The Dates of Christmas and New Year

Quite a few of us explain to our non-Orthodox friends that we celebrate Christmas on 7th January. In fact, we don't! We celebrate Christmas on 25th December – it's just that the secular world (newspapers, schools, banks etc.) call this day 7th January.
This confusion occurs because the western secular world uses the Gregorian calendar and the traditional Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and is now thirteen days ahead of the Julian calendar.
England only moved on to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Parliament having decided that Wednesday 2nd September 1752 would be followed by Thursday 14th September 1752. The change of the calendar actually became an issue in the 1754 General Election with Tory opposition politicians demanding a return to the traditional Julian calendar, but the Whig government defending the decision to change to the new, Gregorian calendar. This dispute is referenced in the William …

Anglican Women Bishops: A view from the Orthodox Church

The recent announcement that the Sarah Mullally DBE (right) had been nominated to be the new Anglican Bishop of London caused quite a stir, but it was only to be expected considering that the first women priests were ordained in the Church of England over twenty years ago and the first woman bishop was consecrated in January 2015.
How does this concern us? We are not  interested in doing a 'hatchet job' on the Church of England in this article. We are just trying to explain why the Orthodox Church only ordains men to be priests or bishops. We will also briefly consider some of the reasons why the Church of England has found itself in this situation so we can avoid this faulty reasoning in our everyday lives. Our question is therefore: ‘Why does the Orthodox Church only ordain men?’ rather than: ‘Why does the Orthodox Church not ordain women?'
The answer to our question is found in the Tradition of the Church. The Early Church only ordained men to the priesthood and we cont…

A Miraculous Deliverance From Certain Death

The astonishing story of Master Sergeant Vasiliki Plexida’s miraculous escape from death in a military helicopter accident was widely reported on Greek television earlier this year.

The miracle occurred on 19th April 2017 when the twenty-six year old Vasiliki was travelling in a military helicopter over a mountainous area in Northern Greece. The helicopter, flying low in thick fog and near-zero visibility, hit high voltage power cables and crashed.

After the helicopter crashed, presumably with all lives aboard lost, a friend of Vasiliki called the convent of the Panagia Akroteriane in Serifos (left) at which Vasiliki was a regular worshipper.  On being informed of the accident, the Abbess reassured the caller that Vasiliki would miraculously survive.

And this came to pass. Due to the helicopter’s low altitude, the accident happened in a split-second. As the helicopter hit the ground Vasiliki made the Sign of the Cross and called on the Mother of God for help.

Vasiliki then saw the The…

Muslims are not all bad people!

The title of this short article is a recent quote from the England cricket Moeen Ali and not something that we have written ourselves! It is particularly relevant today with the news of the terrible massacre of Muslims in Egypt by fellow Muslims. In fact, the phrase 'fellow Muslims' is not correct because ISIS do not acknowledge any other form of Islam.
Islam is not a unified religion by any means. In some areas of the Indian subcontinent, for example, Muslims worship the locally venerated Hindu gods such as Shitala (the smallpox goddess); some worship holy trees. Arab and Bedouin Muslims in the Holy Land reverence sacred trees which they believe to be sanctified by the saints whose tombs they grow near.
So when someone blames 'Muslims' for a terrorist atrocity we might ask ourselves 'which Muslims?' Using the word 'Muslim' in this context is pretty unhelpful as the war in Syria is, to a large extent, a conflict between incompatible forms of Islam. We can…

Why do we stand in church?

Non-Orthodox visitors to our church are often surprised that we don’t have any seating except for the pews around the walls. This practice is traditional in Orthodoxy, and it used to be traditional in western churches too. The photo on the right is of Saint Peter’s Chapel, Bradwell, Essex built by Saint Cedd, an Orthodox saint from the seventh century. There are no fixed pews or seats – the movable benches are a modern addition.
Odda’s Chapel in Gloucester (left) is another fine example of an Anglo-Saxon chapel. Note the benches around the walls. Built in 1056, the chapel became a house in the 13th century, and it is quite possible that this saved it from being converted into a typical English country church.
The ancient features in most English churches have not been preserved so well. The wooden church at Greensted, Essex is described as the ‘oldest wooden church in the world’ and some parts have been dated as early as the sixth century.  Unfortunately the interior of the church has s…

Animals in Orthodox Icons

Animals are often depicted together with saints in Orthodox iconography. These animals are either mentioned in the saint's life or, as in the case of St. George, refer to miraculous appearances of the saint. Saint Gerasimus (right) is often painted together with his lion ‘Jordan’, and St. Seraphim of Sarov, more rarely, with his bear ‘Misha’. 
Below, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk is depicted next to a bear illustrating an actual event in his life. St. Peter was imprisoned and then exiled by the atheistic Communists for his refusal to compromise the Orthodox faith by submitting to the new ‘Soviet’ Church. He died in December 1936 after ten years of  persecution. In the case of martyred soldier saints, animals often illustrate rank rather than a particular incident in the saint’s life. Saints Sergius and Bacchus, for example, are often depicted on horseback as a representation of their status in the army. All these representations of animals occur in traditional Orthodox iconogra…

Do animals have souls?

This question is quite easily answered using the writings of the Church Fathers. A soul is the life that exists in all things that participate in the life-giving energy of God. Plants, animals and humans have souls, but these souls are different as St. Maximus the Confessor explains:  Lower creatures such as plants have life and their souls have the power of nourishment and growth. The souls of animals also have the power of imagination and instinct. The souls of men have all these powers as well as the powers of intelligence and thought. Animals, therefore, have souls but their souls are different to ours. The human soul is rational and immortal whereas those of animals are irrational and mortal. What exactly do we mean by this?

In Orthodox terminology, the word ‘irrational’ in this context doesn’t mean that animals are incapable of making decisions, but that they cannot be held responsible for them. Animals cannot commit evil because they always act according to nature. Some anim…