One of the biggest surprises for the Brits themselves, not least for any Orthodox believer from any corner of the world, would be to find something more than a mere island of faith in this secular UK. For this is what the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights (Maldon, Essex) actually is - a crossroads of the entire Orthodox World, by no means just an isolated oasis of spirituality.
Otherwise how could this humble monastic community of 33 souls (as of 2008) attract dozens of pilgrims from all the Orthohox countries in eastern Europe, but also from as far as Iceland, USA, Japan, and Argentina?
The deepest explanation would go back to the life of St. Siluan the Athonite (1866-1938), the spiritual father of Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993), the founder of the monastery. However, I am far too overwhelmed with how meaningfully I felt there, and I know too little about these amazing people to dare telling others about them.
The most I could do for now is meekly share a fascinating first impression of the monastery, whose stavropegic status means that it is canonically dependant directly on the Ecumenical Patriachate in Constantinople.
Among so many things, what struck me most was listening to liturgical hymns sung (by nuns of various nationalities) in Church Slavonic, a language whose beauty was a revelation for me. Out of a sudden, I felt as though I understood one of those things that never happen by chance, yet whose meaning had always eluded my reason until two days ago.
The fact that for so many centuries the majority of Orthodox peoples used this language (why not other?!) for the Divine Liturgy couldn't have possibly been just accidental. By the 18th century, not even the ordinary Russians understood this language, let alone Romanians whose Latin core of the language is above denial.
Nevertheless, if the language I heard this weekend had sounded like that throughout the centuries, then it would have been enough to keep believers' hearts awake during the Holy Liturgy. Of course that I am not advocating the idea of returning to dead or artificial languages. I am only saying that nothing is meaningless for God, and I just wanted to share this view of mine to those who have never heard Slavonic chants in an Orthodox church.
Just listening to this language (and I admit that the nuns' angelic voices may also weigh in a great deal in this conviction of mine) should be enough to understand how it was possible for the Orthodox Faith to be kept alive when illiterate people praised the Lord in what was apparently an incomprehensible language. Be it only sung or listened to, beauty is always comprehensible!
[For all the episodes of this series, and all the posts on this blog go to/ Pentru toate episoadele din această serie şi toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]