A Vision and an Akathist:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
The April 2003 proposal of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia for an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, the building block for an eventual Church of Western Europe, is still sending out ripples. The ripples are positive, inasmuch as potential structures are now beginning to take shape. As long ago as 1988, in view of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia, which was also the beginning of the 'Second Baptism of Russia', we put forward a vision of those structures that could one day come into existence (See 'A Vision for the Orthodox Churches of Western Europe' - also on this site under 'Orthodox Europe').
Clearly, that was far in advance of reality, but nevertheless not unrealistic in the very long term. In the same spirit (also far in advance of the reality!), we would now like to make pleas for certain infrastructures. For, if there is to be a serious effort to form a Western European Metropolia, it will need monasteries, convents, schools, hostels, a multilingual press, candle-factories, a professional facility to paint and mount icons, sew vestments and cassocks, make liturgical utensils and church-furnishings and cast bells, and, above all, a whole programme of church-building. If generous patrons could be found, the following particular needs should be borne in mind:
New Churches for Western Europe
1. All new churches should have two altars. In the larger church, services should be celebrated in the language of the majority (for example, Slavonic). In the smaller one, services should be available in the local language, for example, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, Italian etc.
2. All new churches should contain a baptistery. With large numbers of adult Europeans now unbaptized, there should be the possibility of carrying out baptisms normally, i.e. by immersion.
3. All new churches should be provided with bells as well as a church hall, meeting-rooms and classrooms.
4. All new churches should be provided with enough living accommodation for at least one full-time priest and one professional choir director and their families.
5. All new churches should be provided with funding for clergy and a choir director. Enough of: 'There's no need to pay the priest anything, he can get a proper job. The only time he does anything is on Sundays'. That leads directly to the other statement that we have so often heard, notably from Russians and Greeks, but no doubt said by others, to their own children: 'You don't want to become/marry a priest, it's so badly paid'. Enough of this mentality, because these attitudes lead directly to health breakdowns and the premature deaths of overworked and exhausted clergy, which in turn lead to the refusal by young people, including clergy children, to become clergy themselves or to marry future clergy.
price? Each such church would cost at least one million pounds to build
and fund. But you could build up to one hundred such churches, if every
baptized Orthodox in Western Europe gave twenty pounds each. It is, after
all, only the price of four professional football-players...
A Metropolitan Seminary for Western Europe
Any Local Church, however small, must have a place where its future clergy, catechists and choir-directors can be trained. This must be a practical seminary, not an academic institution. The Church needs priests, deacons, readers, choir directors, singers and catechists, not academics and philosophers. In this field, Western European countries cannot work in isolation, but together with each other, for national numbers are too small. A Metropolia of Western Europe must have a central, international seminary.
Quite seriously, we suggest that this should be in England. Others would no doubt prefer to see such a seminary elsewhere in Western Europe. Paris or Munich might be more obvious choices. Though England may be 'off-centre', it does however have some very international advantages.
First of all, when we say England, we are thinking of the advantage of the English language, which, like it or not, is the international language. It is the only language which is widely spoken by all Orthodox, students and professors, East and West. Let us be honest: English is the language which Orthodox clergy and laity, Lebanese with Serb, Polish with Greek, Cypriot with Russian, Latvian with Czech, Romanian with Bulgarian, Georgian with Finnish, French with German, Portuguese with Swedish, Italian with Dutch, use in order to communicate with one another.
Secondly, when we say England, we mean London, and not external university towns like Oxford and Cambridge, which are too academic for a practical seminary and also far too provincial, inasmuch as they are cut off and without large Orthodox populations, like cosmopolitan London, and only have tiny Orthodox parishes.
Thirdly, London is an excellent transport hub, with low cost flights to Europe and the Eurostar connection, linking it to Paris and Brussels in less than three hours.
What should such a Metropolitan Orthodox Seminary (MOS) have?
1. Any seminary should be centred around a church. The other buildings, living accommodation, classrooms, canteen, library etc should be set around the church and the daily cycle of services, with, if possible, monastic leanings. If there were the clergy, students and teachers to do so, the languages of the services could change from one day to the next, say, from Greek to Slavonic, Romanian to English, French to German over six days, and on Sundays to a mixture of languages. Obviously, such a mixture would depend on entirely on whom was present. If the students were all Slavs and Romanians, there would be little point in such a mixture, but another combination would be suitable instead.
2. The main teaching language should be English, simply because this would be the most convenient tool. But each nationality present should have access to a teacher from his own country. Moreover, there should be an insistence on a thorough grounding in languages: firstly, in English (if not already known) as the teaching language, secondly, in an 'Orthodox language' (if not already known), like Greek, Russian, Serb or Romanian, and, thirdly, if need be, in the language of the country where the seminarian would later serve (again, if not already known).
3. The library should contain Orthodox literature in every European language possible, especially in 'Orthodox languages' like Greek, Russian, Romanian, Arabic, Serb, Bulgarian and Georgian. In particular, it should make a point of obtaining all available liturgical texts in all European languages. It should also hold particular resources on early Western European history and the Lives of Western saints, including copies of their icons and services. The library should make a point of containing not only Orthodox books in many languages, but also videos, DVDs and should have a large computer facility.
4. Suitable staff accommodation should be provided on site and adequate funding (through interest earned from ethical investments) to pay staff a suitable salary, without overlooking the provision of a large number of bursaries for seminarians, so that they could study without having to take part-time jobs in order to survive.
5. The seminary should ensure that all seminarians are linked with Orthodox parishes in London, so that their training would be as practical as possible.
6. Links should be established with Orthodox Theological Academies in Eastern Europe and Universities in Western Europe, so that seminarians who wished to do doctorates (the seminary should offer degrees up to masters level) could do so.
The price? Perhaps twenty-five million pounds to build and fund. But you could build it and fund it if every baptized Orthodox in Western Europe gave five pounds each. It is, after all, only the price of one professional football-player...
Conclusion: A Dream for £25.
Of course, these are all dreams. But one day someone may say: 'It was all dreams then, but now it exists'. If men strive and it is God's will, then all this can happen.
those of a practical turn of mind - and that is no bad thing - but who
would like to see it all happen one day, we attach our translation (from
the original Romanian) of an Akathist to all the Saints of Western Europe,
to whom we can at least pray for the fulfilment of such a vision, that
the past may fulfil the future via the present - us. I earnestly hope
that this Akathist will be translated into many other European languages
and, if it is the will of God, that by their holy prayers, dreams may
one day become reality.
Now let us praise, as is meet, all the saints that in times of old shone forth in the lands of the West, enlightening these parts through their sufferings and struggles. And let us sing to them, as to those that unceasingly pray for us before God, saying: Rejoice, all ye Saints, that in the lands of the West confessed the true faith!
The most holy name of our Saviour hath been glorified wondrously in you, O saints of the West. For, beholding your holy life and deeds for salvation, the peoples of the West learned how to worship the True God and honour you with joy, saying:
apostles and martyrs, monks and bishops, for ye are the praise and joy
The lands of the West were also counted worthy to receive the wonderful Apostles of God, that with unquenchable zeal everywhere preached the Gospel of salvation. And through them the peoples of the West were born in Christ for the first time, and began to sing to Him as to the true God: Alleluia!
The Holy Apostles made themselves enlighteners of the West through their untiring labours. For they put at naught the dark powers of the enemy and fearlessly spread the light of Christ in all places. And therefore they confessed the truth even unto blood and became worthy to hear from the mouths of all songs of praise like these:
Apostles of Christ, that strove to bring the Gospel to the lands of the
The Apostles of God left worthy disciples and followers in the places they enlightened, and they were in nothing less than their fathers, but in all things followed them in labour and zeal. For by the example of their lives they delivered the heathen from idolatry and brought them to venerate the One True God, teaching them to sing to Him unceasingly: Alleluia!
Now let us all sing with one voice to all those that were worthy to become followers of the Holy Apostles, furthering their work and hallowing the lands of the West through their teachings and blood; and let us all say to them, as to those who even to this day pray for us before the throne of God, words of praise like these:
all ye who have shown yourselves to be wonderful disciples of the disciples
Now let us offer songs of praise to all those that in the lands of the West suffered for Christ even unto blood, and with their manliness trampled down death; and to God, Who strengthened them in torments and tortures beyond all imagination, let us all unceasingly sing thus: Alleluia!
With joy ye shed your blood for Christ, O venerable martyrs, and to Him ye offered yourselves as a well-received sacrifice. And seeing your ineffable patience, the peoples of the West understood that the God of Glory Himself dwelt within you, and marvelling at such a thing, with faith began to sing to you thus:
Tatiana and Anastasia, together with Sophia and her three daughters!
As the enemy of our salvation saw that he could not defeat the faith of the disciples of Christ through tortures and persecutions beyond compare, he sent against them hosts of deceitful teachers and shepherds, who with treachery would lead the faithful into delusion. But against them stood up wise Fathers, great both in word and deed, who with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit overcame all heresy and taught the people to give true honour to God, saying: Alleluia!
Now let us praise with joy all the fearless confessors of the Orthodox Faith, who fought valiantly for the truth in the lands of the West and rooted out all lies from among the people through their holy struggles and deeds; and let us sing to them as to true chosen ones of the All-Merciful God, saying:
Holy Hosius of Cordoba, for thou didst preside the First Council of the
The times of dread persecution ended through Divine Providence, but martyrdom for Christ did not. For those that had up until then visibly shed their blood for the faith, began to suffer for it invisibly, through fasting and tears crucifying all their sinful desires and lusts. On account of this, they made themselves even like unto angels in the flesh, learning to offer to God unceasing praise: Alleluia!
The lands of the West also gave birth to men and women perfect in holiness, who by their struggles beyond nature won the everlasting joys of heaven, making themselves to all an unlying example on the path of salvation. Let us therefore honour first those that shone forth in the land of Gaul, establishing the monastic life in these parts, and let us joyfully say to them thus:
Holy Martin, for of all Western people, thou wast the first to be deigned
to taste of the sweetness of monastic life!
Springing up from the lands of Gaul as from a clear and fresh fountain, monastic life spread everywhere in the West; and in each nation it bore fruit in holy monks full of virtue, who with pure voices and hearts of praise sang to God for themselves and for the whole world: Alleluia!
Now let us all praise with one voice those that strove for Christ in the lands of Britain and Italy, and through their struggles made themselves enlightened apostles of these lands and fathers of monastic life in these places; and let us sing to them as to most wonderful victors in the struggle against the powers of the enemy, saying thus:
Holy Ninian, for it was at Saint Martin’s feet that thou didst learn
all the secrets of monastic life!
The enemy of our salvation could not bear that all the peoples of the West, as with one voice, raised up songs of praise to the True God, and therefore he set on them waves of savage and heathen peoples, who in their cruelty passed all through fire and sword. But in those times of great suffering, enlightened preachers rose up in the West, in nothing less than the first Apostles. And through their burning zeal, they turned the temptation of the enemy into heavenly blessing and brought the heathen to Christ, teaching them to sing to Him as to One God: Alleluia!
Now let us praise all those that among the Franks earned Heaven by their struggles and through their zeal turned many back to Christ. For shining with heavenly gifts, they enlightened the people and wisely guided them to salvation; and therefore they are deigned to hear from the mouths of all songs of praise like these:
Holy Remigius, wonderful archbishop, for thou wast the first Apostle of
Seeing themselves overwhelmed by the heathen throngs, the shepherds of the West wisely decided to go and conquer them for Christ. Therefore they sent men enlightened by God and perfect in virtue, who through their valiant struggles defeated the darkness of heathenism and became fathers in Christ to many nations, together with whom they ceaselessly sang to God the song: Alleluia!
Through Gregory, the wonderful Pope of Rome, and Augustine, the faithful monk, the English were the first of the Germanic peoples to be born to new life and offer to Christ a host of saints as a pure sacrifice. Now let us sing joyfully to them, as to those that made themselves worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven and the veneration of the whole world, saying to them thus:
thou first, Holy Gregory, great Patriarch, for in perfect wisdom thou
didst shepherd the lands of the West!
The Spanish lands also made themselves worthy of great preachers and bishops, who by their unceasing struggles brought the heathen to Christ and turned the heretics to the true faith, calling all to give glory and praise to the True God and ever sing to Him in thanksgiving: Alleluia!
Now let us rightly honour, as is meet, all those that in Spain wondrously confessed the true faith of Christ our Savior and for it fought unto death. And let us offer them songs of praise, as to those that scattered the darkness of lies and made the truth victorious, joyfully saying to them thus:
Holy Martin, Archbishop of Braga, for through thy zeal thou didst bring
the Sueves to the true faith!
The light of Christ shone forth even in the unfriendly lands of the Teutons, for the God of glory called all the nations to Himself. Therefore, now let us sing to Him Who in His ineffable mercy redeemed mankind from corruption and let us worship Him as the Only God, saying: Alleluia!
Now let us praise, as is meet, the wondrous preachers that rose up from among the Irish and the English, who enlightened many peoples and through their wisdom and zeal showed themselves to be one in honour with the Holy Apostles, and let us sing to them, as to those that brought to Christ a great harvest of heathen people, saying to them thus:
thou first, Holy Columba, wonderful son of Eire, for through thy zeal
thou didst enlighten the lands of the Scots!
The dreaded Northmen were the last fruit which the faithful people of the West brought to the True God. For being enlightened with the true faith, the Viking nations began to worship our Saviour Christ with zeal, singing to Him in a sweet voice: Alleluia!
Now let us honour with praises all those that shone forth in the West in the times near the end and through their struggles made themselves the heirs of Heaven. For some even suffered martyrdom for Christ, while others fearlessly preached Him among the heathen. Therefore, let even us offer them honour, as is meet, singing to them thus:
all ye that in the Iberian lands suffered death at the hands of the unfaithful
Now let us sing with songs of thanksgiving to God, Who called forth His Saints from all over the Earth and gathered His beloved from the ends of the world, to Him, Who is glorified in the Holy Trinity. For through His chosen one, Saint John the Wonderworker, He hath revealed to us the ancient saints of the West for our joy and comfort in these latter days. For all these things, therefore, and for all His goodness towards us, let us thank Him as our most beloved God, and let us worship Him with voices of praise, saying to Him: Alleluia!
Kontakion is to be read three times.
O ye saints of the West, that in times of old confessed the true faith of our Saviour Christ and for it fought even unto death, thus making yourselves worthy of heavenly glory and heirs of everlasting life! Now do we, your unworthy successors, fall to our knees before you, and humbly beg you: as ye have boldly interceded for us before the throne of God unto this day, so from this time on do ye pray, O our beloved saints, for all the lands of the West! Pray that the Merciful and Long-Suffering God grant them forgiveness of sins and correction of life, and turn them, through His judgements, to repentance and the true faith for which ye sacrificed yourselves.
Again we pray unto you, O saints, for all the right believing faithful of the West who have need of your help and mercy: protect us with your prayers from all the temptations that befall us; strengthen us in the true faith and grant us zeal to preach it; guard us from all the wickedness of enemies seen and unseen; and show us victorious before the unfaithful, for the glory of God and for your honour. That through you, O saints of the West, the true faith may once again shine forth in the West with power, as it shone forth in times of old, and that the light of Christ may enlighten all.
And thus, O ye saints, who through Divine Providence have shown yourselves to us in these latter days, receive us also, as the workers of the eleventh hour, for your veneration. And pray for us, who unworthily sing unto you songs of praise, that our God, Who easily forgiveth, make us also partakers of heavenly bliss, granting us salvation, as the God Who is Good and loveth mankind. That thus, together with you, beloved saints of the West, we may sing unto Him and worship Him as the All-Merciful God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.