Tag Archives: Pastoral Matters

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.

Please Dress Modestly

With the huge influx of Orthodox into the Colchester parish over the last two weeks after recent publicity (over 6,000 hits on Google per week instead of the usual 200), we have finally decided to put up a simple notice regarding dress. We had always been reluctant to do this. Some churches do have such notices, but they can sound either anti-woman or else rather pharisaical. This is what we have decided to put up. Possibly it will help others.


Please dress modestly for Church!

 Men: Please do not wear shorts. Put on something better than what you wear at work, at home or on the street. Church is a special place, so we wear our best clothes.

 Ladies: Please wear a dress or a skirt and cover your head, as the Apostle Paul says. Church is a place of prayer and modesty.

 Thank you!

Convertitis: A Spiritual Illness


42 years of experience and observation of many nationalities and their psychologies have led me to several conclusions regarding the neophyte and the problems of integration connected with conversion. And integration is vital here, for the opposite of integration is disintegration and nobody wants that. Two particular problems arise with regard to conversion. Against a distorting hothouse background of emotional zeal, these are: weakness of faith, and so insecurity in it, and lack of time spent as an Orthodox, and so inexperience in the faith. These result in the following specific issues:


Ritualism is an attachment to externals. Such superficiality can be linked even to superstition and idolatry. Thus, the occasional male neophyte who thinks that growing a long beard and long hair and wearing prayer beads on his wrist, like a monk who does that but under obedience, is going to make him Orthodox, is mistaken. Look around at all the Orthodox who have been there for generations – they do not dress like that and they are still here after 40/50/60/70/80 years. Similarly, the occasional female neophyte who wears elaborate long dresses and huge veils on her head and the same prayer-beads on her wrist is not necessarily Orthodox. Our faith depends on what we are inside, not on external ‘burnt offerings’ and what we dress in: ‘Make in me a clean heart, O Lord’. ‘A humble and contrite heart, O Lord, wilt Thou not despise’.


Another convert sign is the dogmatization of details. Thus, for a few converts the Six Days of Creation must be interpreted literally as six 24-hour periods, otherwise their faith is worthless. And yet the Church has never set such literalism as dogma. Six days may indeed mean six 24-hour periods, but we should not be ignorant of other interpretations or, above all, that most of the Church Fathers are completely silent on the subject because it is so unimportant – the salvation of our souls does not depend on such details. An even more dangerous dogmatizing tendency is the ‘starets-ization’ and ‘spiritual fatherization’ of the priest who listens to their confessions. This is a form of self-flattery. They are saying: ‘My ‘spiritual father’ is a holy elder (they often prefer the Non-English words starets or geronda’ in order to mystify), so therefore I am too’. This is spiritual delusion.


It is notable that some converts of a Protestant (= literalist) background initially quote canons as they used to quote Bible verses – aggressively, rigidly, mercilessly, sometimes in order to humiliate others and justify themselves. This is pride. It shows a lack of experience, that in certain pastoral situations we have to react differently, it shows an ignorance of human realities. Recently, for example, we came across the case of a man who had been thrown out of a parish by a recently-ordained, untrained, convert priest, because he had started living with his fiancée before he married. It had needless, negative consequences. Such narrowness soon becomes sectarian, and leads to people cutting themselves off from the Church, so that they become big fish in a very little pond. Here is an example of narcissism, the spiritual illness of self-love.


Another convert tendency is to fall into nationalism, ignoring the multinational reality of life in the Church. Coming into contact with other nationalities, they revert to nationalism in a self-defence mechanism. If there is no evolution, this can bring spiritual death because nationalism is an attachment to this world, worldliness, which is placed above the Kingdom of God. All unrepentant nationalists die out because they do not pass on their prejudices to the next generation. Nationalism can be a devotion to any country. Sadly, some of the worst cases that we have seen are among certain ex-Anglicans, who not only freeze out other nationalities, but also other classes, for Anglicanism as a State-founded and State-Church ideology is profoundly middle-class and pro-Establishment. Specifically Anglican nationalism leads not just to a nationalist club, but to the exclusive class club and the clique.


The next convert trend we can notice is censoriousness, negativity and the condemnation of all creative initiative (this is born from an insecurity of faith). These tendencies are all coloured by phariseeism, that is, the clinging on to irrelevant details. Spiritually, we should judge (= condemn) only ourselves, not others, for the salvation of others depends firstly on the salvation of ourselves. If we cannot save ourselves, then we can most certainly not save others. And God is the only Just Judge. This negativity comes from the hardening of the heart and can infect older people especially. We are often saved from it by the presence of young people and children.


The intellectual convert may sometimes be prone to dreaminess, disincarnatedness, the abstract. They may reduce everything to a mere idea. If so, their practice of Orthodoxy will not last long, indeed their practice may never happen as lapse comes very soon. Talking about the Church may be their forte, but without experience, without standing and praying at the services, without looking after and bringing up children in church, without the hardship of fasting, such talk is irrelevant. In some cases, they may continue in the Church for some time and may evolve a whole ideology of dreams and fantasies, but these will not be connected with reality and will never lead to anything concrete. With time the intellectual always disappears because it is all words and not deeds.


The good news about convertitis is that it can be and is healed, with time, patience and compassion. People come and people go, but there are those who stay the course. These are the ones who are not ‘religious’ (part of a system or ideology), but are ‘spiritual’, that is, they have feelings. They are those who are sincere, patient and ready to make humble sacrifices and they are eventually healed, sometimes even quite swiftly. We should always recall that it is pride that goes before the fall (the Latin word for fall is ‘lapse’, as in ‘collapse’). And sincerity, patience and humility do not lead to lapse, but to firm and long-term commitment.

Eastern England: The Land of Twelve Saints

Introduction: Roman Origins

Eastern England is made up of two of the seven ancient kingdoms of England, East Anglia and Essex, peopled by the East Angles and their cousins the East Saxons. This was once a self-contained area, bordered to the east and north by the North Sea, to the south by the broad River Thames, and to the west by the eastern Midlands, ancient Mercia. In times past that was an impassable area of river and marsh called the fens. In modern terms East Anglia and Essex mean the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk with the area around the Isle of Ely (now in neighbouring eastern Cambridgeshire), and the county of Essex. However, Orthodox Christianity arrived here before England even existed, in the first centuries after Christ. Indeed, within a few years of Christ’s Resurrection Colchester in Essex briefly became the capital of Roman Britain until London had been founded, and it may have been there that the first Christian community appeared.

In any case it is recorded that there may have been a bishop from Colchester who attended a council in Gaul in 314. Certainly, archaeologists have confirmed the existence of a church in Colchester, one of the most important Roman settlements in the country, in the late fourth century. This lasted into the first half of the fifth century and its foundations can be visited. Other bishops from Britain are recorded attending councils abroad in 347 and 359. Baptismal fonts have been found from a villa at Icklingham in Suffolk from the same period and on the Norfolk coast there is an early place name ‘Eccles’, from the Greek word for church, ‘ecclesia’ (like the word ‘church’ itself, from the Greek ‘kyriakon’, ‘the Lord’s house’. However, such urban or villa Roman Orthodoxy had all but died out by the mid-fifth century, as the Roman elite had left these shores, leaving the people unconverted. Only archaeology can confirm even the existence of the little that they left behind.

Holiness: Twelve Saints (643-1016)

After the Roman period and the settlement of the English, there opened in the seventh century a new and deeper Orthodox Christian age, a golden age of saints, both missionaries from across the seas and native. Although nine of these twelve saints lived in the seventh century, three others lived later, continuing the tradition of holiness even into the early eleventh century. The two Irish saints, St Fursey and St Deicola, were ‘wandering saints’ and only stayed here for a short time. Nine of them are venerated only locally, like the two Irish saints above, St Sigebert, St Jurmin, St Osyth and St Withburgh, or regionally like St Felix, St Cedd and St Walstan, but St Botolph, St Audrey and St Edmund were and are venerated nationally and even internationally. Places of pilgrimage to their relics are Ely and Bury St Edmunds, places of pilgrimage to where they lived are Bawburgh, Bradwell-on-Sea, Burgh Castle, Hoxne and Iken. These twelve saints are:

St Sigebert (+ c. 643), King of East Anglia, had lived in exile in France and become a Christian. He was the son or stepson of King Raedwald, the first baptized King of East Anglia, whose burial-hoard became famous when discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939. In 630 King Sigebert invited the future St Felix to come from Burgundy and evangelize his kingdom. Sigebert later founded a monastery in what became Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and, having abdicated, became a monk there, but was later killed by pagan Mercians.

After seventeen years of activity St Felix (+ 647) came to be known as the ‘Apostle of East Anglia’. He established his centre at the old Roman port of Dunwich in Suffolk (though some say in the now vanished Roman shore fort in Felixstowe, which was in any case later named after him), and then penetrating inland along river estuaries. Thus, he founded the first church in East Anglia in Babingley in west Norfolk and in nearby Shernborne, and also in Loddon and Reedham on the Broads river system in east Norfolk. He also built churches dedicated to St Gregory the Great in Rendlesham and Sudbury, both in Suffolk, and founded a monastery in Soham, in eastern Cambridgeshire next to Suffolk and near Ely.

The Irish St Fursey (+ c. 650) came with his disciples in 633. He established a monastery in a still extant Roman shore fort in Norfolk, now called Burgh (pronounced Borough) Castle, and several churches before leaving for France in c. 644.

St Jurmin (+ 654) was a prince of the East Anglian royal family, a brother or step-brother of St Audrey and St Withburgh, killed in battle by pagans, and his relics were long venerated in Blythburgh and later in Bury St Edmunds, both in Suffolk.

The Irish-trained and bilingual St Cedd (+ 664) came in c. 653. In his brief period as Bishop of Essex, with his see in London, he became known as the ‘Apostle of Essex’. He established a coastal monastery in Tilbury and churches in Prittlewell, Great Burstead, West Mersea and above all in the old Roman shore fort at Bradwell-on-Sea, all in Essex, where there seem to have been some thirty monks. In the latter case this seventh-century ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ still largely and miraculously survives.

St Audrey (Etheldreda) (+ 679) was a royal princess born in Exning in west Suffolk just after 630 and was baptised by St Felix. She founded the monastery in Ely and was the first East Anglian saint to be venerated nationwide. Her hand relic can still be venerated in the Roman Catholic church in Ely.

St Botolph (Botulf) (+ 680) founded a monastery at Iken near the Suffolk coast and was widely venerated throughout Eastern England and well beyond, especially as a patron saint of travellers.

The Irish St Deicola (Dicul) (+ c. 685) gave his name to the small Norfolk town of Dickleburgh, where he founded a monastery in about 660, before leaving for the south of England.

St Osyth (c.700) was a Mercian princess who married the King of Essex, then founded and entered a convent in the coastal village of Chich in Essex and was martyred there. The village of Chich was named after her, being called to this day St Osyth.

