Orthodox America

  The Saga of the Relics of a Martyred Boy-King

“Who hath given songs in the night” (Job 35:10); A song in the night is joy in tribulation…

                                    -- St. Gregory the Great

Our readers have followed with interest the events of the last several years surrounding the presentation of the relics of a tenth-century English martyr-king to a monastic brotherhood of the Russian Church Abroad.  The very fact that these precious relics, unknown and unvenerated since the English Reformation, were discovered in our own times, and that their owner, himself not an Orthodox Christian, has been guided by God to present these relics to the True Church of Christ, wherein they will be venerated in a right-glorifying manner, is itself a wondrous sign from God and a blessing on us in these last times.  The fact that controversy and contention have also surrounded them is a further sign:  the wrath of the Evil One is mightily stirred up against the lovers of God and the venerators of His saints.

For many months we have been receiving regular reports from England, in the form of letters, clippings from British newspapers, and the newsletter of the St. Edward Brotherhood itself.  Now we present a full report on recent events, quoting extensively from the newsletter of the Brotherhood.

St. Gregory the Great, in the passage given above, describes our hoping in the Lord as a song in the night.  Certainly also the enshrinement of St. Edward’s sacred relics at Brookwood was a song in the night for Orthodox Christians.  And the night itself grew very dark.  So the song was the more comforting.

When in anticipation of all the work ahead, the Brotherhood was able to announce the synodal decision of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad concerning the sanctity of St. Edward, and the fittingness of receiving his sacred relics here at Brookwood, for which many had been working for the last five years, it was felt that surely every last impediment had been removed and the Brotherhood could devote itself to making ready for the celebration, and yet at the same time there remained a nagging suspicion that the Evil One would seek to find other means and other agents to try to prevent the ceremonies.  Indeed, this proved to be the case.

On Monday, September 10, late in the evening, and only five days before the proposed enshrinement, certain members of the King Edward Orthodox Trust received a High Court summons.  It seemed that the brother of the finder of the relics was seeking an injunction to prevent their being donated to the Orthodox Church.  Legal advice was sought and the case was scheduled for September 13 in court.  Affidavits arrived and last-minute consultations were held before the judge postponed the case for the next day.  In the end, he refused the application for an injunction to stop the enshrinement ceremonies.  However, since this did not in fact end the case, he ruled that the relics be returned to a bank vault after the ceremonies until such a time as adequate security measures were provided in the church building for their safe keeping.

The following morning, Saturday, September 15, Bishop Gregory of Washington, who had arrived from France to preside at the ceremony, began the service for the blessing of the church and its contents.  At noon, Mr. John Wilson-Claridge, the finder and custodian of the relics, arrived with his daughter, bringing the sacred relics.  The monastic brotherhood inspected and catalogued the bones and prepared them for their presentation to the Bishop.   For this purpose the relics were laid on a silver tray, covered with a silk cloth of purple.

            With numerous clergy from both England and America assisting Bishop Gregory, and with the Mayor and Mayoress of Woking, and other local officials in attendance, and a large congregation of the faithful from many jurisdictions and western Christian denominations, Mr. Wilson-Claridge formally handed the relics to Bishop Gregory.  Immediately the deacon asked the Bishop’s blessing for the beginning of the Service of Supplication to St. Edward, and this service was chanted as the clergy and faithful proceeded through the grounds to the church.  The relics were carried under a golden canopy and, in the church itself, they were placed on a table in the center, where the service continued and the relics were venerated by all present.

In the evening, a vigil service, with a litya and another procession with the relics, took place.  On Sunday morning, September 16, Bishop Gregory served a Pontifical Liturgy and gave the sermon himself, thanking all those who had contributed to making the celebration such a joy-filled occasion and to establishing an Orthodox Christian mission in England dedicated to one of the saints of Britain.

Having been strengthened by this “song in the night,” Monday brought a note of sadness since the relics had to be deposited in a bank vault.

There remains a chance that the custody of the relics could again be contested in court.  Therefore, the prayers of the faithful are most urgently requested, that the Lord God will grant that the holy relics of His favored one will be permitted to remain in the church founded and dedicated to his memory in England.  Pray also that there will soon be adequate security in the church building to satisfy the court, so that the relics may be released from the bank vault and returned to the fitting resting place prepared for them.

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