The veneration of the Saints who flourished in the lands of the west before the Great Schism has always been a distinctive part of the charism of the Church Abroad, as particularly modelled by the great twentieth-century saint of the diaspora, Vladyka St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, whose feast we have celebrated this past week. It is well known that when he was Archbishop of Western Europe, the Ruling Bishop of this Diocese, St John would carefully research the lives of the ancient saints of the first millennium of whatever locality he happened to be in. In this centennial year of the celebration of the foundation of the ROCOR, it is a good opportunity for us to reflect on how we can continue this great legacy of St John by cultivating devotion to the local Saints who shone forth in the British Isles, whose spiritual foundations go right back to Apostolic times, through the missionary labours of St Joseph of Arimathea, St Aristobulus of the Seventy and St Simon the Zealot. It was this Apostolic foundation that led to the formation of a beautiful family of saints embracing Celtic and Roman spiritual traditions, and which stretched across the whole archipelago of the isles from Iona in the north to the Channel Isles in the furthest south, and from East Anglia to Wales, Cornwall and Ireland in the west.
One of the foundational building blocks of cultivating devotion to the local saints of the British Isles is ensuring that there are full services available for the faithful, so that parish rectors can have the option of serving divine services in their honour. To this end, in May 2020, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe established the Saints of the British Isles Liturgical Project, chaired by two deacons of the Diocese, Deacon Mark Tattum-Smith of the Mettingham Parish and Deacon Mark Fisher of our Parish in Cardiff. Over the course of the first year of the project, and in accordance with the first phase of His Grace’s decree, work has begun on systematically cataloguing all the extant hymnography to the British Saints into one definitive liturgical index. To coincide with the Feast of All Saint of the British Isles, which ROCOR parishes in the UK joyously celebrate on the third Sunday after Pentecost, we are pleased to be able to present an extract from the index as a ‘first fruit’ of the labours of this project. It consists of a simple table which lists all the Saints of the British Isles for whom we have a complete service. In some cases this may only consist of hymnography for Small or Great Vespers but normally this includes hymnography for Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy. In total there are entries for 85 services in three liturgical languages, composed by nine authors. What is immediately clear, from even a cursory glance at the table, is the towering contribution which Monk Joseph (Lambertson), of pious memory, made to this endeavour. We are especially grateful to Monk Joseph’s literary executor, Xenia Nenchin, for her assistance in supplying the original texts as they were finally shaped by Monk Joseph before his repose in 2018.
For each of the listed services, contact has been made with the liturgical authors, or their literary executors, to ensure that permissions are in place to proceed to the next phase of the project which will involve the careful editing of the hymnography so that they are consistent with the idiom and phraseology of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia as expressed in its ever-expanding catalogue of English-language liturgical publications.
How you help the Liturgical Project?
A concrete way you can help the work of the project, is by sharing the above table with clergy and choir masters in your parishes, to ask whether they know of any further services to the British Saints which are not listed. If they do, please ask them to contact the chairs of the project on its email account – firstname.lastname@example.org. Although the initial focus is on identifying whole services to the British saints, the Diocese is also interested in any hymnography that may have been composed, including unfinished services as well as any troparia, kondakia, canons, akathists, prayers and Lives. After these liturgical materials have been integrated into the full index, we hope to give another update on the progress of this wider hymnographical cataloguing in the near future.
All ye Saints of the British Isles, pray to God for us!