Dear brothers and sisters,
I was incredibly happy to finally be able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with a small band of parish pilgrims in Little St Marys’s at Capel-y-ffin this morning.
After the suspension testing journey from Hay-on-Wye, with the wild and beautiful terrain (under a dramatic cloudscape) of the Brecon Beacons falling away or rising on the sides of the narrow road snaking over the mountains, the pot-holed and weathered lanes brought us to Capel-y-ffin, our arrival heralded by the sight of the lopsided belfry immortalised in Eric Ravilious’s ‘Wet Afternoon’, painted in 1938.
However, this arrival was on a sunny spring morning and it was wonderful to arrive at the gate of the little churchyard and see parishioners already there, all of whom seemed to have made the smoother journey up the valley from Abergavenny.
They had come with icons, candles and flowers – using the window ledges and surfaces to bring the visual signs of Orthodox liturgical life to St Mary’s.
Whilst the clergy arranged the little sanctuary for the Divine Liturgy, Father Richard Williams – the incredibly welcoming and personable priest-in-charge – talked a little about the history of the site, starting well before the building of the present church, including the appearance of the Mother of God there in the years after the Norman Conquest, before the bells rang out over the narrow valley, announcing the joyful tidings that the Holy Liturgy would make this little sanctuary the place where heaven and earth would conjoin in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.
Having bidden Father goodbye, so that he could be back in Hay in time for the Angelus, the little congregation were able to see and hear the vesting prayers and proskomedia at close quarters, before an intimate and simple Liturgy in the tiny church, celebrated in English, Welsh and Slavonic – though a little Greek also crept in at the Trisagion.
The sun poured in through the clear glass windows, and during the epiclesis it was wonderful to look up and see the sides of the valley to the east beside the trees in the churchyard.
The Liturgy in the simplicity of the church was a great blessing and a source of great joy and peace, knowing that St David had founded a monastic settlement a few miles down the valley, and after a lovely picnic lunch at Capel-y-ffin, we descended to Llanthony, where the medieval ruins of the priory give no hint of the earlier Celtic foundation.
After chanting a litia to St David in the parish church where we celebrated Liturgy in the past, we visited the medieval ruins and were happy to sit down together in the little pub in the vault of the former abbot’s lodging and enjoy hot drinks and chips. This was a very enjoyable time of fellowship, and I hope that we will be able to enjoy Llanthony in the summer time, sitting among the ruins to picnic and enjoy ice-creams and Herefordshire cider, as some of have in the past!
Our thanks go to Father Richard for his hospitality and encouragement to always feel at home and welcome at Capel-y-ffin, and to our parish sisters Melangell and Mary for their fine organisational skills in helping it all happen.
Hierarch of Christ, David, pray to god for us!
With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark