Sunday, 8 December 2013

Book Review: The Ascent of Christian Law: Patristic and Byzantine Formulations of a New Civilization by John McGuckin

The Ascent of Christian Law: Patristic and Byzantine Formulations of a New Civilization
John Anthony McGuckin
St Vladimir's Seminary Press,U.S
ISBN: 978-0881414035
Price: £13.66 (Amazon)

Regardless of the recent influx of books on the development of Orthodox Tradition becoming available in English, the topic of the Canon Tradition remains an area which is sparcely covered in great detail. Most introductions to Orthodox Christianity will cover the Oecumenical Councils and definition of Canon but will not go much further in covering the vast history of the topic.

McGuckin has stepped in to fill this void and has done so in a manner suiting the complexity of the subject matter. The Ascent of Christian Law is a must for any student of Canonology or reader of the subject. The book is very readable, regardless of the depth of your understanding, and covers both East and West in great detail, starting with the scriptural foundations of the Canons. It then proceeds to pass through various phases in the development of the Canons before reaching its conclusion at the later Byzantine Canonists and their input to the Canon Tradition of the later Byzantine Empire.

The level of historical research put into the text also makes this book worth reading, as it puts the councils and Synods of the first millenium into the context of the tradition as a whole. This allows the reader to see why the council was needed and how it impacted the development of the Orthodox Tradition, rather than simply giving us details on the event itself.

One flaw I can see with this book is McGuckin's need to state his opinion in his footnotes, which can take away from the academic nature of the text itself. Some readers may be able to understand the innocent manner in which this is played out, but for others it can be offputting to see a footnote in academic text referring to those who hold a certain viewpoint as 'dummies.' Regardless of this slight hitch, the contents of the book in itself are beautifully covered in a way rarely seen in a book on this subject.

Overall, McGuckin  has filled in a black hole which has plagued the world of Modern Orthodox Academics for decades. He has covered the vast and complex topic of the Canons in a way which makes it easy to understand and relevant to the reader. This in itself is an accomplishment which few have achieved and makes the book a highly recommended piece of reading for anybody interested in the topic.

By Subdeacon Daniel

Monday, 9 September 2013

Indian Orthodox Heirarchical Liturgy

Here are some pics from the Liturgy this Sunday when His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church visited the UK.

Copyright for all these pictures belongs to the British Orthodox Church

1. The Catholicos arrives.

2. His Holiness with His Grace Bishop Timotheus of the UK, Europe and Africa.

3. Me and some of the Indian Readers waiting for the service to start.

4. Mar Timotheus begins the service. With him are Fr Halie Maskel of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church (Coptic Patriarchate), so 3 Oriental Orthodox communities and 3 continents ware represented here.

5. His Holiness blesses those in attendance.

6.His Holiness censers the Church.

7. I had the blessing of holding the candle for one of the priests during communion (Over 500 people communed.)

8. The Heirarchs, Clergy and Diaconate picture

9. Me with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II and Metropolitan Seraphim El Souriani.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Book Review: Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth By Dr. Peter Bouteneff

Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth
By Dr. Peter Bouteneff
ISBN: 978-0881413076
Price £6.58 (Amazon Kindle Store)

As a book which I picked up purely as a timepass during a recent trip to Trivandrum, Bouteneff's most commonly known work turned out to be a worthwhile investment and one which I finished before the plane even took off. I am a fan of Bouteneff's academically honest writings and accessable writing style, but this book can easily be read and respected by Theology readers across the spectrum.

The book comprises of two sections, one which deals with the Philosophical complexities of defining truth, the other with how the Church forms Tradition around this truth. Both sections are close to 100 pages long and comprise of readable bitesize sections amid longer chapters. This allows the book to be read at a steady pace and entire sections easily found for rereading and academic quoting without sifting through paragraph after paragraph.

The content of the first section, as previously mentioned, is centered around the question "what is truth" and tackles this from a Theological viewpoint, questioning the role of Revelation and scripture in the process of defining truth. This is a good place to start, since it adds to the experience by giving the reader the benefit of understanding what Bouteneff means by truth before entering into the discussion of the Dogmatic side of the book.

The second section is where Bouteneff gets into the real study of Orthodox Dogmatics, looking at the importance of Dogma and the study of theology. This section studies the reason for studying theology, and Church's motives in the development of the Canons and Doctrine. This is further split up into sections explaining why and how certain factors and contributors to the development of Orthodox Dogmatics emerged, making compelling arguments for everything from the Orthodox Exegetical approach to the veneration of the fathers and their works. He also make a compelling case for the polemical language used by the fathers, which demonstrates a fair and academic approach which allows the reader to understand the complexities of reading the fathers.

 As key factors in the understanding of the vitality of Tradition and Dogma to the Orthodox faith, the reasons for their development of the various areas of Orthodox Doctrine and key questions surrounding the,  are covered well by Bouteneff and in a way which is extremely inviting and readable.  Altogether, I could not recommend this book enough. Not only is Bouteneff's writing style one which invites the reader to continue and learn, but the way in which he tackles a topic which can be immensely dry with a vitality which can only be found in a writer who triely values the Traditions of the Orthodox Faith.

Structure and Synod in the Orthodox Tradition

General Structure

The Orthodox Church has no specific 'job titles' so to speak, though specific members of the Heirarchy will have specific titles according to their means. Here are some key examples and Explanations of terms.

Within the Eastern Orthodox Church there are 9 Patriarchs, with 6 Autocephalous Metropolitans who were granted Autocephaly over their various territories by the Patriarchates. Neither of these answer to a higher authority except for The Archbishop of Athens whose territories are partially under Constantinople.

There are six further Autonomous Archbishops/Metropolitans who have regional control over their territories, these were granted their Autonomy through one of the larger Churches and therefore cannot take the title of Patriarch as their head is appointed through another Patriarch.