St Withburgh (+ 743), a sister of St Audrey, lived as a hermitess at Holkham in Norfolk and then founded a convent in (East) Dereham in the same county.

St Edmund the Martyr (+ 869), KIng of East Anglia, was associated with Attleborough and Hunstanton in Norfolk and with Bures in Suffolk. He was martyred by the pagan Danes at Hoxne on the Norfolk-Suffolk border and was venerated nationwide, becoming the patron-saint of all England. His relics were moved nearby to the town that came to be called Bury St Edmunds and one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the whole country. Some of his relics can still be venerated in the Roman Catholic church there. Today his flag is flown throughout Norfolk and Suffolk and he is considered to be the patron-saint of East Anglia.

Finally, there is St Walstan (+ 1016), who became a simple and humble farmworker, and whose millennium it is this year. He probably came from Bawburgh in Norfolk and was associated with nearby Costessey (pronounced Cossey) and Taverham just outside Norwich. He closes this period of Eastern English holiness.

Disruption: Spiritual Decline

After St Walstan, Eastern England, like all England and the whole of Western Europe, clearly entered the period of spiritual decline common to Western Europe in the second millennium. This was symbolized by the appearance of foreign Viking rulers and their new ways. This decline was especially obvious during the rule from 1042 of the half-Norman King Edward, called ‘the Confessor’, who summoned the bloody invasion of the last Vikings, the Northmen (Normans) in 1066. These brought with them the new institutional religion that came to be called Roman Catholicism and substituted it for the original Orthodox Christianity. They destroyed the old churches and mocked the saints, as they had already done in southern Italy and would later do in the ‘crusades’ in the Holy Land.

Within less than half a millennium, this new, despiritualized institutional religion, centred in Rome, had itself been nationalized and robbed by the rapacious Tudor State. The new State religion that had been invented in turn began splitting into various moralizing Protestant sects, resulting in bloody civil wars. These sects were even more dissimilar to Orthodox Christianity than Roman Catholicism. In their turn, again within less than half a millennium, these sects unravelled and were rejected and the population dissolved and disintegrated into unbelief and paganism, its spiritual roots lost, forgotten or, incredibly, even flatly denied. At this, millennial ‘Western civilization’ entered into terminal decline, the new paganism, thus leaving the missionary field open to the Church, as in the first millennium. The situation has turned full circle.

Continuity: Renewal (1966-2016)

Although various immigrant groups did give some witness to Orthodoxy in Eastern England after 1945, their mononational or ethnic witness was very limited. Mononational communities and private ideologies, seemingly more attached to a culture than the Church, always age and die out. However, it was in 1966, exactly fifty years ago, that an English priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia renewed the native English links with the Orthodox Tradition in Eastern England. This was the ever-memorable Fr Mark (later David) (Meyrick) who lived and served for nearly thirty years in a village in Norfolk. Soon after his repose the Church Outside Russia renewed that uncompromised multinational mission with a small church in Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast. After eleven years of patience, this mission penetrated inland, slightly like that of St Felix of old, and founded public-access churches.

These include a large permanent multinational church in the former Roman capital of Colchester in north-east Essex and a permanent multinational church in Norwich, the historic centre of Norfolk and also once the second largest city in England. There is now hope that a church might eventually be founded in Bury St Edmunds, the historic centre of Suffolk. This would create one church in each of the historic centres of the three counties of Eastern England. Beyond this, however, there are other major centres of population which need church buildings, like Stratford in south-west Essex on the fringes of London or Kings Lynn in north-west Norfolk, but also in historic spiritual centres around which Orthodox people live, like Ely (now in the Cambridgeshire fenlands). However, nothing can be planned top-down, from above, nothing can start without the impetus of local people, as we have seen in Colchester, Norwich and also Bury St Edmunds.

Fifty Years of the East of England Rus/ Пятидесятилетие Восточноанглийской Руси 1966-2016

The Mission of the Church Outside Russia to the Three Eastern Counties of England

500 Million People and 100 Regions

The 500 million people and 28 nations of the European Union are divided into almost 100 regions, each representing on average a population of almost exactly five million. England is divided into nine such regions, the easternmost one of which is called the East of England. This is composed of six historic counties, three in the east and three in the west (Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire); although the Russian Orthodox Church does operate in the three western counties, it does not possess any church buildings there.

1 in 200: Half of the East of England Region

This eastern half of the East of England region is called the Eastern Counties. It consists of Essex and the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, the kernel of historic East Anglia, though its influence and dialect has always clearly crossed over into Northern Essex and Eastern Cambridgeshire. The East Anglian flag is composed of the cross of St George (the Jerusalem flag) and the three crowns of the patron saint of East Anglia, St Edmund, the co-patron saint of England and King of East Anglia (+ 869). http://www.flyingcolours.org/product/county-flags/east-anglia-flag.html.

Area and Orthodox Population

The Eastern Counties cover approximately 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometres) and have a population of 3 million. We estimate the nominal Orthodox population at only about 12,000 (one in 250), though the number of Orthodox is increasing rapidly by immigration and, as it is young, it has a high birth-rate. The vast majority of Orthodox are composed of Russian-speaking nationalities, Romanians, Moldovans, Bulgarians and Greek Cypriots, with very small numbers of English people at the present time.

Historic Local Saints

The Apostle and Patron Saint of Essex is St Cedd (+ 664) and the other main local saint is St Osyth (+ c. 700). As we have said, the Patron-Saint of Suffolk and Norfolk is St Edmund, King and Martyr (+ 869), commemorated especially in Hoxne and above all in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. However Suffolk also commemorates three other main local saints, the Apostle of East Anglia, St Felix (647), the Suffolk-born St Audrey (+ 679) and St Botolph (+ 680). Norfolk also commemorates three other main local saints, St Fursey (+ 650), St Withburgh (+ c. 743) and St Walstan (+ 1016).

The Mission of the Church Outside Russia to the Eastern Counties (1966-2008)

The first contemporary Orthodox missionary to the three counties was Fr Mark (Meyrick, later Fr David) (+ 1993), who in 1966 opened a small rented chapel in a village in rural Norfolk. After his repose and the virtual closure of the chapel, the mission was resumed four years later by Fr Andrew Phillips in Felixstowe in Suffolk in 1997. After renting premises here for eleven years and also trying to set up another mission in Bury St Edmunds, the mission dedicated to St John of Shanghai (+ 1966) moved to Fr Andrew’s native Colchester in Essex.

The Mission of the Church Outside Russia to the Eastern Counties (2008-2016)

In Colchester in 2008 it managed to buy and open the largest Russian Orthodox church in the country, in order to serve the growing Russian Orthodox population. In 2016 the mission managed to buy and open a church in Norwich, dedicated to St Alexander Nevsky. The current hope of this East of England Orthodox Church Trust is to buy premises in Suffolk for a third public mission to serve the faithful. Two small domestic chapels have also opened as a spin-off from this initial mission, one in Suffolk, one in Essex. Fifty years of Orthodox mission have thus borne fruit.


Area: 1,338 square miles / 3,465 square kilometres
Population: 1,397,000

Area: square miles: 1,466 square miles / 3,798 square kilometres
Population: 730,000

Area: square miles: 2,074 square miles / 5,372 square kilometres
Population: 860,000

Area: 4,878 square miles / 12,635 square kilometres
Population: 2,987,000

Thoughts on ‘Western Rite’

(First published on this site under ‘Orthodox Life’ in 2009)


All religions have rites. Rites are necessary because we are incarnate. The bodiless angels do not need rites, but we do. In other words, the outward structures of rites are necessary in order to hold the spiritual content of religion, just as our bodies are necessary in order to hold our immortal souls. It can be said that a rite is a glass; the content is the wine. It is clear which is more important.

But which rite or rites should we use to contain this wine? Clearly, they must be worthy. In the Orthodox Church we have four very ancient eucharistic rites: those of St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great, St James of Jerusalem (the most ancient of all) and the Presanctified Rite attributed to St Gregory the Dialogist. They all go back to the first century, but were not really settled until the fourth century and a few changes were made to them even after this. But beyond these, we have the rites associated with the many other services of the liturgical cycles of the year. Eucharistic rites are only part of the rites that we use. However important, the Eucharist is only part of Church life.

The question of a Western rite in Orthodoxy goes back generations and has a whole history in Western Europe, in North America and elsewhere. This question of a ‘Western rite’ seems to come up at regular intervals, every ten years or so, and well-rehearsed arguments are presented in favour of it. For the sake of those new to the Church, it would also be helpful to speak of the arguments against. These are not often expressed, all the more so when the arguments come from experience and observation of reality. What are these arguments?

1. Why?

The first argument against a Western rite is ‘why?’ Why have a ‘Western’ rite? Rites do not save souls, it is the spiritual contents of rites that save souls. Thus, Orthodox rites do not save in themselves: the case of Uniatism, which imitates Orthodox rites, proves this. Moreover, if great attention is paid to rites, this leads to ritualism, a particular danger in High Church Anglicanism or Anglo-Catholicism. After Anglicanism had lost continuity with Roman Catholic liturgical rites, this movement tried to recreate them in the nineteenth century.

Inevitably, this resulted in ritualism, the study of dead rites and attempts to revive them through a sort of artificial respiration. Most people find any ritualism irrelevant to their daily lives and boring. They say: Why have another rite in Orthodoxy when we have perfectly good ones already? Why try to breathe life into what has been long dead? Why such interest in the glass, when it is only the wine that is interesting?

2. Chauvinism?

In answer to this last question, we come to a second argument. This is the argument that ‘Western ritualists’ are placing their local culture higher than Church culture. Thus, the concept of a Western rite simply prolongs the East-West myth, beloved of the condemned Anglican branch theory, which heretically declares that the Orthodox Church is merely an ‘Eastern’ Church (and its rites ‘Eastern’ rites and not universal rites) and that the ‘other half of the Church’ is ‘Western’. The fact is that all rites come to us from the ‘East’, that is, from the Temple in Jerusalem through the New Testament and the Lives of the Saints. In other words, our rites come from the Holy Spirit, in Whom there is neither East nor West.

The concept of a Western rite suggests heretically that the Universal Orthodox Church is incomplete. The Western rite places a local culture, specifically a Western one, one which a thousand years ago fell away from the Church, above the catholicity and universality of the Church. Do we then reject Christ because He too came from the Temple in Jerusalem, because He was ‘Eastern’, an Asian, and do we try to replace Him with a ‘Western’ or ‘European’ Christ? Is this talk of ‘Western rite’ simply not all Western chauvinism, racism, the usual Western feeling of ‘superiority’ to the rest of humanity? Siberian peoples, Chinese, Aleuts, Japanese, Kikuyus, Indonesians and Thais all use the rites of the Orthodox Church. What is so special about ‘Westerners’ that they need some special rite?

The Fullness of Living Rites

Thirdly, any rite is much more than what is to be found on paper. Thus, a text of the liturgy of St John Chrysostom gives no idea of the wealth and beauty of this rite in practice. It gives even less idea of the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly liturgical cycles. The paper text of a eucharistic liturgy gives no idea of the pattern of Orthodox Vespers or Matins, the Hours, of the Sanctoral (services to saints), of Holy Week, Easter, Christmas etc.

Furthermore, texts give no idea of the outward beauty of the church building, of singing, of vestments, of ritual actions and, above all, of the atmosphere of prayerfulness a worthy rite creates. Orthodox Christianity is a whole way of life, not a rite taken from a manuscript celebrated inside a church building for two hours a week. Orthodox Christianity has to be transmitted from generation to generation down the centuries by families and monasteries, it cannot be invented from manuscript studies of a dead ‘rite’.

Which Western Rite?

Fourthly, when the term ‘Western rite’ is used, of which Western rite is revival meant? The Roman rite? The Gallican? The Ambrosian? The Mozarabic? Or some later version based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer? The problem is that the ancient rites only survive in an incomplete manuscript form. Can they ever be restored?

Surely, any restoration would only be partial, leaving a danger for fantasy and lack of authenticity, as was the case with the much disputed revived ‘Gallican’ rite used by the group known as ECOF (‘l’Eglise Orthodox Catholique de France’) in France. How can a rite be restored anyway? Surely a rite must be living, practised in continuity? Would any restored rite not be artificial, self-conscious, unnatural?

Who for? Fifthly, even if it were possible to restore a rite, whom would it be for? In the year 2009, most Western Europeans never set foot in any Church and 99% of practising Non-Orthodox have no historic rite at all. The Counter-Reformation Roman Catholic rite was all but abolished at the Second Vatican Council in favour of a Protestantised rite. Since the 1960s Anglicans have only very rarely used their Prayerbooks, which retain vestiges of the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic rite and have swapped it for happy-clappy, ‘make it up as you go’ rites. Even Gregorian chant is largely an invention of nineteenth century Benedictinism. (And do any rooted Orthodox actually feel at home with that?)

For me, as for 99.99% of Western Europeans, though for different reasons, the term ‘Western rite’ is meaningless. I have never known any other rites than those used by the Orthodox Church, since I have never been Anglican or Roman Catholic. If I were asked to celebrate a service according to the ‘Western rite’, first of all, even before considering if I wanted to and asking my bishop for a blessing to do so, I would have to find out what it is. I would have no idea as to its practical implementation. For Western Orthodox like us, we already have ‘Western’ rites. These are the universal rites of the Orthodox Church, used in Western European languages and also in services to the local Western saints. We need nothing more, for us the ‘Western rite’ is already here and in regular use.

Theory and Practice

However fine the concept of a restored ‘Western rite’ is in theory, it seems not to work in practice. Certainly, the example of ECOF, the so-called ‘French Orthodox Catholic Church’, founded under Mgr Jean (Kovalevsky) and once several hundred strong, sends shudders down the backs of canonical Orthodox who had experience of it. Surely the fact is that ‘Western rite’ simply does not work in practice?

Surely a Western rite would only ever attract a small minority of old-fashioned Roman Catholics or Anglicans? They would be unable to integrate organic Orthodoxy and be unable to transmit anything to the next generation or anyone else outside their closed ‘ritual’ group. These would inevitably be cut off from mainstream Orthodox and find their services ignored by them, as if they belonged to an uncanonical sect.

St Tikhon and St John

Nevertheless, there is a strong argument for ‘Western rite’. This is that a form of the Anglican rite was approved by the Holy Synod of the pre-Revolutionary Russian Church and sponsored by none other than Bishop (later Patriarch and St) Tikhon at the beginning of the last century. And fifty years ago, Bishop (later Archbishop and St) John of Shanghai helped former Roman Catholics into Orthodoxy through Fr Evgraf Kovalevsky, whom he then consecrated bishop, launching a missionary ‘French Orthodox Church’, allowing it a ‘Western rite’ and the new calendar for the fixed feasts.

However, the fact that this small group later left the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in order to go onto the Roman Catholic Easter, sailed through many jurisdictions, causing many scandals, degenerated into ECOF and all but died out at the end of the twentieth century, makes for sobering thoughts. Above all, it has to be admitted that a century ago, Anglicans still had a rite and a sense of Tradition. And fifty years ago, in 1950s France, so did Roman Catholics. Therefore, pastorally, we could see what was done then as justified, even heroic. But surely times have changed? Today Roman Catholics and Anglicans do not have serious, historic rites. Time and again I meet Roman Catholics who come to the Orthodox liturgy and say: ‘At least you have ‘a real mass’, what we have is insulting’. Is there then any actual need for or interest in reviving a ‘Western rite’, even if it were possible?


Whatever reservations most Orthodox have, it must be said that bishops can give their blessing for the formation and practice of a Western rite in the Orthodox Churches. This is if they consider it pastorally necessary, if, in other words, there are people who can be brought into genuine Orthodoxy through it.

It may be that with the dissolution of Anglicanism in particular, there is now a place for a ‘Western rite’ in Orthodoxy. Despite all manner of disadvantages and difficulties, a ‘Western rite’ could perhaps fill a temporary pastoral need for some specific small groups.

However, it is doubtful if this need extends beyond a handful of individuals. In any case, whether we are for or against, interested or bored by the question of, ‘Western rite’, it is not up to us. It is ultimately up to those who have pastoral oversight, our bishops, to encourage or discourage a ‘Western rite’, according to whether they find anyone who needs it or not.

From Recent Correspondence and Conversations – March 2013

Q: What dangers should those new to the Church especially try to avoid?

A: There are many dangers, just as many as for those of us who are not new to the Church, but the dangers are different ones. Those new to the Church are neophytes and that psychology, common to neophytes of all nationalities and in all religions, is particular.

For instance, I remember about 30 years ago meeting a young Irish woman who had converted to Judaism on marrying a Jew. She had taken up her new religion with all the zeal that you used to associate with Irish Catholicism. She was completely over the top, did not use birth control, wore rather strange clothes, had to eat kosher food, was incredibly pro-Israeli, read a lot etc. Her husband, who was a real Jew, could not have cared a less about any of this and had probably never read a book about Judaism in his life. She was the one who imposed Shabbat on him. In other words, there was no theology there, just the obsessive psychology of insecurity – she felt she had to prove herself by being more Jewish than the Jews. I suspect it all had to do with competition with her mother-in-law, rather than her husband.

Q: What can this type of neophyte insecurity lead to?

A: To extremes – and I think, essentially, the neophyte, like all of us, should avoid extremes. I would take as an example the late French convert, Olivier Clement. In his youth, he tried to be more Russian than the Russians, busying himself with wearing ‘Russian’ clothes and other externals and reading a lot, which he thought would make him Orthodox. Realising that this was absurd, he then went to the other extreme and began writing against the Russian Church, adopting semi-Catholic views and even taking communion in the Catholic Church. These same convert extremes can be seen in other personalities who in their youth were over-zealous, then became over-lax. In this country, for instance, I can think of cases of going from being more Greek than the Greeks to being more Anglican than the Anglicans

Q: How can you fight against such temptations?

A: Keeping a sense of reality. For example, this tendency to a lack of balance is greatly reinforced among intellectuals who do not have their feet on the ground in parish life, so that they have no living examples before them. The Church is not about reading, but about experience of real life. This is why mixed parishes with mixed languages are so vital. Little convert middle-class hothouses, passing themselves off as ‘Orthodox’, or even ‘more Orthodox than the Orthodox’, often trying to impose their own strange or eccentric agendas on the Church and always collapse.

In such groups ‘foreigners’ and ‘foreign languages’ are usually despised or made to feel not at home. Such inward-looking communities are just as much ethnic, ‘phyletist’ ghettos as immigrant or exile groups in big cities – but with a difference. Those groups are at least authentic, but the neophyte groups are pretending or playing, starting ‘beard competitions’, so beloved of ex-Anglicans, for example. This is because they have no roots in Orthodox reality, often, sadly, fleeing that reality. You really either have to get on the Orthodox train or else get off the tracks. If you do not, you will be run over – and it will be your own fault.

Q: Are there other consequences of such insecurity?

A: Yes, judgementalism. Censorious convert conversations like ‘this bishop does that’, or ‘that priest smokes’, or ‘there is a scandal there, so I cannot belong to that Local Church’ always display the same negativity. For example, I know a priest of the Antiochian jurisdiction who gives communion to anyone, Orthodox or not. Does that mean that I am not in communion with his Patriarch or all the many serious bishops and priests of his Church? Of course, I am.

Such conversations are very depressing, because they do not focus on reality, but only on the negative. Did the Apostles focus on Judas? No. So we too should focus on the 100 parishes where life is normal or even thriving and forget the one where there is some sort of scandal. This is not even a case of seeing a half-full glass as half-empty, this is a case of seeing a 99% full glass as 99% empty. The demon plays with our sense of reality and, sowing illusions in our minds, creates depressions, schisms and lapses. We do not lapse because of some scandal; a scandal should bring us zeal. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’, is what we should be saying. That is what the Apostles did after Judas. They had no illusions, but they also rejoiced in the Faith.

Q: What can we do to counter such thoughts?

A: Depression comes from pride. Be humble. Life is beautiful – God made it, not death. We should not expect others to be saints, when we ourselves are not saints. We should condemn only ourselves, others we should always find excuses for. We are responsible only for saving our own soul. Stop interfering, looking at your neighbour. Until we have learned this, we are not Christians, we are only sources of pride, for whom nothing is ever good enough. This is where neophyte idealism is dangerous. As they say: ‘If the grass is greener on the other side, start watering your own side’. We must stay with the mainstream and flee the fringes and margins around the Church. Of course, if we ourselves are asked to compromise, that is a different matter. But that is rare.

Q: How do we avoid compromising ourselves in such cases?

A: I remember a priest at a Diocesan Pastoral Conference in Frankfurt some years ago, asking what would happen when ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow were in communion again, because he knew a particular Patriarchal priest who did totally uncanonical things and the priest who asked the question did not want to concelebrate with him. Archbishop Mark answered very simply and I think with great surprise at the strange question: ‘Then do not invite him to your parish. Then you will not have to concelebrate with him’. It is the same with those who use the Catholic calendar. We have no obligation to go to their parishes and concelebrate with them. But they are welcome to concelebrate with us and we invite them to. In that way they return to the calendar that the Church uses, for a day at least.

An example is from the contemporary OCA, where some ordinary Orthodox are at last revolting against certain converts who have tried to impose Evangelical-style right-wing censoriousness on them. Rooted Orthodox do not want hothouse politics and pseudo-Orthodoxy, they want real-world tolerance. But they do not want lax practice either, which is the other side of the extremist coin. They have suffered from this for over forty years and that has led to the present crisis in the OCA, which means that it has been isolated from World Orthodoxy and few concelebrate with it, as we saw at the recent enthronement of Patriarch John of Antioch.

With all its financial and moral scandals the OCA is suffering from the sort of problems that the Roman Catholics are suffering from – and for the same reason – loss of faith. But that does not mean that everyone there is involved. That is why we must pray for it especially now. It is always a noisy minority that compromises the outward life of the Church. But the angels are still here, in spite of us. Never forget that. We serve God, not man. The Church is God’s, not ours. As for us, today we are here, tomorrow we are gone, but the gates of hell will not prevail. The Church does not need us, we need the Church.

Q: Where can Russian Orthodox in the West go for training at seminary? Would you recommend the new seminary in Paris?

A: Definitely not Paris. It has failed to meet our hopes on all counts and is notoriously ecumenist, as everyone knows and as we have told the authorities in Moscow face to face. It is amazing to us that in Moscow they still naively think in pre-Revolutionary categories, that the Catholic Church is utterly serious and is not subject to the Protestant-style freemasonry, homosexuality and pedophilia that entered it massively after the Americanisation of the Second Vatican Council.

In Russia they never went through the 1960s, so in that sense they still largely retain the freshness and also naivety of the 1950s. However, by compromising themselves by fraternising with Catholics, as they do in Paris, they are also compromising themselves with pedophiles. They do not consider this. It is a great shame that in Moscow they still do not listen to us in ROCOR about such matters. We are the Church Outside Russia, we were born here, we live here, we are aware, we talk to Catholics every day as neighbours and we know what goes on there. There are plenty of ordinary, decent Catholics who look to the Orthodox Church to free them from such tyranny and deformations. But be patient, give them time in Moscow and they will learn.

To answer your question about seminary training today: Seek a blessing to go either to Jordanville or else, in certain cases, to the seminary at Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. One day Paris will be cured. It has only just started.

Q: What is our view today of Metropolitan/Patriarch Sergius (Stragorodsky)? In 1930 over 30 bishops rejected administrative submission to Metropolitan Sergius, disputing his compromise with the atheist authorities. Metropolitan Sergius found himself in isolation, face to face with an atheist orgy, that took on a larger and larger scale. Do we still agree with what Fr Seraphim Rose wrote in his book ‘The Catacomb Saints’?

A: I think our view of Metr Sergius today is very much what it always has been. We do not agree with him, but also we do not condemn him – we never went through what he had to go through and were never faced with the choice between martyrdom and compromise. Having said that, it is true, for example, that Fr Seraphim Rose’s book, ‘The Catacomb Saints’, reflects some of the unnecessarily negative polemics of the Cold War 1970s, but that book is still fundamentally right, despite the sharp language used in it sometimes and its strange title.

In Russia today there is still a hangover from the Soviet period and deSovietisation has not run its course completely. It will take another generation for deSovietisation to be completed. For this reason there are still those there who praise Metr Sergius. However, we should not feel superior, in the West we also underwent the censorious and condemnatory, judgemental pharisee attitudes of ‘ColdWarisation’. But I think most have been able to rid themselves of that alien influence quicker than they have in Russia. Those who did not rid themselves of such attitudes have left us.

Q: What do we make of Metr Sergius’ role in rallying Russians during WWII?

A: As for rallying Russians in World War II, it could easily be argued that the Church survived DESPITE Metr Sergius. Stalin realised he could not win the war without the Church. The Nazi attack on the Russian Lands, on the feast day of All the Saints of the Russian Lands, 22 June 1941, was, paradoxically, what freed the Church, not the compromises of Metr Sergius. And from then on, until Stalin’s death and after that, the Church was not decimated as before 1941. True, Stalin and Khrushchev after him did of course close many, many churches which Stalin had allowed to reopen and still sent many to camps and prisons, but there were no longer the mass shootings etc.

We, who never had to go through Sovietisation, should concentrate on the New Martyrs themselves, on the canonised, for example, on the holy Metr Kyrill of Kazan, and not on such divisive and controversial figures as Metr Sergius. I know that in Russia they are already heading the same way and Metr Sergius is being forgotten by the faithful as, if anything, an embarrassing compromiser. Leave him to the dusty tomes of historians. Let us keep our eyes on the saints, not on the non-saints.

Q: Why does the Church of Constantinople use lots of clerical titles? I know of several bishops and even a metropolitan who are only glorified hieromonks. And the titles of protopresbyter and archimandrite are becoming meaningless as they have become so common there.

A; I think it is quite unfair to say that it is only the Patriarchate of Constantinople that gives out such titles so freely. True, the title protopresbyter seems now to be given there to any priest who has a doctorate and archimandrite is rather used as ‘hieromonk’ is used in the Russian Church. On the other hand, in the Russian Church ‘Metropolitan’ is sometimes used in a titular way as ‘Cardinal’ in the Catholic Church and there is a system of awards in the Russian Church that is often abused. So I cannot see that this is any better than in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Some people are a little vain and like titles and can be bought with them. Sadly, people have their price and in a world where many priests are not paid in money, they can get paid in titles.

Q: As Orthodox what should we think of Eurasianism?

A: There is something called the International Eurasian Movement, which is Russian-based and developed after the fall of Communism in 1991, though on the basis of a pre-Revolutionary movement. On the surface, Eurasianism has links with Orthodoxy, whose emblem is the double-headed eagle, looking east and west. The Church of God, Orthodox Christianity, has the task and mission of uniting the world, east and west, Europe and Asia, in unity in diversity. (This is quite unlike the Vatican sense of unity – inherited also by the Protestants – which allows little diversity and imposes a totalitarian unitary model on all. This we can see in the EU model, which is a secular form of the Vatican model, and in the US model, which is a secular form of the Protestant model. Such people look at the diversity of Orthodoxy and call it disunity! This is only because they are used to such monolithic, totalitarian heterodox styles).

Generally speaking, Eurasianism sees the modern West (not the historic Old West) as having taken a destructive path, especially since the Reformation and especially since the so-called ‘Enlightenment’. Western culture today has been spiritually emptied, it has lost its soul, abandoning its roots in the Christian Orthodox first millennium, decadently reverting to barbarianism. In other words, behind incredible Western economic and technological sophistication, there is spiritual barbarianism, as can be seen in the Western promotion of sodomy and other politically correct but spiritually pernicious views.

Eurasianism sees the future in Russia, not in the West, which in its decadence ever more resembles the Western Roman Empire just before it fell over fifteen centuries ago. Insofar as this is self-evident, we as Orthodox agree with Eurasianism. However, the problem is that Eurasianism is essentially politics, another ism or ideology, not the Church.

Q: Who founded this Eurasian movement?

A: The founder of modern Eurasianism is the Russian Orthodox philosopher Alexander Dugin, who was born in 1962. Typical of the post-Communist generation, at first, in the 1990s, he tried to reconcile Bolshevism or Stalinism with Orthodoxy. In so doing he also got caught up with post-Soviet right-wing nationalist movements like ‘Pamyat’. His Eurasianism developed out of this spiritual impurity. He has since moved on somewhat and begun to free himself, expressing more traditional Orthodox views, though still remaining a nationalist. However, what is written about him on Wikipedia is probably the work of a CIA hack. There is little truth in that.

I met Alexander Dugin at a Conference in London about eight years ago and had a clear impression of him. He is intellectually clever, but still suffers from spiritual confusion. This is why he mixes Orthodoxy with politics of all sorts, though particularly with right-wing views. His closest disciple is a young intellectual called Natella Speranskaya, who heads the Eurasian Youth Movement, but she also suffers in the same way as Dugin. Dugin is linked with the Greek Orthodox intellectual Dimitrios Kitsikis, an elderly geopolitician of the previous generation. Although also a friend of the Orthodox Tradition – Kitsikis wants the Greek Church to return to the Orthodox calendar – he too suffers from spiritual and nationalist confusion and has been closely linked with Maoism!

What is interesting with both these Orthodox thinkers is that they have both been inspired by the father of geopolitics, the Non-Orthodox English geographer Sir Halford John Mackinder. Mackinder called Eurasia (basically Russia and the Orthosphere, or the Orthodox civilisational world), what we call ‘the Centre’, ‘The Heartland’. This is what Kitsikis calls the Intermediate Region and, I suppose, if we use Tolkien’s terminology, we could also call it ‘Middle Earth’.

In other words, there is no doubt that all three geopoliticians, Englishman, Greek and Russian, completely agree that he who controls Russia / Eurasia controls the world. This is why the territory of the Russian Empire, or Soviet Union, or Russian Federation, whatever the name, has been so much attacked down the centuries – because of its geostrategic significance.

Q: What is happening in Syria?

A: I am only an observer. It is difficult for me to say anything. However, I cannot help observing certain public tendencies in US policies since Mr Obama was re-elected last year. Until then his policies seem to have been Republican and Bushite.

First of all, the US right-wing hawk General Petraeus who wanted to invade Syria and perhaps bomb Iran was sacked, having been compromised, and perhaps framed, in an affair. There followed a root and branch change in US foreign personnel. Most notably the hawkish Russophobe Hillary Clinton was replaced as Secretary of State by John Kerry, formerly a personal friend of President Assad of Syria. Clinton had been blamed for the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in Libya, killed by Islamic terrorists, armed to the teeth with weapons allowed to them by the US. I think that the US administration realised that it had been arming its enemies. This was seen in Mali too, which Islamists had been conquering with weapons stolen as a result of NATO bombing in Libya. I remember the old saying: ‘Do not spit in the sky, it will fall back on your face’.

Then there was the appointment of the new US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and hero, who called the bankrupting invasion of Iraq one of the greatest blunders in US history. It had completely destabilised the whole region, creating a whole chain of liabilities for the US. This involved Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey (where anti-US attacks have taken place), the Kurds, the Jordan, the Lebanon and the money-pit of Israel – the US had lit a fuse on a powder keg and is now trying to extinguish it before it is too late.

Thus, the realisation that many of the foreign mercenaries fighting President Assad’s government in Syria are terrorists seems at last to have come to the US. From what I understand, I have the impression, and it is only an impression, that the US may have realised that the real danger from its point of view is China and that perhaps it had better leave the Middle East to Russia. It cannot fight both at the same time. Even tiny but incredibly wealthy Saudi Arabian and Qatari dictatorships, which financed and armed the tens of thousands of Sunni Islamist mercenaries in Syria, are worried now. The genie was let out of the bottle. It has to be put back. I think only Russia, which has over one million Russian speakers in Israel and influence in Syria, can do this. Someone has to clean up the mess the West has made.

Q: What are we to think of Columbus?

A: I think he was an Italian sailor who got lost at sea, thought he had found India, but in fact had found some Caribbean islands. So he landed in someone else’s country and decided to steal it by massacring and enslaving the inhabitants.