Christmas Letter, 2017

The Orthodox Christian heritage of the English nation has survived in fragments, even if only in a very small part.  One is aware of this in small villages in England, such as Baildon, Yorkshire, where my own family originates. Here, there survives a Saxon church; the manor house, Baildon Hall,  and inn, and clustered around them the black and white thatched cottages. Old people in this village, through family tradition, regard the Julian Calendar (changed in England to the Gregorian only in the mid-eighteenth century) as the only true calendar.

In farming families in Yorkshire as well as East Anglia, “Old Christmas” was religiously kept right up until “Hitler’s War”. “Old Christmas Day” is still marked in the West Country, too, until the present generation.  They know from their grandparents’ grandparents that Christmas is celebrated on the wrong date in England.  Such people, now outside the Orthodox Church bring to shame the “Orthodox” New Calendarists, who. apparently, have less sense of tradition that they!

When we were at Baildon, Yorkshire, in 2001, and it was discovered that we belonged to the Orthodox Church, we were told the following by the sexton of the Baildon parish church:  “It is said that when Christ is born, the oxen and cattle in the farms kneel down in worship.  When in nineteenth century England a learned scholar mocked this belief, saying that he had never seen it, he was informed by farm laborers that he had watched on December 25, not on the true date, January 7.” The scholar departed in his pride none the wiser!”

Of course, we are not concerned with the truth of the sexton’s story as much as the truth which it conveys.  To this day, the Glastonbury Thorn flowers not on December 25th, but on January 7.  Archbishop Vitaly (Ustinov) under whom our mission parish was founded, and who had been Bishop in England for several years, told us he did  not know why this miracle did not convert the English people to Orthodoxy! To remind her of the true date of Christmas, a cutting from the Thorn is sent each January 7th to the Queen. We hope this tradition continues.. now that the Thorn has been seriously damaged.

Father Stephen Hatherly, in 1873, was the first Englishman to be ordained to the Orthodox priesthood since the Great Schism.

Father Nicholas Gibbes had been the English tutor to the Russian Royal Martyrs.  He became an Orthodox Christian and a priest in England after their martyrdom.

From the 1930s, three people of English stock were to make a substantial contribution to the cause of Orthodoxy in the Holy Land and to give solid assistance to the Arab Palestinian Orthodox community.  They were: Miss Mary Robinson, the future Abbess Maria of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalen in Gethsemane (where Prince Philip’s mother, who became a nun late in life, is buried near her aunt, Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth the New Martyr); Miss Sprotte, the future Mother Martha of Bethany; and Father Edgar, the future Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, who translated the Psalter, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, The Arena, the lives of saints, and many church services.

Most English came to Orthodoxy by way of the Russian Church Abroad when Constantinople refused to receive them. By protecting the interests of the Anglican Church in this way, the Patriarchate of Constantinople implicitly recognized the “branch theory” which is the basis of the heresy of ecumenism, and continues unabated to this day. According to the ecclesiology of the Holy Fathers, all those who are in communion with Constantinople are guilty of the same heresy.

Our tiny Mission of St. Theodore of Canterbury remains the only English language Orthodox Church in Toronto (of 30!!) which follows the calendar followed by Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and confirmed for all time by the First Ecumenical Council of 325 A.D.

All services are in English, and all are welcome!

Midnight Liturgy for the Nativity, begins at 11:30 P.M., December 24/January 6, Friday.

There will be no Liturgy on Sunday, January 15th as I will be serving the Parish of St. John of Kronstadt, Bunnell, Florida.

Christ is Born!

Fr. David