The Miraculous Catch of Fish

Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

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

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

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

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

I will let Vladyka Andrei set the scene:

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

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

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

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

In the words of Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid,

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

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

To return to the words of Vladyka Andrei:

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

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

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

We see this miracle throughout the Gospels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archbishop Andrei continues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!

Today in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Fr Mark

Services in Cardiff this weekend: 9/10 October.

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgy variables:

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

The Leave-Taking of the Exultation of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Nameday Greetings

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

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

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

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

Services this weekend: 2/3 October

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

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

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

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

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Cheltenham Liturgy: Saturday 16 October

It is with great pleasure that we are able to announce that our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church on Saturday 16 October, with confessions from 09:15, and the Hours and Liturgy beginning at 10:00 (subject to the number of confessions).

I very much hope that the Liturgy may be supported by our Cardiff and Wiltshire faithful, among whom are very some loyal friends of our Gloucestershire community. The very short notice before last weekend’s Liturgy made it impossible for some of our Welsh faithful to attend, though they would very much have liked to be with their brothers and sisters in Cheltenham for the celebration.

Falling, as it does, just after the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, we will belatedly celebrate the Feast of the Pokrov, asking Our Lady’s protection for the Cheltenham Faithful.

In our prayers, we commend the ROCOR parish of St Vladimir to the Protection of the Queen of Heaven, that they may resist the many temptations raised up against them at this time.

The Canon to the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross

The Canon of the Cross, the acrostic whereof is:

“Having arrayed myself in the Cross, I give utterance to hymnody”;

The composition of Cosmas of Maiuma, in Tone 8.

Ode 1, Irmos: Tracing an upright line with his staff, Moses divided the Red Sea for Israel which was traveling on foot; and striking it a transverse blow, he brought the waters together over the chariots of Pharaoh, thereby inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses, standing between the priests, prefigured in himself the image of Christ’s most pure sufferings; for, forming a cross with his outstretched arms, he raised up victory, vanquishing the might of the tyrant Amalek. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses, standing between the priests, prefigured in himself the image of Christ’s most pure sufferings; for, forming a cross with his outstretched arms, he raised up victory, vanquishing the might of the tyrant Amalek. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

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

Upon a pole did Moses set the cure of the deadly and venomous sting of the serpents, and the deliverance therefrom; for to the tree, in the image of the Cross, he bound a serpent which crawleth upon the ground, triumphing over the sinister bane therein. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ God, for He hath been glorified.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The sky showed forth the victory of the Cross to the divinely wise Emperor Constantine, the pious ruler; and therein the audacity of the hostile foe was cast down, delusion was destroyed and the divine Faith spread to the ends of the earth. Wherefore let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Katavasia: Tracing an upright line with his staff, Moses divided the Red Sea for Israel which was traveling on foot; and striking it a transverse blow, he brought the waters together over the chariots of Pharaoh, thereby inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Ode 3, Irmos: The rod of Aaron is taken to be an image of the mystery, for by its budding forth it chose one priest over others; and for the Church, which before was barren, the tree of the Cross hath now budded forth, for her might and confirmation.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The rough stone, struck, put forth water for a disobedient and hard-hearted people, and showed forth the mystery of the divinely elect Church, whereof the Cross is the might and confirmation.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The rough stone, struck, put forth water for a disobedient and hard-hearted people, and showed forth the mystery of the divinely elect Church, whereof the Cross is the might and confirmation.

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

When Christ’s all-pure side was pierced by the spear, blood and water flowed therefrom, renewing the covenant and washing sin away, for the Cross is the boast of the faithful, the might and confirmation of kings.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

When Christ’s all-pure side was pierced by the spear, blood and water flowed therefrom, renewing the covenant and washing sin away, for the Cross is the boast of the faithful, the might and confirmation of kings.

Katavasia: The rod of Aaron is taken to be an image of the mystery, for by its budding forth it chose one priest over others; and for the Church, which before was barren, the tree of the Cross hath now budded forth, for her might and confirmation.

Sedalion, in Tone 4: Rejoicing in thee, O thrice blessed and life-bestowing Cross, the people celebrate together with the immaterial choirs, the ranks of hierarchs reverently hymn thee, multitudes of monastics and fasters bow down before thee in adoration, and we all glorify Christ Who was crucified on thee.

Ode 4, Irmos: I have heard, O Lord, the mystery-of Thy dispensation; I have considered Thy works, and have glorified Thy divinity.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses transformed with a tree the bitter springs in the desert, showing forth the conversion of the gentiles to piety through the Cross.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses transformed with a tree the bitter springs in the desert, showing forth the conversion of the gentiles to piety through the Cross.

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

Jordan, having hidden in its depths an axe-head, gave it forth again through the power of a stick, signifying the cutting off of deception by the Cross and baptism.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

In a sacred manner did the people encamp in four divisions; and preceding in this fashion the tabernacle of the witness, they were glorified in the cross-like formation of their ranks. Wondrously stretched forth, the Cross emitted rays like the sun’s, and the heavens declared the glory of our God.

Katavasia: I have heard, O Lord, the mystery-of Thy dispensation; I have considered Thy works, and have glorified Thy divinity.

Ode 5, Irmos: O thrice-blessed Tree, whereon the King and Lord was crucified, and whereby he who beguiled mankind by the tree did fall! He was beguiled by thee, when God was nailed in the flesh, Who granteth peace unto our souls!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O ever-hymned Tree, whereon Christ was stretched: the whirling sword which guarded Eden stood in awe of thee, O Cross, and the dread cherubim withdrew, when Christ was nailed to thee, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O ever-hymned Tree, whereon Christ was stretched: the whirling sword which guarded Eden stood in awe of thee, O Cross, and the dread cherubim withdrew, when Christ was nailed to thee, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

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

The adverse powers of the nether world are stricken with fear when the sign of the Cross is traced in the air in which they live, as are the generations of the earthborn and the heavenly, who bend the knee to Christ, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having shone forth a divine light and revealed itself in rays of incorruption unto the benighted gentiles astray in error, the divine Cross acquireth them for Christ Who was nailed thereto, and granteth peace unto our souls.

Katavasia: O thrice-blessed Tree, whereon the King and Lord was crucified, and whereby he who beguiled mankind by the tree did fall! He was beguiled by thee, when God was nailed in the flesh, Who granteth peace unto our souls!

Ode 6, Irmos: Stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross in the belly of the sea monster, Jonah clearly prefigured the saving Passion. And, issuing forth after three days, he foreshadowed the transcendent resurrection of Christ God, Who was nailed in the flesh and enlightened the world by His rising on the third day.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Bent with age and weighted down with infirmity, Jacob drew himself up when he crossed his arms, showing forth the power of the life-bearing Cross; for God Who was nailed in the flesh hath set aright the obsolescence of the law of the Scripture which was written in shadows, and hath dispelled the soul-destroying disease of deception.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Bent with age and weighted down with infirmity, Jacob drew himself up when he crossed his arms, showing forth the power of the life-bearing Cross; for God Who was nailed in the flesh hath set aright the obsolescence of the law of the Scripture which was written in shadows, and hath dispelled the soul-destroying disease of deception.

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

Divine Israel, laying his hands cross-wise upon the heads of the young, revealed that the people who hath the honour of being the elder is a slave to the law. Wherefore, when suspected of erring in so doing, he did not alter the life-bearing image, for, he said, protected by the Cross, the newly established people of Christ God surpass them.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Divine Israel, laying his hands cross-wise upon the heads of the young, revealed that the people who hath the honour of being the elder is a slave to the law. Wherefore, when suspected of erring in so doing, he did not alter the life-bearing image, for, he said, protected by the Cross, the newly established people of Christ God surpass them.

Katavasia: Stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross in the belly of the sea monster, Jonah clearly prefigured the saving Passion. And, issuing forth after three days, he foreshadowed the transcendent resurrection of Christ God, Who was nailed in the flesh and enlightened the world by His rising on the third day.

Kontakion of the Cross, Tone 4: O Thou Who wast lifted up willingly on the Cross, bestow Thy compassions upon the new community called after Thee, O Christ God; gladden by Thy power Orthodox Christians, granting them victory over all adversaries. May they have as an ally the invincible trophy, Thy weapon of peace.

Ikos: He that was caught up to the third heaven of paradise and heard unspeakable and divine words which the human tongue cannot utter, what writeth he to the Galatians, which, as lovers of the Scriptures, ye have both read and come to understand? God forbid, saith he, that I should glory, save only in the Gross of the Lord, whereon having suffered He slew the passions. Let us all then firmly hold this boast, the Cross of the Lord; for this Wood is our salvation, the invincible trophy, the weapon of peace.

Ode 7, Irmos: The mad command of the impious tyrant, breathing forth threats and blasphemy hateful to God, cast the people into confusion. Yet the three children feared not the fury of the wild beasts, nor the roaring blaze; but, in the midst of the fire, when, the dew-bearing wind blew upon it, they sang: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The first man, tasting of the tree, made his abode in corruption; for, having condemned himself by an inglorious rejection of life, he imparted a certain taint as a corruption to the whole race. But we mortals, gaining utterance through the tree of the Cross, cry out: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The first man, tasting of the tree, made his abode in corruption; for, having condemned himself by an inglorious rejection of life, he imparted a certain taint as a corruption to the whole race. But we mortals, gaining utterance through the tree of the Cross, cry out: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

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

Disobedience violated the commandment of God, and the tree brought death to man by its being partaken of unseasonably, for, for the preservation of that which is most precious, the tree of life was forbidden; but God disclosed it to the hapless thief who cried out rightly: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Israel, foreseeing things to come, laid hold of the tip of Joseph’s staff, revealing beforehand that the most glorious Cross would seize the power of the kingdom, for it is the victorious boast of kings and a light for those who cry out with faith: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Katavasia: The mad command of the impious tyrant, breathing forth threats and blasphemy hateful to God, cast the people into confusion. Yet the three children feared not the fury of the wild beasts, nor the roaring blaze; but, in the midst of the fire, when, the dew-bearing wind blew upon it, they sang: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

ODE 8, Irmos: O children equal in number to the Trinity: bless ye God, the Father and Creator; hymn ye the Word Who came down and transformed the fire into dew; and the all-holy Spirit, Who giveth life unto all, exalt ye supremely forever!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O hosts of heaven, chant ye to the exalted Tree which was drenched in the blood of God the Word incarnate, celebrating the restoration of those on earth. Ye people, worship the Cross of Christ, whereby the resurrection of the world is accomplished forever!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O hosts of heaven, chant ye to the exalted Tree which was drenched in the blood of God the Word incarnate, celebrating the restoration of those on earth. Ye people, worship the Cross of Christ, whereby the resurrection of the world is accomplished forever!

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

O ye mortal stewards of grace, in sacred manner raise on high with your hands the Cross whereon Christ God stood and the spear which pierced the body of God the Word, that all the nations may see the salvation which is of God, glorifying Him forever!

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O faithful Christian kings, forechosen by divine decree, be ye glad! And having received from God the precious Cross, rejoice in it, the weapon of victory, for thereby tribes of warriors seeking courage are scattered abroad forever.

Katavasia: O children equal in number to the Trinity: bless ye God, the Father and Creator; hymn ye the Word Who came down and transformed the fire into dew; and the all-holy Spirit, Who giveth life unto all, exalt ye supremely forever!

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

Ode 9, Irmos: O Theotokos, thou art a mystical paradise, which untilled did put forth Christ, by Whom the life-bearing tree of the Cross was planted. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

Let all the trees of the forests rejoice, for their nature hath been sanctified by Him Who planted them in the beginning – Christ Who was stretched out upon the Tree. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee, O Theotokos.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

A sacred horn hath been lifted up, the chief horn for all the divinely wise: the Cross, whereby all the horns of the sinful are noetically broken asunder. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee, O Theotokos.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

That Thou mayest show the Cross to the world, O worshipful Lord and King, in the sight of all Thou didst form its all-glorious image in the skies, radiant with boundless light, an invincible weapon. Wherefore, all the powers of heaven magnify Thee.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Canon II, Irmos: Death, which came upon our race through the eating of the tree hath been abolished by the Cross today; for the curse of our first mother, which fell upon us all, hath been annulled through the Offspring of the pure Mother of God, whom all the hosts of heaven magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Thou didst not permit the murderous bitterness of the tree still to remain, O Lord, for thou didst utterly destroy it by the Cross. Wherefore, by a tree Thou didst once sweeten the bitterness of the waters of Marah, prefiguring the activity of the Cross, which all the hosts of heaven magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Those who are continually sunk in the darkness of our forefather, Thou hast raised up by the Cross today, O Lord; for though our nature was brought low through deceit and great lack of restraint, the light of Thy Cross hath again guided all of us aright, which we, the faithful magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

That Thou mightest show forth to the world the image of the Cross venerated among all, O Lord, Thou didst trace its outline in the heavens, in that it is all-glorious, radiant with boundless light: the invincible weapon for the emperor. Wherefore, all the hosts of heaven magnify Thee.

Katavasia: O Theotokos, thou art a mystical paradise, which untilled did put forth Christ, by Whom the life-bearing tree of the Cross was planted. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee.

Troparion of the Cross, in Tone 1: Save O Lord Thy people, * and bless Thine inheritance. * Grant now unto the faithful * victory over adversaries, * and by the power of Thy Cross ** do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.

The Exaltation of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all, as we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.

Yesterday, we celebrated the forefeast in Cardiff, hence the red vestments of the clergy, and Sunday also marked the Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection (the Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem, within whose sacred complex the topography of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection have been enshrined – though much altered by excavation and the clearance of rock and earth.

As on other feasts of the Cross, we combine celebration and fasting, as we contemplate the Saviour’s transformation of the wood of execution and shame into the Tree of Life, shattering the gates of death and hell and opening the doors of Paradise to all believers through His obedience to the way of the Cross, embracing it in love.

The Church Fathers contemplated and hymned this wonder with awe, as Christ’s humility, obedience, selflessness and love overturned the curse of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and the disobedience of the first-parents, and the Cross became not only the Tree of Life, but the key to the Gates of Paradise.

St John of Damascus wrote that, “For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, has death been brought low, the sin of our first parents destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, the power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God.”

Let us all celebrate this wonder, and though I have to work throughout the coming nights and am unable to celebrate the feast with parishioners, I look forward to us celebrating the afterfeast before the Precious Cross this coming Sunday, and remind you that in our homes we should all be celebrating the Exaltation.

In every Christian home, the Cross may be honoured and adorned with flowers, as we offer our prayers and celebrate the feast.

May God bless you on this feast, and may the Cross, as the Invincible Trophy and the Tree of Life be at the centre of your homes and families, and the axis of your spiritual life.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Synaxarion for the Exaltation

Of the Honorable and Life-Creating Cross1

Constantine the Great and Equal to the Apostles, first among the emperors of ancient Rome, accepted Christianity. While in the midst of battle, according to some against Magnentius in Rome, or according to others against the Scythians at the Danube River,2 he saw that the armies of the enemy were greater in number than his own, and this caused distress and fear. Finding himself in this situation, there appeared in the afternoon the form of the Cross in the sky, marked by stars. And encircling the Cross were letters, also inscribed by stars in Roman, namely Latin letters,3 which said the following: “Conquer by this.”

Straightway there was fashioned a Cross,4 like the one that appeared in the sky, and he ordered for it to go before the army. Engaging the enemy, they mightily conquered, to the point that most of them were killed. The others left in fear. The power of the Crucified One was therefore understood by this miracle, and he believed that He was the true God, and he was baptized with his mother.5

He then sent his mother Helen to Jerusalem, first of all, to venerate and honour with more brilliance the life-giving Tomb of the Lord, and the rest of the Holy Land. Also, to hastily seek and find the honourable Cross of the God-man Savior. For this she investigated with fervent longing, and she found it hidden. Likewise, she found the two crosses on which the thieves were crucified. She also found the nails.6 The empress was confused, however, as to which of three was the Cross of the Lord. She discovered which it was by a miracle, when it raised a dead widow woman after the Cross of the Lord touched her. The other two crosses of the thieves did not perform the miracle.7

Then she kissed and venerated the honourable Cross with great reverence and faith, not only the empress Helen, but also all the officials with her. Because all the Christians sought to kiss and venerate it, it was not possible to fulfil their desire due to the large crowd, so they sought alternatively to merely see the sweet vision of the honourable Cross, and so by this vision their longing would be satisfied. Wherefore the then blessed Patriarch of Jerusalem Makarios went up onto the ambon, and lifted high with his two hands the honourable Cross, showing it to all the Christians found below. Straightway when they saw it, together they cried out from their heart: “Lord have mercy.” From then on it was established by the most divine and God-inspired Fathers of the Church, for all Christians to celebrate on this day, this honourable and universal Exaltation of the divine Cross, to the glory of Christ our true God for Whom they gather.

Notes:

1. This synaxarion is from the 10th century Synaxarion of Constantinople. Translation and notes by John Sanidopoulos.

2. The most reliable research indicates that this battle was neither against Magnentius or the Scythians, but against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. Also, sources indicate that Constantine became a Christian before this battle through his son Crispus, who was a Christian, after presenting him with certain books of his father who was a Christian.

3. Some sources say the letters were in Latin, while others, like Emperor Leo the Wise and Paisios of Gaza, say they were in Greek.

4. After the vision of the Cross in the sky, that night Constantine saw Christ in a vision, Who told him to place the form of the Cross he saw on his spear.

5. There used to be a false opinion that Pope Sylvester of Rome catechized and baptized Constantine, but these documents were proved to be papal forgeries. Rather, it is believed Helen was already a Christian, while Constantine put off his baptism in order to be baptized in the Jordan River, which he was never able to accomplish, therefore he was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia before his repose in Constantinople.

6. These nails were brought by Helen to Constantinople, as a gift to her son. One was placed in the bridle of his horse, to fulfil the prophecy of Zachariah 14:20, “On that day Holy to the Lord Almighty will be inscribed on the bridle of the horses.” The second was placed in his battle helmet. The third, according to Ambrose, was thrown by Helen into the Adriatic Sea in order to calm a storm, though Dositheos of Jerusalem does not believe this story. Socrates says that the Cross and Nails were placed in the pillar of the statue of Constantine in Constantinople, to protect the City. Some say there were only three nails, while others say they were four, with two nails used for each foot rather than one nail for both feet.

7. Euthymios Zygabenos says that the true Cross of the Lord was distinguished by the inscription of Pilate over one of the crosses that said Christ was King of the Jews. Also, some say that the woman was near death and immediately healed, while others say fragrant basil grew over the location of the actual Cross of Christ. The finding of the Cross is celebrated on March 6th. The two crosses of the thieves were brought to Constantinople and placed in a porphyry pillar in the forum, with other relics.

Cardiff-London-Cheltenham-Cardiff… the week so far!

Dear parishioners and friends,

Here we are on the eve of our next Cardiff Liturgy, after a busy week for the clergy serving our mission in Wales and Gloucestershire.

Monday saw Deacon Mark and I journey to London to celebrate the altar-feast of our cathedral – the Nativity of the Mother of God – and we were pleased to have Cardiff parishioners join in our cathedral celebrations on Monday evening and on Tuesday. It was a joy to share the celebration with our bishops and cathedral-clergy and to have time with our many friends in Chiswick.

From the cathedral, we returned to a busy week of secular work, looking forward to visiting Cheltenham today, where Deacon Mark and I were pleased to be able to serve the Liturgy for the Leave-Taking of the Nativity of the Mother of God. Though it was only at a few days’ notice, we were able to arrange the use of the United Reformed Church in Prestbury. Thanks to Deacon Mark and Cheltenham parishioners for their efforts in searching for an alternative Liturgy venue to All Saints, Pittville.

The simplicity and bareness of the old chapel was in marked contrast to the Gothic Revival splendour of All Saints, but though we very much missed our usual surroundings, we were grateful to have somewhere to temporarily celebrate the Liturgy, and enjoy time together over lunch before returning to Cardiff.

We will be organising our next Cheltenham Liturgy over the next few days and will give ample notice, as some of our Cardiff and Wiltshire faithful wish to support the Cheltenham mission, with the hope to expand its life to embrace our parishioners in Swindon, Wiltshire and Bath.

Back in Cardiff, having unloaded the car, confessions were heard during compline in St John’s in Canton this evening, with added entertainment by the church-mouse’s active perambulations during the evening office.

We look forward to returning to Cardiff for Liturgy in the morning, when we will celebrate the Forefeast of the Exultation of the Life-Giving Cross.

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark