St Theodore of Canterbury: the joys of the heavenly kingdom

Today is the Feast of St Theodore (602-690), Archbishop of Canterbury, who came originally from the birthplace of St Paul, Tarsus in Cilicia. For Greek readers, there is a life of St Theodore over on Γέροντες της Εποχής μας (with a very beautiful icon).

THEODORE came to his Church in the second year after his consecration, on Sunday, the 27th of May [AD 668], and spent in it twenty-one years, three months, and twenty-six days. Soon after, he visited all the island, wherever the tribes of the English dwelt, for he was gladly received and heard by all persons; and everywhere attended and assisted by Hadrian, he taught the right rule of life, and the canonical custom of celebrating Easter. This was the first archbishop whom all the English Church consented to obey.

And forasmuch as both of them were, as has been said before, fully instructed both in sacred and in secular letters, they gathered a crowd of disciples, and rivers of wholesome knowledge daily flowed from them to water the hearts of their hearers; and, together with the books of Holy Scripture, they also taught them the metrical art, astronomy, and ecclesiastical arithmetic. A testimony whereof is, that there are still living at this day some of their scholars, who are as well versed in the Greek and Latin tongues as in their own, in which they were born.

Nor were there ever happier times since the English came into Britain; for having brave Christian kings, they were a terror to all barbarous nations, and the minds of all men were bent upon the joys of the heavenly kingdom of which they had but lately heard; and all who desired to be instructed in sacred studies had masters at hand to teach them.

From that time also they began in all the churches of the English to learn Church music, which till then had been only known in Kent. And, excepting James, of whom we have spoken above, the first teacher of singing in the churches of the Northumbrians was Eddi, surnamed Stephen, invited from Kent by the most reverend Wilfrid, who was the first of the bishops of the English nation that learned to deliver to the churches of the English the Catholic manner of life.

St Bede (673-735), “Ecclesiastical History”, Book IV Chapter II (CCEL). Over on the Orthodox England website, you can find a new-composed liturgy in honour of St Theodore.


WATCH over us, O God, by the intercessions of St John, Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist; of the holy and glorious Apostles, famous throughout the world; of St Theodore, whose memory we also celebrate; and of all thy saints.

The prayer of the Priest at the Divine Liturgy, while the Deacon censes the diptychs commemorating those who have fallen asleep.