Donnerstag, 14. Mai 2009

St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim

Today, 1 May on the Old Calendar, we celebrate the memory of St Walburga, Abbess of Heidenheim, also known as 'Walpurgis', 'Gauburge', 'Vaubourg', 'Falbourg', and 'Waltpurde'. Here is the account of her life on the Fish Eaters site (also see my other post at Logismoi):

St Walburga was born in Devonshire, England in A.D. 710. Her parents were a West Saxon under-king who became known as St Richard, and St Boniface's sister, Winna. She had two brothers, boys who grew up to be known as SS Willibald and Winibald. When she was eleven, her father and brothers went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, so she was sent to the abbess of Wimborne who ran her Benedictine abbey with holiness and discipline in mind. Walburga's father died in Lucca a year after her arrival at the abbey, and she remained there for twenty-six years, receiving a good education, including the study of Latin. This last skill allowed her to write the account of her brother Willibald's pilgrimage, an act which has led to her being seen as the first female author of England and Germany.

Boniface wrote to the Abbess, asking that nuns be sent to help in in his work, and in A.D. 748, his wish was granted when the Abbess sent along some Sisters, Walburga amongst them. En route to Germany by boat, a great storm arose. As the waters raged above and beneath, Walburga knelt on the deck and prayed. Instantly, the sea became calm, and the sailors went on to proclaim the miracle at their destination. She made her way through Antwerp and then on to Mainz, where she met her Uncle Boniface and her brother, Willibald.

She spent some time in the abbey at Bischofsheim, and was later made abbess of Heidenheim, part of a double-monastery where her favorite brother, Winibald, ruled over the male monastics. When this beloved brother died, she not only ruled her abbey, but ruled over his monastery as well, and became known for her sanctity and miraculous gifts of healing. The story is told of how one night her Sisters came to accompany her down to supper, and found the hall to her room bathed in a divine light that remained until Matins the next morning.

On September 23, 776, she and her brother, Willibald, went to translate Winibald's relics to Heidenheim, but upon opening his tomb, found that no remains were left. Soon after this miracle, she became ill, and then died on February 25, 777 in the company of Willibald, who laid her to rest near Winibald. Willibald himself died in 786.

Jumping forward about a hundred years to A.D. 870, the Bishop of Eichstadt in Bavaria went to restore Walburga's monastery and church. In the process, the workmen desecrated her tomb, and she appeared to them to reproach them for their negligence. The good Bishop reacted by ensuring a solemn and respectful translation of her relics to the Church of the Holy Cross (now known as St Walburga's) in Eichstadt on September 21. But it is what happened twenty-three years later, in A.D. 893, that helps keep St Walburga in our consciousness. In that year, the successor to the Bishop who translated her relics opened her tomb to retrieve some of those relics for the Abbess of Abbess of Monheim. He found that her remains exuded an oil—a healing substance known as the ‘Oil of Saints’. This precious substance has been exuding from her remains yearly ever since between 12 October and 25 February, her Feast in the Benedictine Breviary, only stopping ‘during a period when Eichstadt was laid under interdict, and when blood was shed in the church by robbers who seriously wounded the bell-ringer’ (from the Catholic Encyclopedia). The Abbess got her relics, and some were also sent to Cologne, Antwerp, Furnes, and other places—many of these translations giving rise to Feasts—but it is her tomb in the church in Eichstadt that, to this day, exudes the fragrant, healing oil. A Benedictine nunnery (see picture below) immediately arose near the church that houses her tomb so that the Sisters could tend to her relics and help with the pilgrims who came for the healing oil. The Sisters have been there now for a thousand years.

Here as well is a brief German account from this site:

Walburga war die Tochter des Königs Richard von England und der Wunna und die Schwester von Willibald von Eichstätt und Wunibald von Heidenheim. Sie wurde um 748 von Bonifatius, dem Bruder ihrer Mutter, mit Lioba und anderen Gefährtinnen als Missionarin nach Deutschland gerufen und lebte als Nonne im Kloster Tauberbischofsheim. Mit drei Ähren habe sie ein Kind vom Hungertod errettet; auf dem Wege zur kranken Tochter eines Burgherrn sei sie von Hunden angefallen worden und habe den ihr zu Hilfe eilenden Knechten zugerufen, sie stehe unter dem Schutz Christi, worauf die Hunde von ihr abließen. 761 wurde Walburga zur Äbtissin des von Wunibald gegründeten Benediktinerklosters in Heidenheim in Franken ernannt; das dortige Doppelkloster war ein wichtiger Missionsstützpunkt. Sie ist dort auch bestattet. Die ‘alpurgisnacht’vom 30. April auf den 1. Mai hat inhaltlich keinen erkennbaren Zusammenhang mit der Heiligen, manche Überlieferungen berichten aber von ihrer Kanonisation durch Papst Hadrian regierte 867 - 872—an einem 1. Mai, und in England wurde ihr Gedenktag am 1. Mai begangen.

