Weekly News – Theophany 2024

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings for the after-feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at the end of a busy day in Wiltshire, and after a final festal service in Nazareth House yesterday.

On such a joyful day, with the Great Blessing of the Water at the end of Liturgy as everyone gathered round, it was lovely to welcome parishioners from far and wide, with the return of our students, new faces, and some familiar faces for the first time in while. Buoyed and blessed by the feast of the Lord’s Baptism, we look forward to our return to St John’s, Canton after fourteen months in Nazareth House.

Thanks to all who contributed to such a joyful Liturgy, especially those who contributed to our trapeza, which will now be a weekly feature of life of St John’s, so – if you are able – please bring something to our bring-and-share lunch.

Due to the impracticalities of weekday celebrations in Nazareth House, around ten of us headed to Chiswick for Theophany, and greatly enjoyed celebrating the feast with our cathedral clergy and brothers and sisters. We are extremely grateful to Fathers Vitaly and Yaroslav and the sisterhood for their warmth and hospitality, and hope that we, as a parish, may connect more with our cathedral over the coming year.

Today day started with a house blessing near Warminster before the sanctification of  the River Wylye at Hanging Langford, a Theophany lunch with Wessex parishioners, a visit to the chapel of St Laurence in Warminster (an intended winter Liturgy setting for our developing Wessex mission), and the evening blessing of Porphyrios’s narrow boat. It was lovely to gather on the house-boat with the icon corner as its obvious focus and centre, praying together in our first Wessex prayer meeting, and then enjoying a warm and congenial bring-and-share supper.

I am very grateful to our Wessex parishioners for their warmth, hospitality and generosity, which will be one of the great blessings of our mission in Wessex, and which – I am sure – will impress itself upon those who meet us and the Church in Wiltshire and beyond.

We look forward to heading to Dorset tomorrow, for another house blessing and a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Wite in Whitchurch Canonicorm.

His Grace, Bishop Irenei, has blessed our mission to serve our very loyal Wessex parishioners who are part of the Cardiff parish, and we look forward to serving them in their own corner of the world, blessed by so many saints and such a noble and profound Christian legacy. We hope to announce our first Liturgy over the next few weeks.

Wednesday will see the relocation of most of our effects to St John’s in Canton, where we will resume parish life, with the Liturgy at 11:00, after confessions from around 10:15 to 10:55, at which time the proskomedia MUST take place.After being without facilities, we look forward to having a kitchen and food area, so please make the most of this, and bring something for our lunch after Liturgy. Thanks to all who did so today. I will hear confessions in Nazareth House on Friday this week, and would appreciate requests by 20:00 on Thursday.I will also be happy to receive requests for house blessings, which have begun in Wessex, before we also do so in Wales.

May God bless you.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

New Year Greetings and News

Dear brothers and sisters, greetings for the new civil year, and best wishes for 2024.

The last day of the past year saw a well-attended Liturgy with  around forty adults and the return of some old faces from the Baltic and closer to home, as well as faces new to our community.

Having expected a dip between western Christmas and Orthodox Nativity, we have been surprised this year, with more or less sustained numbers, though singers and servers have been sparse at times. Welcome all who have made acquaintance with us over the last few weeks and welcome back all who have been away.

I was able to confess a dozen regular parishioners, and – as made clear during announcements – they are blessed to commune on the coming feast of the Nativity, allowing confession time for others who are preparing for Christmas Communion.

This week, confessions will be on Friday afternoon and before and after the Nativity Vigil (from 18:00 and for as long as needed after. On Christmas morning – next Sunday – I would like to be free to confess those coming for the day from destinations beyond the Severn and our Welsh parishioners who live some distance from Cardiff.

As 2024 begins, we pass from one year to the next with the world overshadowed by conflict, with the violence and misery of war, though the past year did see some of our temporary parishioners return to Ukraine, and some of our current parishioners have gone home for Nativity. May God bless and protect them! We are also ever-mindful of the suffering of those in the Holy Land, and have been glad to do what little we have been able to for the relief of those in Gaza and the West Bank.

Not only did 2023 see the continued armed conflict in Ukraine, and the terrible conflict in Gaza, but also the unending state-sponsored crusade against the Church in Ukraine, with continued violent seizures of temples, physical assault on believers, the arrest and imprisonment of clergy, desecration of shrines, temples in flames, the exile of seminarians and pilgrims from the Kiev Caves Lavra and other places – a neo-Soviet attempt to destroy the Church of Christ. Yet – praise God – whilst the seized temples of Patriarch Bartholomew’s schismatics are deserted, nearly empty or even locked for lack of worshippers, the confessing Church is purified, strengthened and radiant in the poverty and humility of the Saviour. A stable was good enough for His birth, and private houses, converted commercial premises, pavements, gardens and open-air places are good enough for the Church. This is the quiet and comforting meaning of the words of the Nativity Vigil: God is with us!

I hope that the same quiet confidence in the Lord’s abiding presence will continue to guide our own community in its wanderings, and constantly changing conditions.

2023 was a year back in Nazareth House, where we have worshipped week by week, have welcomed new faces, admitted new catechumens, performed baptisms, and (yesterday) churched and communed our latest neophyte – Steven – whom we congratulate on the joyful occasion of his baptism in St Nicholas in the Vale. We congratulate him on his first Liturgy as a baptised Orthodox Christian, especially upon his reception of the Holy Mysteries. Many, blessed years!

2023 was a year of pilgrimages, with one each month from February to November, and I hope that we will ensure that every month of 2024 will be blessed in the same way. Thanks to Tracy who has acted as our pilgrimage coordinator and to all who have contributed to these spiritual journeys that have been a source of grace and blessing. Our pilgrimages to Capel y ffin and Llanthony, Pennant Melangell and Glastonbury particularly stand out, and I hope that all three destinations may become a pilgrimage fixture on our calendar.

The year also saw parishioners go farther afield on pilgrimage, with half a dozen intrepid souls facing the summer heat of the Holy Land to join the diocesan pilgrimage, packed with visits to so many sacred destinations. They were greatly blessed to be able to celebrate the Holy Mysteries in places at the heart of the Faith, not only with our own bishop, but also with the hierarchs of the Mother Church of Jerusalem (and yes, Jerusalem is the Mother Church, not somewhere in Turkey, where Pentecost definitely did not happen!).

As a result of conversations and an invitation in the Holy Land, later in the year, a group of our young brothers travelled to Mount Athos with Reader Wilfred from our cathedral, and they very much hope that an annual visit to the Bulgarian monastery of Zographou will become a feature of parish life.

Some changes in Nazareth House have posed obstacles to Sunday worship, limiting our ability to hear confessions, set up the church, and generally celebrate as we need to. Weekday Liturgies on feasts have become difficult, hence celebrating in Llanelli. The lack of trapeza has rather dented the life of the parish (though boosting business at our local café), especially as the massive geographical spread of our parishioners across South Wales and Wessex means that Sunday is the only opportunity for parishioners to spend time together, and some have a long journey home. This has a been a growing topic of conversation, with some parishioners expressing the need for much-missed facilities, and a less limiting physical environment.

As a result of such conversations and discussions, Deacon Mark and I recently visited Llys Esgob, in Llandaff, and spoke with Mother Frances’s appointed successor at St John’s, Canton, the Reverend Andrew Sully. He and Andrew, the starosta, are enthusiastic about the parish returning to Canton and building a community partnership, so that our parish is very much an active part of the life of St John’s. So, we have agreed that we will return to St John’s Canton for Liturgy from Sunday 28th January. Until then, our worship continues in Nazareth House. Parishioners who visited St John’s were delighted to discover that the central heating system now works splendidly. I hope that having the leafy, tree-lined grounds will allow fuller parish life, with adult baptisms in the church garden, processions on each feast, picnics and outside eating in the summer – with occasions to get together with the Anglican faithful.

We extend our thanks to the Sisters of Nazareth for their hospitality over the last thirteen months, and Fathers Alexander and David for their kindness during the previous chaplaincy, when they did everything to help, with great respect for our presence. May God bless them.

We will have the task of moving our furnishings and possessions from Nazareth House to St John’s towards the end of the month, and will appreciate assistance at that time.

Next weekend, our Nativity Vigil will be at 19:00 on Saturday evening and on Sunday 7th January, our Nativity Liturgy will start as close to 11:00 as possible.

Looking beyond Nativity, Theophany falls on Thursday 19th January (New Style) and given that neither Nazareth House chapel or St John’s are available on Thursday mornings, a group of us will attend the celebration of the feast in the cathedral in Chiswick. However, we will perform the Great Blessing of the Waters in Nazareth House after Liturgy on Sunday 22nd January.

The following day, I look forward to an outdoor water blessing in Wiltshire when our Wessex parishioners have the first meeting of their local prayer-group. With the blessing of Bishop Irenei, we will be supporting our loyal Wessex ‘pilgrim-parishioners’ with a local mission, and we are presently looking for a place to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Please keep this intention in your prayers.

So… we begin 2024 with some major changes and developments in the life of our scattered community, but ones which I look forward to, seeing great opportunities for positive development after a period in which parish life has become limited and faced obstacles. We pray for God’s blessing and guidance.

May God bless you and your families in the year ahead.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Weekly News: 27 November

Dear brothers and sisters,

The last few days have certainly been busy, and I hope that those who made the journey to Birmingham to venerate the Trojeručica-Hilandarska icon of the Mother of God, in Bournville, have been spiritually buoyed and encouraged in their Faith by a wonderful day, with a moleben with the akathist before the icon.

Our pilgrimages over the last ten months have been such an encouragement and a common celebration of our Faith, bringing the different generations of our parish together for prayer, Liturgy and social time. I hope and pray that we will continue in these pilgrim endeavours, especially now that we have an active and energetic core of young people.

With so many things going on in December, our plan is to make a local pilgrimage to the Cardiff Oratory, to venerate their portion of the relics of St Alban, enshrined in the church of St Alban-on-the-Moors. Given that this is so local, I wonder whether we may do this on a mutually convenient weekday evening, and we will discuss this over the next week or so. Father Sebastian and his confreres are very keen that we avail ourselves of the shrine and church for devotions to the Protomartyr of Britain, having welcomed us so many times in the past. I will approach him with our request.

For anyone who may be interested in travelling further afield, the ‘Midlands Orthodox Christians’ group (of which we met some members in Bournville), will be making a December pilgrimage to Stoke St Milborough, near Ludlow on Saturday 16th December, and I hope to join them, possibly blessing St Milburgha’s Well. They would be delighted for any of our parishioners to join them!

We were happy to welcome past visitors to yesterday’s Liturgy, as well as welcoming new people to our worship, and welcoming home those who have been away. We are grateful for those who helped set up the church in such a short time, not to mention packing things away.

In future, we will start chanting the Hours before the Roman Catholic service, as the more than doubling of the length of the mass makes it impossible for us to set up, chant the Hours and celebrate the Liturgy at such a late hour, though the confession situation continues to work extremely well.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the Nativity Fast. There are some variations in local practice, but the common foundation is that food is vegan, without wine and oil, though with wine/oil or fish as permitted additions on certain days.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are essentially ‘dry days’, Tuesdays and Thursdays ‘oil days’, and Saturdays and Sundays ‘fish days’. Whenever fish is permitted, so is wine and oil.

I know that many of our parishioners follow the St Herman Calendar, which has some differences in the fasting rules, but we will be publishing rules according to ROCOR’s printed calendars, and encourage you to follow these guidelines.

Tuesday 28 (15) November:  Holy Martyrs and Confessors Gurias (299), Samonas (306), and Abibus (322), of Edessa. St. Paisiy (Velichkovsky) of Moldavia and Mt. Athos (1794). Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits etc)

Wednesday 29 (16) November: Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew (60). Wine and oil allowed.

Thursday 30 (17) November: Venerable Nikon, abbot of Radonezh, disciple of St. Sergius (1426). Wine and oil allowed.

Friday 1 December (18 November): Martyr Platon of Ancyra (266). Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits etc)

Saturday 2 December (19 November): St. Philaret, metropolitan of Moscow (1867). Fish, wine and oil allowed.

Sunday 3 December (20 November): Forefeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Venerable Gregory Decapolites (816). Fish, wine and oil allowed.

I hope that we will all add to our prayer-life and spiritual reading, to focus Advent and our preparation for the Lord’s Nativity.

This Friday would usually be our discussion group, but as there is a rail-strike, I will not be venturing beyond Llanelli – already having such a regrettable time using the railways for travel to and from Cardiff. So, I will hear confessions on Thursday, and will offer an Advent moleben at 16:00, as well as hearing confessions before celebrating vespers at 16:00, on Saturday.

As announced by Marina on Sunday, the next deadline for blanket collection for children in Ukraine is 8th December, and new fleece blankets will be greatly appreciated.

Another charitable focus over the next few weeks will be the concert in St John’s, Canton, on Wednesday 13thDecember at 19:30, with all proceeds supporting suffering Christians in the Holy Land, where the Bethany Christian School is suffering immense hardship

Please endeavour to support these worthy causes!

Next Sunday will be the forefeast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple, and the following morning the Liturgy for the feast will be in Llanelli, with the Hours starting at 10:00. Given the challenges we face before every morning service in Cardiff, our weekday Liturgies will be in Llanelli for the foreseeable future.

May I ask for confession requests for Thursday to get to me by noon on Wednesday, please?

May God bless you all. Good strength for the fast!

In Christ – Fr Mark

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