The Week Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Christ is Risen! Христос воскресе! Hristos a înviat! Χριστός νέστη 

Sunday brought us the double joy of celebrating the Samaritan woman – St Photini/Svetlana – and the translation of the relics of St Nicholas from Myra to Bari. I was very happy to be able to preach on the Samaritan woman, in addition to celebrating the great Wonderworker in a festal moleben, with the faithful being anointed with manna from the relics of St Nicholas in the basilica in Bari. 

During the moleben, we prayed for Daniel and Katherine, who were crowned in holy matrimony by Daniel’s priestly father on Sunday afternoon in the Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker (Moscow Patriarchate) in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. We pray for a blessed marriage and ‘many years’, to the newlyweds and their families – especially to Father Seraphim and matushka Solomonia. What a blessing for the newlyweds to be crowned in a temple dedicated to St Nicholas on his Spring Feast. 

Later, on Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak to those recently confirmed in the Anglican ministry area, and tell them a little about the Orthodox Church, also taking the opportunity to talk with the Anglican clergy about parish life in the wake of the arrival of refugees from Ukraine. 

This coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Blind Man, and we will celebrate the Hours and Liturgy at the usual time of 11:00, with our customary bring-and-share-lunch after the service. 

The variable parts of the Liturgy may be found at Orthodox Austin, as usual:  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uGVehx4OtFHXJsUQyBVwyD9Y5p4KBSVI/view 

As there will be no catechesis group this Friday, I will hear confessions in Deacon Mark’s office on Saturday, and ask all of those requiring confessions to email me by Thursday: otetzmark@hotmail.com 

May God bless you, and may you continue to rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ as we come towards the end of the Paschal season. 

Christ is Risen! 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

 

  

New Year Greetings: Поздравления с Новым годом!

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Поздравления с Новым годом! Καλή χρονιά!

Greetings as we mark the civil new year – mindful of the spiritual opportunities that each new day, each month and each year afford us, as a gift from God. 

Those who have had a year of spiritual successes and victories should thankfully accept the year ahead as a gift from God to further build upon the foundations and progress of the year – not resting on past achievements, but seeking greater labours and spiritual achievements for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

For those of us for whom the old year was marred by spiritual failures and defeats, the new year is the Merciful Lord’s gift to us, as a time for repentance and amendment. Though life may seem dark, we hold on to hope, and struggle towards Christ, seeking Him as Life and Light. That which we have built may be shoddy and dangerous, and we may need to pull it down and start again, spiritually-rebuilding with care and attention, with Christ and His Gospel as our level and measure. 

Those who have gained spiritual victories in the last year, should fight on, continuing to arm themselves with prayer, fasting, and works of mercy and compassion – not resting on the laurels of past victories, lest the enemy ambush them in the year ahead, taking them by surprise and attacking in the dark night of complacency. The soldier for Christ must remain fit, active and vigilant. 

Those who have faced spiritual defeat should not allow themselves to flounder in the dark gloom of loss and failure, mourning and dwelling on injuries and mistakes, but rise to action knowing that though battles may have been lost, spiritual warfare continues and future victories beckon.

Cleaning, dressing and binding our wounds, strengthening ourselves with prayer, fasting, and the medice of the Holy Mysteries, we must arm ourselves and resume the battle with hope in the Grace of God, knowing that the Saviour is the Vanquisher of death. We may have fallen, but Christ is risen, and reaches down to raise us up, if only we will take His hand. Led forward by Christ the Victor, with the help of the Mother of God, the ‘champion-leader’, battle-scarred and limping, the vanquished may yet become the vanquishers and the defeated the victors. 

For most of us. the old year will have been a mixture of the positive and negative, success and failure, but whether victorious or defeated, successful or at a loss, jubilant or sad, we must all look forward with hope and joy, reflecting on the last year with sobriety and a spiritually-critical eye: knowing what is to be continued and built upon; resolute on what must be changed; thankful for what we have received; practicing what we have learned; repenting for the mistakes we have made; trusting in the Lord, and appreciating every blessing He gives – with this new year as a great gift, with opportunities to seize, to the glory of God.

I received a message today in which the sender said that they hoped the new year will bring “all you want and hope for.” I must say that I do not wish this, but rather pray that we may all be granted what each of us needs for the spiritual life – and that which the Lord knows to be good and salvific for each of us – whether what He sends us is easy or difficult; bitter or sweet; what we want or what we would not choose of our own volition. May His will be done in each of us, and let each of us say to Him, “O Lord, let it be as Thou willest and as Thou knowest. O Lord, as Thou dost wish. may Thy will be done in me – Thine O Lord, not mine.” 

May God grant us that which is needful for the salvation of our souls and the eternal joy of the Kingdom, and let us all invest in the year ahead, heeding the words of St Seraphim by making it spiritually profitable and beneficial, gaining imperishable riches for ourselves in the age to come. 

“Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God’s grace, deposit it in God’s eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six per cent, but one hundred per cent for one spiritual rouble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.” 

May God bless you, your families and loved ones.  

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Greetings on the Feast of the Protecting Veil

Dear all,

I know that it is rather late in the day, but nightshifts make my days back to front and upside down. However, despite the hour, I greet you all and wish you a blessed and holy feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God.

We have so many feasts celebrating the events of her life and her wonder-working icons, but this feast is a concrete celebration of that wonderful reality that is her ‘protection’; a mother’s instinct to protect her children; and the wonder is that there is no limit to the children who can find shelter under her omophorion.

We remember the vision of St Andrew the Fool in the Church of Blachernae, and the Mother of God’s protection of the Imperial City from the siege of the Avars and Persians in 626, but more than that – we celebrate the Mother of God as our constant protection, and as the mother who cares for us, as her children.

The earliest Christian hymn to the Mother of God is one that is very precious for us, and one which we – as a parish dedicated to the Theotokos – hear each week during clergy communion – “Beneath thy mercy… Pod tvoyu milost…”

Beneath thy mercy we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos: disdain not our supplications in our distress, but deliver us from perils, O only pure and blessed one.

The history of this glorious hymn, celebrating the Protection of the Mother of God, shows how the Christians across the breadth of the ancient world came together to place themselves beneath the Protecting Veil of her love and mercy, with the Mother of God being a source of unity for Christians of every race and nation.

The earliest manuscript comes from the Coptic Christmas Liturgy and is written on a third-century papyrus. The hymn is part of the Armenian, Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman Rites (with a few variant words), and was so ingrained in the hearts and souls of the children of the Russian Orthodox Church, that when the service-texts were reformed in the mid 17th century, the faithful still clung to the original Slavonic text of their forebears.

Подъ твою милость, прибѣгаемъ богородице дѣво, молитвъ нашихъ не презри в скорбѣхъ. но ѿ бѣдъ избави насъ,едина чистаѧ и благословеннаѧ.
 
As we celebrate this feast, let us not only think of ourselves, but with fervent prayers of intercession take our loved-ones, friends, neighbours… and even enemies to the Protection of the Mother of God – asking her to mercifully be their refuge; to come to them in their distress; to hear our supplications for them; to deliver them from perils. And – let us commend those who do not even know the motherhood of the Theotokos to her Protection and intercession. This is the glory of the fifteen decades of prayers, we call the Rule of the Mother of God – offered to her for the intention of others, knowing the power of a mother’s intercession before the Lord of Glory.

Our Lady has become a mirror of God’s boundless and immeasurable love, desiring the salvation and restoration of all of God’s people – not just Christians, but all people, created in the image of likeness of God.

At the foot of the Cross, when the Saviour commended her to St John, with the words “Behold thy mother”, He spoke to the whole of humanity – humanity which was the gift of the Mother of God to our Saviour, who then commended her to us, and who – in the course of time – received His Mother into the glory of heaven, from where she watches over us, protects us, visits us, and works countless miracles.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

May God bless you on this wonderful feast.

In Christ –  Hieromonk Mark

The Exaltation of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all, as we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.

Yesterday, we celebrated the forefeast in Cardiff, hence the red vestments of the clergy, and Sunday also marked the Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection (the Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem, within whose sacred complex the topography of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection have been enshrined – though much altered by excavation and the clearance of rock and earth.

As on other feasts of the Cross, we combine celebration and fasting, as we contemplate the Saviour’s transformation of the wood of execution and shame into the Tree of Life, shattering the gates of death and hell and opening the doors of Paradise to all believers through His obedience to the way of the Cross, embracing it in love.

The Church Fathers contemplated and hymned this wonder with awe, as Christ’s humility, obedience, selflessness and love overturned the curse of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and the disobedience of the first-parents, and the Cross became not only the Tree of Life, but the key to the Gates of Paradise.

St John of Damascus wrote that, “For by nothing else except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, has death been brought low, the sin of our first parents destroyed, hell plundered, resurrection bestowed, the power given us to despise the things of this world and even death itself, the road back to the former blessedness made smooth, the gates of paradise opened, our nature seated at the right hand of God, and we made children and heirs of God.”

Let us all celebrate this wonder, and though I have to work throughout the coming nights and am unable to celebrate the feast with parishioners, I look forward to us celebrating the afterfeast before the Precious Cross this coming Sunday, and remind you that in our homes we should all be celebrating the Exaltation.

In every Christian home, the Cross may be honoured and adorned with flowers, as we offer our prayers and celebrate the feast.

May God bless you on this feast, and may the Cross, as the Invincible Trophy and the Tree of Life be at the centre of your homes and families, and the axis of your spiritual life.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Synaxarion for the Exaltation

Of the Honorable and Life-Creating Cross1

Constantine the Great and Equal to the Apostles, first among the emperors of ancient Rome, accepted Christianity. While in the midst of battle, according to some against Magnentius in Rome, or according to others against the Scythians at the Danube River,2 he saw that the armies of the enemy were greater in number than his own, and this caused distress and fear. Finding himself in this situation, there appeared in the afternoon the form of the Cross in the sky, marked by stars. And encircling the Cross were letters, also inscribed by stars in Roman, namely Latin letters,3 which said the following: “Conquer by this.”

Straightway there was fashioned a Cross,4 like the one that appeared in the sky, and he ordered for it to go before the army. Engaging the enemy, they mightily conquered, to the point that most of them were killed. The others left in fear. The power of the Crucified One was therefore understood by this miracle, and he believed that He was the true God, and he was baptized with his mother.5

He then sent his mother Helen to Jerusalem, first of all, to venerate and honour with more brilliance the life-giving Tomb of the Lord, and the rest of the Holy Land. Also, to hastily seek and find the honourable Cross of the God-man Savior. For this she investigated with fervent longing, and she found it hidden. Likewise, she found the two crosses on which the thieves were crucified. She also found the nails.6 The empress was confused, however, as to which of three was the Cross of the Lord. She discovered which it was by a miracle, when it raised a dead widow woman after the Cross of the Lord touched her. The other two crosses of the thieves did not perform the miracle.7

Then she kissed and venerated the honourable Cross with great reverence and faith, not only the empress Helen, but also all the officials with her. Because all the Christians sought to kiss and venerate it, it was not possible to fulfil their desire due to the large crowd, so they sought alternatively to merely see the sweet vision of the honourable Cross, and so by this vision their longing would be satisfied. Wherefore the then blessed Patriarch of Jerusalem Makarios went up onto the ambon, and lifted high with his two hands the honourable Cross, showing it to all the Christians found below. Straightway when they saw it, together they cried out from their heart: “Lord have mercy.” From then on it was established by the most divine and God-inspired Fathers of the Church, for all Christians to celebrate on this day, this honourable and universal Exaltation of the divine Cross, to the glory of Christ our true God for Whom they gather.

Notes:

1. This synaxarion is from the 10th century Synaxarion of Constantinople. Translation and notes by John Sanidopoulos.

2. The most reliable research indicates that this battle was neither against Magnentius or the Scythians, but against Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. Also, sources indicate that Constantine became a Christian before this battle through his son Crispus, who was a Christian, after presenting him with certain books of his father who was a Christian.

3. Some sources say the letters were in Latin, while others, like Emperor Leo the Wise and Paisios of Gaza, say they were in Greek.

4. After the vision of the Cross in the sky, that night Constantine saw Christ in a vision, Who told him to place the form of the Cross he saw on his spear.

5. There used to be a false opinion that Pope Sylvester of Rome catechized and baptized Constantine, but these documents were proved to be papal forgeries. Rather, it is believed Helen was already a Christian, while Constantine put off his baptism in order to be baptized in the Jordan River, which he was never able to accomplish, therefore he was baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia before his repose in Constantinople.

6. These nails were brought by Helen to Constantinople, as a gift to her son. One was placed in the bridle of his horse, to fulfil the prophecy of Zachariah 14:20, “On that day Holy to the Lord Almighty will be inscribed on the bridle of the horses.” The second was placed in his battle helmet. The third, according to Ambrose, was thrown by Helen into the Adriatic Sea in order to calm a storm, though Dositheos of Jerusalem does not believe this story. Socrates says that the Cross and Nails were placed in the pillar of the statue of Constantine in Constantinople, to protect the City. Some say there were only three nails, while others say they were four, with two nails used for each foot rather than one nail for both feet.

7. Euthymios Zygabenos says that the true Cross of the Lord was distinguished by the inscription of Pilate over one of the crosses that said Christ was King of the Jews. Also, some say that the woman was near death and immediately healed, while others say fragrant basil grew over the location of the actual Cross of Christ. The finding of the Cross is celebrated on March 6th. The two crosses of the thieves were brought to Constantinople and placed in a porphyry pillar in the forum, with other relics.

The Nativity of the Mother of God

“On the right excellent day of our feast let us strike the spiritual harp; for the Mother of Life is born today of the seed of David, dispelling the darkness: the renewal of Adam, the restoration of Eve, the Well-spring of incorruption, our release from corruption. Because of her we have been deified and delivered from death. And we, the faithful, cry out to her with Gabriel: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, granting us great mercy for thy sake!” 

Theotokion of the litia of the feast

 

Dear brothers and sisters,  

After a short visit to our London cathedral to celebrate its altar-feast, this is my first chance to greet you all and congratulate you with the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God. 

On one level, this feast centres on something so mundane and ordinary – the birth of a baby – and how many others were born on that same day that Anna was delivered of the daughter who was the fulfilment of so much prayer on her part and that of her husband, Joachim?  

But, whilst those who shared the day of their birth with the Mother of God lived, died and are now forgotten, her name is remembered from generation to generation, as prophesied by the Virgin Mother, herself, in the words of the Magnificat“Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” 

There was nothing random in this birth, and – though the product of a human union – the conception of the Mother of God did not follow the usual course of nature, given the advanced age of her childless parents. The gift of a child as an answer to their years of fervent supplication was itself a sign that this conceiving and birth of this child was not accidental, nor ordinary.

On this day, we also celebrate the discovery of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, with the inner-icon of the Holy Mother later surrounded by the prophets who look to her, with Immanuel – not yet born – superimposed upon her. She was the Sign, of which the prophets spoke, and Isaiah preached, 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

We also see this on the ancient icon-screens of our Russian temples, where at the highest level, the prophets turn in contemplation and waiting to the Mother of the Divine Incarnation, the Virgin of the Sign at the centre of their vision.

Thus, the birth of the Mother of God was that of the long-awaited Virgin, for whom the prophets longed, as they awaited the Messiah’s birth. 

Though the place of the Mother of God in His Incarnation began at her conception, it is in this feast that this mystery was made manifest, when we chant of the joy that this Nativity brings, as salvation draws near through the birth of the Theotokos. 

“Today the gateway of the barren woman is opened, and the divine Virgin portal cometh forth! Today grace beginneth to bear fruit, revealing to the world the Mother of God, through whom those on earth are united to those in heaven, for the salvation of our souls.” 

“Today is the pronouncement of universal joy! Today the winds have blown which herald salvation, and our nature is released from barrenness! For the barren woman is shown to be the mother of her who remaineth virgin even after giving birth to the Creator, from whom God taketh to Himself that which is alien to Him by nature, and Christ, the Deliverer of our souls, Who loveth mankind, dot accomplish salvation for the lost by means of flesh.” 

“Today barren Anna giveth birth to the divine Maiden who was chosen beforehand out of all generations to be the dwelling-place of Christ our God, the King and Creator of all, in fulfilment of the divine dispensation. Thereby, O ye mortals, have we been fashioned anew and restored from corruption to life without end.” 

“Today God, Who resteth on the noetic thrones, hath prepared for Himself a holy throne on earth. He Who hath established the heavens by His wisdom hath in His loving-kindness created an animate heaven. For the God of wonders, the Hope of the hopeless, hath caused His Mother to spring forth as a Life-bearing plant from a barren root. Glory to Thee, O Lord!” 

Stikhira of “Lord, I have cried…” 

In this Nativity, the human race offers the Mother of God, as the “heavenly Ladder, by which God came down” and the “Bridge leading from earth to haven.” 

This feast is, in many ways, the forefeast of all of the other Great Feasts of both the Saviour and the Mother of God. It is a cosmic turning point, which changes the course of human history and the  spiritual path of the human race. 

Let us contemplate the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God with St Andrew of Crete – 

“Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages… Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day… Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for Him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.” 

And, let us join in festive celebration, celebrating how the world was raised up and given light and hope in this sacred feast, and the Incarnation drew nigh through the birth of the Mother of our Saviour, the Deliverer of our souls. 

May God bless you all, and may these festive days be full of joy, light and hope for each and every one of us! 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

The New Church Year

THE SYNAXARION FOR 1/14 SEPTEMBER, THE NEW INDICTION, NAMELY THE NEW YEAR

Bless us for the Indiction of the New Year,

O Thou Who art both Ancient and for mankind New,

namely Thee, O Christ.

 
We should know, brethren, that the Holy Church of God celebrates today the Indiction, for three reasons.
 
First, because it is the new year, and many of the old Romans honored it from ancient times. In Latin the word Indiction means “boundry.”
 
Second, the Church celebrates because on this day our Lord Jesus Christ went to the Synagogue of the Jews, and was given the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, as Luke the Evangelist writes (Lk. 4). And when the Lord opened the scroll – O the wonder! – He found that place, namely the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, in which it says the following words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” When the Lord read these words, He rolled up the scroll and gave it to the attendant. Then He sat down and said to the people: “Today the words of this prophecy have been fulfilled in your hearing.” Hearing this, the people were astounded by these graceful words which came out of His mouth, as Luke the Evangelist writes.
 
There is also a third reason why the Church remembers the Indiction today, and celebrates the beginning of the new year: that is, in the hymns and prayers which we offer to God on this feast, we ask that God be gracious to us and bless the new year, and that He grant it prosperity and full of all the physical good things. And that He illumine our intellects, that we pass the entire year in purity and with a good conscience, and that we be well pleasing to God by keeping His commandments, so that by this we may acquire eternal heavenly good things.

Dear brothers and sisters, greetings for the beginning of the Church year as we celebrate the New Indiction, wondering what the next year will bring for us 

When we began the last Church year in Cardiff, we were worshipping in the refectory of Newman Hall, though we had to retreat to Llanelli and travel to Cardiff each Sunday within a few weeks, before moving into St John’s during Advent. 

In Cheltenham, we now wait to see whether it will be possible to continue using the Lady Chapel of All Saints, Pittville, having enjoyed the support and hospitality of Father Robert and his parish, not to mention the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. After the uncertainty and irregularities of the last year, we look forward to re-establishing parish life, with the hope that I may be soon freed from secular work so that there is sufficient time for parish ministry. This is very much needed for our faithful in Gloucestershire.

In Cardiff, the last Church year brought us new parishioners from the West of England, and we pray that the New Indiction will see the further growth of our parish. However, the most important aspect of the past year was the spiritual maturation of the community in the face of adversity and in reaction to the partial loss of our religious freedoms. The privations of lockdown saw a spiritual flowering, which bore great spiritual fruit.  

What we had taken for granted was no longer possible, and everything that we were able to do in limited circumstances made the continuation of spiritual life precious and the of the utmost important. 

The Lord provided for us in abundance, and we pray for that abundance to continue. 

However, using the language of earthly needs, the liturgical texts for the New Year warn us that this abundance is a recognition and reward for our faithfulness. 

In the first verse of ‘Lord, I have cried’, we pray, 

“Having prayerfully learned the all-glorious and divine teaching of Christ, let us each and every day cry out to the Creator: Our Father, Who dwellest in the heavens, give us our daily bread, and overlook our transgressions.” 

… but, we must be praying this as devoted children of the Heavenly Father, living in Faith, righteousness and the fear of God.  

How can we meaningfully pray for God’s blessing at the beginning of this Church Year if we neglect Faith; if we forget prayer; if we reject fasting; if we fail to try and make the Gospel the meaning of lives; if we fail to pursue peace and righteousness; if we live in impurity, rather than striving for purity; if love, mercy and forgiveness are absent from us, our families and homes? Furthermore, how can we pray this of we live without the Church, which prays not ‘My Father’, but ‘Our Father’. 

The second vesperal Old Testament reading, from Leviticus, counters any idea that we can presume the fulfilment of our prayer without actively living the spiritual life. 

“… I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass; and your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.” 

Even before we look to the fruits of earthly abundance, the first place that must yield fruit and increase is in our souls and spiritual lives, and we must struggle to cultivate spiritual fruit, and NOW is the time to labour in the garden of our souls, so that the Lord’s material promises and gifts may be mirrored by a season of grace, inner-growth, spiritual-fruits and abundance. 

 “I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid…” 

With prayerful zeal, attentiveness and watchfulness, guided by Faith and clothed in humility, let us set out upon the path of the new year seeking to love, obey and serve God, the giver of all good things. 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Praying on 9/11: Eternal Memory

When the world saw the horror of two passenger planes purposely ploughed into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre, few could have been prepared for the horror when those towers disintegrated and collapsed, sending a deadly tide of masonry and dust through the surrounding streets.

The world will remain haunted by the sight of flames and smoke, and poor terrified people plunging to their deaths, leaving us feeling as impotent as those who looked on, aghast and numb, on 11 September 2001.

We mark the twentieth anniversary of that fateful day, which also saw a third plane attack on the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crash into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, due to the sacrificial action of the passengers that brought about their deaths, but prevented another target being hit.

For us, as Christians, our over-riding duty, on this day, is to pray at every opportunity possible: for the souls of those who died on that horrific day; for those whose catastrophic injuries changed their lives for ever; for the terrified and traumatised; for those who wake up at night, screaming and weeping from their hellish nightmares; for those who continue to treat and care for those whose lives have been affected; for those who mourn, and have to get through this terrible anniversary; for healing and the emotional rebuilding of society and families that will last generations…. and for peace and hope, for today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

This is really a day for few words, but to simply take up our prayer-ropes for all who need our prayers – living and departed – and to simply pray with hope to the Saviour, the Conqueror of Death, and Prince of Peace, “Lord, have mercy.”

 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

(John 14: 27)

The Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Please remember that tomorrow is the feast of the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, and is a day on which we fast in his memory. Wine and oil are permitted, but not fish.

While the birthday of the shameless Herod was being celebrated, the oath he swore to the vile dancer was fulfilled; for the head of the forerunner, having been cut off, was borne, like food, upon a platter, to those reclining there. O abominable feast, unholy act, full of murder! Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

The disciple of the most evil devil danced, and received thy head as her reward, O forerunner. O feast full of blood! Better would it have been not to have sworn thine oath, O iniquitous Herod, grandson of lies! For even though thou didst make thy vow, it was not well sworn. Better would it have been to be proved false, than to cut off the head of the forerunner, who spake the truth. Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

It was not fitting, O Herod, to condemn to death the denouncer of thine adultery, for the sake of a satanic love and the burning of cruel fornication. It was not fitting for thee to give his most precious head over to a most iniquitous woman because of a vow haplessly made as a condition for her dancing. O how couldst thou have committed such a murder? How is it that the vile dancer was not utterly consumed when she bore it on a platter in the midst of the feast? Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.

Again Herodias rageth insanely, again is she vexed. O what deceitful dancing, what a feast of deception! The Baptist is beheaded, and Herod is troubled. Through the supplications of Thy forerunner, O Lord, grant peace to our souls.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

While the birthday of the shameless Herod was being celebrated, the oath he swore to the vile dancer was fulfilled; for the head of the forerunner, having been cut off, was borne, like food, upon a platter, to those reclining there. O abominable feast, unholy act, full of murder! Yet, honouring the Baptist as the greatest born of women, we call him blessed, as is meet.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Who doth not call thee blessed, O most holy Virgin? * Who will not hymn thy most pure birthgiving? * For the only-begotten Son Who hath shone forth timelessly from the Father, * came forth, ineffably incarnate, from thee, O pure one; * By nature he is God, by nature for our sakes, he hath become a man * not divided into two Hypostases, * but known in two natures without commingling. * Him do thou beseech, O pure and most blessed one, ** that our souls find mercy!

(Verses on ‘Lord, I have cried…’)

Troparion, tone 2: The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise * but the Lord’s testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner, * for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets * since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom thou didst proclaim. * Then having endured great suffering for the Truth, * Thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in Hades * the good tidings that God had appeared in the flesh * taking away the sin of the world ** and granting us great mercy.

Kontakion, tone 5: The glorious beheading of the forerunner * was part of God’s dispensation, * that he might proclaim to those in Hades * the coming of the Savior. * Let Herodias, who demanded the iniquitous murder, therefore lament; * for she loved not the law of God nor the age of life, ** but rather this false and transitory one. 

08/08/2021 – Homily for todays Gospel The healing of the blind men

Following todays Liturgy Father Mark reflects on the Gospel reading.

The blind men are asked – Do you believe that I can Heal you ?

A firm reminder that when our faith is challenged we should remember that Christ came with love to heal us all.

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