Posts tagged Ingram Nathaniel Irvine
Last week, we discussed St. Raphael’s involvement with the Episcopal Church — his role in an Orthodox-Anglican dialogue group, and his June 1910 letter permitting Episcopalian clergy to minister to Syrian Orthodox people in limited circumstances. Later that year, one of St. Raphael’s top assistants, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, wrote a lengthy open letter, warning the Orthodox bishops in America of the Episcopalian threats to Orthodoxy. “Permit me to remind you, Fathers, that already the decks of the Protestant Episcopal battleships are cleared for action,” Irvine wrote. “Her Diocesan regiments, well equipped and united, are in ecclesiastical array.” He continued:
I say with solemn earnestness that the battle will be fought in the United States between Orthodoxy, by which I mean “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints,” as saith St. Jude, and now alone kept by the Holy Orthodox Church of which you and I have the honor of being members, and all others, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Unitarian or Nothingarian.
Irvine’s full letter is a highly significant document, and we will examine it in detail in the future. For now, suffice it to say that Irvine warned the Orthodox bishops that these seemingly harmless ecumenical dialogues posed serious threats to the survival of Orthodoxy in America. In part, this is because such dialogues seemed to legitimize the Episcopal Church in the eyes of the untrained Orthodox layman. Combined with statements such as St. Raphael’s June 1910 letter, the door was opened for Episcopalians to say to the Orthodox, “Look, we are just like you! You needn’t worry about seeking an Orthodox priest; come to our churches instead!” Irvine warned,
Samson lost his strength when he played the fool with Delilah, who pretended love so as to disarm him of his source of power over the foes of the ancient Israel. We Orthodox, both Clergy and Laity, will lose all our strength if for the sake of society blandishments, whether clerical or lay, of those who hold not the Faith, betray our trust. Sooner or later we will find the Philistines rushing in upon us.
On September 25, 1911 — so, 15 months after issuing his letter of permission to the Episcopalians — St. Raphael formally withdrew from the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. He sent a letter to the Union, tendering his resignation, and then sent a pastoral epistle to his flock. Irvine’s influence is apparent in both letters. In fact, it is clear, based on the language and writing style, that Irvine himself authored both documents. This is not to say that St. Raphael had no hand in their content; on the contrary, he most certainly agreed with everything expressed in the letters, and he signed his name to both. But given Irvine’s position as a trusted advisor, his vast knowledge of Anglicanism, and his considerable writing ability, it is understandable that St. Raphael would delegate to him the actual task of letter-writing. (Incidentally, I can document at least one other instance in which Irvine ghost-wrote a letter for St. Raphael, and he almost certainly did the same for St. Tikhon on at least one occasion.)
To the letters. In the first, to the Union itself, St. Raphael (via Irvine) said,
There is a great and growing misunderstanding on the part of the Laity to wit, that, there is actually a union, or that, there will be, in the very near future, a corporate Union, between the Protestant Episcopal Church and the Holy Orthodox in America at least. The result is that the Laity in some sections are being confused in their doctrinal belief as well as growing careless about other requirements of the Holy Orthodox Church. In fact they neither know what to believe nor to reject, – much less which Church it is their duty to sustain.
To make matters worse, as we noted above, some Episcopalian clergymen had taken too far the limited permission in St. Raphael’s June 1910 letter:
Some of the Protestant Episcopal Clergy have taken upon themselves, through misunderstanding, to offer their services to Orthodox people, when even Orthodox Priests were within calling distance to minister to them; thus conveying the idea that, they, the Protestant Episcopal Clergy, were accepted as Holy Orthodox and that, there was no need of the ministrations or pastoral care of their own Orthodox Bishops and Clergy.
Thus, St. Raphael respectfully withdrew from the Union. He followed this with a 2200-word pastoral epistle. He (again via Irvine) stated, “I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church.” Therefore, “I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.” But St. Raphael didn’t stop there. It was not enough for the Orthodox to avoid the ministrations and sacraments of non-Orthodox bodies. He went on, “I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines.”
The full text of this letter may be found at this link.
Now, imagine the position of St. Raphael. He was a vice president of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. He had frequent dealings with Episcopalians, as did his associates in the Russian Archdiocese. Talk of union was in the air. His June 1910 letter was well-received by Episcopalians and not publicly criticized by any Orthodox people. But he saw, and Irvine called attention to, the error of that 1910 letter. It must have taken immense humility for St. Raphael to rescind his permission and withdraw from the Union. I’m sure he had many long discussions with Irvine beforehand, and he must have ultimately instructed Irvine to draft two letters on his behalf. St. Raphael read them, and perhaps edited them (for an unadulterated Irvine letter could be abrasive).
The whole affair must have been painful for St. Raphael, but, a century later, I am amazed at his openness and humility. As the June 1910 letter proves, he was not perfect, but his actions in 1911 are evidence of his genuine love for his flock. He was a great bishop.
As we’ve discussed previously, in July of 1920, an all-convert, all-English Orthodox parish was founded in New York City. Called the Church of the Transfiguration, the parish was led by the newly-converted Fr. Patrick Mythen. But it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream of the elderly Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, who served as the assistant priest.
The church held its first services on Sunday, July 18, 1920. Six days later, the New York Times ran an article on the parish under the headline, “Americanizing a Church.” The Church of the Transfiguration was, according to the article, part of a broader initiative, supported by Archbishop Alexander Nemolovsky, to “Americanize” the Russian Archdiocese. He had apparently commissioned a fresh English translation of the Divine Liturgy. English was the primary language of instruction in the Russian seminary in Tenafly, New Jersey, and Orthodox Christians in America were encouraged to obtain US citizenship.
On Saturday, July 31, someone reportedly broke into the church. Mythen told the Times (8/16/1920) that, oddly enough, nothing at all was taken. This was surprising — the burglars could have stolen the holy vessels made of gold and silver, and expensive clergy vestments, but they didn’t. From the Times:
The priests were puzzled by the objectless burglary, but on the following day, when he drank the sacramental wine from the chalice at the end of the service, Canon Ingram N.W. Irvine became conscious of an agonizing pain in his mouth, throat and stomach. Believing that in some manner the chalice had been filled with acid instead of wine, he acted immediately to save his own life. By his promptness he escaped without serious injury, though he was very sick for a day or more. Canon Irvine is 70 years old.
Immediately after this incident an investigation was made of the receptacle containing the wine intended for sacramental purposes, but not yet consecrated. The wine there was found to be perfectly pure and fresh.
The priests then considered they had found the explanation of the burglary. One or more persons, who hated the Orthodox Church, had forced an entrance into the church in order to put poison in the chalice in the hope of killing a priest.
Fr. Patrick Mythen connected this alleged poisoning to other recent incidents. He told the Times, “In addition to this certain other churches have been attacked and broken into within the last few weeks, and other priests assaulted. One Roman Catholic priest of Greek nationality was bound and beaten. An Orthodox priest in Bayonne was also attacked by three men, but the priest being of very powerful physique, seized the man with the revolver so quickly that when the weapon was discharged, the assassin shot himself. The man was taken into custody by the United States Secret Service and found to be an anarchist.”
The Orthodox leaders, and the Times, thought that all this was connected to the Americanization program that the Russian Archdiocese was instituting. Bolshevik sympathizers, who hated both America and Orthodoxy, supposedly found the mingling of the two to be intolerable. The Times article from which I’ve been quoting is actually all about another incident, which took place on August 15 (and which I’ll discuss in another post).
Now, about the Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine poisoning — They checked the container that held the unconsecrated wine, and it was clean. So, the poison was presumably put in the chalice itself. But if that were the case, wouldn’t someone else have gotten sick, too? Then again, it was pretty common then for people to take communion only a few times a year. Combine that with the fact that the Church of the Transfiguration was a tiny, new place, and it’s entirely possible that there were no lay communicants that day. On the other hand, the church had several attached priests who probably would have partaken. Why would Irvine have been the only one affected? There are two possibilities: one, Irvine may have been the only celebrant that day, and thus the only one to partake of the Eucharist. Two, it’s possible that the poison would only cause problems if consumed in large quantities. If the other priests only took a few sips, and Irvine finished the whole chalice, it may well have only affected Irvine.
