Western Saints of the Orthodox Church — 5th August
ABEL, a monk from the British Isles, most likely Ireland. There are several accounts of his episcopal service. In one he was Archbishop of Rheims circa 744-748, but seems to actually only served as a Suffragan Bishop of that See. In the another, he is elevated to the Archbishopric of Rheims, however, he was unable to assume the throne, as it is occupied by supporters of a pretender bishop of that See. This was a time of struggle between secular and church authorities and often influential laymen obtained the office of archbishop for their own, worldly benefit. And so, St. Abel took up residence at (or possibly returned to) Lobbes Abbey, eventually serving as Abbot, and reposed circa 751.
AFRA, a martyr in Augsburg Bavaria, probably during the Diocletianic Persecution (circa 304). As with many early saints, there are questions regarding the historical accuracy of her life, as there is no mention of her in martyrologies until the fifth century. Her relics are enshrined in the Church of St. Afra, a part of the Kloster Sankt Ulrich und Afra Augsburg.
CASSIAN of AUTUN, the fifth Bishop of Autun from circa 314 until his repose circa 350. He may have been Egyptian by birth, but had come to Autun and was a disciple of his predecessor as bishop, St. Rhétice (20th July).
EMYGDIUS (EMIDIUS), a bishop in Ascoli Piceno in the Marches. According to tradition St. Emygdius was martyred during the during the persecution under Diocletian circa 303.
GORMCAL, St. Gormcal was Abbot of Ardoilen in Co. Galway, Ireland, and a participant in the monastic revival of his era. He reposed 1016.
MARTYRS of ROME, a group of twenty-three who were martyred whilst in prayer during the persecutions under Diocletian, circa 303.
MEMMIUS (MENGE, MEINGE), according to tradition, St. Memmius was the founder and first Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne (present-day (now Châlons-en-Champagne). St. Memmius reposed circa 300.
OSWALD, the holy, glorious, right-victorious martyr and right-believing King Oswald of Northumbria was the king of Northumbria (Northern England) from circa 633 until his repose circa 642. Following the death of his father in battle St. Oswald’s mother fled with her children into exile in Scotland and it is believed that during that time he was baptised at Iona and also learned Gaelic. In 634 St. Oswald assembled an army and prepared to meet that of Penda and Cædwalla at Hatfield Chase near present-day Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Although most of his men were not Christians, St. Oswald had a great wooden cross erected on the field, steadying it with his own hands as his men filled the hole that had been dug for its base. He then ordered his army to kneel and pray to the true and living God that He grant them victory:
“Let us now kneel down and pray to the omnipotent and only true God, that He will mercifully defend us from our proud enemy,” he told them, “for He knows that we fight in a just war in defence of our lives and our country.”
Later that night, St. Oswald had a vision of St. Columba of Iona (9th June), who stretched his cloak over the sleeping soldiers and promised that St. Oswald’s army would be victorious in battle the next day. St. Oswald’s forces prevailed at Hatfield Chase and St. Oswald established his supremacy over Northumbria.
One year, as St. Oswald was about to sit down to his Easter meal with St. Aidan, a servant came in and informed the king that a large number of poor subjects were outside begging for alms. St. Oswald ordered that his own food be served to the people on silver platters, and furthermore that the platters should then be broken up and the silver pieces be distributed amongst them. This act so moved St. Aidan that he took St. Oswald’s right hand and said, “May this hand never perish”. And, according to tradition, St. Oswald’s hand remained incorrupt for centuries.
For the next half decade Britain experienced a rare period of stability, and while tending to the temporal matters of his realm, St. Oswald also laboured to bring spiritual enlightenment to his people. Approaching the Celtic monks at Iona, rather than the Roman clerics at Canterbury, St. Oswald invited missionaries to preach the Gospel to his people. Unfortunately, the first bishop sent on this mission was too harsh, and alienated more people than he attracted and was soon recalled. St. Aidan (31st August) was then consecrated bishop and dispatched as the new hierarch. He proved to be the ideal choice, and St. Oswald gave him the island of Lindisfarne for his See. There St. Aidan founded the famous Lindisfarne monastery where many future saints were trained. As St. Aidan was not yet fluent in the Anglo-Saxon language, St. Oswald would often accompany him on his missionary trips to act as interpreter, and thus through word and example, people were drawn to Christ.
St. Oswald was often seen sitting in prayer; he gave land and money for the establishment of monasteries, and was renowned for his charity and generosity to the poor.
St. Oswald fell in the Battle of Maserfield on 5th August, 642 at the age of thirty-eight. As he died, he prayed for the souls of his soldiers saying, “O God, be merciful to their souls”. Following his repose St. Oswald’s body was dismembered and his head and arms displayed on poles. Many miraculous healings have been attributed to his relics and the earth from the site where St. Oswald fell, and it is said a plague in Sussex was averted by Oswald’s intercession. According to twelfth century English historian William of Malmesbury, St. Oswald is the first English saint whose relics worked miracles.
A year after his martyrdom, St. Oswald’s head was enshrined at Lindisfarne and portions of his relics were distributed to churches in England and on the Continent. Today, St. Oswald’s head is enshrined at Durham Cathedral in St. Cuthbert’s coffin; unfortunately, the rest of his relics seem to have been lost. The translations of St. Oswald’s relics is commemorated on 20th June.
Troparion of King St. Oswald — Tone II
Mighty works did the holy King Oswald accomplish for the Faith,
for in his great and surpassing love he willingly laid down his life for the people of God;
wherefore, the Christ God filled his sacred relics with mighty power,
to heal the sick and move men’s souls to compunction.
Troparion of King St. Oswald — Tone V
Example to kings, champion of the Faith and missionary of God’s Holy Word,
thou didst excel in spiritual virtues O Father Oswald.
With Aidan’s help thou didst lift from Northumbria the heavy yoke of heathenism and fearing nothing,
thou didst confront the forces of darkness, thereby exchanging thy earthly crown for the crown of martyrdom.
We who are blessed to have thy precious relics with us to this day
entreat thee for thy prayers that Christ our God will grant us His great mercy
PARIS, beyond having been the Apostle and first Bishop of Teano in Campania Italy, all that is known about St. Paris is legend. He is thought to have been of Greek origin and consecrated bishop by Pope St. Sylvester I (31st December – on Eastern calendars 2nd January).
THEODORIC, Bishop of Cambrai-Arras in the present-day Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. He served that See from circa 830 until his repose 863.
VENANTIUS, (Sixth Century), a Bishop of Viviers, though the date and place of birth and death unknown. it is recorded that he attended synods at Epaon in 517 and at Clermont in 535.
Prior to the Schism the Patriarchate of Rome was Orthodox, and fully in communion with the Orthodox Church. As Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco +1966 said “The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable Liturgy is far older than any of her heresies”.