Monday, October 13, 2003

A cloud of witnesses
Today the Eastern Orthodox using the Julian calendar remember St Gregory the Illuminator, the bishop-evangelist of Armenia (Hayastan in their language), the world's oldest Christian country, and founder of what is now the Armenian Apostolic Church, part of the Oriental Orthodox communion.

Today's Roman Rite and Book of Common Prayer saint is St Edward the Confessor, who embodied several Christian and English virtues. He is the only famous English saint whose relics (body, bones) are still in their original shrine, in Westminster Abbey (once the chapel of a Benedictine community the king refounded).

(Though I remember seeing a slab in Durham Cathedral a friend told me is the tomb of St Cuthbert. It wasn't a shrine, though. See Keble's entry in the comments for more on all this.)

About the myth of a 'Saxon Orthodox Church' in England that was destroyed by the 'evil' French in 1066, I read in that late orthodox sceptic (regarding saints' legends) Donald Attwater's book on saints that Edward, who died in 1066 (he may have been the last king before Harold, who lost to the French at Hastings), had a Norman French mother and spent the first ten years of his life in... France.

Anglo-Saxon England was never ruled by or in the sphere of influence of the Byzantine Empire. (The early Russians were in its sphere of influence.) So while there was some crossover in the early medieval Church as a whole - St Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, was Greek - England never was Byzantine Rite and thus not in the specifically imperial, capital-O Orthodox Church! Though both west and east used and use both words, Catholic and Orthodox*, each side respectively was known by each word before the medieval estrangement of the sides.

Today is also the 86th anniversary of the last apparition of Mary at Fátima in Portugal, which I interpret as condemning Communism, which was about to take over Russia a month later, not Russian Orthodoxy.

*In the Gregorian canon (anaphora, consecration prayer) at the heart of the traditional Roman Mass, the priest prays for 'all the orthodox' (omnibus orthodoxis), just like the priest does in the litanies and great entrance of the Byzantine Rite.

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