I write these notes in early January, looking back on the past two Sundays, and the Feast of the Nativity, when attendance at church was, to put it mildly, not encouraging. Someone once said that when we serve the Divine Liturgy we are surrounded by a countless company of saints and angels. That, in a real sense, is true. However, it does not make up for those of us consisting of flesh and blood who for whatever reason were absent.
I do understand that those of you of the Russian tradition, and other Eastern European Orthodox who follow the Old Calendar may wish to follow that tradition. However there are many others who might have been with us, apart from ill health, who were not. Perhaps you could attempt to make up for this by making a belated New Year resolution to come regularly throughout the year in 2017 and beyond? If you have problems about this I would be happy to talk these over with you.
Whilst I continue to be in fairly good health, apart from the occasional Sunday (when you will be given good notice) I intend to continue to serve the Divine Liturgy every week, and I would welcome your support.
When I was a priest in the Church of England I, and other clergy, accepted that many people only came to church when the mood took them, while still claiming to be “C. of E”. For the majority this was not very often, if at all. Now, in spite of the introduction of various modern gimmicks aimed to attract the lapsed (modern services, female clergy, “gay” marriage, etc. etc.) that church continues to fade into irrelevance.
When I became Orthodox, it was in the expectation that things would be different but, as far as church attendance is concerned, this does not seem to be the case. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but only you can do that.
My fear is that Orthodoxy in this country will go the same way as the Anglicans and with the passing of older generations gradually fade away.
An important forthcoming event
On 7th January I had a phone call from Metropolitan Silouan. He was proposing to visit us at St Edward’s for the Divine Liturgy on Sunday March 26th. My immediate response was to say that we would be delighted to welcome him on that day, and that we would arrange for a gathering over lunch at Athelhampton House for those attending.
When I told Lesley she pointed out that March 26th was also Mothering Sunday – sometimes wrongly called Mother’s Day – (when the British, whether church-goers or not, celebrate motherhood and give presents and other treats to their mothers)*. This, of course, does not appear in the Orthodox calendar, and I had missed it. Lesley, who works at Athelhampton said that the restaurant and the adjoining room would be fully booked on that day, and therefore not available for us.
I attempted to contact Sayedna at once to try to arrange for a date as near to the 26th as possible, but could not get in touch with him. I have now discovered from Fr Gregory that he will be in the Lebanon until 4th Feb. I shall contact him as soon as possible after 5th Feb and arrange another more suitable date.
As soon as I have one I will notify you all. I would be glad if those of you who attend church, even if occasionally, would make an immediate note in you diaries, or on your calendars because this will be a most important first meeting with our Archbishop as a community. It will also be the first time in over twenty years that a bishop has visited St Edward’s, and I would like to see the service well attended.
Please don’t leave this to “the others”, because they might be leaving it to you and we shall then have just the usual, but nevertheless valued, few.
Also, I would like to hear from any men with any experience of serving in the Altar, and we shall need to have a rehearsal during the week before Sayedna’s visit.
*The origins of Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) are to be found in the Epistle reading for the 4th Sunday in Lent in the old C. of E. Prayer Book. This reads “Jerusalem which is above is free; the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26)
Some saints of Orthodox Britain
To many Orthodox today it may seem strange to use the term “Orthodox Britain”. Yet 1000 years ago England was an Orthodox country. It was not until the year 1054 that the schism between East and West became final and Rome, including England, set out along a separate path which increasingly diverged from the four other ancient patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
Five hundred years later, the Western Church was split by the Protestant Reformation. In England, the State Church separated from Rome, then in following centuries various other protestant bodies separated for them.
Before 1054, there were many Orthodox British and English saints. Some, more prominent – kings, bishops, etc, are remembered today, others have been forgotten, although some names may have survived whilst little or nothing is known of their lives.
I am intending to devote the “Saint of the Month” space to some of these for a while, trusting that this may be of interest to our readers.