The Prophet of American Orthodoxy

Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, 1905

Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, 1905

Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, the great convert priest who was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905, may well be the most quotable figure in American Orthodox history. You can expect lots of Irvine-related material on this website well into the future, but I thought that today, I might offer some particularly great quotations from the man who was once nicknamed, “The Spurgeon of Brookhaven,” and who, in my opinion, might justifiably be called, “The Prophet of American Orthodoxy.”

On the modern world (1895): “People have to-day lost sight of Scriptural facts and become afraid of the old ritual. […] I do not care who may criticise me when I say that there cannot be found a more idolatrous age, full of Satanic cunning; an age governed more by loud talk, gold and allurement than by pure Christianity.”

On the Episcopal Church: “The Anglican Church is not the true platform of unity.  She is too political and diplomatic, always compromising for expediency and shading like a chameleon to attract each Protestant Sect. […] She allows her Bishops in some respects to be more papal than the Pope of Rome and she gives to her laymen the casting vote in Doctrine, Discipline and Worship.”

On the Orthodox Church: “It may without controversy be truly said that she is the parent Church of all Christian Churches, whether they be Roman or Anglican or Protestant, and that as such she ought to take her place in every land, in every city, in every hamlet, so that those Churches which have either added to or taken from the Faith of the first seven General Councils […] may correct their creeds, articles and charts by her original and scriptural standard of ‘the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints.'”

On the teachings of Orthodoxy: “The Holy Eastern Church says just what she means; and means what she says.”

On his conversion the Orthodox Church: “God the Holy Ghost, on the morning of Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1905, in St. Mary’s Church, Philadelphia, in response to the inquiry of my soul, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ commanded me in an irresistible way, ‘Go and work for the Holy Eastern Church.’ And I was obedient unto the voice.”

On prayer: “Heaven, is nearer to us than Boston is to New York. I can speak from New York through a telephone to a friend in Boston. Why not through prayer – God’s own ancient telephone, never out of order – speak with a friend in a nearer place? Heaven is where Christ is present. The spiritual law of Religion surely is as great as the physical law of Science. To doubt it would be folly.”

On St. Tikhon: “To see the Archbishop celebrate at the Liturgy was an inspiration. In every word, act and posture he was perfect, yet unconscious of self because of his reverent and natural spirit.”

On St. Raphael’s death: “We see him now in his true light, great and good, learned, and, yet humble as a little child, a brave champion for the Orthodox Faith, yet filled with love for all mankind.”

On Orthodox unity in America: “Let it be hoped that, at least here in the United States, where children of parents unfriendly to each other in the old world intermarry and love each other, the sons and daughters of all the Orthodox Confederated Churches of Europe, Asia and Africa may realize that in unity of organization there is strength.”

To negligent Syrian parents: “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.”

On translator Isabel Hapgood: “That vixen Miss Hapgood. What a liar – she has damned the Church for years.”

In response to an article by Hapgood: “Our Archbishop was not called by the Holy Ghost to consecrate our Choir Leaders for roving Singing-Bands to help and please new Orthodox churchgoers. Music is a luxury, but the ‘Bread of Life,’ distributed through ‘twenty little new parishes,’ is a necessity.”

On the Old Calendar: “It is a standing protest against the encroachments of Rome on the rights of Christendom and suggests investigation on the part of seekers after Ancient ways and truths amongst Protestants.”

On Freemasonry: “If a Bishop of the Church is a Freemason then every priest had better be a Mason in his Diocese, for otherwise it may follow that a Jew, an Infidel, an Atheist etc. or the lowest saloon keeper, or house of ill fame manager, as a member, would have more influence as a Mason with the Masonic Bishop than the priest who was not a member of the Order.”

On Fr. (later Archbishop) Aftimios Ofiesh: “I will never recognize him as a Bishop. I can not serve God and Mammon in the Episcopate.”

In defense of the use of English: “Here are our thousands of young Orthodox of the parentage of every nationality who are being educated in our public schools and entering into our Mercantile and Professional life. They look upon the language of their parents as only an accomplishment, but not as a medium of either religion, politics or business. Are you and I, as Orthodox going to starve them both soul, mind and body simply because we love too well but not wisely, our mother tongue? I am not fighting for the English language as a tongue. My words would fit any other country with its mother tongue as well as that of North America. I am fighting for a principle and Orthodoxy.”

More on English in the services: “I am convinced that the Russian Holy Orthodox Church in America and every part of the Orthodox Church under her jurisdiction cannot prosper as she and they should unless we use English more freely in her and their services. I venture to say that in the recital of every Liturgy, we ought to have one or more Ektenias, etc. in English and until this is carried into effect we will be losing hundreds of youth as we are now irrespect of claims to the contrary.”

On himself: “From without and within, there may be some who would like to have me brushed aside. Yet be it so, still clearly, fearlessly, loudly but lovingly and respectfully, I proclaim, we need Aggressive Orthodox Catholicity for the Truth’s Sake.”

2 Replies to “The Prophet of American Orthodoxy”

  1. I’d like to thank you for bringing this man to our attention in your podcasts and blog. I really like the guy from what I’ve seen 🙂

  2. Irvine was indeed quite a character. We’ll have lots more to come on him (and by him) in the future.

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