Funding a full-time parish-priest

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During our recent parish meeting we discussed the problems faced by Father Mark in combining care for the parish with his secular employment as a support-worker for Mencap.

Over time, duties and expectations have expanded and we have recently experienced clashes which have had a direct effect on his ability to serve us on both the Saturday and Sunday services, in addition to the expectation that he will be on-call and available throughout the week as our parish-priest – despite the fact that he is working more than full-time hours. 

Further, this has a very serious effect on Father’s health as he is, in effect, trying to work two full-time jobs, at a time when the parish is growing and when there is a growing need for pastoral work within our very widely-dispersed community.

Therefore, it was decided that, as a parish, we would investigate the possibility of supporting our parish priest with a ‘stipend’ (clergy salary), by raising enough specific donations to contribute towards this.

As I announced from the amvon, at the end of last week’s Liturgy, we have been successful in securing donation-commitments to provide a very basic stipend allowing us to formally offer Father Mark the role of solely being our parish-priest, free from secular employment. Therefore, we are currently preparing the formal paperwork to ensure that he is able to resign from secular work to concentrate on full-time work as rector of our parish.

Thank you to everyone who has come forward to make this possible. 

For those who have made commitments to donate and for those who have not committed, but also wish to donate towards the stipend-fund – even if only occasionally – please see the information below to ensure that:

1) you are able to donate securely and easily.

2) we are where possible able to reclaim ‘gift aid’ from the government to top-up the donations.

3) we can identify the donation as a specific contribution towards the stipend.

Commitments to donate towards the stipend

If you would like to donate specifically towards the stipend please could you inform Deacon Mark, so that your intention is registered on our admin system.

We simply need the following information:

1) your name.

2) the amount you wish to donate specifically toward the stipend.

3) the frequency of your donation.

4) if you would prefer to donate by bank transfer or cash.

5) whether we are able to register you for Gift Aid.

We all know that life can be unpredictable at any time and especially in the current circumstances, so please If should any circumstance arise affecting your ability to continue donations, or need to alter your donation, please make Deacon Mark aware, so that aware so that our systems may be adjusted. 

Importantly, we do not want anybody to put themselves in undue pressure or financial stress.

Donations by Bank Transfer

Donations may be made directly into the parish bank account at any time during the month to suit your circumstances. The parish bank details are:

Account Name: Cardiff Russian Orthodox Church

Sort Code: 01 – 01 – 55

Account No: 17716985

Donations by Cash

Cash donations may be made at any of the month’s services, but in order for us to ensure financial clarity and prevent confusion, please direct your donation to its intended purpose with the following procedure:

1) place your donation into an envelope.

2) write your name and ‘Stipend Donation’ on the envelope.

3) place your envelope in any of the collection plates.

By your doing this, we will be able to ensure that the cash is counted with a witness and then passed to Deacon Mark for banking and recording in the donation register.

Gift Aid

In order to maximise your donations, the government will allow us to claim ‘Gift Aid’ on all eligible donations. This means that the government will give the parish an additional 25% on top of your donation at no cost to you – and, yes, this really is free money!

There are specific conditions to make this possible. These are:

1) that the donor is a UK resident.

2) the donor is a UK Taxpayer (e.g. you pay p.a.y.e on your salary, tax on a pension, or capital gains on an investment);

3) the donor is donating on their own behalf and not on behalf someone else.

4) the donor has completed and signed a ‘Gift Aid’ form, allowing the parish to claim the money from the government.

If you have not filled in a gift aid form, please use the following link that will allow you to download a form for you to complete:

https://russianorthodoxchurchcardiff.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/ROCOR-Cardiff-Parish-Gift-Aid-Form.pdf

Alternatively, if you are unable to print the form above, please let Deacon Mark know and he will ensure you receive one at the next service.

Questions

If anyone has any questions please contact Deacon Mark by email rmfisher@ntlworld.com or mobile 07790 031375 and he will do his best to answer and resolve them for you.

With much love in Christ,

Deacon Mark

Greetings on the Feast of the Protecting Veil

Dear all,

I know that it is rather late in the day, but nightshifts make my days back to front and upside down. However, despite the hour, I greet you all and wish you a blessed and holy feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.

We have so many feasts celebrating the events of her life and her wonder-working icons, but this feast is a concrete celebration of that wonderful reality that is her ‘protection’; a mother’s instinct to protect her children; and the wonder is that there is no limit to the children who can find shelter under her omophorion.

We remember the vision of St Andrew the Fool in the Church of Blachernae, and the Mother of God’s protection of the Imperial City from the siege of the Avars and Persians in 626, but more than that – we celebrate the Mother of God as our constant protection, and as the mother who cares for us, as her children.

The earliest Christian hymn to the Mother of God is one that is very precious for us, and one which we – as a parish dedicated to the Theotokos – hear each week during clergy communion – “Beneath thy mercy… Pod tvoyu milost…”

Beneath thy mercy we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos: disdain not our supplications in our distress, but deliver us from perils, O only pure and blessed one.

The history of this glorious hymn, celebrating the Protection of the Mother of God, shows how the Christians across the breadth of the ancient world came together to place themselves beneath the Protecting Veil of her love and mercy, with the Mother of God being a source of unity for Christians of every race and nation.

The earliest manuscript comes from the Coptic Christmas Liturgy and is written on a third-century papyrus. The hymn is part of the Armenian, Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman Rites (with a few variant words), and was so ingrained in the hearts and souls of the children of the Russian Orthodox Church, that when the service-texts were reformed in the mid 17th century, the faithful still clung to the original Slavonic text of their forebears.

Подъ твою милость, прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво, молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ. но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.
 
As we celebrate this feast, let us not only think of ourselves, but with fervent prayers of intercession take our loved-ones, friends, neighbours… and even enemies to the Protection of the Mother of God – asking her to mercifully be their refuge; to come to them in their distress; to hear our supplications for them; to deliver them from perils. And – let us commend those who do not even know the motherhood of the Theotokos to her Protection and intercession. This is the glory of the fifteen decades of prayers, we call the Rule of the Mother of God – offered to her for the intention of others, knowing the power of a mother’s intercession before the Lord of Glory.

Our Lady has become a mirror of God’s boundless and immeasurable love, desiring the salvation and restoration of all of God’s people – not just Christians, but all people, created in the image of likeness of God.

At the foot of the Cross, when the Saviour commended her to St John, with the words “Behold thy mother”, He spoke to the whole of humanity – humanity which was the gift of the Mother of God to our Saviour, who then commended her to us, and who – in the course of time – received His Mother into the glory of heaven, from where she watches over us, protects us, visits us, and works countless miracles.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

May God bless you on this wonderful feast.

In Christ –  Hieromonk Mark

The Canon for the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God

Ode 1, Irmos: I will open my mouth, and with the Spirit will it be filled; and I shall utter discourse unto the Queen and Mother, and shall be seen keeping splendid festival; and, rejoicing, I shall hymn her wonders.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Having entered the church in great glory today as the Mother of God, with the ranks of the holy angels and the assemblies of the prophets and apostles, thou prayest for all Christians and deliverest them from perils and grief, covering them with thy mercy.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Moses called thee the tabernacle and the rod of Aaron, for thou didst put forth Christ, the Tree of life; and as thou hast boldness before Him, O Queen, pray thou for us who honour thee, that He deliver us from all evil, that we may glorify the feast of thy protection.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Assembling choirs, David doth dance, not as he did before the ark of old, but even more now, hastening into thy presence in the church with the ranks of the saints. And bowing down before thee, we say: Pray thou for us, the people who honour thee, that, glorifying thy protection, we may celebrate it with honour.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The ranks of the angels hymn thee, O Theotokos, and the patriarchs and holy hierarchs glorify thee, hastening into thy presence in the church. And the holy Andrew then beheld thee with them, praying to God for us sinners, that He have mercy upon the people who glorify the feast of thy protection.

Ode 3, Irmos: O Theotokos, thou living and abundant fountain, in thy divine glory spiritually establish those who hymn thee, forming themselves into a choir, and vouchsafe unto them crowns of glory.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Like an unploughed field thou didst manifestly produce the divine Grain. Rejoice, O animate table holding the Bread of life! Rejoice, O Mistress, thou inexhaustible wellspring of the Water of life!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O Mistress, we, thy people, standing before thee with faith in thy church, await thy mercy. Visit our lowliness, and with thy holy protection defend the Orthodox people from all evil.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O far-famed Virgin who was honourably prefigured by the prophets, with the angels they now do thee homage. Pray thou to God with them, that, rejoicing, we may all splendidly celebrate thy holy protection today.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Gideon prefigured thee as a fleece, for Christ God descended upon thee like dew. Pray thou to Him, O Theotokos, that He grant victory to our Orthodox hierarchs over all heresies, that, casting them down like the Midianites, they may glorify thy holy feast.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Theotokos, with thy radiant omophorion thou lightest the church and the people more than the rays of the sun, and by thy visitation drivest away the darkness of our sins, praying for us to thy Son and God.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sedalion, Tone 5: O pure Ever-virgin, fervent and invincible intercessor, excellent and unashamed hope, bulwark, protection and refuge of those who have recourse to thee: with the angels beseech thy Son and God, that He grant compunction, salvation and great mercy to the world.

Glory …, Now & ever …, The foregoing is repeated.

Ode 4, Irmos: Seated in glory upon the throne of the Godhead, Jesus most divine is come upon a light cloud, and with His incorrupt arm hath saved those who cry: Glory to Thy power, O Christ!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O most hymned Virgin, we cry out to thee in voices of hymnody: Rejoice, thou butter mountain, curdled by the Spirit! Rejoice, O lampstand, O jar bearing the Manna which sweeteneth the senses of all the pious!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O Theotokos, God hath sanctified thee wholly, more than the ark of Aaron, and hath commanded the saints and angels to do thee homage. With them pray for the city and people who glorify thine honoured feast.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O Theotokos, come now in glory unto thy church, with the councils of all the saints, as once the holy Andrew beheld thee in the air, radiantly praying for Christians; and grant us thy mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Strengthen our Orthodox hierarchs against all heresy and schism, as God did David against Goliath, O Mistress, that in gladness we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O holy protection and helper of our city!

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

With faith do we fall down before thee, O Lady, and, rendering homage with thanksgiving, we cry out to thee: Rejoice, O Virgin full of the grace of God, our protection and wall of defence, the helper of those in misfortune! Save us who have recourse to thee, for in thee do we place our trust!

Ode 5, Irmos: All things are filled with awe by thy divine glory; for thou, O Virgin who knewest not wedlock, didst hold in thy womb Him Who is God over all, and thou gavest birth to the timeless Son, granting peace to all who hymn thee.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Of old, Solomon described thee as the marriage-couch and bed of the King of heaven, and spake of thee as surrounded by the seraphim, O Theotokos. Wherefore, we now beseech thee, O most holy Mother of God: Protect us from all misfortunes!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

To thee do the foremost among the angels and the honoured prophets and apostles render service with honour as the Mother of God, beholding thee making supplication for the world; and the Lord, hearkening to thine entreaties, doth save thy city and people who place their trust in thee.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah, great among the prophets, prophesied thee, saying that without knowing wedlock thou wouldst give birth to God; for thou, O pure Mary, wast more holy than all, in that thou didst bear God in thy womb and in thine arms. To Him pray thou for us, with thy protection covering those who faithfully glorify thee.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Spreading spiritual wings, the councils of the saints came mystically to do thee homage, O Theotokos, beholding thee on the light cloud of glory, praying to Christ the Saviour, that He grant victory to our Orthodox hierarchs, to prevail over all heresy and schism.

