The fortieth day since the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion

As we mark the fortieth day since the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, our First-Hierarch, we pray for the repose of his soul, for the mercy of God, for the remission of his sins, and that he may be granted eternal rest in the heavenly mansions – in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

May his memory be eternal! Вѣчная память!

Troitsa Thanks

Dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to express profound thanks to all who made Troitsa such a joyful and festive celebration in St John’s, in labours for Liturgy, Vespers and trapeza… and the less than popular putting away and cleaning.

We greatly appreciated the profusion of flowers and greenery, including the lovely posies that our Warminster ladies arranged so that all of the thirty-three adults could hold flowers during the services, including wonderful bunches of flowers for the clergy – with Sweet Williams at my request, as we always had them in our Troitsa flowers in the Birmingham podvorie of St Seraphim. 

To have extras from Cheltenham was an unexpected surprise, and to have so many receiving Holy Communion was a great blessing.

Despite the considerable combined length of the Hours, Liturgy and Vespers, everyone remained buoyant and joyful, with our feast culminating in a wonderfully festive lunch, at which we all ate very well, concluding with much appreciated Torte Napoleon and Medovnik to celebrate Svetlana’s birthday.

Having chanted ‘Mnogaya leta’ for Melangell, a few days after her nameday, we also pray that our senior sister, Svetlana, may be blessed with Many Years!

As we celebrate the Day of the Holy Spirit, I wish you all a blessed and joyous continuation of the feast, enjoining you to heed the words of the righteous St Alexei Mechev,

“Call on the Holy Spirit – always keep your hearts pure so as not to drive away the Holy Spirit from them but to attract Him.”

Turn to the hymns of the feast, and fill this week with joyful prayer to the Heavenly King, the Comforter – to fill your life, your family and your home, as temples of the Holy Spirit.

С праздником! Happy Feast!

With love in Christ – Fr Mark

Saint John the Russian

Commemorated on May 27 / June 9

The Holy Confessor John the Russian was born in Little Russia around 1690, and was raised in piety and love for the Church of God. Upon attaining the age of maturity he was called to military service, and he served as a simple soldier in the army of Peter I and took part in the Russo-Turkish War. During the Prutsk Campaign of 1711 he and other soldiers were captured by the Tatars, who handed him over to the commander of the Turkish cavalry. He took his Russian captive home with him to Asia Minor, to the village of Prokopion.

The Turks tried to convert the Christian soldiers to the Moslem faith with threats and flattery, but those who resisted were beaten and tortured. Some, alas, denied Christ and became Moslems, hoping to improve their lot. Saint John was not swayed by the promise of earthly delights, and he bravely endured the humiliation and beatings.

His master tortured him often in the hope that his slave would accept Islam. Saint John resolutely resisted the will of his master saying, “You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures. I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion. I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith. I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”

Saint John’s bold words and firm faith, as well as his humility and meekness, finally softened the fierce heart of his master. He left John in peace, and no longer tried to make him renounce Christianity. The saint lived in the stable and took care of his master’s animals, rejoicing because his bed was a manger such as the one in which the Savior was born.

From morning until late evening the saint served his Turkish master, fulfilling all his commands. He performed his duties in the winter cold and summer heat, half naked and barefoot. Other slaves frequently mocked him, seeing his zeal. Saint John never became angry with them, but on the contrary, he helped them when he could, and comforted them in their misfortune.

The saint’s kindness and gentle nature had its effect on the souls of both the master and the slaves. The Agha and his wife came to love him, and offered him a small room near the hayloft. Saint John did not accept it, preferring to remain in the stable with the animals. Here he slept on the hay, covered only by an old coat. So the stable became his hermitage, where he prayed and chanted Psalms.

Saint John brought a blessing to his master simply by living in his household. The cavalry officer became rich, and was soon one of the most powerful men in Prokopion. He knew very well why his home had been blessed, and he did not hesitate to tell others.

Sometimes Saint John left the stable at night and went to the church of the Great Martyr George, where he kept vigil in the narthex. On Saturdays and Feast days, he received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

During this time Saint John continued to serve his master as before, and despite his own poverty, he always helped the needy and the sick, and shared his meager food with them.

One day, the officer left Prokopion and went to Mecca on pilgrimage. A few days later, his wife gave a banquet and invited her husband’s friends and relatives, asking them to pray for her husband’s safe return. Saint John served at the table, and he put down a dish of pilaf, his master’s favorite food. The hostess said, “How much pleasure your master would have if he could be here to eat this pilaf with us.” Saint John asked for a dish of pilaf, saying that he would send it to his master in Mecca. The guests laughed when they heard his words. The mistress, however, ordered the cook to give him a dish of pilaf, thinking he would eat it himself, or give it to some poor family.

Taking the dish, Saint John went into the stable and prayed that God would send it to his master. He had no doubt that God would send the pilaf to his master in a supernatual manner. The plate disappeared before his eyes, and he went into the house to tell his mistress that he had sent the pilaf to his master.

After some time, the master returned home with the copper plate which had held the pilaf. He told his household that on a certain day (the very day of the banquet), he returned from the mosque to the home where he was staying. Although the room was locked, he found a plate of steaming pilaf on the table. Unable to explain who had brought the food, or how anyone could enter the locked room, the officer examined the plate. To his amazement, he saw his own name engraved on the copper plate. In spite of his confusion, he ate the meal with great relish.

When the officer’s family heard this story, they marveled. His wife told him of how John had asked for a plate of pilaf to send to his master in Mecca, and how they all laughed when John came back and said that it had been sent. Now they saw that what the saint had said was true (Compare the story of Habakkuk, who miraculously brought a dish of pottage to Daniel in the lions’ den [Dan. 14:33-39], in the Septuagint).

Toward the end of his difficult life Saint John fell ill, and sensed the nearness of his end. He summoned the priest so that he could receive Holy Communion. The priest, fearing to go to the residence of the Turkish commander openly with the Holy Gifts, enclosed the life-giving Mysteries in an apple and brought them to Saint John.

Saint John glorified the Lord, received the Body and Blood of Christ, and then reposed. The holy Confessor John the Russian went to the Lord Whom he loved on May 27, 1730. When they reported to the master that his servant John had died, he summoned the priests and gave them the body of Saint John for Christian burial. Almost all the Christian inhabitants of Prokopion came to the funeral, and they accompanied the body of the saint to the Christian cemetery.

Three and a half years later the priest was miraculously informed in a dream that the relics of Saint John had remained incorrupt. Soon the relics of the saint were transferred to the church of the holy Great Martyr George and placed in a special reliquary. The new saint of God began to be glorified by countless miracles of grace, accounts of which spread to the remote cities and villages. Christian believers from various places came to Prokopion to venerate the holy relics of Saint John the Russian and they received healing through his prayers. The new saint came to be venerated not only by Orthodox Christians, but also by Armenians, and even Turks, who prayed to the Russian saint, “Servant of God, in your mercy, do not disdain us.”

In the year 1881 a portion of the relics of Saint John were transferred to the Russian monastery of the holy Great Martyr Panteleimon by the monks of Mount Athos, after they were miraculously saved by the saint during a dangerous journey.

Construction of a new church was begun in 1886, through the contributions of the monastery and the inhabitants of Prokopion. This was necessary because the church of the holy Great Martyr George, where the relics of Saint John were enshrined, had fallen into disrepair.

On August 15, 1898 the new church dedicated to Saint John the Russian was consecrated by the Metropolitan John of Caesarea, with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine V.

In 1924, an exchange of the populations of Greece and Turkey took place. Many Moslems moved out of Greece, and many Christians moved out of Turkey. The inhabitants of Prokopion, when they moved to the island of Euboia, took with them part of the relics of Saint John the Russian.

For several decades the relics were in the church of Saints Constantine and Helen at New Prokopion on Euboia, and in 1951 they were transferred into a new church dedicated to Saint John the Russian. Thousands of pilgrims flocked here from all the corners of Greece, particularly on his Feast, May 27. Saint John the Russian is widely venerated on Mount Athos, particularly in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon.

Saint John’s help is sought by travelers, and by those transporting things.

Source: https: www.oca.org

Prayers for Joseff’s travels in Egypt and Ethiopia

On this feast of St Melangell and of the Holy Wonderworker St John the Russian, we ask your prayers for Joseff as he journeys to Egypt, where he will be trekking down the Nile – continuing to Ethiopia and Addis Ababa.

We pray for God’s blessing and protection for Joseff and his companions, and hope that he will have the opportunity to visit some of the holy sites of Egypt, whose monasteries treasure the relics of the great ascetic fathers and mothers of the Church, and whose churches preserve the memory of the Holy Family in their Egyptian exile.

The greatest treasures of Egypt are not tombs, archaeological wonders and pharaonic artifacts, but the sites connected with Holy Family, its shrines and saints, and the Christian inheritance with which the land is still blessed, however threatened and tenuous Christianity may be in the shadow of Islamism.

May the great Abba Anthony, the Father of Monks, the fathers and mothers of the desert, the sainted patriarchs and hierarchs, St Minas, St Demiana and St Catherine and all the holy martyrs, and the myriad saints of Egypt, and of Ethiopia, bless and protect this journey and fill it with grace.

We pray that Joseff may travel in the knowledge of the great Josephs who sojourned in Egypt, after travelling there – Joseph, the son of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, and Joseph the Betrothed, the guardain of the Infant-Saviour. 

Celebrating Pentecost-Trinity

Dear brothers and sisters,

We look forward to Troitsa (Pentecost-Trinity) this coming Sunday, when we will celebrate vespers with the kneeling prayers for the invocation of the Holy Spirit immediately after the Liturgy.

The variables for our Liturgy and vespers may be found at ‘Orthodox Austin’:

Liturgy: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ITtGsdldvgBNyMWGVBOnOXi_a-oHnTHx/view

Vespers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1De9n6phaj1slz21YGmbt6yqqZZLSiTDh/view

This, of course, means that our services will be longer than usual – and everyone will no doubt be hungry, as well as achy-kneed at the end of our prayers. So, I encourage parishioners to think ahead with regard to our bring-and-share-lunch.  Those who have already read ‘version one’ of this post will have seen a prompt to bring something on which to kneel. It then dawned on me that the church is overflowing with emroidered kneelers!

Confessions will be heard on Friday, in St Mary Butetown, as announced.

Given ongoing travel complications it is my hope to hear confessions during the afternoon – not the evening. As usual, please email me at otetzmark@hotmail.com

Given the length of Sundays services, it is imperative that Sunday confessions are succinct and that those confessing have prepared, so that the Hours may begin at 11:00.

There will be no possibility of additional confessions after Liturgy, as vespers follows. Would those confessing on Sunday who have not yet made requests please inform me? A thankyou to those who have pre-arranged.

On Monday 13 June, the Day of the Holy Spirit, the Hours and Liturgy will be celebrated in Llanelli, commencing at 10:00.

The variables may be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rs-PA3pviRh4Rtr1nk34UCvC2VQ-pEIe/view

We look forward to celebrating this great feast together.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Many Years, Peter!

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the wake of Melangell’s baptism on Saturday, we congratulate our parishioner and trustee Peter on the eighth anniversary of his baptism.

He has become a pillar of our parish, a constant support for the clergy, and the smiling and friendly figure who is often the first to welcome newcomers to Liturgy and chat with them after the service.

When he is away, even for a weekend, things aren’t quite the same, and his practicality, advice and counsel are a great blessing to the parish.

May God grant him many, blessed years, as we thank the Lord for all that Peter brings to our community.

Многая и Благая лѣта!

Greetings for the Ascension of the Lord

“Lift up your gates, O you princes and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall enter in.”

Dear brothers and sisters – Greetings on this joyful feast of the Ascension, as we celebrate the Saviour ascending with our humanity into the Kingdom of God, where He is for ever human as well as divine, knowing the joys and sorrows, the challenges and trials of our lives, because He lived such a life.

In this knowledge, we pray to Him as One who joined Himself to us in the mystery of His Incarnation.

We pray to Him as One who started life as a refugee in the flight to Egypt; as One who wandered and had nowhere to call His own; as One who lived in simplicity and non-acquisitiveness; as One who hungered and thirsted; as One who wept and felt sorrow; as One who experienced torture and pain; as One who understood betrayal and condemnation; as One who endured and embraced human-nature and human life for the sake of humanity – to redeem it, perfect it, and raise it in glory.

We take comfort that in His self-abasement the ascended Lord deigned to live among us, sharing human life with us and showing us the promise of future life in the age to come, as He takes the ‘robe of Adam’ to be glorified in the Heavenly Kingdom: a promise and calling for each of us who have been baptised into His death and glorious resurrection.

Do you see then to what height of glory human nature has been raised? Is it not from earth to heaven? Is it not from corruption to incorruption? How hard would not someone toil in order to become the intimate friend of a corruptible king here below? But we, although we were alienated and hostile in our intent by evil deeds, have not only been reconciled to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have also soared aloft to sonship, and now our nature is worshipped in the heavens by every creature seen and unseen.

St Ephrem the Syrian

Wishing you all a happy and joyful feast.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

The week ahead…

Dear brothers and sisters, 

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

Sunday was a particularly joyful Liturgy as we welcomed the latest arrivals from Ukraine, welcomed the newly-enlightened Georgije, belatedly greeted Deacon Mark and Yuriy for their name-days and celebrated matushka Alla’s birthday. 

Attendance was very good and trapeza a place of lively socialising and fellowship, and warm and friendly conversations: a great blessing. 

We will celebrate the spring feast of St Nicholas this coming Sunday, with the Hours at and Liturgy at 11:00, commemorating the translation of his relics from Myra to Bari. 

Having resumed catechesis at St Mary’s Church, North Church Street, Butetown, last week, we will meet in the parish room at the usual time of 19:00 this coming Friday continuing with reflections on the Holy Spirit. 

I will hear confessions before the study group and would appreciate those wishing to confess to email by Wednesday night – otetzmark@hotmail.com – thanking those who have already contacted me.  

As usual, I will be able to hear confessions for parishioners communing on Sunday, but after a long time confessing before last Sunday’s Liturgy, we must move some confessions/communions to after the Liturgy. Time is so short before the Liturgy that we must be careful with the time. Canonically the Liturgy must begin before noon, and people are already fasting for a long time after long journeys for some communicants. 

Having recently baptised George, we look forward to Menna’s baptism on Saturday 4 June, when she will baptised with the name Melangell – just in time for her name-day. We look forward to further baptisms in the near future, and will shortly be making another student a catechumen.

Finally – tomorrow is the feast of mid-Pentecost, and the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at 10:00 in the Chapel of St David and St Nicholas, at 11 New Rd, Dafen, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA14 8LS.

The chapel is in the rear garden, and access is through the house and conservatory.

May God bless you all. 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

 

Prayers to the Holy Great-Martyr George

Having celebrated the feast of St George on Friday, we served a moleben to the Great-Martyr after Sunday’s Liturgy.

I thought I would share a photograph from my cell icon-corner, where prayers are offered to St George for our parishioners, benefactors and friends.

Holy & Glorious Great-Martyr, Wonder-Worker & Trophy-Bearer George, Troparion, Tone IV: With faith thou didst fight the good fight, O athlete of Christ, didst denounce the ungodli­ness of the tyrants and didst offer thyself to God as a right acceptable sacrifice. Wherefore, thou hast received a crown of victory, O holy one, and by thy supplications dost bestow the forgive­ness of transgressions upon all.

Troparion in Tone IV: As a liberator of captives, a helper of the poor, and a physician of the infirm, O champion of kings, victorious great martyr George, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.

Holy, glorious and praiseworthy St. George!  We who venerate thy holy icon, beseech thee, as a known intercessor for our longings: pray with us to God, Whose loving kindness we implore, mercifully to hear us entreating His goodness, and not to abandon our requests which are needful unto salvation and life; that He might grant victories over adversaries; and furthermore we pray thee abjectly, thou holy Trophy-Bearer, to strengthen the Orthodox Christians in their battles, by the grace given thee; crush the power of insurgent foes, that they may be disgraced and brought to shame, and their presumption shattered; may they know that we have Divine help, and thy mighty defence made known unto all in sorrow and trouble. Entreat the Lord God and Maker of all creation to deliver us from eternal torment, that we may always glorify the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The Week Ahead in Cardiff and Cheltenham

Dear brothers and sisters,

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

It was a great blessing for us to welcome those newly arrived from Ukraine at Sunday’s Liturgy, and we are grateful to those who provided transport and made everyone welcome.

It was something of a novelty to serve Liturgy in Cardiff without a deacon, for once, but it was good to be reminded of how much our deacons do – particularly in St John’s, with all of the setting up and putting away. I am extremely grateful to our oltarniky and others who made this work so smoothly.

After our moleben to the Holy Great Martyrs and Trophy Bearer George, we were able to greet our parishioner George and sing Mnogaya Leta for him and Alexandra, who celebrated their name days on Friday, and we look forward to doing the same for Deacon Mark and Yuriy who were away at the weekend.

This work sees the resumption of our catechesis at St Mary’s Church, North Church Street, Butetown, where we will meet in the parish room at the usual time of 19:00.

I will hear confessions before this, from 17:00 – hoping to start with those who are not staying for the study group. I hope that we will be able to limit confessions to Friday, as Deacon Mark and I will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham on Saturday.

Will those wishing to confess on Friday email me by Wednesday night, please: otetzmark@hotmail.com

On Saturday, the Fest of the Unexpected-Joy Icon of the Mother of God and of St Paphnuty of Borovsk, our Cheltenham Liturgy will be celebrated in Prestbury United Reformed Church, with confessions from 09:15, the Hours at 10:00 and Liturgy at 10:30. There will be a bring-and-share -lunch after the service, and all contributions to the table will be welcome.

I will be available after the service to hear confessions for any Cardiff parishioners attending and wishing to commune on Sunday.

In Cardiff we will celebrate as usual on Sunday, with the Hours at and Liturgy at 11:00, followed by refreshments and a bring-and-share -lunch.

Please ensure that visitors and new parishioners are cared for and looked after at this time. The clergy are usually not free for a while after Liturgy, so it’s important that everyone welcomes those whom we may have not met before. Being new and unknown can be rather daunting, and a friendly word and encouragement to stay for a cup of tea, a bite to eat and a chat can make a massive difference. Let’s also make sure that people can get to the food, when it’s on the table.

Keep celebrating Pascha, and keep hold of the joy of the season.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark