By Razvan Porumb and Elizabeth Theokritoff
Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge
The Orthodox community in Cambridge – particularly the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (IOCS), the Romanian parish of St John the Evangelist and the Russian parish of St Ephraim the Syrian – was heartbroken when Dr Christine Mangala Frost passed to the Lord on 7 September 2022.
Christine Mangala was born in India and raised a Hindu; and it was her zeal for Hindu spiritual ideals, she felt, that led her to Christ. In 1968 she came to Cambridge on a Nehru Scholarship to do a doctoate in English Literature, and while there was baptised into the Anglican Church. It was in 1997 that she was received into Orthodoxy, along with her husband David, in the Antiochian Church in Australia. The dialogue of faiths and cultures was thus never simply an academic interest, but something rooted in her own life and relationships with family and friends. Her profound commitment to the Orthodox faith went hand in hand with a gracious appreciation of Anglicanism and indeed Hinduism. She was happy to put her unusual background to pastoral use, when for instance Orthodox clergy sought her help in advising interfaith couples or Christians drawn to yoga or other aspects of Hindu tradition.
As a long-standing IOCS Research Associate, Christine Mangala taught for the Institute’s degree programmes, led a series of research seminars, and gave many talks at IOCS events. Besides many journal articles on interfaith issues, her book ‘The Human Icon: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Orthodox Christian Beliefs’ (James Clarke: Cambridge, 2017) represented the fruition of her lifelong experience of ‘being Hindu and becoming Orthodox’ and was commended by reviewers as a breakthrough contribution to inter-faith dialogue. At the time of her death she was working on an important project which set Orthodoxy in dialogue with Islam. She also published several novels, including The Firewalkers (1991), which was shortlisted for both the Deo Gloria Award and the Commonwealth First Book Prize.
As a member, in the past decade, of the Romanian parish of St John the Evangelist, she was greatly loved by the congregation whom she stunned by quickly learning the chants (in Romanian!) as she joined the choir every Sunday in her beautifully colourful Indian saris – a welcome presence and herself an icon of the catholicity of the Church.
Her friends knew her to be a true follower of Christ, who inspired those around her through her profound insight, clarity of faith, and loving kindness, as well as unparalleled scholarship and erudition. Her personality and vision, her mere presence were profoundly transformative. Her friends miss her otherworldly wisdom and discernment, her warm self-giving friendship. A huge loss for the Orthodox community in Cambridge and the UK, a new light in the Kingdom.