From Palm Sunday to Holy Week and Pascha

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was an great blessing to follow yesterday’s celebration of the raising of St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead with that of the Saviour’s short journey from Bethany to Jerusalemand the Lord’s Entrance into the Holy City.

After a rather rushed set-up, due to lack of access to Nazareth House last night and a later Mass today, everything came together very well, with confessions finished and the covering of the Gifts and completion of the Hours leading seamlessly into our Liturgy, with the faithful standing ready with their willows and palms.

It was lovely to see our deacons censing the church bearing bunches of willows, palms and flowers, and the festal feel to the Liturgy echoed that of yesterday’s humbler but equally jubilant celebration in Cheltenham.

Parishioners with none-Orthodox spouses and some of our students were unable to be with us due to western Easter, but we were to happy to welcome new Ukrainian and Georgian visitors on this happy day, and hope that they will be with us for Pascha. So… all in all, numbers were hardly dented by western celebrations.

We are very grateful to our choir and oltarniky, and to the sisters who prepared food to celebrate the feast before the austerities of Holy Week. We are also grateful to those who brought flowers. May God bless you all!

We now look forward to a busy week of services and confessions, and as Deacon Mark reminded the faithful, if confessing during the ‘open’ times before and after services, we should endeavour to be mindful of others and the shear number of confessions to be heard.

This may be very pertinent on Wednesday, when we will celebrate ‘soborovanie’ – the Holy Unction.

Those approaching the Mystery should have made a recent confession. If confessing before the service of the Holy Oil, please try to keep your confession to five minutes. I will be in Nazareth House during the afternoon, and may hear longer confessions before 17:00, when I will be more generally available for those needing to confess.

We have many new people in the parish, so I recommend them to read a very good articles on Holy Unction on orthochristian – reminding all that this is a Holy Mystery, so only Orthodox Christians may partake of it.

I am very pleased that will have Archpriest Luke with us for this service, and greatly value his help with confessions. Fr Luke will be with us from 18:00, and I know that there will be those who will wish take advantage of being able to make their confession to him. But… again, please be mindful of the time.

Parishioners who are NOT able to be with us on Wednesday should be reassured that anointing with the oil from the service is possible after all of the evening services during Holy Week for those who have prepared.

In addition to the previously advertised services, the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Thursday will now be celebrated in Nazareth House (like all of the services from Wednesday to Friday) and will commence at 11:00, after the daily Mass.

Unfortunately, due to the use of the chapel on Friday morning, it will not be possible to celebrate the Royal Hours in our Cardiff home.

Having celebrated the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem today, the matins of the coming days will look forward to His return as the judge of the world and Bridegroom of His Church, and the beginning of Holy Week calls us to vigilance, so that we may be ready and waiting for His return – like the wise virgins, who tended their lamps and took care that they were vigilant and watching.

At the beginning of this Great Week, let us be like them as we keep vigil, remembering the last week of the Saviour’s earthly life before His crucifixion, life-giving Cross, and the wonder of His resurrection.

Let us endeavour to watch and pray, and to not fall asleep as we spiritually journey to the upper room, the Mount of Olives, the praetorium and thence to Golgotha and the sepulchre.

“Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be borne down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and lest thou be shut out from the Kingdom.”

May God bless you all, and give you strength and grace in this Holy and Great Week.

Asking your forgiveness for Christ’s sake.

Hieromonk Mark

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