So, was Irvine really poisoned? We will probably never know for sure. I’m confident that he wasn’t a liar, but I’m just as confident that he could be a bit melodramatic at times. I’m inclined to believe him when he says he was poisoned, but the circumstances are rather odd. It would be great to see the police report of the incident, but I don’t know if one has survived.
Another thing — note the statement that Irvine “acted immediately to save his own life.” It sure sounds like he forced himself to expel — vomit — what he had just consumed. That is, he intentionally threw up the Eucharist. I realize that he thought it was filled with acid, and that he was protecting his life. And he probably took measures to ensure that what he had just expelled was disposed of in a proper manner. But still, while I fully understand his actions, I find them rather shocking as well.
Irvine was back in church on August 19, preaching a sermon on the Feast of the Transfiguration. He died the following January — 5 1/2 months after being poisoned. That said, I don’t think there was any connection between the poisoning and his death. He regained his health pretty quickly after the poisoning incident, and, according to his obituary, he died of heart disease.
Fr. Sebastian Dabovich was a monumental figure in American Orthodox history. An American-born Serb, he founded numerous parishes — Serbian and otherwise — under the auspices of the Russian Mission in America. He is currently being considered by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the OCA for glorification as a saint.
Dabovich knew Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine rather well. He was serving in Philadelphia when Irvine, who was also in that city, decided to convert to Orthodoxy in 1905. Dabovich was instrumental in arranging a meeting between Irvine and St. Tikhon, which ultimately led to Irvine’s ordination in November of that year. Nevertheless, Irvine, who was nothing if not bold, felt compelled to rebuke Dabovich in 1916, for the latter’s relations with the Episcopal Church. A former Episcopalian himself, Irvine felt that Dabovich was going too far in his ecumenical activity, and he wrote a strongly-worded letter. It’s rather long, but I am reprinting it in full below. The letter is dated September 16, 1916, and was found in the OCA archives.
Very Rev. and dear Brother:
I am very much perplexed and no one but you can give me a satisfactory explanation. However, I am sending a copy of this letter to our Archbishop for fear that, your acts are authorized by him, and, therefore I may have from him through you a sufficient answer.
You will surely remember that, when I was about to enter the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church, I called upon you in Philadelphia, and through you and by your kindness and courtesy, I transmitted my credentials and applications as an Anglican to the Most Reverend, and ever dear to America, Archbishop Tikhon. You, My Very Rev. and dear Brother, were my first door to a Church, wherein I am happy and for whom I am ready to live and die as well as serve in the humblest capacity.
Now, I entered the Holy Orthodox Russo-Greek Catholic Church believing that she, waiving all and every political and worldly consideration, brought my mind, soul and convictions nearer to God’s peace, “which passeth all understanding” than Anglicanism or any other portion of the Church founded by the Great Head of the Church, our one and only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the Russo-Greek Church My Soul is at peace with the whole family of God in Heaven and Earth, my only aim is to prove by a loving heart that, within her fold we see revealed as the Mother Church of Christendom, the “Faith once for all delivered unto the Saints” and held in trust to be transmitted, age after age, to a world hungry for the Bread of Life and the Living Water which alone are found in the Incarnate One’s bosom the Son of the Ever Virgin Mary and only Begotten of her and the Eternal Father by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
But, Very Rev. and dear Brother, though my peace, personally, is satisfactory I am anxious about what you are doing and what the results may be, for it seems to me that you are, unintentionally, tearing down the house which you helped to build as a refuge of Souls.
I read in the “Churchman” of September 16th, that you, clad in the Clerical Robes of the Orthodox Church attended both the Morning and Evening services of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Bar Harbor, Maine, and preached to large congregations. Is this true? Is it true that, you took part with the Rector of a Protestant Episcopal Church, a Clergyman whose Holy Orders are not acknowledged by the Holy Orthodox Church? I need not remined you of the Apostolical Canons. You are too well versed, I am sure, for me to quote any of them to you and show wherein you have overlooked the seriousness of your act.
But I need say no more on the following points, permit me only to add the facts as follows, namely: –
There is no intercommunion between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. This you surely know. Then think of the incongruity of any Orthodox Archimandrite standing at or near the Altar of a Church, side by side of one of her priests, which one half of whose clergy look upon as more benighted than the Church of Rome and only a relic of the dim past of Christianity and Icon Superstition! Think of the perplexing thoughts of the summer guests of Bar Harbor and the Laymembers of the Protestant Episcopal Parish, but, alas, think of the disturbed feelings of the members of the Holy Orthodox Church if any were present in that Congregation or in that watering place!
Perhaps, I may be pardoned if I remind you that, while the Protestant Episcopal Church may welcome you personally as a priest of the Holy Orthodox Church at her Altar and likewise any of our Bishops, she honestly and sincerely in her heart of hearts has no use for our Bishops. Why should she? Will you not please read again if you have before the Appendix written to my Booklet on “Anglican Claims” by t he Rev. William J. Seabury, D.D., late Professor of Canon Law in the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Anglican Church claims full jurisdiction in the United States. Of course her claims and the Preface to her Book of Common Prayer contradict each other, for while in the former she claims full jurisdiction, in the latter she only speaks of herself as one of the Churches of the Republic. However, our Bishops are regarded as only provisional — Bishops in the United States of a Church whose members can not understand the English language and who in time may be swallowed up in the embrace of Anglicanism and fall under the supervision of the Anglican Episcopate.
Are you, my Very Rev. Brother, willing to concede this?
I believe that, the Orthodox have been led into traps by a certain Society known as the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.” We have been misinterpreted and misrepresented by that Society. Rome, and the unlearned Orthodox surely have misinterpreted our Prelates. And some of our Prelates have made mistakes, and some have seen then after having become members or advocates of such a Society.
We cannot be united with the Anglican Communion if we truly hold the faith fo the Holy Orthodox Church. A fraction of the former believe as we do, but two thirds disagree with us in Matters which we deem essential.
We, as a Church, have but one view of Doctrine, Discipline and Worship. Not so with the Anglican. That Communion, is as varied in views as the Shades of the members of Protestant Sects or Romish perverts who may drop into her fold.
But, Very Rev. Brother, there is something bordering on to an Ecclesiastical tragedy in our hob-nobing with the Anglican Church.
It is cruel to the Anglicans. You know and so do I that, there is no intercommunion. Why should we not be honest and say that while we love all who believe in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, yet there are essentials important to us that are lacking to them, that, it would be cruel to deceive by Society Courtesy those who do not believe in its entirety the “Faith once for all delivered to the Saints?”
But the Tragedy is still more appalling in this respect, namely, we are disturbing the faith of the Youth of the Holy Orthodox Church. Remember, please, that no Anglicans come to us except it be to hear our music, which by some outside and others within the Russian Church is exploited for mercenary purposes. On the other hand, hundreds of our people, and, running up into thousands of our young are being lost to us because of, on the one hand our folly and the superciliousness of some of our Ecclesiastics, and, on the other, our lack of preparation to hold them, our priest being hide-bound to their own foreign language in a Country where nothing scarcely is taught but English to the Young of ever Nationality coming to our shores.
Won’t you, very Rev. and Dear Brother, review the past? Please do. Just think of my coming to the door of the Russian Church through you and knocking for entrance. Think of the day when I was ordained at St. Nicholas Cathedral. Think of the first service ever said in English of the Holy Orthodox Church. You and I said that service in the Russian Cathedral. What now does it all mean that you should help to tear down the house which you had helped to build?
I have prepared a long article on the reunion of Christendom etc., and the great danger in which the Orthodox Church in the United States stands in having any thing to do with such a step, as “Federation” or “Unions” at the present time. I hope some day, when I have the means, to have it published. It will explain fully to my brother priests our dangerous position stoical indifference and in flirting with the Anglican Church.
Trusting that you will pardon my long letter and any unintentional grief which it may give you, I am,
Ingram N.W. Irvine, D.D.
For a while now, I have been meaning to write about the first all-English Orthodox parish in America, founded in New York City in 1920. Today, I’m going to give a brief introduction to that parish, and the main characters involved. This is hardly the whole story; it really is just an introduction.
To start — well, you know about Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, who converted to Orthodoxy in 1905. (If you don’t know about Irvine, you can read our earlier posts about him, or listen to two podcasts I did on Ancient Faith Radio.)
So Irvine converted in 1905, and he remained an Orthodox priest until his death, in January 1921. During that time, in both the Russian and Syrian Missions, he was a strong advocate of the use of English in American Orthodox worship. He felt that, for Orthodoxy to survive and thrive in America, it was imperative that it, to some extent, “Americanize.” (This is the term that was used at the time.)
For most of Irvine’s Orthodox career, there were not many converts. Irvine spent a lot of his time working with Orthodox young people, and interacting with Episcopalians, but he didn’t actually bring a lot of people into the Church. Late in his life, however, things started to change. An Episcopal priest named James Grattan Mythen converted to Orthodoxy in 1920. He was immediately ordained a priest by Abp Alexander Nemolovsky, and he took the name, “Fr. Patrick.”
Mythen would prove to be the first of a surprisingly large number of convert priests to enter the Russian Archdiocese in the early 1920s. Irvine was quite old by this point, in his early 70s at a time when most people didn’t live past 60. He was not really capable, physically, of running his own church. But Mythen was young — just 37 at the time of his conversion — and he became the leader of a group of convert clergy.
Within a very short period of time, Mythen was joined by the following men:
- Dr. Geoffrey A. Lang, ordained Fr. Stephen
- Robert F. Hill, ordained Fr. Antony
- Fr. Paul Ihmsen
- Dr. George Gelsinger, ordained Fr. Michael
- Royce M. Burden, ordained Fr. Boris
- Arthur W. Johnson, ordained Fr. Kyrill
- Sgt. William H. Schneider, ordained Fr. A. (not sure what it stood for)
Irvine didn’t know all of these men; several of them came along after he had already died. And Irvine doesn’t seem to have been the main person driving this enterprise; Mythen was. Abp Alexander put an enormous amount of trust in Mythen. For a while, in the early 1920s and before Metropolitan Platon took over the Russian Archdiocese, Mythen basically ran the whole Archdiocesan operation, even signing ordination certificates (a task properly done by a bishop). Needless to say, Mythen supplanted the aging (and then deceased) Irvine as the leader of the English Department of the Russian Archdiocese.
And in 1920, the newly-converted-and-ordained Mythen became the rector of the “American Orthodox Catholic Church of the Transfiguration,” the first all-English, all-convert parish in history. The church was located at St. Vladimir’s Immigrant Home, 233 East 17th Street in New York City. The first services were held on July 18, 1920. This is part of an article from the New York Times (7/17/1920):
In the establishment of this English-speaking church by the Russian hierarchy the efforts of fifteen years of the Rev. Dr. Ingram N.W. Irvine, a canon of the local Russian Cathedral, have been realized.
Archbishop Tikhon, who was head of the Russian Church in America for several years, favored such a move, but he was recalled to Russia before he could organize such a branch. Appeal was then made to Archbishop Nemoloski, who agreed that an English mission would fill a need. Abbot Patrick (James Gratton Mithen), who came here from England three months ago, was designated as rector of the new branch. Dr. Irvine will be the associate rector. He and Abbot Patrick are major canons.
The other two members of the staff are minor canons. The first vicar is Canon Stephen, who came to America with Canon Patrick, and the second vicar is Canon Paul, who was ordained a priest of the Russian Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop Stephen of the Uno-Russian Diocese of Pittsburgh. He is a brother of Max Ihmsen, a newspaper editor. Dr. Irvine is Professor of the English Department in the Russian Seminary, Tenafly, N.J., and Canon Paul is his assistant.
A few things… One, I find the whole “canon,” “vicar,” language to be slightly amusing, borrowed as it is from the Episcopal Church. Is a “major canon” supposed to be an archpriest, in this context? I don’t know. I’m not aware of Irvine having ever been raised to archpriest, but it is possible.
Two, while Mythen did travel from England to the US, he was only in England for a few months. We’ll talk about his life in a separate post in the future, but he was born in Baltimore and was an American citizen. Like Irvine, Mythen was of Irish ancestry, but was an Anglican clergyman. He was very involved in politics and art — he was a vocal proponent of women’s suffrage and of Irish independence, and he moonlighted as a playwright. One of his allies in the Irish independence movement was Geoffrey Lang (aka Fr. Stephen), who, along with Mythen, helped run a group called Protestant Friends of Irish Freedom.
Fr. Paul Ihmsen — I’m not certain, but I think his given name was Charles. His brother Max, the newspaper editor, was a major figure in the newspaper industry of the early 20th century. He was a protégé of William Randolph Hearst, with titles ranging from “political manager” to “henchman.” He then went to California and ran the Los Angeles Examiner, and on the side, he became a pioneering apple farmer. The Ihmsens came from an old, prominent German family from Pittsburgh.
Another priest in these early years was Fr. Antony (Robert) Hill, who happens to be the second black priest in American Orthodox history, after Fr. Raphael Morgan. Hill was Orthodox for a very short time; he soon joined the upstart “African Orthodox Church,” about which, more in the future.
The other clergy I mentioned above — Gelsinger, Burden, etc. — came along later, after the Church of the Transfiguration had closed. And close it did, very soon — the New York Times has advertisements for the church through November 1920, but nothing afterwards. The church’s few months of existence were eventful, though. Two prominent literary figures, T. Everett Harre and Reginald Wright Kauffman (both, apparently, friends of Mythen), converted to Orthodoxy. In August, Irvine was apparently poisoned, allegedly by Bolshevik sympathizers. And in September, Abp Alexander raised Mythen (who was unmarried) to the rank of archimandrite. We will discuss all of these events, and the history of the broader English-speaking mission, in future articles.
If you are a regular reader of this website, you already know about Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine. Briefly, for those unfamiliar with him: Irvine was a longtime Episcopal priest who was defrocked by his bishop — unjustly, so he said. St. Tikhon agreed, and, in 1905, Tikhon ordained Irvine to the Orthodox priesthood. He put Irvine in charge of “English work,” and Irvine spent the rest of his days as a zealous proponent of the use of English in American Orthodox worship. St. Raphael recognized the value of Irvine’s work, and he soon commissioned Irvine to write English-language articles in Al-Kalimat (The Word, the official magazine of Raphael’s Syrian Mission). Today, I am reprinting one of those articles, which was probably written in 1907. In it, Irvine speaks with great boldness to the Syrian parents in America, exhorting them to bring up their children in the Orthodox faith and send them to Orthodox Sunday Schools. Reading this article, it is easy to see why Irvine was such a polarizing figure. It also provides a glimpse into the challenges facing people like Irvine and St. Raphael, as they tried to preserve the Syrian people in the Orthodox faith.
I write to night specially to the Holy Orthodox Parents of the United States. I address you personally as if I sat with you in your homes surrounded by your children and I plead with you to hearken unto my words.
And first I ask you: Do you teach your children to pray, to believe and to obey?
You answer me that “such work appertains unto the Church.”
There was a time when parents taught their children to pray. I do not mean just to lisp off a few petitions with the Lord’s Prayer to Almighty God but to hold daily communion with God. To meditate upon His attributes, to come to Him with cares. To tell Him the heart aches. To ask his forgiveness, – His help and His guidance.
There was a time also when parents taught their children the Creed and explained to them the meaning of the Articles therein.
There was a time when they taught their children how to obey not only at home but the Officers of the State and those of the Holy Church who are higher than the State.
But there came a time when parents became careless in these respects and the result was that, the Church had to open Sunday Schools.
The Sunday School is without any doubt, one of the most blessed and useful institutions of the Church of God today. It takes the place of negligent, ignorant and God-forgetting parents. It is one of the merciful provisions of the Church of God to teach and feed the Lambs of Jesus Christ’s Fold who are left neglected by thoughtless, sinful and rebellious parents.
I am using very, very strong language, but if I could use stronger so as to pierce the consciences of parents I would be willing to do so at any risk.
In the Holy Orthodox Church all parents are married according to the law of God. You are not joint parties to a secular contract to be severed at the will of either or both. You are united “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part”. And you are married to “increase, replenish and multiply the earth”. You are therefore responsible for both the mental, spiritual and physical training of your children. God Almighty will hold you eternally responsible for the loss of one soul you have brought into this sinful world. You cannot cast your children off like the cuckoo or the ostrich. You are bound before God and man to see that your offspring are brought up in the love and fear of God and respectful toward the Civil Authorities as well as toward their parents – the father and mother who have brought them into this sinful world. And without a shadow of doubt it is your duty to teach them to love and respect God’s Holy
Church in which alone they have a promise of Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord and only God.
Now the priests of God’s Church who are the stewards of His mysteries have, because of the neglect of parents to thoroughly instruct their children, adopted the method of instruction known as Sunday School Teaching. When the Church speaks she ought to be heard. She studies every age and knows its needs. She knows what is the best method of being assured that her children are well instructed in a knowledge of God. Thus it is that she demands, as a loving duty on your part, to send your children to Sunday School.
Well, you say that you like to take them visiting or to the Park or some where else on Sunday afternoon. You cannot, you say, take them during the week, for it would be taking you away from your business. Strange excuse! You do not want to rob yourself out of a Dollar but you do not care whether you rob God out of the souls of your children for whom He shed His Precious Blood upon the Cross.
You make it a point to send them to Day School, so that they may not lose a mark but come out with high earthly honors, yet you do not consider the fact that their souls may go down to the darkest abyss of Hell because you have taught them to dishonor God’s Sabbath and neglect His Holy Church.
Oh, foolish parent, who hath bewitched you! What demon is it which has blinded your eyes, dulled your understanding and filled you with unnatural love for your children? Do you think that love only means the satisfying of the eye, the ear, the palate and the body? Alas, these are the last to be thought of. I do not say that you must not make your children happy and take good care of them. Far from this. They ought to be treasured as jewels. But Oh, remember the words:
Tis not the whole of life to live
Nor all of death to die.
Yes, and those other words;
“I have another life to live without which life
This life is incomplete.”
The Holy Church has both lives in view. But she impresses the needs of preparation for the next world’s life, for
As man lives so shall he die:
And as he dies so shall he be
All through the years of Eternity.
But we will take it for granted that you send your children to Sunday School and that they are much pleased with the reception and instruction which they receive there. Which Sunday School is it? You belong to the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church? “Yes,” you say. Well then do you think that if your children go to a Roman Catholic, Protestant Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Maronite, Lutheran, Congregational or what other Religious Body you thus may select that they are instructed in the Doctrine,
Discipline and Worship of the Church to which you belong? Why you are wild to think so. If you want your children to grow up in your Faith, the Faith of the Holy Martyrs of the first eight Centuries you will never have them do so unless they are sent to their own Sunday School.
Now please understand me. I am not saying one word against those great churches. They are all trying to lead people to God their own way. May the Holy Sprit guide them aright. But I am sure if I were a minister of any one of those churches, I would teach them all about the church to which I belonged, and not one word about any other. I am perfectly honest in this. I would not throw stones at other churches, but I would take mighty good care to help make my Sunday School children love my Church.
You must remember, that your duty lies in this direction, namely to send your children to your own Sunday School. If you are away from the care of a Priest, just club together as Orthodox Catholics and form a Sunday School.
Encourage the children. Do everything for them which will enable them to see that you love both their souls and bodies.
As I will have something further to say unto you on this matter of Sunday Schools I will now close.
Praying to God to guide you aright,
Ingram N.W. Irvine.