How awesome is this place…

Dear brothers and sisters,

This weekend was blessed with the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham and Cardiff, bringing our communities together to celebrate the Holy Mysteries and share the communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Each of these services was not celebrated in the consecrated Byzantine ‘otherness’ of an Orthodox sanctuary, surrounded by icons and lamps, and walls and domes painted with angels and saints, flickering the light of hundreds of candle and lamp-flames.

Rather, the Liturgies were celebrated in the plainness of a little Victorian Congregational Chapel and a Victorian parish church surrounded by horse-chestnuts and red-brick terraces. Yet, they began with the same priestly proclamation, as the sign of the Cross was made over the antimins with the Gospel: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

When we pray and worship together in peace and unity; when our spiritual gifts and capabilities are woven together in eucharistic offering; when we assemble as a community to offer not only the Holy Gifts, but our whole selves and lives to God; when we gather in love and fellowship to share the Lamb of God who is “broken but never divided, ever eaten but never consumed” – we reflect the life of the Triune-God as a community of love. We anticipate the mystery of the eternal Eighth Day and receiving a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, towards which we journey in the pilgrimage of the Christian-life.

Independent of our environment and the lack of an ‘Orthodox setting’, in the otherness of the Liturgy – so different from the hours of work and labour, employment or unemployment, cooking, cleaning and family life – Christ calls us to put aside the cares of the world, “that we may receive the King of All, who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts”.

Our weekly eucharistic journey into the Kingdom is reflected by His journey into the borrowed buildings in which we are able to celebrate, and the little chapel in Prestbury and the Victorian interior of St John’s are transfigured and joined to Heaven.

They may be far from the ideals of the sanctuary in which we wish to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and worship as Orthodox Christians, yet we must be grateful for God’s mercy and grace, and mindful of the ongoing miracle of His revealed-love in these humble places.

Beneath their roofs, the Saviour is welcomed week by week, as we chant “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord”, and they become the sacred ground at the foot of the Heavenly Ladder on which the Lord descends, so that we may join the Patriarch Jacob and say,

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

This Sunday in Cardiff

Sunday 7th November.

11:00 – St John’s Church, Canton.

Reader Typica and Moleben in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. followed by a bring-and-share lunch.

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to celebrate in the Liturgy in Cardiff on this day. Please see below.

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Already regretting that we are unable to be together to celebrate the feast of the Kazan Icon tomorrow, I now have the added sorrow of being in isolation due to the unwelcome arrival of covid in the support-setting in which I work.

I am pleased to say that my daily tests have been clear until this morning, when the fateful line appeared next to the t on my lateral-flow test. Having posted a PCR test yesterday, when my daily lateral flow was negative, I have just ordered a second PCR and will remain in isolation awaiting concrete results.

To be clear, my daily-results were negative until today.

I have already spoken to Deacon Mark to indicate that my isolation will not affect the liturgical-gathering of our parish on what, for us, is a particularly celebratory Sunday. However, it will obviously not be possible to celebrate the Liturgy.

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Irenei, and the leadership of our deacon and choir, the typica and a festal moleben in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos will take the place of our usual Liturgy, and our hope is for the faithful to share a buffet-lunch after the service.

With this in mind, would those wishing to provide food/refreshments contact Deacon Mark, so that offerings for the table may be coordinated – rmfisher@ntlworld.com ?

Sadly, my isolation will also not allow me to serve in Walsingham, next week, where I was very much looking forward to catching up with our Orthodox brothers and sisters in ‘England’s Nazareth’.  I look forward to journeying to Norfolk as soon as possible.

Though there will be Sunday Liturgy in Swansea, I would very much like the parishioners to celebrate together in Cardiff, so that those without transport and who have other commitments and demands may be part of the service to honour the Mother of God.

In the meantime, I ask your prayers, principally for the people I support, but also for my swift recovery!

I wish you all a joyful celebration.

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

 

First Swansea Liturgy Today

Dear brothers and sisters,

The first ROCOR Liturgy in Swansea was celebrated in the Vivian Hall in Blackpill, this morning, and the village hall will be the home of the local Russian Orthodox Parish for the foreseeable future.

Though minimalist in set-up, the furnishings of Orthodox worship provided all that was needed for the Liturgy, celebrated by Father Luke, whilst I joined those on the kliros, where we mainly chanted in English, but with a few Slavonic chants. We hope that Romanian parishioners will share in the chanting in future weeks.

The Liturgy was well attended, welcoming a mixed congregation of Welsh, Romanian and Russian parishioners from both of our South Wales parishes, and there was ample time  to catch up, socialise and spend time together after Liturgy

It was good that parishioners organised car-shares, and I hope this will become an automatic part of parish-life, making it possible for as many of the faithful as possible to attend Liturgy, wherever it is celebrated.

Swansea and Llanelli parishioners have been reminded of the sheer effort required to set up a building for Liturgy, and I hope that in the weeks ahead as many people as possible will offer their labours and assist Father Luke as much as possible. There is much lifting, carrying and unpacking to be done before the hall is ready for worship, and this must be performed in reverse at the end of the day. Parishioners now need to work together to support their parish-priest in this very physical and tiring task.

Father Luke will celebrate the Liturgy in Swansea again next Sunday, with set-up at 09:00, the Hours at 10:00 and the Liturgy at 10:30. Those wishing to communicate should ideally make arrangement to make their confession to Father Luke in the week, to ease Sunday morning, when there is so much to be done.

After a week without Liturgy in Cardiff, the Russian Orthodox Parish will return to St John’s this coming weekend, and I will post details of our services in the next few days.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Today in Cardiff

Dear brothers and sisters,

Another weekend has passed with a joyful celebration of Faith in St John’s, where we chanted a panikhida for the mother and relatives of our new friends Zhanna and Dionisiy before compline and confession on Saturday, and the Hours and Liturgy, today.

As always, it was a pleasure to welcome new faces and to be able to have time together over food and drink at the end of Liturgy, with the afternoon imperceptibly passing, so that it was 15:30 before we knew it.

However, conversation merely moved to the grounds of St John’s, and the remaining parishioners seemed in no rush to leave, despite the prospect of drives to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire for some.

It was heartening to see our students socialising and getting to know one another, the interaction between the different generations of our parish, and to see parishioners make visitors feel at home, with today being no exception.

Over the years, some of us have belonged to different parishes, as work and study sent us to different countries or parts of Britain, but I have to say that I have never encountered such a warm and welcoming community as ours in Cardiff. Our many visitors over the past month have commented on the welcome they received, and some have kept in touch after their visits to Wales.

This weekend, special thanks are due to Deacon Mark for sorting the ever-expanding Orthodox ‘liturgical luggage’ stashed under the pews, and now neatly stored on the trolley we once parked in my room in Newman Hall. The altar-end of the south aisle is now rather less cluttered and neater.

Thanks also go to our singers and servers, some of whom make considerable journeys each Sunday. We are privileged to have such dedicated people, some of whom travel more than 100 miles each Sunday to be part of a traditional Orthodox parish.

This reminds us that our Faith is not about compromise or convenience, but has a cost if we are to live it fully, maintaining Holy Tradition, preserving canonical Orthodoxy, and rejecting the renovationism and pick and mix imitations of Orthodox that dilute Faith and pander to the whims and convenience of modern society. This is certainly the abiding message of the life of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa who was martyred on this day – rejecting compromise and maintaining the fullness of Orthodoxy until his last breath at the firing of the bullet that ended his earthly life at 4 p.m. on October 10, 1937.

May his example inspire us, and may his prayers ever protect us.

May God bless you all!

In Christ – Fr Mark

Nameday Greetings

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, Sophia, and her daughters Faith (Vera), Hope (Nadezhada) and Charity (Lyubov), we send our warmest greetings to our parishioners and many friends honoured by their names in Holy Baptism.

We particularly send our congratulations to Sophia in Swansea, Sophia our senior sister in the cathedral-parish, Lyubov in the Wallasey parish, ‘Mama Lyuba’ who has just returned to Ukraine from Cheltenham, Vera – the starosta of the London cathedral-parish, our Cardiff parishioner Nadazhda, and to Masha’s daughter Nadia.

Dear sisters, we wish you a joyous feast and pray that God may grant you many, blessed years! Многая и благая лтѣа!

In your prayers, I ask you to remember the soul of the ever-memorable handmaiden of God, Vera, departed starosta of our former Birmingham parish.

Services this weekend: 2/3 October

Our Russian Orthodox Parish will gather at St John’s Church, as usual, for compline and confessions this coming Saturday, 2 October, and will celebrate the Hours and Divine Liturgy on Sunday 3 October at 11:00: the Sunday after the Exultation of the Cross.

Those needing confession on Sunday morning are asked to arrive as close to 10:15 as possible, to allow sufficient time for the clergy entrance-prayers and the proskomedia.

The variables may be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MjTcEzI-1lBnKrgTaecU8NcS5jK9lrIu/view

It was a great joy to have such a social time after last week’s Liturgy, and – as usual – we invite you to bring offerings for a bring-and-share buffet lunch.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

The Canon to the Honourable and Life-Giving Cross

The Canon of the Cross, the acrostic whereof is:

“Having arrayed myself in the Cross, I give utterance to hymnody”;

The composition of Cosmas of Maiuma, in Tone 8.

Ode 1, Irmos: Tracing an upright line with his staff, Moses divided the Red Sea for Israel which was traveling on foot; and striking it a transverse blow, he brought the waters together over the chariots of Pharaoh, thereby inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses, standing between the priests, prefigured in himself the image of Christ’s most pure sufferings; for, forming a cross with his outstretched arms, he raised up victory, vanquishing the might of the tyrant Amalek. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses, standing between the priests, prefigured in himself the image of Christ’s most pure sufferings; for, forming a cross with his outstretched arms, he raised up victory, vanquishing the might of the tyrant Amalek. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

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

Upon a pole did Moses set the cure of the deadly and venomous sting of the serpents, and the deliverance therefrom; for to the tree, in the image of the Cross, he bound a serpent which crawleth upon the ground, triumphing over the sinister bane therein. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ God, for He hath been glorified.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The sky showed forth the victory of the Cross to the divinely wise Emperor Constantine, the pious ruler; and therein the audacity of the hostile foe was cast down, delusion was destroyed and the divine Faith spread to the ends of the earth. Wherefore let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Katavasia: Tracing an upright line with his staff, Moses divided the Red Sea for Israel which was traveling on foot; and striking it a transverse blow, he brought the waters together over the chariots of Pharaoh, thereby inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross. Wherefore, let us hymn Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.

Ode 3, Irmos: The rod of Aaron is taken to be an image of the mystery, for by its budding forth it chose one priest over others; and for the Church, which before was barren, the tree of the Cross hath now budded forth, for her might and confirmation.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The rough stone, struck, put forth water for a disobedient and hard-hearted people, and showed forth the mystery of the divinely elect Church, whereof the Cross is the might and confirmation.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The rough stone, struck, put forth water for a disobedient and hard-hearted people, and showed forth the mystery of the divinely elect Church, whereof the Cross is the might and confirmation.

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

When Christ’s all-pure side was pierced by the spear, blood and water flowed therefrom, renewing the covenant and washing sin away, for the Cross is the boast of the faithful, the might and confirmation of kings.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

When Christ’s all-pure side was pierced by the spear, blood and water flowed therefrom, renewing the covenant and washing sin away, for the Cross is the boast of the faithful, the might and confirmation of kings.

Katavasia: The rod of Aaron is taken to be an image of the mystery, for by its budding forth it chose one priest over others; and for the Church, which before was barren, the tree of the Cross hath now budded forth, for her might and confirmation.

Sedalion, in Tone 4: Rejoicing in thee, O thrice blessed and life-bestowing Cross, the people celebrate together with the immaterial choirs, the ranks of hierarchs reverently hymn thee, multitudes of monastics and fasters bow down before thee in adoration, and we all glorify Christ Who was crucified on thee.

Ode 4, Irmos: I have heard, O Lord, the mystery-of Thy dispensation; I have considered Thy works, and have glorified Thy divinity.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses transformed with a tree the bitter springs in the desert, showing forth the conversion of the gentiles to piety through the Cross.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Of old, Moses transformed with a tree the bitter springs in the desert, showing forth the conversion of the gentiles to piety through the Cross.

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

Jordan, having hidden in its depths an axe-head, gave it forth again through the power of a stick, signifying the cutting off of deception by the Cross and baptism.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

In a sacred manner did the people encamp in four divisions; and preceding in this fashion the tabernacle of the witness, they were glorified in the cross-like formation of their ranks. Wondrously stretched forth, the Cross emitted rays like the sun’s, and the heavens declared the glory of our God.

Katavasia: I have heard, O Lord, the mystery-of Thy dispensation; I have considered Thy works, and have glorified Thy divinity.

Ode 5, Irmos: O thrice-blessed Tree, whereon the King and Lord was crucified, and whereby he who beguiled mankind by the tree did fall! He was beguiled by thee, when God was nailed in the flesh, Who granteth peace unto our souls!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O ever-hymned Tree, whereon Christ was stretched: the whirling sword which guarded Eden stood in awe of thee, O Cross, and the dread cherubim withdrew, when Christ was nailed to thee, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O ever-hymned Tree, whereon Christ was stretched: the whirling sword which guarded Eden stood in awe of thee, O Cross, and the dread cherubim withdrew, when Christ was nailed to thee, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

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

The adverse powers of the nether world are stricken with fear when the sign of the Cross is traced in the air in which they live, as are the generations of the earthborn and the heavenly, who bend the knee to Christ, Who granteth peace unto our souls.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having shone forth a divine light and revealed itself in rays of incorruption unto the benighted gentiles astray in error, the divine Cross acquireth them for Christ Who was nailed thereto, and granteth peace unto our souls.

Katavasia: O thrice-blessed Tree, whereon the King and Lord was crucified, and whereby he who beguiled mankind by the tree did fall! He was beguiled by thee, when God was nailed in the flesh, Who granteth peace unto our souls!

Ode 6, Irmos: Stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross in the belly of the sea monster, Jonah clearly prefigured the saving Passion. And, issuing forth after three days, he foreshadowed the transcendent resurrection of Christ God, Who was nailed in the flesh and enlightened the world by His rising on the third day.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Bent with age and weighted down with infirmity, Jacob drew himself up when he crossed his arms, showing forth the power of the life-bearing Cross; for God Who was nailed in the flesh hath set aright the obsolescence of the law of the Scripture which was written in shadows, and hath dispelled the soul-destroying disease of deception.

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

Bent with age and weighted down with infirmity, Jacob drew himself up when he crossed his arms, showing forth the power of the life-bearing Cross; for God Who was nailed in the flesh hath set aright the obsolescence of the law of the Scripture which was written in shadows, and hath dispelled the soul-destroying disease of deception.

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

Divine Israel, laying his hands cross-wise upon the heads of the young, revealed that the people who hath the honour of being the elder is a slave to the law. Wherefore, when suspected of erring in so doing, he did not alter the life-bearing image, for, he said, protected by the Cross, the newly established people of Christ God surpass them.

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Divine Israel, laying his hands cross-wise upon the heads of the young, revealed that the people who hath the honour of being the elder is a slave to the law. Wherefore, when suspected of erring in so doing, he did not alter the life-bearing image, for, he said, protected by the Cross, the newly established people of Christ God surpass them.

Katavasia: Stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross in the belly of the sea monster, Jonah clearly prefigured the saving Passion. And, issuing forth after three days, he foreshadowed the transcendent resurrection of Christ God, Who was nailed in the flesh and enlightened the world by His rising on the third day.

Kontakion of the Cross, Tone 4: O Thou Who wast lifted up willingly on the Cross, bestow Thy compassions upon the new community called after Thee, O Christ God; gladden by Thy power Orthodox Christians, granting them victory over all adversaries. May they have as an ally the invincible trophy, Thy weapon of peace.

Ikos: He that was caught up to the third heaven of paradise and heard unspeakable and divine words which the human tongue cannot utter, what writeth he to the Galatians, which, as lovers of the Scriptures, ye have both read and come to understand? God forbid, saith he, that I should glory, save only in the Gross of the Lord, whereon having suffered He slew the passions. Let us all then firmly hold this boast, the Cross of the Lord; for this Wood is our salvation, the invincible trophy, the weapon of peace.

Ode 7, Irmos: The mad command of the impious tyrant, breathing forth threats and blasphemy hateful to God, cast the people into confusion. Yet the three children feared not the fury of the wild beasts, nor the roaring blaze; but, in the midst of the fire, when, the dew-bearing wind blew upon it, they sang: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The first man, tasting of the tree, made his abode in corruption; for, having condemned himself by an inglorious rejection of life, he imparted a certain taint as a corruption to the whole race. But we mortals, gaining utterance through the tree of the Cross, cry out: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

The first man, tasting of the tree, made his abode in corruption; for, having condemned himself by an inglorious rejection of life, he imparted a certain taint as a corruption to the whole race. But we mortals, gaining utterance through the tree of the Cross, cry out: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

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

Disobedience violated the commandment of God, and the tree brought death to man by its being partaken of unseasonably, for, for the preservation of that which is most precious, the tree of life was forbidden; but God disclosed it to the hapless thief who cried out rightly: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Israel, foreseeing things to come, laid hold of the tip of Joseph’s staff, revealing beforehand that the most glorious Cross would seize the power of the kingdom, for it is the victorious boast of kings and a light for those who cry out with faith: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Katavasia: The mad command of the impious tyrant, breathing forth threats and blasphemy hateful to God, cast the people into confusion. Yet the three children feared not the fury of the wild beasts, nor the roaring blaze; but, in the midst of the fire, when, the dew-bearing wind blew upon it, they sang: O all-hymned God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

ODE 8, Irmos: O children equal in number to the Trinity: bless ye God, the Father and Creator; hymn ye the Word Who came down and transformed the fire into dew; and the all-holy Spirit, Who giveth life unto all, exalt ye supremely forever!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O hosts of heaven, chant ye to the exalted Tree which was drenched in the blood of God the Word incarnate, celebrating the restoration of those on earth. Ye people, worship the Cross of Christ, whereby the resurrection of the world is accomplished forever!

Glory to Thy Precious Cross, O Lord.

O hosts of heaven, chant ye to the exalted Tree which was drenched in the blood of God the Word incarnate, celebrating the restoration of those on earth. Ye people, worship the Cross of Christ, whereby the resurrection of the world is accomplished forever!

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

O ye mortal stewards of grace, in sacred manner raise on high with your hands the Cross whereon Christ God stood and the spear which pierced the body of God the Word, that all the nations may see the salvation which is of God, glorifying Him forever!

Both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O faithful Christian kings, forechosen by divine decree, be ye glad! And having received from God the precious Cross, rejoice in it, the weapon of victory, for thereby tribes of warriors seeking courage are scattered abroad forever.

Katavasia: O children equal in number to the Trinity: bless ye God, the Father and Creator; hymn ye the Word Who came down and transformed the fire into dew; and the all-holy Spirit, Who giveth life unto all, exalt ye supremely forever!

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

Ode 9, Irmos: O Theotokos, thou art a mystical paradise, which untilled did put forth Christ, by Whom the life-bearing tree of the Cross was planted. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

Let all the trees of the forests rejoice, for their nature hath been sanctified by Him Who planted them in the beginning – Christ Who was stretched out upon the Tree. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee, O Theotokos.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

A sacred horn hath been lifted up, the chief horn for all the divinely wise: the Cross, whereby all the horns of the sinful are noetically broken asunder. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee, O Theotokos.

Magnify, O my soul, the all-honoured Cross of the Lord!

That Thou mayest show the Cross to the world, O worshipful Lord and King, in the sight of all Thou didst form its all-glorious image in the skies, radiant with boundless light, an invincible weapon. Wherefore, all the powers of heaven magnify Thee.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Canon II, Irmos: Death, which came upon our race through the eating of the tree hath been abolished by the Cross today; for the curse of our first mother, which fell upon us all, hath been annulled through the Offspring of the pure Mother of God, whom all the hosts of heaven magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Thou didst not permit the murderous bitterness of the tree still to remain, O Lord, for thou didst utterly destroy it by the Cross. Wherefore, by a tree Thou didst once sweeten the bitterness of the waters of Marah, prefiguring the activity of the Cross, which all the hosts of heaven magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

Those who are continually sunk in the darkness of our forefather, Thou hast raised up by the Cross today, O Lord; for though our nature was brought low through deceit and great lack of restraint, the light of Thy Cross hath again guided all of us aright, which we, the faithful magnify.

Magnify, O my soul, the exaltation of the life-creating Cross of the Lord!

That Thou mightest show forth to the world the image of the Cross venerated among all, O Lord, Thou didst trace its outline in the heavens, in that it is all-glorious, radiant with boundless light: the invincible weapon for the emperor. Wherefore, all the hosts of heaven magnify Thee.

Katavasia: O Theotokos, thou art a mystical paradise, which untilled did put forth Christ, by Whom the life-bearing tree of the Cross was planted. Wherefore, worshiping it as it is now raised aloft, we magnify thee.

Troparion of the Cross, in Tone 1: Save O Lord Thy people, * and bless Thine inheritance. * Grant now unto the faithful * victory over adversaries, * and by the power of Thy Cross ** do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.

Clarification regarding suspension and on-line prayers

Dear brothers and sisters,

After some confusion regarding the suspension of clerics, and their subsequent activities, it seems necessary to clarify the situation.

A cleric who is suspended is banned for all ministry in whatever rank of the clerical order they occupy.

If they serve under this suspension, this disobedience is a sin, and one in which the faithful must not participate.

It does not matter whether a banned cleric serves in a temple or private space, with broadcast and inclusion of others on-line via social media. Not being physically present, but taking part on-line, makes no difference. A ban is a ban, and no faithful of our parishes may have any liturgical interaction with a banned cleric.

This is very difficult, as some of our faithful now feel very isolated, having been accustomed to on-line akathist hymns, memorial services and molebny, that have preserved parish life, and have been a great consolation during lockdown and the uncertainty of the last year and a half.

However, for rebellion against the order and peace of the Church, for creating discord and division, clergy in Colchester and Cheltenham are suspended.

The faithful may not pray with them if they are disobeying the suspension, and their suspensions may only be lifted by His Grace, Bishop Irenei.

Let us all pray for peace and reconciliation, and let us be careful in not being drawn into the rebellion that has occured.

Spasi Gospodi – Fr Mark

The Feast of Saints Adrian and Natalia.

On this feast of the Holy Marytrs Adrian and Natalia, we send our warmest greetings to our dear sisters in Cardiff, Newquay, Cheltenham and Bristol, congratulating them on their name day and praying that they mar be granted many, blessed years! Многая и благая лтѣа!

In the fourth century, the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian cruelly persecuted those who believed in Christ. He came together with his soldiers to the city of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. There it was reported that in a certain cave Christians were hiding, and that they sang and prayed the whole night to their God. Immediately Maximian sent his soldiers to seize these Christians. The soldiers did as they were commanded and the Christians were beaten and brought in iron chains to the place of judgment. One of the chiefs of the judgment place, a young man by the name of Adrian, seeing how patiently and how willingly the Christians suffered for their faith, asked what reward they expected to receive from their God for such tortures. The holy martyrs replied: “It is written in Scripture that eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered the heart of man those things which God hath prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). Hearing these words, Adrian declared that he too wished to be a Christian and was willing to die together with them for Christ. For this he was also thrown into prison.

When Adrian’ s young wife Natalie was told of her husband’s conversion to Christ and of his imprisonment, instead of being sad, she greatly rejoiced for she was secretly a Christian herself and she knew the joy which now filled her husband’s heart. She ran to the prison and, falling down at the feet of her husband, she kissed his chains and said, “Blessed are you, my Adrian; you have found such a treasure.” When Adrian was brought before the Emperor and threatened with torture if he did not worship the pagan gods, his godly-minded wife Natalie and the other martyrs encouraged him saying: “Having been found worthy to carry your own cross and to follow Christ, take care that you do not turn back and lose your eternal reward.”

Adrian had always faithfully served his earthly king, but now he was to serve the King of Heaven. He courageously endured the tortures and was returned to the prison. There Natalie, together with other pious women, would come and help the prisoners, cleaning and bandaging their wounded bodies. When the cruel Emperor found out about this, he forbade them to visit the prison. But the blessed Natalie had such love for the sufferers that she cut her hair and put on men’s clothing. In this disguise she was able to enter the prison.

Day after day the holy martyrs endured such cruel and severe tortures that they were barely alive. The Emperor became angry that even under such tortures they would not deny their God. Finally he ordered for them a violent death. Their arms and legs were cut off and their bodies were thrown into a fire to be burned so that none of the Christians might gather their precious remains. But just at that moment, there burst forth thunder and lightning and a powerful rain which put out the fire. Natalie, together with other Christians took the bodies of the holy martyrs from the fire and rejoiced to see that God had preserved them from harm. A faithful Christian man and his wife then took the holy relics to Constantinople where they could be safely kept until the death of the impious Emperor.

After a certain time, a pagan nobleman desired to marry Natalie who was still young and beautiful. She cried and begged God to save her from this union with an unbeliever. Having prayed fervently, St. Natalie fell from exhaustion and sorrow into a light sleep during which the holy martyrs appeared to her in a vision and said, “Peace be unto you. God has not forgotten your labors. We shall pray that you will come to us soon. Get on a ship and go to the place where our bodies are and the Lord will make Himself known to you.”

Following their directions, the blessed Natalie reached Constantinople and going to the church where the bodies of the holy martyrs lay, she fell down before them and prayed. She was so tired from the journey that she fell asleep and saw in a dream her husband St. Adrian, who said to her, “Come my beloved, and enjoy the reward of your labors.” Very soon after this St. Natalie died peacefully in her sleep. Although she did not shed her own blood, she is numbered among the martyrs for having co-suffered with them, serving and encouraging them in their heroic struggles for the sake of Christ.

Originally published in Orthodox America no. 12, August, 1981