How awesome is this place…

Dear brothers and sisters,

This weekend was blessed with the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham and Cardiff, bringing our communities together to celebrate the Holy Mysteries and share the communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Each of these services was not celebrated in the consecrated Byzantine ‘otherness’ of an Orthodox sanctuary, surrounded by icons and lamps, and walls and domes painted with angels and saints, flickering the light of hundreds of candle and lamp-flames.

Rather, the Liturgies were celebrated in the plainness of a little Victorian Congregational Chapel and a Victorian parish church surrounded by horse-chestnuts and red-brick terraces. Yet, they began with the same priestly proclamation, as the sign of the Cross was made over the antimins with the Gospel: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

When we pray and worship together in peace and unity; when our spiritual gifts and capabilities are woven together in eucharistic offering; when we assemble as a community to offer not only the Holy Gifts, but our whole selves and lives to God; when we gather in love and fellowship to share the Lamb of God who is “broken but never divided, ever eaten but never consumed” – we reflect the life of the Triune-God as a community of love. We anticipate the mystery of the eternal Eighth Day and receiving a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, towards which we journey in the pilgrimage of the Christian-life.

Independent of our environment and the lack of an ‘Orthodox setting’, in the otherness of the Liturgy – so different from the hours of work and labour, employment or unemployment, cooking, cleaning and family life – Christ calls us to put aside the cares of the world, “that we may receive the King of All, who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts”.

Our weekly eucharistic journey into the Kingdom is reflected by His journey into the borrowed buildings in which we are able to celebrate, and the little chapel in Prestbury and the Victorian interior of St John’s are transfigured and joined to Heaven.

They may be far from the ideals of the sanctuary in which we wish to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and worship as Orthodox Christians, yet we must be grateful for God’s mercy and grace, and mindful of the ongoing miracle of His revealed-love in these humble places.

Beneath their roofs, the Saviour is welcomed week by week, as we chant “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord”, and they become the sacred ground at the foot of the Heavenly Ladder on which the Lord descends, so that we may join the Patriarch Jacob and say,

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Cheltenham Liturgy: Saturday 13th November

Cheltenham: Saturday 13th November – Confessions 09:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 10:00 

Address: Prestbury United Reformed Church, 5 Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Our Gloucestershire community will celebrate the Divine Liturgy tomorrow, honouring the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves, Saints Spyridon and Nikodim the Prosphora Bakers, also remembering our departed Hierarch, Archbishop Nikodem of Richmond and Great Britain on his nameday.

We will chant the litia for the departed after our Liturgy, which will be celebrated just a few weeks after the 45th anniversary of his repose on 4th / 17th October 1976,  at the age of 93. Eternal Memory!

We look forward to celebrating the Holy Mysteries together, and spending time socialising after the service, when there will be a bring-and-share lunch and confession time for Cardiff and Wiltshire visitors.

May God bless you. Venerable Fathers Spyridon and Nikodim, pray to God for us!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Icon courtesy of parishioner Mikhail Bulashov: https://www.facebook.com/Icons.GuardianAngel

Cheltenham and Cardiff Services This Weekend

Dear brothers and sisters, 

The coming weekend will see the resumption of normal parish life with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham on Saturday, and Cardiff on Sunday. 

Our Gloucestershire mission will meet for the Divine Liturgy in Prestbury United Reformed Church, with confessions from 09:15 and the Hours and Liturgy as close to 10:00 as possible, though the number of confessing communicants meant an unavoidably late start last month. There will be a bring-and-share lunch after Liturgy, and our Cardiff faithful who will be communing on Sunday are welcome to make their confessions before their homeward journeys.

Our ROCOR parish continues as the canonical Russian Orthodox presence in Cheltenham, and our parishioners remain committed to the diocese and the Russian Church Outside of Russia. We pray that God may sustain them and give them strength. 

On our return to Cardiff, confessions will be heard at Deacon Mark’s office in Morganstown, and we will appreciate notification from those requiring confession as soon as possible. Confessions will also be heard in St John’s from around 10:15 on Sunday morning, and I again ask for an indication of those wishing to do so. Email: otetzmark@hotmail.com

Thank you, all who have already made arrangements. 

I look forward to our celebration of the Hours and Liturgy, and remind you that we are very much seeking to re-establish our bring-and-share lunch, as it is so good to see parishioners catching up with one another after Liturgy. So, please think about bringing offerings for the table. 

The variable parts of Sunday’s Liturgy may be found at ‘Orthodox Austin’ –

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GZAIFRd1iRYrLSHwhsuKiSPVZWvjMtuS/view

As Advent and December, and the end of my secular-employment approach, we look forward to increased parish prayer and services, formalised catechism, and pilgrimage. I hope that we may begin to discuss these important aspects of the development of parish-life on Sunday – especially the celebration of a weekly Advent Moleben around the parish.

Many thanks to all who continue to have been in touch over the last week and to those who have sent ‘care parcels’. The kindness, care and generosity of our parishioners is both exemplary and inspiring. 

May God bless you all! 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Cheltenham  Saturday 13th November: Confessions 09:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 10:00 

Address: Prestbury United Reformed Church, 5 Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. 

Cardiff – Saturday 13th November: Confessions 16:30 

Cardiff – Sunday 14th November: Confessions 10:15, Hours and Divine Liturgy 11:00 

For Untroubled Sleep

Grant me, O Lord, both in wakefulness to stand pure before Thee, my Redeemer, and in slumber to partake of sleep without sin.

If in wakefulness I commit transgressions, may I be cleansed by Thy grace, O Lord. And if I sin while asleep, may Thy loving-kindness be unto me purification.

With the cross of Thy humility, make my sleep untroubled, preserve me from the iniquitous dreams of sleep and from the impure conjurings of the imagination. Grant that I might spend the whole night in peaceful sleep and that evil and deleterious thoughts might not take possession of me.

With Thy life-creating Body, of which I have partaken, preserve me from impure lust, that I might lie down and fall asleep in peace. May Thy Blood protect me. And grant my soul, that is Thine image, the freedom that is proper to Thine image. And my Thy right arm shelter my body that was made by Thy hands.

Encircle me with the wall of Thy compassions like a defensive shield. And when my body rests and sleeps, may Thy goodness be my guard, that the Evil One might not approach my bed. By the protection of the Mother who bore Thee, by the sacrifice that Thou hast offered for all men, I beseech Thee: drive away Satan, that he might no trouble me.

In me, O Lord, fulfill Thy promise and preserve my life by Thy Cross. I shall praise Thee when I awake for showing me who am miserable Thy love. May both those who sleep, resting in peace, and those who abide in wakefulness, girded by Thine armor, give praise to Thee, O Preserver Who livest eternally and Who hast aroused me to sing Thy glory.

‘Psalm’ 82, from “A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God”, excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian

The Feast of St Demetrios

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you, as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr, Demetrios, whose relics still stream myron in the city of Thessaloniki, and are visited and venerated by the faithful from all corners of the world.

St Demetrios is one of those saints who is loved and venerated not only by Orthodox Christians, but even by Muslim Turks. During the Ottoman centuries, the Muslims of Thessaloniki visited his church (turned into a mosque) to venerate his relics, knowing the generosity of the Great-Martyr in hearing the prayers of all who sought his intercession, and Muslims in Turkey still venerate him and visit his holy spring/ayazma in Istanbul.

Below his life, from the Orthodox Church of America, the akathist to the Great-Martyr is appended.

Happy Feast!

The Great Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-gusher of Thessaloniki was the son of a Roman proconsul in Thessaloniki. Three centuries had elapsed and Roman paganism, spiritually shattered and defeated by the multitude of martyrs and confessors of the Savior, intensified its persecutions. The parents of Saint Demetrios were secret Christians, and he was baptized and raised in the Christian Faith in a secret church in his father’s home.

By the time Demetrios had reached maturity and his father had died, Emperor Galerius Maximian had ascended the throne (305). Maximian, confident in Demetrios’s education as well as his administrative and military abilities, appointed him to his father’s position as proconsul of the Thessaloniki district. The young commander’s principal duties were to defend the city from barbarians and to eradicate Christianity. The Emperor’s policy regarding Christians was expressed simply: “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.” The Emperor did not suspect that by appointing Demetrios he had provided him with the opportunity to bring many people to Christ.

Accepting the appointment, Demetrios returned to Thessaloniki and confessed and glorified our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of persecuting and executing Christians, he began to teach the Christian Faith openly to the inhabitants of the city and to overthrow pagan customs and the worship of idols. The compiler of his Life, Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), says that because of his teaching zeal he became “a second Apostle Paul” for Thessaloniki, particularly since “the Apostle to the Gentiles” founded the first community of believers in the city (1 Thess. and 2 Thess.).

The Lord also destined Saint Demetrios to follow Saint Paul on the path to martyrdom. When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the Emperor’s rage knew no bounds. Returning from a campaign in the area of the Black Sea, the Emperor decided to lead his army through Thessaloniki, determined to massacre the Christians.

Learning of this, Saint Demetrios ordered his faithful servant Lupus to give his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.” He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.

When the Emperor came into the city, he summoned Demetrios, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of Roman polytheism. Maximian ordered Demetrios to be thrown into prison. An Angel appeared to him, comforting and encouraging him.

Meanwhile the Emperor amused himself by staging games in the circus. His champion was a German by the name of Lyaeos. He challenged Christians to wrestle with him on a platform built over the upturned spears of the victorious soldiers. A brave Christian named Nestor went to the prison to Saint Demetrios, his instructor in the Faith, asking for his blessing to fight the barbarian. With the blessing and prayers of Saint Demetrios, Nestor defeated the fierce German and hurled him from the platform onto the spears of the soldiers, just as the murderous pagan would have done with the Christian. The enraged commander ordered the execution of the holy Martyr Nestor (October 27) and sent a guard to the prison to kill Saint Demetrios. At dawn on October 26, 306 soldiers appeared in the Saint’s underground prison and ran him through with lances. His faithful servant, Saint Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garment of Saint Demetrios he took the imperial ring from his finger, a symbol of his high status, and dipped it in the blood. With the ring and other holy things sanctified the blood of Saint Demetrios, Saint Lupus began to heal the infirm. The Emperor ordered his soldiers to arrest and kill him.

The body of the holy Great Martyr Demetrios was cast out for wild animals to devour, but the Christians took it and secretly buried it in the earth.

During the reign of Saint Constantine (306-337), a church was built over the grave of Saint Demetrios. A hundred years later, during the construction of a majestic new church on the old spot, the incorrupt relics of the holy martyr were uncovered. Since the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh has been found beneath the crypt of the Great Martyr Demetrios, so he is called “the Myrrh-gusher.”


Akathist to St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer
written by the former bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Athanasios Patelarios, of Crete

In the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Kontakion 1: O faithful, let us praise with hymns and divine praises the Myrrhstreamer, who deposed the cruelty of the tyrant, and conquered the audacity of Lyaios, and preached Christ as God clearly, and let us cry out to him: Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Ikos 1: Angels were astonished in heaven, beholding the godless rage of the tyrant (3), and as you were put to death by his decree, O Demetrios, we cry out to you thus:

Rejoice, the sacred pinnacle of martyrs,
Rejoice, the joyous radiance of Saints.
Rejoice, for you were placed in a pit as one condemned,
Rejoice, for you ascended to Heaven as one without a body.
Rejoice, dweller in the ranks of the Angels,
Rejoice you who bore the tortures of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you despised the wiles of the enemies,
Rejoice, for your soul now dwells in Heaven.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 2: The divine Nestor, beholding himself in manliness, approached the king with boldness: “Your exceeding danger appears as an abomination to my soul. For I will put to death the godless Lyaios, crying out: Alleluia.

Ikos 2: Having godly knowledge, O Demetrios the boast of martyrs, you said to the tyrant: “From soulless matter [i.e. idols], how is possible to give birth to God? Speak to me.” To [the Martyr], the faithful who honor God cry out with fear:

Rejoice, the most-radiant lamp of Thessaloniki,
Rejoice, for you overcame Lyaios in victory.
Rejoice, you who pours forth divine myrrh from your grave,
Rejoice, you who bears divine zeal in your heart.
Rejoice, for your blood was a purifying bath,
Rejoice, for through you there is blotting out of sins.
Rejoice, you who deposed the delusion of the idols,
Rejoice, you who censured the mania of tyrants.
Rejoice, for you healed the passion of hemorrhage,
Rejoice, you who offered your soul from its depths.
Rejoice, for you delivered Marinon from leprosy,
Rejoice, for your beloved Istron you sent.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 3: Power from heaven then strengthened Nestor to fight, and he took up arms against the utterly strong Lyaios, and with swift hand, he struck him down as dead, and therefore cried out to the Savior, chanting: Alleluia.

Ikos 3: Having the divine desire to obtain the body of Demetrios, the pious Emperor [Justinian] went., but as [St. Demetrios] did not desire this, fire came forth from his grave threatening death. And he said to him such words in fear:

Rejoice, the unemptying river of wonders,
Rejoice, the irrevocable icon of traumas.
Rejoice, for you did not offer your Relic to him who sought it,
Rejoice, for you grant sanctification to those who venerate you.
Rejoice, for you summoned fire from your divine grave,
Rejoice, for you censured the mania of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you deposed the worship of the idols,
Rejoice, for your body was pierced with spears.
Rejoice, for your blood was given as drink to the godless,
Rejoice, for you sanctified the whole world with your body.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 4: Having godless confusion and evil thoughts, the senseless king was enraged, beholding the Martyr not preaching the delusion of the idols. We, beholding the unjust slaughter of the Saint at his hands, cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 4: The ends of the world heard of the murder of Demetrios at the hands of the senseless tyrant, and beholding him dead, they hastened to him, seeing the sacred wonders that he pours forth throughout the whole world, as they honor him, saying:

Rejoice, he who traded the corruptible things for the heavenly,
Rejoice he who deposed the counsels of the evil ones.
Rejoice, you who joined chorus with the bodiless Angels,
Rejoice, you who entered the land of the greatly-suffering Saints.
Rejoice, you who serve together with the spotless Cherubim,
Rejoice, you who walk together with the pure Seraphim.
Rejoice, for you served the Lord of lords,
Rejoice, for you bore within the seat of divine thrones.
Rejoice, the most-fervent fellow servant with the Angels,
Rejoice, the most-wise fellow counselor with the Archangels.
Rejoice, the sacred adornment of the Venerable,
Rejoice, the radiant rejoicing of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 5: Perceiving Demetrios to be a God-bearer, the most fervent man hastened to be delivered through him from the terrible demon. And having touched his deliverance, he rejoiced in the Lord, crying out: Alleluia.

Ikos 5: Leontios, the son of the Orthodox, formerly saw the unspeakable might of the Martyr, and desiring to come to him, he sought for Istron to hasten to pass by him with his robe, and cried out to him:

Rejoice, he who through his robe worked awesome wonders,
Rejoice, he who did not bear stains of offenses.
Rejoice, for your streams have become our own.
Rejoice, for you drove back the campaigns of barbarians,
Rejoice, for you dwell in the thrones of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, you who drove away the plague from Thessaloniki,
Rejoice, our sun which shines upon the faithful.
Rejoice, he who delivered from idol-mania,
Rejoice, he who delivers all from the bonds of slavery.
Rejoice, he who grants grace to all those who approach him,
Rejoice for you ever dwell with those who praise you.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 6: The deluded became preachers of corruption of souls, as they hastened through Thessaloniki, performing idolatry and preaching atheism everywhere, as the Martyr left the tyrant like a mule, as he said: Alleluia.

Ikos 6: The divine Nestor, shining together with the sacred Demetrios, drove away the darkness of error, for they anathematized the idols steadfastly, and cast them down, while the faithful who were saved cries out to those strugglers:

Rejoice, O Demetrios, the firm support,
Rejoice, O Nestor, the splendid pride.
Rejoice, you who granted strength to Nestor,
Rejoice, you who granted corruption to Lyaios.
Rejoice, you who firstly censured the blind tyrant,
Rejoice, you who secondly kept [St. Demetrios’] example.
Rejoice, he who received death by spears,
Rejoice, he who received incorruptible life through the sword.
Rejoice, he who was murdered in prison like a convict,
Rejoice, he who was preached throughout the world as one immortal.
Rejoice, he who before death worked awesome deeds,
Rejoice, he who after death works wonders.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 7: The holy dyad of Martyrs then passed on from this world, as the sacred Martyrs had greatly endured lawless murder. Therefore, those who behold this are astonished, and cry out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 7: A new song was found, as we bitterly sing the funeral hymn to Demetrios, for he was slaughtered by a godless tyrant, and did not sacrifice to the idols. We therefore hymn him and fervently cry out:

Rejoice, you who were placed dead in a grave,
Rejoice, you who ride throughout the world as one alive.
Rejoice, for your blood was shown to be a new cleansing bath,
Rejoice, for your soul is mixing with the Angels.
Rejoice, for you are hymned from the ends of the earth,
Rejoice for they draw forth from your fragrant myrrh.
Rejoice, lamp amidst the Martyrs,
Rejoice, ray of godly graces.
Rejoice, you who were dyed with your holy blood,
Rejoice, you who were sanctified in your divine body.
Rejoice, you who received diamond crowns,
Rejoice, for you now dwell in the halls of the ever-memorable.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 8: Beholding a strange wonder, the idols were moved by the bravery of the martyrs. Therefore, he who now dwells on high gives bravery to those who dwell on the earth to take courage, and aim their arrows at the idols. To him we now cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 8: Having his mind wholly on things above without departing from earth, was the most-pure Martyr, for he clearly conquered the delusion of the idols, and preached Christ with boldness, hearing thus:

Rejoice, for you were killed on behalf of Christ your God,
Rejoice, for you desired the joyous things of Paradise.
Rejoice, for you traveled the upper road to Heaven,
Rejoice, for you inhabit the dwelling-places of the pure.
Rejoice, for you now travel with the Angels,
Rejoice, for you have come to dwell with the Saints.
Rejoice, for you preached your Christ like a holy trumpet,
Rejoice, for you dwell in the spotless mansions of Paradise.
Rejoice, you who put forth myrrh from your godly body,
Rejoice, you who scoffed and the rubbish of the godless,
Rejoice, for you broke asunder the intrigues of rulers,
Rejoice, for you trampled upon the delusion of the idols.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 9: You received every grace from heaven, O Martyr Demetrios, and preached paradoxically that the inaccessible God became man, being the Son of God. Therefore, to Him let us cry: Alleluia.

Ikos 9: O Martyr Demetrios, you showed the many words of the orators of the tyrants to be foolish, for they were astonished at how you strongly condemned the delusion of the idols. We, being astonished at this paradox, cry out to you:

Rejoice, the rose of virginity,
Rejoice, the pinnacle of continence.
Rejoice, you who lived purely before you were killed,
Rejoice, you who after you were killed were led towards God.
Rejoice, in whom the light of God was planted,
Rejoice, in whom the grace of the Trinity made its dwelling.
Rejoice, the length and breadth of the pious,
Rejoice, the sharp sword against the faithless.
Rejoice, you who shine with the rays of the sun,
Rejoice, you who drive away the mania of the tyrant.
Rejoice, tree bearing the fruits of many graces,
Rejoice, for you bore the shoots of many victories.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 10: Saving the Orthodox from the delusion of the godless idols, you came straightaway, O Martyr, and you preached the Lord as perfect God to the deluded and idiotic tyrant, crying out to him: Alleluia.

Ikos 10: You are the shelter of the Martyrs, O Champion and Martyr, and all those who take refuge in you, for you revealed the Maker of heaven and earth to all, and deposed the tyrant and the idols. We therefore cry out to you:

Rejoice, the deliverance for those in sickness,
Rejoice the savior of the continuously hemorrhaged.
Rejoice, you who sow grace among all those who hymn you,
Rejoice, for you are a pillar of graces.
Rejoice, divine power, the casting-down of idols.
Rejoice, pure dwelling-place of God,
Rejoice, chaste type of Christ.
Rejoice, for your blood became as a new baptism,
Rejoice, for your body received death.
Rejoice, bridge leaving those who die from earth to heaven,
Rejoice, for you are a guide to the faithful.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 11: We your servants all offer funeral hymns at your grave, O Martyr, shedding tears and offering odes and psalms to you, for we are not at all worthy of what has been accomplished through, as befits your grave, but we cry out to the Savior: Alleluia.

Ikos 11: Your grave, O Martyr, has been shown to be light-bearing, shining forth with grace like light. For all those who approach are suddenly granted joy and health, while we who approach you cry out these:

Rejoice, you who preserved your Church unharmed,
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the wiles of the evil one.
Rejoice, for you drove back the nation of the Slavs,
Rejoice, for you trampled upon the rule of the idols.
Rejoice, you who uprooted the pride of the barbarians,
Rejoice, you who cast out the conceit of the tyrants.
Rejoice, you who preserved your city unharmed,
Rejoice, you who shook up the delusion of the godless one.
Rejoice, you who punished Onesiphoros for his theft,
Rejoice you who uprooted the danger of the idols from the earth.
Rejoice, the sure consolation of those who take refuge in you,
Rejoice, the salvation of the souls of those who approach you.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 12: Bearing grace from above, O Demetrios, you drove out all the campaigns of the enemies. You preached Christ upon the heard as a steadfast hoplite of grace, and you cast down the idols, as you chant along with everyone: Alleluia.

Ikos 12: We hymn the wonder that you worked, O Martyr, as your city was preserved victorious, as you appeared as a god to the faithless, sending forth Angels speedily, saying: “Drive them far away from the city”, therefore we cry out:

Rejoice, for at your will your city was saved,
Rejoice, for through your strength the enemy was cast down.
Rejoice, you who met Achilleos in your flight,
Rejoice, you who sent out Nestor with your strength.
Rejoice, you who drown Lyaios in blood,
Rejoice, you who raged against the faithless in spirit.
Rejoice, you who strengthens your city through your presence,
Rejoice, for if you left her, your city would be lost.
Rejoice, you whose grave is beloved by hymnologists,
Rejoice, you who put to death falsehood through your might.
Rejoice, you who grants to us a sea of graces,
Rejoice, you who sows the mercy of your myrrh within all.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 13: O pair of Martyrs, who preached Christ as the surpassing Word before all, (3) receive these funeral hymn and odes, and deliver us from every danger, and the coming trial through your prayers, those who cry out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 1: Angels were astonished in heaven, beholding the godless rage of the tyrant (3), and as you were put to death by his decree, O Demetrios, we cry out to you thus:

Rejoice, the sacred pinnacle of martyrs,
Rejoice, the joyous radiance of Saints.
Rejoice, for you were placed in a pit as one condemned,
Rejoice, for you ascended to Heaven as one without a body.
Rejoice, dweller in the ranks of the Angels,
Rejoice you who bore the tortures of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you despised the wiles of the enemies,
Rejoice, for your soul now dwells in Heaven.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 1: O faithful, let us praise with hymns and divine praises the Myrrhstreamer, who deposed the cruelty of the tyrant, and conquered the audacity of Lyaios, and preached Christ as God clearly, and let us cry out to him: Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

An Akathist to Matushka Olga of Alaska

An Akathist to Matushka Olga Michael

by Archpriest Lawrence R Farley

Kontakion 1 (Tone 4): Our God who makes the moving curtain of the northern lights made you as a living light, shining in the far north and lighting up the desolate with His great beauty. Beholding this radiance, we your children lift up our voices and sing:  Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Ikos 1: You laboured in the far north as a new Tabitha, making clothes to shelter the poor from the cold and warming their souls with your love.  We who endure the icy winds of this age also find shelter in your heavenly intercession and offer you these praises:

Rejoice, you that provided boots and parkas for the bodies of those in need!

Rejoice, you that still provide God’s grace for the souls of the afflicted!

Rejoice, for your ceaseless labour clothed many throughout your village!

Rejoice, for your glorious praises are sung by many throughout the world!

Rejoice, strong consolation of peace for widows and orphans!

Rejoice, invincible tower of defence for the crushed and despairing!

Rejoice, haven of peace in the tumultuous world!

Rejoice, silent witness to the eternal Word!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 2: Born in the humble Yup’ik village of Kwethluk, you walked humbly with your God, doing justice and loving kindness, and were manifested to all as a real person.  Now that your God has exalted you to the heavenly heights, you hear from your earthly Church the song:  Alleluia!

Ikos 2: In your youth you married the village post-master and manager of the general store, supporting him by your prayers so that he became an archpriest.  As a matushka, you were a true mother to all you met, and we your children delight to run to you with these songs:

Rejoice, you whose maternal embrace comforts us in our pain!

Rejoice, you whose unfailing strength fills us with new hope!

Rejoice, for you dry our tears as a loving mother!

Rejoice, for you come to us with the strength of the heavenly Father!

Rejoice, you that sewed the priestly vestments of your husband that he might stand in beauty before God!

Rejoice, you that clothe us also in true holiness that we might stand unashamed in the Kingdom!

Rejoice, open door to the mercy of the Lord!

Rejoice, high wall of protection against the assaults of the enemy!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 3: As the handmaid of the Lord, you obeyed His first command and fruitfully multiplied, bearing thirteen children, loving each one and sorrowing over the ones who died.  Now that you stand with them in heaven, you hear from us your children still on earth the hymn:  Alleluia!

Ikos 3: Even during your earthly sojourn you were life-giving, bearing many children and filling their lives with the love of God.  Now that your sojourn has ended and you sing in the heavenly choir of the saints, you continue to give life to us your spiritual children, who thankfully offer these words:

Rejoice, you that taught your earthly family the ways of the Lord!

Rejoice, you that watch over your spiritual family with the love of Christ!

Rejoice, you that received each of your children as the gift of God!

Rejoice, you that welcome all of us who come to you as your own children!

Rejoice, healing maternal embrace for the wounded!

Rejoice, victorious divine defense against the demons!

Rejoice, consolation of all your troubled children!

Rejoice, joy of all who seek your help!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 4: During your life you gave away your children’s clothing to the poor and taught them to preserve the dignity of the poor by not saying anything when they saw others wearing their clothes.  Now that you stand before God clothed in the vestments of glory, you cry aloud to Him:  Alleluia!

Ikos 4: You toiled ceaselessly, Matushka Olga, making traditional fur boots and parkas to raise funds for the needy throughout Alaska, so that your maternal care was felt by those far distant from you.  We needy ones also cry to you from the ends of the earth, taking refuge in your maternal intercession and offering you these hymns:

Rejoice, for the Lord has covered you with the robe of gladness!

Rejoice, for the Bridegroom adorns you with the jewels of His Kingdom!

Rejoice, you that clothe the poor children with the love of God!

Rejoice, you that restore their dignity before the eyes of men!

Rejoice, shining garment of our earthly vindication!

Rejoice, radiant vestment of our heavenly triumph!

Rejoice, boast of the widows!

Rejoice, song of the orphans!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 5: Like your Lord who wanted to gather Jerusalem’s children together the way a hen gathers her brood, so you also, Matushka Olga, sheltered the broken children who needed your care.  Now that you stand in glory as their strong intercessor, you hear from them the cry:  Alleluia!

Ikos 5: Those defenseless ones who suffered abuse at the hands of men looked to you for healing, O blessed Matushka, and you never disappointed them, but comforted their hearts and filled them with hope.  We your children who also suffer our own wounds in the world turn to you with confidence and say:

Rejoice, you that give rest to the weary and heavy-laden!

Rejoice, you that fill the fallen with new strength!

Rejoice, for your counsel empowered the battered and despairing!

Rejoice, for your wisdom delivered them from all their fears!

Rejoice, for they looked to you and were made radiant!

Rejoice, for you took from them their guilt and shame!

Rejoice, ceaseless advocate before God for those molested and injured!

Rejoice, unconqueable stronghold for all needing refuge!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 6: Even when your children and their playmates were noisy and made a mess in your house, you never scolded them or raised your voice in anger to them, but your silence showed them your love and understanding.  Marveling in your divine patience and maternal compassion, we your children also cry:  Alleluia!

Ikos 6: None who suffered neglect could fail to find their help in you, O blessed Olga, for in your wisdom you knew how to feed the hungry as you preserved their failing self-esteem.  We who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of the Kingdom look up to you for aid, calling aloud:

Rejoice, for you fill the hungry with the good things of the Kingdom!

Rejoice, for you satisfy the poor with the bread of God!

Rejoice, for your prayers scatter the proud and end their oppression!

Rejoice, for your love exalts those of low degree and sets them on high!

Rejoice, you that lift up the heads of the ashamed and beaten!

Rejoice, you that heal of the hearts of the broken and weary!

Rejoice, inexhaustible abundance!

Rejoice, eternal banquet!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 7: You laboured as a midwife, O blessed Matushka, caring for the women of your village, and in your prophetic insight you knew when a woman was pregnant in her first weeks, even before she did.  Marveling at how God is wonderful in His saints, we give thanks to Him with the hymn:  Alleluia!

Ikos 7: The weak and vulnerable came to you for strength, O Matushka Olga, and you guided them through the sorrow of childbirth into joy.  We who walk through this life of sorrow and who seek the joy of the life to come offer you these songs:

Rejoice, gentle healer, working to bring many newborn children into the world!

Rejoice, spiritual midwife, labouring through your prayers until Christ is formed in us!

Rejoice, for your heart knew when God had formed a child in the womb!

Rejoice, for your hands brought many children to the light!

Rejoice, hidden prophetess, deep in the counsels of God!

Rejoice, manifest sanctity, revealing the goodness of the Lord!

Rejoice, you whose patient labours filled many with joy!

Rejoice, you whose constant intercession bring many to the Kingdom!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 8: The old and ill found cause to praise God for you, O Matushka Olga, for you visited them in their infirmity and did their housework when they could not, quietly serving the Lord through His people.  Knowing that you continue to serve the Lord through your heavenly intercession, we lift up our prayers to you, singing aloud:  Alleluia!

Ikos 8: Like your Lord before you, O blessed one, you girded yourself in the radiant garments of humility and washed the feet of your fellow-servants, and inherited the blessing He promised for those who follow Him in humble service.  Now that He has exalted you on high, you hear our fervent praises:

Rejoice, you that visited orphans and widows in their affliction!

Rejoice, you that kept yourself unstained from the world!

Rejoice, you whose labours refreshed the hearts of the lowly!

Rejoice, you whose prayers lifted them up to God’s throne!

Rejoice, never-flagging zeal, aglow with the Spirit!

Rejoice, never-failing intercession, serving the Lord!

Rejoice, for you never ceased in your work of love!

Rejoice, for your toil always gave the weary new hope!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 9: God formed you for Himself to declare His praise, O blessed matushka, and you knew by heart all the words of the services for many feast days, Holy Week and Pascha, that you might lift up a ceaseless song to your Lord.  Joining you in singing His matchless praise, we also cry aloud:  Alleluia!

Ikos 9: God opened your lips that your mouth might declare His praise, and your lips poured forth His praise, since by His Spirit He taught you His statutes.  Like the Mother of God before you, your soul magnified the Lord, and we who have heard your song also rejoice in God our Saviour, saying to you:

Rejoice, you that dwell in the courts of the Lord!

Rejoice, you that sing for joy to the living God!

Rejoice, song of triumph, silencing the din of the demons!

Rejoice, eternal melody, joining with the heavenly choir!

Rejoice, for the words of the Church’s praises were written on your heart!

Rejoice, for the pure words of adoration came pouring from your lips!

Rejoice, you whose heart overflowed with good Word of God!

Rejoice, you who addressed your verses to the King!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 10: God, who sends forth His word and melts the ice, cared for you even in death, for even though you died in the frozen month of November, a warm wind blew in and melted the river, enabling many of your friends to come to your funeral unexpectedly and allowing your grave to be easily dug.  Then, after they departed, the cold returned, the river froze and the ground hardened.  Observing the care the Creator lavishes on His saints, we sinners lift up the cry:  Alleluia!

Ikos 10: When the mourners at your funeral escorted your holy body to the graveyard, they saw that a flock of summer birds flew overhead, as if joining in the sacred procession, though after the funeral feast the unseasonable birds were seen no more.  As the created order joins in honouring God’s saint, we too hasten to add our praises:

Rejoice, for your whole life was a witness to God’s healing love!

Rejoice, for in even your death you testified to His sovereignty over creation!

Rejoice, you that gathered all to the Lord by your humble acts of service!

Rejoice, you that assembled all to worship Him at your final appearance on earth!

Rejoice, for your prayers bring God’s warmth to our souls!

Rejoice, for your presence banishes icy fear from our hearts!

Rejoice, fire of love in the bitter Arctic snows!

Rejoice, pillar of light in the long night of the north!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 11: The villagers who sang hymns from house to house at Christmas-time and who sang “Memory Eternal” at the homes of those who died the past year refused to let you die from their hearts, O blessed Olga, for even twenty years after your repose, they still come to sing “Memory Eternal” before your empty house.  We who love you also join them in their ceaseless devotion, singing to you the hymn:  Alleluia!

Ikos 11: Those who carried the Christmas star from house to house, illuminating the night with their carols, still carry you in their heart, Matushka Olga, as they stand in song before the home you vacated when your soul left us for the mansions of heaven.  As the north star shines brightly among the stars in heaven, so you stand among the choir of the saints, and hear from us these songs:

Rejoice, you whose healing love binds us to you with the cords of devotion!

Rejoice, you whose gentle touch looses us from the bonds of pain!

Rejoice, for you never forsake your people!

Rejoice, for your people ever turn to you for aid!

Rejoice, ever-present bulwark in the midst of your church!

Rejoice, never-failing intercessor before the throne of God!

Rejoice, song of joy in the night!

Rejoice, flame of hope in the morning!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 12: In your maternal love you continue to care for us, Matushka Olga, praying for our souls and granting peace through your holy icon.  Thankful to God for your miracles among us, we offer up the doxology:  Alleluia!

Ikos 12: Those abused from childhood know you as a mighty healer, O blessed matushka.  You appeared in a dream to one undergoing counseling for abuse, leading her through a forest, massaging her like a midwife so that all her years of painful trauma poured out from her, leaving her restored and joyful in spirit.  Exulting in your healing love, we offer you these praises:

Rejoice, companion of the Theotokos, granting us maternal protection!

Rejoice, heir of St. Herman, shining forth from Alaska!

Rejoice, you that straighten the tangled cords of the darkened past!

Rejoice, you that give to the hurt and fallen a radiant future!

Rejoice, for you dry the tears of children!

Rejoice, for you drench us with the joy of Christ!

Rejoice, peace for the traumatized!

Rejoice, wholeness for the wounded!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Kontakion 13: O blessed Matushka Olga, accept these songs of us who trust in you, and in the compassion which you have always shown us, rescue us from distress, pain and despair. Fill us up with the light of Christ, so that we may sing with you to God the eternal hymn of victory:  Alleluia!

(thrice; then:)

Then: Ikos 1: You laboured in the far north as a new Tabitha, making clothes to shelter the poor from the cold and warming their souls with your love.  We who endure the icy winds of this age also find shelter in your heavenly intercession and offer you these praises:

Rejoice, you that provided boots and parkas for the bodies of those in need!

Rejoice, you that still provide God’s grace for the souls of the afflicted!

Rejoice, for your ceaseless labour clothed many throughout your village!

Rejoice, for your glorious praises are sung by many throughout the world!

Rejoice, strong consolation of peace for widows and orphans!

Rejoice, invincible tower of defence for the crushed and despairing!

Rejoice, haven of peace in the tumultuous world!

Rejoice, silent witness to the eternal Word!

Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

And again: Kontakion 1: Our God who makes the moving curtain of the northern lights made you as a living light, shining in the far north and lighting up the desolate with His great beauty. Beholding this radiance, we your children lift up our voices and sing:  Rejoice, Matushka Olga, healer of the abused and broken!

Prayer to Matushka Olga

O blessed Matushka Olga, hear our prayer as we lift up our hearts to you, trusting in the power of your ceaseless intercession.  Even as you spread the warmth of your maternal love over the souls of the needy, abused and broken, so warm our souls also, healing our pain and bringing us the love of Christ.  Through your prayers, may we walk in the paths of peace, pleasing our Lord and glorifying His Name, and so finally fail not to enter into the joy of His eternal Kingdom, praising our God forever before His throne:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

A Priestless Sunday in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

It has been wonderful to receive calls and messages from our faithful, during the course, of Sunday afternoon, confirming how well the parish coped without a priest, due to my isolation, which sadly precluded the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

This was the first time that the congregation had assembled for public worship without a priest, and a valuable (if unplanned) lesson in prayer and worship

However, the parish proved itself capable of coping in such circumstances, with the chanting of the Hours, the sung Typika and moleben to the Mother of God in honour of her Kazan Icon, demonstrating that when the unexpected happens, worship can continue with beauty and solemnity.

As I have already said in communication with parishioners, reader-services or services according to the lay-order (Богослужение мирянским чином), are very much part of the liturgical history of the Orthodox Church, latterly in the vastness of Russia, where some outlying settlements and hermitages, only had priestly services very rarely.

Between the visits of priests, the services were led by non-ordained monastics and lay elders. As in the desert of Africa, where the early monasteries and hermitages usually lacked clergy, lay liturgical practice was firmly established and was well known in each religious community.

I previously wrote on Facebook

“With the acquisition of some familiarity and knowledge of the order of the services and the sources for their parts, liturgical prayer without a priest is possible. This, perhaps, is the cue for us to start studying the liturgical cycle and to learn how to pray liturgically in the absence of clergy.

Many of us, have at some time in our lives, discovered this Tradition, largely through our physical distance from Orthodox parishes and services…”

I hope that we will be able to share the knowledge of reader-services in our Cardiff and Cheltenham communities, giving parishioners the confidence to come together for common worship without clergy.

I would like to thank our Deacon for taking the reins on this occasion. 

We are, as always, indebted to our kliros and readers for their devoted service, and owe great thanks to matushka Alla for the flowers that adorned the icons bringing so much joyful colour to the celebration.

I look forward to returning from my enforced retreat, adding that I am in good spirits, despite fatigue, tinitus and headaches. I look forward to serving our Cheltenham and Cardiff faithful next weekend.

Asking your prayers.

May God bless you.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Heal Me O Lord, and Thereby Shame the Enemy

O Lord! Show me Thy great lovingkindness and give me relief from the persecutions of the destroyer, for he has covered me with sores and he stands and mocks me.

As Thou didst tame the sea with one word from Thy lips when the disciples awakened Thee, so also hearken unto my groans and cries and tame the waves of the passions that move within me, aroused in my soul by the enemy of my salvation.

As the woman with an issue of blood was healed by merely touching the hem of Thy garment and straightway her blood ceased to flow, so also may my soul from which the enemy ceaselessly draws streams of sinful thoughts be healed by touching Thee just once through faith, O Physician of souls and bodies.

Demonstrate the healing power of faith in Thee, O Healer of all sicknesses, in the healing of my members which the enemy has covered with sores. Make my sores sores no longer and instead cover them with virtues, that the enemy who has rejoiced at my ruin might then be ashamed.

O sinless Lamb, slaughtered for the salvation of the world and Creator of heaven and earth. Thy slave whom thou hast saved and given cause to rejoice shall ever praise Thy grace.

‘Psalm’ 78, from “A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God”, excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian

Greetings for the Feast of the Kazan Icon

Dear brothers and sisters, festal greetings to you all, as we celebrate the autumn feast of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates some three-hundred ‘revealed’ icons of the Mother of God, among which we find the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, in whose name our parish is dedicated.

Throughout the centuries of Muscovite and Imperial Russia, just as so many icons of the Theotokos have been revealed in miraculous circumstances, so the Mother of God has revealed and manifested her maternal care and protection for the Orthodox faithful and the lands of Rus – through her icons, through her miraculous intercession, and through her countless miracles worked in the lives of ordinary people.

On the very day of the Tsar’s abdication, the Mother of God renewed her “Reigning/Derzhavnaya” icon, showing that for the faithful, she would now take upon her shoulders the role of Tsaritsa of the Russian realm, leading the faithful through the torment and torture of the Soviet period, and throughout those dark years her maternal-care continued to be felt. And, during those torturous years, the faithful were never left without the consolation of the Mother of God.

Together with the Icon of the Sign, and the Vladimirskaya, the Wonderworking Kazan Icon is one of the ‘Palladium’ icons, carried by the faithful into battle and defence of the realm, and today’s feast commemorates the defeat of the Poles, in the Time of Troubles (after the death of Ivan the Terrible) and the first significant defeat of the Napoleonic army, after snow and ice lashed the invading French forces. Such was the faith of believing people even in Soviet times, that we have the well-known description of a copy of our beloved Kazan Icon being carried around besieged Leningrad during the Second World War.

Yet, despite the miraculous victories and the martial hymns to the Mother of God as “Triumphal leader in battle”, for Russian Orthodox believers the Theotokos is not so much impressed upon our spiritual consciousness as Heavenly Empress, but as the merciful Mother of Christians, who cares for the faithful, nurturing them, providing for them in their hour of need, bringing joy in sorrow, becoming a hope for the hopeless and help for the helpless.

This always strikes me whenever we sing the beautiful hymn, Царице моя преблагая (Tsaristsa moya preblagaya), to the beautiful yet very simple melody from the Krasnogorsk Monastery,

O my most blessed Queen, O Theotokos my hope, guardian of orphans and intercessor for strangers, Joy of the sorrowful, Protectress of the oppressed; Thou beholdest my misfortune, Thou seest my sorrow. Help me, for I am infirm; feed me, for I am a stranger. Thou knowest mine offense: do Thou loose it, as Thou dost will, for I have none other help but Thee, nor any other intercessor save Thee, O Mother of God. Do Thou preserve and protect me unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Behind this present feast’s triumphal language, and images of victory in which we speak of the Mother of God as Lady, Queen and Mistress and her ‘mighty protection’, this celebration leads us to the tenderness and warmth of the motherhood of the Theotokos – summed up by that wonderful word umilinie – which is tenderness, compassion, mercy, loving-kindness, warmth, with so many other subtle shades of meaning when applied to the motherhood of the Mother of God.

As we look at the Kazan Icon, there is nothing complicated, and its scheme is in many ways minimal, simple and straightforward, and it has traditionally been this icon that has been carried before newly-weds, to become the heart of the icon-corner in each new home, at the centre of Orthodox family-life.

In the classic Hodegetria icon, the Mother of God directs us to her Son with her outstretched hand, but in the Kazan Icon she rather does so in the inclination of her head, as she bows contemplatively towards the Christ-Child, avoiding the eyes of the viewer, so that it is the Saviour who engages with the one who stands before the icon, and it is His eyes they meet, not the self-effacing and humble Mother.

As she ever leads us to her Son, ever interceding for us, before the Holy Trinity, let us never be strangers to her maternal care, however broken or dysfunctional our lives may have become. Rather, let us turn to her with all of our problems and sorrows, as well as our joys, bringing our lives, ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, even enemies to her merciful-care. It is beneath that merciful-care, that reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing may happen, through her prayers, through her grace, and with her help.

It is often in the most grievous of sorrows, and the most desperate situations that we learn the value, the wholesomeness and necessity of a Mother’s love, and in the Mother of God we find maternal care that never ceases, that never dies, but always seeks out those in need, to lead us to the Saviour in His Kingdom, into which she has been assumed in glory.

On this feast, let us do as the deacon calls us to do during the litanies:

“Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one other, and all our life unto Christ our God.”

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Asking your prayers, with love in Christ.

Hieromonk Mark

This Sunday in Cardiff

Sunday 7th November.

11:00 – St John’s Church, Canton.

Reader Typica and Moleben in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. followed by a bring-and-share lunch.

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to celebrate in the Liturgy in Cardiff on this day. Please see below.

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Already regretting that we are unable to be together to celebrate the feast of the Kazan Icon tomorrow, I now have the added sorrow of being in isolation due to the unwelcome arrival of covid in the support-setting in which I work.

I am pleased to say that my daily tests have been clear until this morning, when the fateful line appeared next to the t on my lateral-flow test. Having posted a PCR test yesterday, when my daily lateral flow was negative, I have just ordered a second PCR and will remain in isolation awaiting concrete results.

To be clear, my daily-results were negative until today.

I have already spoken to Deacon Mark to indicate that my isolation will not affect the liturgical-gathering of our parish on what, for us, is a particularly celebratory Sunday. However, it will obviously not be possible to celebrate the Liturgy.

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Irenei, and the leadership of our deacon and choir, the typica and a festal moleben in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos will take the place of our usual Liturgy, and our hope is for the faithful to share a buffet-lunch after the service.

With this in mind, would those wishing to provide food/refreshments contact Deacon Mark, so that offerings for the table may be coordinated – rmfisher@ntlworld.com ?

Sadly, my isolation will also not allow me to serve in Walsingham, next week, where I was very much looking forward to catching up with our Orthodox brothers and sisters in ‘England’s Nazareth’.  I look forward to journeying to Norfolk as soon as possible.

Though there will be Sunday Liturgy in Swansea, I would very much like the parishioners to celebrate together in Cardiff, so that those without transport and who have other commitments and demands may be part of the service to honour the Mother of God.

In the meantime, I ask your prayers, principally for the people I support, but also for my swift recovery!

I wish you all a joyful celebration.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark