Traveling to Bethlehem (7 Dec. 2010)

St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose of Milan

Ours or Theirs?  Grammatically, this might be an odd construct, but the question is valid.  About now, you are probably asking yourself; what is he talking about?  Have you ever wondered why we as Orthodox have difficulty accepting pre-schism western saints as ours? This is most common, I believe, it applies more when the saint in question is a famous or well known western saints.  Today is a good example: St. Ambrose of Milan of St. Augustine.  The more significant the contribution of a saint to the history of the western church the less we tend to recognize them.  A few days ago, both Churches commemorated the memory of St. Cecelia.  The question would then follow: “Is she one of ours?”

I had the privilege of studying in England, in a small town called Durham.  In the famous Durham Cathedral are entombed several Saints Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Venerable Bede and King Oswald of North Umbria. My first reaction when I saw the tombs was to run to an Horologion to check if they were ”kosher.”  This type of reaction is complicated by linguistic variations.  How many know that St Photini, the Samaritan Woman, is called St Svetlana in Russia, St. Claire in France and St. Fiona in Celtic countries. Today the example of this possible confusion is St. Ambrose.  St Ambrose fought Arianism being influenced by Athanasius, corresponded with St Basil and was a great influence on St. Augustine of Hippo. When we look at Saints think across the universal Church.  Theirs are ours and ours are theirs and we are all enriched by this understanding.