(List Of Eastern Orthodox Heirarchs Here)

As well as this, within the Non-Chalcedonian Tradition there are 6 Oriental Orthodox Patriarchs/Catholicoi, with 4 Titular Patriarchs (and Catholicoi) holding Authority over specific areas but recognizing the Spiritual Authority of their Patriarch overall. The Oriental Orthodox community and Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, due to the Chalcedonian Schism of 451, though each retains its structure, with some cases of dual Patriarchs in the same place (Alexandria, Antioch, Istanbul/Constantinople, Jerusalem)

(List of Non-Chalcedonian Heirarchs Here)

Each Patriarch has authority over his Patriarchate, with no interference of others, though to make major decisions he would need the support of his Synod (Bishops in his Juristiction) and in many cases is expected to have support from the other Patriarchs, which is why the Orthodox Church does not have the changes in Doctrine in the way that other communities may.

Titles for heads of Jurisdictions
The head of a specific community will generally be called a Patriarch, Pope or Catholicos. 
Patriarch is the most common title for the leader of an Orthodox Community.
The term Pope originates in Egypt in the Patristic era and has been continued to be used by the Coptic Community rather than Patriarch. The Official Title of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria is also "Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa" though he is commonly simply called Patriarch.
Catholicos means 'Of the Whole' and is used by the Georgian Church in the Eastern Tradition and Armenian and Malankara (Indian/Jacobite) Churches in the Oriental Traditions

Titles for Bishops
Within each Jurisdiction there are Bishops heading Dioceses or with an Administrative role. They will have Titles based upon their role and authority

Metropolitan Bishop/Archbishop was the highest Authority until the title Patriarch was created at Nicaea in 325. These Bishops can rank above or below Archbishops depending on the Tradition (Macedonia and Serbia hold Archbishops as higher, most others rank Archbishops lower). They have no specific power or direct authority over other Bishops, though have the right to oversee Synods and Councils due to their higher authority in the Church itself. 

Archbishop is the title for a Bishop of greater responsibility than other Bishops, He may not always hold a Diocese, as it may be a title for a administrative responsibility.

Bishop is the title given to the head of  Diocese. The title dates from Apostolic times and is present in the writings of St paul, as well as St ignarius the Apostolic, who stated that all must be done through the Bishop. a Bishop is traditionally a male monastic (Since the 6th Century) or Celibate Priest, who has a role over an administrative function or Diocese. until recent times, these were only Diocesan and could not be transferred between Dioceses (By the Nicene Canons they were seen as 'Married' to one) though in recent years in the Eastern Orthodox Church this has changed. A Bishop without a Diocese is called a 'Titular Bishop' in the Eastern Orthodox and 'General Bishop' in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The Synod
The Synod is the group of meetings. Since Orthodoxy keeps its Conciliar Structure, they play a vital role in discussing issues regarding the jurisdiction.

By the Canons of Chalcedon, every Patriarchate must hold a 6 Monthly Synod meeting, this was later changed to yearly at Trullo. This is also existent in the Oriental Orthodox Church who only recognise the first three Ecumenical Councils as being truly Ecumenical. The Synodial meetings will often be attended by all Bishops in that Patriarchate, who will discuss issues as a whole with the Patriarch residing, also holding separate meetings in specific councils, regarding different matters which will be reported to the Synod as a whole after. Dioceses also hold yearly Synodial meetings to discuss matters within that Diocese.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Key components of the wedding service in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church)

Key components of the wedding service in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church)

- Picture from my wedding, descriptions by Fr Abraham Thomas of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam.

The Rings
The Blessing of the Rings recalls the first detailed account of a wedding engagement in the Bible, in which Eleazor, commissioned by Abraham, places gold ornaments on Rebecca to mark her engagement to Isaac. The ring is a symbol of contract, placed on the bride and groom by the priest representing God and the Church.

The Crowns (Chains)
The Blessing of the Crowns is the central part of the marriage ceremony in all Orthodox Churches and culminates in the ceremony of coronation which symbolizes the bestowal of the crown of righteousness upon the couple. In the Indian Orthodox the crown is replaced by a chain placed around the neck of bride and groom by the Celebrant, though the premise is the same.

The Minnu (Thali)
In south India, the Thali used in a hindu marriage was in the shape of a leaf of the sacred banyan tree and Christians modified the Thali by superimposing a cross on the leaf. The Minnu is suspended on seven threads drawn out of the Manthradoki. The seven strands represent the bride, the bridegroom, the couple’s parents and the Church. The groom ties the threads around the bride’s neck – tying the knot. It remains there for one week until the Groom's mother cuts the thread, and the Minnu is moved onto a chain.

The Manthrakodi
the Manthrakodi, a sari presented by the bridegroom and his family, is draped over the bride’s head, symbolising the groom’s pledge to protect, care for and cherish his wife.

At this point, the bride’s relative, who has been standing behind her, yields her place to a female member of the groom’s family as a sign that the bride is welcomed into her new family.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Book review An Interpretive Account of Belief and Practice in the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. By Abba Haliegebriel Girma.


An Interpretive Account of Belief and Practice in the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church.
By Abba Haliegebriel Girma.

ISBN: 97814820008791
Price: £7.16 (Amazon)
It is not very common to see a well supported overview of the Tewahedo Orthodox Tradition on major online book stores, especially written in English. Archimandrite Hailegebriel's book comes, therefore, as an unexpected gem amongst a large number of books trying to explain the tradition from an outside and anthropological viewpoint.

The layout of the book contains four sections which cover the structure, doctrines, sacraments and diaspora communities of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. Considering that the book only spans around 80 pages this is a brave endeavour which generally succeeds in its attempt to give a summary of the Church's stances.

The use of evidence from Scripture and the Church Fathers to support the views is especially well achieved. Almost every aspect of the Faith which is covered in the book is backed up with a Biblical reference to prevent any possible controversy. Many are also placed with explanations from the Church Fathers or the Ethiopian Law of Kings to allow the historical development and practice of Liturgical and Sacramental actions.

Overall the book demonstrates a positive step from the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church, which is sometimes seen as academically lacking in comparison to other Orthodox communities. I would recommend the book to anyone who wants a Theological and Ecclesiological overview of the Church, as it is written for people with a reasonable level of Theological Literacy.

Do not expect an Introduction to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Faith from the book, as it is not written for this purpose. If you are looking for a brief overview or reference source for the Tewahedo Tradition, this is certainly recommended. When it comes to Theological studies, It is possibly the best guide to Tewahedo Orthodox teaching apart from primary sources, so certainly something to have in your bookshelf.

Subdeacon Daniel

Sunday, 14 July 2013

We must not understand repentance as being something only for a period of time.

We must not understand repentance as being something only for a period of time, or as one of the phases of life. We should rather take it as a complete way of life, life with God.” 
Fr Matta El-Meskeen

Our actions are to be commended in proportion to the renunciation of our own worthiness. image

Our Dignity lies in our deliberate and insistent relinquishment of every dignity, and in surrendering it to those who are less than we. We can no longer uphold claims to leadership or priority or privilege, for the extent to which we humble ourselves before the community is what establishes our righteousness and our true leadership; our actions are to be commended in proportion to the renunciation of our own worthiness.

- Fr Matta El-Meskeen ‘The Righteousness of Humility’

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Orthodoxy and the Crusades

In 1099 the Franks (Al-Franj in the Arabic) invaded he lands of the Seljuk Turks after receiving a request from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komnenos to return lost lands to the Christians. 90 before this time, the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim Bi-Amir Allah of Egypt had ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. His reign was a great change from that of the previous Conquerors such as the Caliph Omar who had taken it in 634 and respected the freedom of Religion.

This event helped spark the crusades, leading to a flood of successive armies of Western Christians heading to the Holy Land with the view of reclaiming the city of Jerusalem for Christian. This brought about a problem for the local Christian residents; they had lived with the Muslim conquerors for centuries now but now became the subject of suspicion due this onslaught and threat from their fellow religionists. The Greek and Syriac Communities were expelled from Aleppo and other cities for fear of betrayal though as we will see, the Christians of the Levant had as much to fear as the Muslims did.

In November of that year the Crusaders took Jerusalem and killed all inside.

Raymond of Aguilers, a Chronicler of the Franks described the events:
Wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are normally chanted … in the temple and the porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed it was a just and splendid judgement of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies.”

This is supported by the Damascene Chronicler Ibn al-Qalanisi’s account:
The Franks stormed the town and gained possession of it. A number of the townsfolk fled to the sanctuary and a great host were killed. The Jews assembled in the synagogue, and the Franks burned it over their heads. The sanctuary was surrendered to them on guarantee of safety on 22 Sha’ban [14 July] of this year, and they destroyed the shrines and the tomb of Abraham”

From then on, things got worse for the Oriental community and other Orthodox. Again, Ibn al-Qalanisi explains:
One of the first measures taken by the Franj was to expel from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre all the priests of the Oriental Rites - Greeks, Georgians, Armenians, Copts and Syrians - who used to officiate jointly, in accordance with an old tradition respected by all previous conquerors. Dumbfounded by their degree of fanaticism, the dignitaries of the Oriental Christian communities decided to resist. They refused to tell the occupiers where they had hidden the True Cross, on which Christ died… But the invaders were not impressed. They arrested the priests who had been entrusted with custody of the Cross and tortured them to make them reveal the secret. Thus did the Franj manage to forcibly deprive the Christians of the Holy City wherein lay their most precious relics.”

Over the next 70 years the same cycle continued of Frankish raids on cities and both Frank and Muslim accusing the Orthodox community of collaboration with their opponents. In the North, there was also the issue of Latin mistrust for the Byzantines and their Sympathisers.

The most shocking example was to come through the actions of Prince Reynald of Chantillon, Frankish prince of Antioch. After torturing the Latin patriarch of Antioch into financing his military the young Prince decided to invade the Orthodox Kingdom of Cyprus in 1156. After murdering a vast number of the population and plundering the entire Island he committed a heinous act. Amin Maalouf explains:

Before departing with booty; Reynald ordered all the Greek Priests and Monks assembled; he then had their noses cut off before sending them, thus mutilated, to Constantinople.”

Around this time in Egypt, the situation of the Copts was improving. A General of the Damascene Sultan Nur-Ad-Din called Salah-Ud-Din Ayyubi had seized power and eventually united the Islamic world. His general view of the Christians of the Levant was far more lenient than others and he was known for his generosity and trust (Many of his own advisors called him a gullible fool, since he almost bankrupted the palace treasury). Amongst his closest advisors were Copts, who he also hired to help build palaces and fortresses across Egypt.

In 1187 he won a decisive victory over King Guy of Jerusalem and arrived at the gates of the city. By this time the Oriental Community in Frankish Jerusalem had already warmed to him, as is described by the Chroniclers in his forces who said:
One of the Sultan’s chief advisors was an Orthodox Priest by the name of Yusuf Batit. It was he who took charge of contacts with the Franj, as well as with the Oriental Christian communities. Shortly before the siege began, the Orthodox clerics promised Batit that they would throw open the gates of the city of the occidentals held out too long.”

And so Jerusalem fell, Saladin invited the Armenian and Greek Patriarchs back into the city, which was followed by the moving of the Latin patriarchate to Acre. After an agreement with the Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos, Saladin returned the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Which he had turned into a Mosque) back to the Christians. This was the first time that they had been welcomed back since 1099. The Armenians were also given an Equal status in the city to the Greeks.
As for the Armenians, they also faced oppression but not on such a scale, yet it had a far longer lasting effect on the culture.
The books this extract is from is absolutely brilliant for the whole topic of the Crusades through the eyes of the Oriental and Byzantine communities. I would recommend it as well as Aamin Maalouf’s ‘The Crusades through Arab eyes’ which deals with the Syriac view well.

The Oriental Orthodox and the Byzantine Empire

It is well documented that there was mass persecution by the Byzantine Empire against Non-Chalcedonian communities in the East. Only the Chalcedonian Christianity was legal in the Roman Empire and it was therefore seen as the role of the Roman Empire to remove all influence of what they saw as an illegal Heresy from the Empire.

As Fr Peter Farringdon puts it “By 525 AD the imperial policy was that all resisting monks should be driven out of their monasteries. All over Arabia and Palestine the monks had to leave their monasteries, were robbed, put in irons and subjected to various tortures. Those faithful who gave them shelter were treated in the same way”

The persecution by the Final Byzantine Prefect, El-Moquakas (Later called Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria), of the Coptic Patriarch Benjamin and others shows the extent of this.
“After the Pope had left Alexandria, the Chalcedonian El-Moquakas arrived, and took charge over the country and the church with authority from Emperor Heraclius. He persecuted the believers and arrested the brother of Abba Benjamin and tortured him severely. He burnt his sides, and finally killed him by drowning.”

Another example comes from the life of St Samuel the Confessor, a monk who refused to accept Chalcedon:
“An envoy came to the desert carrying Leo’s Tome  and when the envoy read it to the elders, Abba Samuel became zealous, with the zeal of the Lord. He jumped up in the middle of the gathered monks and seized the letter and rent it into pieces saying, “Excommunicated is this tome and everyone who believes in it and cursed is everyone who might change the Orthodox faith of our Holy Fathers.” When the envoy saw this, he became furious and angry. He ordered him to be beaten with pins and to be hanged up by his arms, and that his face be smitten. One of these strikes enucleated one of St. Samuel’s eyes. Then he was driven away from the monastery.”
Both of these accounts are recorded in the Coptic Synaxarium (Chronicles of the Saints and Martyrs) and read during the Liturgy to remind us of this history. Other examples of attempted forced acceptance byt he state are seen in Jerusalem when Juvenal betrayed his people and accepted Chalcedon, then called the army into the city to stop their protesting.
At the same time, the Syrians had the same situation. A few years ago, HH Patriarch ignatius Zakka of the Syriac Church wrote on the topic, explaining how:

“At the beginning of the 7th century Heraklios (610-641 A.D.) ascended the throne of the East-Roman Empire. After he defeated the Persians and conquered Mesopotamia, he forced his way into Syria in 612 A.D. In 629 A.D. he occupied Damascus. Following that he tried earnestly to restore the religious unity in his empire to unite the Syrians, Copts and Armenians with the Byzantines. This happened on the one hand through promises and on the other hand through threats. Very often he used ruthless oppression through which many Syrians, Copts, and Armenians became martyrs. The persecution of the Syrian Church by the Byzantine Empire did not end until the appearance of Islam.”

He also explains how the Syriac community reacted to the Islamic invasion:
From the above it becomes clear that the religious conflicts in the Christian church, the attempts of the Byzantine powers to force the issues of the council of Chalcedon upon the other churches by force, to throw its members in prison, to kill them, to ban them and to drive them out alienated the Syrian Christians. All these unchristian deeds only sowed hate and aversion in the hearts of the Syrians against the Byzantine powers. The Persian powers in their empire oppressed both West and East Syrians in general to force them under tyrannical policies and Zoroastrian beliefs. Therefore the Syrians under the Byzantine and Persian powers saw the Islamic conquerors as liberators and not as occupiers. The Syrians put great hope in them, not only because the Muslims liberated them from their religious trouble but also because they relieved the Syrians of the burdensome taxes that were placed on their backs. They said, “Praise be to God, who delivered us from the unjust Byzantines and who put us under the rule of the just Muslim Arabs.”

The Armenian situation was a bit different.Due to Armenia being passed and carved up between the Persian Empire and Rome there was never any chance for any Roman religious authority in the territory.The conflicts between Armenians and Rome during the reign of Justinian had little to do with religion either, so again we see not much evidence of issues outside of land and politics.

Regardless of this, there are times when the state and the Oriental communities were at peace, such as the various rules of Non-Chalcedonian Emperors who allowed religious freedom, as well as Non-Chalcedonian Patriarchs of Constantinople (Anthimus, for example) and Rome who at times implemented policies allowing for freedom. Also the change in the political spectrum at times meant Roman armies needed to work more against Persians and Barbarians than these issues.

One more famous example of peace is the time that Saint Severus of Antioch spent in Constantinople, when he was summoned by Justinian, as Theodora was Non-Chalcedonian. He was welcomed there to help form unity between the two parties (the Constantinople Patriarch was also non-Chalcedonian) and even wrote his famous Hymn ‘O Word Immortal’ (O’ Monogenis) there, though was eventually sent away accused of being a “wolf” demonstrating a continuing division.

So generally, there was a large extent of persecution which continued until the Islamic Conquest. This led to the Syians and Copts welcoming the Islamic invaders as liberators. Other than that, there was not much contact between the two. We see some meeting at the time of the Latin Florentine Council but apart from that, Egypt was too far for the Byzantines to ever visit to any large extent.

An overview of Medieval Oriental Orthodox Theology

Before addressing specific thinkers or traditions here are one or two key thinkers for all such as St Severus of Antioch and St Jacob of Serugh, who formed the Post-Chalcedonian Basis of Christology and Theology but Each has its own thinkers:

Due to the dependency of a Abune being appointed by Alexandria, lacked a strong Theological movement in the middle ages. It was only in the middle ages that they had a sufficient number of Priests to serve the nation and only at the request of the Ethiopian Emperor himself.
Some of the key figures in the Tewahedo Church during the middle ages were Saint Tekle Haymanot and Iyasus Moa who are both amongst the Fathers of Monasticism in the Ethipoian Community and lived by the rule of St Pachomius.

A key Theological writer in the Ethiopian Community is Samuel of Dabra Wagag. As with the others, it is mainly his life which is preserved though in books such as “The Acts of Samuel of Samuel of Dabra Wagag” some of his teachings are preserved.

It was only really when the Franj tried to convert the Ethiopians to the Latin faith that Ethiopian Philosophy and Theological Education became a key aspect, since they needed to defend their faith against the ongoing attempts of Jesuits and others. One key Thinker in the 17th Century whose writings remain is Zera Yacob. His Treatises give an idea of the Progress of Ethiopian Philosophy and Theology after the middle ages.

The Coptic Church had many Golden ages and dry spells in the Middle Ages, all dependent on which Dynasty ruled Egypt and which foreign invader was attacking.
Most Medieval Coptic writing is Apologetic, and aimd at explaining the faith to the islamic community and especialy the Islamic Philosophers and Theologians of the Era. This led to a vast Arabic Christian Golden Age.

Some of the Great thinkers of the time include Ibn Kabar, the 4 Sons of Al-Assal and Yayha Ibn Ali, all of whom wrote vastly explaining Christian life, the Nature of God and the Nature of the Church.
Yahya Ibn Ali is the Earliest of these (10th C) and wrote apologetic texts on the Nature of God, refuting many Greek philosophical stances. He is more commonly associated with the Syriac Church as he was based in Baghdad though his writing was more of an influence on the Coptic Church due to its Arabic language.

His most important Theological works are on the Incarnation and his linguistic commentaries on the Gospels, which are extremely in depth as both studies of Christian Etymology and Theology.
The Al-Assal brothers are probably the most influencial medieval Coptic writers, ecpecially Abul Fada’il ibn Al-Assal, who is my favourite Coptic Medieval Thinker (Since the Canons are my field of study). Abul Fada’il ibn Al-Assal wrote the Nomocanon which in the Ethiopian Tewahedo tradition is called the ‘Fetha Negast’ or ‘Law of the Kings.’ It compiles the Canons of the fathers, Medieval Patriarchal Canons and Conciliar Canons into the text which was used as a guide for the Church until very Recently. His works are still widely used in the Ethiopian Tradition which uses the Fetha Negast as its key text in Canon Law.

Abu l-Barakat Ibn Kabar is a third recommended thinker in the Coptic Church. He wrote extensively on Liturgical and ritual life in the Coptic Church with his text ‘The lamp in the darkness’, a guide for the Diaconate in the Liturgy, still being regarded as an important reference for those studying the Liturgy.
Much of the time there was a lack of initiative in the Church to write much other than Apologetics. The key points for Coptic writings tend to fall at the start of the Arab rule (due to being free from Byzantine persecution), the Ayyubid Sultanate (as Salah-ud-din’s successors were respectful) and the Ottoman ocupation (as the Mamluk persecution had ended.)

The Syriac Theological Schools remained strong Throughout the Middle Ages. Two thinkers that I recommend to any Orthodox Theologian are Jacob Bar-Salibi and Bar-Hebraus, both from Malatia.
Jacob Bar Salibi is one of the most well known Oriental Orthodox Theologians and quotes the fathers extensively in his works. His most famous pieces are his Biblical Commentaries.

He also wrote many anti-Heretical treatises. I would recommend his piece “Against the Melchites” to any Byzantine Christian as it explains the divergence of Tradition between EO and OO during these times and gives a good Orental perspective on the issues.
Bar Hebraeus is one of my favourite Theological Thinkers of the Era (along with Abul Fada’il ibn Al-Assal) was a Theologian and the Catholicos of the Syriac Church. he wrote extensively on Theology as well as Scientific texts. Of all his texts, the most Fascinating is the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, which is a history of the world.

One of his key texts is the “Lamp of the Sanctuary” which is unbublished but has viewable copy in the British library if requested. Most of his Theological views state that the Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian communities have no major Dogmatic differences, something that has been supported by Antiochian and Syriac Orthodox heirarchs to this day.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Orthodox Christianity and Mosaic law


Many Anti-theists see it as an easy attack on Christianity to pick up that we condemn many practices which are labelled as unclean by Mosaic Law, and are therefore must either accept all of Mosaic Law or reject it. The following note is taken from a response I gave to this very question earlier today and analyses the problem with this Straw Man attack on Christianity and its relation to mosaic Law.

A first key point is that the use of laws such as Leviticus’ condemnation of Homosexuality, as well as many others is a Protestant one, which also stems from a corrupted understanding of the Incarnation and the nature of the Church. it is also condemned in the New Testament by St Paul, though as Christians we would not punish it with death, as that is not the Law.

Firstly, the Old testament, from a Christian position, can only be understood through the New Testament. A Good example of this is the writings of the prophets which are understood only when looking at the Incarnation, since they foresee his coming. In his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, St Justin martyr demonstrates Jeremiah’s prediction of a New Covenant unlike the old, and explains how:
"the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone” and that “law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law—namely, Christ —has been given to us, and the covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance.”
The Law itself was created as a guide from God for people in preparation for this as well as practical of Ritual purity from the Jewish People in the temple Period, when Ritual Cleanliness was important. These examples include the consumption of Pork and Circumcision, both which regulated the cleanliness (Both Physical and Spiritual) of a person. Both were removed under the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, as they were no longer needed and thus a Christian would not see it as an Abomination to Eat Pork when it is revealed that we should not. Regarding the need for them after, Saint Paul explains how:
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:23-25)
With no Temple and God having become incarnate, this Ritual Cleanliness Law had become irrelevant and was already corrupt and used for separate purposes (people followed the Law for fear of punishment rather than Love of God) and were following it for the sake of the Law, rather than the original reason. Christ himself explains, in Matthew 19, this difference when he details the reasons for the allowance of Divorce in the OT. When a Pharisee Asks him
“Why did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus responds to him by explaining the Spirit of the Law, that
“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Here it is shown that it is not simply a matter of Moses saying they could, but there is a reason behind it which they have not grasped. Justin Martyr again explains this to Trypho, stating how:
“The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you.” This clearly demonstrates how the Christian view in the 1st Century shows a clear Separation between following the law and Discerning the Spirit of it.
This is support when Christ said he had fulfilled the Law in its purest form, which he explains in Matthew 22
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Ten Commandments given to Moses all demonstrate these principles, giving to God what is his and not killing, stealing or offending your neighbour. These are the Spirit of the Law. The later Leviticus Laws were more about purity and impurity, rather than this. The problem faced is that many now followed this for no reason but the fact that it is the law. They forgot the meaning of it, as Christ constantly condemns the Pharisees for. This is not something to be celebrated as:
“No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (Romans 3:20)
So Paul here points out that it is not the idea of following the law that is important but the consciousness as to Purity and Impurity. He goes on to explain that:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)
As St Kosmas Points out, Christian living is different to Pharisaic understandings of Leviticus’ laws since Christians follow the Spirit:
“If a man insults me, kills my father, my mother, my brother, and then gouges out my eye, as a Christian it is my duty to forgive him. We who are pious Christians ought to love our enemies and forgive them. We ought to offer them food and drink, and entreat God for their souls. And then we should say: “My God, I beseech Thee to forgive me, as I have forgiven my enemies.”
This is certainly not applicable to Mosaic law as the Hebrews practiced “an eye for an eye..” in accordance with these teachings on strict purity. With Christ’s coming he explained that to kill is not the Spirit of the Law but the letter of it and Christ has come to fulfill the spirit. As Fr Laurent on OrthodoxAnswers explains:
“Let’s take a concrete example. A woman has a child and the Orthodox custom is to stay at home for 40 days, a custom that is informed by the Old Testament. Let’s say that this Orthodox woman is feeling great and wants to return to Church after 20 days. Should she do that or is she bound that the Mosaic model? The answer suggested here is that she is not bound that the Mosaic model but that she is bound by obedience to the leadership of the Church (Hebrews 13; Matthew 18; Acts 15). If the bishop says, “sure, you are blessed to return” then she may; but if he says “I want you to stay home according to the wisdom of this tradition,” she should stay home on account of obedience and humility.”
Some common statements and answers which can be used.

1) “I do not think that it is ignorant to expect Christians to follow all Mosaic Laws if they follow some.”

 But it is, as it presumes that all Christians follow an Ignorant Protestant model of theology based upon a warped understanding of the Old testament which goes against the teachings of the Earliest Church fathers and even of Scripture. This shows no respect or understanding of the Earliest Christian Tradition or the Theology of the Church from the 1st century onwards.

2) “Most Christians use an Old Testament passage (Leviticus 18:22) to critique same-sex marriage”

Most Christians would prefer to use St Paul’s condemnation which reiterates and verifies the teaching without the Letter of Law applied in the Pharisaic sense.

3) “The counter-argument can easily point to the fact that Christians would believe it abominable to abide by other Old Testament passages.”

Yet this does not work in the Framework of Christian Holy Tradition, as many things are again condemned by Christ and through The Apostles and their Successors. These again include such practices as Adultery, Murder, theft , Sexual Immorality, Homosexuality, the consumption of Blood and the Worship of Idols amongst others. When he condemns these he readdresses them in the context of the spirit of the Law (With an explanation as to the importance in our Spiritual Growth) and not the Empty Legalism which the Old Covenant had fallen into.

4) “Why do Christian Practices differ?”

The OT Laws followed Ritual Purity and fell into an empty ritualism. Christians are taught to follow the Spirit of the Law, which is supported by the Demonstrations and Words of Christ when he explained the ‘Fulfilment of the Law’ on key issues. The Apostles also did this in the Didache and Didascalia, explaining the tenets of the Faith by the New Covenant and their relation to the Laws given by Moses.

 5) “If the Incarnation didn’t occur, would living by Rabbinic law be ethical?”

It depends on whether you followed it by the letter of the law or the Spirit of it.

God Bless and keep you.
In Xto,

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Looking Deeper at John X's recent call for Ecumenical talks

(Bold is emphasis. Italics in Brackets are my notes.)

Towards a Full Sacramental Unity of the Christians:
(Original Statement in full here)

We, as Antiochians, are aware of the painful wound inflicted on the body of Christ by the schism between the believers This has led the Antiochian Church to participate actively for decades in every dialogue to remove the obstacles which block the way to restoring the unity of the Christian world.We will always be faithful to the policy of my predecessors. I insist on the importance of maintaining the absolute respect between the Churches ignoring any arrogance, anathematizing, and schismatization.

(And His Holiness hits the nail on the head as a start. His Church want to get on with things and are already in communion, under pastoral guidelines, with the Syriac community and want the rest of the Orthodox community to start the hard work of restoring unity after a 23 year stall.)

(Anathemas and schismatisation is another interesting place for this to start. The concept of continuing respect between Churches regardless of this is important, especially in the Antiochian See which has 5 Patriarchates, all of whom are currently under the persecution of the FSA and other rebels. This Pastoral unity is important for the survival of the Christian community there are vital regardless.)

(The emphasis on Anathemas is especially important to Antioch since Saint Severus is a vitally important figure to the Syriac Church but Anathema in the Eastern Orthodox and catholic communities. If these issues were to get in the way of Pastoral agreements the community would be at a dead end.)
I am deeply convinced that Orthodoxy; which is the basis of every interaction between us and other Churches, is a unifying factor not a divisive one. I am also convinced that adhering to it is the right way. With love and humility, we strengthen the common factors that bind us all together There will undoubtedly be differences, not in essentials, and this a source of propitious diversity This shall be considered a richness to us, and not a deviation of our adherence to Christ.

(This section looks specifically at Orthodox unity and covers two important points. Firstly, any unity would have to be based on a shared Orthodox faith and not purely divisive. If we were in communion for the sake of it (As the Roman canons wish orthodox to be with them) it would not be a pure unity but a forced and awkward one.)

(The second point hits on the idea of natural difference. many Orthodox communities have differences in their ways, from language to vestments.  His Holiness seems to be suggesting that if the differences do not reach a Theological clash they should not get in the way of communion.)

Therefore, we hope to accomplish all steps towards a full sacramental unity with our brethren in the Eastern non-Chalcedonian Churches, based on what we have agreed upon in Chambesy as a positive result of a long and extensive dialogue If we realize this, we should be able to show that we have offered a living example of the credibility of our endeavors to achieve unity and to witness to our loyalty to the Lord.

(Here is the key point. HH seems to be  suggesting that Chambesy's agreed statements (latest here) should be used as a framework. If his request is followed it would mean that the Anathemas between the two Orthodox communities are to be lifted which would lead the way to discussions as to the process of unification.) 

(It is important to note that Moscow, Alexandria, Antioch, Romania and the EP have accepted the Statements from 1990 but Russia has since but strict considerations on this and Athos has rejected it outright under accusations of heresy.) 

On this occasion, we also affirm that we will continue all dialogues now taking place between the different Eastern and Western Churches, seeking to show our unlimited readiness to show the face of the bride, that is the Church In this respect, we should affirm the importance of the living witness which we as Christians should show by living the love we carry to the whole world in the name of Jesus Christ.

(This seems to be a call for Ecumenical talks and further discussion with Rome also. Again, this needs to be taken in the context of the Levant where the Maronite, Catholic melkite and Syriac catholic Churches are present rather than the Roman Church as we see it in the West.)

We call for consultation among ourselves as Christian Churches, about the different issues raised by the modern world, emphasizing the issues that unite us and constitute our common denominators These common denominators can be offered to the man of today as a consolation from the Lord.

(Again an outright call for Pastoral talks at the very least.)

John X
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East 

(Please Pray for His Holiness as a beacon of Orthodox unity at this time.)

Preparing for the Great Lent (From CopticWorld)

During Great Lent we follow the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who fasted on our behalf forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4: 2).
Also during Holy Week, which comes after the 40 days, we live the Passion of Christ day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Because of the significance and holiness of Great Lent, the Church designated a week of preparation to precede the 40 days. The Church is teaching us to prepare for Great Lent in a spiritual manner. We fast to prepare ourselves for the 40 holy days. In fact, the preparatory week is not the only fast which the Church designated to get us ready for Great Lent and Holy Week. Two weeks prior to Great Lent there is Jonah’s Fast, also known as Nineveh’s Fast. It is a short fast, only three days, and it is a fast of repentance. During this fast, we live with Jonah his fasting and repentance in the whale’s belly. We also live with the Ninevites their fasting and repentance. Just as the fasting accompanied by repentance saved Jonah and the Ninevites from perdition, also our fasting accompanied by repentance will save us from eternal destruction and death due to sin.
Great Lent is an Apostolic Fast:
It is mentioned in the Didskalia (chapter 18) the following: "Great Lent should be honored before Holy Week. It starts on the Monday following the Saturday and is completed on the Friday preceding Holy Week. After it, you must pay great attention to Holy Week and fast it with fear and piety." In Canon 69 from the Canons of our Fathers the Apostles, the following is mentioned: "Any bishop, priest, deacon, reader, or chanter who does not fast Great Lent or Wednesdays and Fridays shall be excommunicated, unless he has a physical ailment. As for a lay person, he shall be excluded."
Great Lent is an Ascetical Fast:
The Church teaches us to fast until sunset. Fish is not allowed during this period. Also married couples should refrain from physical relations to give themselves time for fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7: 5). We would like to emphasize the importance of the period of strict abstention during fasting. It is refraining from eating and drinking for a period of time, followed by eating vegetarian food.
Some people practice fasting by abstaining from meat and they eat vegetarian food, disregarding the period of strict abstention. These people should actually be regarded as vegetarians and not as fasting. A vegetarian eats only vegetarian food, but is not considered a fasting person. True fasting must be accompanied by abstention from food and drink until sunset as designated by the Church. However, due to variations in people’s physical and spiritual abilities, the Church gave the father of confession the authority to designate to his children the length of their strict abstinence. He determines what is suitable for their spiritual benefit according to the nature of their work, as well as their physical ability to endure fasting.
Great Lent is a Period of Prayer:
The period of Great Lent is distinctive for its many Liturgies. They become the spiritual treasure for the fasting person to help him throughout the rest of the year. In addition to the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, which have specific readings, hymns, and tunes, the Church also arranged special readings for the daily Liturgies during Great Lent. Also, during the weekdays, there are special hymns.
The Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy almost daily during Great Lent. It is preferred that these Liturgies start late in the day to offer those fasting the opportunity to practice strict abstinence.
It is not permitted to have the Divine Liturgy on weekdays early in the morning, since we pray the hours until the Compline Prayer. How can we pray the psalms of the Complin Prayer at 5:00 A.M.? Also, having an early morning Liturgy means there will not be abstention from food, since we can not abstain from food following the Divine Liturgy. The proper time to end the Divine Liturgy during the weekdays of Great Lent is at sunset. Due to the inability of the elderly and the sick, it is permitted to have it end earlier, but not before noon. That way everyone may receive the blessing of Holy Communion, while benefiting from abstention. We hope that the fathers of confession will take great care in guiding their children as to the importance of strict abstinence and how to struggle to keep it for as long as they can.
Great Lent is a Period of Repentance:
Fasting without repentance and changing one’s life becomes useless. Unless the fasting person changes his life during fasting, he will only be hungry and exhausted without gaining anything else. Therefore, the Church constantly reminds us of the importance of repentance during fasting. Before Great Lent, we fast Jonah’s Fast and we live the story of Jonah and the Ninevites’ repentance. During the third Sunday of Lent, the Holy Church offers us the Gospel reading of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance, which requires an awakening, confession of sins, leaving the place of sin, and returning to the Heavenly Father with confidence in His mercies and acceptance. This parable reveals to us the depth of God’s love for sinners and how He accepts them no matter how horrendous their sin is. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (John 6: 37) Christ "has come to save that which was lost." (Matt. 18:11) God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1Tim. 2:4). Christ is the True Physician who is needed by those who are ill by sin. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2: 17). Repentance is a result of divine action; it is the Spirit of God, Who moves the hearts of sinners to repent.
It is written in the Holy Bible, "For it is God who works in you both to will and do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2: 13) God’s pleasure is in the return of a sinner so that he will not die in his sin. When God sees his sinful child returning to Him, He has compassion and goes to him, kissing him, and welcomes his return by saying, "It is right that we should make merry and be glad." (Luke 15: 32) The return of a sinner and his repentance results in joy to God, as well as all those in heaven, because, "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15: 7)
During Great Lent, we praise God for His many mercies. The Doxology of Great Lent presents to us a magnificent hymn in praising God on His mercies, as well as asking for His mercies. The first Doxology of the Sundays of Great Lent starts with the following:
I will praise you, O Lord, for your mercies are forever. From generation to generation, my mouth shall declare Your truth.
In this beautiful doxology, we praise God for His mercies. Then the chanter remembers his many sins and transgressions by saying, " My sins are heavy over my head." As his sins are revealed in front of him, he then remembers the stories of those who repented and were accepted by God, so he won’t lose hope. Therefore, he remembers the publican, the adulteress, and the thief and asks God to make him like any one of them.
Again, he recalls God’s attributes by saying, "I know You are good, kind and merciful. Remember me in Your mercy forever." God does not wish the death of a sinner but that he should return and live. Then the chanter remembers his sins once again and says: “I have sinned, O Jesus, my Lord, I have sinned, O Jesus, my God, O my King, do not count the sins I have committed.”
He asks for God’s mercies and not to be punished like Sodom and Gomorrah, but to have mercy on him like the Ninevites. The chanter ends his praise by saying: “But absolve and forgive My many transgressions As good and lover of mankind Have mercy on us according to Your great mercy.”
This doxology is beautiful poetry, through which the human soul expresses her feelings resulting from the heaviness of her sins. At the same time, she shows her great hope in our kind and merciful Lord, Who is happy with the return and repentance of the sinner. Yet, He punishes the unrepentant sinners. Therefore, repentance is the means by which we enjoy God’s great mercies.
Great Lent is a Period for Doing Mercy:
The Church reminds us of the importance of doing merciful acts during fasting. Therefore, during Great Lent we chant together praising those who have mercy on the poor. The Holy Bible teaches us that the fasting which is accepted by God is the one in which we do acts of mercy to others. "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from you own flesh?"
Fasting is a beautiful period to do good deeds by helping the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and taking care of the needs of others. The person who fasts by not yielding to the needs of the flesh, will feel the needs of others and his heart will be moved to serve them. Also, the asceticism of fasting teaches us to care for the heavenly and not be concerned with the earthly. Thus it becomes easy to forsake our material possessions and offer them to the needy.
Great Lent is a Period of Reconciliation with Others:
Fasting is an act of worship presented to God, and God does not accept the offering and worship of a person who quarrels with others. Instead, He asks him to go and make peace with his brother before coming to worship and present offerings in front of God’ altar. Fasting is an appropriate time to evaluate our relationship with others. As we ask God to forgive us our sins, we must also forgive those who have sinned against us.
May God grant us a blessed fast by which we can grow in a life of prayer, asceticism, and repentance. May we always increase in doing acts of mercy and living in peace with one another

Monday, 14 January 2013

Then we will be lifted up with no decent.

"As Christ has been lifted up, we always lift up our eyes to where Christ sits on the right hand of his Father, till he comes back once more on the clouds, to take us to Him. Then we will be lifted up with no decent."
- HH Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria

Saturday, 5 January 2013

You must be crucified with the Crucified One

"Very many wish to be vouchsafed the Kingdom without labours, without struggles, without sweat; but this is impossible. If you love the glories of men, and desire to be worshipped, and seek comfort, you are going off the path. You must be crucified with the Crucified One, suffer with Him that suffered, that you may be glorified with Him that is glorified."
- Saint Macarius

Thursday, 3 January 2013

We should love the Lord as we do our friends


"We should love the Lord as we do our friends. Many times I have seen people bring grief to God, without being bothered about it, and I have seen these very same people resort to every device, plan, pressure, plea from themselves and their friends, and every gift, simply to restore an old relationship upset by some minor grievance."

 - Saint John Climacus

Historic Churches on Holborn and City

So, today I went on an adventure around Holborn and the City of London to look at the lesser known historic Churches in the area. Here is what I found.

1. The Church of the Holy Sepulche, Holborn. (Aka; St Sepulchre-without-Newgate) 
Originally built in Saxon times but destroyed in the Fire of London and rebuilt 1878

St Sepulchre's Church covers the site of an Original Saxon Church which was rebuilt when it was destroyed in the great Fire of London. The Church itself is renowned as "The Musician's Church" due to its Choir and use for musical events. It holds the largest Parish in the city of London. 

St Bride's Church, Fleet Street

St Brides Church is a beautiful little Parish Church with a long history. The site dates back to Roman times and has been known as a Church site since, at latest, the Saxon period. Underneath the Parish Church itself is a museum with the original foundation and information on the Church's history as well as the a chapel on the site of the Saxon Church and a Separate Crypt Chapel (which was my favourite section and pictured here.)

St Dunstans-in-the-West, Fleet Street

St Dunstan's is also an old Church which has been restored. originally founded some time between 900-1070 and lasted for the most part until the 1800's, even surviving the great fire of London. Between 1800 and 1870 it was completely restored. An interesting feature of this Church is tdat it is only one in England to share the building with a Romanian Orthodox community to the point of having two Altars (see 3rd picture). The Iconostasis is  originally from Antim monastery, Bucharest.

Temple Church, City of London

Sadly, Temple Church was closed. The Church dates back to the 12th Century and was originally built as the English Headquarters of the Knights Templar. The Photo I took is of the Round Church, which is the oldest section, based upon the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

St Clement Danes Church, Fleet Street

St Clement Danes Church is the dedicated Chapel of the Royal Air Force. The Church was built by Sir Christopher Wren and finished in 1682. During the Blitz the Church was almost destroyed though the tower, steeple and outer walls survived.

St Anselm and St Cecilia Church

 Saint Anselm and St Cecelia's Church is a small Roman Catholic Church in the City of London, down Kingsway. The Church contains two Altars and a small mosaic altar at the side. The Church was built in 1909 over an old Sardinian Church which had been there before. It contains some striking mosaic art and architecture which gives it a unique feel in the area.

The Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn

The Church of St Alban the martyr was built in 1863 and largely renovated after the Blitz in 1941. The Church courtyard was the most impressive feature I saw with a number of beautiful examples of Architecture resembling a more rural Church setting (The Crucifix pictured being an example.) The Fresco behind the Altar was another interesting piece, fitting in well with the light theme of the Church.

St Etheldreda's Church, Ely

St Etheldreda's Church is the oldest Catholic Church in England, dating back to 1250. It was previously the seat of the Bishops of Ely. The Church consists of a large Chapel and a large crypt area with a small chapel and room for conferencing. Every week the Church holds a Solemn Latin Mass, which demonstrates the importance of tradition in this small community.

St Andrew Holborn Church

St Andrew's Holborn Church is another Sir Christopher Wren design, built on the foundations of a medieval Church which was in a bad state of repair in the 17th Century. This restored Church was gutted during the Blitz, leaving only its exterior walls. In 1961 it was completely restored by the original plans and stands that way today. As well as the traditional Gothic and traditional architecture the contains a large amount of Byzantine style iconography, such as the resurrection icon and Icons of the Theotokos and Christ behind the altar.