At Holy Cross parish we have come full circle. The Gospel of Jesus Christ arrived in the British Isles in AD 37. It was brought there by St. Joseph of Arimathea directly from Jerusalem. The English Church (ecclesia anglicana) remained part of the Orthodox Church for more than 1,000 years. In the year 1054, when the Roman Patriarchate, having unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed by adding the so-called Filioque (“and the Son”) clause without Catholic consent, fell away from the Orthodox Catholic Church, the English Church remained Orthodox. This led to the Norman invasion in 1066. The Norman invasion was a promoted as a papal crusade to bring the English Church under Roman hegemony.
In October of 1066, King Harold, the last Orthodox king of England, died defending Orthodox England from the Norman invasion. With the Norman Conquest all but one of the English bishops were removed and imprisoned. They were replaced by Norman bishops, and the English Church was forced into submission to the papacy.
The English Reformation, which began in 1534, was very different from the Reformation on the Continent of Europe. No new Church was formed, and the reform was carried out by the bishops themselves. The annulment, not divorce, of King Henry VIII was the occasion, not the reason, for the English Reformation. Unfortunately, Henry VIII was a dissolute king who was more interested in the goods of the Church than the good of the Church. His reign is known as the Royal Tyranny.
Upon the death of Henry VIII, the English Reformation began in earnest. The goal of the English Reformation was the restoration of the Faith and Order of what is commonly called the undivided Church. However, being five hundred years removed from the “undivided” Church, separated from the Orthodox Church in the East by hostile Roman Catholic powers, and being influenced by Continental Protestant thought, the goal of the English Reformation was hard to achieve. The English Reformation, or perhaps more accurately the English Restoration, was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Oxford Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the St. Louis Church Congress and the continuing Anglican Movement of the later 20th and early 21st centuries.
Today, large numbers of Anglicans have come full circle and returned to the Church from which their Fathers in the Faith were torn away by force of arms in 1066. Anglicans now make up the largest single group of converts to the Orthodox Church, and there are hundreds of former Anglican clergy now serving as Orthodox clergy in America alone. In our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) two of our bishops are former Anglicans. Former Anglicans have entered both the Eastern and Western Rites, and the English Usage of the Western Rite is in use in both the Patriarchates of Moscow and Antioch.
When I am asked, “Where have all the orthodox Anglicans gone?” My answer is always the same: “To the Orthodox Church!” When an Anglican enters the Orthodox Church he is not “joining a new Church,” but simply coming full circle and healing the breach that was caused by the Norman Conquest in 1066. There is no longer any legitimate reason for any traditional or continuing Anglican to remain separate from the Orthodox Church. The door is wide open for them. They can even preserve and pass on their English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony within the Orthodox Church just as their forefathers in the Faith did during the first millennium of Christianity.
What many people do not realize is that it seems that the British Royal Family may be coming full circle as well. A Roman Catholic publication in the United Kingdom has published an important article about Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. The article s titled, “Defender of the (Eastern) Faith.” The article reads in part:
“What is less well known and understood is the extent to which the Prince feels a deep spiritual connection to Orthodox Christianity. It is this, more than anything else, that explains why he is leading a passionate campaign to save the eastern faithful.
Such is his closeness to the faith that many Greek Orthodox believers think he has secretly converted. If that were true, it would pose a huge constitutional dilemma.
But it is undoubtedly the case that Orthodoxy looms large in Charles’s life and family history. His great-aunts Alexandra and Elizabeth converted to Orthodoxy and are considered martyrs, murdered by the Bolsheviks along with so many of the Prince’s blood relations in Russia.
Charles’s grandmother was an Orthodox nun. Princess Alice, who endured a number of difficulties in her life, including deafness, schizophrenia and the Nazi occupation of her Greek homeland, is considered a Righteous Among the Nations for her role in saving Jews during the War. A woman of noted holiness, she founded an order of nuns in 1949 after her husband Andrew’s death.
When Alice’s youngest child, Philip, married Princess Elizabeth of England, he was required to join the Church of England. But he has maintained links with the Greek Church and there have often been rumours of his return. His mother was given a small Orthodox chapel that she used until her death in 1969, when her remains were buried at a Russian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem, as she had wished.
Prince Charles has always been drawn to Orthodox Christianity’s rugged spirituality. He likes icons and reading the Greek mystics. There are Byzantine images in The Sanctuary, the simple chapel in the grounds of his home at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, where he goes to pray and meditate. At his marriage to Camilla, the Creed was recited in Old Church Slavonic.
Charles has also received regular visits at Highgrove from Ephraim, abbot of the ninth-century Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos. The Prince flew to Athos a few days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a period of intense crisis for him, his children and the whole royal family. Alone with Ephraim in the chamber there, Charles is rumoured to have made a “spiritual commitment” to Orthodoxy. After one of his visits to Mount Athos, a monk was quoted in a newspaper saying Charles was ‘Orthodox in his heart’.”
You can read the full article here:
Recently Prince Charles was in Serbia where he was visiting Orthodox churches and monasteries. On March 23rd an article was published titled, Prince Charles visited Monastery of Holy Archangels in Kovilj, Serbia. You can read it here:
British law currently requires that the British monarch be a member of the Church of England, but the Church of England has lost its way doctrinally, morally and spiritually, and less than a million of its twenty-six million baptized members attend church. The Church of England will undoubtedly soon be disestablished by Parliament as it has little public support, leaving the Crown Prince free to either publicly admit his conversion to Orthodoxy if he has indeed already converted, or to finally come full circle and return to the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world. It is the original Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is an indisputable fact of history. The Orthodox Church is the “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed. The doors are wide open, the welcome mat is out, and everyone is welcome. Everyone!
Not only Anglicans, but the forefathers of all Western Christians were Orthodox Christians before the Great Schism of 1054. Part of our mission is to invite all Western Christians - Anglicans, Protestants and Roman Catholics - clergy and laity alike, to reject the tragic divisions which they have inherited, heed the prayer of our Lord that his disciples may all be one (John 17), embrace the Faith of the "undivided" Church, and come full circle and return to the Church of their Fathers. They will be warmly welcomed with open arms, and with love and great joy, just as we have been.
We'll leave the light on...