Orthodox England

Excerpt from: Volume 1 Issue 1 Date 1st September 1997



1997 is a momentous year in terms of anniversaries of Orthodox Christianity in the British Isles. For we are not only commemorating the fourteen hundredth anniversary of the landing of St Augustine (1), but also that of the repose of St Columba on Iona. And just as the mission of St Augustine was essential for the conversion of the South of England, that from Iona was essential for the conversion of the North of England. These two complementary strands of Orthodox Christianity in these islands were to intertwine in history. Indeed they were to produce the Golden Age of English Orthodoxy which was halted only at the end of the eighth century with the first Viking raid at Lindisfarne.

And it is in this very anniversary year that we have come to begin this new quarterly journal, 'Orthodox England'. Some may wonder why: there are already many journals of Orthodox content available. Of course, but we would say that although many are fine productions, some are rather head-borne, while others are oriented towards the Eastern European world and its internal polemics. Our aim, however, is to present neither the neat theories of academics, nor the politics of countries which, though important, are not essential to our daily life here. And it is for our daily life here in England that we are responsible, for it is the only thing that it is within our power to make holy. We therefore believe that there is room for a quarterly which can speak of our own English Orthodox culture and piety, past, present and, God willing, future. We wish not to feed the mind, with polemics or other passing news and fads, but rather we strive to carry out the task of feeding the heart in order to live (and not merely talk about) the Orthodox way of life. We know that we who are weak will not achieve this without the blessing of God and we ask for the prayers of our readers.

There is a tradition of journals bearing the word Orthodox and the name of the country where they are produced, thus 'Orthodox Russia' and 'Orthodox America'. Our title is then hardly unusual. Indeed such an approach is part of the very theology of the Orthodox Church and relates to Her teachings on the Incarnation and the Holy Spirit. Being incarnate in the world, we are asked to call down the Holy Spirit to hallow the world. In order to do that we must thus first be rooted in the world, yet not become part of it. This is the essence of Orthodox Christian spirituality, which is different from all those other 'spiritualities' which are not in fact spiritual and incarnational but psychic, being based on psychic and often hypnotic techniques.

It is clear then that the title of this journal does not refer to some crude and worldly nationalism. Though we belong to England and English culture, we do not belong to that part of it which is against the Orthodox Church. And we shall often speak of the holy ones and events in other lands, making mention of both the Orthodox West and the Orthodox East. Thus in later issues we hope to review the holiness of lands such as Orthodox Spain and Orthodox Iran. And we would be particularly glad to hear from correspondents from the Orthodox cultures in our sister-countries, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Celtic West. In a word we would hope that the pages of 'Orthodox England' might become a modest forum where we may all come to acquaint ourselves with the Orthodox Christian culture and piety of not only our own forebears and contemporaries but also with those of others. Perhaps in such a way, whatever diocese of whatever local Orthodox Church our readers may belong to, we can all benefit from hearing of the Orthodox Christian witness of others. Indeed we would cast our net even wider. Some of our subscribers may not be formal members of the Orthodox Church, but may well know of facets of English culture which unconsciously, we would say providentially, speak in an Orthodox way. We would be glad to hear from them too.

Our aim is not to speak in these pages of that everyday, scandalous, tabloid Britain, with which we are all too familiar and where we already go and where but for the grace of God we go even more, but of the path from that far country to the arms of the Father, to an England transfigured, made good in Christ the Master. In this first issue of twenty-four pages, we shall look not only at the views of Bede the Venerable on iconography and the Orthodox understanding of holy images but also at contemporary practice. We shall then devote ourselves to presenting to our readers the Lives of the two Saints to whom our mission here on the east coast of England is dedicated. The first is the Patron-Saint of East Anglia, St Felix, a missionary from Gaul, whence the Editor himself has recently returned after many years. The Life of St Felix will be covered in this issue. The second is St Edmund, not only King of East Anglia, but later Patron-Saint of England. His Life will be serialised over the four issues of Volume 1 of 'Orthodox England'. Through these two Saints, one a bishop, the other a layman, one a confessor, the other a martyr, one a missionary from the Continent with Celtic links, the other an Englishman but who knew the English missions to the Continent well, we would hope to spread some understanding of the Orthodox Christian Faith, the very leaven of authentic English culture. From these Saints of God we shall pass on to our Questions and Answers section and then to some liturgical notes concerning the September to November quarter. Finally we come to Home News, a literary article and our rather lighter inside back cover. In following issues, with the help of God, we hope to extend our work on the Life in Christ to include Scripture commentaries, to the Orthodox understanding of English culture, to Orthodox devotion and apologetics, Orthodox services, sermons and also a children's section. God willing, we hope to speak not only of the Saints and righteous of the kingdoms which formed the English nation, but also of contemporary figures in the Orthodox world, that in England and elsewhere we too may be able to keep faith with the Church, past and present.

The Light, as the wise men, came from the East: may we mere men and women all find enlightenment in that Light and may our hearts and minds become wise in it.

Fr Andrew, Church New Year 1997

(1) For those interested in an Orthodox Christian view of the Coming of St Augustine to England, see the commemorative booklet 'Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church', available from 'Orthodox England'

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(c) Orthodox England - Published within the English Deanery of the Church Outside Russia: with the blessing of the Very Reverend Mark, Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland.