Dear brothers and sisters,
We were blessed with a triumphant celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy in Cardiff, yesterday, and affirmed the fullness and glory of the Orthodox Christian Faith and our obedience to the Sacred Tradition of the Church: an inheritance not of our making, but the deposit of Faith handed down to us by our pious and God-fearing forebears, for us to hand on to the next generation represented by the children and young people of our parish. We know this not to be the case in some places, and this is first hand knowledge given the parishioners who have taken refuge in our parish because of the renovationism, modernism and liberalism they have encountered elsewhere.
Some of those who have joined the parish, despite living far away, have made this clear in conversation over the last few days. However, this is not an occasion to gloat and feel pleased with ourselves, as though we are somehow superior. Our tenacious defence of Othodox dogma and tradition is what the Church demands of us, simply as Orthodox Christians – and from all Orthodox Christians.
Every Orthodox parish – as indeed every diocese and patriarchate – should be an ark of refuge and salvation, as the local manifestation of Christ’s Church, preserving and defending her Faith and sacred Tradition.
It is precisely on account of the swelling tide of schism, heresy and persecution confronting the Church in our present sorrowful times that our Ruling Hierarch wished the faithful to be strengthened and confirmed in the fullness of the Church’s teaching by the solemnity our moleben on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy – a radiant feast even in these early days of the Great Fast. So, a solemn and comprehensive order of service was blessed for parish use, lacking only the anathemas pronounced by our bishops and some other episcopal parts.
With the addition of the icons the faithful had brought to hold during the service, candles burning before the icons on the high windowsills and additional icons on the shrines that form our temporary ikonostas, their importance in our celebration as a sign of Orthodoxy was clear, and it was a joy to look out from the sanctuary and see parishioners bearing the sacred images of the saints as we started our moleben.
In the Great Litany, our deacons asked the Lord to “look upon His holy Church with a merciful eye, and preserve her safe and unconquered by heresies and superstitions, and keep her in His peace”; to “calm dissensions within her, and by the power of the Holy Spirit convert to a knowledge of the truth all who have apostatised and join them to His chosen flock”; and to “enlighten the minds of those darkened by unbelief with the light of His divine wisdom, and strengthen His faithful and preserve them steadfast in Orthodoxy.”
After the symbol of Faith – the Creed – our deacons solemnly intoned:
“This is the Apostolic Faith!
This is the Faith of the Fathers!
This is the Orthodox Faith!
This Faith confirmeth the universe.”
Commemorating the Holy Equals of the Apostles the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, the pious sovereigns of Byzantium, Kieven Rus’ and Russia who defended and upheld the Faith, and the great saints and wonder-workers who struggled in holiness, we chanted Vechnaya pamiat’ / Eternal memory again and again, recognising the debt that we owe to them for the preservation and defence of the Orthodox Faith; for teaching and upholding Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic dogmas; for their steadfastness suffering and endurance in defending the Faith against heresy and schism.
Among the great names, we heard mention of Athanasius the Great; the great ecumenical teachers, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom; Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria; Leo the Great and Flavian the Confessor; the Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils; Maximus the Confessor; Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople; Theodore the Studite; and the Holy Hierarch Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus.
After the names of the Holy Equals of the Apostles, the Great Prince Vladimir and Great Princess Olga, we responded to the commemorations of the Great Princes Yaroslav the Wise, Vladimir Monomakh, Alexander Nevsky and Dimitry Donskoy; the first Romanov Tsar, Michael Feodorovich; the martyred Tsar Alexander II; Tsar Alexander III; the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the martyred Imperial Family; also the martyred King Alexander of Serbia. For them all, we prayed “Memory eternal!”
Then, having commemorated the departed Patriarchs of the ancient Orthodox Patriarchates, we remembered Patriarchs of Rus’ and Serbia, New-Martyrs and Confessors and finally the First-Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the past hierarchs of our diocese of Western Europe and those who ruled the British Diocese when it was a separate eparchy: Archbishop Nikodem, Bishop Nikolai and Bishop Konstantin, of blessed memory.
Completing the commemoration of the departed, our hierodeacon prayed,
“To those who suffered and were slain in various ways for the Orthodox Faith and Fatherland: princes, nobles, and Christian forces, and all Orthodox Christians who have piously reposed in true Faith and in the hope of resurrection unto everlasting life: Memory eternal!”
Our deacons then led our prayers for the living – for the Patriarch and Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, for all patriarchs “who stand fast in God’s righteousness, rightly defining the word of truth”, for right-believing hierarchs, for the members of the Imperial House and Orthodox Royal houses, for the Orthodox faithful of the lands of Rus’ and of our God preserved diocese. After each petition the choir and faithful joyfully and enthusiastically chanted “Mnogaya leta!”
Ending with the Te Deum, the moleben was a very special combination of prayer for those who departed into error, and a celebration of the Orthodox Faith and those who have defended it and preserved it.
It was a joyful and festal Triumph of Orthodoxy, strengthening us and encouraging us at the end of the first week of the Fast.
What a contrast to the previous Sunday, when we chanted the stikhira of repentance, prostrating in the Rite of Forgiveness.
Our profound thanks go to all who contributed to our wonderful celebration, especially our choir, who laboured hard, and to our hierodeacon and deacon who were so central to the liturgical rites of the day.
To all Orthodox archpastors and sovereigns, our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, who have departed this life, defending and preserving the Faith: memory eternal!
To our archpastors and pastors, those who struggle in the monastic-life and all of the pious faithful, steadfast in the Faith: many years!
I pray that the festive joy of the Triumph of Orthodoxy may strengthen us and encourage us in our parish life, and as individuals during this season of the Fast.
Asking your forgiveness for Christ’s sake.