Ode 6, Irmos: Celebrating this divine and most honoured festival of the Mother of God, come, ye divinely wise, let us clap our hands and glorify God Who was born of her!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Divinely wise priests, standing in thy church with the pious people, await thy mercy, O Theotokos. Transform our grief into joy, in that thou gavest birth to the Joy Who hath done away with the sins of all men.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

To thee doth all the earth offer gifts as to the Queen and Mother of God. Kings and princes bow down in homage, and all the people are glad, protected from all evil by thy supplications, O Theotokos.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Daniel described thee beforehand as a great mountain; for from thee was Christ born without seed. He hath destroyed all the falsehood of the demons, and hath filled all the earth with His Faith. To Him do thou pray for us who glorify the feast of thy protection, O Theotokos.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O all-pure one, we utter unto thee the cry of the angel: Rejoice, O throne of God, whereon Ezekiel beheld the Lord in the guise of a man, borne up by the cherubim! With them pray thou for us, O Theotokos, that He save our souls.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, Tone 3: Today the Virgin standeth forth in the church, and with the choirs of the saints she invisibly prayeth to God for us. Angels and hierarchs offer homage, and the apostles and prophets join chorus; for, for our sake the Theotokos entreateth the pre-eternal God.

Ikos: Come, O ye people, let us delight in her all-glorious miracles; for through her hath Adam been delivered from corruption. She is the ark fashioned, not by Noah, but by God. Of old, Moses was unable to see God in the fiery bush; but now the whole earth doth acknowledge the Son of God Who was born of her and to Whom she prayeth for us. Wherefore, we glorify her as the Mother of God; for, for our sake the Theotokos entreateth the pre-eternal God.

Ode 7, Irmos: The divinely wise would not worship a created thing instead of the Creator, but, manfully trampling the threat of the fire underfoot, they rejoiced, chanting: O all-hymned Lord God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O Virgin, thou wast not described by the many prophets and wast also unknown to the angels of heaven who minister to God; but now we all know thee to be the Theotokos, and require thy help and aid, O blessed one.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O Virgin Theotokos, thou mountain curdled by the Spirit which Habbakuk saw pouring forth the sweetness of healing upon the faithful, heal us who cry out to thy Son: Blessed is the God of our fathers!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

He Who bowed down the heavens made His abode within thee, O Virgin, and now regardeth thy supplication, fulfilling thy petitions, O pure Queen and Theotokos. To Him do thou now earnestly pray, for we place our hope in thee, O blessed one.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Christ God, our Creator and Saviour, accept the entreaty of Thy Mother, which she offereth to Thee for us sinners, that, rejoicing, we may chant to Thee: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Ode 8, Irmos: The birth giving of the Theotokos saved the pious children in the furnace – then in figure, but now in deed, – and it moveth the whole world to chant to Thee: Hymn the Lord, O ye works, and exalt Him supremely for all ages!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

With the ranks of the angels, the honourable and glorious prophets, the preeminent apostles, the hieromartyrs and holy hierarchs, O Mistress, pray thou to God for us sinners who glorify the feast of thy protection in this land.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Cast down pride and arrogance, scatter the councils of unjust princes, and destroy those who instigate wars, O Mother of God, most honoured Queen! And exalt the horn of our Orthodox hierarchs, that we may glorify thy feast, O all-pure Virgin Theotokos, crying: Hymn the Lord, ye works, and exalt Him supremely for all ages!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Offering thee hymnody with our mouths, we bow down before thee spiritually with our souls; for our hearts burn within us. O all-pure Mother of God, have mercy upon us who pray to thee, who hymn the Lord and exalt Him supremely for all ages.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

I have been weighed down by many sins, and am at a loss how to write in praise of thy protection, O Theotokos; but as thou art the Mother of God, adorn thy feast with miracles, that, rejoicing, we may all hymn the Lord and exalt Him supremely for all ages.

Ode 9, Irmos: Let every earthborn man leap up, enlightened by the Spirit; and let the nature of the incorporeal intelligences hold festival, honouring the sacred feast of the Mother of God, and let it cry aloud: Rejoice, O most blessed Theotokos, thou pure Ever-virgin!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O exalted King Who sittest with the Father and art hymned by the seraphim: look down upon the supplication of Thy Mother, which she offereth to Thee for us sinners, and wash away our sins. Save this city and multiply the people. Grant health of body and victory over all adversaries to the Orthodox through the prayers of her who gave Thee birth.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O divinely chosen Virgin, we cry out to thee with the voice of the angel: Rejoice, thou who hast led Adam back into paradise! Rejoice, thou who drivest the demons away with thy name! Rejoice, O hope of Christians! Rejoice, sanctification of souls! Rejoice, preserver of our city!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Remember us in thy supplications, O Virgin Lady and Theotokos, that we not perish because of the multitude of our sins. Protect us from all evil and grievous perils, for in thee do we place our trust, and, honouring the feast of thy protection, we magnify thee.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

As Mother of God, thou hast received from God the gift to heal the infirmities of all Christians, to deliver them from misfortunes, to forgive their sins and save them from captivity and all want. Disdain us not, O Lady, for thou knowest that we are in need of health for our bodies and salvation for our souls.

Troparion, Tone 4: Overshadowed by thy coming, O Mother of God, * we, the right faithful people, celebrate today with splendor, * and gazing upon thy most precious image, we cry aloud with compunction: * Cover us with thy precious omophorion, * and deliver us from all evil, * entreating thy Son, Christ our God, ** that He save our souls.

Services this coming weekend…

Dear brothers and sisters,

This coming weekend, we look forward to welcoming you to our services in Cheltenham and Cardiff.

On Saturday, the Parish of the Holy Great Prince, Vladimir, will celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Prestbury United Reformed Church at 10:00, with confessions being heard from 09:15. A bring-and-share lunch will follow the service. For details, see:

https://www.facebook.com/events/318974696658162/?notif_id=1634111239416862&notif_t=page_share&ref=notif

As we are unable to celebrate the Protecting Veil  – the feast of Pokrov – with a Liturgy tomorrow, we will celebrate the Protection on Saturday, blessing the little chapel in Prestbury with another feast of the Mother of God.

On the clergy’s return to Cardiff, we will chant compline in Cardiff at 16:30, with the canon to the Protection of the Mother of God, and we will then celebrate the Hours and Liturgy on Sunday morning at 11:00. As usual, confessions will begin as soon as we have entry to the Church, around 10:15.

The following weekend 23/24 St John’s is unavailable on either Saturday afternoon, or Sunday at the usual time. Though we would be able to celebrate the Liturgy at 06:00 (as I had previously hoped), there will be no chance to hear confessions, given the Saturday situation.

Given this combination of difficulties, we will – regrettably – be unable to celebrate in Cardiff, but will join Father Luke for his first public Swansea Liturgy, in the Vivian Hall, 82 Mumbles Rd, Black Pill, Swansea SA3 5AS.

So… those who would like a seaside Liturgy, are encouraged to journey to Swansea Bay and be a part of the ROCOR celebration for Swansea, Llanelli and West Wales. If you are able to support the Swansea-Llanelli parish, please try to ensure that spare seats in your car are offered to other parishioners who do not have their own transport. May we also ask the same of anyone who is able to support the Cheltenham Liturgy?

I will post details of the Swansea Liturgy once I have spoken to Father Luke.

Finally – I encourage you all to celebrate the feast of the Protecting Veil / Pokrov in your homes tomorrow, and celebrate the Protection of the Mother of God with joy and hope!

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

The Miraculous Catch of Fish

Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb’edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

When I was a young monastic in the Podvorie of St Seraphim in Birmingham, Igumen Seraphim and I very much liked the simple homilies of Archbishop Andrei of Rockland (1893-1973), of blessed memory – a vicar-bishop of the Eastern-American Diocese of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Returning home tired from work and confession last night, I turned to his homily for today’s Gospel and was glad that I did so.

I will let Vladyka Andrei set the scene:

“Christ was preaching on the lake of Gennesaret. Now the sermon has finished. There were two boats at the shore, and Christ had been preaching from one of them. Here He addressed the Apostle Peter and said: “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets.” Peter answered: “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing” (Lk. 5:4-5). And the Apostles were experienced fishermen; they knew the laws of the sea. If at night-time no fish were caught, then during the day a catch was out of the question. And Peter said this to Christ. But he added: “Nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the nets” (Lk. 5:5). And they let them down. And a miracle happened. The boats were so filled with fish that they started to sink. Then the Apostle Peter fell at the feet of the Saviour and said: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8).”

Someone else may have said to Jesus – do I teach you about carpentry? Do I instruct you or show you what to do? No. Well, it might be better if your stick to carpentry and I stick to fishing. You do what you know about, and I’ll do what I know about.

Archbishop Andrei observes, “In spite of all his experience as a fisherman, he listened to Christ and let down the nets.”

We should remember that Peter was no novice fisherman. He knew about fish, he knew how to fish, and he knew that after a night’s fruitless fishing, there was no chance of remedy… yet despite all of his knowledge and expertise, he was humble enough, and obedient enough to do exactly as Christ requested.

In the words of Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid,

“When the Lord tells him to launch out into the deep, Peter does not become exasperated and leave Him, nor does he reply, “I have toiled the whole night and gained nothing, and now I should obey you and do it all again?” Peter said nothing like this, but instead, At Thy word I will let down the net. Such was the warmth of his trust even before he had faith.”

The Gospel tells us of the miraculous reward for Peter’s obedience to the unlikely request.

To return to the words of Vladyka Andrei:

“This is the process of faith. The Apostle knew that fish could not be caught. But he accepted the word of Christ within himself, within his will; and this will, which by now was Christ’s, he fulfilled.”

This is the alignment and marriage of our will and that of Christ of which I spoke in last week’s homily on the mystery of the Cross.

“And what happened? A miracle? Yes, a miracle. But the main miracle was not in the abundance of fish, although this catch was a miracle. The main miracle was the change of soul which occurred in Peter. He saw himself, he saw his essence. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Here is the process of faith: to accept in your heart the word of Christ, to fulfil it. And then to us will be revealed the thing which is most important for our salvation, for our inner life.”

We see this miracle throughout the Gospels.

When Zacchaeus reorientated himself to Christ, a miracle happened within him, and he was transformed and became new.

The Samaritan women – St Photina – likewise received the transformation with her leap of faith at Jacob’s Well in Nablus, running to bring others to experience the change so quickly wrought in her.

At the Cross this miracle was seen in the remaining minutes of the life of the Good Thief, who reached out to the Saviour in humble confession with those ever-memorable words –“Lord, Remember me in your Kingdom” – receiving the wonderful promise: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Conversely, not all who were requested by Christ to cast out into the uncertainty and unknown of the deep were able to do so.

The disciples left behind trades, livelihoods, families, incomes and homes, as we hear at the end of the Gospel reading – “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

In so doing – like Peter – they were spiritually transformed and were miraculously changed to be the preachers of Grace filled with the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues at Pentecost. However, the ‘rich young man’ who had so assiduously and faithfully kept the Law of Moses, was unable to face the uncertainty of the deep, by selling all that he had to follow Christ, and the inner miracle of new birth and newness of life was denied him.

His attachment to security and the world kept him at the shore, like the multitudes who seemed so eager to listen to Christ and pressed so close, hearing his words, but not committing themselves to living the Gospel and being willing to take the plunge of Faith by following Christ into the unknown and seemingly impossible deep that is Faith.

Archbishop Andrei continues,

“Listen to the word of Christ. But where do we find this word? In the Gospel – that is where. If we know the Gospel and apply it to our life, then our life in Christ will be revealed to us.”

Here we might pause and reflect that it is not enough to simply know the Gospel, no matter how detailed this knowledge. We hear that it is by labouring for Christ that His Gospel becomes real and transformational in our lives. We are not interested in theory, but in putting the Gospel into action – to repeat the words of Vladyka Andrei – “If we know the Gospel and apply it to our life, then our life in Christ will be revealed to us.”

In matins we sing, “God is the Lord, and hath revealed Himself to us…” Christ the God-Man was revealed in the incarnation and His earthly life, and He continues to reveal Himself in the Gospel, but this revelation is not to be something that is exterior to us, but a revelation within us, as the Gospel is made the living reality of our lives. We become part of this revelation, by living with Christ within our hearts. This is the mystery of our life in Christ and Christ in our lives.

The internal miracle within the Apostle Peter, and his understanding of his own unworthiness and sinfulness in the light of Christ is something which Archbishop Andrei perceives even when a Christian only tried to fulfil a single commandment of the Lord –

“…if you would only attempt to fulfil the word of Christ, at least one commandment of Christ, then the essence of your life would be revealed to you, too.”

Even in the conscientious fulfilment of one commandment, a miracle has happened, and a human being has been changed by uniting his/her heart with Christ and uniting his/her will to that of the Saviour, who has been revealed within that action, no matter how small.

Progressing from this small beginning, the more we embrace the Gospel and live it, the clearer Christ will be revealed to us, the clearer Christ will be reflected in us, and we will reveal Him to the world with ever-growing clarity. Like Peter, as this happens, we shall simply not begin to see Him as He is, but to see ourselves as we really are – both in terms of what needs to change in us, and how the grace of God is changing and transforming us, as we are reformed and remoulded by His love, according to our constant prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

The fulfilment of the Gospel of Christ, and its realisation in our lives is the essence of this recreation and renewal, as it was for Peter, realising his unworthiness in the light of Christ’s miracle. The more we appreciate our unworthiness, the more we are able to appreciate the magnitude of God’s love, and our life in Chris is where He will be revealed to us –

“And (in the words of Archbishop Andrei) His Resurrection will become for us more real than the physical world surrounding us. And He will fill our heart with an unspeakable joy, with the joy of Eternal Life; and this joy will have no end.

Only take the Gospel in your hands, only try to apply it in your life. Take everything which the Holy Church gives us. Then a miracle will happen to you, too – a greater miracle than the wonderful catch. Christ Himself will be revealed to you as He was revealed to Peter. Then you too will say deep in your heart: “I am a sinful man, O Lord!” And if you are a sinner, it means that you are sick and need a physician. And if a physician, then who is the Physician of the heart? Christ alone!”

Amen!

Today in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

Another weekend has passed with a joyful celebration of Faith in St John’s, where we chanted a panikhida for the mother and relatives of our new friends Zhanna and Dionisiy before compline and confession on Saturday, and the Hours and Liturgy, today.

As always, it was a pleasure to welcome new faces and to be able to have time together over food and drink at the end of Liturgy, with the afternoon imperceptibly passing, so that it was 15:30 before we knew it.

However, conversation merely moved to the grounds of St John’s, and the remaining parishioners seemed in no rush to leave, despite the prospect of drives to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire for some.

It was heartening to see our students socialising and getting to know one another, the interaction between the different generations of our parish, and to see parishioners make visitors feel at home, with today being no exception.

Over the years, some of us have belonged to different parishes, as work and study sent us to different countries or parts of Britain, but I have to say that I have never encountered such a warm and welcoming community as ours in Cardiff. Our many visitors over the past month have commented on the welcome they received, and some have kept in touch after their visits to Wales.

This weekend, special thanks are due to Deacon Mark for sorting the ever-expanding Orthodox ‘liturgical luggage’ stashed under the pews, and now neatly stored on the trolley we once parked in my room in Newman Hall. The altar-end of the south aisle is now rather less cluttered and neater.

Thanks also go to our singers and servers, some of whom make considerable journeys each Sunday. We are privileged to have such dedicated people, some of whom travel more than 100 miles each Sunday to be part of a traditional Orthodox parish.

This reminds us that our Faith is not about compromise or convenience, but has a cost if we are to live it fully, maintaining Holy Tradition, preserving canonical Orthodoxy, and rejecting the renovationism and pick and mix imitations of Orthodox that dilute Faith and pander to the whims and convenience of modern society. This is certainly the abiding message of the life of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa who was martyred on this day – rejecting compromise and maintaining the fullness of Orthodoxy until his last breath at the firing of the bullet that ended his earthly life at 4 p.m. on October 10, 1937.

May his example inspire us, and may his prayers ever protect us.

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Fr Mark

Services in Cardiff this weekend: 9/10 October.

Despite it being the second Saturday of the month, there will be no Cheltenham Liturgy, as the United Reformed Church is unavailable. Cheltenham Liturgy will be on Saturday 16 October.

Compline will be celebrated at St John’s, as usual, at 16:30 with confessions being heard during the service.

The Divine Liturgy and Hours will be celebrated on Sunday at 11:00.

Would those requiring Sunday confession please contact me – otetzmark@hotmail.com – so that we have some idea of how many are confessing. We need to consider how we manage this, as there is presently insufficient time for everything that needs to be done before the beginning of Liturgy.

Please consider preparing food for our post-Liturgy ‘social’, being mindful that some of our faithful have a very early start and long journeys to and from the Liturgy.

Liturgy variables:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iheXDdQHfvzlTpMuJzqVn7gXKn5gbuF_/view

The Leave-Taking of the Exultation of the Cross

The last two weeks have been very busy for the parish, with additional confessions at every moment possible around each Sunday’s Liturgy and an encouraging number of communicants.

The excellent attendance for the Leave-Taking of the Exultation of the Cross was reflected in the time it took for the faithful to venerate the Cross, and to be anointed with oil from Godenovo.

As with other feasts of the Cross, it was wonderful to see so many of the faithful venerate the Cross as the choir chanted Krestu Tvoemu (We venerate Thy Cross), and to see new faces and have parishioners from the entire geographical spread of our parishes: from the West Wales Coast to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

Following the final veneration of the Cross for the feast this year, a memorial service was chanted on behalf of two of the Welsh-Romanian families who are friends of the parish, and we thank them for their generosity in preparing gift bags in memory of their departed, so that all of our worshipers benefitted from their generosity, and they were kind enough to send a bag for Fr Luke who was celebrating in Llanelli.

It was a special joy to administer Holy Communion to baby Joachim, on his first visit since his baptism in the Romanian Orthodox parish in Coventry, and to see our previously ‘trainee’ oltarnik, Alexander, don a stikharion for the first time.

We now have the benefit of two Marks and two Alexanders in the sanctuary each week, and will happily welcome another John or Oswald to make further pairs! Today also saw little Yuriy’s first assignment, carrying an acolyte candle (having rejected the intended large taper!), which is quite impressive feat for a three-and-a-half-year-old.

We were glad to be able to thank our outgoing starosta, Alyona, for her labours on behalf of our parish, mindful that her wardenship saw the parish enter a very collaborative and positive period of community-life. We are indebted to her for her labours, especially in being so warm and welcoming to the many non-Slavs and converts in our community. She has always made it clear that our parish is built on Faith, not language or national identity. Alyona, we thank you for your poslushaniya, love and great support!

As always, our thanks go to all who made the Leave-Taking of the feast of the Exultation of the Cross such a prayerful, joyful and sociable celebration.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Nameday Greetings

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, Sophia, and her daughters Faith (Vera), Hope (Nadezhada) and Charity (Lyubov), we send our warmest greetings to our parishioners and many friends honoured by their names in Holy Baptism.

We particularly send our congratulations to Sophia in Swansea, Sophia our senior sister in the cathedral-parish, Lyubov in the Wallasey parish, ‘Mama Lyuba’ who has just returned to Ukraine from Cheltenham, Vera – the starosta of the London cathedral-parish, our Cardiff parishioner Nadazhda, and to Masha’s daughter Nadia.

Dear sisters, we wish you a joyous feast and pray that God may grant you many, blessed years! Многая и благая лтѣа!

In your prayers, I ask you to remember the soul of the ever-memorable handmaiden of God, Vera, departed starosta of our former Birmingham parish.

Services this weekend: 2/3 October

Our Russian Orthodox Parish will gather at St John’s Church, as usual, for compline and confessions this coming Saturday, 2 October, and will celebrate the Hours and Divine Liturgy on Sunday 3 October at 11:00: the Sunday after the Exultation of the Cross.

Those needing confession on Sunday morning are asked to arrive as close to 10:15 as possible, to allow sufficient time for the clergy entrance-prayers and the proskomedia.

The variables may be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MjTcEzI-1lBnKrgTaecU8NcS5jK9lrIu/view

It was a great joy to have such a social time after last week’s Liturgy, and – as usual – we invite you to bring offerings for a bring-and-share buffet lunch.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark