The Sunday of the Prodigal Son in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

With the Sunday of the Prodigal Son signalling the approach of the Great Fast, our service heralded our entry into meatfare week and the last seven days of meat before the Sunday of Pascha.

We were blessed to sustain a congregation of around forty-five adults plus children, including Yuriy, whose fifth birthday was celebrated with the chanting of Many Years and the sharing of very nice Medovnik / Honey Cake, made by matushka Alla.

I was very happy that we were able to meet and welcome new Ukrainian faces today, and Father Hierodeacon Avraamy will be working on publicity and advertising among his fellow Ukrainians, some of whom are struggling to find us in Cardiff. He lives in Swansea and is also aware of Ukrainian faithful seeking a canonical Orthodox community not involved in supporting the schism in their suffering homeland.

As you will be aware, although still a cleric of the Dnipropetrovsk Diocese, Hierodeacon Avraamy is now temporarily a cleric of our parish, having been blessed to serve here by both Metropilitan Irenei of Dnipropetrovsk and our own Bishop Irenei.

With the resumption of his ministrations, it was a joy to celebrate the Liturgy with the solemnity of two deacons, and several people commented on how Hierodeacon Avraamy and Deacon Mark work so well together: censing the church in tandem, during the more solemn entrances and alternating the litanies. Far from being more complicated, the Liturgy flows better and without pause. May God bless our deacons and their service as ministers of the Divine Mysteries and sacred services!

It was a relief that the confession arrangements worked pretty smoothly, with a couple of remaining confessions and communion during he thanksgiving prayers. This greatly helped the flow of the Liturgy and management of time.

Having completed the sacramental ministrations of the day, a new icon of St Luke of Simferopol was blessed, having been commissioned by Deacon Mark from the iconographer in our midst, as well as icons purchased fro Oswald’s ‘lavka’.

Following the Liturgy, it was lovely to see parishioners socialising so warmly and catching up with one another, with Oswald having customers at his icon stall, and the sharing of post-Liturgy snacks. Thank you to all who generously provided food and drinks for the faithful – and thank you to all who made the clear up and packing away so much smoother today.

I was very happy that the young men of the parish were able to spend time together over a cup of coffee and some lunch in a nearby café in the afternoon, and was glad to be able to join them and have some social time and conversation about the details of our Liturgy. We are so incredibly blessed to have such a band of pious and spiritually focussed young men, including those baptised over the last fourteen or fifteen months. Having received a blessing from Bishop Irenei to establish a parish brotherhood, dedicated to St David, I look forward to seeing it’s development once we have passed the First Week of the Great Fast. This will unite the brethren of the parish across the generations and the miles, given the geographical dispersion of the parish.

Having continued house-blessings last week, I hope to do a few more in the week ahead, though I will need to be in Llanelli for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Meeting the Lord on Wednesday.

I wish to hear confessions on Thursday, and ask for requests by 12:00 on Wednesday, to allow arrangements to be confirmed.

Saturday will see the Divine Liturgy, a Litia for the Departed and a baptism in Cheltenham, before the return to Cardiff where we will set up the church and celebrate Small Compline at 17:00.

As well as celebrating the Liturgy on Sunday, we shall also have our Annual General Meeting, with feedback from the clergy and parish officers and discussion of the items on our agenda. Again, if you have any matters which you would like to add to the agenda, please email Deacon Mark – rmfisher@ntlworld.com

Finally, as we approach the Great Fast, I would like to encourage you all to have some spiritual reading ready, to be spiritual food and drink to nourish your souls and help sustain the journey to Pascha through the days of Lent. If you haven’t ordered/bought anything, now is the time to do so!

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Local Orthodox Devotion to the Mother of God, ‘Our Lady of Walsingham’

Walsingham, a quintessentially English place of pilgrimage in honour of the Mother of God, has paradoxically been the place of many people’s first encounter with the Orthodox Church.

For some, this encounter has been the first step, or else a stepping stone, on their personal pilgrimage to the Orthodox Christian Faith, as we know from our own community and its friends – including our very own starosta and our friend, Schema-Hierodeacon Antony

In that sacred place, the Mother of God appeared in a dream to Richold de Faverches, the Lady of the Manor, in 1056, instructing her to build a chapel according to the dimensions of the Holy House of Nazareth – measurements proved to be correct in the course of history with the translation of the Holy House to Loreto in Italy.

The shrine became a place of countless miracles and throughout the Middle Ages the Holy House and priory at Walsingham were the most important shrine in England, known as England’s Nazareth, benefitting from royal patronage, including that of Henry VIII: tragically the author of its desecration and spoliation.

But, Walsingham’s story is one of resurrection, proving that the veneration of the Mother of God could not be obliterated in these islands, with both restored Anglican and Roman Catholic shrines becoming places of prayer and pilgrimage, and the amazing legacy of Father Alfred Hope Paten continuing to touch the lives of Orthodox Christian pilgrims year after year.

Our Russian Orthodox forebears, exiles with a great love for the Mother of God, became part of this story of renewal in 1938 when the extended Anglican shrine was consecrated, and Archbishop Nestor of Kamchatka celebrated the Hierarchical Liturgy at the church’s high altar.

In the next decade, after the war, St Nikolai Velimirovic served in the shrine church whilst living in the College and convalescing after his liberation from Dachau.

Though the intended Orthodox Church was never built adjacent to the shrine church, pilgrims will be familiar with the little upstairs Orthodox Chapel consecrated on Pentecost-Trinity 1945.

The former monastery of St Seraphim, now sadly little more than a museum, played a pivotal role in the development of the veneration of the saints of Britain through the iconographic labours of Archimandrite David and his spiritual son and successor, Leon Liddament of blessed memory.

For some of us, Walsingham has a very special place in our lives and we greatly look forward to pilgrimages, despite its distance from South Wales. When we are there, we feel the reality of the Mother of God’s maternal care, protection and intercession.

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Irenei, I have been able to make pilgrimages and celebrate services in the Chapel of the Life-Giving Spring, in the Anglican shrine-church three or four times a year – usually with the support and good-ministrations of Norman and Georgina, but also through our inclusion in local pilgrimage by Father Dean, and also on parish pilgrimage with members of our South Wales communities.

Whilst worshipping and meeting in the chaplaincy, at Newman Hall, we sustained our ‘Walsingham devotions’ to the Mother of God in the Little Oratory of Newman Hall, with its beautiful Walsingham Icon of the Mother of God. But, that ceased when we were no longer able to worship there with the change of chaplain.

Our local Anglican friends sustain their devotions through their Cell of Our Lady of Walsingham, and I very much hope that – in a similar way – those in our community who love Walsingham and its shrine to the Mother of God (and those who simply wish to deepen their devotion to the Mother of God) may wish to come together regularly to offer devotions and intercessions for the needs of the Church, of our community and the world.

We have not come together to chant the akathist to the Mother of God in honour of her Walsingham Icon since our exodus from Newman Hall in 2020, and my hope and prayer is that we may soon remedy this, as well as looking forward to a parish pilgrimage, introducing new pilgrims to ‘England’s Nazareth.’

As I look forward to serving in Walsingham in Cheese-Fair week, I hope that discussions over the next few weeks may prove fruitful and find others who wish to share in local devotions.

Weekly News: Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Today saw the celebration of the Sunday of the Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, as well as the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican, marking the approach of the Great Fast. 

It was good to sustain our usual number of forty to forty-five worshippers, but it was evident that many in the congregation arrived during the early part of the Liturgy. Admittedly, confessions have made our start rather slow of late, but those communing of the Holy Mysteries should be in church for the Hours, as well as the Liturgy.  

Having settled back into Nazareth House and discovered how best to make things work, the Hours will commence at 10:40 and the Liturgy at 11:00 each Sunday. 

We expected to have Father Hierodeacon Avraamy celebrating with us, but he was unable to join us due to family sickness. We look forward to next week’s Liturgy and the blessing of two deacons for our Liturgy. Last week’s Sunday service was so imposing with two deacons serving in our celebration. 

We are grateful to our chancellor, Archpriest Paul, for sending vestments for Hierodeacon Avraamy, who is one of several Ukrainian clergy blessed to serve in our diocese, bringing great experience and liturgical knowledge. 

CONFESSIONS This was the first week in which no confessions were heard during the preparation of the chalice for Holy Communion, so a few confessions were heard after Liturgy, at which time Holy Communion was also administered.  

We need to be clear that this should really be for those living a distance from the church, and those who are at the mercy of public transport – such as our Ukrainian ladies (living in Ogmore Vale), whose train was cancelled, and who walked for an hour in order to ensure they were able to use alternative transport and attend Liturgy: determination!  

Whilst, confessions/communion worked well, this time after Liturgy – when clergy are tired and need to sit down –  cannot and must not become the default confession and communion time for late-arrivers, especially when there is only one priest. So… this post-Liturgy time will be monitored. 

Last week saw confessions on Thursday and Friday, with a house-blessing on Friday, as well. But, so far, there have been hardly any requests for house-blessings, at least from our parishioners in Wales. So, please do not forget that this is a Theophany tradition each year. We had several requests today, and will make arrangements to visit parish homes. As some of these visits may be on Saturdays, there may not be a public service in the evenings of those days, but rather vespers being celebrated across the parish, in the homes of the faithful, with the possibility of compline being celebrated after setting up the convent-church for Liturgy. 

THE WEEK AHEAD 

Looking forward to the latter this week, I will hear confessions on Thursday and Saturday, so may I ask for requests as soon as possible, but by 14:00 on Wednesday at the latest.  

Prior to pre-Lenten preparations, this week is fast-free. 

There will be no public celebration of vespers this Saturday. 

 CHELTENHAM 

Though our Cheltenham mission Liturgy is usually on the second Saturday of the month, the February Liturgy will be on Saturday 18th February (the third Saturday). As this coming Saturday will see the celebratory anticipation Yuriy’s 5th birthday, Deacon Mark will be otherwise engaged. 

However, for some years, it has actually been our tradition to celebrate the February Cheltenham Liturgy on the afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Candlemas). I’m pleased to say that we will be doing the same this year, and will also have a baptism on this day. 

As usual, our Liturgy will be in Prestbury United Reformed Church, Deep St, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL52 3AW. Cardiff friends would be extremely welcome! 

Confessions will be heard from 09:15, with the Hours at 10:00 and the Divine Liturgy at 10:30. 

WALSINGHAM

As announced at Liturgy, Father Dean of St Mary Butetown has once more extended an invitation for our parishioners to join the July South Wales Pilgrimage to Walsingham, as Norman and I did, last year – making a rather small Orthodox contingent. 

However, whilst there, we were able to join our dear friends who keep the Orthodox lamp burning in Walsingham and celebrated services in the Orthodox Chapel of the Anglican shrine, as well as praying in Mother Melangell’s house-chapel.  

A handful of parishioners have expressed interest in joining the pilgrimage, and I would be very pleased to have faithful from our South Wales communities travelling to Walsingham as a group – as it is already three and a half years since we previously did so, in November 2019. 

The pilgrimage will be from July 24-27. 

Cost:  

  • Full Board and travel by coach £370 (£270 under 16 years) 
  • Full Board only (no coach) £225 (£140 under 16 years) 
  • Children under 5 yrs: FREE 

I will post details on our parish Facebook Page, but any queries may be sent in Georgina’s direction:  georgie.partridge12@gmail.com 

I’m happy to hear that interested parties have already been in touch! 

Additionally, given the place of Walsingham in the spiritual lives of some of our South Wales Orthodox faithful we are discussing the formation of a local Orthodox group akin to the various ‘cells’ of Our Lady of Walsingham, supporting the shrine and the historic Orthodox presence by prayer and pilgrimage, and encouraging devotion to the Mother of God. More to come! 

We discussed this whilst we met at Newman Hall, where we periodically chanted the akathist in honour of the Walsingham Icon of the Mother of God. 

Whilst on this pilgrimage theme – I would like to remind parishioners that I will be in Walsingham for the customary February visit, maintaining the historical links between the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia and the Anglican Shrine. I greatly look forward to celebrating the Liturgy with our friend, the newly-ordained Priest Mark (Tattum-Smith) from Mettingham, whom I hope to see become increasingly involved in ROCOR ministrations in the shrine. 

PILGRIMAGE TO LLANDAFF

Just to remind you that we will be meeting in Llandaff Cathedral for a moleben before the relics of St Teilo, at 10:00 on Saturday 25th February, with time to explore the cathedral and visit St Teilo’s Well before those who wish to do so repair to the Black Lion for lunch. 

Confessions will be heard in Nazareth House that afternoon, when the church is set up for Sunday Liturgy. 

PARISH AGM

We will be holding our parish annual general meeting on Sunday 19th February after the Divine Liturgy, and anyone wishing to raise subjects for our agenda should email our deacon and parish administrator, Father Deacon Mark: rmfisher@ntlworld.com 

No elections are due at this meeting, but the requirement for us us to form an electoral role though the establishment of a parish subscription will be discussed. 

PRAYER REQUESTS 

Your prayers are asked for the newly departed servants of God, the priests Father John Musther (in Keswick) and Father Stephen Fretwell (Oxford); the newly-departed Nikolai; Irina, whose fortieth day fell a few days ago; and Joanna (Mary Joy), whose funeral will take place this week. May their memory be eternal.

Parish Newsletter: 30 January 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday’s Liturgy brought a great contrast to our Hierarchical Liturgy, the previous weekend, most notably in the drop to our more usual Liturgy numbers of just over forty – though Nazareth House Chapel swallows that up in its vastness.

We were glad to welcome visitors, who mostly (though coincidently) travelled from Pontypridd. We hope that they will return to share Liturgy with us soon.

The parish was greatly blessed to have two deacons for the Divine Liturgy, with Father Avraamy’s ministrations greatly enriching our celebration. Having served as a deacon for twenty years, with thirteen of those being in the Svyatogorsk-Dormition Lavra, he brings great and very welcome experience to our parish.

I was also greatly appreciative of his pastoral help yesterday, spending time with refugees facing many challenges in their new life in the valleys. It was a blessing that his first Liturgy serving as an assistant cleric of the parish coincided with the visit of a family who hopefully benefitted from a long talk with him (as a fellow refugee), helped by his words and prayers. To Hierodeacon Avraamy – many years!

This is a prompt to point out that there have been problems with the door from the street – the family in question having arrived just as Mass ended and our final set up began, but not being able to get into the building they returned later, when the latch worked and the door fortunately opened! This has happened quite a few times over the last three or four weeks, with some first time visitors going to reception or giving up. The door is always unlocked for the 9:30 Mass and the handle may need turning several times. We have reported this, but the problem continues, so Deacon Mark will attack the latch with WD40 before next Liturgy to ensure the handle turns properly and the latch raises.

As announced at the end of Liturgy, there will be a local pilgrimage to Llandaff Cathedral on Saturday 25thFebruary, to pray before the relics of St Teilo, whose feast falls a few days earlier, whilst I am serving in Walsingham.

A moleben will be served at 10:00 in the Chapel of St Teilo, at the end of the righthand South Aisle, with time to explore the cathedral and a visit to St Teilo’s Well around the corner after the service. It has been suggested that those able to stay may wish to retreat to the Black Lion pub at midday. Tracy has kindly agreed to take on the role of pilgrimage coordinator, as we get pilgrimages under way. It would be useful for us to know how many people are able to join us for this small beginning to our pilgrimage-year, so parishioners are invited to email Tracy: t_sbrain@icloud.com

Having discussed the use of Capel-y-ffin, the smallest church in the principality, with Father Richard Williams at Hay-on-Wye, we intend to make a pilgrimage to the Black Mountains, in honour of St David, on Saturday 18th March.

St David’s foundation at Llanthony, nearby, has been a place of March pilgrimage for many years. However, the darkness, intense cold and dampness of the virtually disused parish church make it an inhospitable place for Liturgy. Capel-y-ffin slightly further up the the Afon Honddu and the valley promises a lighter and more liturgically-hospitable place of worship: a very special place, close to the site of the monastery founded by the eccentric romantic, Father Ignatius of Llanthony in the 19th century.

Father Richard has suggested that we visit Hay-on-Wye after Liturgy, as he would be glad to welcome us at St Mary’s where I hope he will tell us about the early saints Eigen and Eigion who vie for the dedication of one of the churches of the benefice at Llanigon. Details will be confirmed after the pilgrimage has been discussed with Vladika Irenei.

The final pilgrimage note, is to point out that there are still places available for the diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, led by Bishop Irenei, and taking place between 31st July and 12th August. Details may be found at:

https://orthodox-europe.org/content/diocesan-holyland-pilgrimage-2023/?fbclid=IwAR0o5jbnyGeSTt03kciN70pP9YToLKTiIteUXK4pQiCMpB6GU9iGEKDKtl8

I am very happy that some parishioners have registered for the pilgrimage, and I greatly look forward to visiting the shrines of the Holy Land – God-willing – not only with our bishop, but with brothers and sisters of the parish.

In Cardiff, we need to hold a parish AGM, and given the length of Liturgies during the Great Fast, Sunday 19th February will allow us to give three weeks notice, as per the statutes of parishes of the ROCOR. On that Sunday we will hold our parish general meeting after Liturgy, and will ensure that we have refreshments available to see us through to the end of the AGM. No elections are due during this meeting, but the matter of subscription is a priority, so that an electoral-roll is in place for any future voting. If you have any items for the agenda, please email Deacon Mark who acts as the parish administrator: rmfisher@ntlworld.com

This week, I will hear confessions on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, so may I ask for requests by 13:00 Wednesday lunchtime to allow time to contact those requiring a slot?

I wish to keep Saturday as free as possible, so that we can concentrate on the celebration of Great Vespers at 17:00. Church will be open for set up from 16:00.

Please don’t be shy in requesting house blessings, as I hope to get around some of the Cardiff homes of the parish this week, and next weekend, as well as heading further afield and venturing into England – at the ‘eastern end’ of the parish! Also, please remember that there is Theophany Water in Church, so if you have not yet taken any, please bring bottles to collect it.

I continue to ask your prayers for my health. Though the concerns of last autumn are happily behind me, I continue to suffer from oedema and continuing fatigue. Your prayers, in union with those of the saints and angelic-hosts, make an immense difference. We must never be tempted to think otherwise, however dysfunctional our spiritual lives may seem. Joined with the voices of the saints and bodiless powers of heaven, and with one another, even our feeble requests have power and force. Is not even the greatest and most powerful flood anything other than hundreds of thousands of single drops of rain!

In your prayers, we also ask for the remembrance of the newly departed servants of God, the Priest Stephen, Nikolai and Aleksandr, as well as for Stuart-Michael whose fortieth day has just passed, and for the Reader Paul and Joanna who reposed at the turning of the year. May their memories be eternal.

We also ask your prayers for Mirela, whose baby is very obviously imminently due. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries at yesterday’s Liturgy, may the grace of the Lord’s Most Pure and Holy Body and Blood fortify her in the days ahead!

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Hieromonk MarK

Christmastide News

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is Born! S prazdnikom!

I hope that you are all maintaining the joy and momentum of the feast.

On Saturday, we will celebrate our Christmastide service in Cheltenham, with the Liturgy in the United Reformed Church, Deep Street, GL52 3AW. Confessions will be heard from 09:15, and the Hours and Liturgy will commence at 10:00.

Saturday is the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and of St Basil, so we will celebrate the longer Liturgy of St Basil, rather than that of St John Chrysostom. The variables may be found at orthodoxaustin: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YIpcyDDp3HzIusCyVlYsKFmSxd2TSPXG/view

We resume parish life in Nazareth House on Sunday, with the Hours, followed by the Liturgy at 10:40. This will be the feast of St Seraphim of Sarov, one of our most loved saints, and being together for the feast will be a great blessing. Variables: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ssx9ksPehNn0o4Wm5xRbkP_WGxmyKAez/view

Remember that we are in a fast free period until 18 January, when we fast for the Forefeast of the Theophany. As soon as I have confirmation for the Theophany Liturgy time, I will share it with you. The vesperal Liturgy and first blessing of Jordan will take place in Father Luke’s home chapel at 10:00 on 18 January.

As announced, His Grace, Bishop Irenei will be making a hierarchical visitation to Cardiff on 21 and 22 January, and plans are underway regarding ‘practicalities’, with Menna having agreed to coordinate sisterhood activities, especially arranging a reception in St John’s, where we now hope to also celebrate the Sunday Liturgy during Vladika’s visit. We will be in touch over the next few days regarding catering and coordinating food.

Deacon Mark has set up a new Whatsapp group just for the parish, rather than the wider ROCOR presence in South Wales, and anyone wishing to be added to it should contact him or Menna. After the splendour of the Christmas table, it is clear that there is no need for concern regarding having enough food for the faithful!

This week, I am hoping to have a quiet time, as I’m not feeling too well, but I shall come to Cardiff to hear confessions on Thursday. If you wish to make your confession, please email me by midday on Wednesday. As Norman and Georgina will be in St Mary’s on Thursday, we shall have confessions there, as its centrality makes in more convenient for many parishioners.

Please maintain the joy of the Nativity through your prayers and spiritual celebration, not simply through the welcome festive fare after the Nativity Fast. The icon corner should be our favoured place in these festive days, not the larder, the kitchen or the dining table! Please feast on spiritual food first.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

The Week Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters,

As usual, our Sunday Liturgy was a joyous gathering, bringing people from yet further away from Cardiff, with new faces from Bourton-on-the-Water – adding Oxfordshire to the English counties from which worshippers ‘commuted’ across the Bridge to Wales.

We were also very pleased to have some of the faithful from our Romanian sister parish join us, sharing the communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Congratulations to all who partook of the Holy Mysteries!

Trapeza was a lively gathering, and it was lovely to see such animated conversation and so many happy faces, with new visitors being welcomed and engaged by our parish regulars.

Having discussed the arrangements for the brother of one of our young Hereford parishioners, we can now look forward to our next baptism, and hope that this will be in Nazareth House, where the Sisters look forward to welcoming us back: praise God! I look forward to discussing practicalities with Sister Anna later in the week.

This Friday is the feast of the Kazan Icon, and we will celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St Mary, North Church Street, Butetown, commencing the Hours at 10:30 and the Liturgy at 11:00. We will have a bring and share lunch after the Liturgy, so you are invited to bring food to share in the community hall.

We will continue our celebration of the Kazan Icon when we are all together on Sunday 6th November, when we will serve a special moleben at the end of Liturgy, praying especially for the parish as we prepare to move back to Nazareth House and resume parish life in Cathays. As usual, the Hours and Liturgy will commence at 11:00.

As explained by Deacon Mark, it is important that even those requiring Sunday confession give notification, as time is so limited. Once we are back in Cathays, this will be less of a problem, though time will always be something of a challenge, given the vast areas from which the faithful travel.

As for this week, may I have requests for confessions by Wednesday? Those who have confessed for this weekend may commune this Friday.

If needed, I shall hear some confessions in St Alban’s on Thursday, and I will be able to hear some brief confessions on Friday before Liturgy.

I shall depart for a few days in Somerset after next Sunday’s Liturgy, hoping to spend some time with some of our Wessex faithful in their own part of the world.

I ask you to continue to remember me in your prayers, as medications causes a few unwelcome side-effects and complications in an otherwise vastly improving situation!

In Christ – Fr Mark

 

The Election of Bishop Nicholas as First-Hierarch

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was with great joy that we greeted the news of the election of His Grace, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, as First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and as Metropolitan of New-York and Eastern America.

At the very beginning of the life of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia – then known as the Russian Church in Exile – the presidency of His Eminence, Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev and Galych initiated a glorious succession of men of deep faith, asceticism and prayer as First-Hierarchs of the Church in the diaspora.

During the rule of the ever-memorable Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy, Philaret, Vitaly, Lavr and Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has been a defender of sacred Tradition and of the freedom of the Church, and – as a bastion of holiness – has produced men and women of great sanctity, some of whom we look to as the saints of tomorrow, yet to be glorified by the Church, though already glorified by God.

Even as the godless Soviets sought to control and destroy the much-suffering Church in the Soviet Union, the First-Hierarchs of the exiled Church led and defended free Church life in exile, and prayed fervently for those who suffered under atheist Bolshevism. But, such was God’s sovereign-will, that there was no short-lived communist junta and the hoped-for return from exile – no going home, and no freedom for the Church behind the Iron Curtain for nigh on seventy years.

As exiles became reconciled to life in the new lands in which they had settled, and as the Holy Synod moved from Constantinople to Sremski Karlovtsi, and thence to Vienna, Munich and New York, our Church Abroad settled, grew and flourished in the Americas, Europe and Australasia, with non-Slav faithful finding Orthodox Christianity in its temples and communities.

As the children of the successive waves of exiles shared their Orthodox Christian Faith and welcomed local peoples, our Church grew and developed, no longer an ethnic and predominantly Slavic Church of exiles, but a multi-national, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Church embracing people of all nations, yet cherishing the enduring spiritual inheritance and legacy of Holy Rus’.

This is wonderfully illustrated by the make-up of our own parish, with its mixture of peoples, languages and nationalities, and this is very much the inheritance that Vladika Nicholas understands as the identity of our beloved ROCOR.

Just over a hundred years after the beginning of organised Church life in the diaspora, we shall soon hear his name, as Metropolitan and First-Hierarch, knowing that with his integrity and Faith, he will develop, defend and preserve the legacy that will be handed over to him when he is enthroned this coming Sunday.

We may be joyfully confident that his rule as First-Hierarch of our Church will be one in which the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will spiritually prosper in holiness and truth, and in which the rights and freedoms of our Church will be defended and preserved.

We pray for God’s blessing upon Bishop Nicholas, that his rule may be long, spiritually-fruitful and blessed.

Many years to His Grace, and glory to God!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Looking Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters, 

As the next week will be such a busy and itinerant one, I am writing my weekly message now, not so many hours before our Sunday Liturgy. 

Today, the feast of St Anthony, the founder of the Kiev Caves Monastery, saw Deacon Mark and I travel to West Wales for our first pastoral visit to Ukrainian refugees accommodated in the Urdd residential youth centre at Llangrannog, on the Cardigan Coast. 

Just over two hundred displaced Ukrainians are currently living at the centre, though the Orthodox are a small minority amongst mainly Greek Catholics.  

Already well accustomed to travelling to serve the faithful in Cheltenham, with our ‘mobile church’ we arrived with the things needed for Liturgy, making a room overlooking the refectory into a temporary chapel for the morning, confessing the faithful and celebrating the Liturgy surrounded by green hills and overlooking the sea  

It was a quiet Liturgy with only a dozen people, but it was a blessing to celebrate the feast of St Anthony Pechersky in such a beautiful and scenic setting, and to be able to see Nataliya from Newquay (and meet her parents), having not been together for such a long time. 

We were blessed to have the assistance of Reader Bohdan, a graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy and native of Kiev, who visited us for Pascha in St Mary, Butetown, and who will hopefully become a regular part of our parish life. 

Tomorrow, of course, sees the feast of St Olga, and I know that the morning will be a particular challenge with confessions, but we will make it work, somehow. 

I would like to remind parishioners that this week will see me undertaking one of my other obediences on behalf of our diocese, visiting Walsingham and serving in the Shrine, with which our diocese has had an association for close to a century. I look forward to days of prayer and reading, and celebrating the feast of Holy Great Prince, St Vladimir, the Equal of the Apostles. 

I shall return on Thursday and, given that this will be a long and tiring day with Liturgy, trapeza and the journey home from Norfolk, I need to have requests for Friday confessions by Wednesday evening, with 22:00 as the cut off point. I will not be accessing parish emails on Thursday, so anyone emailing after this deadline will not be able to confess. Please recognise that the clergy have good reason for giving deadlines, as plans need to be made, and fitting some pastoral activities into the time available is sometimes an almost impossible challenge. 

So, confessions will be heard in the Church of St Mary, Butetown, on Friday, with the schedule sent out after the Wednesday 22:00 deadline. 

Saturday sees James’s baptism in Chippenham, and we ask you to keep him in your prayers, and Sunday’s 11:00 Liturgy will see the celebration of the Baptism of Rus, closely following tomorrow’s celebration of St Olga, and Thursday’s celebration of St Vladimir. 

I am particularly looking forward to this feast, given its message of the common baptismal waters of the East Slavic peoples, who should rejoice and be united in the shared legacy of the Holy Equals of the Apostles, Vladimir and Olga. 

May God bless you all! 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

 

Last Sunday and the Week Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was wonderful to have such a well-attended Liturgy for the feast of “All the Saints who have shone forth in the lands of Rus’ ”, and good to have so many new faces. 

As I said in my homily, this feast is no doubt one which could be misrepresented by some, as some sort of representation of a ‘Russkiy Mir’ approach to the Church, holiness and the saints – but we are clear that this feast has nothing to do with ethnicity, politics or nationhood, but rather a celebration of the holiness of those whom GOD has glorified in all of the Rus’ lands: in the territory of the modern states of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and the Carpatho-Russian region which overlaps several modern European states – and the lands of the Empire

Among the saints of Rus’, in addition to East Slavs (among whom we must not forget the Rusyn peoples of Carpatho-Russia), we celebrate the saints of the early Varangian (Norse) ruling class, Greeks, Mongol-Tartars, Germans, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanian’s, Estonians, Hungarians, Romans, native Siberian peoples and countless other nationalities – all linked by their holiness and their glorification by God in the Rus’ lands and the territory of the Empire (however we may view it). 

As we celebrate this feast, we make no differentiation between Slav, Greek of Mongol, but celebrate the memory of all of the saints who have been God-pleasing and glorified by Him.

Beyond the Rus lands, saints such as St John (Maximovich) the Wonder Worker and St Maria of Paris laboured in the spiritual-care of the exiles of the Revolution, and they together with the likes of St Seraphim of Sarov and St Silouan of Mount Athos have gained a place in the loving-hearts of people of all nations and languages, not just Orthodox faithful, but Christians from many backgrounds.

The saints we have celebrated are not just OUR saints, but EVERYBODY’S saints; the Greek saints celebrated in Greek parishes the last Sunday, Romanian saints in Romanian parishes, Serbian saints in Serbian parishes are equally OUR saints. There are no passports, borders and ethno-linguistic divisions in Heaven – and we are meant to reflect that reality here and now!

At a time of division and fragmentation, this feast must be one of unity, and a sign of hope for the Orthodox faithful across borders and battle zones, and we look to the saints as our example in these difficult and painful times.

This coming Sunday will see the celebration of All the Saints who have shone forth in the Isles of Britain, again with no differentiation according to nation, tribe and language, but a celebration of holiness and God’s grace.

In preparation for Sunday, confessions will be heard on Friday, and you are asked – as usual – to email me at otetzmark@hotmail.com, message me via Facebook or send a text. Requests by Wednesday night please.

Following confessions, we will have a catechism discussion on the Eucharist this Friday at 19:00 in the parish room at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Butetown. Thanks, as always, to Father Dean, and Georgina for making this possible.

To echo Deacon Mark’s comments at the end of Sunday Liturgy, any children who need to eat due to the very late time of Holy Communion should eat something simple before coming to Church on Sundays. We understand that from bedtime on Saturday to communion time on Sunday is a very long time, and we recognise pastoral necessity for some of our very young parishioners. Food can easily be postny/fasting and should be plain and functional – no animal products and no chocolate cereals are needed.

Our children need to realise that days for Holy Communion are different and should understand that mum and dad, older children and adults are fasting, and they must be helped to grow into this discipline.

Also, children over seven should be confessing before communion, and children’s clothing (like their parents) should be appropriate for Church, with head-coverings for our little girls during Liturgy. This is how children learn that we do things differently in Church to honour God.

They cannot learn Orthopraxis without the input of their parents and elders, and sacred Tradition is in adult hands of to pass on. Without transmission there is no Tradition, and we see the sad results of this in other Orthodox communities where confession before communion, fasting, modest dress, and even reverent silence and behaviour in Church seem optional.

We continue the Apostles’ Fast throughout this week…

Monday June 27 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Tuesday June 28 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil. St. Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (1461).

Wednesday June 29 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Thursday June 30 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil.

Friday July 1 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Saturday July 2 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Sunday July 3 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

… and we look forward to the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.

Finally, your prayers are asked for Archpriest Luke, Ruth-Silouana, and Isaiah of our Swansea-Llanelli parish as they self-isolate with covid.

Wishing you a blessed week.

May God bless you.

In Christ – Fr Mark

The Apostles’ Fast

Dear brothers and sisters,

After celebrating the Sunday of All Saints, yesterday, today sees the beginning of the Apostles’ Fast, which will last until the feast of the Holy Chiefs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, on 12 July – new style.

In Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch, this Fast originated as a post Trinity-Pentecost Fast, as a time of spiritual purification and struggle, so that we might be personally granted the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This understanding is evident in the words of St Leo the Great, Pope of Old Rome (†461),

“After the long feast of Pentecost, fasting is especially necessary to purify our thoughts and render us worthy to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit … Therefore, the salutary custom was established of fasting after the joyful days during which we celebrated the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.”

Past observance saw local variations in the length of this Fast, ranging from a week to a whole forty days. However, though the Fast commences on a moveable date (depending on the Pascha-Pentecostarion cycle) we now conclude the fast on the fixed date of the feast of the Holy Chief Apostles, varying from 8 days to 42 days.

As always, it is far more important that our fasting begins within us – with abstinence from sin – but the dietary Fast is one which helps us to put aside earthly cares, to pray MORE as we eat and cook LESS. We should not simply be changing ingredients, but moderating the amount we eat.

As in all Fasts, we give up all meat, eggs, and dairy food, striving to keep the fast from oil, and only partaking of wine/alcohol on days when it is blessed by the Church. During the Apostles Fast, we are permitted fish on Saturdays and Sundays, and on several other feasts.

Here is a summary of this year’s Fast, including some feasts, some of which explain the relaxation of the Fast on days which would usually be observed with a stricter fasting-regime. We are always aware that there is some variation in calendars, but follow ROCOR usage from the St Innocent and Jordanville calendars:

Monday June 20 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Tuesday June 21 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil.

Wednesday June 22 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Thursday June 23 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil.

Friday June 24 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil. Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas (1st c.)

Saturday June 25 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Sunday June 26 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Monday June 27 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Tuesday June 28 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil. St. Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (1461).

Wednesday June 29 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Thursday June 30 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil.

Friday July 1 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Saturday July 2 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Sunday July 3 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Monday July 4 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Tuesday July 5 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil.

Wednesday July 6 N.S. – Fast. Wine and oil. The Meeting of the Vladimir Icon

Thursday July 7 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil. Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Friday July 8 N.S. – Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Saturday July 9 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Sunday July 10 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil.

Monday July 11 N.S. – Fast. Fish, wine and oil. Venerable Fathers Sergius and Herman (14th c.), abbots of Valaam. Icon of the Mother of God ‘Of the Three Hands’

May God bless you all, and remember that even though it is not great Lent, it does not mean that this Fast is not important.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark