Κυριακή, 7 Οκτωβρίου 2012

Saint Cassien, Bishop of Autun, France († 600)

A sincere attempt is being made with this new series by our website, to now acquaint our readers with the lives of the Orthodox Saints and Martyrs of the original One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord, who, like some of the Orthodox Saints of the British Isles, lived and propagated the Faith in the Western territories of the European Continent during the first millennium of Christianity and prior to the Great Schism of 1054 AD.

The Synaxarion calls him "Our Father Cassian, chosen by God to bring the illumination of Eastern monasticism to the West".

He was born in Scythia of noble parents, and was well educated in secular things. But, thirsting for perfection, he left all behind and travelled with his friend Germanus to the Holy Land, where he became a monk in Bethlehem.
After becoming established in the monastic life for several years, St John felt a desire for greater perfection, and sought out the Fathers of the Egyptian Desert. He spent seven years in the Desert, learning from such Fathers as Moses, Serapion, Theonas, Isaac and Paphnutius.

Through long struggles in his cell, St John developed from personal experience a divinely-inspired doctrine of spiritual combat. Many say that it was he who first listed the eight basic passions: gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, acedia, vainglory and pride.

In time, struggles in the Alexandrian Church made life so difficult for the Egyptian monks that St John (still accompanied by his friend Germanus), sought refuge in Constantinople, where they came under the care and protection of St John Chrysostom. When the holy Archbishop was exiled, St John once again fled, this time to Rome, where he came under the protection of Pope Innocent I.

This proved to be providential for the Western Church, for it was St John who brought the treasures of Desert spirituality to the monasteries of the West.

He founded the monastery of St Victor in Marseilles, then, at the request of his bishop, wrote the Cenobitic Institutions, in which he adapted the austere practices of the Egyptian Fathers to the conditions of life in Gaul. He went on to write his famous Conferences, which became the main channel by which the wisdom of the desert East was passed to the monastics of the West.

Saint Benedict developed much of his Rule (which at one time governed most monasteries in the Latin world) from St John's Institutions,, and ordered that theConferences be read in all monasteries.

Saint John reposed in peace in 435, and has been venerated by the monks of the West as their Father and one of their wisest teachers. His relics are still venerated at the Abbey of St Victor in Marseilles.

St John's writings were soon attacked by extreme Augustinians and, as Augustinianism became the official doctrine of the Latin Church, his veneration fell out of favor in the West.

Outside the Orthodox Church, his commemoration is now limited to the diocese of Marseilles.


The "Western Rite": Is It Right for the Orthodox?

The vast majority of Orthodox Christians identify with a specifically Orthodox way of worshipping. Though different languages are used throughout the Orthodox world, Orthodox Christians who are traveling - or simply visiting a different "jurisdiction" in America - can count on the church architecture looking familiar, the outline of the Liturgy being the same and the means of approaching and receiving the sacrament of Communion being the same as they are used to. Or at least they could until recently. In America an increasing number of converts to Orthodoxy are using a liturgical ritual that looks far more like services done in Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism some thirty years ago. This is being enthusiastically promoted in some quarters of the Church as "western rite" Orthodoxy. The idea of using a "western rite" in the Orthodox Church first surfaced in England during the 19th century. A former Roman Catholic, Dr. Joseph Overbeck, joined the Orthodox Church in that country and apparently decided that Orthodoxy would never be able to evangelize the West unless it used western forms of worship. Otherwise, he reasoned, the Church would not have a "western memory." Overbeck suggested that a version of the Roman Mass - purified of any medieval errors - be used. His proposal, though received with interest in parts of the Orthodox Church, was never implemented. Earlier in this century, a small "western rite" group - the Eglise Catholique-Orthodoxe - began functioning in France. And still later, in the late 1950s, another small group (the Basilian Fathers) were received into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese in the United States by then Metropolitan Anthony Bashir. These Basilian Fathers became the start of a canonical "western rite" presence in this country. Although the "western rite" of the Antiochian Archdiocese continued for years as a mere handful of par ishes, it has recently received a "shot in the arm" with the reception into Orthodoxy of a number of disaffected Episcopalians - sometimes including entire parishes. It is argued that the existence of a "western rite" within Orthodoxy offers these Anglo-C atholics a virtually perfect solution, since they can enter the Church without substantially changing their way of worship. After all, why should "unnecessary barriers" be placed in their way? Furthermore - so we are told - these "western rite" communiti es represent a return to the Orthodox Church of the authentic, pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west and therefore enhances her catholicity and appeal to all people. Compelling as these arguments may seem, the presence of a "western rite" within Orthodoxy represents a change from the way things have been since the Western Schism of the 11th century (or at least since the Fourth Crusade). As such, this innovation needs to be examined very carefully. For the sake of brevity, we will confine ourselves here to "western rite" Orthodoxy as practiced in America and examine it with regards to four fundamental questions: 1.) Does the reconstituted "western rite" actually represent an authentic return to the pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west? 2.) If there were a mass return of western Christians to Orthodoxy (say, union with Rome or Canterbury), would this "western rite" provide a workable precedent? 3.) Does the Orthodox Church need a "western rite" in order to evangelize Americans? 4.) Does the "western rite" serve the internal needs of the Orthodox Church in this country today? Does the reconstituted "western rite" actually represent an authentic return to the pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west? The "western rite" as currently practiced in the Antiochian Archdiocese consists of two Eucharistic liturgies. As they are quite different from one another, let's consider them separately. First, the "Liturgy of St. Gregory": this liturgy gets its name because it supposedly represents the Roman rite as practiced in the time of St. Gregory the Great, the bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 AD. There is no question that St. Gregory the Great left his mark on the history of worship - not only in the west, but also in the east. (Indeed, it may be argued that the Orthodox Church already has a Liturgy of St. Gregory - namely, the Presanctified Liturgy where this saint is always commemorated in the dis missal.) If the situation of having two Liturgies of St. Gregory isn't confusing enough, the question remains whether or not the Liturgy of St. Gregory as currently practiced in the "western rite" parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese deserves this title at all. In fact, what we are actually presented with is the Tridentine Latin Mass (i.e., the Missal of Pius the V, printed in 1570), translated from Latin into King James English, with - among other things - references to the "merits of the saints" left out and the epiklesis of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom stuck in. In this regard, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the Tridentine Mass was the Liturgy of the Roman Church as revised at the Counter Reformation. Second, the Gregori an Sacramentary (which, so far as the MSS tradition is concerned, is primarily Frankish and not Roman in origin) had already been revised in the 11th century (near the time of the Western Schism). So the present "Liturgy of St. Gregory" as used in America n "western rite" parishes is at least two revisions away from the saint whose name it bears - and both revisions were made at times of severe crises of faith in the west. The inadequacies of this rite become obvious on close examination. The anaphora, for example - far from being a single unified prayer as one would expect - seems more like a loosely joined collection of prayers. Stranger yet, the first of these prayers b egins with the word "Therefore" (referring to what? Apparently, some transition has gone missing!). As if the disjointed nature of this anaphora weren't bad enough, tinkering with it by well meaning Orthodox has only made matters worse. According to the great Orthodox liturgical scholar and saint, Nicholas Cabasilas, the prayer in the Roman rite "Supplices te rogamus" ("Most humbly we implore Thee") is an "ascending epiklesis." Even so, the epiklesis from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has been adde d, thereby giving this rite both an ascending and descending epiklesis, in which the celebrant asks for the consecration of the gifts to be completed after it has already happened! Furthermore, such improbable features as the "last Gospel" are retained. (This was the reading of the prologue to the Gospel of John at the end of the service, a practice that had begun as a private devotion of the celebrating clergy sometime curing the 11th or 12th centuries and which, by the 16th century, had become a prescri bed appendage to the Mass.) Second, the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon": However inappropriate the "Liturgy of St. Gregory" may seem for Orthodox worship, it can't hold a candle in this regard to the other "western rite" liturgy now in use, which has somehow gotten itself named after a 20th century Russian saint. St. Tikhon served as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America before being elected Patriarch of Moscow in 1917. During his tenure in America, he apparently received a petition for the use of a "western rite" from a group of American Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians. St. Tikhon then forwarded their request to the Holy Synod in Moscow, which examined this proposal carefully and granted the possibility of a "western rite", provided far reaching changes in the Book of Commo n Prayer were made. The Holy Synod left the final decision to St. Tikhon, who - for whatever reason - never formally authorized the establishment of a "western rite" during his pastorate in America. It therefore seems farfetched in the extreme to name th is liturgy after St. Tikhon. He is not the "father" of this "western rite" in even remotely the same way that St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great are the fathers of the Liturgies which bear their names. Furthermore, even if St. Tikhon had authoriz ed the use of a "western rite", every administrative decision made by a saint should not be considered infallible. What, then, is the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon"? First of all, it is not the Eucharistic rite of the Book of Common Prayer as ever approved by the Episcopal Church. Rather, it is based on a strange amalgam commonly known as the "Anglican Missal." This missal was developed by Anglo-Catholics to make up for deficiencies they perceived in the Book of Common Prayer . The Anglican Missal contains the anaphora and other prayers from the BCP, folded together with parts of the anaphora and other prayers from the Tridentine Mass translated from Latin into King James English. As now used in the "western rite" of the Antio chian Archdiocese, it contains still further additions and corrections made by the Orthodox. A more confusing liturgical hodgepodge could hardly be imagined! The "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" is the Reformation rite of Thomas Cranmer, with additions from the C ounter Reformation rite of the Council of Trent, with still further superficial tinkering in order to make it "more Orthodox." In defense of this rite, some Orthodox are saying that we should accept it because it contains "nothing heretical." Unfortunately, that itself is an Anglican argument. An Orthodox rite must do far more than avoid heresy - it must clearly proclaim and tea ch the Orthodox faith. In Communist Russia as in Ottoman Greece, the Orthodox Liturgy alone maintained the faith through long years of persecution. Bearing in mind that Cranmer was probably a Zwinglian who designed his rite to express "the real absence" of Christ in the Eucharist, it is easy to see that the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" could never meet the basic criterion of being an Orthodox Liturgy. In summary, the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" has no historical validity whatsoever. The "Liturgy of St. Gregory" can be traced back to that great saint only in a very attenuated way. The simple fact is, neither of these liturgies represents an authentic retur n to the pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west. Does the "western rite" provide a path for the eventual reunion of Christians? With the reception of "western rite" parishes into Orthodoxy, there were some who felt that the Uniate ideal had now found its proper home. Comparison of Western Rite Orthodox to Eastern Rite Catholics is, of course, inevitable. And, we should keep in mi nd that historically, Rome has often held up its Eastern Rite Catholics as a bridge to union with the Orthodox. How successful has that bridge been? The truth is, Uniatism has been a continuous obstacle to unity between Orthodoxy and Rome. And this recurring difficulty reared its head again only recently, with the breakdown of Communism in eastern Europe. We would be naive in the extreme to suppose t hat "western rite" Orthodoxy will have a more beneficial result. If they grow in numbers, the "western rite" Orthodox will increasingly appear to western Christians as a kind of pseudo-Orthodox whose purpose is not to evangelize but to proselytize. Some might still argue that the "western rite" would at least demonstrate to "western" Christians what Orthodoxy would expect liturgically if a reunion of Christians should occur. Yet this too is groundless. The simple fact is, those parishes using the " western rite" within the Antiochian Archdiocese are not following the "western rite" as now practiced by the overwhelming majority of "western" Christians. Indeed, one must ask why the Orthodox Church should have made herself into a safe haven for a tiny minority of western Christians who have rejected the reforms of the liturgical movement. Regarding the "Liturgy of St. Gregory" - it would be ludicrous for the Orthodox to tell the Roman Catholics that they should go back to doing the "last Gospel" at the end of their Liturgy. Or that revisions made by Vatican II to the Roman anaphora to make it read more like a single prayer were somehow misguided. The "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" would be even more indefensible in the case of Anglicans. Many of the recent revisions to the Book of Common Prayer (as with the Roman Missal ) have been based on sound liturgical scholarship - and many are clearly borrowings from the ancient Christian east! Furthermore, since both of these "western-rite" liturgies are being celebrated in "King James" English, are we telling the Christians of t he various western confessions that modern English is unacceptable as a liturgical language? This, in spite of the fact that modern English is now used in many translations of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom? In summary, a "western rite" Orthodoxy, at least as it is currently being practiced, seems fated to have an increasingly negative effect on our already troubled position in ecumenical relations. Does the Orthodox Church need a "western rite" in order to evangelize Americans? If we can picture Overbeck in 19th century England we might realize why he felt an Orthodoxy using a "western rite" was absolutely essential if the Church was to have a viable mission in the West. Overbeck would have only been able to experience the worsh ip of Orthodoxy as done among recent immigrants, using not English, but the languages of their mother countries. No wonder he might reach the conclusion that only an Orthodoxy with a different rite, that had a western memory, could ever again be the churc h of the venerable Bede. St. Bede, of course, was a great Anglo-Saxon historian who lived long before the Western Schism. As such, he is perfectly acceptable to us Orthodox today as a saint to be venerated. So are many of the other saints of northwestern Europe - such as Patrick , Aidan, Alban and others, who are now being included in the liturgical calendars of Orthodox Churches. It is obviously a great advantage for converts to be able to venerate saints of their own ethnic background - and it speaks to the catholicity of the C hurch. Clearly, Orthodoxy doesn't have to have a "western rite" to have a western memory. With this in mind, let us suppose Overbeck's experience of the Church had been quite different. Suppose he had attended the celebration of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom on the feast of the venerable Bede and there in the narthex was a beautiful icon of this saint for veneration by the faithful. Suppose, too that the Liturgy had been conducted entirely in English. What could he find missing to celebrate the fe ast of this great saint of the early Christian west? True, the Liturgy would not be served in exactly the same way as Bede himself would have done. (But then, neither - by a long shot - would the "western rite" liturgies of St. Tikhon or St. Gregory be t he same as done by the venerable Bede.) What matters most is that the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the ancient, pre-schismatic liturgical life of the west were the same in all essentials. Without question, Byzantine worship has demonstrated its suitability for all people. It became the dominant liturgical expression for the Russians as truly as it had been for the Greeks. It also rooted itself deeply in the culture of those Orthodox "Lati ns", the Romanians. And in Alaska it expressed the religious aspirations of native cultures - Aleuts, Tlingets and others. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is now being celebrated in Japanese, Korean and a half dozen tribal languages in Africa. Recent ly, it provided the scriptural worship sought after by the Evangelical Orthodox Church, who were, until recently, the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission. The use of the Byzantine liturgical tradition by the AEOM is one of the strongest arguments, aga inst the need of a "western rite" for purposes of evangelization in America. But doesn't the use of the "western rite" make it easier to bring people into the Church when they already have "their own" liturgical tradition? Perhaps, but the drawbacks are enormous. Shortly after her former Episcopal parish was received into the "we stern rite" of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Spokane, WA a woman commented, "We were kind of underdogs in the Episcopal Church by worshipping in the old way. Now we feel we're in step with our Church." Sadly, it can only be a matter of time before she di scovers that she is now far more out of step liturgically with her new Church than she ever was with the old. In summary, the use of the "western rite" as a tool for evangelism seems unnecessary at best and misleading at worst. Does the "western rite" serve the internal needs of the Orthodox Church in this country today? A knowledgeable Orthodox Christian, if asked about the Church's greatest need in western Europe and the Americas today, would probably respond with a single word: unity. In this regard, the Byzantine liturgical tradition has been of inestimable value in h olding the Church together. On the other hand, ethnicity has probably been the greatest force for disunity. Ethnic heritage, of course, does not have to be a divisive factor. One can be proud of one's heritage while celebrating the fact that one is part of a Church that is truly multiethnic (as opposed to "non-ethnic", as the alternative is sometimes wrongly presented.) How does the "western rite" fit into this need to bring the Church together as a truly multi-ethnic community, united by faith and worship? Unfortunately, the "western rite" can be viewed as a kind of "super-ethnicity" which is just the opposite of what t he Church needs today. Narrow as their ethnic view might have been, and as much as they may have insisted unwaveringly on the use of their own language, Orthodox Christians have always shown a willingness to use a common form of worship - until now. For all intents and purposes, the use of the "western rite" takes ethnicity one step further. Not only do these converts insist on using (an archaic) form of their own language, but they also insist on using an exclusive liturgical rite that is common to no o ne but themselves. Orthodox Christians who visit a "western rite" parish will find themselves in an alien environment. Not only will the structure of the worship in a "western rite" parish be unfamiliar, but the very method of receiving the sacrament of communion will be di fferent, so that even though technically in communion, visitors from established Orthodox traditions will be discouraged from receiving the holy mysteries. ("Western rite" visitors to other Orthodox parishes will be similarly discomfited.) Contrary to th e ancient practices of the Church, "Byzantine" clergy visiting "western rite" parishes are not allowed - in current Antiochian practice - to concelebrate (and would hardly know how to, even if permitted). Pan-Orthodox services like the vespers for the Sun day of Orthodoxy are now rendered complex if not downright confusing by the possible presence of "western rite" clergy. Pilgrimage is a vital part of the Orthodox tradition and the current situation is bound to affect "western rite" pilgrims to traditiona lly Orthodox countries like Greece or Russia. Instead of finding themselves "at home" in the liturgical traditions of these foreign lands, they will be strangers in their own Church, unable to fully benefit from experiencing the liturgical life served in those holy places that mark the heartlands of what is supposed to be their faith. Furthermore, it is doubtful that the majority of Orthodox faithful and clergy in these countries would accept "western rite" visitors as "their own." Instead, they will pro bably be looked upon with a certain amount of suspicion, as a kind of "sheep in wolves clothing." Perhaps the plight of "western rite" Orthodox Christians is best understood by looking at the actual structure of an Orthodox Church, where the western part of the building is called the narthex. Though they are canonically within the body of Christ, the Church, Orthodox Christians using the "western rite" are still, in a sense, "only in the narthex." They will not be fully integrated into the Church's life until they can come forward and fully participate in the Church's liturgical worship with their bro thers and sisters in Christ. There are some, of course, who will point out that there was considerable liturgical diversity in the early Church - and therefore, why is such diversity not possible and even desirable today? There was indeed considerable liturgical variation from one pl ace to another in ancient times. The reason for this was the simple fact that the average person never got more than 25 miles from his place of birth and communications from one place to another were slow and difficult. Under such circumstances, liturgic al diversity was a natural development and hardly a problem. Today, by contrast, we live in what has been called a "global village" where communications are instant and American families often move several times, from one state to another, while their chi ldren are growing up. Everything in our environment argues for greater uniformity in liturgical practice. For example: what are potential converts to do when they happen to see coverage of an Orthodox service on television, become intrigued, and then are completely confused when they discover that Orthodoxy in their area has an entirely different look? Or, on the other hand, what is a "western rite" Orthodox family to do when they move to another town where the only Orthodox parish is "Byzantine" and pos sibly ethnic? What will they do when they feel far more at home in a "continuing" Anglican parish that meets down the road? In summary, the "western rite" can only impede the progress of the Orthodox Church towards reaching a goal of unity within ethnic diversity. Furthermore, a multiplicity of rites is simply inappropriate in a highly mobile society linked by global communications. There is no reason to question the motives of those who support a "western rite" within Orthodoxy. They are apparently doing so for what they consider to be the very best of reasons. In fact, we might all agree on the ends - yet with all due respect, we simply cannot agree on the means. The "western rite" is inherently divisive. Even so, we must not allow it to divide the Church. At the same time, Orthodox who do not accept the "western rite" are not simply "impeding progress." Rather, they are trying to safeguard the Church from a policy that is neither in the best interests of her established members, nor of her converts. We rejoice whenever and wherever converts are received into the Church. But we also take heart from the fact that many "western rite" parishes eventually see the wisdom of "converting" to the Byzantine liturgical tradition. We can only hope that others will continue to follow that good example. Father Michael Johnson pastor, St Nicholas Church Tacoma, WA The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Is

Τετάρτη, 30 Μαΐου 2012

Saint Olaf, the King & Enlightener of Norway, Martyr († 1030)

St. Olaf was born in 995, the son of a Norwegian lord named Harald Grenske, the great grandson of Harald Fairhair, and Asta Gudbransdatter. Olaf grew up in the household of his stepfather, Sigurd Byr of Ringarike. From the age of 12, he went on expeditions to the Baltic coast, Denmark and the Netherlands. Between 1009 and 1013 he fought under Thorkell the Tall against the English at London, Ringmere and Canterbury. For a time he was a captain of mercenaries for Duke Richard of Normandy, and in 1013 or 1014 he was converted to the Faith of Christ and baptized in Rouen. Then he entered the service of the exiled English King Ethelred and followed him back to England, where he fought on the English side at the taking of London Bridge. When the Danish King Canute conquered England, Olaf joined his service.
According to The Saga of St. Olaf, the two men were at first great friends. However, King Canute then became jealous of the younger man. Moreover, the Saga continues, "the bishop [St. Sigfrid, enlightener of Sweden] always waited for Olaf at Divine service, but not for Canute, and the bishop called Olaf king, and this Canute could not bear to hear, and spoke to the bishop about it in such strong words that the latter had to desist, because of the king's authority, for the king's heart was filled to overflowing with pride and ambition, because of his power and place. So things went on until it came to Lent. Then Canute began to speak to Sigfrid: 'Is it true that you called Olaf by the title of king this winter? Now how do you defend your words, when he has no settled country nor wears a crown?'
"'It is true, my lord,' said the bishop, 'that he has no land here, and he wears no crown of gold or silver. Nay, rather is he chosen and crowned by the highest Lord and Ruler, the King of all kings, the one almighty God, to rule and govern that kingdom to which he is born, and this special destiny awaits him, to rule a kingdom for the comfort and profit of the people, and to yield to God the fitting fruit of his coming into his kingdom. All the people in Norway and the lands tributary to it, and not these parts only, but no less the whole of the region of the north as well, shall have reason to remember and keep in mind this pillar and support of God's Christendom, who will root out all brambles and weeds from God's field and vineyard, and sow in their stead the noble seed of God's holy words. All these words will flourish and come to perfect growth, and every man who accepts them will himself be acceptable to the highest King of heaven, world without end.'
"King Canute said: 'You cannot be said to have made good the words which we are told you have spoken, my lord Bishop, declaring that he outshines us in miraculous virtues, above all if you make so great a distinction between us, that you declare that we show no virtues at all.'
"'You have heard rightly concerning these words of ours,' said the bishop.
"King Canute said: 'It avails me little, then, to chastise myself more than King Olaf, if I am bound to fall short of him in some respect, for now, since Lent has begun, I wear a linen and not a silken shirt, a scarlet kirtle, and not one of velvet or purple. I drink also ale and not mead. But Olaf wears a shirt of silk and a kirtle of velvet. He has the choicest foods prepared for him, and a vessel of wine stands on his table.'
"The bishop said: 'It is true, my lord, that Olaf wears a shirt of silk, but he wears a hair-cloth under the shirt, and a belt about his body so broad that it reaches from hip to shoulder-blade, and iron extending from it in front. You will always see that when King Olaf takes his seat and the choicest foods are brought before him, there is a mound in the place where he is wont to sit. There is hidden a cripple, and it is he that eats the dainties, but Olaf eats salt and bread. There is also a vessel of water, and this Olaf drinks, and has no more to drink than that, but it is the cripple that drinks out of the wine-cup.'
"Then King Canute was so enraged against Bishop Sigfrid, that King Olaf could not stay there because of the jealousy of King Canute, and a little later it went the same way with Bishop Sigfrid."
In 1015 Olaf and Sigfrid went to Norway, where Olaf succeeded in seizing the kingdom in spite of much opposition. First, by distributing money, and with the support of his kinsmen on the Opplands, he gained control of Ostland. Then, on Palm Sunday, March 25th, 1016, he conquered the country's principal chieftains, Sven Hakonsson Jarl, Einar Tambarskjelve, and Erling Skjalgsson, in the sea battle at Nesjar (between Larviksfjord and Lengesundsfjord). In the same year he was accepted as King at the Oreting in Trondelag.
He had a comparatively peaceful reign for almost 10 years, and during this period considerably advanced the unification of Norway. Olaf's work of unification assumed concrete form as territorial dominion over a kingdom which extended from Gautelven in the south up to Finnmark in the north, from the Vesterhav islands in the west to the forests toward the realm of the Swedes in the east. Olaf was the first high king who secured real control over the inland areas of Trondelag and Opplandene. Moreover, he gained a foothold for the Norwegian national kingdom on the Orkney islands and Hjaltland.
Olaf also laid the foundation for nationwide local government and introduced a certain division of labor among the royal housecarls. He installed sheriffs recruited from the nobility and the landed gentry throughout the country and tried by means of his year-men to keep control of the political activities of the sheriffs. According to Snorre a division of labor seems to have occurred in the King's household into actual housecarls (military functions), guests (police functions), house chaplains, and churls (duties within the palace). Moreover, several titles of the masters of the King's court are known from this time: standard-bearer, King's Marshal, House Bishop.
With the aid of his English missionaries he succeeded in making Norway Christian. At the meeting of the Ting (Parliament) At Moster, Bomlo in Sunnhordland (1024), Norway acquired a nationwide ecclesiastical organization with churches and priests, a Christian legal system and a first organization of the Church's finances. Gwyn Jones writes: "The Christian law formulated at Moster was of prime authority; it was read out at the different Things, and there are confirmatory references to it in the oldest Gulathing Law." The king established peace and security for his people, remaking old laws and insisting on their execution, unaffected by bribes or threats. He built many churches, including one dedicated to St. Clement at the capital, Nidaros (Trondheim). All other faiths except Christianity were outlawed.
At the beginning of his reign St. Olaf did not enjoy good relations with Sweden; for the Swedish King Olof Skotkonung had seized a portion of Norway in about the year 1000. However, through the mediation of St. Anna, King Olof's daughter, it was agreed that St. Olaf should marry his other daughter Astrid, and relations between the two Christian kings were restored. In this way the foundations were laid for the Christianization of the whole of Scandinavia.
After the death of the King Olof in 1022, St. Olaf made an alliance with his son Anund Jacob against Canute of England and Denmark. For Canute's hatred had not been extinguished; and the jealousy of this Cain was destined both to open a fruitful mission-field and to provide a martyr's crown for the latter day Abel. But in 1026 the allies were defeated by Canute at Helgean in Skane, Sweden.
Then, as Florence of Worcester writes, "since it was intimated to Canute, king of the English and Danes, that the Norwegians greatly despised their king, Olaf, for his simplicity and gentleness, his justice and piety, he sent a large sum of gold and silver to certain of them, requesting them with many entreaties to reject and desert Olaf, and submit to him and let him reign over them. And when they had accepted with great avidity the things which he had sent, they sent a message back to him that they would be ready to receive him whenever he pleased to come." So the next year (1028), "Canute, king of the English and Danes, sailed to Norway with 50 great ships, and drove out King Olaf and subjected it to himself," appointing the Danish earl Hakon, son of Eirik Jarl, whom Olaf had banished in 1015, as his viceroy.
Olaf decided to flee to Sweden and thence to the court of his kinsman, Yaroslav of Kiev, whose father, the famous St. Vladimir, had given shelter to Olaf Tryggvason in his youth. And it was the same Olaf Tryggvason who appeared to his successor and namesake one night and said:
"Are you sick at heart over which plan to take up? It seems strange to me that you are pondering so much, and similarly that you are thinking of laying down the kingdom which God has given you, and moreover that you are thinking of staying here and taking a kingdom [Bulgaria] from kings who are foreign and strangers to you. Rather go back to your kingdom which you have taken as your inheritance and have long ruled over with the strength God has given you, and do not let your underlings make you afraid. It is to a king's honor to win victories over his foes, and an honorable death to fall in battle with his men. Or are you not sure whether you have the right in this struggle? You will not act so as to deny your true right. You can boldly strive for the land, for God will bear you witness that it is your own possession."
In 1029 Hakon died in a shipwreck in the Pentland Firth on his way home to Norway. This gave Olaf his opportunity. Early in 1030 he set off for Norway over the frozen Russian rivers. When the sea-ice broke, he sailed to Gotland with 240 men. King Anund of Sweden gave him 480 more, but when he faced Canute's army at Stikrlarstadir, he had no more than 3600 men (Swedes, Jamtlanders from Northern Sweden, Icelanders and his Norwegian companions) against a peasant army 14,400 mrn - the largest army ever assembled in Norway.
Then, like Gideon, the saint decided to reduce his numbers by choosing only Christians to fight in his army. So he was eventually opposed by overwhelmingly larger forces. And as the sun went into total eclipse on July 29, 1030 (July 30, according to modern astronomers), his army was defeated and he himself was killed, as had been revealed to him in a vision just before the battle.
But immediately a great fear fell on the soldiers of Canute's army. And then miracles began to be manifested at St. Olaf's body: a light was seen over it at night; a blind man recovered his sight on pressing his fingers, dipped in the saint's blood, to his eyes; springs of water with healing properties flowed from his grave; and then, to the chagrin of Canute's first wife, Elgiva, and her son King Swein of Denmark, his body was found to be incorrupt. Soon the penitent Norwegians expelled the Danes, and recalled Olaf's son Magnus from Russia to be their king.
The incorruption of Olaf's body was certified by his loyal Bishop Grimkel, whose see was Nidaros (Trondheim). As we read in St. Olaf's Saga: "Bishop Grimkel went to meet Einar Tambarskelver, who greeted the bishop gladly. They afterwards talked about many things and especially about the great events which had taken place in the land. They were agreed among themselves on all matters. The bishop then went into the market and the whole crowd greeted him. He asked carefully about the miracles which were related of King Olaf and learned a great deal from this questioning. Then the bishop sent word to Torgils and his son Grim at Stiklastad, calling them to meet him in the town. Torgils and his son did not delay their journey, and they went to meet the bishop in the town. Then they told him all the remarkable things which they knew and also the place where they had hidden the king's body. The bishop then sent word to Einar Tambarskelver, and Einar came to the town. Einar and the bishop then had a talk with the king and Elgiva and asked the king to allow them to take up King Olaf's body from the earth. The king gave permission, and told the bishop to do it as he wished. Then a great crowd assembled in the town. The bishop and Einar then went with some men to the place where the king's body was buried and had it dug up. The coffin had by this time almost risen out of the earth. In accordance with the advice of many, the bishop had the king buried in the ground beside St. Clement's church. It was twelve months and five days from the death of the king to the day his holy relics were taken up, the coffin having risen out of the earth and looking as new as if it had just been planted. Bishop Grimkel then went to the opened coffin of King Olaf, from which there proceeded a precious fragrance. The bishop then uncovered the king's face, and it was completely unchanged: the cheeks were red as if he had just fallen asleep. Those who had seen King Olaf when he fell noticed a great difference in that his hair and nails had grown almost as much as they would have done if he had been alive in this world all the time since his fall. King Swein and all the chiefs who were there then went to see King Olaf's body.
"Then Elgiva said: 'A body rots very slowly in sand; it would not have been so if he had lain in mould.'
"The bishop then took a pair of scissors and cut off some of the king's hair and also some of his beard (he had a long beard, as was the custom at that time). Then the bishop said to the king and Elgiva:
"'Now the king's hair and beard are as long as when he died, and since then they have grown as much as you now see shorn off.'
"Then Elgiva answered: 'This hair will be a holy relic to me if it does not burn in the fire; we have often seen the hair of men who have lain longer in the earth than this man whole and unscathed.'
"The bishop then had fire brought in on a censer. He made the sign of the cross over it and put incense in it. Then he laid King Olaf's hair in the fire. And when all the incense had burned the bishop took up the hair from the fire and it was not burned. The bishop let the king and the other chiefs see it. Then Elgiva ordered them to lay the hair in unhallowed fire. But Einar Tambarskelver ordered her to be silent and said many hard words to her. Then the bishop declared, and the king agreed, and the people deemed, that King Olaf was truly holy. The king's body was then borne into St. Clement's church and placed over the high altar. The coffin was wrapped in a pall and over it was placed a beautiful cover. And then many miracles took place at the holy relics of King Olaf."
King Canute made no opposition to the veneration of St. Olaf, and churches dedicated to the saint were soon being built throughout the Viking world, from Dublin to the Orkneys to Novgorod. Forty ancient churches were dedicated to St. Olaf in Britain, and his feast occurs on several English calendars.
It was in connection with a miracle attributed to St. Olaf that a chapel was dedicated to him in Constantinople. Thus Bishop Ambrose von Sievers writes: "From other sources I have established that the Panagia Varangiotissa was situated by the western facade of Hagia Sophia, almost touching it. In about the reign of Alexis Comnenus (or a little earlier) St. Olaf was included among the saints of Constantinople and in the church of the Varangian Mother of God a side-chapel was built in honor of St. Olaf, while the old church itself was transformed into a church to which a women's monastery was attached."
According to the medieval Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, in 1066 as St. Olaf's half-brother, King Harald of Norway was preparing to invade England, he dreamed that he was in Trondheim and met St. Olaf there. Olaf told him that he had won many victories and died in holiness because he had stayed in Norway. But now he feared that he, Harald, would meet his death, "and wolves will rend your body; God is not to blame." Snorri wrote that "many other dreams and portents were reported at the time, and most of them were ominous." Harald was killed, in accordance with the prophecy of St. Olaf, at the Battles of Stamford Bridge in England.

Holy Martyr-king Olaf, pray to God for us!
By Vladimir Moss. Posted with permission.

(Sources: Heinskringla. The Saga of St. Olaf; King Harald's Saga, 82, translated by Magnusson & Palsson, Harmondsworth: Penguin books, 1966; Florence of Worcester, Chronicle; "The Life of the Holy Grand Princess Anna", Living Orthodoxy, vol. V, no. 1, January-February, 1983, pp. 14-18; The Norwegian Encyclopaedia and the Svenska Uppslagsbok, translated in Living Orthodoxy, vol. V, no. 3, May-June, 1983, pp. 27-30; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Clarendon Press, 1978; Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings, Oxford University Press, 1984; Bishop Ambrose (von Sievers) of the Goths, personal communication)

Celebrated July 29 (translation August 3)

Πέμπτη, 10 Μαΐου 2012

Saint Genevieve of Paris († 502)

Genevieve was born near Paris to a family of wealthy landowners. When she was about ten years old St Germanus of Auxerre (July 31), passing through the region on his way to Britain, discerned a special divine purpose for her, and told her parents that she had been chosen for the salvation of many. "He asked her that day, and early the next, if she would consecrate herself to holy virginity for Christ and, on both occasions, she answered that it was her dearest wish. Then he blessed her and gave her a copper coin inscribed with the Cross to wear around her neck, telling her never to wear gold, silver or pearls, but to elevate her mind above the small beauties of this world in order to inherit eternal and heavenly adornments." (Synaxarion) Convents were unknown at that time in Gaul, so Genevieve lived as a solitary, in a cell in her own house, first with her parents then, after their death, with her godmother in Paris. She devoted herself to the poor, giving away everything that came into her hands, except the small amount that she needed to feed herself on bread and beans. (When she passed the age of fifty, she was commanded by the bishops to add some fish and milk to her diet). She kept Lent from Theophany to Pascha, during which time she never left her house. She was never afraid to rebuke the powerful for their oppression of the weak and the poor, and thus earned many powerful enemies; but the people's love for her, and the support of the Church, kept her from persecution. It became her custom to walk to church on Sundays in procession with her household and many pious laypeople. Once the candle borne at the front of the procession (it was still dark) blew out in a rainstorm. The Saint asked for the candle and, when she took it in her hand, it re-lit and stayed lighted until they reached the church. At several other times, candles lit spontaneously in her hand; for this reason her icon shows her holding a candle. She traveled throughout Gaul (modern-day France) on church business, being greeted with all the honors usually accorded a bishop. Several times she saved the city of Paris from the assaults of barbarian tribes through her prayers, by pleading with barbarian chieftains, and once by organizing a convoy to bring grain to the besieged city. Saint Genevieve reposed in peace at the age of eighty. Through the centuries since then, she has shown her holy protection of the city of Paris countless times, and her relics in the Church of Saint Genevieve have wrought innumerable healings. Her relics were many times carried in huge processions in times of war, pestilence or other national trial. These relics were mostly burned and thrown into the River Seine by the godless Revolutionaries in 1793, but, as the Synaxarion concludes, "those who continue to invoke Saint Genevieve with faith, find her to be well and truly alive." (Source: http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html

Τετάρτη, 9 Μαΐου 2012

A Convert’s Heritage – Western Saints


   Despite the universality of the Holy Orthodox Church, it is not infrequently that converts confess to feeling "out of place" in {he Russian, Greek, Serbian, or other ethnic tradition which, with few exceptions, dominates parish life in the Orthodox West. This is a natural outcome of the circumstances in which Orthodoxy spread to the West: it was primarily an immigrant rather than a missionary movement. Today, however, a majority of converts come from a West European stock which is neither Slavic nor Greek. Those of us whose ancestors are French, Irish, Scandinavian, German, Italian or other British or European nationality, would do well to remember that we too have a rich Orthodox heritage. Unhappily, it has in many cases been buried under a thick layer of Catholic and Protestant history. It would, however, serve not only our own interests, but the interest of the Orthodox Church as a whole, were we to bring to light that treasury of Western saints and their rich legacy--of which we are the unworthy inheritors.
     This process was begun in earnest by a true apostle of our own day, Archbishop John Maximovitch, of Blessed Memory. While living in Paris as ruling Archbishop of Western Europe, he was inspired by a love for the :Church to begin collecting information on early saints of the West, together with their pictures or icons. Thus he began a task of promoting amongst Orthodox living in the West, a consciousness of, and a devotion to, those saints who had lived in the West before the Schism of 1054. In 1952 he spoke on this subject before a Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, presenting for their consideration a list of pre-schism Western saints for inclusion in the Orthodox calendar.
A similar task was undertaken by one who was himself an Orthodox saint of the West, St. Gregory, Pope of Rome—also known as St. Gregory the Great, or St. Gregory the Dialogist, Writing at the end of the sixth century, he compiled a book honoring the memory of the saints of Italy for the edification and instruction of his fellow countrymen. The book is written in the form of a dialogue between himself and his deacon Peter, from whose comments it St. Gregory the, Dialogist is clear that we are not alone in our ignorance of these holy and illustrious men of God.
Peter: "I do not know of any persons in Italy whose lives give evidence of extraordinary spiritual powers.., This land of ours has undoubtedly produced its virtuous men, but to my knowledge no signs or miracles have been performed by any of them; or if they have been, they were till now kept in such secrecy that we cannot even tell if they occurred."
Gregory: "On the contrary, Peter, the day would not be long enough for me to tell you about those saints whose holiness has been well established and whose lives are known to me either from my own observations or from the reports of good, reliable witnesses."
      St. Gregory proceeds to recount a veritable 'Paradise of the Fathers' of the West. These men and women, by whose prayers the dead were raised, the sick healed, who calmed the seas and tamed wild beasts, were in no way behind their fellow laborers of the East in their ascent of the ladder of virtue. Amantius, Eleutherius, Fortunatus, Boniface, Donatus, Honoratus, Cerbonius-these are but a few to whom we are introduced in St. Gregory's Dialogues. The second book of the Dialogues is devoted entirely to the life of St. Benedict of Norcia, a monastic father of the West. Unable to confine his love and enthusiasm for God' s saints to Italy, St. Gregory crosses over to Spain, a country which had Christian settlements as early as the first century.
      Going north into France, we again discover a whole army of Orthodox saints: the desert-dwellers of the Jura Mountains, the monastic fathers of Lerins, the saintly bishops of Poitiers ,.Tours, Paris, Lyons. Numbered among their ranks is St. Ciotilde, Queen of France (d. 545), by whose prayers her husband, Clovis, King of the Franks, received the faith of Christ. where again we are fortunate in having primary sources available to us in English: St. Gregory of Tours'History of the Franks contains some lives of saints, while his magnificent Vita Patrum (Life of the Fathers) was translated by Hieromonk Seraphim and has appeared over the past few years in issues of "The Orthodox Word". In his Introduction to this series, Pr. Seraphim writes:
     "The 20th-century Orthodox Christian will find little that is strange in the Christianity of 6th-century Gaul; in tact, it he himself has entered deeply into the piety and spirit of Orthodoxy as it has come down even to our days, he will find himself very much at home in the Christian world of St. Gregory of Tours."
     Archbishop John included several of these saints in his own list, among them St. Germanus of Auxerre and his companion St. Lupus .(St. Loup) of Troyes. Those of us who love the saints of France, will always owe a debt of gratitude to the Roman Catholic historian, Louis Duchesne, for his superb Fastes Episeopaum de l'Ancienne Gaul. This wonderful book has all the early lists of saintly French bishops, together with brief biographical details, One could also mention Baring-Gould's mammoth 16 volume Lives of the Saints, completed just before World War I. This is particularly invaluable for anyone wishing to venerate the relics of saints while on holiday in Europe.
     Crossing the Channel to England, we find a wealth of Orthodox saints all but unknown even to those living there! The discovery, not long ago, of the relics of St. Edward the Martyr, a 10th century King of England, has brought attention to the historical presence of Orthodoxy in Britain, but work has only just begun in this fertile field of Orthodox sanctity which could do so much toward the strengthening of faith among native Britons and those of British heritage. Two sources on this subject deserve special mention: A History of the Enghlish Church and People by the Venerable Bede (available in Penguin paperback), and Saints of the British Isles, compiled by two English converts to Orthodoxy, A. Bond and N. Mabin. The latter is arranged chronologically--according to the date of commemoration of the saint--and includes an alphabetical listing. A number of icons have been painted of some of these saints (an icon of St. Edward the Martyr was presented as a gift to Prince Charles and Lady Diana on the occasion of their wedding) and others have had kondaks and tropars composed in their honor. But there is still much work to be done in this area,
     What convert of Irish ancestry doesn't have a devotion to St. Patrick? So successful were the apostolic labors of this wondrous saint that by the sixth century Ireland had become a genuine Thebaid of the West whose monastics penetrated the farthest corners of Europe in their missionary zeal. Wales, too, had an illustrious bishop, St. David, as its patron. Here was another breeding ground of missionary saints, many of whom are more illustrious in the lands they evangelized than in their homeland.
     Ninian of Scotland, Amend of Belgium, Anschar of Sweden... There is no country in Europe which does not have an Orthodox heritage. Let us make an effort to uncover these beacons of Christianity for our own edification and to the glory of God, wondrous in His saints.
James Read

Σάββατο, 21 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Bathilde, Queen of France († 680)

St. Batilda. Other forms of her name are Bathilidis, Bathild, Bathchilde, and Bauteur.
An Anglo-Saxon by birth, St. Batilda was captured in 641 by Danish raiders and sold to Erchinoald, the chief officer of the palace of Clovis II, King of the Franks. She quickly gained favour, for she had charm, beauty, and a graceful and gentle nature. She also won the affection of her fellow-servants, for she would do them many kindnesses such as cleaning their shoes and mending their clothes, and her bright and attractive disposition endeared her to them all.

The officer, impressed by her fine qualities, wished to make her his wife, but Batilda, alarmed at the prospect, both by reason of her modesty and of her humble status, disguised herself in old and ragged clothes, and hid herself away among the lower servants of the palace; and he, not finding her in her usual place, and thinking she had fled, married another woman.

Her next suitor, however, was none other than the king himself, for when she had discarded her old clothes and appeared again in her place, he noticed her grace and beauty, and declared his love for her. Thus in 649, the 19-year-old slave girl Batilda became Queen of France, amidst the applause of the court and the kingdom. She bore Clovis three sons: Clotaire III, Childeric II, and Theodoric III--all of whom became kings. On the death of Clovis (c. 655-657), she was appointed regent in the name of her eldest son, who was only five, and ruled capably for eight years with Saint Eligius (f.d. December 1) as her advisor.

She made a good queen and ruled wisely. Unlike many who rise suddenly to high place and fortune, she never forgot that she had been a slave, and did all within her power to relieve those in captivity. We are told that "Queen Batilda was the holiest and most devout of women; her pious munificence knew no bounds; remembering her own bondage, she set apart vast sums for the redemption of captives." She helped promote Christianity by seconding the zeal of Saint Owen (f.d. August 24), Saint Leodegar (f.d. October 2), and many other bishops.

At that time the poorer inhabitants of France were often obliged to sell their children as slaves to meet the crushing taxes imposed upon them. Batilda reduced this taxation, forbade the purchase of Christian slaves and the sale of French subjects, and declared that any slave who set foot in France would from that moment be free. Thus, this enlightened women earned the love of her people and was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery.

She also founded many abbeys, such as Corbie, Saint-Denis, and Chelles, which became civilised settlements in wild and remote areas inhabited only by prowling wolves and other wild beasts. Under her guidance forests and waste land were reclaimed, cornland and pasture took their place, and agriculture flourished. She built hospitals and sold her jewellery to supply the needy. Finally, when Clotaire came of age, she retired to her own royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, where she served the other nuns with humility and obeyed the abbess like the least of the sisters.

She died at Chelles before she had reached her 50th birthday. Death touched her with a gentle hand; as she died, she said she saw a ladder reaching from the altar to heaven, and up this she climbed in the company of angels.

She is the patroness of children. Holy Mother Batilda, pray to God for us!

Τρίτη, 10 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Rupert (Robert) of Salzburg, Apostle to Bavaria and Austria

March 27th is the feast of St Rupert, a most holy and blessed man. This feast commemorates the day of his repose, which brings spiritual joy to devout minds and refreshes hearts throughout the entire year. As the Scriptures say, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." He who passes into the angels' joy is made worthy of men's remembrance: as the Scriptures say, "A wise son is the glory of the father," and how great is his glory, who redeemed so many barbarian nations through the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus through the Gospel!
When Childebert the king of the Franks was in the second year of his reign, the Bishop of Worms was the Holy Confessor Rupert, who was born into the ranks of the Frankish nobility, but was far more noble in faith and piety. He was gentle and chaste, simple and prudent, devout in praise of God, full of the Holy Spirit. He was also circumspect in his decisions and righteous in his judgment. He possessed great spiritual discernment, and his good deeds formed his flock into true images of Christ, for he inspired them not only with his words, but by the example of his works. He often kept vigil, weakened himself with fasting, and adorned his works with compassion. He gave away his riches that the poor might not go hungry, believing himself to be one who should clothe the naked and help the destitute.
When the great fame of this most venerable man had spread to the ends of the world, powerful men, not only in that region but from other nations, poured in to hear his most holy teaching. Some with many sorrows came to receive consolation through his holy words, and other churchmen came to learn the purity of true Orthodoxy from him. Many were freed from the snares of the ancient enemy by his loving spiritual advice, and were able to set out on the path to salvation. But unbelievers, who were numerous in the vicinity of Worms, not understanding his holiness, exiled him from the city in a most shameful manner. They caused him terrible suffering and beat him with rods. At that time Theodo, the Duke of Bavaria, hearing about the miracles which this most holy man had performed and of his blessedness, desired to meet him. With firm resolve he dispatched his most trusted men to summon him to his court and to enquire of him how long might he consent to visit the regions of Bavaria, and could he instruct him in the way of life-giving faith? The blessed bishop, having received such a sincere and heartfelt request knew that it came from Divine dispensation and thanked the Merciful One, because "those who sat in the darkness and the shadow of death" longed to know the author of life, Jesus Christ.
As a result of this he sent his own priests, as if they were rays of faith, to return with the ambassadors of the Duke, and he himself after a short time undertook the journey to Bavaria. When the Duke heard the news that the blessed one was on his way he was overcome with great joy, and he and a large retinue hastened to meet St Rupert, overtaking the saint in the city of Regensburg. Although exhausted and hungry from his long journey, St Rupert, right away began to reveal to the Duke the mystery of the heavens and instructed him in the Orthodox faith. He convinced the Duke to renounce the worship of idols, and baptized him in the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity. The nobles and the simple people were also baptized with the noble duke, praising Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, who considered them worthy to be called wondrously into His light from their darkness through His confessor, the most blessed Rupert. By his holy words their darkened hearts were enlightened and the souls of the unbaptized thirsted for the fountain of life.
When the saint had revealed Divine Truth by having baptized the Duke and his people, Theodo came to understand the mystery of saving baptism. He begged the holy Rupert to carry the light of Orthodoxy to others and the saint, fulfilling his desire, boarded a ship and sailed down the River Danube. Through the towns, villas, and forts, he declared the gospel of Christ in a great voice. To the ends of Noricum, into the lower parts of Pannonia, he brought the light of the teachings of Christ which illumines all. Having returned by land, he entered Lauriacum (torch on the River Enns), in whose water he baptized many, freeing them from the worship of idols. In the name of Jesus Christ he healed many who had been oppressed by various illnesses and passions. After he left Lauriacum he saw the spiritual darkness of the tribes in that region; he boldly undertook to smash images and to proclaim everywhere the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as His most holy incarnation. He brought them to believe that He truly is both God and man, truly begotten of the Father before all ages. He taught them that Christ is the Word of God conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of mankind.
Having accepted the episcopacy after being entreated to do so by the Duke and his people, he went to the placid waters of Lake Wallersee, where a church had been built in honour of the chief apostle Peter. He moved from there to the Juvavian (Salzach) River, the site of the city of Juvavia, which had been erected in ancient, tumultuous times. At one time it had had great importance among Bavarian cities, but by the time St Rupert arrived it had become overgrown with trees and weeds and only a few people lived among the ruins. The servant of God considered this a suitable place for his episcopal cathedral, because being situated high in the mountains, it was far from the tumult and distractions of crowds. He went before the duke, and spoke to him with great enthusiasm about his plan to build a basilica there in honour of the blessed Peter, Chief of the Apostles. He was granted the vast sums needed to build the splendid church by the generosity of Theodo. When the church was finished he ordained priests, and commanded them to celebrate the daily offices in canonical order. The saint of God then wished to enlarge his holdings in the vicinity of the cathedral, so he petitioned the Duke for yet another donation, and with the funds donated to him he purchased the estate known as Piding for thousands of solidi, a great sum of money at the time. Thus, by the will of God and the bequests of kings, noblemen, and the faithful, the centre of spiritual life for the kingdom began to grow.
Here is an account of a wondrous event in the life of St Rupert. Some very reliable men came to the blessed hierarch and told him of an amazing phenomenon which had taken place when they had gone into an unnamed wilderness area now called Bongotobum (Pongau). Three or four times they had seen heavenly lights shining like bright lamps in the sky and they had also experienced a wonderful fragrance in the same place. The pious bishop sent the priest Domingus to Bongotobum because of the reports which he received concerning these lights. It was his desire that the priest would verify the authenticity of these wonders by erecting in that location a wooden cross which the holy one had made and blessed with his own hands. When Domingus arrived, he at once began the First Hour with the monks who had come with him. They saw a bright heavenly light which descended from the sky and lit up the entire region with the brightness of the sun. Domingus saw this vision on three nights in a row, and experienced the wondrous fragrance as well. He erected the blessed cross in that place, and it was miraculously transported to a spot above the dwelling of St Rupert, confirming the truthfulness of what had been reported to him! St Rupert took word of the miraculous occurrence to Theodo and then he himself went into the wilderness to the very spot, and seeing that it was suitable for habitation, began to cut down aged oaks and brought in building materials that he might build a church with dwellings for a monastic community..
At about the same time, Theodo fell into ill health, and felt the end of his life approaching. He called to his bedside his son Theodobert, appointing him the Duke of Noricum, admonishing him to be obedient to St Rupert and to aid him in his holy work as well as to firmly establish and support the Juvavian church with love, honour, and dignity. He also adjured him to protect and exalt it. When he had instructed his son in all good things and had given him his final testament, he ended his earthly life and fell asleep in the Lord. After the repose of his God-fearing father, Duke Theodobert along with his nobles remained followers of St Rupert because of his great sanctity. Having travelled to see the saint in his far hermitage, the duke honoured him with pious affection and went to pray in the church which the saint had built there. The duke donated three parcels of land in honour of St Maximilian and gave property on all sides of the forest, as well as an estate in the Alps. He gave gifts to support the monastery and the hieromonks whom the most blessed Rupert had ordained for the Service of God.
When this had been accomplished, the man of God saw that the most noble man of Bavaria had submitted himself to the yoke of Christ and had left worldly concerns to the lesser men of his kingdom. St Rupert then accompanied the duke back to his homeland and then returned with twelve of his closest spiritual children (among whom were Kuniald and St Gisilarius, both priests and both holy men). His niece, St Ermentrude, a virgin dedicated to Christ also accompanied them to the city of Juvavia. There in the main fortress of the city he built a monastery in honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour and His Most Pure Mother, the Ever-Virgin Mary. He placed as abbess in that monastery St Ermentrude, that she might serve the King of Heaven. With the generous support of Duke Theodobert, who gave many gifts to the nuns, he established a monastery which had all its spiritual and physical needs well taken care of.
When all this had been accomplished, the blessed man became eager to complete the missionary efforts he had begun with the help of Christ. Accompanied by clergy and monastics, he resolved to visit his followers in the Norican kingdom. Having left the city of Juvavia he visited people on whom the light of faith had not yet shown, and he sowed the wheat of faith amid tares. The deception of the devil fled from the hearts of these barbarian tribes, and Rupert sowed in its place faith, love, mercy, and humility, for through these Christ, the giver and source of all good, is able to take up residence in the human heart. He travelled to all the ends of Bavaria, and converted the people to faith in Christ, and strengthened those who had remained steadily faithful. Having sent out several priests and men of God who brought the Divine Mysteries to the people, he became anxious to return to Juvavia. Because he had the gift from God of knowing the future, he knew that the day of his repose was at hand. He revealed this to his disciples, who were filled with sorrow and anguish. Because of this, there was much weeping and great mourning when he took leave of his newly enlightened Christian flock.
Filled with certainty and faith in Christ, St Rupert commended the city, the Norican people, and all who had been received into holy Orthodoxy to the Most High and All-Knowing God. He chose Vitale, a holy man whom the people themselves had accepted, as his successor. When the forty days of Great Lent had passed, Bishop Rupert became very ill and was exhausted by a high fever. When the most holy day of the Resurrection of Our Saviour Jesus dawned, he celebrated the solemn Liturgy, and was fortified for his final journey with the precious Body and Blood of Christ. He comforted his priests, monastics and flock with a beautiful sermon filled with much love. Then, surrounded by his weeping spiritual children he breathed his last and returned his most pure soul to God. A host of angels were sent by Christ and the saints in the heavens who bore his holy soul with melodious voices to eternal happiness. Thus the faithful servant of God rested in peace. He whose life was praiseworthy and blameless was in death equally blessed. Thus it is written: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Shortly after his repose many miracles were attributed to him, for God was gracious through the relics of His saint and manifested His tender mercy. By the prayers of the friend of God, St Rupert, the faithful were comforted and the Church adorned through innumerable miracles. Indeed the Blessed God, One in three Persons, lives and reigns; to Him be all praise and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen

Κυριακή, 8 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Ansgar (Anskar, Anschar, Anscharius, Scharies) of Germany and Evangelist of Scandinavian lands († 865)

Born near Amiens, Picardy, France in 801, died in Bremen, Germany on February 3, 865.
With the coming of the barbarians after the death of Charlemagne, darkness fell upon Europe. From the forests and the fjords of the north, defying storm and danger, came a horde of pirate invaders, prowling round the undefended coasts, sweeping up the broad estuaries, and spreading havoc and fear. No town, however fair, no church, however sacred, and no community, however strong, was immune from their fury. Like a river of death the Vikings poured across Europe.
It's hard to believe that there would be an outbreak of missionary activity at such a time, but in Europe's darkest hour there were those who never faltered, and who set out to convert the pagan invader. St.Ansgar was such a man. As a young boy of a noble family he was received at Corbie monastery in Picardy and educated under Saint Abelard and Paschasius Radbert. Once professed, he was transferred to New Corbie at Westphalia. He once said to a friend, " One miracle I would, if worthy, ask the Lord to grant me, and that is, that by his grace, he would make me a good man."
In France a call was made for a priest to go as a missionary to the Danes, and Ansgar, a young monk, volunteered. His friends tried to dissuade him, so dangerous was the mission. Nevertheless, when King Harold, who had become a Christian during his exile, returned to Denmark, Ansgar and another monk accompanied him. Equipped with tents and books, these two monks set out in 826 and founded a school in Denmark. Here Ansgar's companion died, and Ansgar was obliged to move on to Sweden alone when his success in missionary work led King Bjørn to invite him to Sweden.
On the way his boat was attacked by pirates and he lost all his possessions, arriving destitute at a small Swedish village. After this unpromising start, he succeeded forming the nucleus of a church -- the first Christian church in Sweden -- and penetrated inland, confronting the heathen in their strongholds and converting the pagan chiefs.
Ansgar became the first archbishop of Hamburg, Germany and abbot of New Corbie in Westphalia c. 831. The Pope Gregory IV appointed him legate to the Scandinavian countries and confides the Scandinavian souls to his care. He evangelized there for the next 14 years, building churches in Norway, Denmark and northern Germany.
He saw his accomplishments obliterated when pagan Vikings invaded in 845, overran Scandinavia, and destroyed Hamburg. Thereafter the natives reverted to paganism. Ansgar was then appointed archbishop of Bremen around 848, but he was unable to establish himself there for a time and Pope Nicholas 1 united that See with Hamburg. Nicholas also gave him jurisdiction over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Ansgar returned to Denmark and Sweden in 854 to resume spreading the Gospel. When he returned to Denmark he saw the church and school he had built there, destroyed before his eyes by an invading army.
His heart almost broke as he saw his work reduced to ashes" The Lord gave," he said, "and the Lord have taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." With a handful of followers he wandered through his ruined diocese, but it was a grim and weary time. "Be assured my dear brother, " said the primate of France, who had commissioned him to this task, "that what we have striven to accomplish for the glory of Christ will yet, by God's help, bring forth fruit."
Heartened by these words, and with unfailing courage, Ansgar pursued his Swedish mission. Though he had but four churches left and could find no one willing to go in his place, he established new outposts and consolidated his work.
King Olaf had cast a die to decide whether to allow entrance of Christians, an action that Ansgar mourned as callous and unbefitting. He was encouraged, however, by a council of chiefs at which an aged man spoke in his defense. "Those who bring to us this new faith," he said" by their voyage here have been exposed to many dangers. We see our own deities failing us. Why reject a religion thus brought to our very doors? Why not permit the servants of God to remain among us? Listen to my council and reject not what is plainly for our advantage."
As a result, Ansgar was free to preach the Christian faith, and though he met with many setbacks, he continued his work until he died at the age of 64 and was buried at Bremen. He was a great missionary, an indefatigable, outstanding preacher, renowned for his austerity, holiness of life, and charity to the poor. He built schools and was a great liberator of slaves captured by the Vikings. He converted King Erik of Jutland and was called the "Apostle of the North", yet Sweden reverted completely to paganism shortly after Ansgar's death.
Ansgar often wore a hair shirt, lived on bread and water when his health permitted it, and added short personal prayers to each Psalm in his Psalter, thus contributing to a form of devotion that soon became widespread.
Miracles were said to have been worked by him. After Ansgar's death, the work he had begun came to a stop and the area reverted to paganism. Christianity did not begin to make headway in Scandinavia until two centuries later with the work of Saint Sigfried and others. A life story was written about Ansgar by his fellow missionary in Scandinavia, Saint Rembert (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Fanner, Gill, Robinson, White)
In art Ansgar is shown with converted Danes with him (White), wearing a fur pelisse (Roeder). He may sometimes be shown otherwise in a boat with King Harold and companions or in a cape and miter Hamburg Cathedral (Roeder).

Saint Ansgar is the patron of Denmark, Germany and Iceland (White). He is venerated in Old Corbie (Picardy) and New Corbie (Saxony) as well as in Scandinavia (Roeder).

Τετάρτη, 4 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Severinus, Apostle of Austria († 482)

St. Severinus came to the borderland of present-day Germany and Austria from the east — possibly the Egyptian desert — to care for the Roman Christians who were endangered by invading barbarians during the collapse of the Roman Empire.
He remained there until the end of his life. While he was there he advised both common people and kings to put eternal life first, and taught them to be generous to one another and to lead a true Christian life.
He built a monastery and protected from harm those who gathered around him. As he foretold, the monks and other Christians who had followed him escaped to saftety in Italy, taking St. Severinus' incorrupt relics with them.
 His relics are still honored in Frattamaggiore, Italy (near Naples).

 —from the 2006 Saint Herman Calendar

Source: http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html

The Orthodox Saints of France

Archbishop Seraphim (Igor Aleksandrovich Dulgov) was born in 1923 in Moscow. In 1928 he left with his mother, first to Berlin and later to France. He received his primary education in a Russian school and in the Cadet Corps in the suburbs of Paris, where he had the obedience of serving in the altar and as a reader. During World War II, he studied at a French engineering school. After the war he graduated from the St. Serge Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris (1946-1950). He then worked at a factory in Versailles. He served as a sub-deacon to Bishop (later Archbishop) Nathanael (Lvov). In 1961 he was ordained a deacon and priest in Geneva, and then served at the Church of the Archangel Michael in Cannes. In 1971 he became an archpriest and dean of southern France, and later the rector of the St. Nicholas Church in Lyons. He had the intention of retiring to a skete of the Lesna Convent in France. In September 1993 he was tonsured a monk with the name of Seraphim. He was consecrated as Bishop of Lesna on September 19, 1993, in Geneva and became vicar of the Western European Diocese. On November 3, 1993, he became the ruling bishop of the Western European Diocese with the title of Bishop of Lesna and Western Europe; in 1995 he was named Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe. After his retirement he settled in the Lesna Convent in France, and there departed in Christ on November 24, 2003.

How to Identify Whether a Saint is Orthodox or Catholic

The question of the Orthodox saints of France can be an historical one – one is interested in learning the history – or it can be a matter of curiosity, veneration, or a topic for pious reading.
For us, in addition to all of the above, there is also a practical issue. Why? For instance, when a Frenchman or a Swiss converts to Orthodoxy, what name should he take? We have a priest named Fr. Quentin. But name me a single Russian priest in pre-revolutionary Russia who would have known that there was such a name! Yet St. Quentin is a perfectly Orthodox saint of Western Europe. A priest will fly from South America to London to venerate the relics of St. Edward (and I am sure that when our priests see for “the health” or “the repose of” an Edward they would pass it off as non-Orthodox). But it turns out that Edward is a perfectly Orthodox name. And there are many such examples.
For example, when someone becomes Orthodox, what name should he take? He may, of course, retain his name if there is such a saint, such as the name John (there are St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Kronstadt, St. John the Damascene, St. John the Baptist), or he may intentionally take a new name. We had one boy named Charles. There is no saint named Charles. So when he became Orthodox, he was given the name of the Hieromartyr Harlampus (Charles and Harlampus are consonant in French).
I told you yesterday about our pilgrimages, when we searched for Orthodox saints in one location or another in France, read their lives, and sometimes painted their icons. You may ask: how can we determine who is an Orthodox saint and who is not? I implore you never to think of 1054 as some milestone, that one day prior to 1054 it was exactly one way, and the day after it was different. Rather, this was a lengthy process that began in the seventh century and ended with the seizure of Constantinople by the Crusaders in the thirteenth century.
The year 1054 was pulled out of history by the Latin Cardinal Baronius, who wanted to determine the exact moment when we were still Catholic (in his understanding) and then at what moment we ceased to be Catholic. Therefore, when we celebrated the millenium of Christianity in Russia, many Catholics approached me in Lyon and said: “Turns out you were Baptized by Catholics, since it happened before 1054!”
According to Bishop Nathaniel, when defining who is an Orthodox saint and who is not, we need first of all to understand that a holy saint of God has no not need of our glorification; he is glorified by the Lord, and whether or not he enters our church calendar is of no significance to him. Yet we ourselves need to know whose example we should or should not follow. Thus we believe all Western pre-seventh century saints to be Orthodox, but after the eighth century we should seriously study their influences. For example, if the saint lived here in northern France, then he was influenced by England, which remained Orthodox longer than any other Western European country. But if he lived nearer to Germany, then there were early heretical currents in that area. Do not forget that two centuries before 1054 the Creed had already been changed in the West! So Western saints from the ninth century on are, of course, venerable people, but not Orthodox saints. However, Bishop Nathaniel notes two or three cases of Orthodox saints in Bohemia even after 1054.

The Origins of Christianity in France

When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended, He instructed the Apostles to preach the Gospel to all creation. Their preaching, which began in Jerusalem and Rome and, according to the Apostle Paul, continued to Corinth and Ephesus, then spread even further. You know that the Apostle Paul made several missionary journeys. The Lord came at the right historical moment, for Christianity could spread rapidly by the roads of the Roman Empire, despite persecution. Although we are unaware of apostolic preaching in France,* the country quickly developed spiritually, and became famous for its outstanding preachers and martyrs.
Martyrs are the blood of the Church; martyrs are the Church’s foundation. From this we see that the Christian message resonated with the Gallo-Romans. Tertullian, an ecclesiastical writer of the second century, wrote: “we were born only yesterday, but we have completely covered the Earth.” Two centuries later the Blessed Augustine echoes him: “the greatest miracle is that yesterday we were nothing, yet now we entirely cover the universe.” Of course, the “universe” in their understanding was the Roman Empire.


Lyon is the ancient center of France, called Lugdunum in the Roman Empire. Christianity came to Lyon not from the Apostles, but from the Orthodox East (from which St. Pothinus came, while St. Irenaeus of Lyon was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist). In 177, there were already many Christians in Lyon who were being persecuted (note that we Russians became Christian only in the ninth century!). Letters from Christians have been preserved from that time, and they describe the terrible persecutions that suddenly began on Holy Friday. A statue of a pagan goddess was erected and Christians were compelled to venerate it with everyone else (refusal meant being guilty of treason against Caesar). The Christians refused. At first, the weakest (children, girls, women) were taken in hope that they would not endure trial. On the contrary, the women and children were the most zealous. Then servants were bribed. They betrayed their Christian masters, saying that they “drink blood, do all sorts of other horrible things and, most significantly, do not worship Caesar.” Following their testimony, thirty-five to forty people were thrown into prison. Among them were the maiden Blandina, the boy Ponticus, and the ninety-year-old Bishop Pothinus (who died of starvation in prison). Those who survived were thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheater. Blandina was first tied to a post in the Lyon arena – yet when the raging lions came, they lay down at her feet. Recall St. Gerasimus of the Jordan! From the lives of the saints we know that wild animals do not touch God’s saints. But then she was bound in a net and thrown on the horns of an angry bull, which trampled her death.

The Suffering of the Martyr Blandina
We know the names of the martyrs from the first persecution, and the priest at our church in Lyon commemorates them during Proskomedia. When the amphitheater was excavated, the first divine service (amazing but true!) was served by the Orthodox in Lyon – although because of this the archaeologist, I believe, later got into trouble with the Catholics but, nevertheless, the first service was ours.

The Lyon Arena
After the persecution of 177 came the persecution of 178, and then the third persecution, in 203. In that year, 19,000 Christians suffered martyrdom, including Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon. This demonstrates that by the beginning of the third century Lyon was already a completely Christian city. Saint Ireaneus wrote against the heresies. Yet it just so happened that the penultimate Roman Catholic Cardinal of Lyon built an ecumenical center there – so, in other words, a heresy center was built exactly on the spot where St. Irenaeus had once written a book against the heresies! Following the third persecution Lyon emptied.
So, when a Frenchman becomes Orthodox (I am referring to France, but this is also applicable to Germany and Switzerland), we should not say that he changed his faith, but rather that he returned to the original faith that once predominated in his land. We must revere the saints of the first centuries as our own. Those saints are our saints.



In Marseille there are also many saints. Cannes is located across from the island of St. Honorat, where the first monks lived that came from the East in the fourth and fifth centuries. Among them, I especially want to remind you of Sts. Victor of Marseilles and Vincent of Lerins (Lerins is the name of an island). St. Vincent of Lerins wrote an essay in which he defined the true Church.

Martyr Victor of Marseilles

Saint Vincent of Lerins
I remember a Baptism in Lyon. We often baptize in French. During the Baptism, as you know, we read the Creed. In Slavonic it goes: “I believe in One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church.” And in French: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
A Catholic who was present heard the word “catholic” and asked: “So you are Catholic?”
I replied: “We are the real ‘catholics.’”
He said: “The real Catholics are Roman Catholics, and you don’t have a Pope.”
I replied: “So this means, in your opinion, that those without a Pope cannot be members of the Church?”
So then I said to him: “Bear in mind that across from Cannes is the island of Lerins, where a Western saint in the fourth and fifth centuries defined the true catholic Church, calling all to maintain that which is believed ‘everywhere, always, and by all.’”
Even St. Ambrose of Milan characterized these islands as a place where saints struggle. You know that we celebrate the memory of the Holy Fathers that suffered martyrdom in Sinai and Raithu. And here on the island of Lerins monks were also martyred by the Saracens.


I want to dwell in particular on the life of St. Genovefa (Genevieve) of Paris. When Gallic merchants came to St. Simeon the Stylite, the latter said: “You have the great St. Genovefa.” On top of his pillar he knew that Gaul is the home of St. Genevieve. In the fifth century Attila attacked Paris. The men intended to defend Lutetia, the island on which the Notre Dame cathedral today stands. But at the sight of Attila’s hordes they lost spirit. A young woman, the thirty-year-old Genovefa approached them and declared: “Do not be afraid, but turn to fasting and prayer, and ask God to be saved!” Though they laughed at her, she again admonished them: “Call upon our Heavenly Father, take hold of the arms of prayer and fasting. I predict to you that by doing so, you and your families will be saved.” She was a nun, born in Nanterre. From Nanterre she often went through the woods to the city of Saint-Denis, where the relics of St. Dionysius reposed, and so is often portrayed with the candle that lit her path. The men unexpectedly heeded her appeal. And indeed Attila’s troops, which advanced in two columns, joined up in front of Paris, but for unknown reasons they went around the city.

St. Genevieve of Paris
I want to remind you of words from a sermon by Bishop Nathaniel, that the power of God is shown through those who most clearly, fully, and humbly acknowledge their own insignificance before God, their total dependence on God’s will, and on the good and almighty love of God. They place complete trust in Him rather than in their own strength. All of these qualities are more often present in women than in men, because men have preserved a kind of ancient, pagan, and haughty arrogance. Men feel that they are strong and sturdy, while God’s glory shines more greatly in women through their weakness.
The relics of St. Genovefa were vandalized in 1789 by the revolutionaries. The place and exact boulder on which the relics were burned is known. Likewise, Russian revolutionaries destroyed the relics of saints first of all, taking an example from their French teachers, who immediately destroyed the relics of Paris’s patron saint.

The Return of Orthodoxy to the West

I want to remind you of a decree by St. John [of Shanghai and San Francisco] that asserts that we that who live in Western Europe should locate and venerate local Orthodox saints. Now we commemorate all the martyrs by name: St. Clodoald of Saint- Cloud, St. Germaine of Auxerre, St. Saturninus of Toulouse, and many others. Some time ago, our Archbishop Ambrose of Geneva compiled a service to the Orthodox saints of Switzerland.
Some Orthodox Saints of France are included in church calendars: for example, St. Irenaeus, St. Pothinus, and the Lyon martyrs. At one time during our diocesan conventions, the late Vladyka Anthony (Bartoshevich) had our priests find the names of Western Orthodox saints and include them in church calendars. Now such calendars with these names have been published.
Orthodoxy in France and Western Europe gradually disappeared – later in England, and sooner, the closer to Germany; in our area it happened later due to the influence of England. Orthodoxy returned to Western Europe with the Russians that immigrated here after the Russian revolution, bringing with them the faith that was once here.
Text compiled by Alexandra Nikiforova from audio recordings.
* Tradition says that when the Apostle Paul sailed to Spain, he disembarked near the Byzantine city of Aleria, Corsica. I have been there and the locals showed me the place of disembarkment