetic feats and defeat the devil with his many snares, O holy Audrey. After thy life of hardship thou art now gone to God, praying for those who reverently celebrate thy festival.

Glory…Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God, in the same tone. 

O sinless Virgin Mother, shine down rays of repentance upon me, scatter the darkness of my wicked deeds and drive away all thought of evil from my heart.

After the second reading from the Psalter, sessional hymn, Tone IV.

Though crowned on earth, thou didst crucify thy body with its passions and love Christ thy Bridegroom with all thy heart, O Audrey, wherefore thou wast crowned in heaven, and numbered among the choirs of angels, ever praying for those who honour thee.

Glory… Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

The storm of sins strikes me, as does the tempest of my sinful thoughts, have compassion upon me, O Pure One, and graciously stretch forth thy hand to help me that, saved, I may magnify thee.

Magnification.

We magnify thee, O holy mother Audrey, and we honour thy holy memory, for thou dost pray for us to Christ our God.

Verse: I waited and waited for the Lord, and He attended to me and heard my prayer.

Sessional hymn, Tone VIII.

O mother chosen by God, thou hast passed calmly through the storms of life and been piloted to Paradise, now do thou praise the Redeemer with the angels, that He may grant us grace and great mercy and preserve the flock which through thy labours thou didst bring to Him.

Glory …. Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

Rejoice, thou who through the Archangel didst receive the Joy of all the world; Rejoice, thou who didst give birth to thy Creator and Lord; Rejoice, thou who wast made worthy to become the Mother of God.

Gradual, first antiphon of Tone IV, ‘From my youth…’

Prokimenon, Tone IV.

God is wonderful in His Saints, the God of Israel.

Verse: Bless God in the churches, praise the Lord from the wellsprings of Israel.

Let every breath. Gospel: Matt 25, 1-13.

After Psalm 50, Stichiron, Tone II.

With the sword of abstinence thou didst sever spiritual snares and bodily passions, and with the silence of prayer and fasting thou didst strangle wrongful thoughts; with the streams of thy tears thou didst water the whole fenland desert and cause fruits of repentance to grow in thine island-monastery, wherefore, O holy Audrey, we celebrate thy holy memory.

Canon, Tone VIII.

Ode I 

Irmos: By parting the sea with the sign of the Cross, the miraculous rod of Moses drowned the pursuing chariots of Pharaoh, and saved fleeing Israel who marched on, singing to God.

Refrain: Venerable Mother Audrey, pray to God for us.

My soul is continually drowned by the storm of passions and stirred by the clamour of evil thoughts: O holy Audrey, do thou guide me through the trackless fens of the demons to the still haven of Christ’s will, that I may worthily hymn thee.

Thou wast enlightened with the virtues of virginity, O godly Audrey. With prayer and fasting thou didst put thy passions to death and follow in the life-bringing footsteps of the pure Word, thy true Bridegroom.

O holy and glorious Audrey, amid the barren fen thou didst follow the teaching of the holy fathers and mothers, and live like the bodiless ones, in prayer and fasting, in purity and virginity, in true humility, and thus thou didst bear fruit a hundredfold.

Glory…. Now and ever: Thou art the divine vessel and table who hast borne the Bread of Life; thou art the unploughed land and holy mountain, and in hymns we glorify thee, O Mother of God.

Ode III

Irmos: O Lord, Creator of the vault of heaven and Builder of the Church, strengthen me in Thy love, O summit of desire, O bulwark of the faithful, O Thou alone Who lovest mankind.

Though men sought thee as their Queen, the Almighty had chosen thee as His Bride, and now thou dwellest with Christ the King in glory in the heavenly mansions. From there thou makest streams of healing to stem the flowing of our passions.

Instead of necklaces and fine jewellery, thou wast adorned with the love of Christ, Who in His abundant compassion, though rich became poor; thou hast followed His Life-bringing words, despising all earthly riches and glory and thus hast become noble in soul.

Thou didst acquire golden wings of virtue, O blessed Audrey, and as an immortal dove thou hast flown up to the heights of heaven from the desolate fenlands through the noble strength of prayer.

Glory…. Now and ever: O Virgin, our race has been saved through Him, Who for our sakes became poor in His Body which He took from thy womb: wherefore we praise and bless thee, O most pure grace-filled Maiden.

Sessional hymn, Tone IV.

As Christ’s virgin and undefiled bride thou art adorned with ascetic feats; thou hast entered the incorruptible chamber with Him, contemplating its beauties. Do thou beseech Him for us who lovingly hymn thee, that we may be saved from all adversity.

Glory.… Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

O pure, spotless and unwedded Bride who alone hast given birth to the eternal Son and Word of God: together with the holy and venerable apostles and martyrs, prophets and ascetics, beseech thou Him to grant us healing and great mercy.

Hymn to the Cross and to the Mother of God.

O most pure Virgin, Mother of Christ our God, a sword pierced thy soul when thou didst behold thy Son and God willingly crucified. Therefore, O Blessed One, do not cease to pray to Him, that He may grant us the forgiveness of our sins.

Ode IV

Irmos: O Lord, I have heard of the mystery of Thy dispensation. I contemplate Thy works and glorify Thy divine nature.

O noble Audrey, holy and royal jewel in the crown of East Anglia, thy bright festival shines with the radiance of the Spirit and, healing both bodily and spiritual eyes, enlightens our souls as we sing to thee in faith.

With miracles and foreknowledge, thou hast brought to the Faith those who had not known the Master, and by the noble strength of prayer and fasting thou hast revealed Him to those who were beset by the darkness of heathendom.

Counselled by the wisdom of the holy Abbesses Hild and Ebbe, thou, O Queen and virgin, didst bring to Christ the gifts of bodily abstinence and the labours of fasting, and He has rewarded thee with the unending joy of His kingdom.

Glory…. Now and ever: O most pure one, who art humble, save me who live in pride, for thou didst give birth to Him who has exalted our humbled nature.

Ode V

Irmos: Enlighten us by Thy commandments, O Lord, and by Thine uplifted arm grant us Thy peace, O Thou Who lovest mankind.

From amid the eel-island in the fens, thou didst raise thy hands aloft to the Creator, O mother Audrey, and defeating the slippery serpent-enemy through the noble strength of thy prayers, thou didst protect all those that cry to thee in faith.

Filled with the noble strength of prayer, thou wast made a nun by the hierarch Wilfrid, and the Most High took thee by thy right hand, O mother Audrey, and making thine island-fortress into a stronghold of holiness and prayer, He led thee into the joys of Paradise.

O venerable Audrey, thou didst tread the narrow path of ascetic struggle, spending night in prayer and fasting, clothed not in fine linen but coarse woollen, and showing many others the way, thou didst attain to the breadth of Paradise.

Glory.… Now and ever: Those who do not acknowledge thee to be the Mother of God, O most pure one, shall not see the Light Whom thou didst bear. 

Ode VI

Irmos: I will pour out my prayer to the Lord, and to Him will I confess my grief: for my soul is full of evil and my life has drawn nigh unto hell, and like Jonah I will pray: Raise me up from corruption, O Lord.

O venerable Audrey, rejecting the foolishness of men, thou didst gain the wisdom of God, and stilling thy bodily tumults and becoming mistress of thy passions, now thou dwellest in passionless serenity.

Thou didst love to venerate the Saviour’s Image, O glorious saint, and to follow His teaching and heavenly life in thy words and deeds. By the necklace of thy virtues, thou art become a model of purity and modesty for all womankind.

Christ has shown thee forth to thy godly nuns and all folk as a cloud shedding the rain of grace on those who ask for this in faith, and thy shrine became a sign of spiritual greatness in all the English land, O holy mother Audrey, and thou didst show how by noble strength of prayer we are to withstand the impious.

Glory.… Now and ever: O most pure one, thy Son is lovely beyond the sons of men by the beauty of His divinity, for He took flesh for our sakes.

Kontakion, Tone II.

O holy Audrey, mother of many, for the love of God thou didst spurn the need for rest and make thy spirit most bright through fasting and prayer, defeating the passions. Thou didst make the barren fenlands into islands of prayer and through thine intercessions thou dost destroy the snares of our enemies.

Ikos: O God, grant me streams of speech, make my mind a wellspring of piety, and bless my tongue, that I may hymn Thy lamb whom Thou hast crowned with grace. For if Thou Thyself didst not give me worthy words, how can I, a beggar, bring a gift to her who is so rich in words and deeds? Therefore give me strength to declare her contests, for she has mastered the passions. Through thine intercessions thou dost destroy the snares of our enemies.

Ode VII

Irmos: The Hebrew Children in the furnace trod upon the flames, and changed the fire into dew, singing: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God forever.

Despising all fading glory, O holy Audrey, thou didst seek for heavenly rewards, the light and rest of God’s eternal glory in His beauty, which thou didst show to thy holy sisters, thy faithful steward Owin and the holy hermit priest Huna.

Thou didst exchange this corrupt world for ageless life above the world, temporal food for eternal substance and earthly marriage for the heavenly Bridegroom, O virgin-abbess Queen Audrey, noble strength of the Orthodox faith.

Beyond the booklore of the foolish, thou didst gain the knowledge of divine love, O Audrey, and become like the angels while still in the flesh. With fervour like unto theirs thou didst lovingly keep vigil and sing: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God, throughout all ages.

Glory.… Now and ever: The multitude of my evil deeds has cast me into affliction: look on me and snatch me from the flames, O Virgin, crying: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God, throughout all ages.

Ode VIII

Irmos: Inspired by God, the children stood in the midst of the flames and sang: Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord.

Forsaking the vain artifices of men, thou art adorned and ennobled with the radiance of thy pure life, O mother, and thou dost stand before Thy Bridegroom, Christ our God, interceding for the salvation of our souls.

For long gloriously preserved in thine island shrine, thy body healed man’s manifold diseases and drove away the demons with their wickedness. Do thou now intercede with Christ our God for us sinners who honour thee.

O holy mother, baptised as a child by the holy hierarch Felix, in felicity thou wast brought to the Master of all, Christ our God, as a holy sacrifice and bright offering, as the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.

Let us bless.… Now and ever: Ineffably and without corruption thou hast given birth to the Word Who saves all from corruption, O Virgin. Therefore in faith we magnify thee.

Ode IX

Irmos: Creation was filled with dread on hearing of the ineffable condescension of God, that the Most High came down of His own will and became incarnate of the Virgin, therefore the all-pure Mother of God do we magnify.

Desiring thy Bridegroom’s spiritual beauty in pure love for Him thou, O Queen, didst ardently cry: Where dost Thou rest and pasture Thy flock? Let me rest with Thee and take delight in Thy peace, magnifying Thy graciousness, O Christ my King.

In thy soul were found understanding and humility, divine goodness, unwavering faith, and hope and love of God. In thy vigils thou didst draw near to Him, O blessed Audrey, and thou wast illumined and enlightened with the gift of foreknowledge and healing.

Today we faithful come to praise and magnify the Lord, Who glorifies thy holy festival, O holy and venerable Audrey. As thou now dost stand before Christ thy Bridegroom, remember us who venerate thee and heal the eyes of our souls.

Glory’… Now and ever: O God Who wast born of the Virgin and didst preserve her incorrupt after Thy birth: spare me when Thou wilt sit and judge my deeds; overlook my sins and wickedness, for Thou art the sinless, gracious God and Thou lovest all mankind.

Exapostilarion.

Thou didst show the princes who pursued thee to be foolish and bereft of glory, for virgin in soul and body, thou wast manly in thine understanding and faith, O holy Audrey, boast of Ely, crown of Queens, beauty of chaste women and adornment of the monastic life.

Glory.… Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

Enlighten me with the day of spiritual joy, O pure one, for thou art life and light to those who dwell in darkness. Thou art mistress of thy desires and actions, for thou art the sovereign Lady of all; deliver us all from calamity, and the afflicted from the temptations of the evil one.

At the Praises, 4 stichira, Tone IV.

Thou didst subdue the urges of the flesh to the soul, thou didst follow Christ, dwelling with ascetics in chastity, thou didst overcome the flames of worldly pleasure with holy tears, increasing thy fervour for Christ, O noble and strong Audrey.

In Ely thou didst built a holy dwelling place for God to benefit many, O wise one, for in thy pure soul thou didst discern the temple of the Holy Spirit; thou didst also guide souls into the good way of abstinence and bring them to the Master as a dowry. With them in faith we honour thee, O mother Audrey.

Maidens, following thy teaching, loved their Lord and Bridegroom; become noble and strong in spirit, they despised bodily weakness and subdued their passions. They were brought with thee to the heavenly mansions, ever rejoicing.

Glory…. Tone VIII.

O wonder of wonders! How fervently thou didst give thyself to God in ascetic labours and tears! Filled with divine love thou didst overcome bodily passions, trample down demons through abstinence, and become a bride of the Almighty through the noble strength of the Holy Spirit.

Now and ever…. Hymn to the Mother of God.

With the Archangel’s cry let us say: Rejoice, Mother of God, for thou hast brought into the world Christ the Giver of Life!

Hymn to the Cross and to the Mother of God. 

When the most pure one beheld Thee crucified, with broken heart she cried out through her tears: Where hast Thou gone, my most beloved Jesus, my Son and my Lord? Forsake not me who gave birth to Thee, O Christ. 

At Liturgy

At the Beatitudes, 8 troparia from Odes III and IV of the canon of the saint.

Prokimenon, Tone IV.

Wondrous is God in His saints, the God of Israel.

Verse: In the congregations bless ye God, the Lord from the wellsprings of Israel.

Epistle to the Galatians 208 (3, 23-29)

Alleluia, Tone I.

With patience I waited patiently for the Lord, and He was attentive to me, and He hearkened to my supplication.

Verse: And He brought me out of the pit of misery, and from the mire of clay.

Gospel according to Matthew 104 (25, 1-13) 

Communion Verse.

In everlasting remembrance shall the righteous be; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings.