Weekly News – 17th September

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings for the Church New Year!

I have just come through the front door and set the kettle to boil after a busy week in the parish, having spent the more than twenty six hours travelling to and fro across South Wales, but having used the time for prayer and reading, as well as keeping touch with our scattered parishioners.

Monday saw the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Beheading of St John the Forerunner, with one of our young brothers chanting Demestvenny melodies at the kliros, contrasting with the harmonised singing of the previous day’s Liturgy, and bringing a very different liturgical aesthetic to our worship.

A community choir practice in church precluded the celebration of vespers and the Lesser Blessing of Water on Wednesday evening, though I still returned to Cardiff ready for an early start on Thursday, arranging the church for Divine Liturgy for the Church New Year, and to perform the proskomedia before confessions and the expectation that I would chant. Unfortunately, a motorway puncture prevented Fr Luke and one of his parishioners from being with us, so I combined roles during the Liturgy, though there was some welcome help from the kliros. Confessions after a break for refreshment, then putting things away in church made for a long day, but a very blessed and productive one.

Friday teatime saw confessions for those working and studying in the daytime, before our evening study group met in the nuns’ choir, and the following afternoon a group of us arranged the church for worship before we had our Saturday evening service.

I’m not sure that everyone realises the great amount of effort that goes into arranging the church for worship and putting everything away. This can easily takes three hours each day, and sometimes more, when clergy are doing this without assistance, and on a Sunday our servers have much to do after Liturgy. We are very grateful to them.

Despite Saturday’s church set-up, today saw even greater pressure on our final arrangements, as mass became even longer, and this situation will be closely monitored. Hearing confessions at the back of the church (from 10:15) makes a great difference, but not being able to set up the church until 10:45 makes the time before our service extremely pressurised. Mercifully, we were able to commence the Hours at 11:05.

We were blessed with another lovely Liturgy today, with a slightly smaller choir than the last few weeks and only a few servers. Once again, the icons looked lovely with the flowers adorning them and I am glad to hear that our sisterhood have a flower rota in place for the next few months.

It was lovely to see parishioners who have been away in Greece and Ukraine and to welcome them home, and we are always glad to be joined by parishioners from Llanelli, who are now with us regularly on the Sundays of the month when there is no Llanelli Liturgy.

The coming week will see Deacon Mark and I go to the cathedral for the altar-feast, together with several of the young brothers of our parish, and we will be away on Wednesday and Thursday, looking forward to seeing other parishioners there.

I will be able to hear daytime confessions in church on Friday, and anyone only able to confess on Saturday should let me know, and arrangements will be made to do so after our visit to Llantwit Major and its ancient church of St Illtyd (see below).

Again, on Sunday, I will her confessions from 10:15 until the end of the Hours.

As announced at today’s Liturgy, despite assurances that we were welcome to visit Llancarfan once again, our communication regarding celebrating the Divine Liturgy received no response. Therefore, there is a change of plan next Saturday, and rather then heading to Llancarfan, we will visit St Illtyd’s Church at Llantwit Major, meeting at the church at 11:00.

Having visited the church with its museum of ancient Christian carved stones, and prayers to honour St Illtyd, we will have lunch in one of the local hostelries and enjoy time together. Given that Father Luke’s background is in archeology and medieval history, we will be glad to have him with us in a place so central to Christianity in South Wales.

We look forward to returning to Llancarfan in the near future, when our previous guide has returned from his travels.

Would anyone requiring confessions on Friday or Saturday please email by Wednesday evening?

Looking ahead to the end of the month, may I remind you that the feast of the Exultation of the Cross falls on Wednesday 27th September  (14th September on the Church Calendar), on which day the Hours and Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at 11:00.

Finally, we congratulate Adam, on his reception to the catechumenate, and thank our outgoing starosta, Norman John, for his generous support for the parish. I personally would be lost without the immense support and help from both Norman and Georgina. We pray that God will grant them and our brother Adam “Many, blessed years!”

Asking your prayers.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News, Sunday 10 September

Dear brothers and sisters,

As all who participated in today’s Liturgy were well aware, changes in our circumstances certainly posed new challenges, as did the intense heat in the convent church, particularly for those vested in the sanctuary. In priests vestments, I must admit that today was a real trial – especially after the same challenge in Cheltenham, yesterday, where Deacon Mark and I struggled through Liturgy and on the homeward journey.

With one of the new Catholic chaplains celebrating, the Mass was close to double its usual length, making for a very late and pressurised set up for Liturgy.

However, quietly hearing confessions at the back of the church during the service alleviated some of the pressure, but our deacons and servers still had a rather short time in which to ready the church for our Orthodox service.

I will repeat today’s confession arrangement next week, having walked round to the back of the church at 10:15, with parishioners already waiting for confessions – which continued in a steady and smooth progression until towards the end of the Sixth Hour.

Looking ahead, I hope that I will have already been able to her the majority of local confessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. See below.

Despite the pressure and the rush, today’s Hours began only five minutes late, at 11:05, though I hope it will begin at 11:00 as scheduled, next week – even if the Church set-up continues after that time. However, I will put out everything needed in the nave, so that things simply have to be moved a few metres.

From the choir’s initial amen, the Liturgy was a joyous celebration, with our singers chanting harmoniously and confidently, showing sympathy and sensitivity to one another, and supporting and helping one another. Thanks to our regent Olga, and to our two young basses, who acquitted themselves very well.

Yet again, the flowers adorning our icons, and vases of late summer blooms added so much to the makeshift setting for our Orthodox worship, tangibly showing parishioners’ love for God and the saints.

It was lovely to leave the church, at teatime, today, seeing the flowers on the shrines ready for the morning Liturgy for the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John. The Liturgy will commence at 11:00, as I will pray the Hours after the proskomedia before church set-up.

On Thursday, our Liturgy for the Church New Year will be celebrated at 11:00, and I will be available to hear confessions as needed in the afternoon, after lunch. However, due to a choir practice in church, there will be no service on Wednesday evening, as previously hoped.

Friday sees the resumption of our discussion group on prayer, at 19:00, in Nazareth House, and I will hear confessions beforehand, and after, if – again according to demand.

I will celebrate Great Vespers at 16:00 on Saturday, and any confessions will need to be BEFORE the service, as I have a potentially long journey home afterwards.

Please email regarding confessions on any of these days, so that I can plan, accordingly, and do so by 18:00 on Wednesday.

Tomorrow: Monday 11 September, New Style, Beheading of St John the Forerunner – Liturgy, Nazareth House 11:00. 

Thursday 1/14 September – Church New Year – Liturgy, Nazareth House 11:00. Afternoon confessions by arrangement.

Friday 2/15 September – Church discussion group 19:00. Afternoon/evening confessions by arrangement.

Saturday 3/16 – Great Vespers, 16:00. Afternoon confessions by arrangement.

Sunday 4/17 September. Hours and Liturgy 11:00. Confessions from 10:10

Please email me regarding weekday confessions by Wednesday, 18:00.

In Christ – Fr Mark

 

This Week’s News: Monday 21 August


Dear brothers and sisters,

Happy feast. S prazdnikom!

After the joy of celebrating the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration in Cheltenham, the second day of the feast saw our celebration in Cardiff.

As the summer has advanced, our numbers have petered out, but despite more of our parishioners having departed on their travels, thirty or so – plus the children – participated in a joyous and festive Liturgy, with the blessing of fruit and honey at the end of the service… and what a splendid gathering of the fruits of creation! Thank you to our sisters for the lovely little individual baskets of grapes, which were inspired!

Our small choir chanted beautifully, and our solitary but extremely competent oltarnik ably coped with one hieromonk, a hierodeacon and a deacon, and we now have little Yuriy lined up to help in the altar, under papa’s watchful eye! We very much look forward to the return of our other oltarniky.

It has been wonderful to welcome our pilgrims back after their extremely busy and intense trip to the Holy Land, and there are many stories and experiences yet to be shared.

Next Sunday will be the fore-feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and the following day – bank holiday Monday – we will celebrate the Liturgy for the Dormition in the convent church at 11:00, through the good offices and generosity of the Sisters.

Sunday’s Liturgy variables may be found here – https://drive.google.com/file/d/10BR2bjgGeA_ScKbWqAKpvoy9XU8ibL-d/view

…and Monday’s variables here – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G4IgN-3sja9LiTTe6UzYrnyRfknBn7iP/view

I will also celebrate Great Vespers at 15:00 on Sunday afternoon with the variables here – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JA8S2Xds9mIRxTJl9Df8jtzbHhy-d868/view

As announced in last week’s news email, I will be joining Mother Frances and  pilgrims from Germany on Wednesday and will give an Orthodox reflection on reconciliation, so – having stayed in Cardiff overnight – I will hear confessions on Thursday, with an obvious preference to hearing them earlier in the day, if possible. Please send any confession requests by noon on Wednesday.

The March for Life, on Saturday 2nd September, is only a few weeks away, so Karen needs to know of any unbooked attendees asap as the seats on the bus from St Alban on the Moors are limited. The cost is £25, which is very reasonable, given the distance. Pilgrims will meet at the Emmanuel Centre, in Westminster, where Father Mark Tattum-Smith will lead an Orthodox service before the march. Details from Karen.

Our next Cheltenham Mission Liturgy, on the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr Phanourios, will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church on Saturday 9th September.

May I remind you that there will be a parish meeting on Sunday 17th September, for the election of a new starosta, and a new senior sister – should the former election make this necessary. Your nominations of parishioners to occupy these offices are requested by Sunday 2nd September.

Our intended September pilgrimage, on Saturday 23rd September, is to Llancarfan and Barry, to honour Saints Cadoc and Barrwg, though I am awaiting confirmation from Llancarfan.

The fast continues, with its Great Lenten strictness, though we will soon be celebrating the feast of the Dormition. As I reminded parishioners in Liturgy, we should ensure that we celebrate the whole of the festal periods of our Great Feasts, praying the hymns of the feast in our icon-corners, at home, and try to ensure that we have icons of the feasts to be the centre of home prayers and the focus of our devotions.

The feast of the Transfiguration is ‘given up’ on Saturday, with the one day fore-feast of the Dormition leading us into the feast itself, which will last until Tuesday 5th September (new-style), with the honouring of the Icon of the Mother of God “Pribavlenie Uma – the Giver of Reason” being celebrated on Sunday 3rd September. Originally having coincided with the Dormition, this is now kept as a moveable feast and falls on the Sunday after the Dormition.

Let us continue to honour the Mother of God in these pre-festive days.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Today in Prestbury – A Happy Feast!

Dear brothers and sisters,

S prazdnikom – greetings for the Transfiguration of the Saviour!

It was a a great blessing to visit our Cheltenham mission today and to celebrate the feast with our Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire faithful, and though we are few in number the zeal and devotion of our parishioners always make our celebrations joyful and inspiring, especially on feasts.

We are grateful to Masha and Margarita for chanting, especially given the festal chants unfamiliar to our usual singers, of whom several are away on holiday. Our Gloucestershire faithful were very enthusiastic in expressing their thanks, and were very happy to be joined by our ‘Wessex’ pilgrims for this wonderful feast.

As is usual in Cheltenham, virtually everyone confessed and communed, which is always a source of great joy, and one of the children reminded us that he needs a stikhar so that he can serve for the next Liturgy. We look forward to having him serve in the altar.

At the end of the Liturgy, we blessed fruit and honey, as there was no local Liturgy or honey blessing for the feast of the All-Merciful Saviour, and we then enjoyed time together as we shared our customary lunch, for which we thank the sisters who contributed so generously, and also for the floral arrangements which graced our icons.

Our next Cheltenham Liturgy, will be in Prestbury, on 9th September – just before the end of the present ecclesiastical year – and I greatly look forward to celebrating the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr, Phanourios, hoping that some of our South Wales parishioners might join us to honour this greatly loved saint. This will occasion the introduction of our Cheltenham sisterhood to making Phanouropita!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to such a lovely feast. We look forward to the second day of the Transfiguration, in Cardiff, tomorrow, when we shall once again bless fruit and produce at the end of the Liturgy.

Encouraged by the vision of the Saviour’s glory on Mount Tabor, and the strength it gave the disciples in enduring His passion and their own sufferings, let us struggle to climb our own spiritual mountains, leaving behind the fallen things of the world, to attain to the high calling of our baptism, as children of the Light and heirs of the resurrection. Leaving behind the darkness of the world, let us hasten to the Light of Christ, glimpsed in the world, but a foretaste of the glory and divine vision of the age to come.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a busy three days we have had, and how nice it is to finally sit down to supper after a long and busy day.

Even though our gatherings are very much reduced by the academic/school holiday, with our pilgrims in the Holy Land, Ukrainian scouts at the Orthodox scout gathering in Germany, Deacon Mark and family in Turkey, and others in Serbia and Diveyevo, the parish remains busy and active.

Friday saw confessions in Nazareth House and our prayer talk; Saturday our visit to the Forest of Dean and our parishioners there; and today was blessed by our Liturgy for the feast of Saints Boris and Gleb, time and fellowship with parishioners, an overdue catch up with former Newman Hall scholars and Magnus the cat, and an evening sort out of our ever-expanding church requisites.

Many thanks to all who made all of these activities possible, and with such enthusiasm and energy, and thanks to all who have given such warm hospitality.

I am so happy to have such positive feedback about the homiletic introduction to Saints Boris and Gleb from our British parishioners and I hope they will come to share my enthusiasm for these first-canonised saints of our Church. 

Saints Boris and Gleb are worthy examples of the realisation of Christ’s sacrificial, kenotic and self-abasing love, which places neighbour above self-interest and self-concern, seeing us embrace whatever may be required to avoid harm and suffering for others if we can prevent it by our conscious spiritual and moral choices, placing others above our own welfare and wellbeing for the sake of fulfilling the Gospel. 

In an age of self-promotion, personal ‘empowerment’ and the idolisation of ambition and success, the example of their lives is a violent and radical challenge, with the violence being their seeming passivity and surrender like Christ the Man of Sorrows, going like a lamb to the slaughter and being silent like the sheep before his shearer. 

By treading the way of the Cross, imitating the Saviour and sparing their retinue the violence and death of sword and battle, preferring to rather be innocent victims for the sake of their loyal host they were chosen by God.

In the Epistle (from Romans), we heard that,

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

We see all of this accomplished in the meek and humble sons of St Vladimir murdered at the behest of their brother: Boris and Gleb called to the life of the Gospel by Holy Baptism; conformed the Saviour’s Cross and Passion; accepting their cross as the Lord accepted His Cross; embracing suffering with humility and willingness; imitating the Saviour in laying down their lives; placing the Kingdom of Heaven above the intrigues and jealousies of earthly royal rivalries; not justifying themselves or trying to prove themselves, but rather being justified by the Gospel and glorified by God.

They have made an indelible and deep impression on the spirituality of our Church and should challenge us and invite us to explore the deep theological meaning and spiritual significance of their short earthly lives.

I encourage you to read ‘The Narrative, Passion, and Encomium of Boris and Gleb’http://macedonia.kroraina.com/en/kmsl/kmsl_4.htm

As we look to the latter part of the week, confessions will be heard in Nazareth House on Thursday afternoon, with emailed requests for confessions before noon on Wednesday. Before Thursday, I look forward to catching up with various parishioners.

May I remind you that (as announced), our next Cheltenham Liturgy will not be on the second weekend of the month in August, but in the feast of the Transfiguration – Saturday 6/19th August. It will be in Prestbury URC Church, as usual in Deep St, Cheltenham GL52 3AW.

Confessions will be heard from 09:15, with the Hours at 10:00, followed by the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of Fruit and Honey (belatedly for the feast of the All-Merciful Saviour).

Next Sunday will see the celebration of the Forefeast of the Procession of the Life-Giving Cross and the All-Merciful Saviour, with the Hours at 10:45, followed by the Liturgy, and I will celebrate a festal Liturgy the following morning (Monday at 11:00) for the first of the August feasts of the Saviour, with the blessing of honey after Liturgy.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News: Monday 3rd July

Dear brothers and sisters, 

The beginning of the holiday-season is evident from the rolling absence of parishioners as they enjoy a break from the usual excitement of South Wales. We miss familiar faces, but parish life goes on and we continue to have visitors and new inquirers to welcome.

Yesterday saw visitors from London, who had made their journey to honour St Calogero. It was an honour to welcome them, and I am very happy that Elijah will be able to share his Orthodox Sicilian heritage with his family. 

Our wonderful icon of St Calogero remains in church, and even though we are (as guests) struggling to find space for icons, I hope it will be constantly available for veneration. I will print some hymns and prayers and leave them with the icon, so that the faithful may use them in their devotions. 

Tangentially, this leads me to remind you that Wednesday is the feast of St Alban, a portion of whose relics are enshrined in the Oratory Church in Splott. Though I will not be in Cardiff on Wednesday, I encourage you to visit and venerate the protomartyr’s relics, and to pray for our parish and its parishioners. The canon for the martyr may be found on our parish blog: 

https://russianorthodoxchurchcardiff.com/st-alban-canon?fbclid=IwAR0bmxNDtj86YoAM8QmyV3G2BRy3WNXxsnR1Y9_RCuiDigAtk_Cck4w2MNI 

Thursday will be the feast of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, so we will celebrate Great Vespers of the feast at 19:00 on Wednesday evening in the Chapel of st David and St Nicholas, in Llanelli. I have not been available on Wednesdays, recently, but Father Luke celebrates a midweek service in the chapel every week of the year, apart from when he is on holiday.  

We celebrate the feast of the Nativity of St John the Forerunner on Friday this week, and I will celebrate Great Vespers in Nazareth House at 17:00 on Thursday with the Divine Liturgy at 11:00 on Friday morning, when any confession time before the service will be extremely limited. However, I am happy to hear confessions after post-Liturgy refreshments for those preapring for Sunday communion. Confession requests by email please, and by noon on Wednesday, as usual. 

Saturday – the feast of St Peter and Fevronia – sees our monthly mission Liturgy in Cheltenham, with the Divine Liturgy in the United Reformed chapel in Deep Sreet. Confessions will be heard from 09:15, with the Hours at 10:00 and Liturgy around 10:30, after the end of confessions. I appreciate your patience and understanding, as a single visit a month means that our Cheltenham parishioners have to make the most of the chance to confess and this sometimes means that Liturgy starts late. 

Next Sunday is the feast of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, and we look forward to celebrating the feast of this great Wonderworking Icon in Cardiff. The variables for the service may be found at: 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13CYfz8X5jb9kuhMH60I7D2hHyhmoz6bw/view 

Looking forward to the following week, Wednesday 12th July, New style, is the feast of the Holy Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and we will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at 11:00 in Nazareth House. 

There are some calendric variations regarding fasting, but according to the Jordanville Calendar, the remaining days of the fast follow the following rule. 

Monday 3rd July: By monastic charter, strict fast – bread, vegetables, fruits (Hieromartyr Methodios, bishop of Patara) 

Tuesday 4th July: Food with oil, and wine (Martyr Julian of Tarsus) 

Wednsday 5th July: By monastic charter, strict fast (bread, vegetables, fruits) 

Thursday 6th July: Fish, wine and oil (Meeting of the Vladimir Icon) 

Friday 7th July: Fish, wine and oil (Nativity of St John he Forerunner) 

Saturday 8th July: Fish, wine and oil (Saints Peter and Fevronia) 

Sunday 9th July: Fish, wine and oil (Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon) 

Monday 10th July: By monastic charter, strict fast (bread, vegetables, fruits) 

Tuesday 11th July: Fish, wine and oil (Feast of the Mother of God of the Thee Hands) 

Wednesday 12th July: Fish, wine and oil (Saints Peter and Paul) 

Of course, our spiritual fasting comes first, as there is much to abstain from before we even consider food and drink. 

Many thanks to all who labour so much in our parish, especially to sisters Menna and Tracy who were so busy at the weekend, and to our oltarniky and kliros. 

Finally – among the sick, your prayers are asked for our parishioners Brigid (Mo) and Ludmilla, and for Reader David and Andrey. We continue to pray for all of our persecuted fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in Ukraine – especially for Metropolitan Pavel and the brotherhood of the Kiev-Caves Dormition Lavra, and for Metropolitan Feodosy of Cherkasy and Kanev.  Also, please remember the newly departed servants of God, the Archpriest Alexander and the nun Mina (Catalin’s aunt): memory eternal!

May God bless you all. 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Parish News: 26 June

Dear brothers and sisters,

Having already celebrated the Sundays of All Saints and of All Saints of the lands of Rus’, yesterday was the Sunday of All Saints have who have shone forth in the Isles of Britain – though some Orthodox parishes across different jurisdictions celebrated this the previous Sunday.

Through prayer and pilgrimage over the last year, as groups and individuals, we have been blessed to deepen our relationships with our local saints who are part of the vast cloud of witnesses we celebrated – St David, St Non, St Teilo, St Illtyd, St Brigid, St Melangell, St Aldhelm and other saints of the British Isles: visiting their shrines and the places where they lived, venerating their relics, chanting their hymns and services. We look forward to continuing building on this wonderful foundation of holiness.

Next Sunday, as well as celebrating the saints of the day, we will also celebrate the memory of St Calogero, the refugee-saint of Sicily, whose icon was gifted to us by Father Efraim Augello and matushka Olympia, who serve in Sicily. At this time, when so many refugees have found temporary refuge in South Wales, our Venerable Father, Calogero (wherever he hailed from… North Africa, Byzantine Asia Minor?) reminds us that many saints fleeing heresy, persecution, war and revolution have sowed the seeds of Faith in foreign fields far from home, and have brought an abundant harvest to Christ.

Given the ongoing hot weather and its effects on health and mobility, to say nothing of the transport system, I am limiting my movements this week – especially as my weekend continued with a pastoral visit in Cheltenham last night and several more today, with the temperature and humidity on the trains and in hotel accommodation being a challenge.

Norman and Georgina have confirmed that we are able to resume our discussion group, on prayer, this Friday at 19:00 in the parish room at the church of St Mary the Virgin, North St, Butetown. I shall hear confessions before the service, making time for any longer confessions – as needed –  in Nazareth House in the afternoon, as well as for those who are unable to come later on. Please email me regarding confessions by Wednesday midday.

As there will be visitors from London next Sunday, I would also appreciate knowing who wishes to confess that morning. If impediments make weekday confession impossible when I am not in Cardiff on Saturdays, please check regarding Sunday morning. There is usually a gap of twenty minutes before anyone arrives for confessions, which potentially provides time for several people. As announced at Liturgy, please persist in trying the door-handle if you are struggling to enter the church, turning it to the left. Yet again, this work, we had people unable to access the church for confessions because of recurring problems.

As our numbers are already dented by parishioners’ travels and knowing of the holidays booked by our “pilgrimage-core”, looking forward to July, there is no organised parish pilgrimage apart from the visit a few of us will make to Walsingham.

However, I am always happy to go on pilgrimages should those round next month wish to visit a local holy place, and would like to encourage parishioners to, perhaps, visit the Serbian Orthodox Church in Birmingham for the weekly Friday akathist before the Three-Handed Icon of the Mother of God, painted in the Athonite Monastery of Hilandar. It is a copy of the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, and has itself been a source of grace for the faithful.

Happily, after Liturgy and trapeza, yesterday saw Steve being admitted to the catechumenate, and we congratulate him on this step towards Holy Baptism.

May God bless you all, and the week ahead.

In Christ – Fr Mark

The Sunday After Ascension

Dear brothers and sisters,

Despite parishioners being away for half-term, it was good to have a fairly well attended Liturgy, with faces that we haven’t seen since our move from St John’s – some of our Ukrainian faithful having been home for family reasons, before returning to the safety of Cardiff and the Valleys. It was a joy to see them, and especially to see so many confess and commune. We congratulate all who partook of the Holy Mysteries.

We also congratulated oltarnik Alexander on his nameday, the feast of St Alexander of Rome on Thursday, and sang mnogaya leta for him, and for Norman and Anne who have celebrated milestone birthdays. We also congratulate Nataliya on her birthday, which I did not realise was yesterday.

Following Liturgy and trapeza, we were very happy to welcome baby Stylian and his family, for the celebration of his baptism, which was a joyful and blessed British-Bulgarian-Romanian celebration. We look forward to his first reception of the Holy Mysteries, and pray that God will grant him, his godfather Cristian and his family many blessed years. We now look forward to a double baptism on Sunday 11 June.

Last Thursday saw a handful of us celebrate the Lord’s Ascension, and the texts of today’s Liturgy reminded us that it iss the after-feast, on which we celebrated the memory of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, at Nicea in 325.

This coming Wednesday, we will also commemorate the Fathers of the other Ecumenical Councils, and in my homily, I reflected on how the conciliar understanding of the Saviour’s divinity and humanity are celebrated in the feast of the Ascension, in which Christ as God returns to the glory which He possessed in eternity before creation, and yet put aside in the Divine Humility and selfless-love of the Incarnation, but also ascending into this glory with the humanity He shares with us, and which is now worshipped by the angels and saints in heaven – to which He calls us in the fullness of our humanity in the life of the age to come.

Next Sunday will bring the celebration of Pentecost-Trinity, in which we will mark the birthday of the Church, and pray on bended-knee in vespers, for the gift of the All-Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. I know that our sisterhood will be making posies for our worshippers to hold during vespers, according to our tradition, but we also encourage you all to bring branches and greenery for this wonderful feast.

Sadly, train strikes at the end of the week affect my travels using public transport. This will mean that our discussion group on prayer will not happen this Friday.

I will hear confessions on Thursday in Nazareth House, and around vespers on the eve of Pentecost-Trinity, on Saturday. Vespers will be at 17:00 and I would prefer to hear confessions before the service, as I am yet unsure of my travel method.

Would those requiring confessions please email me as soon as possible, and most definitely by noon on Wednesday.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

The Sunday and Week of the Paralytic

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is Risen!

Happy St Mark’s Day!

On this feast of the Holy, All-Praised Apostle and Evangelist Mark, we congratulate our devoted Deacon, Father Mark, on his nameday. May God give him strength in his labours, and grant him many, blessed years!

After a rather minimal congregation, last Sunday, we were glad that the second bank-holiday weekend did not affect numbers, so that things were a little more normal, with forty adults in addition to the clergy, plus our parish children.

This was our oltarnik Oswald’s penultimate Cardiff Liturgy before leaving for the continent, on the first leg of the journeyman year of his apprenticeship.

We were very glad that after the considerable tidy-up – that we face every week – we were able to have social-time across the road in Brodie’s with him and our other young people. We will miss his icon stall in church, and I was glad that I finally remembered which icon I wanted last week, when Oswald had a bank-holiday event, at Woodchester Mansion, the home of his workshop and master.

And so, I returned home with the icon “Noli me tangere” (Do not touch me), showing the Risen Lord appearing to the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles, St Mary Magdalene. Though it was too late for the Sunday of the Myrrh-Baring Women, this icon will be ready for St Mary’s feast in July.

I have already encouraged anyone with spare or loose euros to bring them to church, as these would be most useful and welcome for our young parishioner as he starts his journey. So, please find your change and currency left-overs for Oswald.

As announced in church, we will be making a parish pilgrimage to Glastonbury on Saturday 20th May, hopefully beginning our day with a moleben to St Brigid and the saints of Glastonbury on Bride’s Mound, in Beckery, the site of an early monastic site, with Irish associations. We will then visit the abbey, before heading to the Tor and Chalice Well, possibly visiting the rural-life museum in the abbey barn, if time permits and pilgrims are so inclined! Anyone interested should email Tracy: t_sbrain@icloud.com

Today brought additions to the summer Walsingham Pilgrimage, from 24 – 27th July, and anyone others interested should contact me, Norman or Georgina asap, as I believe there are still some places left. We would love to see more parishioners join those of us who are taking advantage of Fr Dean’s kind invitation to join him and Butetown parishioners, once again.

I also announced that, unfortunately, we will be unable to celebrate our Ascension Day Liturgy in St Mary Butetown, as hoped, so I will check the possibility of celebrating in Nazareth House and make an announcement in the next few days. However, I am very glad to announce that we are able to return to St Mary’s for Friday Study Group, looking to commence on Friday 19th May at 19:00, meeting every fortnight. On these Fridays, confessions will be heard in St Mary’s before and after the sessions if needed.

This week will see confessions on Thursday, as I would like a quiet Friday before the monthly Liturgy for our Cheltenham Mission.

Those requiring confessions on Thursday should email me before noon on Wednesday.

The Cheltenham Liturgy will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church, as usual, with confessions from 09:15, and the Hours and Liturgy commencing at 10:00. Everyone is most welcome, and there will be a bring-and-share lunch after the service. We will call at Nazareth House on the way home, and any remaining confessions may be heard at that time. Email me please.

Please continue to make the celebration of the Paschal season a reality in your homes, with the joy of the season’s prayers and hymns in your daily spiritual-life. Some new parishioners are unaware of the glory of the Paschal Canon, which I encourage the faithful to continue to use throughout the season. However, the Paschal Canon in our prayerbooks is as used on the night of Pascha only, whereas after that night we also add Theotokia (troparia to the Mother of God). This full text, with the Theotokia may be found here:

https://www.stmaryofegypt.org/files/library/Bright-Week—Preparing-for-Holy-Communionb.pdf  

… an excellent ongoing addition to our prayers during Pascha.

Atgyfododd Crist!

Hieromonk Mark

From Palm Sunday to Holy Week and Pascha

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was an great blessing to follow yesterday’s celebration of the raising of St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead with that of the Saviour’s short journey from Bethany to Jerusalemand the Lord’s Entrance into the Holy City.

After a rather rushed set-up, due to lack of access to Nazareth House last night and a later Mass today, everything came together very well, with confessions finished and the covering of the Gifts and completion of the Hours leading seamlessly into our Liturgy, with the faithful standing ready with their willows and palms.

It was lovely to see our deacons censing the church bearing bunches of willows, palms and flowers, and the festal feel to the Liturgy echoed that of yesterday’s humbler but equally jubilant celebration in Cheltenham.

Parishioners with none-Orthodox spouses and some of our students were unable to be with us due to western Easter, but we were to happy to welcome new Ukrainian and Georgian visitors on this happy day, and hope that they will be with us for Pascha. So… all in all, numbers were hardly dented by western celebrations.

We are very grateful to our choir and oltarniky, and to the sisters who prepared food to celebrate the feast before the austerities of Holy Week. We are also grateful to those who brought flowers. May God bless you all!

We now look forward to a busy week of services and confessions, and as Deacon Mark reminded the faithful, if confessing during the ‘open’ times before and after services, we should endeavour to be mindful of others and the shear number of confessions to be heard.

This may be very pertinent on Wednesday, when we will celebrate ‘soborovanie’ – the Holy Unction.

Those approaching the Mystery should have made a recent confession. If confessing before the service of the Holy Oil, please try to keep your confession to five minutes. I will be in Nazareth House during the afternoon, and may hear longer confessions before 17:00, when I will be more generally available for those needing to confess.

We have many new people in the parish, so I recommend them to read a very good articles on Holy Unction on orthochristian – reminding all that this is a Holy Mystery, so only Orthodox Christians may partake of it.

https://orthochristian.com/69891.html

https://orthochristian.com/97264.html

https://orthochristian.com/130141.html

I am very pleased that will have Archpriest Luke with us for this service, and greatly value his help with confessions. Fr Luke will be with us from 18:00, and I know that there will be those who will wish take advantage of being able to make their confession to him. But… again, please be mindful of the time.

Parishioners who are NOT able to be with us on Wednesday should be reassured that anointing with the oil from the service is possible after all of the evening services during Holy Week for those who have prepared.

In addition to the previously advertised services, the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Thursday will now be celebrated in Nazareth House (like all of the services from Wednesday to Friday) and will commence at 11:00, after the daily Mass.

Unfortunately, due to the use of the chapel on Friday morning, it will not be possible to celebrate the Royal Hours in our Cardiff home.

Having celebrated the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem today, the matins of the coming days will look forward to His return as the judge of the world and Bridegroom of His Church, and the beginning of Holy Week calls us to vigilance, so that we may be ready and waiting for His return – like the wise virgins, who tended their lamps and took care that they were vigilant and watching.

At the beginning of this Great Week, let us be like them as we keep vigil, remembering the last week of the Saviour’s earthly life before His crucifixion, life-giving Cross, and the wonder of His resurrection.

Let us endeavour to watch and pray, and to not fall asleep as we spiritually journey to the upper room, the Mount of Olives, the praetorium and thence to Golgotha and the sepulchre.

“Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be borne down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and lest thou be shut out from the Kingdom.”

May God bless you all, and give you strength and grace in this Holy and Great Week.

Asking your forgiveness for Christ’s sake.

Hieromonk Mark