Reconciliation in the Power of the Holy Spirit

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In so many icons of St Peter and St Paul, we see the Holy Chief Apostles embracing or exchanging the kiss of peace, but we should remember that the unity between the apostles is one that had to be striven for and only came after dispute and disagreement. The relationship between these very different men, was established through hard work and perseverance, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to act, speak and reconcile them in their lives.

Having been personally chosen by the Ascended Lord (whom Paul had never known during His earthly life) and called to a radically changed life of missionary apostleship and dedication to the Gospel, Saul became Paul, and a feared outsider was called into the apostolic circle, with a specific and heroic task ahead of him.

Saul, the zealous pharisee and persecutor of the first Christians was recast by the Saviour, who turned his life upside down, calling him to set all aside for Christ, looking to the Gentile world, outside Israel, outside the Torah, outside circumcision and the Covenant. The zeal for this vision and mission was to take him all around the Mediterranean world, risking danger, threats to his life and making him a vagrant and a ‘prisoner for Christ’.

For the first Jewish-Christians this challenged the very foundation of their understanding of Christ’s message, the application of the Gospel and the wider meaning of the Cross and Resurrection, outside the Jewish world.

Against a background of suspicion, in today’s Epistle reading, we heard Paul arguing for his place in the apostolic ministry:

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

Paul challenges them, as if to say, ‘if you want to play a competitive game of measuring labours and endeavours for the Lord, fine… as I can outstrip many of you in what I have already experienced in the preaching of the Gospel!’

Paul and Peter took diametrically opposed views, and Paul saw the Gospel to the Gentiles as the fulfilment of the economy of salvation as envisaged by the prophets, and the meaning of his life.

The holy prophet, Zechariah, wrote that, “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord… Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ”

… and, it was after conflict at Antioch that at the Council of Jerusalem that Peter the Apostle of the Jews, accepted the middle-ground and was reconciled with Paul’s vision of the call of the Gospel to the Gentiles, who – it was accepted – did not need to be circumcised and follow the Torah and Jewish traditions. Men from ‘the nations’ tugged on the sleeves of Paul, that they migt receive the Gospel, so that God could equally be with them.

Having been reconciled with Paul’s vision, the Acts of the Apostle sums up the sentiments of Peter and James, the Brother of the Lord:

“My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

For us as Orthodox Christians, this is the first council of the Church of Christ, and like all true Councils was guided by the Holy Spirit, which led the leaders of the infant-Church through disagreement, dispute and lively discussion to a position where they could be united in proclaiming the Faith of the Church.

In God’s hands, inspired by the Holy Spirit, such disputes become the convincing tool and spiritual-process through which minds and hearts change and are convinced of theological and philosophical Truths – struggling to grasp and understand, rather than passively nodding, with no understanding or conviction.

The Reconciliation of Saints Peter and Paul, Trophime Bigot (1579-1650).

Peter, and James the Brother of the Lord, with their deeply held Jewish-Christian convictions, and Paul, burning with zeal for those outside the Mosaic covenant, were at the heart of this Council – agreeing and disagreeing, disputing, discussing, looking for common ground and a way forward to reconcile different views, and unite them into a singular inspired vision, determined NOT by them, but by God, in the power and Grace of the Holy Spirit.

This reminds us to be realistic in our understanding of the Councils of the Church, warning us not to dumb them down and transform them into a polite, sanitised theological tea-parties, denying the passionate arguments of those taking part, or the fact that councils involved dispute and disagreement during discussions. Apostles and bishops have needed to sometimes go away, fast, pray and reflect, to be led into and confirmed in Truth.

If we allow ourselves to be tools of the Holy Spirit, with our ears and hearts open to the His voice in others, such discussion can lead us into Truth and Faith. Hearts and minds may be persuaded, changed and transformed, as the Holy Spirit speaks through the mouths of humans – acting though their actions, speaking through their words, being communicated by their enlightened minds, ideas and explanations.

And… even when we find unanimity, this does not negate our different temperaments, methods of communication, particular talents and, as we all dissolve into some sort of homogenised or cloned version of discipleship, but rather weaves us together in Faith and love, in a union which is both united and diverse – made strong, immoveable, and unshakeable in the power and unity of the Holy Spirit.

Old Believers’ Icon, Союз любви – the “Union of Love.”

But for this to happen, our hearts and minds must be open and receptive to His power, and we must pursue the unity of the Church through prayer precisely for this cause, through selflessness and self-denial, through fasting for unity and peace, and through the wider asceticism of Christian living.

Then, like Peter and Paul, we may embrace those very different to us, growing together and converging as we proactively overcome division by seeking reconciliation and unity in Faith and love – but also essentially in TRUTH!

S prazdnikom – a very joyful feast to you all!


The Week Ahead

Dear brothers and sisters, greetings on this feast of the All-Praised Chief Apostles, Peter and Paul.

As we celebrate this feast, we congratulate Peter and Paul on their nameday, as well as Pavel in the Llanelli parish, Subdeacon Peter in London and our Chancellor, Archpriest Paul.

Dear Father and dear brothers, congratulations and ‘Many Years’!

We will celebrate the Divine Liturgy this morning, with the Hours and Liturgy, starting at 10:00, in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, North Church St, Butetown.

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

As announced on Sunday, we are now ‘on vocation’ from our Friday catechesis group, though there is still plenty to do with individuals on this front.

On Saturday, the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated in Cheltenham, with confessions from 09:15, the Hours at 10:00 and the Divine Liturgy around 10:30 (dependent, as always on confessions). We very much look forward to being with our Gloucestershire parishioners (though some come all of the way from Devon for Liturgy).

Saturday will also see our dear Alexandra singing in a concert in Llandaff Parish Hall at 13:00, and it would be lovely if some parishioners are able to support her. Please check here for details:

After a very prayerful and peaceful Liturgy, last Sunday, we look forward to celebrating the Holy Royal Martyrs this coming Sunday. The variables for the service may be found here:

May God bless you. 

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark 

Exile and Adversity: A Lesson From the Saints

We are not long home after a very prayerful Liturgy in Canton, at the end of which I was very pleased to be able to offer a litia in honour of St Calogero the Anchorite of Agrigento – observing in the homily how, even in adversity and the experience of being a refugee, the holy monk seized the opportunity to bring God’s love, light and grace to those who surrounded him in Sicily, his place of exile, where he died in his cave hermitage on Monte Kronio in 561, in the ninth decade of his long life.

We can say similar things of saints who acted in a like way in the emigration after the 1917-1918 Revolution: St John the Wonderworker in China, Europe and America; St Maria Skobtsova in inter-war Paris; St Seraphim (Sobolev) in Sofia. And, of course, countless other people of every level of society acted in like ways, showing a different way of Faith to the local religion that surrounded them.

God scattered the faithful to the four winds, and wherever they found themselves, temples rose up (sometimes in very humble makeshift settings), the Holy Mysteries were celebrated, encounters and conversations brought ‘outsiders’ to the threshold of the Church, which became their Church.

Out of adversity, exile and loss, came the Light of Christ, as God blessed the world by sending His faithful servants to so many nations, through their experience of revolution, social upheaval and exile.

In a parish like ours, in Cardiff, where we have just as many converts to Holy Orthodoxy as ‘native Orthodox’, we might reflect that without those who – like St Calogero – fled violence and persecution, the Light of Faith may not have touched our lives. For those of us who were taught and formed by émigrés, this is particularly true.

The Saviour teaches us that, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

Exiles like St Calogero, and so many saints exiled from their native lands never hid the Light of Christ, but shared it with those who surrounded them, and importantly, they did not allow adversity to crush and defeat them, but persevered so that others were enlightened, comforted, and touched by the love and grace of God.

This is a sober reminder for us.

The irritations and difficulties of our lives may be transformed from sharp sand and grit to pearls, as God transfigures and raises us up through our humility, patient-endurance, long-suffering, struggling, faithfulness and even joyfulness in trials.

And, in all of these things, the Light fo Christ still needs to shine.

The saints have found God even in starvation and cold, prison, exile, illness, torture, death and every adversity. None of these things have separated them from either His Presence or His love, and at the end of his life, in pain and privation in exile, this was so powerfully demonstrated in the dying words of St John Chrysostom, as he breathed his last at Comana Pontica, on 14 September 407 during a forced journey into further exile: “Δόξα τῷ Θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν” (Glory to God for all things).

Based on this, Metropolitan Tryphon Turkestanov wrote the well-loved akathist, which returns to St John’s words for its refrain, as in exile and imprisonment in the gulag, the godly hierarch still shared the Light of Christ, and saw His love in the glories of the world around him.

As St Paul wrote in the eight chapter of his letter to the Church in Rome:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If we can keep recognising, seeing and finding God’s love and glory, then we have something pricesless and limitless to share… and it is always with us, whatever life sends us, wherever we are, however we are feeling – in sickness and health, plenty or privation, joy or sorrow. God’s love is always there.

The dark storm clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Thy fire is burning brightly. Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia! 

(Kontakion 5 of the akathist, Glory to God for all things!)

Schismatic charades at Lambeth Palace – and shameful ones at that…

The sight of the Archbishop of Canterbury kneeling to be ‘blessed’ by ‘Metropolitan’ Epifaniy Dumenko is a great insult to the suffering and persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church, under the leadership of Metropolitan Onuphry.

Day by day, the Phanar-sponsored schismatics – led by the none-ordained Dumenko – illegally transfer churches to their ownership, storming temples even during services; desecrating places of worship; beating and kicking priests and even throwing paint in their faces; attacking religious processions, even stoning an icon of the Mother of God; beating and throwing down the faithful, regardless of age and gender… and yet the Archbishop of Canterbury kneels before the leader of this vicious schismatic circus.

We remind the Archbishop of Canterbury that the head of the canonical Ukrainian Church is His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, and that the vast majority of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful belong to the real Church over which the Lord has placed him as First-Hierarch – not the Phanar and CIA sponsored schismatic body of Messrs Dumenko and Zoria – neither of whom are clerics, as they possess no valid ordination, and merely dress up as clergy: wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jumping on the politically-correct, virtue signalling, bandwagon – driven by blind-folded ‘well-wishers’ does little for Dr Welby’s spiritual kudos.

This is liberal ecumenism at its very worst – a schismatic charade paraded at the heart of the Anglican establishment – which seems to have decided that people like ‘us’ are to be avoided, and seen as enemy agents, even though the lives of our members of our own community, our parish families and of our friends are directly affected by the tragedy of Ukraine. It is very marked and interesting that after five months of war, the Diocese of Llandaff has yet to send a single communication to our parish. Very telling! Are we the enemy in the eyes of the Anglican leaders?

Whether the Anglican Primate understands, cares or is even bothered by the non-ordination of Dumenko, his schismatic accomplices and church-stealing, babushka-beating thugs, or the daily attacks on Ukrainian Orthodox temples, clergy and faithful is beyond our knowledge, but he should know that the ‘blessing’ of such a schismatic fake is nothing more than a spiritual curse upon his own head.

Prayers Today

In the intense heat of the afternoon, it was a blessing to be in the cool interior of St Alban’s and enjoy the peace and tranquillity as everyone seemed to be hiding from the heat.

Just a few days after his feast, prayers were once again offered at the shrine of St Alban, for our parish, for our parishioners and friends – particularly asking the Protomartyr to show our parish the way forward in its search for a home which can be a ‘seven-days-a-week’ temple, with services in the same place, rather than in different parts of the city. However, we know that the Lord knows and the Lord allows, as we continually pray, “Thy will be done.”

As candles were lit, prayers were also offered to the Mother of God, before her Walsingham icon, especially for the sick among our parishioners and friends, and for those far from home, seeking refuge from war-torn Ukraine.

Parishioners will remember the icon of Our Lady of Walsingham from the Little Oratory of Newman Hall, where we often prayed the akathist in honour of the Walsingham icon as part of the many Orthodox services celebrated there. When the Oratorian Fathers were relieved of the chaplaincy and the care of Newman Hall, the icon was translated to the Oratory Church where it continues to be venerated, and where we continue to pray before it.

O Sovereign Lady, Mother of God most high, who didst inspire the Lady Richeldis to stablish the holy house at Walsingham for the veneration of thy holy Annunciation, entreat thy Son, even our God, to send down grace upon us for the healing of soul and body, that, as we approach and kiss thy holy ikon and drink the wholesome water drawn up from thy spring, we may ever praise and glorify the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

Молитва семи отрокам Эфесским

О, пречу́днии святи́и седмичи́сленнии о́троцы, Ефе́са гра́да похвало́ и всея́ вселе́нныя упова́ние! Воззри́те с высоты́ Небе́сныя сла́вы на ны, любо́вию па́мять ва́шу чту́щия, наипа́че же на младе́нцы христиа́нския, ва́шему заступле́нию от роди́телей свои́х препоруче́нныя. Низведи́те на ня благослове́ние Христа́ Бо́га, ре́кшаго: оста́вите дете́й приходи́ти ко Мне. Боля́щия у́бо от них исцели́те, скорбя́щия уте́шите, сердца́ их в чистоте́ соблюди́те, кро́тостию испо́лните я́ и в земли́ серде́ц их зерно́ испове́дания Бо́жия насади́те и укрепи́те, во е́же от си́лы в си́лу им возраста́ти. И всех нас, святе́й ико́не ва́шей предстоя́щих, мо́щи же ва́ша с ве́рою лобыза́ющих и те́пле вам моля́щихся, сподо́бите Ца́рствие Небе́сное улучи́ти и немо́лчными гла́сы ра́дования та́мо прославля́ти великоле́пое И́мя Пресвяты́я Тро́ицы, Отца́ и Сы́на и Свята́го Ду́ха, во ве́ки веко́в. Ами́нь.

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:

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.