Sunday 20 November: Looking Forward to Our Return to Nazareth House

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Thanks to all who laboured for the celebration of today’s service, and to everyone for their patience given the number of confessions today and the delayed start to Liturgy. 

Today’s Liturgy was one tinged with sorrow, as we prayed for the repose of the soul of the newly departed Andrzej and Sara: a double loss for the Pietraszkewicz family, with Lukasz having lost both brother and goddaughter within days. Following Liturgy, I celebrated a panikhida, and we will continue to remember the newly-departed, praying for their repose in a place of refreshment, light and peace. May the Lord remember them in His Kingdom, and may their memory be eternal! We pray for all who sorrow and mourn at this sad and difficult time, commending them to the maternal care and protection of the Mother of God. 

As announced after Liturgy, today’s service was our penultimate celebration in St John’s, as we will be returning to Nazareth House for the first weekend in December, at the beginning of the Nativity Fast. I was very happy to visit and spend time with Sisters Aquinas and Marie, and the greatly-missed Morag the West Highland Terrier, yesterday – entering the church for the first time since the beginning of lockdown. 

After a series of ‘false-starts’ and disappointments, we will be returning just over five years since we first arrived in Cathays, and will do so with so many new parishioners who have never been inside the convent church. So much has happened since our initial arrival, with a whole series of baptisms, parishioners travelling from England for Liturgy, and so much growth in our community. 

The Sisters have missed our parish presence greatly and look forward to welcoming us back, to being surrounded by icons and having Orthodox worship within the House once more. We know that even in such a long absence, so many prayers have been offered before the shrines and icons. We have not been forgotten, and the imprint of Orthodoxy remains. 

I will be having further discussions with Sister Anna, the new superior on her return from a week away, and will confirm our new timings.

Though the Fathers of the Oratory are no longer Catholic chaplains to the univeristy, they retain spiritual care for Nazareth House and its residents, as well as the convent, and we are grateful for their ongoing support and concern for the Russian Orthodox parish faithful and clergy.

Father Luke, Deacon Mark and I will be in London for the diocesan clergy convocation from Thursday to Saturday and will be able to meet brother clergy from across our vast Western European Diocese as we celebrate services together and discuss diocesan and parish life. As I still feel under the weather, and will no doubt be very tired after these days away, there will be no possibility of hearing confessions on our return journey on Saturday.

Sunday morning confessions will be for those who did not confess this weekend, and who are preparing to commune of the Holy Mysteries. Those who have confessed this weekend may be blessed to commune next weekend unless a pressing need for confession arises. 

May I ask those requiring confession next week and who did not confess today to email me by Friday evening, just to establish how many will need to be confessed before Liturgy. 

We ask your prayers for Svetlana’s daughter, Julia, who will be returning to Ukraine for a week, for Lukasz who left for Poland today, for Masha and Neil, who are in Cyprus, and for our clergy who will be travelling to London from so many countries within Western Europe. We ask the Lord to bless their journeys. 

Looking forward to the week ahead, we celebrate some notable commemorations: 

  • Monday 8/21 – The Synaxis of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salaphiel, Jegudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel and the Other Bodiless Powers. 
  • Tuesday 9/22 – St. Nectarius (Kephalas), metropolitan of Pentapolis (1920) and the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “She Who Is Quick to Hear” of Docheiariou, Mt. Athos (10th c.). 
  • Wednesday 10/23 – The commemoration of the beginning of the torture of Great-Martyr George (303). 
  • Thursday 11/24 – The Great-Martyr Menas of Egypt (304) and Blessed Maximus of Moscow, the fool-for-Christ (1433). 
  • Friday 12/25 – St. John the Merciful, patriarch of Alexandria (616-620) and Blessed John “the Hairy,” fool-for-Christ, of Rostov (1580). 
  • Saturday 13/26 – St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople (407). 

I will post lives of the saints and some of their canon as the week progresses. Please try to celebrate the saints in your daily prayers. 

May God bless you all. 

In Christ – Fr 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

 

From Father Mark: 23 October

Dear brothers and sisters,

Here we are at the end of another busy day in Cardiff, having welcomed more new people to our Sunday Liturgy, including visitors from Weston-Super-Mare.

Having been baptised in Chippenham, on Saturday, our newly-enlightened brother, James, was ‘churched’ just before the Hours, and we were so pleased to welcome him to the chalice before everyone else to partake of the Holy Mysteries. It was also a joy for us to welcome his mum, with the journey bringing her to her native soil. 

We congratulate James on his first Holy Communion, having chanted ‘Many Years’ at the end of Liturgy, also praying that God will bless his supportive family and sponsors, Oswald and Despina.

From one James to another – it was our other James’s 6th birthday, and we were very happy to congratulate him at the beginning of trapeza, singing Happy Birthday and Many Years.

This will be a quiet week, as there will be no Friday gathering in St Mary’s or midweek service in Llanelli, as Fr Luke will be visiting family. However, I shall still be ‘on the road’ catching up with parishioners during the week.

May I ask for requests for confessions by Wednesday, 22:00, hoping to hear the majority of confessions on Saturday.

As announced at Liturgy, we look forward to celebrating the feast of the Kazan Icon in St Mary’s on Friday 4th November, with the Hours around 10:30, after the Anglican service, and Liturgy at 11:00. 

We shall continue our celebration the following Sunday, and hope that this will be a Liturgy in which our vastly geographically-scattered flock will be united for our altar-feast..

Tomorrow morning will see the funeral of Mother Germana, the last of the nuns of the Convent of the Annunciation (in Willesden), which had a very special place in ROCOR history, although the sisterhood rejected the rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate. With Mother Germana’s death, a chapter has closed and an era has ended. Please remember her in your prayers, together with the Abbesses Elizabeth and Seraphima, of blessed memory. 

May the Lord God remember them in His Kingdom. Memory Eternal!

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Fr Mark

Today in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was certainly a whirlwind of a day today, with no gaps between confessions, proskomedia, Liturgy and the baptism of little Ilarion, whom we welcomed together with his mum, babushka and older sister whom we baptised in the Little Oratory four years ago. It was quite a journey for them, as they live in Taunton, but given the journeys of parishioners from other places in England, these days, it was not quite as unusual as it was in the past.

To have so many for confession over the last few days, and so many communicants was a great blessing, and we congratulate all who partook of the Most Pure Mysteries. Поздравление с причастием святых христовых тайн!

Sadly, I was unable to get a chance to talk to anyone other than those who came to confession, but I hope that next Sunday will be rather more leisurely, allowing the clergy time with the faithful.

As well as thanking everyone who laboured for the joy and beauty of the service, I would like to thank those who stayed to help with the baptism, with the onerous task of bucketing water in and out of the church.

We look forward to next Saturday, when James will be baptised in Chippenham, in honour of our Venerable Father St James the Faster.

Confessions will be heard before Friday’s catechesis session in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Butetown. Catechesis will commence at 19:00, and confession times will depend on numbers. Please email me by Wednesday: otetzmark@hotmail.com

Next Sunday will be the commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and St Ambrose of Optina. The variables may be found here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1l2COeNejN_tKQmiMsaZb6wSPGxdOEt-c/view

As things begin to get back to normal for me, I would like to thank parishioners for their prayers, good wishes and a plentiful supply of baked goods and pirozhki. The priest will never starve!

May God bless you all.

Celebrating St John the Theologian This Sunday

This Sunday’s resumption of the Divine Liturgy will be especially timely, given that it is the feast of St John the Theologian, and therefore the patronal feast of our present home in Canton.

It will be the first time we have been in St John’s for the feast, and it will be a joy and blessing to honour the Holy All-Praised Apostle and Evangelist on his day.

As Allan and Olga will have the good fortune to be worshipping in our San Remo parish on Sunday, and matushka Alla will be attending a conference in Morocco, may I prompt parishioners to bring flowers to adorn the church during Liturgy.

Other parishioners will be heading to Llanelli Liturgy with the newly completed icons for the ikonostas in the little Chapel of St David and St Nicholas, and I very much look forward to seeing them in situ on my return home from our Cardiff Liturgy.

As other parishioners go away, we look forward to the return of our young pilgrims and their accounts of their travels in Greece. Alexander is in our prayers, as he has been off-colour since his return. May God give him good strength. I hope that Oswald will be selling icons after the service, so be prepared!

The variables for the service may be found at orthodoxaustin, as usual: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BfxXScdqyns0piumzzgBYvNw_C1_qgdj/view

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Today in Cheltenham

Dear brothers and sisters,

Deacon Mark and I were very struck by the beauty and prayerfulness of today’s service in Cheltenham, where a dozen of us gathered to chant the Hours and Typika, during which most of those present confessed and communed of the Holy Mysteries.

After the Typika, we offered a short litia in honour of the Venerable Fathers buried in the Far Caves of St Feodosiy in the Kiev-Caves Dormition Lavra, and then celebrated the feast with a conversation-filled lunch in the little meeting room, where we were able to congratulate Natalia on her nameday (which was also her birthday, and her son’s 16th birthday). Many years to them both!

It was wonderful to stand with three generations of one of our Cheltenham families as they chanted together at the kliros, and a special joy to be with our Exeter parishioners who have been able to be with us for the last two Liturgies due to rail industrial action.

I was particularly touched by the loving and warm concern shown by the matriarchs of the parish when I felt off-colour before the service, realising that as they commandingly sat me down and set about ‘dealing’ with my headache and the blood-circulation of my hands, they were praying fervently, so that I could hear the words of the hymn to the Mother of God, ‘Pod tvoya milost’ / Under thy merciful care…’

Our Cheltenham services are always striking in their warmth and and the bond that unites our small parish-family, but today so overflowed with heart-warming love that it felt that the Lord was allowing us to experience it in a very real and palpable way – as a grace and gift to lift and restore us. Glory to God!

I must also admit that today brought me a new personal-experience of the little chapel in Prestbury, where we currently worship in nonconformist bareness and simplicity.

As we entered, its characteristic smell was a joy and comfort, reflecting how the familiarity of the Victorian red-brick tabernacle with its features and furnishings imperceptibly becomes part of our lives – with today as a realisation of how special it is.

It is, of course, very different from the High Victorian and High-Church splendour of All Saints, Pittville, but in its own quiet way it has become just as special, and I now happily anticipate turning the street corner in Prestbury and seeing the polychrome brickwork of the chapel and its characteristic tower. It really feels like a pilgrimage, with all of the joys and blessing that a pilgrimage brings!

Heartfelt thanks go to our parishioners, and especially mama Galina and mama Liuba, as well as to Oksana and her family for singing at the kliros. Spasi Gospodi!

As some parishioners are away on the expected weekend planned for next month’s service, we now hope that our next Cheltenham Liturgy will be a week earlier, on Saturday, 8 October, when we will celebrate the repose of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh.

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Confessions This Week

Dear brothers and sisters,

May I ask those requiring confessions this weekend to email me by Thursday evening. I shall hear local confessions on Saturday afternoon in St Mary’s, and the timing will depend on the number of those confessing.

As some of the faithful are in London on the March for Life, on Saturday, I will arrange an alternative time for their confessions. Anyone else not free on Saturday should also email me (realistically needed by Wednesday lunchtime to allow weekday arrangements to be made).

Several Sundays each month will see Father Luke celebrating in Llanelli, so please do not presume that it will simply be possible to turn up to church on Sundays and join the confession queue. On these Sundays, once the  proskomedia begins, there will be no confession queue, as the only priest will be celebrating Liturgy.

Also, I will be limiting confessions after Liturgy, as the parish priest MUST be able to spend time with the faithful. Once again, this is becoming difficult, as shown by the Sunday before last, when I did not finish till 15:30, by which time everything was packed away and parishioners gone.

This coming Sunday, with no deacon, as per last Sunday, I must lay the prokomedia table and arrange the altar, limiting my time to hear confessions. I already have four confessions to hear, with the possibility of a few more. However, these should be confessions for non-locals, who travel a significant distance to Liturgy or our older parishioners.

As this Sunday will be the Sunday after Dormition, we will celebrate the icon of the Mother of God ‘Прибавление ума / Pribavlenie Uma’, known in English as the ‘Giver of Reason’ or ‘Addition of Mind’. A short moleben to the Mother of God in honour of her icon will be offered at the end of the Liturgy.

May God bless you, and may your week continue in the joy of the Dormition.

In Christ – Fr Mark

From Transfiguration to Dormition

Dear brothers and sisters,

What a busy three days we had from Friday to Sunday, with Friday ‘s Transfiguration Liturgy in Butetown, Saturday Liturgy in Cheltenham, and yesterday’s Liturgy in Canton.

Our Cardiff celebrations brought worshippers from Bath, Stroud, Chippenham, Warminster and the Forest of Dean, in addition to our locals. It also meant that we were able to bless the home-grown fruit and produce of three English counties as part of our Transfiguration celebrations!

Though our Cheltenham Liturgy only brought a dozan of us together, it was a joyful occasion, with a second blessing of fruit and produce and a wonderful meal with everyone around the table chatting, welcoming new arrival from Khmelnitsky.

Having had the blessing of been able to celebrate services with the faithful in Wiltshire in the last fortnight, and then Cheltenham, being able to serve the faithful in their home environs is a great blessing, and I think all who have provided transport for making this possible.

Sunday was certainly one of my busier days, and such was the volume of confession that they exceeded time before proskomedia, continuing whilst Deacon Mark prepared the chalice for communion, and also after Liturgy. Together with spiritual counsel to individual parishioners this lasted until 15:30, by which time virtually everyone had gone.

I am sorry that I was unable to socialise, eat and talk with parishioners at trapeza, but it was simply not possible, given pastoral needs on an unusually busy day. However, in future, this needs managing, as the only time we are all together is for Sunday Liturgy and trapeza, and the faithful must have the opportunity to talk to there priest.

Some of you will remember how days like yesterday became normal when we first came to St John’s, so that I hardly ever had time with parishioners after Sunday Liturgy. This must not be allowed to be ‘normal’.  It is both amusing and apt that in Cheltenham, our matriarch. ‘mama Galina’, will not allow eating unless the priest is sitting at the table, insisting that this is the rule, and that everything else must wait until after trapeza.

Such a long ‘priest-day’ is, of course, the result of our not being able to enter St John’s until 10:15ish, leaving only 45 minutes before the Hours and proskomedia.

As I’ve commented before, in Nazareth House, I could be in the church two and a half hours before the Hours, having had hours to hear confessions the previous evening. This allowed ninety minutes for confession on Sundays, as proskomedia – apart from the day’s zapisky – had been completed before anyone arrived.

Since those days in Cathays, we have also gained parishioners from Gloucestershire, Northeast Somerset and Wiltshire, whose confessions are not possible in the week, as is the same for some of our older South Wales parishioners. They must have time for confession on Sunday morning.

The almost impossible juggling is one of the main reasons we need the use of a building with early access. Ideally, at least an hour is needed for the proskomedia, not twenty-five to thirty minutes, plus time to say the entrance prayers a vest before doing so. The present situation puts a strain on both time and clergy and needs to be appreciated by those confessing. This is why we have been so blessed to have Father Luke’s assistance and patience on so many Sundays, when he hears many confessions.

On the confessional theme, this week’s confessions will be on Thursday, in St Mary’s, Butetown, as the church will be unavailable on Friday. May I ask for requests by noon on Wednesday, to allow time to email those confessing.

Saturday will see Tracey’s baptism at 14:00 at Menna’s home in St Nicholas in the Vale, with our service for the eve of the Dormition at the end of the afternoon.

On Sunday, our Dormition Liturgy will be celebrated with the Hours, at 11:00, in St John’s Church, Canton. The variables may be found, as usual, at Orthodox Austin:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RHx1G1Usjf_-Z1zc6v4a7CLlp1YpsYTh/view

You are encouraged to bring herbs and flowers to place around the plaschanitsa of the Mother of God, as it is traditional for us to bless them to distribute to the faithful at the end of Liturgy!

I also encourage you to continue to dedicate this second week of the Dormition Fast to the Mother of God, and will continue to post the English translations of each evening’s Supplicatory Canon – not that they have to be only in the evening, but can be prayed at any time!

Remember that the afterfeast of the Transfiguration lasts until Friday, and try to include the troparion and kontakion – possibly other hymns of the feast – in your daily prayers.

Praying that the All-Merciful Lord may bless and protect you – Hieromonk Mark

Celebrating the Transfiguration in Butetown

Friday saw a joyful Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Butetown.

Being a workday, there were only twenty of us, but those celebrating brought so much fruit and home-grown produce, that one of the large Victorian tables flanking the gates in the screen at the west end was more or less filled with baskets and bags.

Father Luke concelebrated, and a few oltarniky and singers fulfilled their important obediences so that we could celebrate the feast simply, but joyfully.

The abundance of grapes, fruit and produce was blessed at the end of the Liturgy, which was followed by a festive lunch in the parish hall, in which fish, wine and oil were very much enjoyed as a consolation during the Dormition Fast.

Several people commented on how joyful our celebrations are when celebrated at St Mary’s, and the little parish hall is always a place of wonderful fellowship, friendship, and sharing.

Thank you all who made the feast such a joyous and warm celebration, and to Father Dean and the parish for their wonderful hospitality.

Our Forthcoming Baptism

Dear brothers and sisters, as we look forward to the wonderful feast of the Dormition, Tracey’s baptism draws near.

She will be baptised with the name Mary (in honour of the Mother of God) at 14:00 on the afternoon of Saturday 27th August, at Melangell’s home, in St Nicholas in the Vale, which proved itself an excellent ‘baptismal station’ on the Saturday of the Ascension.

Tracey extends a warm invitation to parishioners to participate in this event, and Melangell would appreciate confirmation of numbers. So, if you are able to attend, please email asap – menna135@yahoo.co.uk .

After the baptism and refreshments, we will also celebrate our evening service for the Dormition, with the feast being the newly-baptised Mary’s name day!

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Fr Mark