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27/07/2020 – Important news – resuming public services

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A gloriously sunny celebration of the Divine Liturgy, with a litia to St Fanourios and the blessing (and eating!) of the Fanouropita - followed by pastoral conversations under the vine in the garden. Glory to God for all things! ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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From the old to the new: asking God’s blessing for the Church New Year.O Fashioner of all creation, Who in Thine authority hast appointed the times and seasons: bless Thou the crown of the year with Thy goodness, O Lord, preserving in peace Orthodox Christians and Thy city, and save us through the prayers of the Theotokos.

Troparion of the Indiction

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today saw the last Liturgy of the Church’s year, as August on the Julian calendar drew to a close. We were very happy to have Father Deacon Mark, Alla and Yuriy back with us after their holiday vacation in Cyprus and to welcome parishioners and friends from across South Wales and Gloucestershire.

In addition to the Liturgy, we served a short litia to St Fanourios, whose feast fell last week, blessing the Fanouropita baked in the Partridge kitchen. Thank you, Georgina, Harriet and Olivia who managed to bake the festal cake before the girls went to school on Thursday. Holy Great-Martyr, Fanourios, the Newly-Revealed, pray to God for us!

The last year has been one of ups and downs given the events of the last six months, and as we face more uncertainty we most definitely need to all be asking the Lord’s blessing and protection as we begin another ecclesiastical year not knowing how unfolding events and government restrictions may continue to disrupt parish life.

For the moment we continue to minister to members of our South Wales communities, as well as those travelling from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset, and we are glad that our small community has been able to ensure that those from further afield have been able to partake of the Holy Mysteries and some semblance of spiritual life in the face of the capitulation of their local parishes.

Now, as we begin the new year, it is not simply the business of our clergy to pray for the blessing of our Church New Year, but for every member of our community and sister communities to do so. With this in mind, the text of The Canon of the New Indiction is published below. I encourage all who are able to include it in their daily prayers tomorrow or during the next few days, offering it as a prayer not only for our parish, but for the Orthodox everywhere.

We shall do so as a community with a moleben on Sunday - late, but the first opportunity for us to come together to do so, given clergy work and rotas this week.

I must thank all of those who have worked so hard during the last year, especially Father Deacon Mark, who is the source of much support and encouragement for so many of us, and whose assistance during lockdown made it possible to maintain a rather strange and minimal, but constant Church life in a very unpleasant and difficult period.

Our thanks go to our starosta; to our regent and to all who serve on the kliros - readers and singers; to our servers, young and old; to those who have faithfully set up and cleared away the church or oratory every weekend; and to the parish families who have worked ceaselessly in supporting the clergy and parish.

We are also indebted to the generosity of our benefactors who have given so much material assistance and support. May God bless you all.

Wishing you all - in Britain, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Sicily, the States, Australia and throughout the world - a blessed, fruitful and peaceful year.

Asking your forgiveness for Christ’s sake.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark

The Canon of the Indiction

Ode 1, Irmos: O all ye people, let us chant a hymn of victory unto Him Who delivered Israel from the bitter bondage of Pharaoh and led them through the depths of the sea dry-shod, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

Let us all chant a hymn of victory unto Christ, by Whom all things were fashioned and in Whom the incomprehensible is perfected, as the hypostatic Word begotten of God the Father, for He hath been glorified.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

Let us all chant a hymn of victory unto Christ, Who through the Father's good pleasure appeared from the Virgin and proclaimed unto us the acceptable year of the Lord for deliverance, for He hath been glorified.

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

The Bestower of the law, arriving in Nazareth, taught on the Sabbath day, laying down for the Jews the law of His ineffable coming, whereby He saveth our race, in that He is merciful.

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

O all ye faithful, chanting, let us ever praise the all-wondrous Maiden who shone forth Christ upon the world and hath filled all things with the joy of everlasting life, for she hath been glorified.

Ode 3, Irmos: Establish me, O Christ, upon the immovable rock of Thy commandments, and illumine me with the light of Thy countenance, for none is holier than Thou, Who lovest mankind.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Good One, establish Thou that which Thy right hand hath lovingly planted on the earth, preserving Thy Church, the fertile vineyard, O Almighty One.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Master, God of all things, lead through this year which beginneth those who adorn themselves with divinely beautiful spiritual works, and who hymn Thee with faith.

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

O compassionate Christ, grant me a tranquil year and fill me with Thy divine words which Thou didst reveal when Thou didst speak to the Jews oil the Sabbath.

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

We ever glorify thee, for thou alone didst, in manner surpassing nature, beyond human comprehension, receive grace in thy womb and didst, without changing, give birth unto Christ God.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sedalion of the Indiction, in Tone 8: O Thou Who bestowest fruitful seasons and rains from heaven upon those on earth, and dost now accept the supplications of Thy servants: from all want do Thou deliver Thy city, for truly Thy com passions are evident in all Thy works. Wherefore, bless Thou our goings out and our comings in, set aright among us the work of our hands, and grant us forgiveness of offenses O God: For, as Thou art mighty, Thou didst bring all things from non-existence into being.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Repeat sedalion.

Ode 4, Irmos: I have considered Thy dispensation, O Almighty One, and with fear have I glorified Thee, O Saviour.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

The beginning of the year do Thy people offer unto Thee, O Saviour, glorifying Thee with angelic hymns.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

As Thou lovest mankind, O Christ, count those who begin the year worthy to complete it in a manner well-pleasing unto Thee.

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

O only and almighty Lord, having calmed the world, grant it cycles of years.

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

Let us all now hymn the Theotokos as the haven of our souls and our steadfast hope.

Ode 5, Irmos: Waking at dawn out of the night, we hymn Thee, O Christ, Who art consubstantial with the Father, and the Saviour of our souls: Grant peace to the world, Thou Who lovest mankind!

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Christ, Who fillest all things with goodness: do Thou grant unto Thy servants a year of varied seasons, crowned with mildness, fruitfulness and blessings.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

Yearly recompense, a turn for the better and a state of peace do Thou show unto us who know Thee to be Him Who became like unto men, O Word of God.

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

Thou didst come to earth proclaiming from the Father the release of captives and the recovery of the blind, and the acceptable time, O Thou that art equally unoriginate with the Father.

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

We set our hopes and our desire on thee, O pure Theotokos. Him Whom thou didst bear do thou render merciful unto us, O Virgin.

Ode 6, Irmos: Thou didst save the prophet from the sea monster, O Lover of mankind; do Thou lead me up from the abyss of transgressions, I pray.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Master, with the beginning of the year vouchsafe us to begin a life well-pleasing unto Thee.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Master, with the beginning of the year vouchsafe us to begin a life well-pleasing unto Thee.

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

O compassionate Saviour, show us forth who hymn Thee to be full of spiritual days in the study of Thy law.

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

O all-pure and most immaculate Theotokos who gavest birth to the Lord, from misfortunes deliver us who hymn thee.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion of the Indiction, tone 2: O Christ our King Who livest in the highest, Creator and Maker of all things, visible and invisible, Who hast fashioned days and nights, seasons and years: bless Thou now the crown of the year; preserve and keep in peace Orthodox hierarchs, this city and Thy people, O greatly Merciful One.

Ode 7, Irmos: The children raised together in piety, disdaining the impious command, feared not the threat of the fire, but, standing in the midst of the flame, they chanted: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O ye Orthodox people who now begin the year, let us set a beginning to our hymns to Christ Who reigneth over the everlasting Kingdom; and let us piously chant: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O ye Orthodox people who now begin the year, let us set a beginning to our hymns to Christ Who reigneth over the everlasting Kingdom; and let us piously chant: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

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

O Christ, Who before wast, shalt be and art the Lord: fill Thou this year with Thy good gifts for those who hymn Thee, the Source of goodness, chanting: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

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

As servants petitioning their Master, we set before Thee Thy pure Mother, O Christ, that Thou mayest deliver from every evil circumstance Thy servants who chant: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Ode 8, Irmos: Christ God, Who saved the chanting children in the furnace and transformed the raging flames into dew, hymn ye, supremely exalting Him for all ages!

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Christ, the honoured Church offereth Thee the beginning of the year, as to the Author of our salvation, crying: Hymn ye and supremely exalt Christ forever!

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

The Creator Who hath wisely renewed all that He brought into existence, and hath brought forth the cycles of the seasons by His will, hymn ye and supremely exalt forever!

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

Let us chant unto God, Who hath brought forth all things and Who changeth the seasons for the manifold prosperity of men: Praise and exalt Christ supremely forever!

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

With the cycles and seasons of time, we, the assemblies of men, hymn thee in Orthodox manner as the Theotokos, the pure Virgin Mother of God, the salvation of all.

Ode 9, Irmos: The bush which burnt with fire yet was not consumed showed forth an image of thy pure birth giving. And now we pray that the furnace of temptation which rageth against us be extinguished, that we may unceasingly magnify thee, O Theotokos.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Word of God, Power, true and hypostatic Wisdom, Who sustaineth and directeth all things wisely, do Thou now peacefully order the season which hath dawned for Thy servants.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

All Thy works, O Lord: the heavens, the earth, light, and the sea, the waters and all the springs, the sun, the moon, darkness, the stars, fire, men and beasts, praise Thee with the angels. Thou alone art pre-eternal, in that Thou art the Creator of the ages.

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

O reigning Godhead, One, indivisible, in three Persons: through the supplications of the pure Mother of God, show forth this year as fruitful for Thine inheritance.

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

O Saviour of all, Maker, Creator, and Ruler of all creation: through the supplications of her who gaveth birth to Thee without seed, grant peace to Thy world, preserving Thy Church ever undisturbed.
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A Homily on the Beheading of Saint John the ForerunnerOnce Jerusalem and all Judea were astir with the news that a new prophet had appeared, never before seen, and frightening. This man called out to the crowd around him, “Repent!” The unrighteous in their fright said to the prophet, “Do you want us to give you gold? Just shut up, you’re wounding us, it’s like our consciences are gnawing at us.” “I don’t need gold, you generation of vipers,” the prophet answered. “I have what is more precious than gold.” The righteous also came to John and said, “Do you want us to give you gold for the lessons you have given us on how to be righteous?” John replied, “I am living and speaking with you, brothers, for your own sakes, and not for the sake of your gold. I don’t need it.” And so rumors were spread about John that he knows no fear and spares no one. And John even reproached the iniquity of Herodias, Herods’ wife. She too sent him gold, but the prophet wrathfully rejected the dirty adulteress’s gold.John’s refusal brought Herodias to a state of demonic madness, and she was enflamed with the thirst for revenge. For the sake of the pleasures to which she was accustomed from her very infancy, she was capable of anything if only it would indulge her lust; she was ready to bring everything as sacrifice to this idol, and put everything in its service. “Pleasures, and only pleasures!” exclaimed Herodias. “Righteousness, and only righteousness!” John would not stop saying. And so their collision was inevitable…Every day, brothers and sisters, we are witnesses to the dramas that happen when the thirst for pleasure encounters the search for truth and righteousness, like the drama in Herod’s court; albeit much less powerful in their tragedy. Our dramas are played out not only in houses and on the streets, but also in our souls, within ourselves. The majority of us basically are a mixture of the spirit of John and the spirit of Herodias. In most of us, the thirst for pleasure always wars with our striving for righteousness and truth. This throws us into all sorts of extremes and tears our hearts and souls to the point of pain. Let us then pray to God: “O God, Thou sawest the drama of St. John the Baptist in Herod’s court. Thou dost look even this day upon us with Thy gaze. Give us therefore the strength to conquer the spirit of Herodias in ourselves, so that we might follow the example of Thy righteous one. Lead us, O God, out of error whenever our blood clouds our reason. Let the thought of Thee, O great God, always dispel the darkness of our life’s dramas. Amen.”

St. Nikolai (Velimirovic)

The Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, & Baptist John, Troparion, in Tone 2: The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise,/ but the Lord's witness is sufficient for thee, O forerunner./ Thou wast truly shown to be more honourable than the prophets,/ in that thou wast counted worthy to baptise in the streams Him Whom thou didst proclaim./ Wherefore, having suffered, rejoicing, for the truth,/ even unto those in hades thou didst proclaim God,/ Who had manifested Himself in the flesh,// Who taketh away the sin of the world and granteth us great mercy.

Kontakion, in Tone 5: The glorious beheading of the forerunner/ was part of God's dispensation,/ that he might proclaim to those in hades the coming of the Saviour./ Let Herodias, who demanded the iniquitous murder, therefore lament;/ for she loved not the law of God nor the age of life,// but rather this false and transitory one.

English service text: orthodox-europe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/08-29-1.pdf

Slavonic service text: orthodox-europe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/08-29.pdf
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The feast of St Fanourios. Καλή γιορτή!Dear brothers and sisters,

A very joyful feast of St Fanourios! May God’s newly-revealed martyr not only be the adornment and sanctification of the people of Rhodes, but of the whole Orthodox world, to whom he has been revealed as a fervent intercessor and great helper in the Christian life.

We look forward to honouring him with a moleben and the blessing of Fanouropita at the chaplaincy on Sunday.

Holy great-martyr Fanourios, the newly-revealed, pray to God for us!

O strange wonder! As a wondrous light, the noble Phanourios, hath shown to those on earth, a foretaste of the age to come. He deposed the unknown enemy through his feats of struggle, and the revealing of his divine temple is made known to the ends of the earth. Therefore we celebrate his holy memory,hymning the Saviour, Who radiantly glorified him.

Strange is thy steadfastness, O wise one! For thou didst struggle in wrestling beyond nature, and were shown great among athletes, O Phanourios; and being a newly-revealed sun of the Church of Christ, though thou wast hidden within the earth, thou wert radiantly glorified in the highest, and thou shinest with the rays of wonders on all who flee to thy speedy help, O Martyr.

Thy praised struggle, O athlete of the Lord, O glorious Phanourios, which of old thou didst endure for Christ lawfully, wast made known to us through the revealing of thy divine icon, to the joy of those who cry out to thee: hail O boast of champions, support of the Church, and adornment and sanctification of all the people of Rhodes.

1. General overview of his life.

Nothing certain is known concerning the lineage and the life of Saint Fanourios because all the information about his life was lost during turbulent times.

The only information we have concerning the Saint is the discovery of his icon, around 1500 AD according to the Synaxarion, or according to other sources around 1355-1369 AD. Some main-tain that the icon of the Saint was found in Rhodes but others say in Cyprus.

2. The discovery of the icon

Let us return to the past, when the Hagarenes (i.e. Muslims) ruled Rhodes and had decided to rebuild the wall of the city, which they so barbarically demolished and leveled a few years previously.

They started to send workers outside the south part of the citadel to gather stones from the semi-ruined houses of the inhabitants, to rebuild the new and strong walls of the city. Among the ruins they discovered a most beautiful church which was partially destroyed on one side. Inside they discovered a multitude of icons, which over the course of time the faces of the Saints as well as the inscriptions on them were indistinguishable.

Only one magnificent icon stood apart from the rest, one that time did not affect, which depicted a youth dressed as a soldier. The Metropolitan of Rhodes, Nilus, went immediately to the site and clearly read the name of the Saint, Fanourios. The Metropolitan, moved by the appearance of the saint, saw that he was dressed as a Roman Soldier, holding a cross in his left hand and a lit candle in his right. Around the icon the iconographer had also painted the twelve depictions of the martyrdom that the saint had suffered, clearly telling his life.
These depictions are as follows:

1. The Saint is present in front of the Roman magistrate, standing and looking like he is boldly testifying and defending his Christian faith.

2. Here the soldiers are intervening and striking Fanourios’ head and the mouth with stones to force him to succumb and deny the Lord.

3. The soldiers have thus far become enraged by the persistence of Fanourios, throwing him to the ground and beating him mercilessly with sticks and clubs to break his steadfast resistance.

4. Fanourios is in jail and is being tortured in a most abominable way. He appears totally naked and the surrounding soldiers are tearing his flesh with sharp metal instruments. The Saint is silently enduring his frightful martyrdom.

5. Fanourios is back in jail praying to God to strengthen him to the end of his tortures.

6. The Saint is again brought before the Roman magistrate to give a defense for his position. By the peaceful expression on his face it appears that neither the tortures he suffered nor the future threats of the tyrant can shake his faith, and thus being undeterred he is waiting for further tortures.

7. The torturers of Fanourios with rage and cruelty are burning his naked body with lit torches, thus showing his insuperable sacrifice for the Crucified One. The Saint wins again with his indomitable will and fortitude for the Lord.

8. Here his savage torturers are making use of mechanical means to achieve the worse of his tortures. They have tied the Saint on a press which crushes his bones when rotated. He is suffering without grumbling, but on his beautiful face there is an inexpressible exultation since he is suffering for the sake of the Lord.

9. Fanourios is cast into a pit to become prey to wild beasts and his torturers are watching from above to witness his end. The beasts, however, are totally docile through the grace of God and silently surround him like lambs to enjoy his magnificent company.

10. The torturers were not satisfied by the latest result so they removed him from the hole and are crushing him under a huge rock, convinced that they will finish him off. However, even this time they do not succeed.

11. The scene presents the Saint in front of an altar, where the torturers are urging him to sacrifice, placing burning coal in his hands. Fanourios also passes this test victoriously and a devil in the form of a dragon is shown flying in the air and crying over its failure.

12. The last scene is the end of his martyrdom, with Fanourios being cast into a large furnace standing on a stool and surrounded by flames and smoke. The Saint seems to be praying intently to God, without complaining or grumbling, and thus unwavering and without giving in, he flew to heaven, full of contentment for all the tortures he had suffered for the sake of the Lord.

3. The Erection of the Church.

The then Metropolitan of the island, Nilus, after carefully studying the icon that was found, pronounced that Fanourios was one of the most significant great martyrs of our Faith. He immediately dispatched a delegation to the ruler of the island and to ask him for a permit to erect a church. However, when the ruler refused the Metropolitan himself went to Constanti-nople and managed to obtain from the Sultan the permit he sought. He soon returned to Rhodes and built the church exactly on its old spot, outside the walls. The Church survives to this day and is a sacred shrine for all Christians.

4. Information from the discovery of the icon.

Observing the icon of Saint Fanourios that was found in Rhodes we can conclude many sig-nificant points which are as follows:

1. When we read the name of the Saint on the icon we conclude immediately that he was of Greek ancestry.

2. We also conclude that his parents were pious to give him such a Christian name (which means “Revealer”).

3. The youth would have been very educated to become a military officer.

4. We also reckon that the martyrdom of Saint Fanourios occurred during the second or third century when the persecutions of the Christians were at their peak.

5. Fanourios has obviously proven to be a great martyr from the many horrible tortures he suffered.

6. For there to be such a church found in Rhodes, we are also certain that he was honoured in churches by the pious Christians from the time of his martyrdom.

7. From the depiction of the Saint on the icon it appears that Saint Fanourios martyred at a young age.

5. Miracles of the Saint

Saint Fanourios worked many miracles for the pious who called upon his name and one of them was the following:

At one point in its history, Crete was occupied by the Latins (1204-1669 AD) who had their own Archbishop and for this reason they tried by all means to lead the inhabitants of the isl-and to Catholicism.

The Latins took an oppressive measure against Orthodoxy by banning the ordination of priests in Crete, forcing the Cretans to go over to the island of Tsirigo (Kethyra) to be or-dained by an Orthodox hierarch who served there.

At some point, three deacons set off from Crete for Tsirigo and having been ordained priests there, they were joyously returning to their tormented enslaved island. To their bad luck, Hagarene pirates captured them at sea and transported them to Rhodes, where they were sold to three different Hagarene masters.

The lot of the three priests was lamentable but a sweet occurrence came to sweeten their lot. They learned that in Rhodes Saint Fanourios worked miracles and they set their hopes in him, incessantly praying, each one separately invoking him to free them from the harsh captivity to the vile Hagarenes.

Each priest asked their master, without previously having communicated between them-selves, to allow them to go to church to venerate the icon of Saint Fanourios. They all received permission easily and so reverently venerated the icon of the Saint, wetting the earth with their tears and kneeling and praying with all their soul begging Saint Fanourios to inter-cede so that they may be relieved from the hands of the Hagarenes.

After the priests departed, having been consoled of their pain, Saint Fanourios appeared that night to all the masters and ordered them to free their captive priests, otherwise he would punish them severely. However, the Hagarene masters believed the intervention of the Saint to be some sort of magic and they chained their captives and started to torture them in the worst possible way.

However, the next night Saint Fanourios intervened more effectively. He loosed the three priests from their bonds and promised them that they would be freed from the Hagarenes the next day. He then appeared again to the Hagarenes and threatened them this time that if they did not free the priests in the morning he would use harsh measures against them.
The next morning the Hagarenes felt the punishment because they all lost their sight and their bodies became paralyzed. They were thus forced to seek the advice of their relatives and discuss the evil that had befallen them. All the masters then decided to invite the three priests in case they could help them. The only answer the priests gave them was that they would pray to God and He would decide.

The third night Saint Fanourios again appeared to the Hagarenes and informed them that if the three masters did not send in writing to his church their agreement for the release of the priests, they would never recover their health. The Hagarenes, whether they wanted to or not, wrote the letter the Saint asked for and declared straight out that they granted freedom to the three priests. These submissions were sent to the holy church of the Saint.

Even before the messengers of the Hagarenes returned from the church, the blind and para-lyzed faithless ones were completely healed according to the will of the Saint. The rich Ha-garenes gave the priests all the expenses for their journey and the priests before leaving went to the church, thanked the Saint for their release, and carefully copied the icon of Saint Fanourios, which they took to Crete where they honoured it every year with doxologies and litanies (processions).

6. The Pita (cake) of Saint Fanourios.

The great honour the Christians have for Saint Fanourios became the reason for the adoption of the customary tradition of the pita (cake) of the Saint, better known as “Fa-nouropita”.
The pita is usually small and round and is made of pure flour, sugar, cinnamon, and oil. After all these ingredients are mixed together, they are kneaded, put in a round cake form and the pita is baked under medium temperature in the oven.

The pita is prepared so that the Saint may reveal to someone a lost item, find a job for someone unemployed, deal on a lost cause, restore the health of someone sick, etc.

Our Church commemorates Saint Fanourios on August 27.

Source: www.impantokratoros.gr/saint-fanourios.en.aspx
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The vineyard and the harvest. Where are the fruits of our spiritual labours?Dear brothers and sisters,

Today saw a particularly joyful gathering of the faithful for our Liturgy, and it was a pleasure to welcome visitors who were either visiting for the first time, or who haven’t been for a while. It is always greatly encouraging to see the warmth of the welcome extended to anyone and everyone who comes through the door.

With Fr Deacon Mark away, I have to admit to rather having enjoyed praying the litanies, and some of the other prayers that rightly ‘belong’ to the deacon, but often fall to us as priests, because we have no deacon to assist. However, Fr Deacon Mark’s absence also made me appreciate how much the deacon does and how much pressure is taken off priests by the diaconal ministry.

Thanks to all who worked hard, as always: setting up for services, serving and singing, baking for the Liturgy, cooking and baking for the lunch table, with flowers and laundry, driving the priest to and fro… and so many other jobs. May the Lord bless you all!

Now, we are in the last week of the Church year and will begin the new indiction on 1/14th September. As we look around us, we are surrounded by the fruit of autumn in gardens, allotments, fields, hedgerows and parkland, so this ending before a new beginning is a fit time for us to reflect on the fruit that we have or have not produced in our spiritual lives, and our success or failure in planting and cultivating spiritual-fruit in those around us: in our marriages, families, homes, parishes and even our workplace.

It was fitting that we should have heard the parable of the vineyard and vine-growers in yesterday’s Liturgy, and some thoughts on the Gospel follow, below.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark

In yesterday’s Gospel, we heard a parable that employs the image of the vineyard for the House of Israel: symbolism that was old and well-known by the time of Christ’s ministry. In this parable, the Saviour used the imagery of the Prophet Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard (in Isaiah chapter 5), knowing that it would be easily recognised by the religious authorities to whom it was directed.

“1. Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

2. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.

4. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

5. And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

6. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!”

In the parable, the vineyard, as a symbol of Israel, is protected by a hedge all around, and this hedge has been interpreted as God’s Covenant, represented by circumcision and the Law of Moses. This was to be a boundary and a sign, setting Israel apart, and a moral and spiritual defence of both the vineyard with its vines and of the labourers within. But if the Jews - the men of Judah - are the vines, then who are the vine-growers with their watchtower in the middle of the vineyard?

The vine-growers were the pharisees, the priests and chief priests at the heart of the Jewish religious establishment, and their responsibility was to care for the vine of the Jewish people, pruning it and tending it to ensure that it grew healthily, was free of disease and dead wood, and produced abundant, sweet spiritual fruit.

The watchtower within the vineyard is an ancient symbol of the Temple - the Holy of Holies, in particular – and Jesus taught this very parable in the Temple itself, as He aimed it at the Sanhedrin: the highest Jewish court over which the high priest presided. Thus, the parable is directed at the vine-growers themselves in their own watchtower.

In the parable, it was to them that the master of the vineyard sent his servants to inspect the fruit at harvest-time: not grapes for the table or the market-place, but those intended for the winepress. Some of the holy fathers, interpreted this winepress as a symbol of the altar, making the harvest brought to it, Israel’s offering of her spiritual fruits to the Lord.

However, the servants sent to inspect the harvest and hold the tenants to account never saw any fruit in the parable, but only spiritual rebellion and violence from those who refused to cooperate. The vine-growers acted as though the vineyard is theirs, rather than being only labourers for the master. They not only ignored his demands, but also rejected his servants who were sent to them.

Thus, in sacred history, the prophets were beaten and killed when God sent them to put the vineyard of the House of Israel in order and to call the nation to repentance and renewal. Their message fell on deaf ears, as they were rejected by the powerful religious establishment looking out over the House of Israel from the watchtower of the Temple.

In St John Chrysostom’s Homily on this Gospel Parable we read,

“And He sent His servants, that is, the prophets, to receive the fruit; that is, their obedience, the proof of it by their works. But they even here showed their wickedness, not only by failing to give the fruit, after having enjoyed so much care, which was the sign of idleness, but also by showing anger towards them that came.”

St Jerome reminds us of the fate of the prophet-servants whom God sent to the vineyard – “Beat them, as Jeremiah; killed them, as Isaiah; stoned them, as Naboth and Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar.”

The religious grandees had become arrogant in the relationship between Israel and God, and had distorted the spiritual life and basis of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Living Faith had been replaced with the legalistic ritual-law that had attacked Christ for even showing love, mercy and compassion by healing on the Sabbath. Legal exactitude had become a golden calf, and a bridle over the whole house of Israel. The prophets were a threat to the status quo, so the religious leaders were unwilling to hear or accept their message.

Even the master’s son, a clear symbol of Christ, was unable to call them to their senses, but was set upon and prophetically killed, not inside the vineyard itself, but thrown outside to meet his death beyond its boundaries: Christ crucified outside the walls of the Holy City.

In answer to Christ’s question as to the fate of those who commit such an atrocity, in their reply the religious experts spoke of their own fate and that of status of the Jews as God’s chosen: “They say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.”

The vineyard was, of course, taken from the Jews, and Isaiah’s prophecy of the spoliation of the vineyard fulfilled by the Romans, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the exile of the Jews from the city. The Church as the New Israel was made to be God’s new vineyard.

Now we, even as members of the new Israel of Christ’s Church must take heed to this parable.

Dispossessed because of their rebellion and rejection of the Master, the fall of the vine-growers and their loss of the vineyard also has to a sobering warning to us. If their deluded and complacent lack of spiritual growth, disinterest in true holiness, and neglect of spiritual purification brought condemnation, might not the same condemnation not befall us for our slothfulness and lack of spiritual fruit?

We too shall be asked to offer the fruits of our spiritual life, and this will not simply be demanded from the Church’s equivalents of the pharisees and priests - our hierarchs and clergy - but from all who have been baptised into Christ, and to His death and Resurrection.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light...” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Saviour, as the Son of the Lord will demand that all show what has been achieved, and what fruit we have cultivated, as individuals and together within the vineyard of the Church - the new Israel - testing to see whether each of us truly belong to this holy nation.

Will we produce worthy fruits, or will we bring complacency, laziness, and indifference that will show that we have no place in the vineyard?

We confess the various fruits we should be producing every time we sing the Beatitudes during the Liturgy, as we did before the readings on Sunday:

spiritual poverty that makes us understand our total dependence on God, His mercy and love.

penthos: the mourning for our sins that leads us to repentance and the urgent need to change in following Christ, in whom we can find the healing and restoration that will allow His image to shine through us.

meekness: the humility that allows acceptance of God’s will and His ways for us, not the egotism and self-will that leads us away from God into a self-determined individualism, a deluded sense of self-sufficiency, and pride.

the hunger and thirst for righteousness, which is ongoing in an ever-growing desire for God and recognition of our need for Him, leading us to long for Him more and more. The more we know Him, the greater our desire to deepen this relationship; the closer we become, the closer still we wish to be.

mercy that truly reflects Christ’s own mercy - limitless and generous - expressed in patience, tolerance and forgiveness: a mercy that like His love is a dangerous, for it takes risks in the eyes of the world, not seeking reward, but only to selflessly give.

purity of heart, that is the fruit of our repentance in our ascetic struggle to put aside everything that comes between us and the Lord, and which ultimately allows us to experience God’s Grace.

peace-making, that expresses both love of God and of our fellow men: peace which hates all conflict, discord and division. In the Liturgy we are called to pray to the Lord in peace, as we are expected to already have this spiritual fruit within us, and in possession of this peace we then pray for its abiding presence: “For the peace from above and the salvation of our souls…”

patient and willing endurance of persecution and false accusation for Christ’s sake: a persecution that can only happen if we are consciously and openly confessing Christ and not hiding from the world.

Are the fruits of the Beatitudes part of the harvest of our lives?

Rejection of Christ by the vine-growers, is summed up by the Saviour in the parable, as He quotes the verses of Psalm 118 that we use at the singing of ‘God is the Lord’ at matins.

“The stone which the builders rejected; the same is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing: and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

… but this rejection is not limited to being an explicit dogmatic one, as we also reject Him every time we sin and rebel against Him.

A theoretical dogmatic confession of the Orthodox Christian Faith alone is not enough, as our failure to produce and offer spiritual fruits contains in itself an implicit rejection of Christ by our idleness and fruitlessness.

After speaking of Himself as the Cornerstone in the parable, the Lord continued… “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”

In commenting on this, St Jerome wrote that, “Whoso sinneth, yet believeth on Him, falls indeed upon a stone and is broken…” Let us take care, lest disobedience and rejection of the Gospel message cause us to stumble on the Cornerstone, but let us rather declare our discipleship by labouring for Him in love and devotion, offering abundant spiritual fruit at the harvest.

Let us take heed of St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law...” and let us labour for these in the vineyard and bring forth spiritual fruits abundantly, as we bemome not only labourers and harvesters, but the very fruit itself.

“Like a farmer who sees his fruits well ripened and prudently hastens to gather them that they might not be the least bit spoiled, so dost Thou also, O Saviour, gather Thy chosen ones who have laboured righteously.

Yet we, who are slothful and weak-willed, remain hardened, and our fruits never ripen; for we have not the resolve to labour without sparing ourselves, in order to ripen in good works, and rightly be gathered into the storehouse of life.”

- from ‘Psalm’ 53, from the Spiritual Psalter of St Ephraim the Syrian

Let us take heed!
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ПЕТРОВСКАЯ ИКОНА ПРЕСВЯТОЙ БОГОРОДИЦЫДень празднования: 24 августа / 6 сентября

Петровская икона Пресвятой Богородицы называется так потому, что была написана святителем Петром, митрополитом Московским († 21 декабря 1326 г.) в бытность его еще игуменом Ратского монастыря на Волыни. Во время посещения Ратской обители святителем Максимом, митрополитом Киевским и всея Руси († 6 декабря 1306), святой Петр поднес ему в дар эту икону. Митрополит перенес ее во Владимир на Клязьме, где тогда находилась его кафедра. По смерти святителя Максима игумен Геронтий, решивший захватить митрополичий престол, ходил с этой иконой к Константинопольскому Патриарху Афанасию (1303-1311). Во время плавания игумена Геронтия поднялась страшная буря. Ночью ему явилась Пресвятая Богородица и сказала: "Не на тебя возложится сан святительский, но на того, кто написал Мой образ". Когда он предстал перед Патриархом Афанасием с иконой, святитель Петр уже был в Константинополе. Патриарх передал икону святителю Петру со словами: "Приими святой Богородичный образ, который ты написал своими руками, ибо ради этого воздала тебе дар Сама Владычица, предсказав о тебе". Святитель Петр перенес икону во Владимир, а в 1325 году при перенесении митрополичьей кафедры в Москву икону как великую святыню поместили в Московском Успенском соборе.

Источникъ: days.pravoslavie.ru/Life/life4512.htm
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Congratulations to His Grace, Bishop Irenei, on his namedayThe clergy and the faithful of the Cardiff parish of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos greet His Grace, Bishop Irenei, as he celebrates his nameday.

Εις πολλά Έτη Δέσποτα!
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22 августа, старый стиль: Икона Богородицы Грузинская.Ко­гда в 1622 го­ду пер­сид­ский шах Аб­бас по­ко­рил Гру­зию, мно­гие хри­сти­ан­ские свя­ты­ни бы­ли по­хи­ще­ны, от­ве­зе­ны в Пер­сию и про­да­ны на­хо­див­шим­ся в то вре­мя в этой стране рус­ским куп­цам. Так Гру­зин­ская ико­на Бо­жи­ей Ма­те­ри, укра­шен­ная се­реб­ром и зо­ло­том, по­па­ла к неко­е­му куп­цу Сте­фа­ну, ко­то­рый хра­нил ее с глу­бо­ким по­чи­та­ни­ем и бла­го­го­ве­ни­ем. В это же вре­мя в Яро­слав­ле ку­пец Ге­ор­гий Лыт­кин, по тор­го­вым де­лам ко­то­ро­го Сте­фан был в Пер­сии, по­лу­чил во сне от­кро­ве­ние о свя­тыне, при­об­ре­тен­ной Сте­фа­ном, и по­ве­ле­ние ото­слать ее в Чер­но­гор­ский мо­на­стырь Ар­хан­гель­ской епар­хии, ос­но­ван­ный в 1603 го­ду. Ко­гда в 1629 го­ду Сте­фан воз­вра­тил­ся на Ро­ди­ну и по­ка­зал ико­ну Ге­ор­гию Лыт­ки­ну, тот вспом­нил о сво­ем ви­де­нии и от­пра­вил­ся в Двин­ские пре­де­лы в Чер­но­гор­скую оби­тель (на­зва­на она так по­то­му, что бы­ла по­стро­е­на на го­ри­стом и мрач­ном ме­сте, из­дав­на име­но­вав­шем­ся Чер­ной го­рой; впо­след­ствии оби­тель бы­ла пе­ре­име­но­ва­на в Крас­но­гор­скую). Там ико­на и про­сла­ви­лась чу­до­тво­ре­ни­я­ми. В 1654 го­ду во вре­мя мо­ро­вой яз­вы ико­на бы­ла при­не­се­на в Моск­ву, и мо­лив­ши­е­ся пе­ред ней из­бе­га­ли смер­то­нос­ной яз­вы.

Ныне ико­на пре­бы­ва­ет в хра­ме Жи­во­на­чаль­ной Тро­и­цы в Ни­кит­ни­ках г. Моск­вы. Мно­же­ство спис­ков с Гру­зин­ской ико­ны Бо­жи­ей Ма­те­ри, хра­ня­щи­е­ся и хра­нив­ши­е­ся ра­нее во мно­гих хра­мах Моск­вы, хра­ме свя­ти­те­ля Мар­ти­на Ис­по­вед­ни­ка (Воз­не­се­ния Гос­под­ня) в Алек­се­ев­ской но­вой сло­бо­де, Ра­иф­ской Бо­го­ро­дич­ной об­ще­жи­тель­ной пу­сты­ни Ка­зан­ской епар­хии, раз­ру­шен­ном в 1935 го­ду хра­ме в честь Гру­зин­ской ико­ны Пре­свя­той Бо­го­ро­ди­цы в Санкт-Пе­тер­бур­ге (при по­дво­рье Крас­но­гор­ско­го Бо­го­ро­диц­ко­го муж­ско­го мо­на­сты­ря Ар­хан­гель­ской епар­хии), сви­де­тель­ству­ют о ее глу­бо­ком по­чи­та­нии.

В 1658 го­ду по бла­го­сло­ве­нию Пат­ри­ар­ха Ни­ко­на бы­ло уста­нов­ле­но еже­год­ное празд­но­ва­ние Гру­зин­ской иконе Бо­жи­ей Ма­те­ри. Служ­ба бы­ла со­став­ле­на в 1698 го­ду смот­ри­те­лем Мос­ков­ской ти­по­гра­фии Фе­о­до­ром По­ли­кар­по­вым.

Источникъ: azbyka.ru/days/ikona-gruzinskaja
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The translation of the relics of St. Nectarios of Pentapolis (1953).Today, we remember the translation of the relics of St. Nectarios of Pentapolis in 1953.

Though many, if not most of our parishioners, will know little if anything of this great hierarch and shepherd, they will be well acquainted with his most celebrated hymn: O Pure Virgin - Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε.

As there is no need to rewrite what has already been written, we will let others tell his story.

St. Nectarios was born in 1846 in Selvyria, Thrace. From his youth he felt the calling to be a priest, and was tonsured a monk while pursuing theological studies in Athens. He distinguished himself as a pastoral figure, a loving and caring teacher as Dean of Risareios Seminary, a prolific theologian in writing more than 60 books in various fields, a saintly hierarch as Bishop of Pentapolis, Alexandria, and above all, a truly humble and pious man, setting a unique example of unselfish humility, Godly poverty, prudent love, and unfailing endurance.

Fulfilling a life-long hope, St. Nectarios started a convent on the Island of Aegina where he had heard that there were monasteries and churches that were in disuse. There he established a convent in a church formerly dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. His first monastic was a blind nun named Xenia whom St. Nectarios made the superior of the first community. It was soon evident that this simple monastic Bishop was truly a gifted man and many people sought him out for spiritual direction. In his lifetime, and even more so after his death, St. Nectarios became a lighthouse of God's grace shining throughout the world, steering many through the dark storms we so often encounter in this life and leading many to the safe shores of repentance and salvation. What made him best known in Greece and throughout the world is that he proved to be a clear vessel of the grace of God Who granted him the gift of working miracles even before his repose onto eternal life.

On September 20, 1920, the nun Euphemia brought St. Nectarios to the Aretaieion Hospital of Athens, a state hospital for the poor. The doctors diagnosed St. Nectarios with a terminal disease and for two months this saintly hierarch lived in the midst of terrible pains. On the evening of November 8, 1920, St. Nectarios fell asleep in the Lord at the age of seventy-four. The day he reposed, the whole hospital was filled with a sweet fragrance. For some days afterward, the hospital could not use the room where St. Nectarios lay because of the strong fragrance. This room is now a chapel dedicated to the Saint.

The body of St. Nectarios was taken to Piraeus and kept in the Church of the Holy Trinity while a small, wooden coffin was prepared for him. From there St. Nectarios was taken to Aegina where he was given a simple burial at the Convent of the Holy Trinity. Some years later, as is the custom in Greece, his grave was opened in order to remove the relics.

When the grave was opened, the Saint was found to be whole, uncorrupt, and issuing forth a strong yet sweet fragrance. Not even his vestments had changed in any way. It was just as if he had fallen asleep and been buried that very day. His monastery in Aegina is one of the most renowned shrines in Greece to this day.

While there are hundreds of saints whose sanctity has been declared over the centuries, there are few who enjoy universal veneration and popularity as intense as the veneration of St. Nectarios has become. Although he was of Greek descent, he is not only a saint for the Greek people, and neither merely adopted by the Slavs, nor any one national people. He is for us -- all of us.

Many wonderful and faith-filled gifts have been given through the prayer of intercession to St. Nectarios through the years. There are several of our faithful who have testified privately and publicly of the miraculous intercessions of St. Nectarios in many ways and forms. The power of intercession through faith and prayer is great. It is a power which is humanly unexplainable. There is no scientific explanation for the powerful melding of a saint's relics, holy oil and prayer. What can we say and how can we explain that power better than what the Psalmist has already explained for us? Hear Psalm 103:

". . .The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering and of great goodness". This is how the Lord is kind and compassionate and merciful to us - we who suffer from all kinds of diseases and maladies. He sends us relief from these burdens through His holy saints, IF we have faith, IF we believe. Let us, then, with one mind, one heart, and one purpose sing together in prayerful Supplication to Saint Nectarios.

Source: stnectarios.com/about-us/patron_saint/stn-history

As for his to the Mother of God, let us continue to sing it. or pray the words, in these days of the Dormition:

Aghni Parthene -" O Pure Virgin" by St. Nectarios, Tone 5

O pure and virgin Lady,/ O spotless Theotokos: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Virgin Queen and Mother/ O dewey fleece most sacred:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O height transcending heaven above/ O beam of light most radiant:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O joy of chaste and virgin maids/ surpassing all the angels:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O brilliant light of heaven above/ most clear and most radiant: / Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Commanding chief of heaven above/ O holiest of holies/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O ever-virgin Mary/ O Mistress of creation:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Bride all-pure and spotless/ O Lady all-holy:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O holy Mary, Bride and Queen/ O cause of our rejoicing/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Maiden Queen most hon'rable/ O Mother most holy/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

More precious than the cherubim/ more glorious than the seraphim:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Surpassing principalities/ dominions, thrones and powers:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, song of the cherubim/ Rejoice, hymn of the angels:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, ode of the seraphim/ and joy of the archangels:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o peace; Rejoice, o joy/ and haven of salvation: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O bridal chamber of the Word/ unfading, fragrant blossom:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, delight of paradise/ Rejoice, life everlasting: / Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o holy tree of life/ and fount of immortality:/ Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!
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Come now sweetest Mother, and enter with rejoicing thy sweetest Son's glad presence.

Enclosed art thou O Garden, in which we will discover the Tree of Life unending.

Sealed art thou O Fountain, from which the streams of Life Unending pour most wondrously with sweetness.

Deem thy servants worthy to enter into the Kingdom that is thy Son's, O Virgin.

From the encomia of the Dormtion of the Mother of God.
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O Theotokos, Mother of Life, the apostles, who were scattered throughout the world, were caught up in the air by clouds and borne to thy dormition; and in a single choir they stood before thine all-holy body; and, burying it with honor, they sang, chanting to thee the cry of Gabriel: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, Virgin Mother unwedded, the Lord is with thee, with them entreat thou thy Son and our God, that our souls be saved. ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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The feast of the the Icon of the Mother of God, 'Queen of All'.

Troparion, Tone 4.

O venerable icon of our Queen bestowing grace * on those who fervently seek thy mercy with hope * Save them O Pure Virgin now. * Lift the hurdles of those who fall down before thee for aid * In all the perils guard thy faithful flock‚ * Who seek thy help * until the end of times.
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Dormition and the octave at Newman Hall.Dear brothers and sisters,

This has been a wonderful four days at Newman Hall, where the celebrations for the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God stretched from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon.

Having been unable to celebrate Pascha as a parish, it was especially beautiful to come together on this Summer Pascha to celebrate the Dormition of the Virgin and the Assumption of her spotless soul and body into heaven, that she might share in the resurrection of her Son.

On Thursday afternoon, our little painted shroud/plashchanitsa was arranged on its ‘bier’ at the centre of the refectory, adorned with flowers and lavender and rosemary bags, made to by the children to be blessed, according to custom on this feast of the Mother of God. So, when the burial-verses were sung at this symbolic grave, the children’s scented offerings accompanied the icon of the Virgin’s falling asleep.

The encomia or lamentations sung at the bier, poetically meditated on the feelings of the apostles in coming together to bid farewell to the Mother of God, the radiance of the reception of her soul into the hands of the Saviour, and the glory of her bodily translation into heaven. We heard of the pain of saying good-bye; the difficulty of letting go; but also of the hope and knowledge of the resurrection; the realisation that the Mother of God is now the intercessor and consolation for the whole world; and that and that she reveals the way to the same heavenly glory of the resurrection, and a place at the Lord’s right hand for those who are willing to struggle on the narrow path of Faith.

On Friday, we celebrated the festal Liturgy in the refectory, hearing of the upside-down nature of the Gospel expressed in the zadostoinik:

In thee, O Virgin without spot, the bounds of nature are overcome: for childbirth remains virgin and death is betrothed to life. O Theotokos, Virgin after bearing child and alive after death, do thou ever save thine inheritance.

Not only has the Lord ‘put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted the humble and meek’, but has taken her who remained ever-virgin, even in conceiving and childbirth, and made her death into a translation to everlasting life, a theme succinctly summed up in the troparion of the feast:

In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; in thy dormition thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated unto life, since thou art the Mother of Life; and by thine intercessions dost thou deliver our souls from death.

The herbs were blessed at the end of the Liturgy, as we prayed,

O Almighty, God from before all ages, by Thy word alone Thou didst create out of nothingness the heavens, earth, sea and all things visible and invisible. Thou didst command that the earth bring forth plants and trees to serve both man and animal, each according to its need. In Thine infinite goodness Thou didst ordain that these plants serve not only as food but also as medicine for the sick body. We beseech Thee, bless these herbs and these flowers and bestow upon them Thy blessing and endow them with Thy power. Make them to serve man and animal alike as a defence against all sickness and every defilement, for Thou art our God, and unto Thee do we offer up glory, to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

We then shared a festal meal, though the full breaking of the fast would have to wait until Saturday, when meat, eggs and dairy food would be permitted. I was very happy to be able to do this with parishioners in sharing a Sicilian brunch of spinach and mozzarella arancini, coffee and cannoli, and I must add that this ‘consolation’ felt very much part of feast, as should any celebratory meal in which we come together to mark the celebrations of the Church year. After all, what do we sing at the end of vespers and Liturgy? O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.

Our celebration of the after-feast continued with vespers in Saturday evening and the hours and Liturgy on Sunday. A portion of the funeral-encomia were chanted before the veneration of the cross and plashchanitsa at the end of the Liturgy, and a festive lunch during which we reflected on the continuation of liturgy throughout lockdown, despite the impossibility of the faithful attending, the creative ways in which we have adapted to sustain parish life, and the need to share as much as possible even under ongoing limitations in order to preserve our bonds as a true family in Faith.

As usual the hens had their Sunday visit, with grain from the kutia supplies after we had relieved them of four freshly laid eggs, dated with a pencil and now awaiting a student to eat them!

Again, I wish you all a happy and joyful feast and encourage you all to continue to celebrate the Octave of the Dormition, singing the troparion and kontakion and praying the hymns of the feast, especially the canons, which may be found online in the August menaion:

orthodox-europe.org/liturgics/menaion/august/

Thank you to all who worked so incredibly hard to make the celebration such a joyful occasion, and again, greetings for the ongoing feast. Съ праздникомъ!

In Christ - Fr Mark
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One of the great joys of life at the chaplaincy is the feathered companionship of the hens - each with their own personality, and habits. The children are always excited to go and look for fresh eggs after Sunday Liturgy, and the hens take everything in good stride. They now associate cassocks with the arrival of grain, happily partaking of our artoclasia, but are less convinced by priestly visits after the lesser blessing of water. Nevertheless, the hens, like the beehives are blessed with the buildings, boundaries and gardens. Glory to God for all things! ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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The Dormition of the Holy Theotokos

TROPARION, TONE 1: In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; in thy dormition thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated unto life, since thou art the Mother of Life; and by thine intercessions dost thou deliver our souls from death.
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The Dormition in Cardiff. Happy Feast! Съ праздникомъ!“Today the Holy Church solemnly glorifies the honorable Dormition or translation of the Mother of God from earth to heaven. A wonderful translation – she died without serious illness, peacefully. Her soul is taken up in the divine hands of Her Son and carried up into the heavenly abode, accompanied by the sweet singing of angels. And then, her most pure body is transferred by the apostles to Gethsemane where it is honorably buried, and on the third day it is resurrected and taken up to heaven.”

St. John of Kronstadt, Sermon on the Dormition of the Theotokos

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all on this feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.

As I sit here typing in the refectory of Newman Hall, the small painted plashchanitsa of the Mother of God before me is surrounded by flowers and little lavender and rosemary bags made by Georgina and Norman-John’s granddaughters. These were blessed together with flowers and fragrant herbs at the end of the Liturgy, as an offering to the Mother of God and evlogia of this feast.

During yesterday’s evening service, the funeral encomia were sung before the same flower-adorned shroud at the centre of our temporary refectory-church, beginning with words mirroring the lamentations of Great and Holy Friday,

“In a grave they laid Thee yet, O Christ, who art life and they now have laid the Mother of Life as well: both to angels and to men a sight most strange.”

From the first stasis of the encomia for the Dormition.

In our celebration, the symbolic recreation of the tomb of the Theotokos, is a sign of the way in which we, as Orthodox Christians, enter into the inner-meaning of the feasts, not simply as past events which we remember each year, but as ones having a spiritual dimension and meaning transcending time and space.

Through them, we make the past present as we share and participate in the events we remember. Through the poetry of our hymns, through our iconography and liturgical ceremonies, we spiritually relive events in the history of salvation, and by this reliving and actualisation each Christian soul is taught and instructed; gaining a greater understanding of the meaning of Faith, of the lives of the Mother of God and the saints; called to spiritual growth, strengthening and deepening our life in Christ. Through these celebrations the lives of Christ and the Mother of God increasingly permeate and penetrate our own lives, so that Christ and the His all-pure Mother can be reflected in us, more and more.

When we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, the festal canon offers us a poetic meditation of the events, through a hymnodic dialogue between the Archangel and the Mother of God; on Palm Sunday, we join the children of the Hebrews carrying palms and branches, singing, “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord”; on Holy and Great Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross as we hear the Passion narratives and later in the evening we join the Noble Joseph, Nicodemus, and the myrrh-bearing women as Christ is buried with a funeral procession and lamentations. Then, on Pascha night, we go with lamps and candles around the church, only to return to the place of Christ’s tomb to find it empty: an icon of the resurrection in its place proclaiming that Christ is Risen!

In this present feast, we are called to a great synaxis, as the apostles rush to Gethsemane to bid farewell to the Mother of God, and the Lord comes with the heavenly hosts to receive the soul of His all-pure Mother. We see this meeting of heaven and earth in the icon of the feast, and as we celebrate, we too are included and called to take part in this event, celebrating not only the Dormition, but also the Mother of God’s bodily Assumption into Heaven.

In the litia, we sing,

“Come, ye assembly of those who love the feasts of the Church! Come, let us form a choir! Come, and with hymns let us crown the temple, the ark of the rest of God! For today heaven expandeth its bosom, receiving her who gave birth to Him Who is invisible to all, and the earth receiveth the well-spring of Life, who imparteth blessing and is adorned with splendour. The angels form a chorus with the apostles, gazing with awe upon her who gave birth to the Author of Life, and who is translated from life to Life. Let us all bow down before her, praying: O Mistress, forget not thy kinship with those who celebrate thy most holy dormition with faith!”

And standing in the centre of the temple, in spirit we chant to the Mother of God,

“We exalt thee greatly, Theotokos most pure, and we glorify thy holy Dormition now, as we bow before thine honoured precious tomb.”

From the first stasis of the encomia for the Dormition.

Like the Life-Giving Tomb of the Saviour, the emptiness of the sepulchre of the Mother of God in Gethsemane becomes a joyous proclamation of the resurrection, as the Mother of Life is raised to life. The icon of the resurrection shows the Harrowing of Hell, in which Christ grasps Adam and Eve to free them with the righteous of the Old Testament, leading them into the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, for them this is not a bodily resurrection: only the resurrection of the righteous souls, who still await the resurrection of the body. Yet in the Dormition and Assumption, we see the consummation of the resurrection in the fullness of the risen and ascended humanity of the Mother of God; the humanity which she gifted to the God-Man, our Saviour, the author of our resurrection.

Our icons depict the Saviour receiving the soul of His Mother, represented as a babe in swaddling clothes, but at the opening of the sepulchre for St Thomas to bid farewell to the Theotokos on the third day the absence of her body attested to her physical resurrection and the translation of her body to heaven, where she was united with her Son, in body and soul.

“Thy death became a passage to an everlasting and better life, O pure one, translating thee from transitory life to that which is truly divine and eternal, that thou mightest behold thy Son and Lord in gladness, O pure one.”

From the fourth ode of the first canon stasis of the Dormition.

In the zadostoinik of Pascha we sing, “Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, The glory of the Lord has shone on thee. Exult now and be glad, O Zion, Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos, In the Resurrection of thy Son!” and in this feast we see its fulfilment, as through her own resurrection the Mother of God enters the New Jerusalem, where she is truly radiant in the glory of her Son and Lord.

In this journey from death to life the Mother of God as Hodegetria, ‘she who shows the way’, continues to show us the way into the promise of the resurrection of Christ, through her love of God, prayer, dedication, selflessness, purity, obedience, and all of the virtues of the Christian life and the Holy Gospel which were made real in her earthly life.

As we celebrate this Summer Pascha, if it is to be have real spiritual meaning to us, and not simply be a beautiful pageant, a cultural event, or act of historical re-enactment, we have to accept that through this feast the Mother of God calls us to dedicated and active spiritual lives based on obedience and podvig. Unless we accept this, we fail to understand the Dormition and can have no hope of following the Mother of God in her translation from earth to heaven. By the radiant example of her life and death, she calls us to live in constant preparation and readiness for the life of the world to come.

St John of Kronstadt wrote…

“This preparation for the meeting of the heavenly King before the dread judgment seat, after death, is essentially the person’s preparation throughout the whole of his life. This preparation means a change in all his thoughts, and the moral change of all his being, so that the whole man would be pure and white as snow, washing clean everything that defiles the body and spirit, so that he is adorned with every virtue: repentance, meekness, humility, gentleness, simplicity, chastity, mercifulness, abstention, spiritual contemplation, and burning love for God and neighbour.

And so, ye participants in the Christian feasts, and especially the present feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, ye who are brightly adorned with every virtue and translated to the heavenly kingdom, to Her Son and God, proclaim to each and every one about preparing their souls to be the dwelling place of the Lord, about continual repentance, and about the incorruptible adornment of Christian virtue. Let your death also be unashamed and peaceful, serving as the pledge of a good answer at the dread judgment seat of Christ. Amen.”

Only by embracing the example Mother of God, labouring for Christ and struggling to follow Him every day of our lives can we say with boldness and Faith:

“Deem thy servants worthy to enter into the Kingdom that is thy Son’s, O Virgin.”

From the third stasis of the encomia for the Dormition.

Поздравление с Успением Богородицы!

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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Prayer at Daybreak, by Archimandrite SophronySource: silouansophrony.wixsite.com/orthodox/post/prayers-of-elder-sophrony

O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who of Thine inscrutable goodness didst call me to this life;
Who didst bestow on me the grace of Baptism and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who hast imbued me with the desire to seek Thee,
the one true God: hear my prayer. I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom; no strength except in Thee, O God. Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee. But Thou didst say to Thy disciples, 'Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive' and 'Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.' Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit. Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thou dost give unto me,
Thine unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing
enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory
with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom: aware always of Thy presence. Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, shew me the path of Thy will, and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin. O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open, Thou knowest what things I have need of.
Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance, Thou knowest my infirmity and my soul's corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.
Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer and by Thy Holy Spirit teach me the way wherein I should walk; and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths spare me not O Lord, but force me back to Thee. By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good. Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul; from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man. Teach me what I should say and how I should speak. If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace that causeth neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man. Establish me in the path of Thy commandments and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law of my being
on this earth and all eternity. Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me. Spare me in my affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me. In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things. Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness. Have mercy upon me. Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption. Do Thou rather increase in me this presumption, and grant unto me, the worst of men, to love Thee as Thou hast commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength: with my whole being. Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit,
teach me good judgment and knowledge. Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave. Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance. Take me not away in the midst of my days,
nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end, forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour
and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me; and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat. Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind: Hear my prayer.
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At the divine behest, the God-bearing apostles were caught up from whence they were, and, coming to thine all-pure and life-creating body, they venerated it with love. And the hosts of heaven above, arriving with their Master, were seized with awe as they accompanied the all-pure body which had received God; and they went forth in beauty and cried aloud invisibly to the hierarchies above: “Behold the divine Maiden, the Queen of all, is come! Lift up your gates, and receive her above the world, who is the Mother of everlasting Light; for it is through her that salvation hath come to all the human race. We cannot gaze upon her, we are unable to render her fitting honor; for her excellence passeth all understanding, Wherefore, O all-pure Theotokos, dwelling ever with thy life-bearing King and Offspring, pray thou without ceasing, that He preserve and save thy new people from every attack of the adversary; for we have acquired thine intercession, manifestly blessing thee with splendor forever.

Dormition Vespers: doxasticon on 'Lord I have cried'.
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The Dormition and the Burial of the Mother of God.Dear brothers and sisters,

After such a wet and unseasonal day, I am very happy to be looking out of a train window in the mid-afternoon sun, on the way to the chaplaincy to celebrate the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.

This wonderful and beautiful feast, is our Summer Pascha, overflowing with the joy of Christ’s victory over death, as His empty Life-Giving-Tomb is mirrored in the empty sepulchre of the Mother of God in Gethsemane.

When the apostles opened it on the third day, for St Thomas, lately arrived, to say goodbye and venerate the body of the Theotokos, they saw that it had been translated to Heaven by the Risen Lord. Assumpta est Maria!

For she has gone away from here and draws near the eternal mountains, she who is the true Mount Sion, where God was pleased to dwell, as the Psalmist’s lyre sings. Today she who was heaven on earth is wrapped in a cloak of incorruptibility; she has moved to a better, more blessed dwelling-place. Today the spiritual moon, shining with the light of God, has come into heavenly conjunction with the “Sun of righteousness,” eclipsing her temporary home in this present life; rising anew in His home, she is radiant with the dignity of immortality. Today that ark of holiness, wrought with gold and divinely furnished, has been lifted up from her tabernacle on earth and is borne towards the Jersualem above, to unending rest...

From St. Theodore the Studite’s Homily on the Dormition.

In Jerusalem, the burial service for the Mother of God, with the Lamentations mirroring Holy Saturday matins, has all ready been chanted today, and the icon of the of the Mother of God, who has fallen asleep, placed in her tomb in Gethsemane.

Throughout the Orthodox world, this will be repeated, with local variations and traditions: celebrated at vespers in some parts of the Orthodox world, and at matins in other places.

For those unable to go to church for this glorious feast, it would be spiritually profitable and a source of blessing to simply read the Lamentations in the icon corner, before a festally decorated icon of the Mother of God, and before the icon of her Dormition if it is available.

The English text of the Lamentations used in the Gethsemane skete of the Trinity-St.Sergius Lavra may be found here:

www.podoben.org/files/pdf/mixed/Feasts/Dormition/Lamentations-for-Dormition.pdf

Wishing you a blessed celebration of the feast.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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I am held fast in the mire of sin, and there is no strength or courage in me; the tempest of my trespasses hath overwhelmed me. Look upon me, O Virgin, I entreat thee, for thou hast borne the Word, who alone lovest mankind. Deliver me from every sin, from all the passions that destroy my soul, and from every ill inflicted by the enemy, that I may sing with joy: Intercede with thy Son and God, O Undefiled, that remission of transgressions may be given unto those who in faith take refuge beneath thy protection. ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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13/26 August: The Vologda Icon of the Mother of God “of the Seven Arrows”

The “Seven Arrows” Icon of the Mother of God depicts the Virgin’s heart pierced by seven arrows. For a long time the icon was located at the belltower stairway entrance of a church in honor of the Apostle John the Theologian (near Vologda). Since it was face downwards, they mistook the icon for an ordinary board and walked on it. Then a cripple in the city of Kadnikova had a vision that he would receive healing after praying before this icon. They served a Molieben before the newly-discovered icon, after which the sick one became well. The icon was especially glorified in 1830 during a cholera epidemic at Vologda.
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St Laurence Day. God bless our deacons!Once again, the refectory of Newman Hall was transformed into our makeshift chapel as we celebrated the after-feast of the Transfiguration and the feast of St Laurence of Rome, followed by a litia for the departed.

Now that the novelty of using the refectory has worn off, our parishioners and visitors have found small ways to beautify the Liturgy, such as in the provision of embroidered cloths, and bringing scented flowers to decorate the icons.

Given the enforced minimalism of our setting, with most of our possessions locked in the closed University Church and convent, even the smallest gestures of devotion banish any clinical feeling.

As we look forward to the feast of the Dormition on Friday, may we ask that those wishing to attend the Liturgy email Father Deacon Mark as soon as possible. Equally, would those wishing to attend Sunday Liturgy please contact the clergy.

Of late, our parish at Newman Hall has become the centre of worship for the faithful from a wide area, from West Wales to Somerset and Gloucestershire. We welcome all who make the journey to the chaplaincy and are happy to support those who would otherwise be without the Holy Mysteries.

As we celebrate the memory of St Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome, martyred in 285, we express our gratitude to our own deacon and pay tribute to his diakonia.

Our deacons are very often relegated to being little more than musical functionaries, particularly if they have a good basso-profundo voice. However, limiting the diaconate in this way debases this sacred ministry.

Originally, deacons were ordained to assist the bishops in good deeds and works of charity. In addition to assisting our priests in their pastoral and administrative duties, they should still embrace the original call to works of mercy. However, for any real diakonia to happen, we need parish priests who do not insist on jealously doing and controlling everything themselves. For diakonia to happen, deacons need to be allowed to exercise and realise their important ministry; service can only happen if our deacons are allowed to serve in the fulness of their calling.

For us in South Wales, the strictures of lockdown and the need to find alternative ways to continue liturgical life and make the Holy Mysteries accessible, have shown the very real need for a deacon in our community. Whether arranging services, coordinating confession and Holy Communion, giving training and instruction, checking the welfare of our parishioners, or driving me from house to house for hours on end Father Mark’s diakonia has been central to parish life. When other local Orthodox communities shut their doors and ceased services, diaconal ministry in our South Wales ROCOR community ensured that worship and the administration of Holy Communion continued without interruption.

We pray for the deacons within the British portion of our diocese - Father Mark in Cardiff, Fathers Mark and Andrew in Mettingham, and Father Andrij in Chiswick - and pray that we may be served by more deacons in the years to come.

Perhaps some of these deacons will become priests in the future, but we should never relegate the diaconate to simply being a steppingstone to the priesthood. It is a vital ministry in its own right, as those who follow in the footsteps of St Stephen and St Laurence, continue to serve the needs of the Church and the faithful in a vital way.

Dear Fathers, may God grant you many years!
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Do not press for your own needs in anything, for your discipleship was not of the kind that your needs should richly be met in everything. No, your discipleship was to a state of need, to poverty in Christ. If your needs are made good, then consider this as an extra. If you consider the meeting of your needs in this light, then you will give thanks, and you will not complain about your state of need.

John the Solitary
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Greetings on the Transfiguration.Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you all on this feast of the Transfiguration.

We celebrated very simply here in Cardiff today, with a Liturgy in the refectory of Newman Hall, followed by the blessing of grapes and other fruits to mark the feast. There were considerably fewer in number than on Sunday, but it was nevertheless a joy to have virtually all of those present confess and commune of the Holy Mysteries.

The icon of the feast upon the analoy narrated the events of the Transfiguration, with Jesus clothed in glory between Moses and Elijah, whilst Peter, James and John fall stunned at His feet, overpowered by the uncreated light of Tabor.

This event, before the Lord’s passion and death, revealed Him in His glory to those who would see Him being led ‘as a sheep to the slaughter’, as the Man of Sorrows, without beauty of comeliness.

Father Seraphim Rose, of blessed memory, wrote that…

“Orthodox theology sees in the Transfiguration a prefigurement of our Lord’s Resurrection and His Second Coming, and more than this - since every event of the Church calendar has an application to the individual spiritual life - of the transformed state in which Christians shall appear at the end of the world, and in some measure even before then. In the foreshadowing of future glory which is celebrated in this Feast, the Holy Church comforts her children by showing them that after the temporary sorrows and deprivations with which this earthly life is filled, the glory of eternal blessedness will shine forth; and in it even the body of the righteous will participate.”

When we celebrate Pascha, of which today’s feast is a foretaste, we sing, “Let us purify our senses, and we shall see Christ, shining in the unapproachable Light of his resurrection…,” and week by week, in the Beatitudes of the Liturgy we sing, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.

So, we cannot expect to encounter Christ without this conscious effort to be cleansed by repentance and to be among the pure in heart, and for us to enter into the future glory and the transformation to which this feast invites us, we must first be willing to step onto the mountain in the first place.

Without this desire and its expression in spiritual activity, we remain deluded and sin will continue to blind our eyes to the glory of God, His Grace and His call to humanity to a new and restored life in Him. Instead of seeing God, the Church and the world with spiritual eyes, we will remain absorbed in our fallen selves, seeing everything (including ourselves) in a broken and dysfunctional way, with eyes clouded by sin.

If we cannot even see ourselves, our neighbours, the Church and the world truly and clearly, how can we expect to even glimpse Christ?

This feast may be heard as a call to be like Moses and put off our shoes as we step onto the mountain – leaving the dust and dirt of the world behind. The Lord, who appears between him and Elijah, is not revealed in this glorious epiphany on the shores of the sea, close to the cities and towns where He so often taught the multitudes. Rather, He took the inner core of his disciples away from the world of their everyday existence to the heights of the mountain: not a pleasant walk or easy stroll, but a journey requiring toil and effort.

If we are to follow them, we must do so knowing that our journey towards Christ will also require spiritual labour, and will sometimes be painful, arduous and tough, requiring us to seek to become changed by Christ in the process; labouring for Him; being healed by Him; having our eyes open to the potentiality of becoming citizens of heaven.

This process will be one in which we face our weaknesses, faults and passions, seeking to overcome them and banish them, so that the image of God may be restored in us. This canot be passive, but only through conscious activity and spiritual engagement.

No-one who wishes to climb a mountain expects an easy time. On the contrary we expect a challenge in which we will become hungry, thirsty, aching, breathless and tired. Yet, even among the Orthodox we meet those who do not expect any hardship or exhaustion in trying to be a Christian. They do not even understand the Christian life is to climb the mountain, to try and simply glimpse the glory of God for a fleeting moment and be close to Him.

In the struggle of our spiritual ‘climb’, we may fall and roll back down the mountainside, but if we fall we pick ourselves up, bruised and bloodied though we may be, repentant in resuming the ascent from our fallen, worldly state towards the heights to which Christians are called. We dust ourselves off and cleanse ourselves with tears of repentance and confession. This is the way of the spiritual mountain, and on this journey, the Holy Mysteries are our nourishment when we hunger, and first-aid when we fall.

We may keep treading the same steps again and again, before we finally make it to the next stage of the ascent. The truth is that we do and must struggle on our spiritual climb, as we are continually called to leave the old self behind, to grow in Christ and seek spiritual perfection and holiness.

Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Saviour transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

(From the discourse on the Holy Transfiguration, by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica)

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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Prayers to the Most Holy Theotokos for Every Day of the Week by Schema-hieromonk Nilus of Sora Skete (†1870)We have published Schema-hieromonk Nilus’s prayers to the Mother of God before, but we venture to do so again in the hope that they may be of value as we prepare for the Dormition of the Mother of God.

Sunday: All-merciful Virgin Theotokos, Mother of compassions and love for mankind, my most beloved hope and aspiration! O Mother of the most sweet and most desired Savior, Who exceedeth every love, Jesus Christ, the Lover of mankind and my God, the Light of my darkened soul! I, the exceeding sinful and hopeless one, fall down before thee; to thee I make my prayer, O well-spring of compassion, Virgin Mary, who didst bear the Abyss of compassion and Depth of mercies and love for mankind: Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, I painfully cry to thee; have mercy on me who am all in wounds, who have fallen among brutish thieves and who am, alas, stripped naked of the garment in which the Father clothed me. Wherefore I lie stripped of every good deed, my wounds stinking and festering before my madness. My Mistress, Theotokos, look down on me, I humbly pray thee, with thy merciful eye and despise me not, who am all in darkness, all in filth, all immersed in the mire of passions, terribly fallen and unable to stand. Do thou take pity on me and grant me a helping hand, lift me up out of sinful depths, O my Joy! Deliver me from them that surround me; make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save the perishing, cleanse the filthy, raise up the terrible fallen: for thou canst do all things, as thou art the Mother of God Almighty. Pour forth on me the oil of thy compassion and grant me to overflow the wine of compunction, for I have acquired thee as truly the only hope in my life; turn thou not away from me who flee to thee, but behold my grief, O Virgin, and the longing of my soul and accept this prayer and save me, O thou the Mediatress of my salvation. Amen.

Monday: From polluted lips accept thou a prayer, O unblemished, pure and most-pure Virgin Theotokos, and despise not my words, O my Joy, but look down on me and have pity, O Mother of my Maker. During my lifetime do thou not abandon me, for thou knowest, O Mistress, that I place all my hope on thee and all mine aspiring is after thee. Wherefore, at the time also of my death, stand thou before me, O my helper, and be not then ashamed of me. For I know, O Virgin, that I am guilty of many sins, and I, the wretched one, tremble, contemplating that hour. But thou, my Joy, reveal unto me then thy presence, work thy mercy marvelously upon me, O Mediatress of my salvation. Rescue me, O Mistress, from the cruelty of the demons, and from the fearsome and terrible trial of the spirits of the air, and deliver me from their malice, and transform all that grief and sorrow into joy by thine enlightenment, and grant me to pass unharmed through the principalities and powers of darkness, and to attain to worship at the throne of glory before Christ our God, Who sitteth there with His Unoriginate Father and All-Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday: O my most holy Mistress, the Theotokos, who art far more honorable than the angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and far more holy than all the saints, O Virgin Mother of God! Save me, thy humble and sinful servant, for thou knowest, all-merciful Lady, that, after God, I place all my hope in thee, and that I have no other refuge of salvation but thee, O all-good one. Thou art my strength, O Mistress, thou art my power, thou my rejoicing in sorrows, thou my haven in temptations, thou my correction in falls, thou also mine all-hoped for salvation, O Mother of my Lord and Maker! Help me, who sail upon the depths of this life, terribly beset and endangered by drowning in sin. Grant me a helping hand, my helper, and deliver me from the mire of the deep, that I not sink down into the abyss of despair: for the storm of sins and passions hath risen against me and the waves of transgressions overwhelm me. But do thou, O compassionate Mother, thou haven of passionlessness, direct and save me, O hope of the hopeless and mediatress of my salvation. Amen.

Wednesday: O Theotokos, thou art my hope, thou art a wall and haven of good hope and a refuge of salvation for me who am exhausted by the presence of passions! Save me from all mine enemies that persecute my soul and hunt for it with various temptations; for on the way wherein I walk they have hidden many snares for me, many scandals, many hardships, many deceptions, and many afflictions of soul and body snare me into sinful falls and I, the wretched one, have already fallen into the traps of the enemy and am bound and held by them; and what shall I do, I the despairing one? I know not! For if I seek to repent, I am held by lack of feelings and hardness of heart and a single tear! Alas for my cursed state! Alas for my deprivation! Alas for my poverty! To whom then, can I turn, I the guilty one? Only to thee, the compassionate Mother of our Lord and Savior, the hope of the hopeless, the wall and protection of them that flee unto thee! Turn not away from me who am filthy: I have thee as the only consolation in my life, O Virgin Mary Theotokos, and to thee alone in every need do I flee with boldness; do not abandon me, then, in this life and at the hour of my death come thou to mine aid, O my helper, that all mine enemies may behold thee and be put to shame, being conquered by thee, O Mistress, Mediatress of my salvation. Amen.

Thursday: Who can worthily bless thee, All-holy Virgin; what lips are capable of hymning thy majesty which surpasseth all conceiving? Most glorious are all the mysteries fulfilled in thee, O Theotokos, loftier than thought and word. At the beauty of thy virginity and thy most radiant purity the cherubim did marvel and the seraphim were struck with awe; for the miracle of the Childbirth without corruption neither human nor angelic tongue can tell. For from thee the Ageless and Only-Begotten Son of God, God the Word, ineffably took flesh, was born and lived among men; and thee, as His Mother, hath He greatly magnified, revealing thee as the Queen of all creation and for us the signal refuge of salvation. Wherefore, all that flee under thy protection, being assailed by various sorrows and afflictions, receive from thee consolation and healing in abundance and by thee are saved from dangers. For thou art truly the Mother of all that sorrow and are heavy laden, the joy of the grieving, the healer of the sick, the preserver of youths, the staff of old age, the glory of the righteous, the sinners’ hope of salvation and guide to repentance; for thou dost ever help all with thy protection and dost intercede for all that flee to thee with faith and love, O thou all-good one. Do thou also help me who am in despair over my deeds, O fervent Mediatress for the Christian race: Intercede thou for me, that I not perish until the end in sins; for I have no other refuge and protection, but thee, the Mistress of my life: Abandon me not, despise me not, but by thy judgments that thou thyself dost know, do thou save me, for blessed art thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Friday: To thee do I entrust my life for protection and, on thee, after God, do I place all hope of my salvation, O Mistress and Virgin Theotokos. I, thy servant, pray thee, despise not me who have many sins, but behold my sorrow and my perplexity over them and grant me relief and consolation, that I not perish to the end. Stretch forth thy right hand, O pure one, lift me from the mire of my deeds and place me in the pure pasture of the commandments of Christ, my King and God, that I may ever act strengthened by Thee. Deliver me, O Lady, from my terrible sins and by thy motherly intercession before thy Son and God send me repentance unto salvation. Thou who didst show forth the ineffable Light, enlighten my spiritual darkness and the sinfulness which lieth there. O my Joy, deliver me from the invisible enemies that surround me; for my sins are many and they are heavy, my enemies are very fierce, death is near, my conscience doth accuse me, the fiery Gehenna doth terrify me, the unsleeping worm, the gnashing of teeth, the outer darkness of Tartarus bring me to trembling, for they seek to take me in because of my evil deeds. Woe is me! What shall I do then, and to whom shall I flee, that my soul be saved? To thee alone, O sweet Theotokos Mary, who cloth sweeten the bitterness of death for them that hope in thee and who doth deliver them that cry unto thee from terrible Gehenna. Do thou also help me, O all-good one, for then I shall have no other help but thee, all hymned one. Save me then from the terrors of the hour of death and the ferocity of the demons; save me from the power of the malicious spirits at the trials of the air after death: Reveal, I pray thee, reveal to me then thy most radiant presence, O Mistress, and do thou not abandon me the helpless one. O compassionate Mother! Stoop down to mercy towards me who am deprived of mercy by my deeds and do thou beseech Him Whom thou didst bear in the flesh, even Christ our God and Savior, Who did pour forth His most pure blood on the cross, that I also may receive forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation and glorify thine unspeakable compassion, O Theotokos, and thy merciful intercession, throughout endless ages. Amen.

Saturday: Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, thou haven and protection of mine impoverished soul, my sweet hope of salvation! Rejoice, thou who from the angel didst receive the joy of the good tidings that God the Word was to take flesh of thee! Rejoice, thou who didst bear the Creator of all within thy womb! Rejoice, thou who didst give birth to God in the flesh, the Savior of the world! Rejoice, thou who didst preserve virginity uncorrupted in childbirth! Rejoice, thou who didst receive gifts from the magi and didst behold their worship of Him Who wast born of thee and didst hear the shepherds’ most glorious words concerning Him and didst lay all these things up in thy heart! Rejoice, thou who didst joyfully find the child Jesus, thy Son and God, in the temple among the teachers of the Law! Rejoice, thou who didst bear the terrible pain of anguish at the cross, crucifixion and death of thy Son and God! Rejoice, thou who after such trials was radiantly gladdened by the resurrection of sweetest Jesus on the third day! Rejoice, thou who didst behold the ascension of thy Son and God in heavenly glory! Rejoice, thou who together with the disciples of the Lord didst receive from Him the Holy Spirit, Which was sent down on the upper room in the form of fiery tongues! Rejoice, thou that didst live like an angel on earth! Rejoice, thou that didst surpass in purity and holiness all the angelic orders and all the choirs of saints! Rejoice, thou that art magnified with glory by the coming to thee of thy Son and God! Rejoice, thou that didst entrust thy soul into His holy hands! Rejoice, thou that gloriously wast taken up bodily into heaven! Rejoice, thou that didst appear to the God-beholding apostles on the third day after thy repose! Rejoice, thou that art crowned in the heavens by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit with the diadem of the eternal kingdom! Rejoice, thou that hast been enthroned in glory near the throne of the All-holy Trinity! Rejoice, thou through whom God is reconciled with man! Rejoice, Queen ruling over things heavenly and earthly! Rejoice, for nothing is impossible for thine intercession! Rejoice, for all that flee to thee with faith are saved! Rejoice, for by thee the grieving find consolation, the ailing healing, the afflicted timely help! I then pray thee, O Mistress full of grace, extinguish in me sinful sorrow and grant me the joy of salvation, consoling tears, constant compunction, true repentance and perfect correction. Despise me not, O Mistress, but mercifully receive these joyful cries offered to thee by me the poor one, and come thou to mine aid at the time of my helplessness, in that terrible hour when my soul will be parted from my cursed body; come, then, I pray, to mine aid and deliver me, who am guilty in sin, from the eternal punishment, that I appear not a joy to demons and food for the fiery Gehenna. Yea, my Mistress, permit not my soul to see the terrible and fearsome threat and torment of the demons prepared for sinners, but do thou go before me and save me thy servant in that terrible hour, that I may glorify thee unto the ages, mine only hope and the Mediatress of my salvation. Amen.

Translated by Hieromonk Ioannikios from: Izbrannyia Molitvy Bozhiej Materi, Jordanville, 1971.
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Small Compline: Малое повечерие.As Orthodox Christians, we are fortunate that our understanding of Holy Tradition has resulted in the careful preservation of our ancient liturgical services, with our life rooted not only in the celebration of the Holy Liturgy, but in the ancient daily offices of the Church.

Whereas the 20th century saw other Christians ‘reform’ (deform?), chop and change their Liturgy of the Hours to make it easier to use and adapt it to ‘modern living’, or replace liturgical prayer with extra-liturgical devotions, this has not been the case in the Orthodox Church.

This is not to say that our services have not changed and evolved over the centuries – they certainly have – but we have not dared to sacrifice their mature and completed liturgical form to the vicissitudes and whims of modern living, to fashions and the convenience of the age. On the contrary, we preserve them with their beauty and depth.

In this post, I simply want to look at one service: Small Compline.

Compline was the last of the services to be added to the daily round of prayer and is in many ways like the Hours.

There are three forms of Compline: Small Compline, Middle Compline and Great Compline. However, Middle Compline is no longer used in the New Rite (the majority Russian Orthodox liturgical rite), though it is retained by those who follow the pre-Nikonian liturgical traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Old Rite.

Many people are surprised to discover that the prayer books that form the basis of our home and personal prayer-life are a relatively modern development. Before their development from various monastic prayer rules, the Midnight Office was used by the faithful as the order of morning prayer and compline was used as prayer before sleep. In other words, the liturgical prayer of the Church, was also the prayer of the family and home for the literate.

Over the last year, when my rota has allowed, we have come together for Small Compline in the Little Oratory, and I hope that we can renew this and that parishioners will be able to sustain it as a reader-service when I am unable to be at the chaplaincy due to work commitments.

By using the order of Small Compline as a reader service -http://www.saintjonah.org/services/compline.htm - our Cheltenham community has managed this very well, in the Lady Chapel of All Saints, Pittville, and using social media during lockdown.

The Slavonic text for home use may be found here: xn----7sbahbba0chrecjllhdbcuymu3s.xn--p1ai/molitvi/chasoslov/mal_povecher.html

Small Compline has few variable parts, making it a service that can be easily chanted without a priest. It is a service that parishioners can easily pray together in groups, or individually at home. This, however, requires the blessing of the parish-priest if it is the basis of parishioners’ common-prayer, or from your spiritual father, if you are chanting the service yourself in your home/family setting.

The order of Small Compline

Compline begins with the usual opening prayers and, like the Hours, has three Psalms. In the case of Small Compline, they are Psalms 50, 69 and 142. However, the order of Small Compline is different from the Hours as the psalmody is followed with the Lesser Doxology (Glory to God in the highest... not to be onfused with the Greater Doxolgy used in matins of Sundays and feasts) and the creed. With the Psalms they form the unchanging core of the service, which is straight forward and unchanging to this point.

After the creed, the typicon/ustav (the liturgical rule-book of the Church) appoints a Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God.

What is a canon?

A canon is a hymn sequence reflecting the nine Biblical odes or canticles:

The (First) Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19)

The (Second) Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)[2]

The Prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

The Prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19)

The Prayer of Isaiah (Isaiah 26:9-20)

The Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:2-9)

The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56)[3]

The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)[3]

The Song of the Theotokos (the Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55); the Song of Zacharias (the Benedictus Luke 1:68-79)

The second ode/canticle is usually omitted due to its penitential nature, but as such is part of the services of Great Lent.

In ancient times, hymns were inserted between the verses of the Biblical Odes. We still do this in matins in during the Great Fast, and even though we do not usually read the verses of the Biblical Odes, their theme is summed up in the heirmos (the thematic verse at the beginning of each ode of the canon). When you hear a canon being chanted during matins in church, this is the verse that the choir sings before the reader takes over.

The refrains and verses follow. These may be addressed to God in Trinity, to the Saviour, to the Mother of God, the angels or the saints. They may also celebrate a particular feast.

At Compline, the specified chanting of a Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God gives the service a distinctively Marian focus. Though it is common for this canon to be replaced by other canons or akathist hymns, it is a Supplicatory Canon that is liturgically appointed for this part of the service.

Although the Octoechos (the book of the eight tones) contains 56 different canons to the Mother of God for Compline – as outlined in a post yesterday - it is common for these to be replaced by the Small Supplicatory Canon at home or in a monastic cell. This canon is in virtually all prayer-books.

To find links to the supplicatory canons in the tone of the week, please refer to yesteday’s post: “The Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God”.

The troparia.

After the canon we chant ‘It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos…’ and then the Trisagion prayers are repeated before the troparia/hymns that follow the Lord’s Prayer.

We read the troparion of the day, and in church the troparion to which the temple is dedicated is also read, before or after, depending on the dedication.

Although compline ends the services of the astronomical day, the new liturgical day starts at vespers. For example, Saturday compline is part of Sunday, as a liturgical day, with the preceding vespers or vigil having started our celebration of the Lord’s day. This means that at compline, when we come to sing the hymn of the day, it is really for the day that follows, according to secular reckoning.

So, what troparia do we read first?

At Saturday compline, we usually chant the troparion and kontakion of the resurrection in the tone of the week, with Glory to the Father… both now and ever… in between. These may be in your prayer book, but can easily be found by going to the Holy Trinity Orthodox calendar and clicking on troparions/kontakions on the right side menu: www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/

Things happen differently on Great Feasts and in the season of the Triodion, but there is already enough detail to process here!

On Sunday, we chant the troparion to the bodiless powers of heaven.

Supreme Commanders of the Heavenly Hosts, we unworthy ones implore you that by your supplications ye will encircle us with the shelter of the wings of your immaterial glory, and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry: Deliver us from dangers since ye are the Marshals of the Hosts on high.

On Monday, we chant the troparion to St John the Forerunner.

The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be even more venerable than the prophets since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades; that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.

On Tuesday, we chant the troparion to the Holy Cross.

Save, O Lord, Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance; grant Thou unto Orthodox Christians victory over enemies; and by the power of Thy Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.·

On Wednesday, we chant the troparia to the Holy Apostles and St Nicholas.

O holy Apostles, intercede with the merciful God, that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offenses.

The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness and a teacher of temperance; therefore thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

On Thursday, as on Tuesday, we chant the troparion to the Holy Cross.

We then continue with other hymns.

For Sunday night to Thursday night, there is a further sequence of troparia to follow the hymn(s) of the day…

O God of our fathers, Who ever dealest by us according to Thy kindness, do not withdraw Thy mercy from us, but through their intercessions guide our life in peace.

Adorned in the blood of Thy martyrs throughout all the world, as in purple and fine linen, Thy Church, through them, doth cry unto Thee, O Christ God: Send down Thy compassions upon Thy people; grant to Thy community, and to our souls great mercy.

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

With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.

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

Through the intercessions, O Lord, of all the saints and the Theotokos, grant us Thy peace, and have mercy on us, as Thou alone art compassionate.

Friday night has a hymn sequence of its own:

O Apostles, Martyrs, and Prophets, Venerable and Righteous Ones; ye that have accomplished a good labor and kept the Faith, that have boldness before the Savior; O Good Ones, intercede for us, we pray, that our souls be saved.

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

With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Thy servants, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.

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

To Thee, O Lord, the Planter of creation, the world doth offer the God-bearing martyrs as the first-fruits of nature. By their intercessions preserve Thy Church, Thy commonwealth, in profound peace, through the Theotokos, O Greatly-merciful One.

After the toparia, we return to the unchanging texts of the service with a series of prayers, interspersed with shorter verses and short petitions:

The Prayer of the Hours that is also prayed during all of the day hours of the Church...

Thou Who at all times and at every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worshipped and glorified, O Christ God, Who art long-suffering, plenteous in mercy, most compassionate, Who lovest the righteous and hast mercy on sinners, Who callest all to salvation through the promise of good things to come: Receive, O Lord, our prayers at this hour, and guide our life toward Thy commandments. Sanctify our souls, make chaste our bodies, correct our thoughts, purify our intentions, and deliver us from every sorrow, evil and pain. Compass us about with Thy holy angels, that, guarded and guided by their array, we may attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Thine unapproachable glory; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Supplicatory Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos

O undefiled, untainted, uncorrupted, most pure, chaste Virgin, Thou Bride of God and Sovereign Lady, who didst unite the Word of God to mankind through thy most glorious birth giving, and hast linked the apostate nature of our race with the heavenly; who art the only hope of the hopeless, and the helper of the struggling, the ever-ready protection of them that hasten unto thee, and the refuge of all Christians: Do not shrink with loathing from me a sinner, defiled, who with polluted thoughts, words, and deeds have made myself utterly unprofitable, and through slothfulness of mind have become a slave to the pleasures of life. But as the Mother of God Who loveth mankind, show thy love for mankind and mercifully have compassion upon me a sinner and prodigal, and accept my supplication, which is offered to thee out of my defiled mouth; and making use of thy motherly boldness, entreat thy Son and our Master and Lord that He may be pleased to open for me the bowels of His lovingkindness and graciousness to mankind, and, disregarding my numberless offenses, will turn me back to repentance, and show me to be a tried worker of His precepts. And be thou ever present unto me as merciful, compassionate and well disposed; in the present life be thou a fervent intercessor and helper, repelling the assaults of adversaries and guiding me to salvation, and at the time of my departure taking care of my miserable soul, and driving far away from it the dark countenances of the evil demons; lastly, at the dreadful day of judgment delivering me from torment eternal and showing me to be an heir of the ineffable glory of thy Son and our God; all of which may I attain, O my Sovereign Lady, most holy Theotokos, in virtue of thine intercession and protection, through the grace and love to mankind of thine only begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship, together with His unoriginate Father, and His Most Holy and good and life creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ, by Antiochus the monk

And grant unto us, O Master, in the coming sleep, rest for body and soul, and preserve us from the gloomy slumber of sin, and from every dark and nocturnal sensuality. Subdue the impulses of passions, quench the fiery darts of the evil one that are cunningly hurled against us, assuage the rebellions of our flesh, and every earthly and fleshly subtlety of ours lull to sleep. And grant unto us, O God, a watchful mind, chaste thought, a sober heart, a sleep gentle and free from every satanic illusion. Raise us up at the time of prayer firmly grounded in Thy precepts and keeping steadfastly within us the memory of Thy judgments. All the night long grant us a doxology, that we may hymn and bless and glorify Thy most honorable and majestic name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

These prayers are followed by the dismissal and in monasteries and some churches, if a priest leads the service there is a litany with a form only used at compline.

When a reader uses the service, after the forgiveness prayer, another form of intercession is used.

O Lord, Lover of mankind, forgive them that hate and wrong us. Do good to them that do good. Grant our brethren and kindred their saving petitions and life eternal; visit the infirm and grant them healing. Guide those at sea. Journey with them that travel. Help Orthodox Christians to struggle. To them that serve and are kind to us grant remissions of sins. On them that have charged us, the unworthy, to pray for them, have mercy according to Thy great mercy. Remember, O Lord, our fathers and brethren departed before us, and grant them rest where the light of Thy countenance shall visit them. Remember, O Lord, our brethren in captivity, and deliver them from every misfortune. Remember, O Lord, those that bear fruit and do good works in Thy holy churches, and grant them their saving petitions and life eternal. Remember also, O Lord, us Thy lowly and sinful and unworthy servants, and enlighten our minds with the light of Thy knowledge, and guide us in the way of Thy commandments; through the intercessions of our most pure Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and of all Thy saints, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

It is good for all of the members of our parishes to have a basic understanding of Church services, making a special effort to learn something about those that you may be unable to attend.

I hope that those who are not familiar with compline, will do a little research and acquaint themselves with this beautiful, and in the case of Small Compline, relatively simple service, so well suited to the small parishes and missions we have within the Britsh part of the diocese.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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The Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of GodOver the weekend, I spoke to parishioners about ensuring that the Dormition fast has a sense of direction and a focus in prayer, dedicating these days to the Mother of God.

During Great Lent, our path is mapped out by the services in the Lenten Triodion, and we have a far greater sense of direction. The danger of the other fasts, especially such as short fast as we are keeping now, is that the days pass quickly and we come to the feast with little, if any, spiritual profit.

In the Greek tradition, the Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God are prayed fervently on the evenings of the first fourteen days of August.

The older canon is the Small Supplicatory Canon (Small Paraklesis), which was written by St Theosteriktos the Monk (Theophanes in the world), in the 8th century. This is the Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God found in our Russian Orthodox prayerbooks: www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/mikropar.htm Scroll down to find the canon within the service text.

The holy Theosteriktos struggled in defence of the holy icons during the iconoclast controversy. After a blood-bath in which the cursed, heretical Emperor Constantine V Copronymos had most of his monastic brotherhood slaughtered, Abbot Theosteriktos had his nose, fingers and ears cut off, before being thrown into a prison cell. He survived for nine years, thanks to the soldiers who secretly supplied food and water, and after his release on the death of Copronymos in 775, he lived in seclusion for three years before other monks joined him. He then lived for another twenty-five years, seeing his Pelekete Monastery restored, dying on 17 March 807.

The Great Supplicatory Canon www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/megapara.htm) , is generally believed to be the work of the Emperor of Nicaea, Theodore II Doukas Laskaris (1221/1222 – 1258), who ruled from 1254 to 1258, during the Latin occupation of Constantinople. When his epilepsy made it impossible for him to rule, the pious and learned emperor was tonsured as the Monk Theodosios in the Sosandron Monastery, writing the Great Paraklesis in repentance for his sins, just months before his death.

In Greek tradition, when the Dormition Fast begins on a weekday, the alternating cycle of canons begins with the Small Supplicatory Canon, if a Saturday of Sunday with the Great Supplicatory Canon.

Our Greek brothers and sisters are often surprised that in the Russian Church we do not keep this beautiful and pious tradition. However, according to the typicon/ustav, our churches, are called upon to sing a supplicatory canon EVERY night of the year, unless the rubrics instuct otherwise. This is maintained in monasteries throughout the Orthodox world, if not in parish usage.

The recurring weekly variables of the daily services are contained in the eight volumes of the Octoechos, with a Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God for each evening, to be chanted during compline. So, the Octoechos contains fifty-six supplicatory canons to the Mother of God.

These can all be found in the parts for compline in the complete octeochos online

English: www.st-sergius.org/services/services2A.html

Slavonic: www.st-sergius.org/services/services3.html

Each week begins with the Sunday resurrectional services, with the daily variables of the week being in the tone of that service. If you look at a calendar, printed or online, you will see the tone of the week for the Sunday.

This week is tone one, so click on tone one and scroll down to compline. There is nothing exotic or difficult about praying the canons and I would encourage all who can to pray a supplicatory canon to the Mother of God every day (though only after a blessing from your spiritual father!), whether the customary Supplicatory Canon or the canon from the Octoechos.

We should not just think of the canons to the Mother of God as part of the preparation for Holy Communion, and we should not let our love of akathist hymns push the ancient supplicatory canons out of our prayer life.

In these days of the fast, the Supplicatory Canons can help us to prepare for the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!
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Parish life over the weekend.Dear brothers and sisters,

It’s certainly been a busy few days at the chaplaincy and has given a feeling of a bit more normality.

Friday - Medoviy Spas - the feast of the Procession of the Cross and the All-Merciful Saviour saw the lesser blessing of water in the forecourt of Newman Hall, with the blessing of honey before the blessing of the boundaries of Nazareth House and Newman Hall, a parishioner’s car and the bemused chickens. Magnus, the proletarian successor to the aristocratic Mr Cat - came to inspect our proceedings before retreating to his wicker chair.

The lesser blessing of water is often celebrated at the beginning of each month, and on great feasts in some places. As we do not have the space to keep a vat for holy water, we will perform the blessing more often, to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of holy water for the parish.

After the service, it was good to sit down to tea with bread and honey - very good Ukrainian honey brought back from Ukraine by paishioners. It really was a blessing from the Lord and was enjoyed by all.

On Saturday, despite the inclement weather, I was very happy to travel to Glastonbury with the Bulashov family.

Despite visiting Glastonbury over a hundred times in my life, I have never experienced an August day quite like Saturday, but it was still a blessing to be able to visit the abbey and the town that developed around it over the centuries.

St Patrick’s chapel with its little courtyard greeted us, and was much improved by the removal of the furniture. The last time we were here was last August when we made a pilgrimage to celebrate the Loretskaya icon: the Mother of God ‘Pribavlenie Uma’. It also rained that day, but grew into a fine afternoon during the chanting of the akathist, which was moved to St Patrick’s, as the rain drove us inside and away from the site of the Loreto chapel (photograph below).

There was no akathist this time, just a gentle walk around: from St Patrick’s to the Lady Chapel - the site of the ‘Old Church’ of the ancient monastery, through the ruins of the abbey church, and over to the herb garden and orchard.

After our walk around the abbey grounds, we decided to climb the High St in search of supplies, as apart from visiting the abbey, one of the main purposes of our journey was to visit The Rose Garden, a wonderful little shop owned by a member of the parish of St John of Kronstadt, in Bath. The shop is an Aladdin’s cave, and we came away with spiritual reading, icon cards and Athonite incense. The Rose Garden is one of the few sources of English translations of books about Saints Paisios and Porphyrios of the Holy Mountain and is well worth a visit. For anyone looking, it is in the little alley next to St John’s church on the High St.

Sunday, saw the refectory filled to capacity, with a very joyful Liturgy. In addition to our locals it was good to welcome Tobias/Oswald from Cheltenham and Nona from Bath, whose namedays are tomorrow, congratulating them in advanvance and wishing them ‘Many Years!’

At the end of Liturgy we had a second blessing of honey, and ended up with a rather sticky refectory!

Thank you to all who made the weekend such a festive celebration and congratulations to all who confessed and communed!

Wishing you all a good struggle in what remains of the Dormition Fast. Ensure that you consecrate these days to the Mother of God.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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St. Mary of Egypt’s Prayer to the Mother of God.Having been asked by a parishioner for a prayer to St Mary of Egpt, and also for a prayer to Mother of God to use during the Dormition Fast, I thought it would be good to post St Mary of Egypt’s own prayer to the Theotokos.

As you will recall, an invisible force barred St Mary of Egypt from enteringthe Church of the Resurrection, even though all those around her passed through its doors.

St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, attributes this prayer to her in the hagiography in which he shared her life with the world.

O Lady, Mother of God, who gavest birth in the flesh to God the Word, I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to thee when one so impure and depraved as I look up to thine icon, O ever-virgin, who didst keep thy body and soul in purity. Rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before thy virginal purity. But I have heard that God Who was born of thee didst purposely become man to call sinners to repentance. Then help me, for I have no other help. Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me. Allow me to see the Venerable Tree on which He Who was born of thee suffered in the flesh, and on which He shed His holy Blood for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am. Be my faithful witness before thy son, that I may never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication, but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross I will renounce the world and its temptations and will go wherever thou wilt lead me.”

Read the Life of St. Mary of Egypt
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Homily on the Procession of the Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord.Thus again, at the onset of the fast, preparation, repentance, ascetic labors, the Cross of Christ is raised up before us; and this makes us remember ourselves, our souls, and its Christian purpose.

In fact, we normally live our everyday lives with our interests, cares, anxieties, and disgruntlement; we are now joyful, now sorrowful, now irritated, now having fun and not thinking at all about our Christian purpose. But just imagine that some catastrophe has crashed over us, some sorrow has stricken us, especially the death of some one near and dear to us—a father or a mother. Isn’t it true that our mood quickly changes? We grieve, we despond, and mainly, we begin to believe more deeply. Everything that interested us a minute ago seems now empty and insignificant in the face of death.

In just the same way, beloved brothers, does the Exaltation of the Lord’s Cross influence us: It reminds us of the death of Christ the Savior, which He took upon Himself for the safe of our sins; it vividly reminds us of the strength our Savior gives us for the struggle with sin… This strength is the cross! The Cross is a symbol of self-crucifixion! Thus we see that the cross became a symbol of the Christian not because Christ was crucified on it, but because when we look upon the cross, we should remember that we also must suffer in life, and then die. In fact, all the Sacraments and rites remind us of this. What is the Sacrament of Baptism? Death to sin. The Sacraments of confession and Communion of Christ’s Holy Mysteries are our communion of the suffering life of Christ the Savior. The cross on the church, on our chests—all this should remind the Christian of his struggle with sin.

We notice a division in our souls, for sin lives in them; it is as if two people are living in us. One is good, he loves what is good; he is ready to receive the whole world into himself, he humbles himself, endures, loves his enemies… While the other loves the flesh, he is vainglorious, envious, lustful… And our whole life goes on in the struggle between these two people; that is, in the struggle between good and evil. In this struggle to conquer evil is the entire Christian goal of our lives.

Metropolitan Tryphon (Turkestanov), July 31, 1907
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The Birthday of the Martyred Tsarevich Alexei.As we celebrate the birthday of the martyred Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (yesterday 12 August), we commend all of our children and young people to his prayers, that they may be preserved in purity and faith.

Holy Royal-Martyr Alexei, pray to God for us!
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Forthcoming Liturgies at Newman HallOnce again, for Sunday 16 August, those who wish to confess and commune are invited to attend Divine Liturgy. Please email Father Deacon Mark.

The University Church remains closed and the Liturgy will be celebrated in the refectory/ trapeznaya of Newman Hall.

Additionally, there will be a Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration on Wednesday 19 August.

ALL who wish to attend - whether confessing/communing or not - are asked to email in advance. As those having communion will be given priority, please indicate if you wish to commune.

The traditional blessing of fruit will take place at the end of Liturgy.

Father Deacon Mark may be contacted at: rmfisher@ntlworld.com

Thank you to those who have already made arrangements.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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The moleben: abbreviation or fullness?In the chaplaincy this weekend, we celebrated the feast of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer, Panteleimon, with vespers on Saturday evening and the Liturgy with a moleben to St Panteleimon before the dismissal. The combined Sunday morning services were long, but were very much focussed on St Panteleimon by the singing of the akathist hymn, which narrates his life and martyric sufferings.

Some readers may be unsure of what a moleben is, and to answer this I will simply turn to the website of our sister parish in Wallasey…

A moleben is a service of prayer and entreaty, which may be offered to the Lord, the Mother of God, or any of the saints. There is no single form of the moleben and, with certain common components, different molebens exist for various needs and occasions. These may be found in the Book of Needs.

Among these is the General Moleben, which is perhaps the form most commonly used, and which is dealt with here. It has its own set form and is served, among other occasions, when the prayers of a particular saint are sought. For this reason, it is often served before an icon or relics of the saint, when making a pilgrimage to a holy site associated with the saint, or on the patronal feast of a church dedicated to that saint.

In some places, it is the custom to serve a moleben within the Divine Liturgy. In this case, it follows the Prayer Below the Ambo (“O Lord, who dost bless those who bless Thee...”) and its own dismissal is omitted, the Divine Liturgy continuing with the threefold singing of “Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth...”.

So often, our New Rite molebens are reduced to little more than the refrains to the Saviour, the Mother of God or the saints, omitting the troparia of the canon.

We should be honest in admitting that this is a liturgical abuse in which abbreviation robs the moleben of its principal component: the canon.

Happily, in West Wales, we have always celebrated the moleben fully, mindful of the fact that it is really a variation of the order of matins, and matins without a single canon would be unthinkable. As we usually only have vespers on the eves of feasts, a moleben with the full canon allows us to celebrate a saint or feast more fully.

Here is the order for the General Moleben taken from the Wallasey website (credit and acknowledgements to Fr Paul and Subdeacon Chad) with a few tweaks to reflect our usual practice in West wales, where we often have an annointing at the veneration of the icon of the Saviour, the Mother of God, or the saint(s) to which the moleben was chanted.

We say that as Orthodox Christians we are maximalists, so let us not shy away from singing the moleben in its full, dignified and beautiful form.

Priest: Blessed is our God...

People: Amen.

People: “Glory be to Thee, our God; glory to Thee!” then “O Heavenly King...” in tone 6.

At all services from Pascha until Vespers of Pentecost, “Glory...” and “O Heavenly King” are not sung. For the rest of the year, they are always sung in stikheron tone 6 (and never one without the other). From Pascha until its Leave-taking, the paschal troparion “Christ is risen from the dead...” is sung three times at this point.

Reader: The Trisagion Prayers (some books refer to this as “The usual beginning”)

If the Moleben is served within the Divine Liturgy, the Trisagion Prayers are customarily omitted at this point, as they will have already been read at the Hours. Otherwise, they are always read.

Reader: The Call to Prayer (“O come, let us worship God our King...”)

Reader: Psalm 142 (concluding with “Glory...Both now...Alleluia x3”)

Deacon and people: “God is the Lord...”

People: Troparion of the Saint x 2

People: “Glory... Both now...”

People: Theotokion

In serving the moleben, it is important to have the troparion of the saint to hand. This will be found near the end of the texts for Vespers in the menaion service to the saint. This troparion determines the manner of singing “God is the Lord” and the theotokion.

At all services at which it occurs, “God is the Lord” is always sung in the same tone as the troparion that immediately follows it. The actual refrain, “God is the Lord”, is repeated after each psalm verse read by the deacon, usually with considerable overlap between verse and refrain – that is, the choir does not wait for the deacon to finish the verse before beginning the refrain, and vice versa.

The service then calls for the troparion of the saint to be sung twice.

The Theotokion is a troparion in honour of the Mother of God. There are various theotokia for different occasions but the one sung here is the Resurrection theotokion that is found in the Octoechos, at the end of the texts for Vespers of the Resurrection on Saturday evening. There are eight different texts for this – one for each of the eight tones – and the one that is sung is the one in the same tone as the troparion of the saint.

So, for example, our parish custom is to sing the troparion of St Elisabeth in tone 2. Therefore, at a moleben to St Elisabeth, “God is the Lord” would be sung to tone 2, with St Elisabeth’s troparion following, sung twice. Then, after, “Glory... both now...”, we would sing the tone 2 Resurrection theotokion, “All of thy most glorious mysteries...”.

As another example, the troparion for the Kursk Root Icon is in tone 4. Therefore, at a moleben before the Kursk Icon, “God is the Lord” would be sung to tone 4, with the Kursk Icon troparion following, sung twice. Then, after “Glory... both now...”, we would sing the tone 4 Resurrection theotokion, “The mystery hidden from before the ages...”. So this is all determined by the troparion.

Reader: Psalm 50 (without “Glory... both now...” &c.)

Odes 1 and 3 of the Canon

The canon to the saint now begins. Although the order appointed is the usual order for molebens, when sung in procession, it is usual only to sing the refrains of the canon. The refrains differ according to the type of saint (nun, martyr, bishop, &c.) and a full list of the different canon refrains may be found in Appendix 2 of “A Practical Handbook for Divine Services” published by the Jordanville monastery.

A kataviasia is a short hymn sung at the end of certain odes of the canon. In the moleben, these are much simpler than in other services as there are only three possible katavasiae from which to choose: the first if the moleben is addressed to the Lord, another if it is addressed to the Mother of God, or a third if addressed to another saint. These may be found in the text of the “General Moleben” in the Book of Needs or in the Jordanville text. The first katavasia is sung after ode 3.

The ShortLitany of Fervent Supplication

Odes 4, 5, and 6 of the Canon.

After Ode 6, the same katavasia is repeated that was sung after Ode 3.

The Short/Little Litany

The moleben makes provision for the insertion of an akathist to the saint. If an akathist is to be included, it is sung here, in which case the first kontakion of the akathist is sung slowly, to cover the censing of the church. At the end of the akathist, the moleben is resumed.

Deacon & Choir: Prokemenon

Priest: Exclamation “For Thou art holy, O our God...”

Deacon & Choir: “Let every breath praise the Lord”

Priest: The Gospel (preceded by its customary introduction by the deacon). The Prokemenon and Gospel are those from matins in the menaion service to the saint.

Odes 7, 8, and 9 of the Canon

After ode 9, a katavasia is sung. This is not the same as was sung after odes 3 and 6. It is usually “It is truly meet...” (sung to troparion tone 8) but varies according to the feast or season in the same way as when it is sung at the Divine Liturgy.

The Trisagion Prayers

The troparion and kontakion.

The Litany of Fervent Supplication

The petitions for the ailing, found in the sluzhebnik, may be inserted here for particular people.

The Concluding Prayer

The people kneel for this prayer, except on Sundays and during Pentecost. This prayer is selected from among the prayers at the end of the akathist to the saint. It is introduced by an invocation by the deacon, to which the people respond with the canon refrain that was sung earlier. If the petitions for the ailing were included in the fervent litany, the prayer for the ailing follows here. Then the people stand.

The Dismissal

The “Many Years” may be sung, if desired.
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It is also the feast of the Great River miracle-working icon of St Nicholas (1555)

Hierarch of Christ Nicholas pray to God for us!
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A journey to the Vale of Ewyas.Newman Hall: Sunday 9th August.

Though I should be in bed sleeping, the truth is that here in the chaplaincy it is too hot and humid to even hope for sleep at the moment. So, before continuing with prayers, I would like to share the joy of the last few days - joy that is the fruit of pilgrimage.

Up until recently our movements have been curtailed, and here in Wales pandemic precautions have lasted longer than on the other side of Offa’s Dyke and pilgrim journeys have been on hold.

For many years it has been our tradition to honour St David with a March pilgrimage to Llanthony Priory in the Black Mountains, where the ruins of an Augustinian house occupy the site of a Celtic foundation, linked to the monastic settlements founded by St David.

Regrettably, the uncertainty of the situation in March this year made it impossible, and so we looked forward to making a pilgrimage in the summer months.

Unexpectedly, Friday became the day for that pilgrimage, and it was wonderful to journey to Llanthony under summer skies, with the last few miles from Llanfihangel Crucorney to the priory so different to our usual March experience.

Rather than passing along the Vale of Ewyas through bare hedges, and under leafless trees, dappled shade covered our slow progress as we wound our way along the hedge-bound lanes and followed the shallow, stony river to the priory ruins, nestled in a curve of the steep-sided valley, with the Black Mountains around us and Herefordshire just beyond the ridge.

Roadside flowers, now dusty in the late summer brightened the hedgerows, the blackberries and sloes ripening, and rain-washed wool caught among the branches. The bleating of sheep surrounded us, close by in the meadows beside the river and high on the sides of the valley.

Despite the walkers and visitors, there was a great sense of peace and little noise in the ruins, so that attention could be held by the swallows swooping between the arches and the robin who had the good sense to know that every visitor held the possibility of food.

The pink hued masonry of the ruins was baked in the sun, and stones in local walls and buildings attested to the use of the priory as a quarry as locals who, robbed of monasteries and the saints by the reformation, quickly forgot the spiritual meaning of the priory ruins and the holiness of the place.

Although the ruins are diminutive in comparison to the likes of Glastonbury, it is hard to imagine how the house was sustained by four Augustinian canons echoing around the church and cloister on the eve of the dissolution.

The monastic life and services vanished from the valley for four and a half centuries, returning with the eccentric and romantic Father Ignatius of Llanthony, who established his neo-Gothic abbey nearby at Capel-y-ffin, the last Welsh-speaking community in that part of Wales, and struggled to return Benedictine monasticism and catholic tradition to the Church of Wales. After Fr Ignatius’s death, the few remaining monks joined the Caldey community and the abbey buildings eventually passed into the hands of Eric Gill, the sculptor and typographer.

Finding the parish church on the site of the first priory locked, we headed to Capel-y-ffin, knowing it’s tiny church would be open, as always. As we continued our journey along the very narrow lanes, the tops of the trees flanking the lane touched each other in many places, creating a tunnel of green for those heading up the valley.

There, in its small churchyard, with its slanting old grave stones, behind the seven old yew trees, the doll’s house church squats, as the diarist Francis Kilvert described as ‘the old chapel, short, stout and boxy, with its little bell turret, squatting like a stout grey owl among its seven great yews’.

Through the clear-glass panes of the east-window, beyond the etched words of Psalm of Psalm 21 – ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help’ – the green hills are the altar-piece for the simple sanctuary.

In the unadorned, 18th century interior, the icon over the votive candlestand was a reminder that in 1880 local children claimed to have seen the Mother of God in the meadow below the monastic church.

The intense peace and tranquillity was a call to prayer, and we responded with a moleben to the Mother of God, chanting our prayers before the icon -

‘Stretch forth thy hands, with which thou didst receive the Master of all as a babe. In thy goodness forsake not us who ever put our trust in thee. In thy prayerful vigilance and boundless forgiveness have pity on us. Grant our souls thy loving-kindness that floweth throughout the ages. For we sinners have thee as our defender against evils and adversities. As thou possessest bounteous compassion hasten to intercession, and speed thou to make supplication, O thou who dost ever help them that honour thee, O Mother of God.’

After our prayers, we crossed the shallow river to the 18th century Baptist Chapel, and climbed along a stream-bank to the ruins of the abbey church, where the mortal remains of Fr Ignatius rest in the choir.

Long before the events following the coming of Fr Ignatius and his raggle-taggle band of monks and followers, Capel-y-ffin, ‘the chapel on the boundary’, had been at the centre of spiritual life for those living at this end of the valley.

When we left the hamlet, the wonderful peace of the place seemed to go with us, with the blessing of the Mother of God, who continues to be loved and called upon by pilgrims in the isolated church among among the yew trees and beside the ruins of the 19th century abbey church.

Most Holy Mother of God, Our lady of Capel-y-ffin, save us and preserve us beneath thy most pure veil!
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August, 5 2020/July, 23 2020: The Pochaev Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev, Troparion, in Tone 5:

Those who pray before your holy icon, O Lady,/ Are vouchsafed healing and receive the knowledge of the true faith,/ And they repel the attacks of the Hagarenes./ Therefore entreat remission of sins/ For us who fall down before you./ Enlighten our hearts to thoughts of piety,// And raise a prayer to your Son to save our souls.

Kontakion, in Tone 1:

Your icon of Pochaev, O Theotokos,/ Is become a source of healing and the confirmation of the Orthodox Faith./ Therefore deliver us who have recourse to you/ From calamity and temptation./ Preserve your monastery unharmed./ Confirm Orthodoxy in the surrounding lands,/ And forgive the sins of those who pray to you;// For you can do as you will.
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The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles.Greetings on the feast of the Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles. Поздравление съ прадникомъ!

Holy Myrrh-Bearer and Isapostle Mary Magdalene, Troparion, Tone 1: The honorable Mary Magdalene followed after Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin, keeping His precepts and laws. Wherefore, celebrating thy most holy memory today, through thy supplications we receive remission of sins.

Kontakion of the Myrrh-Bearer, Tone 3: "Today the Virgin..." Standing before the Cross of the Savior with many others, suffering with the Mother of the Lord and pouring forth tears,/ the all-glorious one made this offering as praise, saying: "What is this strange wonder? Is it Thy will to suf­fer, O Thou Who sustainest all creation? Glory to Thy dominion!"

St. Mary Magdalene, called by the Orthodox Church both Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostle, is commemorated on July 22/August 4, as well as with the other Myrrh-bearers on the second Sunday after Easter. Born in the seaport town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, she played an important role during Christ’s ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The Gospels provide the little that we know about St. Mary Magdalene, from whom Christ cast out seven demons. St. Mary and other wealthy women followed Christ and “provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8.1-3). According to the Gospel accounts (Matthew 27:55056; Mark 15.40; Luke 23.49; John 19.25), she and other women followers were present at the crucifixion. They watched where Christ was laid, and maid plans to come to the tomb on the following day to perform the ritual for anointing the dead and preparing the body for burial.

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, St. Mary and the women with her are instructed by the angel at the tomb to go and proclaim the good news of the resurrection to the male disciples. St. Mark, in his Gospel, recounts that St. Mark, in his Gospel, recounts that St. Mary was the first to see and speak with the risen Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself tells her to go to the apostles with the gospel; (thus, many call her the “Apostle to the Apostles”). Her meeting with the risen Christ outside His tomb is one of the most touching scenes in the Gospel of St. John:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20.15-16)

St. Gregory the Dialogist (Pope Gregory the Great) is believed to have begun the tradition in the Western Church, not accepted in the Eastern Church, which identified St. Mary with the “sinful woman” in the seventh chapter of Luke. There are two possible reasons for this misidentification: (1) St. Mary was from Magdala, a port city that had a reputation for unsavory goings-on, and the reputation of the city may have been transferred to St. Mary; or (2) St. Mary is first mentioned in the Gospel of Luke directly following the account of the sinful woman (Luke 7.36-50) and so was associated with her. Further parallels can be drawn from the fact that the sinful woman is sometimes called a myrrh-bearer, because she anointed Christ’s feet with ointment and wiped them with her hair. St. Gregory also supposed that Mary of Bethany was the same person as St. Mary Magdalene.

The Orthodox Church also rejects a number of legends concerning the life of St. Mary that mainly originate from the Western medieval cult of the saints. One legend suggests that she was in love with St. John the Theologian and became a prostitute when he rejected her to follow Jesus (this may have developed from the earlier misidentification of Mary with the sinful woman or from Mary’s later work with John in Ephesus). Another legend asserts that St. Mary Magdalene (thought to be Mary of Bethany) traveled with her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus to evangelize the inhabitants of Provence, and area of modern-day southern France. In the Middle Ages, at least three Provençal monasteries claimed to have her body.

For the Orthodox Church, little more is known of her life beyond the Gospel accounts. After Christ’s ascension, she is believed to have gone to Ephesus and evangelized with St. John the Theologian. There she died and was buried near the entrance to the tomb of the Seven Sleeping Youths. During the reign of the Emperor Leo (which one is uncertain), her relics were transferred to the monastery of St. Lazarus, where an annual synaxis was celebrated for her.

By the Gospel accounts, we come to know the reality of St. Mary Magdalene’s love for Christ and her fidelity to Him during His passion, death, and resurrection. The Church has recognized her as a disciple and Equal-to-the-Apostles, and we ask for her continuing intercessions for us.

St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church,
Fenton Michigan, 8/3/2013
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