Sonntag, 10. Mai 2009

The Letters of Fr Clement (Sederholm)

Ручьёв at Incendiary has thankfully begun the task of translating the letters of Fr Clement (Sederholm), the German-Russian who converted to Orthodoxy from Lutheranism and became a monk of Optina Pustyn'. The first translation was just posted, along with the promise of more.
[Following the request of Christopher at Orrologion, I have begun translating some selections from the letters of Fr Clement Sederholm (1830-1878) to his father. In the book I have acquired there are only 15 letters, and they are mostly from the period of Fr. Clement’s life after he was tonsured a monk at Optina in 1863 (ten years after converting to Orthodoxy). One feature that runs throughout all these letters is Fr Clement's unwillingness to openly argue with his father over points of theology. (Evidently at some point they did have such arguments as they are hinted at in early letters.) While in many letters Fr Clement talks about theological matters it is usually simply stating what the Orthodox believe or do, as in this first selection.]

I can briefly explain to you concerning prolonged prayers in our [Orthodox] Church. Every one of us prays not for himself only and not in their own way. We gather together for common church prayer in order to fulfill the unity and mutual love which is commanded by the Holy Spirit as well as what is prescribed by the apostle: forsake not the assembly as do some (Heb. 10:25). No matter how elevated the apostles stood they did not remove themselves from the assembly of believers (Acts 3:1). And that a few prayers of the Church are stronger than the prayers of one man can be seen from the fact that the Apostle Peter was freed from prison by the prayers of the Church (Acts 12:5-19). Our church prayers are made up of psalms, church songs, and various prayers. Every person praying follows the church prayers as they can: if his thoughts scatter he can quickly gather his senses and again follow after the course of the service and pray. But when someone prays alone and composes prayers himself then if his thoughts scatter it is harder for him for begin again to pray; and where does he start? If you, at your age and after long years of studying lofty subjects, feel how hard it is to keep your thoughts together, what can be said about a beginner? Concerning those who already reached the a high level of spiritual life, they add their short prayers to the common church prayer.

I heartily wish that my explanation turns out to be satisfactory to you.

October 26, 1863

Samstag, 9. Mai 2009

Victory Day in Dachau

Today is Victory Day in Russia, marking the anniversary of the surrender of the Nazi government to the Soviet Union in 1945. The day will be marked in Moscow and elsewhere with the sorts of parades that we all remember from the days of the Soviet Union: tanks and soldiers and missiles rolling through Red Square as the power elite stands in rigid attention.

A very different sort of procession was organized today in the German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Archpriest Ilya Limberger of the Church of St Nicholas in Stuttgart led a procession of young people on foot from the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Munich to the concentration camp in Dachau, a distance of some 12.5 kilometers (nearly 8 miles). Once at Dachau they served a panikhida (memorial service) for the reposed and a moleben (service of intercession) to St Nicholas (Velimirović) of Ohrid and Ziča who, along with Patriarch Gavrilo of Serbia, was imprisoned in Dachau for several months in 1944.Both services were performed in the Russian Orthodox chapel (depicted above) built in honor of the Orthodox prisoners who perished at Dachau. An online guide to the chapel notes the following:

A small Russian Orthodox Catholic [sic] Chapel stands on a mound just to the left of the tourist entrance into the crematoria area. It was built in honor of an estimated 6,000 Russian Prisoners of War who died in the Dachau camp or were executed at the SS firing range at Herbertshausen. All Russian POWs who were believed to be Communist Commissars were executed, in Dachau and elsewhere, on an order from Adolf Hitler who issued this directive on the eve of the German invasion of Russia on July 22, 1941. In all the camps, the Russian POWs were treated much worse than other prisoners in retaliation for the atrocities committed by the Russians against German soldiers. The Russians had not signed the most recent agreement at the Geneva Convention and were not following the rules of warfare with regard to German Prisoners of War. After the liberation of Dachau, the remaining Russian POWs were turned over to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Allied agreement at Yalta in 1943. The Soviet Union treated these returning prisoners as traitors and immediately sent them to the gulags, as the Communist concentration camps were called.

For an extraordinary account of the celebration of Pascha in Dachau in 1945, shortly after its liberation, go here. For another brief account (in French) of today's pilgrimage, go here.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.