Clarification regarding suspension and on-line prayers

Dear brothers and sisters,

After some confusion regarding the suspension of clerics, and their subsequent activities, it seems necessary to clarify the situation.

A cleric who is suspended is banned for all ministry in whatever rank of the clerical order they occupy.

If they serve under this suspension, this disobedience is a sin, and one in which the faithful must not participate.

It does not matter whether a banned cleric serves in a temple or private space, with broadcast and inclusion of others on-line via social media. Not being physically present, but taking part on-line, makes no difference. A ban is a ban, and no faithful of our parishes may have any liturgical interaction with a banned cleric.

This is very difficult, as some of our faithful now feel very isolated, having been accustomed to on-line akathist hymns, memorial services and molebny, that have preserved parish life, and have been a great consolation during lockdown and the uncertainty of the last year and a half.

However, for rebellion against the order and peace of the Church, for creating discord and division, clergy in Colchester and Cheltenham are suspended.

The faithful may not pray with them if they are disobeying the suspension, and their suspensions may only be lifted by His Grace, Bishop Irenei.

Let us all pray for peace and reconciliation, and let us be careful in not being drawn into the rebellion that has occured.

Spasi Gospodi – Fr Mark

Praying on 9/11: Eternal Memory

When the world saw the horror of two passenger planes purposely ploughed into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre, few could have been prepared for the horror when those towers disintegrated and collapsed, sending a deadly tide of masonry and dust through the surrounding streets.

The world will remain haunted by the sight of flames and smoke, and poor terrified people plunging to their deaths, leaving us feeling as impotent as those who looked on, aghast and numb, on 11 September 2001.

We mark the twentieth anniversary of that fateful day, which also saw a third plane attack on the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crash into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, due to the sacrificial action of the passengers that brought about their deaths, but prevented another target being hit.

For us, as Christians, our over-riding duty, on this day, is to pray at every opportunity possible: for the souls of those who died on that horrific day; for those whose catastrophic injuries changed their lives for ever; for the terrified and traumatised; for those who wake up at night, screaming and weeping from their hellish nightmares; for those who continue to treat and care for those whose lives have been affected; for those who mourn, and have to get through this terrible anniversary; for healing and the emotional rebuilding of society and families that will last generations…. and for peace and hope, for today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

This is really a day for few words, but to simply take up our prayer-ropes for all who need our prayers – living and departed – and to simply pray with hope to the Saviour, the Conqueror of Death, and Prince of Peace, “Lord, have mercy.”

 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

(John 14: 27)

The Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Please remember that tomorrow is the feast of the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, and is a day on which we fast in his memory. Wine and oil are permitted, but not fish.

While the birthday of the shameless Herod was being celebrated, the oath he swore to the vile dancer was fulfilled; for the head of the forerunner, having been cut off, was borne, like food, upon a platter, to those reclining there. O abominable feast, unholy act, full of murder! Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

The disciple of the most evil devil danced, and received thy head as her reward, O forerunner. O feast full of blood! Better would it have been not to have sworn thine oath, O iniquitous Herod, grandson of lies! For even though thou didst make thy vow, it was not well sworn. Better would it have been to be proved false, than to cut off the head of the forerunner, who spake the truth. Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

It was not fitting, O Herod, to condemn to death the denouncer of thine adultery, for the sake of a satanic love and the burning of cruel fornication. It was not fitting for thee to give his most precious head over to a most iniquitous woman because of a vow haplessly made as a condition for her dancing. O how couldst thou have committed such a murder? How is it that the vile dancer was not utterly consumed when she bore it on a platter in the midst of the feast? Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

Again Herodias rageth insanely, again is she vexed. O what deceitful dancing, what a feast of deception! The Baptist is beheaded, and Herod is troubled. Through the supplications of Thy forerunner, O Lord, grant peace to our souls.

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

While the birthday of the shameless Herod was being celebrated, the oath he swore to the vile dancer was fulfilled; for the head of the forerunner, having been cut off, was borne, like food, upon a platter, to those reclining there. O abominable feast, unholy act, full of murder! Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

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

Who doth not call thee blessed, O most holy Virgin? * Who will not hymn thy most pure birthgiving? * For the only-begotten Son Who hath shone forth timelessly from the Father, * came forth, ineffably incarnate, from thee, O pure one; * By nature he is God, by nature for our sakes, he hath become a man * not divided into two Hypostases, * but known in two natures without commingling. * Him do thou beseech, O pure and most blessed one, ** that our souls find mercy!

(Verses on ‘Lord, I have cried…’)

Troparion, tone 2: The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise * but the Lord’s testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner, * for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets * since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom thou didst proclaim. * Then having endured great suffering for the Truth, * Thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in Hades * the good tidings that God had appeared in the flesh * taking away the sin of the world ** and granting us great mercy.

Kontakion, tone 5: The glorious beheading of the forerunner * was part of God’s dispensation, * that he might proclaim to those in Hades * the coming of the Savior. * Let Herodias, who demanded the iniquitous murder, therefore lament; * for she loved not the law of God nor the age of life, ** but rather this false and transitory one. 

Saint Phanourios the Great-Martyr and Newly-Revealed

Here we are again, with the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr Phanourios marking the transition from summer to Autumn, as we enjoy the fruits of the season and make the most of the garden’s last summer-flowers.

I have been looking back at past Facebook posts, including our celebrations for St Phanourios, with the blessing of Phanouropita in the Little Oratory, replete with photographs of the garden Newman Hall as it passes from one season to another.

I will always be indebted to my Greek pupils and their parents, who introduced me to St Phanurios, who suffered so many tortures before his martyrdom, and then re-revealed himself to the faithful after being forgotten for centuries.

How often the saints introduce themselves to us – through an icon; through a chance encounter with their written life; through a conversation with someone; through the desires of one who wishes to share their love for a saint with us.

The saints continue to become loved by other nations, and other local Churches, becoming truly pan-Orthodox in their relationship with the faithful.

During my years in ‘Londonopoulis’, I had the joy of not only coming to ‘meet’ St Phanourios, but also the Great-Martyr Mamas, St Savas the New, the Greek new-martyrs, and so many holy-ones who have been glorified by the Lord in Greece, Cyprus, and in the other lands that were once the Christian Empire.

However, in St Phanourios we see something truly wondrous, with the finding of his icon in the ruins of a church on the island of Rhodes becoming the beginning of an intense spiritual relationship between the whole Hellenic people and the Great-Martyr: a glorious wonder!

We look forward to blessing Phanouropita at the end of our Liturgy on Sunday, when we will beseech the intercessions of St Phanourios, for our communities and the faithful.

Άγιε του Θεού Φανούριε πρέσβευε υπέρ υμών!

Saint of God, Phanourios, pray for us!

The following account of the life of Saint Phanourios was written by St. Nikephoros of Chios and included in the Kollyvades text known as the New Leimonarion.

Synaxarion

On the 27th of August, commemoration is made of the Holy, Glorious, and Great-Martyr Phanourios the Newly-Revealed

Verses: Phanourios bestows light upon all the faithful,Even though he long lay in the darkness of the earth.

From whence Phanourios, the splendid athlete of the Lord and invincible martyr, came, and of what parentage he was, and even in what age he lived and under the reign of which emperors he waged his struggle and fought his fight, we have been unable to ascertain, for the account of his life has been lost owing to the vicissitudes of time, as many other things also have been lost or become obscure or unclear. This only do we know, that when the Hagarenes ruled the renowned island of Rhodes, having conquered it because of our sins, he that became ruler of the island wished to rebuild the ramparts of the city that past sieges had ravaged. On the outskirts of the fortress were several ruined dwellings that had been abandoned by reason of their association with the old fortress, which was located a furlong to the south. From these ruins the Hagarenes were wont to gather stones for their construction.

It so happened that, while excavating and reinforcing that place, they discovered a most beautiful church, which was partly buried in ruins. Excavating as far as the floor of the temple, they found many holy icons, all decayed and crumbling, yet the icon of the holy Phanourios was whole and entire; indeed, it seemed as though it had been painted but that very day. And when this all-venerable temple was uncovered, together with its sacred icons, the hierarch of that place, Nilus by name, a man of great sanctity and learning, came and read the inscription of the icon, which said, “The Holy Phanourios.”

The Saint was depicted upon the icon as follows: He was shown as a young man, arrayed as a soldier, holding a cross in his right hand, and at the upper part of the cross there was a lighted taper. Round about the perimeter of the icon were twelve scenes from the holy one’s martyrdom, which showed the Saint being examined before the magistrate; then in the midst of soldiers, who were beating him about the mouth and head with stones; then stretched out upon the ground while the soldiers flogged him; then, stripped naked while they rent his flesh with iron hooks; then incarcerated in a dungeon; and again standing before the tyrant’s tribunal; then being burned with candles; then bound to a rack; then cast amidst wild beasts; then crushed with a great rock; then standing before idols holding burning coals in his hands, whilst a demon nearby wept and lamented; and finally he is shown standing erect in the midst of a fiery furnace, his hands, as it were, uplifted towards Heaven.

From these twelve scenes depicted upon the icon, the holy hierarch perceived that the Saint was a martyr. Then straightway that good and pious man sent deputations to the rulers of that place, asking that they consign to him that temple for restoration, but this they declined to do. Therefore, the hierarch traveled to Constantinople alone and there obtained a decree empowering him to rebuild the church; thus it was restored to that state in which it can be seen even to this day, outside the city. And it has become the source of many miracles, of which I shall relate one for the profit of many, that all who love and venerate the Saint may rejoice.

At that time the isle of Crete had no Orthodox hierarch, but a Latin bishop, for it was ruled then by the Venetians, who had shrewdly refused to permit an Orthodox hierarch to be consecrated whenever one died. This they did with evil intent, thinking that with time they could thus convert the Orthodox to the papal doctrines. If Orthodox men wished to obtain ordination, they had to go to Kythera. It came to pass that there went forth from Crete three deacons, traveling to Kythera to be ordained priests by the hierarch there; and when this had been accomplished, and they were returning to their own country, the Hagarenes captured them at sea and brought them to Rhodes, where they were sold as slaves to other Hagarenes. The newly consecrated priests lamented their misfortune day and night.

But in Rhodes, they heard tell of the great wonders wrought by the Great Martyr Phanourios, and straightway they made fervent supplication to the Saint, beseeching him with tears to deliver them from their bitter bondage. And this they did each separately, without knowing ought of what the others were doing, for they had each been sold to a different master. Now, in accordance with the providence of God, however, they were all three permitted by their masters to go and worship at the temple of the Saint; and, guided by God, they came all together and fell down before the sacred icon of the Saint, watering the ground with the streams of tears, entreating him to deliver them out of the hands of the Hagarenes. Then they departed, somewhat consoled, each to his own master, hoping that they would obtain mercy, which in fact did come to pass; for the holy one had compassion upon their tears and hearkened unto their supplication. That night he appeared to the Hagarenes who were the masters of the captive priests, and commanded them to permit the servants of God to go and worship in his temple lest he bring dreadful destruction upon them. But the Hagarenes, thinking the matter sorcery, loaded them with chains and made their torments more onerous.

Then the Great Martyr Phanourios went to them that night and brought them forth from their bonds, and encouraged them, saying that the following day he would, by all means, free them. He then appeared to the Hagarenes and, reproaching them with severity, said: ‘If by tomorrow you have not set your servants at liberty, you shall behold the power of God!’ Thus saying, the holy one vanished. And, O, the wonder! As many as inhabited those houses all arose blind and paralyzed, tormented with the most dreadful pangs, the least with the greatest. But, though bedridden, with the help of their kinfolk they considered what to do, and finally decided to send for the captives. And when the three priests were come, they inquired of them if they were able to heal them; and they answered: ‘We shall beseech God. Let His will be done.’

But the Saint appeared again to the Hagarenes on the third night and said to them: ‘If ye do not send to my house letters of manumission for the priests, you shall have neither the health, nor the light [of sight] which you desire.’ And when they had again conferred with their kinfolk and friends, each one composed a letter of emancipation for his own slave, which were left before the icon of the Saint. And O, the wonder! Even before the messengers sent to the temple returned, those, who before were blind and paralyzed, were healed; and marveling they set the priests free and dispatched them to their homeland amicably. The priests, though, had a copy of the icon of St. Phanourios painted and took it with them to their own country, and each year the memory of the holy one is piously celebrated amongst them. By the prayers of the Martyr may Christ God have mercy upon us. Amen!

Great-Martyr | Newly-Revealed | Phanourios | Phanouropita | Rhodes

Parish Meeting This Sunday

Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday will be the last of the Church year, with the new ecclesiastical year beginning next Tuesday on 1/14 September.

To mark this transition, we will be holding a General Parish Meeting after Sunday’s Liturgy, looking back over the last year and a half as the rector (Hieromonk Mark), parish administrator (Deacon Mark), and treasurer report on various aspects of parish life.

Much has happened since our last parish meeting, with the geographical area in which our parishioners live expanding across the Severn, from where loyal new parishioners now make weekly journeys. Given the distances involved, not everyone will be able to be in church on Sunday, but we nevertheless encourage those unable to attend to raise any subjects they wish to be discussed on the agenda.

We encourage you all to attend the meeting and to give your views and opinions on the matters we need to discuss. It is your parish, and your voice, ideas and opinions count.

We hope that you will be with us on Sunday, when we will have a bring-and-share lunch after Liturgy, and then hold our meeting. So, bring-and-share will obviously mean bringing something to share!

We especially look forward to welcoming more parishioners back from their travels, new friends who have been in touch with us over the past month or two, and hopefully some of our faithful who have not been with us for a while.

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Fr Mark

The Feast of Saints Adrian and Natalia.

On this feast of the Holy Marytrs Adrian and Natalia, we send our warmest greetings to our dear sisters in Cardiff, Newquay, Cheltenham and Bristol, congratulating them on their name day and praying that they mar be granted many, blessed years! Многая и благая лтѣа!

In the fourth century, the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian cruelly persecuted those who believed in Christ. He came together with his soldiers to the city of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. There it was reported that in a certain cave Christians were hiding, and that they sang and prayed the whole night to their God. Immediately Maximian sent his soldiers to seize these Christians. The soldiers did as they were commanded and the Christians were beaten and brought in iron chains to the place of judgment. One of the chiefs of the judgment place, a young man by the name of Adrian, seeing how patiently and how willingly the Christians suffered for their faith, asked what reward they expected to receive from their God for such tortures. The holy martyrs replied: “It is written in Scripture that eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered the heart of man those things which God hath prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). Hearing these words, Adrian declared that he too wished to be a Christian and was willing to die together with them for Christ. For this he was also thrown into prison.

When Adrian’ s young wife Natalie was told of her husband’s conversion to Christ and of his imprisonment, instead of being sad, she greatly rejoiced for she was secretly a Christian herself and she knew the joy which now filled her husband’s heart. She ran to the prison and, falling down at the feet of her husband, she kissed his chains and said, “Blessed are you, my Adrian; you have found such a treasure.” When Adrian was brought before the Emperor and threatened with torture if he did not worship the pagan gods, his godly-minded wife Natalie and the other martyrs encouraged him saying: “Having been found worthy to carry your own cross and to follow Christ, take care that you do not turn back and lose your eternal reward.”

Adrian had always faithfully served his earthly king, but now he was to serve the King of Heaven. He courageously endured the tortures and was returned to the prison. There Natalie, together with other pious women, would come and help the prisoners, cleaning and bandaging their wounded bodies. When the cruel Emperor found out about this, he forbade them to visit the prison. But the blessed Natalie had such love for the sufferers that she cut her hair and put on men’s clothing. In this disguise she was able to enter the prison.

Day after day the holy martyrs endured such cruel and severe tortures that they were barely alive. The Emperor became angry that even under such tortures they would not deny their God. Finally he ordered for them a violent death. Their arms and legs were cut off and their bodies were thrown into a fire to be burned so that none of the Christians might gather their precious remains. But just at that moment, there burst forth thunder and lightning and a powerful rain which put out the fire. Natalie, together with other Christians took the bodies of the holy martyrs from the fire and rejoiced to see that God had preserved them from harm. A faithful Christian man and his wife then took the holy relics to Constantinople where they could be safely kept until the death of the impious Emperor.

After a certain time, a pagan nobleman desired to marry Natalie who was still young and beautiful. She cried and begged God to save her from this union with an unbeliever. Having prayed fervently, St. Natalie fell from exhaustion and sorrow into a light sleep during which the holy martyrs appeared to her in a vision and said, “Peace be unto you. God has not forgotten your labors. We shall pray that you will come to us soon. Get on a ship and go to the place where our bodies are and the Lord will make Himself known to you.”

Following their directions, the blessed Natalie reached Constantinople and going to the church where the bodies of the holy martyrs lay, she fell down before them and prayed. She was so tired from the journey that she fell asleep and saw in a dream her husband St. Adrian, who said to her, “Come my beloved, and enjoy the reward of your labors.” Very soon after this St. Natalie died peacefully in her sleep. Although she did not shed her own blood, she is numbered among the martyrs for having co-suffered with them, serving and encouraging them in their heroic struggles for the sake of Christ.

Originally published in Orthodox America no. 12, August, 1981

The Petrovskaya Icon of the Mother of God

On this day, on which we remember St Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus, we also celebrate the Petrovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, which was the work of his own hands.

From the cell of Hieromonk Mark

This is one of the most intimate of the umilenie (tenderness) icons, in which the left hand of the Mother of God holds the Christ-child, whilst her right hand not only points to the infant Saviour, but caresses Him, holding Him against her chest, whilst the face of the Holy Mother and her Divine Son touch.

The Mother of God is still the Hodegetria (She Who Shows the Way) in this icon, but she does not do so with a gesture of regal formality, but in a movement that is characterised by love, warmth and familiarity as she diverts us from herself to the Son was the meaning of every second of her life. She does not even look at us, but averts our eyes, deep in contemplation.

This icon profoundly captures the motherhood of the Virgin, and is far from the icons which represent her as the Queen of Heaven, majestic and imperial. Rather, in this icon we see the grace-filled, humble humanity of the Mother of God.

Superfluous detail is ignored by the iconographer, and we – looking at the mutual love of mother and child – are left with only the simple incarnational and salvific Truth, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

This is the selfless and dutiful mother, who at the wedding in Cana will say, “Do whatever He tells you.” and from this icon, pointing to the Way, the Truth and the Life, she continues to say this to each of us.

Most glorious, Ever-Virgin, blessed Mother of Christ our God, present our prayer to thy Son and our God, and pray that through thee He may save our souls.

The Leave-Taking of the Dormition

Dear brothers, sisters and friends of our Cardiff and Cheltenham parishes,

The Liturgy in Cardiff today was greatly blessed by the addition of Father Luke to the celebrating clergy, much to the joy of those who have not seen him for a considerable time, with parishioners from deepest Wiltshire thinking they might drive all the way to West Wales to see him.

Father Luke was a very great help today, given parishioners had travelled from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swansea, and all required confession.

We congratulate all who partook of the Holy Mysteries on this Leave-Taking of the feast of the Dormition, when at the end of Liturgy, after the chanting of the encomia and velichanie for the Dormition, the plashchanitsa of the Mother of God was returned to the sanctuary.

Sunday was also the feast of St Irenaeus of Lyons and Bishop Irenei was greeted for his nameday by telephone yesterday evening, as he was leaving church after the vigil in our parish in Lyons. After the dismissal today’s Liturgy, we chanted Mnogaya Leta for our bishop, with an icon of St Irenaeus, written within the parish, being blessed before presentation to His Grace when the clergy visit the cathedral for its altar-feast: the Nativity of the Mother of God.

I was also very pleased to bless an icon of St Andrei Ufimsky by the hand of the same iconographer, and will be cherishing this in my cell.

The parish received a wonderful blessing this week, as our Chancellor, Archpriest Paul, commended the old candlestands from ROCOR‘s former Bradford parish the care of our community, and we were able to put them into use, knowing that these humble stands had been used in the worship of the Russian Church Outside of Russia since 1946. We sincerely hope they will still be in use in another seventy-five years.

In addition to visiting Wallasey and the Parish of St Elizabeth this week, Father Deacon Mark and I have also had the pleasure of visiting Vladika Irenei in London and the Cheltenham parish yesterday, so it has been a very busy week with significant mileage. To add to this, Deacon Mark is driving to Heathrow to meet matushka Alla and Yuriy who are on their return journey from Crimea at this very moment.

Though matushka and Yuriy are still in transit, other parishioners have arrived home, and it was lovely to have faithful back from Ukraine and Russia and to celebrate the Liturgy and the end of our ‘Summer Pascha’ with them.

As I explained at Liturgy, a very difficult work rota for me will make confessions a challenge this week, but I hope that it will be possible to hear confessions on Thursday. Given the challenges of the week, may I ask all requiring confession, and who are able to do so on Thursday to contact me by Wednesday lunchtime (indicating any time that you would NOT be available that day), so that I may endeavour to make arrangements: otetzmark@hotmail.com 

Given that next Sunday’s Liturgy is followed by a General Parish Meeting, it will only be possible to hear a few confessions before Liturgy, and there will be no possibility to hear either long confessions, or confessions after Liturgy. I am sorry, but on top of my work rota, the meeting makes this unavoidable. Also, there will be no Saturday evening service.

As always, our thanks go to everyone who made our celebrations in Cardiff and Cheltenham possible this weekend, particularly our servers and singers, and our sisters who prepared the food enjoyed by our hungry and appreciative faithful.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

A Joyous Day in Cheltenham

After the turmoil and confusion of the last week, this morning was full of light not simply due to the glorious late summer weather, but also the joy of meeting our core Cheltenham parishioners as we come to the end of the Dormition period.

Rather bleary eyed after a week of visiting, we headed from west to east, across the Severn to celebrate the penultimate day of the feast with our brothers and sisters in Gloucestershire.

After a meeting to discuss continuing parish life, we shared a festive lunch and then prayed the akathist to the Mother of God, in honour of her icon the Giver of Reason (Pribavlenie Uma – Прибавление ума), whose feast fell last Sunday.

The parishioners who attended, and those who were unable and sent their apologies, confirmed the very evident truth that the ROCOR parish of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir is alive and well – Praise God!

As well as discussing continuing liturgical and spiritual life, we look to building links between the Cheltenham and Cardiff parishes, something which has hitherto been little encouraged from Gloucestershire. Our Cardiff community will do everything possible to support its brothers and sisters across the Severn, and our Cheltenham parishioners are already encouraging car-shares to Cardiff, whilst we make arrangements for the next service in Cheltenham.

Father Deacon Mark and I are extremely grateful for the warm hospitality we received today, and are greatly heartened by the strength and resilience we encountered.

We earnestly pray for God’s blessing upon the Cheltenham faithful, and praise Him for their steadfastness in the Faith.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

Holy Great Prince Vladimir, pray to God for us!

O Most Pure Theotokos, the House that God’s Wisdom has created for Himself, Giver of spiritual gifts, who dost elevate our minds from the world to the spiritual spheres and teach us reason! Accept the prayerful singing of thine unworthy servants, who venerate thee with faith and compunction before thy Most Pure image. Entreat thy Son and our God that He may grant our authorities wisdom and power; our judges truth and justice; our pastors spiritual wisdom, zeal and vigilant guarding of our souls; our mentors humble wisdom; our children obedience, and to all of us the spirit of reason and piety, the spirit of humility and meekness, the spirit of purity and truth. And now, our all-praised and all-loved Mother, increase our intelligence, pacify and unite those in hostility and separation, and give them an unbreakable bond of love; direct all those who have strayed through lack of reason, to the light of Christ’s truth and edify them in fear of God, abstention and love of work; give words of wisdom and knowledge, useful for the souls of those pleading with thee, who art more radiant than the cherubim and more honourable than the seraphim; that we, seeing God’s glorious works and His unfathomable wisdom, in the world and in our lives, shall abandon all earthly vanity and needless earthly concerns, raising our minds and our hearts to the heavens, and with thy protection and help shall glorify, thank and praise God, One in three and Creator of all, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen  

God Preserve Our Cheltenham Faithful!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

How sad it is to learn of such subterfuge and deception in the Church, as faithful parishioners of the Cheltenham parish (opposed to the plans of the suspended reader, Philip Hicks) inform us that they were excluded from the on-line meeting held yesterday evening, to ‘discuss’ the future of the parish. 

Other parishioners refused to take part in this meeting, as it was irregular, contrary to the byelaws of ROCOR and part of the attempted coup.

However, loyal parishioners whose views were not known and were therefore not blocked from the meeting, have reported that there was no real discussion, and that there will be no vote, as the schismatic party has declared that this is a ‘lateral move’. At least the Ukrainian schismatics have a ‘vote’ – even if it is rigged with busloads of people from elsewhere.

Therefore, having decided that he would move to the Paris-based Archdiocese, suspended Reader Philip Hicks (who has no canonical release form ROCOR) is ignoring the parishioners who are rejecting this schism, and at his behest the parish is transferring to the Archdiocese of Metropolitan Jean of Dubna. 

No it is not, whatever the suspended Reader, his wife and handful of supporters may do! 

The ROCOR parish in Cheltenham will continue and Cheltenham parishioners have contacted Father Deacon Mark and myself, making clear their opposition to this rebellion, pledging their loyalty to the ROCOR and to Vladyka Irenei as their bishop. They are clear that the Parish of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir is THEIR parish, not the possession of a suspended reader and the starosta. 

What does this mean? 

  • The Cheltenham Parish of ROCOR will continue to exist, no matter what the other party says, does or insists – and the individuals involved will probably be stamping their feet and insisting on a lot of things. 
  • It means that the Cheltenham parish will continue to be cared for by Cardiff clergy, despite the demands on us in Wales.  
  • There are already discussions regarding organising car-shares and transport to make it possible for as many of the faithful (some of whom do not drive) to attend worship in Cardiff and we will seek to do the same for movement in the other direction for Cheltenham services.
  • We do not know whether it will be possible to worship in All Saints Pittville, so we are examining other options. His Grace, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, under whose spiritual jurisdiction All Saints falls, has been advised of this schismatic activity and the clerical suspensions in place. We await his response. 
  • Father Deacon Mark and I will meet the faithful as much as possible, to pray and give reassurance as some have been deeply hurt, confused and distressed by these awful events and the secretive machinations behind their backs. They need our prayers, and support – spiritually and possibly materially. 
  • Our parishes will be spiritually reconnected after what appears an obvious and conscious effort to de-ROCORise the Cheltenham Parish and separate our flocks.

I call upon the Cardiff faithful to support this Cheltenham flock as much as possible: to travel to services; to assure them of our love and support when they are with us; to consider accommodating anyone who is forced to use public transport (and this applies to others of our flock from beyond the Severn).  

When Liturgy resumes, I hope that Cardiff parishioners, whether from South Wales or the West of England will make the pilgrimage to Cheltenham, so that we can all join together as one flock of our diocese, from which others have left to further their own schemes. 

Above all, we must pray with fervour and hope, for the peace of the Church, for the healing of schism, and for those who have fallen away. May Christ purify and enlighten their minds, driving away the fog and darkness which obscures their vision, so that they may repent and be re-united to His Church. 

In the meantime, the Patriarch’s office, reassures Vladyka Irenei of the personal support of His Holiness, and His Grace, Bishop Matvey of Sourozh has stated his opposition to this schism, despite the statements made claiming His support for the awful events of the last week. His Holiness is clear that statements regarding the transferral of the suspended Archpriest Andrew Phillips and his coterie are false. The Patriarch has not blessed this move and has himself declared it uncanonical. 

Lastly, I remind the faithful in Cheltenham that the Reader Philip is suspended and forbidden to exercise his ministry as a Reader. The Church is clear that praying and worshipping with a suspended cleric is canonically forbidden and a sin. Expect to told that he is not suspended, that you are being deceived by your ROCOR clergy, and that all is canonically well. Do not listen; do not discuss; simply refuse and stay away.  

Some of you may be contacted by the schismatic party in the next few days. State that you are a parishioner of the ROCOR parish of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, that you are loyal to your Church and bishop and put the telephone down. Do not be bullied, do not be pressurised, and remember you have nothing to discuss. End the telephone call and go and light a candle and pray for those trying to lead you into schism and further their own ambitions with you as a tool. Be humble, be merciful and compassionate – but also be wise! 

“Brethren, be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” 

With much love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark