Repentance in Rome and Elsewhere?

On 4 December Pope Francis met the Archbishop of Athens Jerome II and other bishops of the Local Orthodox Church of Greece. During this meeting he stated that on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church he expressed repentance for the sins of Roman Catholics and acknowledged that its ‘actions and decisions had been motivated not by the Truth of Christ and the Gospel, but by the thirst for supremacy and power and these had seriously undermined communion between East and West’.

If the Pope is sincere, now we can hope for actions, rather than words. First of all, he will have to renounce the Roman Catholic alteration to the universal fourth-century Christian Creed and so the filioque heresy of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. Then he will have to renounce the eleventh-century Papal claims, which were dogmatised by the filioque (the Holy Spirit proceeds from Christ, Whose Replacement is the Pope of Rome) and so led to the Roman Catholic, or Western, Schism.

However, beyond this, there are all the practices of Roman Catholicism which will have to be renounced. For example, there is compulsory priestly celibacy which for a thousand years had led to a priesthood, marred by homosexual and pedophile scandals, or else the distortions of sacramental life and shocking lack of ascetic life, which means that Roman Catholics generally do not fast, and in particular before communion, at which they are also deprived of the Blood of Christ. For Roman Catholics are the first victims of the millennial delusions of their leaders and they deserve our help and compassion.

The list of distortions is very long. However, repentance is always possible, and not only for Roman Catholic Popes. For here there can be no triumphalism, as there are Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops who have also fallen into exactly the same thirst for supremacy and power. And they have also marred themselves in homosexual and even pedophile scandals (especially in the pseudo-Orthodox sects, as recently in Birmingham, England, but also in Eastern Europe), putting themselves above the canons and making their otherwise innocent flocks victims of their delusions. But all is still possible through repentance.

 

Meanwhile, in Brno

After nearly exactly seven years as a deacon, thirty years ago, on 8 December 1991, I was ordained priest by the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, successor of St John of Shanghai and Western Europe. Both of them were disciples of Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), after whom Archbishop Antony had been named. Present at my ordination was my dear Carpatho-Russian friend Fr Joseph Fejsak from Brno in the Czech Lands. Indeed, Fr Joseph gave me his old priest’s cross for my ordination.

Now we are both under persecution at the same time, though from different extremes. Unfortunately, Fr Joseph was not able to maintain the people’s ownership of his church in Brno, as we were in Colchester. Similar to us, however, the flock remained faithful in the face of persecution. Now we have heard this news. Please pray for him and his flock:

The faithful of the Church of St Viacheslav in the Moravian city of Brno (‘the Czech Birmingham’) gathered with their rector, Archpriest Joseph Fejsak, to celebrate the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple on December 4. Instead of being allowed to pray, they were insulted, physically attacked, and driven out by thugs hired by the schismatic Bishop Isaiah (Slaninka) of Shumperk, who was sent by Patriarch Bartholomew of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and who has been on a long campaign to drive Fr Joseph out and steal the church from the Local Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

Fr Joseph, a graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy, has been the beloved pastor of the parish for nearly four decades. Meanwhile, Bp. Isaiah was consecrated by hierarchs of Constantinople without the blessing of the Synod of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and has concelebrated with the graceless schismatics of the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’. The thugs turned on the faithful, who this time left an altar server with a bloody face. The thugs calmed down only when the police arrived.

 

Все в море (All At Sea)

Сейчас, в начале судьбоносного месяца декабря, хотелось бы поведать эту притчу:

100 лет назад прекрасный и славный корабль отправился в плавание с капитаном, множеством офицеров, большим экипажем и многочисленными пассажирами, ища тихой, безопасной гавани, потому что на суше началась Великая буря. Из поколения в поколение судном управляли мудрые капитаны, которые останавливались во многих зарубежных портах по всему миру в поисках пристанища, забирая новых пассажиров, в том числе безбилетных. К сожалению, некоторые офицеры, члены экипажа и пассажиры были менее мудры и порой советовали вести корабль рядом со скалами и рифами, которые кишели пиратами.

100 лет спустя, после того, как с кораблем произошло множество приключений, которые будут подробно описаны в другое время и в другом месте, наконец-то снова открылся порт, из которого вышел корабль. Великая буря на суше прекратилась. Престарелый капитан корабля, избранник судьбы, привел свое судно сквозь громы и молнии домой в родную гавань, которая снова стала безопасной, готовый рассказать истории прошлого тем, кто жаждал их узнать. Прекрасный старый корабль был встречен с пониманием и восхищением. Люди снова обрели надежное пристанище.

Однако после опасного путешествия и столь огромных усилий старый капитан вскоре скончался, все еще находясь за штурвалом. Из числа офицеров был выбран новый капитан – человек, чья душа была такой же прекрасной и благородной, как и у предыдущего капитана, но который был не столь сильным. Казалось, что его задача – быть капитаном корабля, стоявшего на якоре в порту – не была такой уж сложной.

Однако недовольные офицеры и пассажиры, попавшие на борт в зарубежных портах и предпочитавшие скалы и рифы с пиратами, тайно замышляли заговор. Наконец, им представилась такая возможность. Неудовлетворенные условиями в порту, которые они из гордости сочли недостаточно комфортными, они решили вывести корабль из тихой гавани и захватить его. Хитростью они убедили нового капитана сняться с якоря под предлогом того, что они якобы должны вывести корабль из порта и отправиться в прогулочный круиз «в память о тех, кто плавал на нем в прошлом, чтобы почтить их подвиг».

Не имея возможности отказаться от того, что казалось достойным, новый капитан согласился, но при условии, что корабль только обойдет маяк в бухте в непосредственной близости от порта. Однако, когда корабль покинул порт под покровом ночи, многие молодые члены экипажа и пассажиры на борту осознали, что капитана обманули, что мятежники захватили корабль и увозят пассажиров не в прогулочный круиз, а в круиз с пытками – далеко в океан.

Этот круиз отнюдь не был посвящен воспоминаниям о великих подвигах прошлого и преодолении последствий Великой бури: на самом деле,  мятежные офицеры хотели сами управлять кораблем и ограбить пассажиров (некоторые из которых были богатыми) на борту, а также встретиться в открытом море с отрядом очень могущественных пиратов, стоявших на якоре у скал и рифов, которые тайно платили мятежным офицерам и пассажирам за захват корабля.

В последний момент многие более молодые члены экипажа и пассажиры, осознавшие происходящее, смогли не без большого труда и опасности для себя выбраться из корабля в спасательную шлюпку возле маяка у входа в бухту, а совсем рядом их ждало безопасное прибежище. Предатели мятежники назвали сбежавших «бунтарями», потому что они покинули корабль без их разрешения, злорадствуя и надеясь, что те насмерть разобьются о подводные скалы вокруг маяка. Но этого не случилось. Все прошло спокойно, и все люди оказались в безопасном месте.

Сбежавшие с корабля надежно закрепили свою шлюпку, поднялись по лестнице в фонарную комнату маяка и увидели, как корабль все дальше уходит в неспокойное море, что грозило катастрофой. Они тут же зажгли свет в надежде, что корабль и находящиеся на нем люди все еще могут спастись от мятежников и вернуться в порт. Они верили, что яркий свет разбудит администрацию порта, которая все это время крепко спала.

Тем временем, оставшиеся на борту преданные офицеры и пассажиры (многие из которых пожилые и сбитые с толку), постепенно начали понимать, что их обманули, пока они спали в своих каютах. Это не прогулочный круиз в память о славном прошлом. На самом деле мятежные офицеры и бывшие на их стороне пассажиры хотели выйти в открытое море на встречу с пиратами. В сгущавшейся темноте, при дующем ветре и под дождем открылось великое разделение, и те, кому мятежники заплатили за то, что они отправились в «круиз», начали приходить в себя.

Когда закончились запасы еды, на борту корабля вспыхнула драка, и все постепенно начали осознавать, что произошло. Некоторые офицеры, члены экипажа и пассажиры выкрикнули «СОС!», но корабль был уже так далеко в море, что их голоса никто не слышал  сквозь грохот и рев волн, кроме тех, кто находился на маяке и смотрел с тревогой.

Тем временем администрация порта, предупрежденная мигающим маяком, начала понимать, что что-то случилось, что старый корабль не собирается возвращаться и может затонуть, а преданные люди на его борту в опасности. Другие порты также начали посылать сообщения о бедствии: «Мэйдэй! Мэйдэй!»

Что произошло дальше?

У притчи будет продолжение, так как пока не ясно, чем закончится эта история.

 

Personal Questions I Have Been Asked In The Last Three Months

Q: How could you have stayed with that nasty bunch of sectarians for so long?

A: St John of Shanghai a nasty sectarian? Hieromonk Seraphim Rose a nasty sectarian? The ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva a nasty sectarian? Metropolitan Laurus Skurla a nasty sectarian?  Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral a nasty sectarian? Just because a bunch of nasty sectarians opposed them, that does not mean that they too were nasty sectarians!

Q: Is this a personal rebellion?

A: After 32 years of faithful and unpaid missionary service, ever the defender of the traditional ROCOR? As for the rest, you must ask the fifteen members of clergy and the thousands of laypeople who left unanimously. That is, half of the former UK Diocese lost to ROCOR, all because no-one would listen to us for years. The only rebels are the two individuals in authority who have rebelled against the age-old practices and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church in the name of a sectarian ideology and created a schism. Moreover, instead of resolving the problem, they have publicised it, deepened it and internationalised it.

Q: You have been accused of being unstable. What do you say?

A: The enemies of the Church always trot out the same two slanders. You are mentally ill/unstable. Alternatively, you are a homosexual/pedophile. Of course, they are talking about themselves. They cannot conceive of normal people and healthy human psychology.

Q: How did you react when they said you were senile?

A: We all fell about laughing. I was playing football in the park with some of my eleven grandchildren, a football team in themselves, when we heard about this one.

Q: What is your view of Fr/St Sophrony?

A: As someone who knew him well (I must have been present at about 100 liturgies he celebrated), I saw a wise and experienced old monk. He wrote some strange things, though perhaps not strange to a philosopher – I am not sure that any of us can understand or has understood his writings. He painted some strange icons – but he was trained in the Art Nouveau in Paris. However, there are many people who consider him a local saint and he has been canonised. He certainly did not oppose the Church with some schism or heresy or form a sect. And no-one would ever accuse him of being nasty. Many think he is a saint. There is no reason to think that he is not, though we may think that the Russian Diaspora produced even greater saints, like St John. But that is a personal view.

Q: Are you really a Socialist?

A: Very amusing! Yes, this accusation came from some Trumpist in the USA after I had praised the social policies, free education and free medical treatment, set up by Tsar Nicholas II (whom they claim to venerate!). The fact that the Soviet regime continued the Tsar’s policies (albeit in a more primitive and underfunded form) is nothing to do with Soviet Socialism, but everything to do with their inheritance of Tsar Nicholas’ love for his people.

I have all my life consistently opposed all extremists of both left and right, freemasons, modernists and ecumenists, as well as anti-semitics, past-worshippers and ultra-nationalists, New Calendarist and Old Calendarist. So when I get accused of being a Socialist, or then a Fascist, I think that is a good sign. I am clearly not with the extremes, because both extremes are attacking me.

Q: What will happen next?

A: We have no idea. All we can say is that we have a unique opportunity to form from the three broken bits of the Russian Orthodox Church the foundation for One United Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe and the foundation of another United Local Orthodox Church in the Americas, based on the three broken bits there. This is an opportunity which, like so many others before it, may tragically be missed yet again. But the opportunity is being offered on a plate. If all can get rid of their wholly secular and political ideologies and ignore their spiritually impure ideologues, this is possible. Otherwise they forfeit their right to call themselves Orthodox Christians. All we have to do is to be Orthodox Christians and stand up for what is right!

The Russian Orthodox Church claims to have a calling to set up new Local Churches. (No other Local Orthodox Church says that). If the Russian Church does not set up such new Local Churches, after all these wasted generations of descendants of immigrants assimilated into secular society, then people will stop believing in it. They will start believing that the Russian Church too is, finally, just one more ethnic and nationalist ghetto, which has no belief in itself and no belief in providing the religious infrastructure for the descendants of Orthodox immigrants born here to live as Orthodox Christians in the here and now.

Q: Are you frightened?

A: Frightened of the upstarts who persecute us? Not in the least. My conscience is clear. I fear God’s Judgement only for my personal sins. Others should also have that fear and also have fear of their sins against the Church, of their sects, schisms and heresies. For every sect and every schism is founded on personal pride. And when that personal pride grows, the sect and schism develop into a heresy.

So it was and ever will be, from the Disciple Judas to the Priest Arius, from Bishop Donatus to Archbishop Nestorius, from Pope Hildebrand to his compatriot the priest-monk Professor Martin Luther, from the Old Believers to the Old Calendarists, from the freemasonry of Patriarch Meletios Metaksakis to the Sophianism of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov. But remember, all of you, that though man proposes, God disposes. And those are not idle words. I have seen it happen a hundred times in my lifetime. Here today, gone tomorrow. But God’s Words are Eternal.

All At Sea

As this fateful month of December opens, let us relate this parable:

100 years ago there was a fine and noble ship that set sail with a captain, many officers, a large crew and many passengers, seeking refuge in a safe haven, for a Great Storm had begun on the land. Over the generations the ship came to be captained by a line of wise men, who visited many foreign ports all around the world, looking for refuge and picking up new passengers and also some stowaways. Unfortunately, some of the officers, crew and passengers were less wise and at times advised steering the ship near the rocks and reefs which turned out to be infested by pirates.

After many years and many adventures which will be related in detail at another time and in another place, the port that the ship had sailed from finally opened again. The Great Storm on the land was over. The ship’s elderly captain, a man of destiny, brought his vessel through thunder and lightning back home to its native haven that had become safe once more, ready to help rebuild and relate the stories of the past to those eager to know. The fine old ship was welcomed back with understanding and admiration. Here was a safe haven again.

However, after this perilous voyage and such great efforts, the elderly captain soon passed away, still at the wheel.  A new captain was chosen from among the officers, a man whose soul was as fine and noble as had been that of the previous captain, but who was not as strong. After all, surely his task, to captain a ship while it was at anchor in port, would not be so difficult?

However, disgruntled officers and passengers, who had got on board in foreign ports and who preferred the rocks and reefs of pirates, secretly plotted and saw their chance. Dissatisfied with the conditions in the port, which in their pride they deemed not good enough for them, they thought to take the ship from its calm haven and seize it for themselves. With great cunning they persuaded the new captain to weigh anchor, on the pretext that they should take the ship out from its port on a pleasure cruise, ‘in memory of those who had sailed on her in the past, so as to celebrate their feat’.

Unable to refuse what seemed like a worthy endeavour, the new captain agreed, but on condition that the ship should simply go round the lighthouse in the bay, in full view of the port. However, as the ship left the port under cover of night, many younger crew and passengers on board realised that the captain had been tricked, that the mutinous had seized control and were taking the passengers not on a pleasure cruise, but on a torture cruise, far out into the ocean.

None of this cruise was in memory of the great feats of the past and the weathering of the Great Storm, all of this was because the mutinous officers wanted to steer the ship and rob the passengers on board, some of whom were wealthy, and meet up on the high seas with a band of very powerful pirates, anchored off the rocks and reefs, who had secretly been paying the mutinous officers and passengers to seize the ship.

Just in time, many younger crew and passengers who had realised what was happening were able, not without great difficulty and danger to themselves, to get out of the ship into a large lifeboat near the lighthouse at the entrance to the bay, in full view of the safe haven. The mutinous traitors complained that these crew and passengers were ‘rebels’, that they had left without their permission, all the time gloating and hoping that those who had disembarked in their lifeboat would be dashed to pieces on the rocks around the lighthouse. This was not so. All was calm and all who wished were brought to safety.

As the refugees safely tied up their boat at the landing stage, climbed over the rocks and up the stairs inside the lighthouse and reached the lamp room, they saw the ship sailing out ever further into stormy seas which threatened to sink it. At once the refugees lit the lamp, in the hope that the ship and those on board could still be saved from the mutinous and return to port. This shining light, they thought, would also wake up the port authorities who had all this time been fast asleep.

Meanwhile, on board, the remaining loyal officers and passengers, quite a few of them elderly and confused, slowly began to realise that they had been tricked while they had been asleep in their cabins. This was not a pleasure cruise in memory of the glorious past. In reality, the mutinous officers and the passengers who supported them, wanted to go out onto the high seas to meet up with pirates. In the gathering dark and the blowing wind and rain a great division was revealed and those who had been paid by the mutineers to go along on their ‘cruise’ began to come to their senses.

Fighting broke out on board the ship as provisions began to run out and all slowly began to realise what had happened. ‘Save Our Souls’ was shouted out by some of the officers, crew and passengers, but the ship was by now so far out to sea that their voices could not be heard above the crash and roar of the ocean waves, except by those in the safety of the lighthouse, who looked on with alarm.

Meanwhile the port authorities, alerted by the flashing lighthouse, from where we could see everything, began to realise that something was amiss, that the old ship was not going to return, that the ancient vessel was in danger of sinking and the loyal on board were in danger of drowning. Other ports also began to send out messages of alarm. Mayday! Mayday!

What happened next?

This parable will be continued, as it is not yet clear how it will end. But we are praying for a miracle.

Questions and Answers (November 2021)

The Persecution

Q: I had not been following your situation for months. This news has come as a total surprise to me, though I am not sure why, as politics posing as Orthodoxy has seriously damaged my trust. I am lost to the Church.

A: If we had been put off by bishops playing politics, we would have left the Church 47 years ago, let alone during this particular nightmare of the last two years. We go to Church to worship Christ. The devil goes to Church to destroy Christ. Are you seriously saying that you are lost to Christ? If so, you are, ultimately, siding with the devil.

The full story of the Persecution will be told in due course. But that is not the main thing. The main thing is that questions will be asked about the Persecution and all will have to answer one question both in the very near future and again at the Last Judgement: Whose side were you on? On the side of the persecuted or on the side of the persecutors? The sectarians are the persecutors, together with those who love power and money more than Christ’s Church, together with the mercenaries, those who are ‘sergianists’, who have no principles and sign away their souls for a mess of pottage. Fortunately, repentance for all of them is still possible.

In September 2020 I went to Mt Athos and saw Elder Evthimios. He is the closest disciple of St Paisios the Athonite and in his skete he built the first church in the world dedicated to the saint. I asked him what to do. Only on 9 May this year I received his answer, in the most shocking words of all about this whole affair: ‘Do not worry. This matter will be judged in the highest of courts’. These words inspire dread and trembling.

Negativity

Q: Why is it that some converts attack Non-Orthodox, rather than see potential Orthodox in them?

A: Sadly, there is a certain type of convert from Protestantism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Protestant and the sort of convert from Catholicism who never becomes Orthodox, but is stuck as just anti-Catholic. None of this has anything to do with Orthodoxy and theology, but only with psychology and pathology.

We are told that the best way to catch a fly is with honey rather than vinegar. Sadly, there are those who are addicted to vinegar. Of course, we do not overlook reality and see only the good in others. We see the bad as well, with love pointing out errors, but still appreciating the positive, which may well be much greater than the bad. And we should always see the bad in ourselves first of all. We do not begin destruction, before we begin construction.

There is a similar situation with those who trawl the internet, searching for ‘prophecies’ regarding the coming of Antichrist. We should rather be looking forward to the Coming of Christ, which is what the first Orthodox did, for it will be glorious.

The Toll-Houses

Q: Why is this Orthodox doctrine of toll-houses after death controversial? And do the toll-houses go in order from the least serious to the most serious?

A: The ‘aerial toll-houses’ are images of what our soul will undergo after it is freed from the body at death and is examined at them for its sins during the forty days, in earthly time, between death and the particular judgement. I would not call this an Orthodox ‘doctrine’, rather part of the Orthodox Tradition of piety.

As far as I can see, the only controversy has been in the USA. The controversy there seems to me be a result of American literalism. If we are less literal-minded and take the toll-houses as images of spiritual truth, then I can see no controversy. Unfortunately, some people are very literal. Just as they imagine the Last Judgement as some kind of court-room with lawyers dressed in wigs etc, so they imagine the toll-houses to be some sort of buildings with customs-officers and bureaucratic forms to fill in (more an image of hell, I think). Such literalism, especially among those from a Calvinist or Lutheran convert background, is really not helpful, as it presents salvation as impossible and it creates despair. They forget the revelation that salvation comes from Divine Mercy, not from acts.

The order in which the twenty toll-houses is presented is interesting. For example the first three are listed as examining sins of the tongue, lieing and slander. These are all close to one another, though slander is a terrible sin. The twentieth toll-house examines the sin of the lack of mercy, which is surely the most serious and the one which can indeed prevent us from entering Heaven. On the other hand, pride only comes in eleventh place and murder in fourteenth place. I don’t think that the list goes from the least to the most serious. The order has a spiritual meaning.

The Sacraments

Q: Should a baby be baptised exactly on the fortieth day? When should the priest place the cross on the newly-baptised baby after baptism?

A: The fortieth day only has a symbolic importance (Christ’s Entrance into the Temple on the fortieth day). In fact I think the fortieth day should be considered as the maximum delay. Sadly, I baptise so many three month-old, six month-old, year-old children. It is cruel to make the children wait so long for the grace of baptism, chrismation and communion. The Russian Royal Family baptised their children well within forty days, the Tsarevich after twenty days for example. The only problem with early baptism is that some babies have very short hair and the tonsuring is difficult. But that can be true after six months!

You have answered your own second question! After the baby has come out of the water after the threefold immersion and the baby is clothed in the new clothes/christening gown, then the cross can be placed on the baby. In other words, place the cross on the baby after baptism. However, it is true that some priests do not give the cross until after the chrismation or else after whole baptism/chrismation and Many Years is sung. But such things have no dogmatic importance. You will find various practices.

Q: Can small children take part in the service of unction?

A: They must take part. Why should we deprive children of the sacrament of unction? We do not deprive them of the sacrament of communion. The only thing is that up until about the age of seven, children should be anointed simply with a cross on their forehead. This is to avoid children wiping the myrrh onto clothes etc.

Q: Where does the tradition of apostle spoons as christening presents come from?

A: Although the internet will tell you that they originate in 16th century England, this is clearly untrue. They certainly existed in 6th century Rome. I suspect that apostle spoons were actually originally communion spoons. This goes back to the time when people brought their own communion spoons to church to partake. The tradition of putting an image of one of the apostles on them goes back to the Last Supper. Each spoon was engraved with the image of one of the apostles who had been with Christ, both physically and by taking communion, at the Last Supper.

Christ

Q: What colour was Christ’s skin? Was He white?

A: Look at an icon! As he was from the Middle East, he had a tanned, pale brown appearance.

Priests’ Clothing

Q: Why do Orthodox priests wear black cassocks? He must have worn some light colour clothing, as traditional Arabs do today.

A: True. Monks wear black cassocks because black is the colour of repentance. However, married priests can wear any colour, though we often wear black. That is under monastic influence.

Terminology

Q: Why are there so many protopresbyters in the Greek Church and so few in the Russian Church?

A: In Greek a ‘protopresbyter’ simply means what the Russians call an ‘archpriest’. That is why it is so common. However, in Russian a protopresbyter is a very, very senior archpriest, in principle one who has been a priest for 55 years – which is why it is so rare, so is in his 80s (although this length of time is not always adhered to in some groups like ROCOR and the OCA).

Q: Why do you avoid the terms ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and ‘Saxon’, in phrases like ‘the Anglo-Saxon Church’ or ‘Saxon England’?

A: This term was never used before 1066. It is therefore unhistoric, anachronistic. Before 1066 people called themselves ‘English’ (spelled Englisc). The Anglo-Saxon or Saxon term was introduced by foreign invaders, the Roman Catholic Normans, as a piece of propaganda to persuade people that the Normans were the English and the English were foreign ‘Saxons’. It is therefore not an Orthodox Christian term. We should use and do use terms like Pre-Schism, Orthodox, Early English or Old English.

History

Q: What is the origin of Western Imperialism?

A: Western Imperialism, or Westernisation, has been headed by various different Western countries in its time: the Franks (1) (who were the first and so gave their name to the rest among many peoples), the Normans, the Crusaders, the Prussians, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the French, the Austro-Hungarians, the British, the Germans, the Americans, is now called Globalism. Its origin lies at the end of the eighth century under a Frankish tribal chieftain, who came to be called Charlemagne, originally ‘Karl the Tall’.

The cruellest of barbarians with burning ambition (which is now he came to power over others), Karl wanted the prestigious leadership of the universalism of the pagan Roman Empire. To justify all the future acts of barbarism he needed to become such a universal leader, he had to invent a new ideology. First, he declared that the real Emperors of Rome, living in New Rome, were not Christians, but ‘Greeks’, ‘Byzantines’, ‘Asiatics’, and ‘despots’. (Interestingly, these words are still used as insults by hypocritical Western racists today to refer to anybody outside their own despotic culture). Then he called himself a Christian (in fact he was some sort of mass-murdering iconoclast Arian, in any case definitely not a Christian), and gave himself the title of Roman Emperor. In time, his new ideology came to be called Roman Catholicism and Papism.

Fortunately, after his death in 814 Karl’s tyrannical power over his small group of countries collapsed, for Orthodox Christianity was still strong enough in Western Europe to resist his pagan ambitions. As we know, however, his barbarian descendants returned to power some two centuries later, at first in the north of Spain, then under the Normans in the south of Italy and in England after 1066. After 1054, the barbarians’ rise to tyranny became inevitable and by the thirteenth century their despotism had spread outwards to the south of Spain, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus and Constantinople, to the west in Ireland, to the north in Scotland, Scandinavia and Finland, and to the east in Lithuania and Poland, and even beyond Europe to the Asian Middle East and ports in North Africa.

Today’s Muslims call Western Imperialism ‘Crusader-Zionism’. This term first of all reflects their personal tragic history and the anti-Jewish racism of the Semitic Arab race. It does, however, sum up the organised barbarian violence (what could be more organised and at the same time more barbarian than the machine gun, poison gas, the Atom Bomb, or the smart missile?) through which the Western world (‘the international community’, as the BBC calls it) has obtained power and cultivates its universal ambition: it will never stop until it has absolute control of the whole world. However, as we know, the only one who will ever obtain almost universal control – and only very briefly – is Antichrist and the only way you can share in his power is by siding with him.

Note

  1. The word ‘frank’ literally means ‘free’, that is, ‘not slaves’. From it we have words like ‘franchise’. Its meaning reminds us of what organisations like the BBC used to call ‘the free world’. What this actually meant was that small part of the world, the West, which had not been enslaved by the West and its ideologies like Marxism. (Here we are reminded of the words of one of the hymns of Western Imperialism, ‘Rule Britannia’: ‘Britons never, never, never will be slaves’. This was written by British slave-owners for British slave-owners. Such words as ‘Human-beings never, never, never will be slaves’ never occurred to them).

Converts

Why do some converts integrate very quickly and others, even after 50 years, still seem as though they had converted yesterday? I puzzled about this for decades.  I concluded that it is all to do with the purity or the impurity of the motivation of the convert. Convert zeal (which is like a seed, so zeal there must be), should always be humble zeal. Such zeal can be channelled. Unfortunately, some zeal is simply the pride of ambition and lust for power and cannot be channelled. And pride always goes before the fall, just as the fall is always the result of pride. And pride always ends up in a sect or in (internet) isolation. I think the Parable of the Sower (Lk 8) says everything. For example:

Some seed fell by the wayside:

There are those who have been seeking for God for a long time and, though they have found Him in the Church, they still prefer to seek rather than to find. Finding for them is boring.

There are those who wish to convert because their lives are very boring and think they can enliven themselves with something that seems to them exotic –though for those born into the Church, it is not exotic at all, just normal and natural.

Some seed fell upon a rock:

There are those whose conversion is all about emotion and sensuous excitement (the sound of singing, the smell of incense, the sight of icons) or sometimes an attachment to a personality. Once their emotion has dried up or the personality is not what they thought or dies, they give up, like a flame that has burned brightly by being fuelled by paper, but once the fuel has been consumed, all that is left is ashes.

Some seed fell among thorns:

There are those who want to be better than others, they seek an ideal, perfection, though they themselves are not ideal or perfect and they have no discernment at all. Manipulated, they adopt a sectarian ideology and their pride always ends up in hatred for others.

There are those who wish to convert so that they can then berate all those who did not want to convert with them. Their motive is self-justification and the desire to feel superior, which is simply pride.

The key to real conversion is always in humility.

Three Months in the Life of the Church

Friday 3 December:

5.30 pm: Vigil / Всенощное бдение праздника Введения во храм Пресвятой Богородицы.

Saturday 4 December: Архиерейское Служение с нашим Владыкой митрополитом Иоанном / Episcopal Liturgy with our Metropolitan John

9.00 am: Hours and Liturgy / Часы и Божественная литургия праздника Введения во храм Пресвятой Богородицы.

So reads our timetable for December.

On 23 August our nine Orthodox parishes transferred to the Archdiocese of Western Europe. A few days later, on 27 August, I met once more Metropolitan Jean of Dubna, whom I have known for 42 years, at the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky, whose best-known words are: ‘God is not in Power, but in Truth’. I had travelled to Paris on behalf of our group of seven priests to collect our new antimensia and myrrh, of which we had been kept desperately short. In this way we have been able to continue to open our new parishes, for which we had been waiting for so long, and continue to carry out the 200 annual baptisms in our parishes.

Metropolitan Jean blessed us to venerate the icon of his ever-memorable spiritual father, St Sophrony of Essex, and told us to ignore the uncanonical actions of a small diocese which had fallen out of communion with his Archdiocese and his two vicar-bishops. He instructed us as a true Christian hierarch to ignore unChristian internet harassment, untruths, slander and their sectarian and rebellious spirit, which serve only to discredit their authors and further isolate them from the canonical Orthodox world.

Nearly three months after these events, it is interesting to review them. What have been the practical and spiritual benefits for those who chose to remain in the canonical Russian Orthodox Church through the Archdiocese of Western Europe?

  1. We have remained in canonical communion with the mainstream of the Russian Orthodox Church, for which communion and unity we had battled for years prior to 2007. We are now, thank God, directly dependent on the Holy Synod in Moscow and not on any group, which may seek to renounce the 2007 Act of Canonical Communion, whose signing we had fought for so hard against all the sectarian opposition of those decades and which we witnessed.
  2. We have been able to concelebrate with all other canonical Orthodox and all other canonical Orthodox have been able to concelebrate with us. We have remained in the mainstream of the Church, from which some had threatened to cut us off, driven by a newly-imported sectarian ideology, diametrically opposed to the Tradition and practices of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  3. In the single parish of Colchester this year we have, helped by the new myrrh, so far carried out 134 baptisms, with some 30 more booked by the end of this year, and 39 carried out in just the last two months.
  4. Thanks to the antimensia we received on 27 August, we have been able to open three new parishes for the salvation of souls. The first, St Edmund’s, which had been closed by the previous bishop for four months (!), situated in Little Abington, Cambridgeshire, opened on 29th August. The second, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, in Bradford, Yorkshire opened on 14th November. The third, Our Lady of Kazan, should, God willing, be opening in Coventry, after many delays caused by covid infections, on 28th November. None of these had been allowed to open before. So, in just three months, three new parishes opened to serve the people, in the east, in the Midlands and in the north, none of which would have opened without our Metropolitan Jean. Now we are investigating for the future what we can do for those who wish to remain faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition in the south and in the west. In the south there is a priest who wants to join us from another Local Church and he would be an ideal candidate there. But this will take some months. What about the west? Although we have a network of sister parishes in Oxford, Bristol and Swindon, with whom we are particularly closely linked, as well as our own parishes in Cardiff and Exeter, we need to look after Orthodox who wish to remain in communion with the mainstream and non-sectarian Russian Orthodox Church, but live inbetween these five parishes. Here our plans are advancing, slowly but surely, for it is better to implement something solid, serious and regular, rather than launch into some sort of unstable one-man show which will soon burn itself out.
  5. Given the pro-missionary and pro-pastoral policy of our Archdiocese, our years-long backlog of ordinations will be dealt with next year. A calendar of ordinations is being drawn up. Several excellent and trained candidates are being prepared, two new priests, one new deacon, one new subdeacon and four new readers, even as other new potential candidates appear. Thanks to the excellent financial situation in the Colchester parish with its property, with an income of nearly £70,000 a year, next year, God willing, we will be able to house and employ a second priest full-time, as well as having our two part-time priests. This is essential if we are to cope with the mass of parishioners who come to us, many of them new, seeking our Faith.

Glory to God for all things!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Church or a Sect/Cult?

Introduction: Etymologies

The word for ‘Church’ in Latin languages (Ecclesia, Eglise, Igreja etc and, in English the place-name, Eccles) comes from the Greek word ‘ekklisia’. This is simply because Latin-speakers were converted to Orthodoxy by Greek-speakers – the language of Orthodox in Pagan Rome was Greek until the end of the second century. Thus, English words like church, catholic, lay, deacon, priest, bishop and pope all come from Greek through Latin. ‘Ekklisia’ means those who are all called out (from the world) and so gather together. Interestingly, the word for ‘Church’ in all Germanic and Slavic languages also comes from Greek. Thus, Church, Kirk, Kirche, Tserkov all come from the original Greek ‘kyriakon’, meaning ‘the house of the Lord’, Kyrios. Even the Romanian word for ‘church’, ‘Biserica’ is Greek and is just a form of ‘Basilica’.

The word ‘sect’ comes from the Latin word for ‘cut’. In other words, a sect is a group of people who are ‘cut off’ from others. In the words of contemporary sectarians, they are ‘walled off’. They do not wish to be in communion with others and are not. The word ‘Cult’ comes from the Latin word for cultivate which came to mean worship. In many languages, there is no word for cult, they use the word for sect, whereas in English a cult is specifically a sect led by a leader. A guru, he demands total obedience to himself, whatever the circumstances. Cults are always authoritarian/totalitarian (‘charismatic’ for the naïve convert) with their own exotic ‘convertspeak’ language. This is an esoteric code of specific words and names, demanded of neophytes in order to be admitted as members. For example, ‘temple’ instead of ‘church’, ‘omophor’ instead of ‘jurisdiction’, ‘holy synod’ instead of ‘synod’ etc

The Difference

The Church and a Sect/Cult are precise opposites. The four words which define ‘Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic’ cannot in any way be applied to a sect/cult.

Thus, the Church is defined as ‘One’, whereas a sect/cult is by definition cut off, ‘walled off’ in their jargon, from others and therefore small. Inevitably, there is any number of sects/cults, all the more so because authoritarian leaders demand exclusive devotion to themselves. Divisive by definition, a sect/cult is never One, unlike the Church, which is a gathering. This we can see with various Russian sects like ‘Old Ritualists’, who constantly war among each other and condemn each other. The same sectarian infighting can be seen among Greek ‘Old Calendarists’ and Russian ‘Catacomb’ groups. They are all tiny and are in communion with no-one except their own sect. This is clearly why in the Protestant USA, for example, the more extreme Protestants who are attracted by the idea of Orthodox Christianity end up joining not the Orthodox Church, but ideologically-driven old calendarist sects. A sectarian mentality seeks a sectarian mentality and the ability, like the pharisees, to condemn others. Such groups are notable for their ‘One True Church’ ideologies. The members want to belong to an exclusive group which feeds their pride and is fed by their pride. Humility is not a living reality among them: condemnation of others is.

The Church is ‘Holy’ in the sense that it preaches holiness and therefore produces saints. Sects/cults never produce saints, though they love words like ‘holy’ and ‘sanctity’. Indeed, many of their leaders are monstrous egomaniacs, pedophiles, perverts, maniacs, control freaks and money-grubbers. Their sign is a bullying love of power and a greedy love of money, not the humility that is the sign of holiness.

The Church is ‘Catholic’, meaning ‘according to all’, in other words, the Church has the same Faith at all times and in places. This is not the same as international. For example, the Non-Christian (Arian) Jehovah’s Witnesses sect is international, but its members are the same neophytes with the same insecure psychology, whatever language they speak. There is no diversity among them, rather an artificially imposed unionism or sameness. Arguably, it is also a cult, as the earlier name was ‘Russelites’, as they were founded in the 19th century by a Charles Russell. Here too, we can see that they are not ‘Catholic’, for they have not existed since the time of Christ (Catholic = ‘in all places and at all times’), but are a 19th century invention. Clearly, the same is true of Mormons (invented by Joseph Smith) and Scientologists (invented by L. Ron Hubbard), which are also sects/cults. The same ultimately is true of many Protestant groups, who are named after their founders and are therefore called ‘Lutherans’ and ‘Calvinists’.

The Church is ‘Apostolic’, meaning simply that it goes back to the apostles, who were those sent (apostoloi) by Christ. The Church was not founded by a person, ‘Apollos, Cephas’ or others, but by Christ through the apostles. Not only is the Church apostolic, but it also lives in the spirit of the apostles. Those who are more recent and deny the past are not apostolic. This includes those who are stuck in some previous age and place, Russia before 1917, England in the sixteenth century, Constantinople in the fifteenth century, Western Europe in the eleventh century, Egypt in the fifth century (Miaphysites) etc., are not apostolic. They belong to an organisation, not the Church. The Church is greater than any of us and than whole generations of us. The Church was before us, is now, and will be after us. The Church belongs to Christ, not any of us, laypeople, priests, bishops or patriarchs. We are all merely servants of the Church, of the Body of Christ.

Conclusion

We belong to the Church, not a sect or a cult, and we are in communion with all who confess the Conciliar Faith, as defined by the saints in the Church Councils of the fourth century and as is expressed in the unaltered  Creed of the fifteen Local Orthodox Churches

 

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