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

Keep an eye out for notices over the next week for details on how this is happening and what you can do to participate.

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Обрет. мощей св. блгв. прп. кн. Анны Кашинской. Тропарь, глас 3.
Днесь восхваля́ем тя, преподо́бная ма́ти,/ вели́кая княги́не и́нокине Áнно:/ я́ко бо лоза́ плодови́та посреде́ те́рния,/ процвела́ еси́ во гра́де Ка́шине твои́ми доброде́тельми,/ всех удиви́ла еси́ чу́дным твои́м житие́м,/ те́мже Христу́ Бо́гу угоди́ла еси́,/ и ны́не, ра́дующися и веселя́щися,/ пребыва́еши с ли́ки преподо́бных жен,/ наслажда́ющися ра́йския красоты́ и весе́лия./ Мо́лим у́бо тя:/ моли́ о нас Человеколю́бца Христа́, Бо́га на́шего,/ дарова́ти нам мир и ве́лию ми́лость.

Ин тропарь, глас 4.
Просвети́вшися Боже́ственною благода́тию, преподо́бная,/ и пра́востию у́мною ду́шу твою́ привяза́вши в любо́вь Христо́ву,/ тле́нная, и кра́сная, и вре́менная ни во что́же вмени́ла еси́./ Кре́стным зна́мением на мы́сленныя враги́ му́жески вооружи́вшися,/ по́стническими по́двиги, посто́м и моли́твами/ у́глие страсте́й угаси́ла еси́, достосла́вная Áнно,/ и по сме́рти источа́еши благода́ть притека́ющим к моще́м твои́м./ И ны́не, в Небе́снем черто́зе с му́дрыми де́вами предстоя́щи Христу́,/ моли́ о нас, почита́ющих святу́ю па́мять твою́.

Кондак, глас 8.
Скоропослу́шную помо́щницу вси, су́щии в беда́х,/ благоче́стно воспое́м, Áнну святу́ю,/ днесь любо́вию соше́дшеся во обре́тение честны́х моще́й ея́./ Воспое́м песнь Еди́ному в Тро́ице Бо́гу, ра́дующеся,/ сподо́бльшему нас ви́дети пречи́стое сокро́вище честны́х моще́й ея́:/ от мног бо лет сокрове́ны бы́ша,/ напосле́док же нам явле́ны/ и источа́ют мно́га и разли́чна исцеле́ния./ Я́ко да моли́твами ея́ к Бо́гу/ от вся́ких находя́щих зол изба́вимся,/ ра́достною душе́ю и весе́лием се́рдца благода́рная воспое́м, глаго́люще:/ ра́дуйся, утвержде́ние гра́ду на́шему.Holy Right Believing Princess Anna of Kashin pray to God for us.
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Sunday Liturgy with Bishop Irenei.Yesterday, the feast of the Holy Prophet Elias, was the first time since Great Lent that Liturgy has been celebrated with anyone other than the clergy and those supporting them at the chaplaincy. Those who had prepared for confession and Holy Communion were invited to attend the Liturgy in the refectory/trapeznaya as we continued to assess its suitability for congregational worship. This was a joyful occasion after such a minimal presence at Liturgy.

His Grace, Bishop Irenei, took the opportunity to make an informal visit and meet the clergy whom he had not seen for more than a few minutes since last November. In the small sanctuary that we had managed to create in the refectory, we celebrated very simply, with the support of a few singers at the kliros.

By removing the central refectory table, we created a space to use as a sanctuary – using the table to the left for the proskomedia and the table to the right for vesting, three chairs across the chimney-breast marking the ‘high place’. With icons and lamps arranged on the long window-ledges and the sideboards we have the saints around us during worship, and the folding analoys take the place of the ikonsostas. Wipeable icons were also placed at the door for the faithful to venerate, together with the icon of St Elias and our portable Greek brass candlestands that we usually use for pilgrimages.

During an informal bring-and-share lunch we were able to discuss plans for Church life in Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli, updating Vladika on the situation in Cardiff, where we have no place of public worship at the moment.

We were very pleased that the refectory proved a successful liturgical setting with a dozen allocated places for individuals or couples, and several family places. We will review whether this capacity may be increased.

We also continue to use the Little Oratory for services for family groups and chanted a panikhida for the departed Andrey and Tatiana after Vladika’s departure.

The next month will be one of discovery, as we find out what works and what does not. Our situation is fluid, but one fact remains. The University Church is closed, and unless we have another large venue, public Liturgy for all who wish to attend is beyond our capability.

We would like to thank Vladika for the encouragement given to the clergy over the weekend, and to the community members who have been cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, chanting and reading over the past few months.

I would like to congratulate the Latinkic children for the beautifully decorated loaf, which their mother supported them to bake to welcome Vladika. Sava, Marija and Sofija – very well done!

Thanks to those who catered at short notice - as this informal visit was arranged a little more than a week in advance - putting together meals which catered for all dietry needs.

Our parish life may be limited, but we have not ceased to hear confessions, and to celebrate the Liturgy, ensuring that the faithful have had access to Holy Communion throughout lockdown and the relaxation period.

During August, we will continue to celebrate with those receiving Holy Communion taking part in the Liturgy. There may be parishioners who have good reason for receiving Communion individually, after Liturgy, so this will still be possible, as has been the practice in June and July.

Sunday 9 August is the feast of the Holy Great Martyr, Panteleimon. Those wishing to confess with a view to receiving Holy Communion should contact Father deacon Mark, as usual: rmfisher@ntlworld.com

Please do so by Thursday 6 August.

Prayer requests, especially for the sick to be remembered on St Panteleimon’s Day, should be sent to Hieromonk Mark: otetzmark@hotmail.com
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Greetings for the feast of St Vladimir & the commemoration of the Baptism of Rus’.On this feast of the Holy Equal to the Apostles, St Vladimir, we send our congratulations and greetings to the parishioners in Cheltenham, as we give thanks for the baptism of Rus’ and over a thousand years of Christianity in the Rus’ lands: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Carpatho-Russia, as well as the life of the Church and its faithful outside the Slav lands.

To the faithful everywhere - Поздравление съ прадникомъ!

Together with the parish in Belfast, the Cheltenham mission has been greatly affected by lockdown, but the parishioners have shown incredible fortitude and initiative, using social media to come together for regular Akathist hymns and other prayers. Reader services remain at the centre of parish life until the resumption of liturgies.

We are indebted to Reader Philip and Lora for their hard work in maintaining spiritual momentum over the last four difficult months. God give you good strength!

May the prayers St Vladimir support and strengthen the flock in Cheltenham.

Да сохранитъ васъ Господь на ногая и благая лѣта!
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The next step forward...Dear brothers and sisters,

Today was the last of our Sunday Liturgies followed by confession and communion slots for the faithful. We congratulate the seventeen who confessed and communed during the course of the morning. Поздравление съ причастиемъ!

Starting next Sunday, 2 August, those confessing and communing will be invited to attend the Divine Liturgy that will be celebrated in the refectory/trapeznaya of Newman Hall.

The University Church remains closed and the diminutive size of the Little Oratory makes celebration impossible unless there are less than half a dozen attending Liturgy. However, the refectory allows a limited but greater number to attend Liturgy, in addition to the singers/readers and those who have volunteered to clean and undertake infection control measures. Priority will be given to those who have prepared and will be receiving Holy Communion during the Liturgy.

After several Liturgies with communicant-attendance over the next few weeks, we hope to be in a better position to judge the capacity of the refectory as we prepare for a limited return to public worship. However, even when we reach this stage, we will be asking the faithful to inform the clergy if they will be attending.

May I ask all of those wishing to do commune next week - Sunday 2 August - to contact Father Deacon Mark by Wednesday 29 July: rmfisher@ntlworld.com

Thank you to those who have already made arrangements.

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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Canon to the Mother of God, in honour of her icon “Of the Three Hands”.It is said that John of Damascus, who was the leading proponent of icon veneration in the Church against the opposers — the Iconoclasts — was in the employ of a powerful Caliph. The Byzantine Emperor Leo — an opposer of icon veneration — supposedly had letters forged in John’s handwriting, urging Leo to attack the Caliph. These were made available to the Caliph, who on seeing the forgeries, believed them to be genuine. He decided to punish John for his presumed disloyalty, ordering that his hand be cut off as punishment.

According to the tale, because of his prayers before the icon, Mary healed John by miraculously re-attaching the severed hand. In gratitude for this miracle, a silver image of the severed hand was affixed to the icon itself.



Ode 1, Irmos: There is none like unto Thee, O all-glorious Lord; for with Thy mighty hand Thou didst deliver the people whom Thou hadst acquired, O Thou Who lovest mankind.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Illumine my soul, mind and heart, O all-merciful Mother of God, and grant me the gift of hymning thee, the mighty intercessor, the mediatress of good things and sweet consolation amid griefs.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Unto the venerable John of Damascus thou didst show thyself to be a radiant cloud when thou didst hearken quickly to his supplication and didst restore his severed hand to health.

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

Today all the ends of the earth celebrate as one, hymning thee together, the steadfast help and protectress of our life.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Having acquired thy most precious and wonder-working icon "of the three hands", the holy Monastery of Chilandar cried out to thee: Rejoice, O unbreakable rampart and mighty help of this monastery!

Ode 3, Irmos:Holy art Thou, O Lord our God! Make steadfast our hearts, that we may cry to Thee without ceasing: There is none more righteous than Thee, O Lord!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

The assemblies of the faithful come together today for the glorification of thy lovingkindness, which thou didst reveal to the venerable John of Damascus, healing his severed hand.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

We direct the eyes of our hearts to thee, O Mistress, when we gaze upon the miraculous icon "of the three hands". Be thou a might and protection for us, and vouchsafe that we may have a share on high.

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

We hymn thee, O most hymned Virgin whom the hosts of heaven glorify, save us from sinful exile and from all the sorrows which assail us.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Entreat Him to Whom thou gavest birth, O unwedded Mother, in behalf of all who have recourse to thy precious icon, that He may defend and enlighten them.

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

Sedalion, Tone 4: When the monks of Chilandar beheld thine all-precious icon, O Mistress, borne to the gates of their monastery on an ass whom no one guided, they rejoiced with great joy and, bowing down before it, glorified thy goodwill towards them.

Glory ..., Now & ever ..., The foregoing is repeated.

Ode 4, Irmos: I have heard report of Thee, O Lord, for Thou didst appear upon the earth; and I have glorified Thy power.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

O all-pure Virgin, thou didst pour forth the ever-flowing Fountain Who watereth all the valleys. Drown thou also all our temptations, and utterly destroy them.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Come, let us all hymn the ladder of Jacob, the fleece of Gideon, the mediatress of joy, the might and boast of all the faithful, saying: Rejoice, O pure Virgin!

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

Kissing thy precious image, O most pure one, we flee to thy goodness and, bending our knees and weeping, we pray: Disdain not our sighs, but be thou a protection and helper for us on the day of judgment.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

O thou who gavest birth to the Word of God, visit us in thy grace, illumine our benighted souls and hearts, and grant us deliverance from misfortunes and remission of all our sins.

Ode 5, Irmos: With the law of Thy commandments, O Lord Who alone lovest mankind, enlighten my heart, I pray, and have mercy upon me.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Thy most honoured icon "of the three hands" beareth clear witness unto all that thou art our might and strength; wherefore, we glorify thy maternal lovingkindness toward us.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

With tears the venerable John of Damascus prayed to thee before thy precious icon; and thou didst quickly hearken to his prayer, and didst grant healing to his severed hand.

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

O mediatress of joy, accept the entreaties of thy servants, set at naught all the counsels of the adverse foe, preserve thy flock unharmed, and save us from all tribulations.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Delivered from transgressions by thy holy supplications, O blessed Theotokos, we all wisely bless thee.

Ode 6, Irmos: At evening, in the morning, and at noon do we praise Thee, O Lord our God. Hearken unto our cry!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

We bless and glorify thee, O Virgin Theotokos who art full of grace, for thou dost ever overshadow us with thy grace, protecting and helping us, and deliver us from the wicked foe.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

He Who rideth upon the cherubim and is hymned by the seraphim appeared through thy womb, and all humanity was saved; wherefore, we glorify thee as our helper unashamed.

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

O ye people, come to the veneration of the Mother of God, for the grace of her light hath shone forth even upon us and taught us to chant: O thou who art full of grace, vouchsafe that we may receive a share on high.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Thou art truly the joy of the angels and the gladness of all men, O Theotokos. Save the souls of all who hymn thee, O pure one.

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

Glory ..., Now & ever ...,

Kontakion, Tone 3: Spec. Mel.: "Today the Virgin ...": Today the Virgin revealeth her goodwill toward us, and Mount Athos offereth thanks unto her. Angels and monks together give glory. For the icon "of the three hands" doth travel miraculously from Serbia, and for our sake hath come and made its abode in the holy Monastery of Chilandar.

Ikos: Behold a truly all-wondrous occurrence: thine all-glorious icon "of the three hands", which Savva, the primate of Serbia, brought as a priceless gift to the Serbian land from the holy Lavra of Savva the Sanctified with its blessing, is miraculously borne to Athos from Serbia on a dumb ass, and hath arrived at the holy Monastery of Chilandar. And the monks of that monastery, joyously receiving it as a gift from heaven, placed it in the sanctuary of the katholicon of their monastery, for they understood that this was a clear manifestation of thy goodwill toward them. Wherefore, with joy and love they bowed down before thy most honoured icon, kissing it and chanting unto thee: Rejoice, O speedy help of all the faithful, who hast given us thy holy icon as a token of thy mercy!

Ode 7, Irmos: O unoriginate Word, only-begotten Son, Who existed in the beginning with the Father and the Spirit: blessed and supremely exalted art Thou, O God of our fathers!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

The Creator of all found thee alone to be pure, and He dwelt within thee, as within an all-beauteous temple; wherefore, we chant unto thee: O Mother of Christ our God, blessed art thou!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

With thy mercy thou dost enrich the whole world and enlightenest men's souls, O thou who alone art most hymned; wherefore, we chant unto thee: O Mother of Christ our God, blessed art thou!

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

O Virgin who knewest not wedlock, thou hast been shown to be a tree bearing much fruit, nurturing all with heavenly food. Pour forth good works upon all, that we may all chant unto thee: O Mother of Christ our God, blessed art thou!

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

By the arrival of thine image we are delivered from evils, and all who deal wickedly with thy servants are put to shame; wherefore, we cry aloud: O Mother of Christ our God, blessed art thou!

Ode 8, Irmos:Christ God, Who appeared in the guise of an angel in the fiery furnace of the chanting youths, do ye hymn, O children, and bless, O priests! Ye people, exalt Him supremely for all ages!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Come, and with voices of supplication let us all hymn the pure Virgin. For, lo! gladness now approacheth and the faithful are saved. Let us cry aloud in gladness: Hymn ye and exalt the Theotokos for all ages!

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

The depth which even the eyes of angels cannot plumb, the height which the thoughts of men cannot scale, hath come to us in the image "of the three hands"; wherefore, we bow down before the precious image and cry out: Hymn ye and exalt the Theotokos for all ages!

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

Rejoicing, we approach thy precious image and, praying with compunction, cry out from the depths of our soul: Hymn ye and exalt the Theotokos for all ages!

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Mount Sinai burned with fire, for it could not endure the descent of the glory of God; and thou, without being consumed, didst bear within thy womb the Word of God, Who is wholly divine fire. Wherefore, we chant: Hymn ye and exalt the Theotokos for all ages!

Ode 9, Irmos: Christ our God, to Whom thou gavest birth without seed, O pure Theotokos, do we magnify with unceasing hymns.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Today Orthodox Serbia and "all of Mount Athos rejoiceth, and more especially the Monastery of Chilandar, for the most honoured icon "of the three hands" hath come and made its abode within it, revealing the goodwill of the Mother of God toward us.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us.

Having thy holy icon "of the three hands" as its abbess, as was thy will, O Theotokos, the Monastery of Chilandar is filled with the sweet savour of holiness and doth unceasingly glorify thy name.

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

O all-comely flower who fillest all with sweet fragrance, repelling the assaults of the adversary and filling all with gladness: be thou for us a rampart, a wall of protection and a saving refuge.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

Thou gavest birth unto Him Whom the angels hymn, yet hast remained a virgin; wherefore, we cry out to thee: Rejoice, O speedy aid and mighty helper of the whole world!
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The Mystery of the Church
And the corporate nature of salvation

There is a certain emptiness in trying to live the Christian life outside the life of the Church. This is because it is impossible to truly live as a Christian without the Church. The reading of the scriptures, and our commitment to prayer, are important foundations in the life of a Christian, but they are incomplete without the mystical and sacramental life that is found within the Church.

If we hope to grow spiritually, we will take advantage of the Mysteries that are found only within the Church. Without the Mystery of Penance, and the absolution of the Church, we have no hope of transformation and holiness, for without the corporate life of the Church, our sins keep us captive. Without the Mystery of Christ's Body and Blood, received during the celebration of the Church's Divine Liturgy, the healing of the soul remains undone, and salvation is next to impossible.

The center of the Church's Eucharistic liturgy is to be found in the descent, the appearance, the divine presence of the resurrected Christ, and is central to every moment of the liturgy. As believers, the partaking of Communion is actually that moment when we are encountering the living person of the Lord who enters the congregation as "King of the universe borne invisibly over their spears by the angelic hosts." This act is so central to the life of a Christian, as to make it the necessary component to being a Christian.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon
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Поздравления съ Днемъ Святой Ольги! Greetings on St Olga’s Day.On this feast of St Olga, we are reminded that the journey of the lands of Rus’ to the Faith began not with the emissaries of St Vladimir attending Liturgy in The Church of the Holy Wisdom, wth St Vladimir’s conversion and the baptism of Rus’, but with the faith of St Olga.

St Olga’s original name was Prekrasna, but when she married the Viking Prince Ingvar (Igor), she adopted the name of Olga, or Helga to the Vikings.

And so, the Russian journey to Faith began with a Russian from Pskov, married to a Viking overlord. Having been a fearless and fierce regent after the murder of her husband, she visited the Imperial Court of the Emperor Constantine VII in the 950’s and there encountered Byzantine Christianity, being baptised with the name Elena.

Detail is scant, with no indication of her interior journey and conversion, but the Primary Chronicle tells us:

The reigning Emperor was named Constantine, son of Leo. Olga came before him, and when he saw that she was very fair of countenance and wise as well, the Emperor wondered at her intellect. He conversed with her and remarked that she was worthy to reign with him in his city. When Olga heard his words, she replied that she was still a pagan, and that if he desired to baptize her, he should perform this function himself; otherwise, she was unwilling to accept baptism. The Emperor, with the assistance of the Patriarch, accordingly baptized her. When Olga was enlightened, she rejoiced in soul and body. The Patriarch, who instructed her in the faith, said to her, "Blessed art thou among the women of Rus', for thou hast loved the light, and quit the darkness. The sons of Rus' shall bless thee to the last generation of thy descendants." He taught her the doctrine of the Church, and instructed her in prayer and fasting, in almsgiving, and in the maintenance of chastity. She bowed her head, and like a sponge absorbing water, she eagerly drank in his teachings. The Princess bowed before the Patriarch, saying, "Through thy prayers, Holy Father, may I be preserved from the crafts and assaults of the devil!" At her baptism she was christened Helena, after the ancient Empress, mother of Constantine the Great. The Patriarch then blessed her and dismissed her.

Now Olga dwelt with her son Svyatoslav, and she urged him to be baptized, but he would not listen to her suggestion, though when any man wished to be baptized, he was not hindered, but only mocked. For to the infidels, the Christian faith is foolishness. They do not comprehend it, because they walk in darkness and do not see the glory of God. Their hearts are hardened, and they can neither hear with their ears nor see with their eyes. For Solomon has said, "The deeds of the unrighteous are far from wisdom. Inasmuch as I have called you, and ye heard me not, I sharpened my words, and ye understood not. But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproach. For they have hated knowledge, and the fear of Jehovah they have not chosen. They would none of my counsel, but despised all my reproof."

However, though it seemed that her attempt to make Kievan Rus' a Christian land had failed, the seed of Faith sown in St Olga’s heart and soul, was to find fertile soil and grow to fruition in her grandson, St Vladimir. Surrounded by paganism, sacrifices and the worship of idols, she lived patiently, in humility and holiness, trusting in God. The moment in God’s plan - the καιρός / kairos - had simply not yet come.

To return to The Primary Chronicle:

Olga was the precursor of the Christian land, even as the day-spring precedes the sun and as the dawn precedes the day. For she shone like the moon by night, and she was radiant among the infidels like a pearl in the mire, since the people were soiled, and not yet purified of their sin by holy baptism. But she herself was cleansed by this sacred purification…. She was the first from Rus' to enter the kingdom of God, and the son of Rus' thus praise her as their leader, for since her death she has interceded with God in their behalf.

Let us thank God for St Olga today, and when we celebrate her grandson St Vladimir in a few days, for she is our mother in Faith, the mother of the lands of Rus’ and the spiritual-mother of every child of the Russian Orthodox Church, regardless of race, colour and language.

Greetings to the Olgas in our Cardiff parish, and to the many Olgas among our friends, in the diocese, Minsk, Lima and across the globe!

Holy Equal to the Apostles, Great Princess Olga, pray to God for us!
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July 10/23: St. Anthony of the Kiev CavesOn this feast of St Anthony of the Kiev Caves, we greet Schema-Subdeacon Antony on his name day. Многая и благая лѣта!



After the seeds of Divine grace had been planted through the Mystery of Baptism, it was the early growth of a native monasticism with its intense cultivation of spiritual life which most effectively encouraged the Gospel teaching to take root among the peoples of Rus'. The first of these native monasteries, the Kiev Caves Lavra, has been called "the cradle of Russian Christianity," and its founders, Sts. Anthony and Theodosius, are appropriately venerated as the fathers of Russian monasticism. Together with their disciples, they shone forth upon the Russian land as spiritual luminaries, dispelling the darkness of paganism and calling people, by example, into Christ's marvelous light.

At the time of the Baptism of Rus' in 988, there lived in the town of Liubech a young boy by the name of Antip. He was educated by his parents in Christian piety, and upon coming of age he set out for the Holy Mountain of Athos to observe for himself the life of the monks whose ascetic struggles were extolled by Greek missionaries at work among the peoples of the Kieran princedom. Inspired by the monastic ideal, the youth chose to follow this angelic path himself and was soon tonsured with the name Anthony. He settled not far from the monastery of Esphigmenou in a small cave overlooking the sea.

The zealous young ascetic had been there only a few years when the abbot, prompted by Divine revelation, sent him back to his native land in order that his example might serve to draw others from among the recently enlightened people to embrace the monastic life.

Arriving in Kiev, Anthony made the rounds of the various Greek monasteries there, but finding none of them to his liking—for he was accustomed to the more austere Athonite tradition—he discovered a small cave not far from the city and there resumed his life of solitary struggle.

His peace, however, was interrupted by the fratricidal turmoil which followed upon the death of Great Prince Vladimir in 1015 and the seizure of the throne by his ruthlessly ambitious son Svyatopolk, and Anthony decided to return to Athos. But as soon as this time of troubles passed, the abbot sent him back once again to Kiev with the blessing of the Holy Mountain, encouraging him with the prophecy that many monks would join him.

On his return, Anthony discovered another cave where the ascetic priest Hilarion had been wont to retire for prayer before his appointment as first Metropolitan of Rus'. Enlarging it just enough to make it habitable, Anthony settled there as a hermit. Some kind people, on learning of his presence there, supplied him with the scant provisions he would accept. He subsisted almost exclusively on bread and water.

The saint's life of solitude was short lived, as people began coming to ask his blessing and counsel. Soon, there came also those who desired to share his way of life. One of the first to join the saint was the priest Nikon (March 23) who later tonsured another newcomer and Anthony's closest disciple, Theodosius.

From the beginning, the emerging monastic community enjoyed the favor of the royal household, although it was not always a smooth relationship. When the son of a wealthy boyar gave up his worldly goods for a monastic life of voluntary poverty, his father complained to the prince. Soon thereafter a favorite among the prince's retinue followed suit and was likewise tonsured by Nikon. Prince Izyaslav angrily demanded that Nikon persuade the two to abandon their new way of life, threatening Nikon with his wrath. "Do with me as you will," replied Nikon calmly, "but I cannot take soldiers away from the King of Heaven." The prince's anger unabated, St. Anthony decided it would be expedient for him to depart for a season which he did until the prince, assuaged by his wife, the pious Maria Casimirovna, requested his return.

When the number of brothers reached twelve, Anthony expressed his desire to retire into solitude. "God has gathered you and there rests upon you His blessing and the blessing of the Holy Mountain. Now live in peace; I am appointing for you an abbot, for I wish to live alone as before." And he began digging for himself a new cave, some two hundred yards from the old one, which later came to be known as the "Far Caves."

The first abbot, Barlaam (Nov. 14), was soon called by Prince Izyaslav to head the monastery of St. Demetrios which he had newly established at the gates to the city. When the brethren asked St. Anthony to designate a new abbot, the choice fell upon Theodosius whom he particularly loved for his meekness and obedience.

As more new brethren joined the community and conditions became crowded, Anthony requested from the prince the hill in which the caves were located. When this was granted, the monks built there a wooden church and some cells, and encircled the area with a fence.

But even with Theodosius as abbot, St. Anthony continued to guide the community. In his humility Theodosius did nothing without going first to St. Anthony's cave to ask his advice and his blessing. And others came, for St. Anthony was widely recognized as a holy man rich with the gifts of healing, of clairvoyance and spiritual discernment.

Once, as Prince Izyaslav and his brothers were preparing to fight the Kumans, they came to ask Anthony's blessing. The saint foretold that because of their sins they would suffer defeat, but that the Viking prince Shimon, who had taken refuge with the princes of Rus' after having been expelled from his native Scandinavia, would survive and return to Kiev where he would live for many more years, "and you will be buried in a church that you will build." Both these prophecies were precisely fulfilled.

It was not long after this ill-fated campaign that Kiev became the stage of a rebellion which forced Izyaslav into exile. He suspected Anthony of sympathizing with his opposition and intended, on his return, to banish him. But before he could act on this design, his brother Svyatoslav, Prince of Chernigov, arranged for the saint to be brought secretly to Chernigov. There St. Anthony dug for himself a cave, and thus laid the foundation, as it were, of the Yeletsk Monastery which was later established on that site.

Finally Izyaslav was persuaded of the saint' s innocence and asked that he return to Kiev. Shortly thereafter Izyaslav's reign came to an end; he was overthrown by his brothers and Svyatoslav became Grand Prince.

In view of the steadily increasing number of monks, Sts. Anthony and Theodosius purposed to build a large stone church. Certain miraculous signs confirmed God's blessing upon this undertaking. Many people saw a bright light at night over the proposed site of the new church, and when the Viking Prince Shimon returned from fighting the Kumans, he related that as he lay wounded on the field of battle, he saw a vision of a magnificent church set in the midst of the Caves Lavra. He had had a similar vision before setting sail from his native land. He was praying before an image of the Crucified Lord when the Saviour Himself appeared and told him that in that far away land which would receive him, a church would be built. He instructed Shimon to take from the crucifix the gold crown and gold belt with which it was adorned; the crown was to be hung above the altar of the new church, and the belt was to be used in fixing the dimensions of its foundation—thirty times its measurement in length and twenty times in breadth. As he sailed away, Shimon saw in the night sky a church set in a blaze of light. St. Anthony reverently accepted the gold crown and belt, and the church was built according to the measurements so wondrously revealed to the Viking prince.

The venerable Anthony, however, did not live to see the church completed. In 1073, soon after blessing its foundation, he peacefully gave his soul to God, having spent ninety years on this earth in fruitful spiritual labors. Before his departure he called his monks together and comforted them with the promise that he would always remain with them in spirit and would pray the Lord to bless and protect the community. He also promised that all those who stayed in the monastery in repentance and obedience to the abbot would find salvation. The saint asked that his remains be forever hidden from the eyes of men. His desire was fulfilled. He is said to have been buried in the cave where he reposed, but his relics have never been found. However, multitudes came to pray in his cave, and there, many who were sick found healing.

True to their promise, the holy founders of the Caves Monastery continued to watch over its existence even after their repose. There is, for example, the story written by Bishop Simon (+1226), a former monk of that monastery and principal author of the Kiev Caves Patericorn of how the stone church was completed.

Sts. Anthony and Theodosius had been gone from this world some ten years when a group of Greek iconographers came to the Caves Lavra demanding to see the two monks who had hired them to adorn the new church with frescoes. They were rather angry inasmuch as the church standing before them was considerably larger than they had been led to believe and would consequently require more work than was covered by the sum of gold they had received there in Constantinople upon signing the agreement. Abbot Nikon, confessing his ignorance of the matter, asked who it was that had hired them. "Their names were Anthony and Theodosius," "Truly," said the abbot, "I cannot summon them, for they departed this life ten years ago. But as you yourselves testify, they continue to care for this monastery even now."

The Greeks, scarcely believing this possible, called some merchants traveling with them, who had been present at the signing of the agreement, and asked that they be shown an image of the deceased. When this was done the Greeks bowed low, for they recognized in the saints the exact likeness of the two men who had commissioned them to paint the frescoes and given them the gold. Acknowledging the supernatural power of the saints, they decided not to cancel the agreement after all, and set about with heightened inspiration to embellish the church. The iconographers never returned to Constantinople; they became monks and ended their days there in the Caves Monastery.

The Dormition Church, rebuilt in 1470, was destroyed in 1941 by an explosion which the Soviets attribute to the Germans. Witnesses, however, state that it was the communists themselves who set delayed action explosives just before the German occupation of the city.

Originally published in Orthodox America Vol. 3, no. 78, March 1988
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Elder Melkhisedek: + 9/22 July 1840.9/22 July is the anniversary of the repose of one of my favourite ascetics, the Elder Melchizedek, a hermit of the Roslavl Forest.

His short biography written by Serge Bolshakoff, was one of the first books I bought in my Orthodox life, preparing the way for reading the great Optina Elders series, printed by the St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

I hand you over to the author...

“The life of Father Melkhisedek, one of the outstanding spirit-bearing Fathers of Holy Russia, was very unusual, one might even say unique, in the annals of monastic life. In the first place, it was an extremely long life, lasting for 125 years, from 1715 to 1840. Another striking fact is that when Melkhisedek was already 95 years old, he left his monastery for the life of a solitary in the great Bielsk Forest, in the south-west of the Russian Empire. At this age, rarely attained by one person in a hundred thousand, and then only in an advanced state of senility, Melkhisedek was as vigorous as a man in his fifties, mentally alert and courageous.

After leaving his monastery, the nonagenarian spent thirty years as a hermit. During the last few years of his life, he had a disciple as companion, and was much visited. Melkhisedek was free from illness during the whole of his long life, his sight (he never wore spectacles), his hearing and his movements were unimpaired to the end. His death was easy, painless and dignified.

A study of his manner of life, with its perpetual prayer of the heart, its wise austerity and simplicity, together with its wonderful serenity, strikingly demonstrates that here was something more than a natural way of living.

St.Serafim of Sarov, as well as Bishop Theophan the Recluse, often said that wise and abstemious living leads to good health and a long and useful life.

Father Mitrophan, the disciple and companion of Melkhisedek, recorded his sayings and many incidents of his life, and he himself benefited greatly from Melkhisedek’s wisdom. Mitrophan was over 60 years old when he joined Melkhisedek in his hermitage. He was a well-to-do peasant, and was married. He reached nearly the same age as his master — no doubt because he strictly adhered to the master’s way of living. A long life is, of course, not necessarily a great or a holy life, but in the case of Melkhisedek and his disciple both greatness and sanctity are to be found.

Melkhisedek, in the world Maxim, was born in the province of Kharkov, in Russia, in 1715. His father was a wealthy merchant. Little is known of Melkhisedek’s childhood and youth, apart from his learning to read and write whilst still young, and that he helped his father in running his business. When Maxim was 25, his father proposed that he should marry and become a partner with him in the business and in due course succeed to the ownership. But this was not what Maxim wanted. He was friendly with certain monks, one of whom had suggested that the young man had a calling to the monastic life. The idea of being a monk appealed to the young man. But there were difficulties which appeared to be insurmountable…

White Bluff Monastery was a good but ordinary Russian monastery when Melkhisedek entered it, but it changed a good deal during his stay. This was due to the disciples of the celebrated Archimandrite Paissy Velichkovsky who himself visited it and stayed some time. Paissy was one of the greatest renewers of Russian monasticism as well as a transmitter of Athonite spirituality. He and his disciples much preferred the old ways; the scrupulous observance of ritual and external asceticism, consisting in fasting, vigils, prostrations etc. Father Melkhisedek, for his part, felt an ever-growing inclination to a solitary life. Consequently, when difficulties increased, he took the radical decision to leave White Bluff Monastery and to go and live as a hermit in the vast forest of Bielsk in the Province of Smolensk.

In 1810 Melkhisedek left White Bluff Monastery, where he had spent fifty years of his life, taking with him only a staff and a sack. At this time he was 95 years old. Scarcely one person in a million attains this age, and then only in an advanced stage of senile decay. It was not so with Melkhisedek. At the age of 95 he looked like a man in his late forties or early fifties. He was physically strong, full of trust in Providence, a master of interior prayer.

Many Russian saints began as solitaries, for example, St. Sergius of Radonezh, the founders of Valaam and Solovki monasteries. But they usually ended their lives as cenobites or even Abbots. With Melkhisedek it was different. He started as a cenobite and finished as a hermit. Solitude has always exercised a strong attraction over Russian monks. The elder Zosima Verkhovsky, well known for his writings, was for many years a solitary in the forests in different parts of Russia. He left several passages glorifying solitude. Here’s one of them:

“It is impossible to describe in words the sensation of intimate and spiritual sweetness which is inseparable from solitude, the joy and serenity which no scepter and no honor can secure. What peace neither to see or hear or participate in worldly life, which is delusion. Nothing distracts you from the service of God, nothing prevents you reading and meditating upon the Sacred Books… The virgin forest separates you from the world. All you can see is the sky above, you already live as in Heaven. It proves that man is created for beatitude. If, from the contemplation of the beauty above, the eye turns to the contemplation of nature, the heart is again inflamed with love for Him who created such beauty. The heart quickens before the marvels of His Wisdom and in thanks¬giving for His goodness.”

When Melkhisedek went into solitude, he wisely selected the vast, almost virgin forests which at that time covered large areas of the Provinces of Smolensk, Oryol and Kaluga. Because of the oppression of monks in the Russian Empire under Peter the Great and afterwards, and the numerous and complicated obstacles set before aspirants to the monastic life, quite a few monks were professed secretly or in violation of the civil regulations. For such monks, living in a monastery was a hazardous business which could very well end in defrocking, prison or compulsory military service. For such monks, suspect to the government, the forests offered a safe asylum.

Melkhisedek, arriving at the forest of Bielsk, near Smolensk, found in due course a suitable place for a hermitage. The selected spot belonged to a landowner who not only allowed Melkhisedek to settle there, but erected a “cell” for him, that is, a small wooden house, and supplied him with food. Melkhisedek was very happy in his solitude, spending his time in manual work, reading, fasting and prayer. Another solitary, hearing that Melkhisedek had come to live there, came to cheer him up, thinking he must be sad because of his exile from the White Bluff Monastery, but Melkhisedek answered him:

“I am only sorrowful because the monks expelled me as unworthy to belong to their society, because, after 50 years with them, I could not attain the purity of their life.”

When Melkhisedek became known in the neighbourhood, people began to come to him, asking prayers and advice….

On the day of his death, July 9th, 1840, Father Vasily (Basil), the parish priest of the village of Mokroye, came to the forest and Melkhisedek confessed to him and received Holy Communion. He then went to bed and died shortly afterwards, without any agony. He simply fell asleep. He was 125 years old.

Father Mitrophan buried Melkhisedek near his cell.

According to those who knew the elder Melkhisedek, he was rather short but very healthy and wiry. His face was thin and long and he had a short beard. Melkhisedek never wore spectacles. He had perfect hearing and sight. In his great old age he used to make small wooden crosses which he gave to visitors as a token of his blessing….”
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The Appearance of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God - Happy Feast Day!Поздравления съ Днемъ Казанской иконы Божией Матери!

Greetings to you on this summer feast of the Kazan icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, the patroness of our parish.

It was on this day in 1579 that the newly-revealed icon was discovered in the ashes of one of the many houses that had been destroyed in the great fire of Kazan, an event that the predominantly Muslim population blamed on the Christians of the city.

The Mother of God revealed her hidden wonder-working icon to Matrona, the nine-year old daughter of one of the infantrymen of the Russian garrison. It was only by persistent appeals that the mother of the little girl obtained the blessing of the archbishop and clergy to undertake the search for the icon, and as soon as the child started to dig in the revealed place, the precious image of the Mother of God was found, wrapped in an old piece of cloth.

Tsar Ivan IV commanded the construction of a women’s monastery on the site, and a copy of the icon was sent to Moscow, thereby entering into the life of the Russian people and the history of the nation.

Through the grace of her icon, the Mother of God delivered the Russian land and its Orthodox faithful from the invasion of the Poles in the Time of Troubles (1605-1613) and from the French armies of Napoleon in 1812.

Though the original icon was lost after its theft in the 19th century, there are many wonder-working copies, and during the siege of Leningrad a humble reproduction of the icon was carried around the city, as the faithful prayed for its deliverance from the German invaders.

The Kazan Icon has gone before newly-weds for centuries, and occupies a very special place in the homes and hearts of the Russian Orthodox faithful.

Though we keep the autumn celebration of the icon as our altar-feast in Cardiff, we nevertheless observe this day with joy and gratitude to the Mother of God for revealing her grace, love and mercy to the world through her Kazan icon.

As with royal purple and fine linen, the Church of God is resplendent with the icon of thee and thy Son, O Mother of God, and it is adorned with miracles. Today it calleth all together to celebrate thine Appearance, as thou gleamest with the grace of the Holy Spirit more brilliantly than the radiance of the sun, and poureth forth fountains of healing for the sick and infirm, and grantest unto all great mercy.
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July 7/20: St. Euphrosyne of Moscow - a pillar of strength in times of trouble.St. Euphrosyne’s name in the world, before she received the monastic tonsure, was Eudocia, which means in Greek, “good will.” She was the daughter of the pious and learned prince Dimitry of Suzdal. In 1366 her father gave her in marriage to eighteen-year-old Great Prince Dimitry Ivanovich of Moscow, at the blessing of the saintly Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow. This marriage was very significant in the fate of the Muscovite state, because it strengthened the union between the Muscovite and Suzdal princedoms.

In view of Moscow's ascendancy as leader of Russia, it was a favorable marriage, but the young princess was not to be envied. These were turbulent times for the grand duchy, as one crisis spilled into another: Moscow was swept by a plague, ravaged by fire, besieged by the Lithuanians, engaged in a protracted war with Tver, and constantly at the mercy of the Tartars. In 1380 Grand Duke Dimitry gained a victory over the Tartar khan Mamai in a famous battle on the Kulikovo plain near the Don (for which he came to be known as "Donskoi"), but the Russian losses were staggering, and two years later Moscow was unable to adequately defend itself against Mamai's rival, the khan Tokhtamysh, who plundered the city, then set it afire, taking hostage the Grand Prince's eldest son, Basil.

Throughout all of these tragedies, Eudocia shone forth as a selfless laborer for the good of the people. When widows and orphans were left homeless by plague, fire and war, Eudocia relieved their plight in any way she could. Besides her personal care for the sick and her alms to the homeless, she prayed fervently for all the suffering people day and night.

The couple had not lived more than five year together when Dimitry was forced to go to the Horde in connection with a disagreement with Prince Michael Alexandrovich of Tver. (1399). He was blessed for this mission by St. Alexei of Moscow and St. Sergius of Radonezh, who also had a strong connection with this righteous couple. Dimitry would return safely to Moscow by their prayers, with the title of Grand Prince.

The pair lived their whole life under the spiritual care and guidance of these saints. St. Theodore, Abbot of Simonov Monastery in Moscow (later Archbishop of Rostov) was Eudocia’s spiritual father, and St. Sergius baptized Dimitry himself, and later two of his children, the first of whom, Basil, would ascend the throne after Dimitry’s death. It was written of Dimitry and Eudocia that they were of one spirit, and of one and the same virtuous life, their gaze always directed heavenward. The couple had in all five sons and three daughters.

In 1386 the Great Prince again had to depart for the fateful battle of Kulikovo, to free Rus’ from the Mongol-Tatar yoke. This was the famous battle blessed by St. Sergius of Radonezh, which ultimately led to freedom. Eudocia shared in this labor through her prayers and care for her people. In honor of this victory, she built a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God, which was frescoed by the famous iconographers, St. Maximos the Greek, and Symeon the Black. Dimitry earned the title “Donskoi” or “of the Don” for this battle, which took place near the Don River.

That victory, however, brought the wrath of the Tatar prince, Tokhtamysh upon Moscow. While the Grand Prince was gathering forces in Peryeslavl and Kostroma, leaving Eudocia to reign, Tokhtamysh razed the city and put much of Russia to the torch. Dimitry’s sorrow was boundless; he buried the dead using his own means. Tokhtamysh would later take thirteen-year-old Basil Dimitrievich captive for two years, during which Dimitry died from wounds he had received at Kulikovo. This was his fortieth year, 1389.

The throne passed to Basil, but Dimitry requested that the Grand Duchess refrain from entering a convent that she might take an active part in state affairs. Nevertheless, she lived a life of strict asceticism, establishing in the palace a convent dedicated to the Ascension. It was among the first to benefit from a new typicon (rule) drawn up by Metropolitan Alexis. Up until that time women's monastic communities were virtual dependencies of men's monasteries, submitting to their abbots and often separated from the men's communities only by a wall. Under the new typicon, which was eventually ratified by the Church Council of 1551, the convents were independent; their spiritual and administrative authority rested with the abbesses.

Her sons were still quite young and she began ruling as their regent, in cooperation with the boyars. Dressed in court finery, as her position required, she participated in their councils and banquets. Fired by envy or other passions, slander began circulating around her and reached her sons, who dared repeat this to their mother. She then opened her garments to reveal to them her chest, and they saw her body emaciated by fasting and weighed down by heavy chains. Profoundly moved, they threw themselves at her feet with tears, begging her forgiveness. She said to them simply, "Children, never trust outward appearances!" All her ascetic labors, her prayers and works of charity, the Grand Duchess concealed from human eyes.

The name of Grand Duchess Eudocia is connected with one of the most significant events in the spiritual history of Russia. It happened during the advance of Tamerlane in 1395 on Moscow. Having heard that army had reached the borders of Rus’, the people were in a panic. Thanks to his mother’s encouragement, Grand Prince Basil showed great strength of spirit, and gathered an army to meet the enemy. But this army was much too small to deal with Tamerlane’s invincible forces, intent upon conquering the world.

The people gathered in faith with their Grand Duchess and prayed to God with great fervency. At his mother’s advice, Basil commanded that the miracle-working Vladimir icon of the Mother of God be brought to Moscow from Vladimir. On August 26, 1395, Eudocia, together with her sons, Metropolitan Cyprian of Moscow, the clergy, boyars, and multitudes of the faithful went to meet the icon at Kuchkovo field. (Sretensky Monastery was later erected on this field as a memorial to that meeting.)

On that same day and hour, Tamerlane saw in a dream a “Radiant Lady” surrounded by light and a host of “warriors bearing lightening,” advancing upon him. His advisors suggested that he turn back from Rus’, which he did.

Before Euphrosyne died, an angel appeared and informed her that her earthly sojourn was nearing its end. She became mute and with gestures made it known that she wanted an icon painted of an angel. When the icon was finished she venerated it, but asked that another be painted. It was the same with the second icon. Only when an icon of Archangel Michael was painted did she recognize it to be the angel who appeared to her, and her speech returned.

Sensing that her final days were at hand, she desired to be tonsured and spend them in seclusion and prayer. At that time she appeared in a dream to a blind man and promised him healing. Sitting by the side of the road which the Grand Duchess took to the convent, the unfortunate man heard her approach and cried out: "Holy Grand Duchess, feeder of the poor! You always gave us food and clothing, and never refused our requests! Do not disregard now my plea, and heal me of my many years of blindness, as you promised me in my dream! You said to me, ‘tomorrow I will give you sight’. Now the time has come for you to fulfill your promise." She continued her way, seeming not to understand his words, but in passing by she brushed him, as if accidentally, with the sleeves of her cloak. The man pressed them to his eyes and regained his sight.

A month after she entered the convent, the saint reposed. She had been tonsured with the name Euphrosyne (Evfrosinia) which means “joy” in Greek, on May 17, 1407. According to tradition, thirty people were healed that day from their various diseases. She departed to the Lord in the fifty-fourth year of her life, on July 7, 1407. She was buried at her own request in the church which she had begun to build, dedicated to the Ascension of Christ, in the Kremlin. Her miracle-working relics remained there until 1929.

She had been buried under the floor of the church, with a grave-covering over it as adornment. In 1922, after the communist revolution, this covering was plundered by the state, while St. Euphrosyne’s relics remained in the stone grave beneath the floor. In 1929, the government decided to destroy the edifices of the Ascension Convent. Thanks to the efforts of museum workers, her relics were saved along with the remains of other royal personages interred there; although her relics have yet to be identified separately from the others. The remains were interred in the Archangels Cathedral.

In 2006, construction began of a church dedicated to St. Euphrosyne in Moscow. It is located on the site of Grand Prince Dimitry Donskoi’s palace. When completed, there are plans to translate her relics to this church.

Compiled by Pravoslavie.ru from “Saint Euphrosyne of Moscow,” Orthodox America, and other sources.
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Preparation for the return to public celebration of the Divine Liturgy.Dear brothers and sisters,

It is our hope that today was a step toward the normalisation of parish liturgical life, as public worship returns to Wales from today: 19 July.

Before lockdown was enforced, Father Sebastian suggested both the library and the refectory/trapeznaya of Newman Hall as possible temporary places of worship for the duration of the closure of the University Church. However, restrictions on public worship made this unnecessary, as clergy were initially the only individuals entitled to attend services.

As part of Nazareth House, the University Church remains closed, and we are unsure when it will reopen, so having considered our limited options we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the refectory this morning.

We often use the refectory for compline and vespers, and over the last week we looked for ways in which to rearrange the room for Liturgy. Though our physical arrangements were unusual, the refectory afforded considerably more space in which to celebrate both vespers and the Liturgy.

Capacity will be an issue, making it necessary for us to limit internal numbers, though there is plenty of space for worshippers outside, with the architecture of the room allowing those in the forecourt or garden to view the Liturgy from three sides.

We have yet to finalise plans, but we feel that we have arrived at a temporary answer to worship whilst the University Church remains closed, with the refectory as a seemly and suitable place in which to celebrate. We will begin to make the necessary arrangements and complete risk assessments for submission to His Grace, Bishop Irenei. He is, of course, familiar with Newman Hall and our proposed setting for public worship.

We will update parishioners as soon as we receive finalise our plans.

Thank you to all who helped rearrange and set up the refectory for this weekend’s services, as well as those who contributed by baking, reading, singing and serving.

We congratulate all who partook of the Holy Communion of the Lord’s Body and Blood today!
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Troparion of St Sergius Tone 4

Champion of virtue and warrior of Christ,/ thou didst contend against earthly passions;/ thou wast a model to thy disciples in vigil, chant and fasting/ and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt in thee./ As thou hast boldness towards the Trinity remember thy flock/ and visit thy children as thou didst promise,/ O holy Father Sergius.

Kontakion of St Sergius Tone 8

Wounded with love for Christ and eagerly following Him,/ thou didst spurn all carnal desire and shine as the sun on thy fatherland./ Christ has given thee the gift of wonderworking./ Remember us who honour thy memory and cry: Rejoice, Sergius our holy Father.Venerable Father Sergius pray to God for us.
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The Life of the Holy New-Martyr, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, by Metropolitan Anastassy.Not every generation is destined to meet along its path such a blessed gift from heaven as was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna for her time, for she was a rare combination of exalted Christian spirit, moral nobility, enlightened mind, gentle heart, and refined taste. She possessed an extremely delicate and multifaceted spiritual composition and her outward appearance reflected the beauty and greatness of her spirit. Upon her brow lay the seal of an inborn, elevated dignity which set her apart from those around her. Under the cover of modesty, she often strove, though in vain, to conceal herself from the gaze of others, but one could not mistake her for another. Wherever she appeared, one would always ask: "Who is she who looketh forth as the morning, clear as the sun" (Song of Solomon 6:10)? Wherever she would go she emanated the pure fragrance of the lily. Perhaps it was for this reason that she loved the color white—it was the reflection of her heart. All of her spiritual qualities were strictly balanced, one against another, never giving an impression of one-sidedness. Femininity was joined in her to a courageous character; her goodness never led to weakness and blind, unconditional trust of people. Even in her finest heartfelt inspirations she exhibited that gift of discernment which has always been so highly esteemed by Christian ascetics. These characteristics were perhaps in part due to her upbringing, which she received under the guidance of her maternal grandmother, Victoria, Queen of England and Empress of India. An unmistakable English stamp was placed on all her tastes and habits and English was closer to her than her native German.

The grand duchess herself acknowledged that a great influence on the formation of the inner, purely spiritual side of her character was the example of a paternal ancestor, Elizabeth Turingen of Hungary, who through her daughter Sophia was one of the founders of the House of Hesse. A contemporary of the Crusades, this remarkable woman reflected the spirit of her age. Deep piety was united in her together with self-sacrificing love for her neighbor, but her spouse considered her great beneficence squanderous and at times persecuted her for it. Her early widowhood compelled her to lead a life of wandering and need. Later she was again able to help the poor and suffering and completely dedicate herself to works of charity. The great reverence which this royal struggler enjoyed even during her lifetime moved the Roman Catholic Church in the thirteenth century to number her among its saints. The impressionable soul of the grand duchess was captivated in childhood by the happy memory of her honored ancestor and made a deep impression on her.

Her rich natural gifts were refined by an extensive and wide education which not only satisfied her mental and esthetic needs but also enriched her with knowledge of a purely practical nature, essential for every woman with household duties. "Together with Her Majesty (i.e., Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, her younger sister) we were instructed during our childhood in everything,'' she once said in answer to how she became acquainted with all the details of housekeeping.

Chosen as the future wife of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the grand duchess arrived in Russia during the period when the country, under the firm rule of Alexander III, attained the blossoming of its might in a purely national spirit. With her moral sensitivity and inborn love for knowledge, the young grand duchess began an intense study of the national characteristics of the Russian people and especially of their faith which places a deep mark on both their national character and upon all of their culture. Soon Orthodoxy won her over by its beauty and inner richness which she often would contrast with the spiritual poverty of Protestantism. ("And they are so self-satisfied about everything!" she said about Protestants.)

Of her experiences in the Roman Catholic world, the grand duchess sometimes recalled a trip to Rome which she had taken together with the late grand duke soon after the jubilee of Pope Leo the XIII. The latter knew well the unshakable firmness of Sergei Alexandrovich's Orthodox convictions and regarded him highly, having first made his acquaintance when the grand duke, still a child, was visiting Rome. This long-standing acquaintance allowed them to converse informally. Between them there even arose an argument about how many popes were named Sergius. Neither of these exalted disputants wanted to give way to the other and the pope had to withdraw into his library to check. He returned a bit upset.

"Forgive me," said Leo XIII, smiling, "although they say the pope is infallible, this time he fell into error."

The grand duchess, of her own volition decided to unite herself to the Orthodox Church. When she made the announcement to her spouse, according to the account of one of the servants, tears involuntarily poured from his eyes. The Emperor Alexander III himself was deeply touched by her decision. Her husband blessed her after Holy Chrismation with a precious icon of the Savior, "Not Made by Hands" (a copy of the miraculous icon in the Chapel of the Savior), which she treasured greatly throughout the remaining course of her life. Having been joined to the Faith in this manner, and thereby to all that makes up the soul of a Russian, the grand duchess could now with every right say to her spouse in the words of the Moabite Ruth, "Your people have become my people, and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16).

The grand duke's extended tenure of office as Governor-General of Moscow, the true heart of Russia, where he and his wife were in living contact with the ancient, holy shrines and the immemorial Russian national way of life, must have bound the grand duchess even more to her new homeland.

Even during these years she dedicated much time to philanthropic activities, though this was considered one of the main obligations of her high position and therefore did not earn for her much public merit. As part of her social obligations the grand duchess was forced to participate in social life which was already beginning to oppress her because of its frivolity. The terrible death of the grand duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who was torn apart by a bomb in the holy Kremlin itself (near the Nicholas Palace where the grand duke had moved after he left his position as Governor-General), began a decisive moral change in the soul of his spouse which caused her to forsake her former life once and for all. The greatness of spirit with which she endured her trial evoked for her the deserved admiration of everyone. She even found in herself the moral strength to visit Kaliev, the murderer of her husband, in the hope of softening and healing his heart by meekness and complete forgiveness. These Christian feelings she also expressed, through the person of the slaughtered grand duke, by having the following touching words of the Gospel inscribed upon the memorial cross, erected according to the plans of Vasnetsov, at the site of his death, ''Father, forgive them for they know not what they do..."

However, not everyone was capable of understanding the change which had taken place in her. One had to live through such a staggering catastrophe as this, in order to be convinced of the frailty and illusory nature of wealth, glory and the things of this world, and about which for so many centuries we have been warned by the Gospel. For the society of that time, the decision of the grand duchess to dismiss her court in order to leave the world and dedicate herself to serving God and neighbor, seemed as scandal and madness. Despising both the tears of friends, gossip and mockings of the world, she courageously set out on her new path. Having earlier chosen for herself the path of the perfect, i.e. the path of ascetic struggle, she began with wisely measured steps to ascend the ladder of Christian virtues.

The advice of wise instructors was not foreign to her, guiding those starting out on the path of Christian activity to learn from others the way of life so as "not to teach oneself, not to go without a guide along a path which one had never traveled and hence quickly lose one's way; not to travel more or less correctly, nor become exhausted from too swift a run or to fall asleep while resting" (Jerome, A Letter to the Monk Rusticus).

Therefore she strove to understand nothing without the direction of spiritually experienced elders, especially the elders of the Zosima Hermitage under whom she placed herself in total obedience. As her heavenly guides and protectors she chose St. Sergius and St. Alexis of Moscow. She was entrusted to their special protection by her late spouse whose remains she buried at the Chudov Monastery in a magnificent tomb, styled after those in the ancient Roman catacombs. The extended period of mourning for the grand duke, during which she retired into her interior world and was continually in church, was the first real break to separate her from what up until then had been her normal everyday life. The move from the palace to the building she acquired at Ordinka, where she allotted only two very modest rooms for herself, signaled a full break with the past and the beginning of a new period in her life.

From now on her main task became the building of a sisterhood in which inner service to God would be integrated with active service to one's neighbor in the name of Christ. This was a completely new form of organized charitable Church activity, and consequently drew general attention to itself. At its foundation was placed a deep and immutable idea: no one could give to another more than he himself already possessed. We all draw upon God and therefore only in Him can we love our neighbor. Natural love so-called or humanism quickly evaporates, replaced by coldness and disappointment, but one who lives in Christ can rise to the heights of complete self-denial and lay down his life for his friends. The grand duchess not only wanted to impart to charitable activities the spirit of the Gospel but to place them under the protection of the Church. Thus she hoped to attract gradually to the Church, those levels of Russian society, which up until that time had remained largely indifferent to the Faith. Highly significant was the very name the grand duchess bestowed upon the institution she established—the Martha and Mary Convent, which name contains within itself the mission, the life of its holy patrons.

The community was intended to be like the home of Lazarus which the Savior so often visited. The sisters of the convent were called to unite both the high lot of Mary, attending to the eternal word of life, and the service of Martha, to that degree in which they found Christ in the person of His less fortunate brethren. In justifying and explaining her thought, the ever-memorable foundress of the convent said that Christ the Savior could not judge Martha for showing Him hospitality, since the latter was sign of her love for Him. He only cautioned Martha, and in her all women in general, against that excessive fussing and triviality which draw them away from the higher needs of the spirit.

To be not of this world, and at the same time live and act in the world in order to transform it—this was the foundation upon which she desired to establish her convent.

Striving to be an obedient daughter of the Orthodox Church in all things the grand duchess did not desire to make use of the advantages of her position fearing lest even in the smallest way she take liberties and depart from obedience, from the rules or specific statutes established for everyone by the Church Authority. On the contrary, she fulfilled with complete readiness the slightest desire of the latter even if it did not coincide with her personal views. At one time, for example, she seriously thought about reviving the ancient institution of deaconess, in which she was zealously supported by Metroplitan Vladimir of Moscow. Bishop Germogen (at this time of Saratov, later of Tobolsk where he was martyred), because of a misunderstanding, stood up against this idea, accusing the grand duchess without any foundation, of Protestant tendencies (of which he later repented), and counseled her to abandon her cherished dream. Having been misunderstood in the best of her strivings, the grand duchess did not stifle her spirit because of this trying disappointment, but rather put her whole heart into her beloved Martha and Mary Convent. It is not surprising that the convent quickly blossomed and attracted many sisters from the aristocracy as well as the common people. Nearly monastic order reigned within the inner life of the community and both within and without the convent her activities consisted in the care of those who visited the sick who were lodged in the convent, in the material and moral help given to the poor, and in the almshouse for those orphans and abandoned children found in every large city. The grand duchess paid special attention to the unfortunate children who bore within themselves the curse of their fathers' sins, the children born in the turbid slums of Moscow only to wither before they had a chance to blossom. Many of them were taken into the orphanage built for them where they were quickly revived spiritually and physically. For others, constant supervision at their place of residence was established. The spirit of initiative and moral sensitivity which accompanied the grand duchess in all her activities, inspired and impelled her to search out new paths and forms of philanthropic activity, which sometimes reflected the influence of her first, western homeland, and its advanced organizations for social improvement and mutual aid. And so she created a cooperative of messenger boys with a well built dormitory, and apartments for the girls who took part in this activity. Not all of these establishments were directly connected with the convent, but they were all like rays of light from the sun united in the person of their abbess, who embraced them with her care and protection. Having chosen as her mission not only to serve one’s neighbor in general, but also the spiritual re-education of contemporary Russian society, the grand duchess wanted to speak to the latter in a closer, more understandable language about Church art and Orthodox liturgical beauty. All the churches founded by her, especially the main church of the convent, built in the Novgorod-Pskov style by the famous architect Shchusev and painted by Nesterov, were distinguished by their austere style and the artistic unity of the interior and exterior ornamentation. The crypt located under the arches of the convent church also evoked general admiration for its peaceful warmth. The church services in the convent were always outstandingly well performed, thanks to the exceptionally capable spiritual father chosen by the abbess. From time to time she attracted other fine pastoral strength from Moscow and all parts of Russia to serve and preach. Like bees gathering nectar from all flowers, according to the words of Gogol, for her, as a true Christian, there was no ultimate course of study and she remained a conscientious humble student all her life.

All the external decor of the Martha and Mary Convent as well the internal structure, and in general all the material creations of the grand duchess were stamped with elegance and culture. This was not because she conveyed to it some sort of self-satisfying significance, but because this was the spontaneous action of her creative spirit. Having concentrated her activity around the convent, the grand duchess did not sever her ties with those other social organizations and institutions of a charitable or spiritually enlightening nature with which she had been bound by close moral ties ever since her first years in Moscow. Among these, the Palestine Society occupied the first place, so close to her because it called to life the deep Russian Orthodox feeling of her spouse, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, for the Holy Land. Having inherited from him the chairmanship of this society, she imitated him in holy zeal for Sion and in tireless concern over Russian pilgrims heading for the Holy Land. Her cherished dream was to go with them, though she already had earlier visited the holy places together with the late grand duke. The unbroken chain of activity and responsibilities, becoming more complicated with every year, prevented her for a long time from leaving Russia for the Holy City. Alas! No one then foresaw that she would arrive in Jerusalem only after her repose, in order to find there a place for eternal rest.

Her mind was always in harmony with her heart, and in the Palestine work she exhibited not only love and zeal for the Holy Land but a great working knowledge, as if she directly controlled all the institutions of the Society. During the last years before the war she was occupied with plans for the construction of a metochion to St. Nicholas, in Bari, with a church worthy of the Russian name. The project and model of the building, executed by Shchusev in the ancient Russian style, was permanently exhibited in her reception room. Countless papers and callers, the examination of various types of petitions and entreaties which were presented to her from all parts of Russia, as well as other affairs, usually filled her whole day and frequently brought her to the point of total exhaustion. This did not hamper her from spending the night at the bedside of suffering patients or from attending services in the Kremlin and at the greatly loved churches and monasteries in all parts of Moscow. The spirit strengthened the weakened body (her only rest was pilgrimages to various parts of Russia for prayer. However, even here the people took away the possibility of her finding seclusion and quiet. Greatly honoring her royal birth and great piety, the people ecstatically met her everywhere. The trips of the grand duchess to various cities of Russia, against her will turned into triumphant marches).

Concealing her struggles, she always appeared before people with a bright, smiling face. Only when she was alone or with a few close people, her face and especially her eyes reflected hidden sorrow—the mark of a great soul languishing in this world. Having detached herself from almost all earthly things, she even more brightly radiated an inner light, especially by her love and tenderness. No one could do an act of kindness more delicately—to each according to his need or spiritual temperament. She was not only capable of weeping with the sorrowful but of rejoicing with those who rejoice, which is usually the more difficult. Though not a nun in the strict sense, better than any nun she observed the great law of St. Nilus of Sinai: "Blessed is the monk who honors every man as (a) god after God." Find the best in every man and, "Have mercy on the fallen," was the continual striving of her heart. A meek spirit did not prevent her from blazing with holy wrath before injustice. Even more strictly she judged herself if she made some mistake, however involuntarily. Allow me to present a fact which witnesses to this facet of her character, as well as how her sincerity won out against an inborn reserve and the demands of social etiquette. Once during the time I was vicar bishop of Moscow she offered me the chairmanship of a purely secular organization, not having any activities connected with the Church. I was involuntarily embarrassed, not knowing how to answer her. Understanding my position, she immediately said decisively, "Forgive me, I made a foolish suggestion," and thus led me out of a difficult situation.

The high position of the grand duchess along with her openness attracted many and various organizations and individual petitioners to her for her help, protection, or authoritative influence in the higher echelons of both local Moscovite and the central authority. She carefully replied to all petitions except for those which bore political overtones. The latter she decisively rejected, considering dealings with politics to be incompatible with her new calling.

She paid special attention to all institutions of Church, charitable or artistic and scientific character. She also zealously worked to preserve the more important daily customs and traditions which made life so rich in old, beloved Moscow. The anniversary holiday of 1912 gave her an unexpected chance to exhibit her zeal in this direction.

Here are the circumstances of this activity, hitherto known only to a few people, including even those who had direct connection with this work. During the elaboration of the program for the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the War for the Homeland, there arose in the special committee organized in Moscow a heated debate over how to celebrate the Thirtieth of August, the final day of the anniversary festival in Moscow, where the emperor, according to ceremony was supposed to arrive from Borodino. The representative of the ministry of the court offered to place at the center of the festival day a visit by the emperor to the Zemsky Kustarny Museum, which had absolutely nothing to do with the historical recollection of 1812.

Others supported my proposed offer that this memorial for Russia, St. Alexander Nevsky's Day, be noted with a festive service of thanksgiving on Red Square. The ceremonial officialdom refused to put aside its plan, protecting itself with the impenetrable iron plating of "imperial order," a being whose existence no one, of course, could verify. As for me, a representative of the clerical department, and those who were of like mind, all we could do was submit to the inescapable. At my meeting with the grand duchess I told her all about the conflict that had come to pass. Having heard out my tale in much distress she said, "I will try to write about it to the emperor. It's true," she added with a reserved smile, 'for us women, all is permitted."

Within a week, she informed me that the emperor had changed the program according to our desires.

When the Thirtieth of August arrived it presented a magnificent picture of a genuinely national, Church and patriotic festivity which will never be forgotten by the participants. For this fete Moscow was indebted to the intercessions of the grand duchess who exhibited in the present circumstance not only her devotion to the Church but a deeply historical, purely Russian devotion.

At the beginning of the war she gave herself over with complete self-sacrifice to the service of the sick and wounded soldiers whom she visited not only in the hospitals and sanitoriums of Moscow but also at the front. Like the empress, she was not spared the slander which accused them of excessive sympathy for wounded Germans, and the grand duchess bore this unwarranted, bitter offense with her usual magnanimity.

When the revolutionary storm broke out she met it with amazing self-control and calm. It seemed that she stood on a high, unshakable cliff, and from there fearlessly looked out at the waves storming around her and raised her spiritual vision to eternity.

She did not harbor even a shadow of ill feelings against the madness of the agitated masses. "The people are children, innocent of what is transpiring," she remarked quietly. "They are led into deception by the enemies of Russia." Nor was she depressed by the great suffering and humiliation that befell the royal family who were so close to her: "This will serve for their moral purification and bring them nearer to God," she noted once with radiant gentleness. She suffered deeply for the royal family only when the thorns of grievous slander were woven around them especially during the war. In order not to give impetus to new evil gossip, the grand duchess tried to avoid conversations on the subject. If it so happened that because of idle people's tasteless curiosity the subject was broached in her presence, she immediately killed it by her expressive silence. Only once after returning from Tsarskoe Selo, she forgot herself and remarked, "That terrible man (i.e., Rasputin) wants to separate me from them but, thank God, he will not succeed."

The charm of her whole temperament was so great that it automatically attracted even the revolutionaries when they first arrived to examine the Martha and Mary Convent. One of them, apparently a student, even praised the life of the sisters, saying that no luxuries were noticeable, and that cleanliness and good order were the rule, which was in no way blameworthy. Seeing his sincerity, the grand duchess struck up a conversation with him about the outstanding qualities of socialist and Christian ideals. "Who knows," remarked her unknown conversationalist as if influenced by her arguments, "perhaps we are headed for the same goal, only by different paths," and with these words left the convent.

"Obviously we are still unworthy of a martyr's crown," the abbess replied to the sisters' congratulating her for such a successful end to the first encounter with the Bolsheviks. But that crown was not far from her. During the course of the last months of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, the Soviet power to everyone's amazement granted the Martha and Mary Convent and its abbess complete freedom to live as they wished and even supported them by supplying essentials. This made the blow even heavier and unexpected for them when on Pascha the grand duchess was suddenly arrested and transported to Ekaterinburg. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon attempted with the help of Church organizations to take a part in her liberation, but was unsuccessful. Her exile was at first accompanied by some comforts. She was quartered in a convent where all the sisters were sincerely involved. A special comfort for her was that she was not hampered from attending services. Her position became more difficult after her transfer to Alapaevsk where she was imprisoned in one of the city schools together with her ever-faithful companion, Sister Barbara, and several grand dukes who shared her fate.

Nevertheless she did not lose her abiding firmness of spirit and occasionally would send words of encouragement and comfort to the sisters of her convent who were deeply grieving over her. And so it continued until the fateful night of 5/18 July. On this night together with the other royal captives striving with her and her valiant fellow-struggler Barbara in Alapaevsk, she was suddenly taken in an automobile outside the city and apparently buried alive with them in one of the local mine shafts. The results of later excavation there has shown that she strived until the last moment to serve the grand dukes who were severely injured by the fall. Some local peasants who carried out the sentence on these people whom they did not know, reported that for a long time there was heard a mysterious singing from below the earth.

This was the great-passion-bearer, singing funeral hymns to herself and the others until the silver chain was loosed and the golden bowl was broken (cf. Eccles. 12:6) and until the songs of heaven began to resound for her. Thus the longed-for martyr's crown was placed on her head and she was united to the hosts of those of whom John, the seer of mysteries, speaks: "after this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;...And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:9, 14). Like a wondrous vision she passed over the earth, leaving behind radiant traces. Together with all the other sufferers for the Russian land, she appeared simultaneously as a redeemer for Russia and as a foundation for that Russia of the future which is being raised up on the bones of the new martyrs. Such images have a timeless significance; their memory is eternal on earth and in heaven. Not in vain did the voice of the people declare her a saint during her lifetime. (It is noteworthy that soon after the birth of the grand duchess, her mother, the Princess Alice, a woman with a great and meek spirit, wrote to Queen Victoria about the name given to her daughter. "We liked Elizabeth since St. Elizabeth is an ancestress of the Hessian, as well as of the Saxon House." The late grand duchess had kept this name after being united to the Orthodox Church and chose for her heavenly protectress, St. Elizabeth—5 September.)

As though in reward for her earthly struggles and special love for the Holy Land, her martyred remains, which according to eyewitnesses were found in the mine shaft completely untouched by corruption, were destined to rest at the same place where the Savior suffered and rose from the dead. Exhumed on the orders of Admiral Kolchak, together with the bodies of other members of the royal house killed at the same time (the Grand Duke Sergei Michailovich, the Princes John, Igor, and Konstantine Konstantinovich, and the son of the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, Prince Paley), their remains and the bodies of the grand duchess and Sister Barbara were taken first to Irkutsk and then to Peking where they remained for a long time m the cemetery church of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission. From there, through the concern of her sister, Princess Victoria, the Marchioness of Milford-Haven, to whom she was closely bound during life, her coffin and Sister Barbara's were transferred from Shanghai and sent to Palestine.

On the 15th of January, 1920, the bodies of both sufferers were triumphantly met in Jerusalem by the English authorities, the Greek and Russian clergy, as well as crowds of the large Russian colony and local inhabitants. Their burial took place the next day and was served by the head of the Church of Jerusalem, the Blessed Patriarch Damianos, together with a host of clergy.

As if destined for the purpose, the crypt below the lower vault of the Russian church of St. Mary Magdalene was adapted as a sepulchre for the grand duchess. This church, built in memory of the Empress Maria Alexandrovna by her august children, was not strange to the deceased, for together with the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich she had been present at its consecration in 1888. Located on a picturesque slope of the Mount of Olives, it is the best-styled and most graceful of all the churches one finds in Palestine, attracting one's gaze even from a distance by its colorful and purely Russian lines. The martyr herself could not have chosen a better resting place even if, having foreseen that she would have to repose for a time outside her convent, she had earlier prepared a grave for herself.

Here, everything reflects her spirit: the golden domes of the church, sparkling in the sun amidst green olive trees and cypresses; the artistic interior furnishings, stamped with the inspiration of Vereshchagin, and the very character of the holy images, pierced through by the rays of Christ s Resurrection. Even closer and dearer to her heart is the fragrance of the holy places, which breathes upon her sepulchre from all sides. Below, beneath the tomb stretches out a unique view of the Holy City with the great cupola of the Life-Giving Tomb rising on high; at the foot of her tomb, the Garden of Gethsemane where in agony the Divine Sufferer prayed until drops of blood appeared. Further on, Gethsemane itself, the place of the Mother of God's burial and to the left one can discern half-concealed by the folds of mountains, Bethany, that true Convent of Martha and Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom the Lord called forth from the grave; and above, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene joyously crowns Mt. Olivet, whence the risen Savior rose gloriously to heaven in order to crown from there all those who amid temptations remained faithful to Him until death.

Metropolitan Anastassy

Jerusalem: 5/18 July, 1925.
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The Holy New-Martyrs, Grand Duchess Elizabeth & the Nun Barbara.As we celebrate the feast of the Holy New-Martyrs, Grand-Duchess Elizabeth and the Nun Barbara, we send our congratulations and warmest greetings to our Chancellor, Archpriest Paul, and to his parishioners in Wallasey – a wonderful parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia dedicated to St Elizabeth, and a repository of so many sacred artifacts from the history of the Church of the Russian emigration in Great Britain. In addition to the beautiful cemetery church, ‘Little St Elizabeth’s’ in Father Paul’s home, also celebrates its altar feast.

We also send our greetings to our dear friends, the Sisters of the Convent of St Elizabeth, in Minsk.

Dear Father, members of the Sisterhood of St Elizabeth, dear brothers and sisters in Wallasey – Поздравление съ праздникомъ!

Holy New-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara, pray to God for us.
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Troparion (Tone 1)

Most noble and sublime was your life and death, O Sovereigns;
Wise Nicholas and blest Alexandra, we praise you,
Acclaiming your piety, meekness, faith, and humility,
Whereby ye attained to crowns of glory in Christ our God,
With your five renowned and godly children of blessed fame.
O passion–bearers decked in purple, intercede for us.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

Royalty and martyrdom were joined together, O blessed ones,
In your death for righteousness and right belief, O wise Sovereigns,
Nicholas and Alexandra, with your five children.
Hence, Christ our God counted you worthy of thrones in Heaven;
And with twofold crowns of glory,
You reign forever, adorned with grace divine.
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Remembering the Royal Martyrs.Dear brothers and sisters, I know it is rather late in the day - and that we have really entered into the new liturgical day - but I would like to greet you with the radiant memory of the Royal Martyrs.

It was a great joy to be able to celebrate a moleben in honour of the Tsar-Martyr and his martyred-family at the home of Deacon Mark, and to remember each parishioner by name in the litanies. We also prayed for the Russian land and its people, for the Imperial House and for this land and it’s authorities, commending our interntions to the prayers of the Royal Martyrs.

Great faith and wondrous patience, and love for thine enemies didst thou acquire, O holy martyred Tsar Nicholas, trusting in God amid thy trials, longsuffering amid thy sufferings, forgiving the enemies who slew thee, and asking that they not be punished for thy sake; for thou didst say that evil cannot conquer evil, but love alone. And thou didst meekly accept a martyr's death for Christ. Wherefore, Christ hath exalted thee in the heavens. Him do thou entreat in behalf of them that with faith and love honour thee.
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3/17 July: VENERABLE ANDREI RUBLEV, THE ICONOGRAPHER.Troparion, Tone 3: Shining with the rays of divine light, / O venerable Andrew, / thou didst know Christ the wisdom and power of God. / By means of the image of the Holy Trinity / thou didst preach to all the world the Holy Trinity in unity. / And we, with amazement and joy, cry out to thee: / As you hast boldness before the Most Holy Trinity / Pray that the Uncreated Light / May illumine our souls!

Kontakion, Tone 2: Like a trumpet, thou hast clearly sounded the sweetness of divine hymns, / and were revealed as a brilliant beacon shining on the world with the light of the Trinity. / Therefore, we all cry to thee, O venerable Andrew: / “Unceasingly pray for us all.”

Little information survives about the life of the Venerable Andrei Rublev, Russia’s greatest iconographer. It is not known where he was born, though it was probably near Moscow. He probably lived in the Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra near Moscow under Saint Nikon of Radonezh (Nov. 17), who became abbot after the death of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (Sept. 25) in 1392. The first mention of Rublev is in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin in company with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets. His name was the last of the list of masters as the junior both by rank and by age. Theophanes was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev.

Sometime before 1405 he moved to the Spaso-Andronikov Monastery founded by Saint Andronicus (June 13), with the blessing of Saint Nikon. There Andrei received monastic tonsure and was taught iconography by Theophanes the Greek and the monk Daniel, Saint Andrew’s friend and fellow-ascetic. His next important project, which he undertook with the monk Daniel, was to paint the frescoes in the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir in 1408.

Nikon of Radonezh asked Andrei and Daniel to paint the new church in the reconstructed Monastery of the Holy Trinity, which had been destroyed by the Tatars in 1408. At this time Andrei painted his most famous icon: the Holy Trinity (actually, the Hospitality of Abraham), which is the only work authenticated as entirely his (c. 1410, currently in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow). Rublev removed the figures of Abraham and Sarah from the scene, and through a subtle use of composition and symbolism changed the subject to focus on the Mystery of the Trinity.

After Daniel's death, Andrei came to Moscow's Andronikov Monastery where he painted his last work, the frescoes of the Savior Cathedral. He is also believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels.

In Rublev's art two traditions are combined: the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. The characters of his paintings are always peaceful and calm. After some time his art came to be perceived as the ideal of Russian Orthodox painting and iconography.

Saint Andrei fell asleep in the Lord on 29 January 1430 (although 17 October 1428 is also cited) at Andronikov Monastery, and was buried there. He was over seventy years old at the time of his death. The monk Daniel, who died before Saint Andrei, had appeared to his friend and urged him to join him in eternal blessedness.

Since 1959 the Andrei Rublev Museum at the Andronikov Monastery has displayed his and related art. In 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky made a film Andrei Rublev, loosely based on the artist's life. This became the first (and perhaps only) film produced in the Soviet era to treat the artist as a world-historic figure and Christianity as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity, during a turbulent period in the history of Russia.

Article source: www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2016/07/saint-andrei-rublev-iconographer.html
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A Happy Birthday & Many Years to Father Luke: Многая лѣта!We wish Archpriest Luke a very happy birthday, as well as a blessed feast of Saints Julius and Aaron!

Many members of our South Wales community have known Father Luke for many years, and benefitted from his pastoral experience and advice during the years of assistance he gave to the parish of St Nicholas in Butetown. Now, happily for us, he is the senior of the four clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Wales.

We hold him in our prayers as we prepare for the return to public worship, and liturgical life resumes in West Wales, local to a considerable number of our parishioners who live in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and beyond.

Regular Liturgies in the Chapel of St David and St Nicholas will be an important addition to the life of the diocese.

Again... Father Luke, may God grant you many blessed years! Многая и благая лѣта!
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1/14 July: Sts Julius and Aaron.In addition to celebrating St Cosmas and Damian, today is also the Orthodox feast of the protomartyrs of Wales, Sts Julius and Aaron, martyred during Diocletian’s persecutions at the beginning of the fourth century.

Although there are different historical theories about the location of the Urbs Legionum in which they were stationed, our Welsh tradition and hagiography places them ‘on our doorstep’ in the Roman city of Caerleon.

St Gildas spoke of Aaron and Julius - together with St Alban - as bright lamps kindled in the darkness, writing that they ‘were tormented with divers sufferings, and their limbs were racked...’

The celebrated historian and archdeacon of Brecon, Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146 – c. 1223), wrote of two chapels dedicated to Sts Aaron and Julius at Caerleon, and one of them - St Julius’ martyrium - survived the reformation, as a stable in the outbuildings of St Julian’s House.

In his 1801 work “An Historical Tour In Monmouthshire”, William Coxe wrote:

“Near the house is an old barn of small dimensions, which was once part of the chapel of St. Julius, from whom the place derived its appellation; on the south wall are the remains of an arched entrance, which is now half filled up; the east and west windows may be traced, and a small gothic doorway to the weft, still remains in its original state.”

Sadly the last remains were demolished in 1997 and the bricks taken to the local Anglican parish church, happily dedicated to St Julian.

Even though we know so little about them, may their prayers continue to light our way and may their feast bring us grace and divine help.

Holy martyrs Aaron and Julius, pray to God for us!

Troparion of Ss Julius and Aaron Tone 1: In the wave of savage persecution / wherein St. Alban triumphed gloriously, / O holy Julius and Aaron together with your companions, / ye too have gained the victors’ crowns. / Glory to Him Who hath strengthened you; glory to Him Who hath crowned you; / glory to Him Who through you workest healings for all.
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2/14 July: The Holy Unmercenary Healers and Wonderworkers Cosmas and Damian.O Holy Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers Cosmas and Damian, visit our infirmities. Freely ye have received, freely give unto us.

The unmercenary healers have a special place in the spirituality of the Orthodox Church, though they were once well known in the west. The brothers Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome are some of the best loved, but whilst they remain important Orthodox saints, they have largely been forgotten in the west - together with the other holy healers who were once so popular and widely venerated.

We continue to turn to them, asking for their intercession and gift of healing, and today we celebrate their feast.

The Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian were born at Rome, brothers by birth, and physicians by profession. They suffered at Rome in the reign of the emperor Carinus (283-284). Brought up by their parents in the rules of piety, they led strict and chaste lives, and they were granted by God the gift of healing the sick. By their generosity and exceptional kindness to all, the brothers converted many to Christ. The brothers told the sick, “It is not by our own power that we treat you, but by the power of Christ, the true God. Believe in Him and be healed.” Since they accepted no payment for their treatment of the infirm, the holy brothers were called “unmercenary physicians.”

Their life of active service and their great spiritual influence on the people around them led many into the Church, attracting the attention of the Roman authorities. Soldiers were sent after the brothers. Hearing about this, local Christians convinced Sts Cosmas and Damian to hide for a while until they could help them escape. Unable to find the brothers, the soldiers arrested instead other Christians of the area where the saints lived. Sts Cosmas and Damian then came out of hiding and surrendered to the soldiers, asking them to release those who had been arrested because of them.

At Rome, the saints were imprisoned and put on trial. Before the Roman emperor and the judge they openly professed their faith in Christ God, Who had come into the world to save mankind and redeem the world from sin, and they resolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. They said, “We have done evil to no one, we are not involved with the magic or sorcery of which you accuse us. We treat the infirm by the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we take no payment for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples, “Freely have you received, freely give” (Mt. 10: 8).

The emperor, however, continued with his demands. Through the prayer of the holy brothers, imbued with the power of grace, God suddenly struck Carinus blind, so that he too might experience the almighty power of the Lord, Who does not forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:31). The people, beholding the miracle, cried out, “Great is the Christian God! There is no other God but Him!” Many of those who believed besought the holy brothers to heal the emperor, and he himself implored the saints, promising to convert to the true God, Christ the Savior, so the saints healed him. After this, Sts Cosmas and Damian were honorably set free, and once again they set about treating the sick.

But what the hatred of the pagans and the ferocity of the Roman authorities could not do, was accomplished by black envy, one of the strongest passions of sinful human nature. An older physician, an instructor, under whom the holy brothers had studied the art of medicine, became envious of their fame. Driven to madness by malice, and overcome by passionate envy, he summoned the two brothers, formerly his most beloved students, proposing that they should all go together in order to gather various medicinal herbs. Going far into the mountains, he murdered them and threw their bodies into a river.

Thus these holy brothers, the Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian, ended their earthly journey as martyrs. Although they had devoted their lives to the Christian service of their neighbors, and had escaped the Roman sword and prison, they were treacherously murdered by their teacher.

The Lord glorifies those who are pleasing to God. Now, through the prayers of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian, God grants healing to all who with faith have recourse to their heavenly intercession.

Cosmas and Damian, God grants healing to all who with faith have recourse to their heavenly intercession.

The Orthodox Church in America
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Some (unfortunately) do not set the goal of putting off the old man (repentance, humility, and asceticism as a way of helping the sanctification of the soul) with a deep sense of their sinfulness. Then, they would naturally feel the need for Gods mercy, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me," often. This with pain in their heart and then the feeling of the sweetness of divine comfort of the most Sweet Christ within their heart.

+St. Paisios the Athonite
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The feast of the Holy All-Praised Chiefs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.Dear brothers and sisters, near and far:

Поздравляю съ днемъ святыхъ первоверховныхъ апостоловъ Петра и Павла!

Festal greetings as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul.

Our special congratulations go to our parishioners Peter, Paul and Paul, as they celebrate their nameday, and for whom we chanted ‘Monogaya Leta’ at the end of Liturgy. We also extend our greetings to Nicholas, Marija and Sofija who have celebrated their birthdays this weekend.

May the Lord bless you and keep you all. Many blessed years: Многая и благая лѣта!

Despite the forthcoming developments allowing public worship with social distancing, our settings limit liturgical life for the foreseeable future - in fact, until worship is able to resume in the University Church.

As guests of the Sisters of Nazareth, we await information. As Church is part of the Nazareth House complex, our parish may be one of the last in the Diocese to return to public Liturgy on site.

During the week, Deacon Mark and I will discuss the possibility of celebrating vespers publicly, something that hasn’t happened since before lockdown, and we will raise this possibility with our Oratorian hosts. Needless to say - this will NOT be in the diminutive Little Oratory. We will seek the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Irenei, before any announcements are made.

In the meantime, we continue to celebrate an early Sunday Liturgy, supported by singers, welcoming communicants throughout the morning. This is far from ideal, but parishioners have been patient and accommodating in difficult and frustrating circumstances.

Saturday evenings have now been established as a time for confessions, and I was pleased that so many members of the parish availed themselves of this opportunity this weekend.

Thank you to those who continue to support parish life so actively: drivers for the priest, prosphora-bakers, cooks, launderers, cleaners, those who ensure the icons are adorned with herbs and flowers and those who so kindly prepare meals for the clergy.

I am indebted to the servers who have so ably assisted in Liturgy, whether nine years old, twelve or sixty-something, as well as those who have chanted the services throughout the strange period of the last four months - some of those being parishioners who have never been part of our choir, but have done their best to sing their way through vespers and Liturgy.

Again - happy feast to you all!

In Christ - Hieromonk Mark
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The Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands”

In the eighth century during the time of the Iconoclasts, St. John of Damascus (December 4) was zealous in his veneration of holy icons. Because of this, he was slandered by the emperor and iconoclast Leo III the Isaurian (717-740), who informed the Damascus caliph that St. John was committing treasonous acts against him. The caliph gave orders to cut off the hand of the monk and take it to the marketplace. Towards evening St. John, having asked the caliph for the cut-off hand, put it to its joint and fell to the ground before the icon of the Mother of God. The monk begged Our Lady to heal the hand, which had written in defense of Orthodoxy. After long prayer he fell asleep and saw in a dream that the All-Pure Mother of God had turned to him promising him quick healing.
Before this the Mother of God bid him toil without fail with this hand. Having awakened from sleep, St. John saw that his hand was unharmed. In thankfulness for this healing St. John placed on the icon a hand fashioned of silver, from which the icon received its name “Of Three Hands.” (Some iconographers, in their ignorance, have mistakenly depicted the Most Holy Theotokos with three arms and three hands.) According to Tradition, St. John wrote a hymn of thanksgiving to the Mother of God: “All of creation rejoices in You, O Full of Grace,” which appears in place of the hymn “It is Truly Meet” in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

St. John Damascene accepted monasticism at the monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified and there bestowed his wonderworking icon. The Lavra presented the icon “Of Three Hands” in blessing to St. Sava, Archbishop of Serbia (+ 1237, January 12). During the time of an invasion of Serbia by the Turks, some Christians who wanted to protect the icon, entrusted it to the safekeeping of the Mother of God Herself. They placed it upon a donkey, which without a driver proceeded to Athos and stopped in front of the Hilandar monastery. The monks put the icon in the monastery’s cathedral church (katholikon). During a time of discord over the choice of igumen, the Mother of God deigned to head the monastery Herself, and from that time Her holy icon has occupied the igumen’s place in the temple. At the Hilandar monastery there is chosen only a vicar, and from the holy icon the monks take a blessing for every obedience.
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Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

According to ancient tradition, the wonderworking icon of Tikhvin is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the fifth century, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.

In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Turks, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod the Great witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amidst a radiant light. According to an early sixteenth century Russian manuscript, “The Tale of Miracles of the Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God,” the Theotokos herself decided that her image should leave Constantinople, perhaps in anticipation of the impending fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Shortly after its miraculous appearance, the icon was discovered in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin. A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was built on the site of the icon’s final resting place. Miraculously, the icon survived a number of fires.

In the early sixteenth century, through the zeal of Great Prince Basil Ivanovich, a stone church was built to replace the original wooden structure. In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church and enclosed with a stone wall.

In 1613-1614, the Swedish army, having seized Novgorod, made several attempts to destroy the monastery. The countless prayers offered to the Theotokos before the icon were heard, and the monastery was spared. On one occasion, after monks had been alerted to the approaching Swedish army, they decided to flee and to take the icon with them. But the monks soon discovered that they could not remove the icon from its shrine. Seeing this as a sign of the Theotokos’ protection, the monks decided not to abandon the monastery, begging the Theotokos to spare them and their beloved spiritual home. To their amazement, a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery.

When the Swedes encountered the army, they retreated immediately. Word of this miracle spread rapidly, and imperial emissaries soon visited the monastery. Accompanied by a copy of the wonderworking icon, they set off for the village of Stolbovo, 33 miles from Tikhvin, where they concluded a peace treaty with the Swedes on February 10, 1617. Afterwards, the copy of the icon was taken to Moscow and enshrined in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Later, the same icon was placed in the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in Novgorod at the request of the city’s faithful, who also found themselves under attack by the Swedes. Once again, through the intercession of the Theotokos, the city was spared.

Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide. Copies of the wonderworking icon began to adorn churches throughout the land. Some of these copies also proved to be sources of miracles, and it was not uncommon to find the faithful praying before the icon to seek healing for children who were ill.

No fewer than 24 processions with the icon were celebrated each year at the Tikhvin Monastery, where the icon was enshrined. A decorative cover, or “riza,” adorned the icon, exposing only the faces and hands of the Holy Virgin and Christ child. Numerous precious stones studded the riza, and many of the faithful, desiring to express thanksgiving for prayers answered through the Theotokos’ intercession, affixed precious jewelry to the riza.

Most miraculous is the fact that the icon was preserved from destruction or sale after the Russian Revolution, which ushered in a 74-year persecution of the Church. During the 1920s, the communist government demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church turn over countless icons and other precious liturgical items, which through the nationalization of private property were considered the property of “the people.” Many of these sacred items were sold, allegedly to raise money to feed the Russian and Ukrainian population which was afflicted by famine.

During the World War II German occupation, the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery, from where it was taken to Pskov and subsequently to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. While Soviet agents had spotted the icon, Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Bishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. After his retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday in 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.

Troparion, in Tone IV:

Today thy most precious icon hath shone forth upon us in the air like the all-radiant sun, O Mistress, illumining the world with rays of mercy; and great Russia, reverently receiving it from on high as a gift of God, glorifieth thee as the Mistress of all, O Mother of God, and joyously magnifieth Christ our God Who was born of thee. Him do thou entreat, O Lady, Queen and Theotokos, that He preserve all the cities and lands where Christians live, un­harmed by all the assaults of the enemy, and save those who with, faith worship before the all-honored image of Him and thee, O Virgin who knewest not wedlock.

Kontakion, in Tone VIII:

O ye people, let us make haste to the Virgin Theotokos and Queen, giving thanks to Christ our God; and gazing with compunction at her miraculous icon, let us fall down and cry out to her: O Mary our Mistress, visiting this land in the miraculous appearance of thy precious icon, save our Orthodox hierarchs and all Christians in peace and prosperity, showing us to be inheritors of the life of heaven. For to thee do we cry with faith: Rejoice, O Virgin, salva­tion of the world!
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Saints Peter and Fevronia of Murom, the patrons of marriage and the family.25 June / 8 July.

Dear brothers and sisters, after the Nativity of St John the Forerunner yesterday, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Wonder-workers Peter and Fevronia of Murom today. Happy feast to you!

Had it not been for the famous ‘Tale of Peter and Fevronia’, written by the Protopope Yermolay-Erasm in the latter half of the 17th century, these two wonder-workers - glorified in 1547 - may have been much forgotten, being relegated to local veneration in Murom.

However, being the subject of a highly popular literary monument ingrained them in the Russian imagination, especially among the peasants of Muscovite and Imperial Russia.

As a model of Christian marriage, their importance has increased over the centuries, with them officially designated as the patrons of marriage and the family by the 21st century Russian Orthodox Church.

Let us commend the marriages and families of our parish and wider community to their patronage.

Holy Wonder-Workers, Peter and Fevronia, pray to God for us!

Holy Prince Peter (David in monasticism) and Holy Princess Febronia (Euphrosyne in monasticism), Wonderworkers of Murom. Prince Peter was the second son of the Murom prince Yuri Vladimirovich. He entered upon the throne of Murom in the year 1203. Several years before this St Peter had fallen ill with leprosy, from which no one was able to heal him. In a vision it was revealed to the prince that the daughter of a bee-keeper would be able to heal him: the pious maiden Febronia, a peasant of Laskova village in Ryazan gubernia. St Peter sent his emissaries to this village.

When the prince saw St Febronia, he fell in love with her because of her piety, wisdom and virtue, and vowed to marry her after being healed. St Febronia healed the prince and became his wife. The holy couple loved each other through all their ordeals. The haughty boyars did not wish to have a princess of common origin, and they urged that the prince leave her. St Peter refused, and so they banished the couple. They sailed off on a boat from their native city along the River Oka, and St Febronia continued to console St Peter. Soon the wrath of God fell upon the city of Murom, and the people begged the prince return together with St Febronia.

The holy couple was famous for their piety and charity. They died on the same day and hour, June 25, 1228, having received the monastic tonsure with the names David and Evphrosyne. The bodies of the saints were put in the same grave.

Sts Peter and Febronia showed themselves exemplary models of Christian marriage, and are considered as the patron saints of newly-weds.

Troparion, in Tone 8: Having lived thy good life in piety, O blessed Peter, thou wast a most precious offspring of the pious root; and thus having pleased God in peace with thy spouse, the all-wise Febronia, the holy monastic life was vouchsafed unto you. Beseech the Lord, that He preserve our homeland unharmed, that we may honor your memory unceasingly.

Kontakion, in Tone 8: Pondering the transitory glory and governance of this world, O Peter, thou didst live piously in peace with thy spouse the all-wise Febronia. Having pleased God with your alms and prayers. Wherefore, lying inseparably in the tomb even after death, ye invisibly impart healing. Pray now unto Christ, that He preserve our land and the faithful who glorify you.O great favorites of God and all-wondrous wonder-workers, right-believing Prince Peter and Princess Febronia, intercessors for the city of Murom, preservers of honorable marriage and diligent advocates for all of us before the Lord!

Prayer

In the days of your earthly life ye showed forth a model of piety, Christian love and fidelity one to another, and thereby glorified lawful and blessed marriage.

Wherefore, we have recourse unto you and pray with mighty zeal: Offer your holy supplications unto the Lord God for us sinners, and ask for us all things of goodly benefit to our souls and bodies: right faith, good hope, unfeigned love, unshakable piety, success in good works; and by your supplications grant even more unto those united by the bond of matrimony chastity, love for one another in the bond of peace, oneness of mind of souls and bodies, an unsullied marriage bed, an undisgraced sojourn, long-lived progeny, the favor of children, homes full of goodness, and the imperishable crown of everlasting glory in eternal life.

Yea, O holy wonder-workers, disdain not our prayer which are offered unto you with compunction, but be ye our faithful helpers before the Lord, and vouchsafe that through your intercession we may receive eternal salvation and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, that we may glorify the ineffable love for mankind of God Who is worshiped in Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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Akathist Hymn to Saint John, Forerunner and Baptist of the LordKontakion 1: Thou wast chosen from days of old, Saint John, to be the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ God the Saviour of the world. Glorifying the Lord Who glorified thee, we sing unto thee hymns of praise as unto the greatest of those born of woman, as unto an angel in the flesh and a preacher of repentance. Since thou hast great boldness before the Lord, free us from dangers of all kinds and move us to repentance, so that we may cry unto thee with love: Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Ikos 1: The Archangel Gabriel, who standeth before God, was sent unto the priest Zachariah, when he, serving according to his rank, entered with incense into the Sanctuary of the Lord. Standing to the right of the Altar of Incense, the angel announced unto him the good news of thy birth. Gabriel proclaimed joy and gladness unto Zachariah, because many would rejoice at God’s amazing goodwill concerning thee, Saint John, and thence would reverently cry out in praise of thee:

Rejoice, ineffable confidant of the counsel of God.
Rejoice, fulfillment of His marvelous dispensation. Rejoice, foretold many years before by the prophecy of Isaiah.
Rejoice, messenger before the face of the Lord, prophesied of old. Rejoice, thou who wast foreordained to be a great prophet of the Most High. Rejoice, thou who wast born according to the promise of an angel.
Rejoice, thou who wast filled with the Holy Ghost even in thy mother’s womb. Rejoice, thou who wast consecrated for a great ministry before thy birth. Rejoice, release of thy parents’ barrenness. Rejoice, joy and gladness of a priest of God. Rejoice, offspring of a daughter of Aaron.Rejoice, God-given fruit of prayer.
Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 2

When Zachariah beheld the angel, he was disturbed and fear fell upon him, for he did not believe the words of the announcement concerning thy birth. Thereupon being stricken with dumbness for his disbelief, he marveled at this most glorious wonder, crying unto God with all his heart: Alleluia.

Ikos 2: Seeking to understand the unfathomable Mind, the people awaited Zachariah and wondered at his tarrying in the Sanctuary. When he came out and could not speak unto them, but only made signs, then they all understood that he had beheld a vision in the Sanctuary. We therefore glorify God, the marvelous Creator of miracles, and we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, good source of thy father’s silence.
Rejoice, change of thy mother’s tears into joy. Rejoice, removal of her reproach among the people. Rejoice, great consolation for those who gave thee birth. Rejoice, for in the sixth month after thy conception, the most holy Virgin Mary was visited by an angel in Nazareth. Rejoice, for many rejoiced over thy birth. Rejoice, for thou didst receive a grace-filled name, given by an angel. Rejoice, by thy name the silence of thy father Zachariah was ended. Rejoice, for the Name of God was blessed by thy father because of thee. Rejoice, for fear and wonder over thy miraculous birth came upon those living round about. Rejoice, for the news of thy miraculous birth spread over the entire land of Judea. Rejoice, by thee salvation appeared unto many in this world. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 3: The power of the Most High ended the barrenness of the righteous Elizabeth, who was beyond the natural age for bearing children, for she conceived thee, the glorious Forerunner of the Lord. Keeping this secret for five months, she said: For thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked upon me to take away my reproach among men. But when Elizabeth received her who bore Christ in her womb, she was filled with the Holy Ghost and cried with a loud voice: Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come unto me? Rejoicing together with her, she cried unto God: Alleluia.

Ikos 3: Thou who wast to go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah wast filled with the Holy Ghost whilst in thy mother’s womb, whence thou didst appear as a marvelous prophet. Thou didst leap with rejoicing at the coming of the Mother of the Lord, for thou didst recognize God borne in the womb of her who is full of grace, and by thy mother’s voice didst preach Him. Saint John, it was proper for the beginning of divine things to be most glorious. Humbly marveling at this, it is right that we cheerfully cry unto thee:

Rejoice, whilst in thy mother’s womb thou didst proclaim with miraculous gladness the Lord Who glorified thee. Rejoice, by thee and thy mother Elizabeth, the Incarnation of Christ was revealed. Rejoice, for she also was filled with the Holy Ghost. Rejoice, by her the most holy Virgin Mary was called blessed among women. Rejoice, for she appeared as a most marvelous prophetess. Rejoice, by her Mary was also named the Mother of the Lord. Rejoice, for within Mary’s womb was the salvation of mankind. Rejoice, manifestation of divine wisdom. Rejoice, heavenly blessing of a holy marriage. Rejoice, wonderful offspring of a barren womb. Rejoice, astonishment of all in thy birth.Rejoice, radiant voice of the Word. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 4: Disturbed by a storm of doubt, the priest Zachariah was unable to speak, according to the angel’s word. After thy birth, Forerunner of the Lord, he wrote thy grace-filled name and immediately his lips and tongue were loosened. Yea, then did Zachariah speak, and he blessed God and prophesied, saying: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest, singing unto Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 4: Upon hearing of thy most glorious and miraculous birth, the people who lived round about, said among themselves with amazement: What will this child become? We who unworthily honour thee now, most glorious Forerunner of the Lord, as the greatest of those born of woman, glorify thee in this manner:

Rejoice, thou who wast filled with manifestations of grace from thy conception. Rejoice, thou who wast glorified by God in thy birth. Rejoice, thou who wast in thine infancy called a Prophet of the Most High by the Father. Rejoice, thou who wast in thy childhood enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Ghost. Rejoice, thou who wast a blood relative of God Incarnate. Rejoice, thou who didst receive from God the lofty calling of Forerunner and Baptist. Rejoice, ray proclaiming new Light unto the world. Rejoice, star illumining the path that leadeth unto Christ. Rejoice, morning star of the never-setting Sun.Rejoice, worthy lamp of the never-waning Light. Rejoice, thou who preparest the way for the approaching Christ. Rejoice, thou who appearest as both angel and man. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 5: The ungodly command of the lawless murderer of children, Herod, drove thee out of thy father’s house into the trackless wilderness, carried by thy mother. Forerunner of the Lord, there thou didst abide until the day of thine appearance unto Israel, eating locusts and wild honey, and calling unto God: Alleluia.

Ikos 5: Beholding God’s wonderful providence concerning thee, John praised by God, thou didst appear as a lover of the life of fasting from infancy’s swaddling clothes. Thence, by the will of the Most High, thou wast sent to preach the approaching salvation in Christ. For this reason, with amazement and love we cry unto thee:

Rejoice, whilst yet an infant, thou didst terrify King Herod. Rejoice, thou who wast preserved from his vain murdering by the Right Hand of the Most High. Rejoice, fragrant rose of the barren desert. Rejoice, thou who didst amaze all by the height of thine ascetic labors. Rejoice, faithful indicator of the True Way. Rejoice, most wonderful preserver of purity and chastity. Rejoice, perfect example of the self-denial of the Gospel. Rejoice, protection and security of monks and nuns. Rejoice, enlightenment of the minds of theologians. Rejoice, defense of the poor and widows and orphans. Rejoice, thou who dost open the doors of God’s compassion for the sinful. Rejoice, thou who dost help to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 6: A glorious preacher and a divine Forerunner wast thou shewn to be in the desert of Jordan on the day of the appearance of Christ God unto the world. Upon His approaching thee, thou didst shew Him unto the people, saying: Behold, the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world. Thus having known Him through faith, we sing unto Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 6: Thou didst shine as a light of truth, Saint John, enlightened by God, manifesting unto all the effulgence of the glory of the Father, appearing in the flesh for our sake. Thou didst cry unto the people in the wilderness: Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. For behold, there cometh after me, One Who shall baptize you with water and the Spirit. Wherefore we cry unto thee with praises:

Rejoice, herald of the coming of the Messiah. Rejoice, preparer of the straight paths of the Lord. Rejoice, intercessor of the old and the new grace. Rejoice, end of the prophets and beginning of the apostles. Rejoice, renowned voice of the Word. Rejoice, thundering preacher of repentance. Rejoice, thou who didst convert many of the sons of Israel unto the Lord. Rejoice, thou who didst make people perfect for the Lord. Rejoice, thou who boldly didst expose the Pharisees and Sadducees. Rejoice, thou who teachest to bear fruit worthy of repentance. Rejoice, indicator of spiritual enlightenment. Rejoice, constant intercessor for those seeking thy protection. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 7: When the Lord Jesus wanted to be baptized, divinely blessed John, thou didst say: I have need to be baptized of Thee. Notwithstanding, thou didst submit unto Him Who said: Let it be so now. Hence, thou didst raise thy right hand upon His head and having baptized Him Who did not need purification, thou didst cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 7: Giving thee new grace, the Lord willed to be baptized by thee, granting thee to behold the coming of the Spirit and to hear the Father’s voice from the heavens testifying unto His Sonship. Thenceforth, thou didst teach us to worship One God in Three Persons. Glorifying with lips of clay the Trinity, we offer these praises unto thee:

Rejoice, first preacher of the Trinity’s Theophany. Rejoice, true worshipper of the One God in Three Persons. Rejoice, clear beholder of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. Rejoice, witness of His descent from the Father upon the Son. Rejoice, hearer of the voice of God the Father from Heaven. Rejoice, beholder of the revelation of the Father’s love for the Son. Rejoice, chosen Baptist of the Son of God. Rejoice, glad fulfiller of His holy will. Rejoice, zealous struggler in glorious service for the salvation of the human race. Rejoice, first celebrant of the great mystery of Baptism. Rejoice, fervent messenger of divine joy. Rejoice, first teacher of the New Testament. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 8: Having beheld the strange and ineffable humility of the Incarnate God the Word, divinely blessed Baptist, when He bowed His divine head unto thee and received a servile Baptism, thou thyself wast wholly filled with great humility. Entreat this divinely beloved virtue for us who are possessed by demonic pride, so that we may also submit unto Him Who alone is worthy and to say: Alleluia.

Ikos 8: Wholly filled with the gifts of grace, in finishing the course of earthly life, O John the divinely chosen, thou didst teach all to please God well through fulfillment of the Law and repentance. We fervently sing out thankful praises unto thee who art the great teacher of truth:

Rejoice, planter of the Law and statues of the Lord. Rejoice, blameless exposer of Herod’s lawlessness. Rejoice, upright zealot for his correction. Rejoice, thou who didst suffer imprisonment and bondage for the sake of righteousness. Rejoice, thou who wast beheaded for the truth. Rejoice, for thy body was given an honourable burial by thy disciples. Rejoice, for thy head was preserved incorrupt by God’s providence. Rejoice, for it hath granted consolation, sanctification and healing unto Christians. Rejoice, for the faithful piously bow down also before thy right hand which baptized the Lord. Rejoice, for many miracles are thereby accomplished even unto the present day. Rejoice, by thee the faithful are delivered from the dishonour of passions. Rejoice, by thee the sinful are moved to repentance. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 9: The angelic realm was amazed at the loftiness of thy ministry, and the Church reverently praiseth thee as the friend of Christ God, coming before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah. Zealous for truth, thou didst boldly expose the Pharisees and also the lawless Herod from whom thou didst receive a martyr’s end. For this cause, we bow down before thy holy head, and we pray to thee to deliver us from the distress of passions, so that with pure heart and lips we may chant: Alleluia.

Ikos 9: No rhetoric of the earthly born can suffice to praise thee, John the divinely praised. Only the lips of Christ did rightfully praise thee, calling thee higher than the prophets and the greatest of all those born of woman. We therefore, not knowing how to offer thee worthy praise, cry unto thee such things as these:

Rejoice, great glory of the Church of Christ. Rejoice, most marvelous wonder of the angels. Rejoice, joy and glorification of the forefathers. Rejoice, lofty praise of the prophets.Rejoice, divinely illumined crown of the apostles. Rejoice, magnificent beauty of hierarchs. Rejoice, beginning of martyrs in the new grace. Rejoice, perfection of holy monks and nuns. Rejoice, adornment of the righteous. Rejoice, foundation of virgins and fasters. Rejoice, great consolation of all Christians. Rejoice, for thy name is glorified by all Christian generations. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 10: Thou didst proclaim unto those in hades the good news of Christ, come in the flesh to save the world. Like the morning star preceding the sun, thou didst illumine those sitting in the darkness and in the shadow of death. Hence, thou wast soon led forth by the Lord with all the righteous from the beginning of the age, chanting unto Him as the deliverer from sin and the conqueror of death: Alleluia.

Ikos 10: Thou art a wall and a saving refuge unto all who hasten to thee in prayer, O Baptist John. We bless thy holy life with hymns of praise:

Rejoice, mighty intercessor and faithful preserver from harm. Rejoice, quick helper and deliverer of those suffering from the spirits of malice. Rejoice, thou who dost send down the blessing of God upon the barren. Rejoice, thou who dost deliver those who run to thee with faith from great disturbance of passions. Rejoice, thou who dost quickly reconcile those who are at enmity. Rejoice, thou who dost grant speedy help unto those who fervently hasten to thee in every need and sorrow. Rejoice, thou who dost rescue those who are running the good race from self- deception and prelest. Rejoice, thou who dost help those who entrust themselves unto thine intercession at the hour of death. Rejoice, thou who by thine intercession dost deliver those who love thee from the toll-houses of the air. Rejoice, thou who dost vouchsafe eternal life unto those who honour thy glorious memory. Rejoice, after God and the Theotokos, the refuge and hope of Christians. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 11: No hymn is sufficient to praise thee according to the legacy of thy great deeds, blessed John. Compelled by love, however, we dare to hymn thy greatness. Do thou mercifully accept this from us, O intercessor before the Throne of the Most Holy Trinity. Pray to free us from every sinful corruption, that with pure heart and lips we may chant unto God: Alleluia.

Ikos 11: Knowing thee to be a lamp of the unapproachable Light and entirely filled with the all-radiant gifts of grace, John the divinely enlightened, joyfully we offer thee such words as these:

Rejoice, eyewitness of the Divine Light shining from on high. Rejoice, gladness of those who acquire the Christian virtures. Rejoice, beacon of the majestic glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Rejoice, indicator of the correct and marvelous path to Heaven. Rejoice, harbinger of the good news of God Incarnate for those in hades. Rejoice, bearer of glad tidings for the righteous held in the nether regions from the beginning of the age. Rejoice, sincere friend of the Master, Christ God. Rejoice, revealer unto the world of the True Light from Heaven. Rejoice, radiance of the shining light of the Gospel. Rejoice, glorification of the Christian race. Rejoice, fulfillment of the counsel of God. Rejoice, from the rising of the sun unto the going-down of the same, thy name is to be praised. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 12: Bearing the name of grace, O Baptist of the Lord, and enriched thereby, thou didst appear as a most glorious bearer of victory. Thou didst conquer enemies and every malice, and thou didst seal thy ministry with martyrdom. Standing now at the Throne of the King of kings, entreat Him to grant all the faithful victory over their enemies and Godspeed in all things, and the strengthening of grace in virtues as they humbly chant unto Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 12: Hymning God, Who was wondrously glorified in thee, we praise thee, Saint John the Baptist, as the sincere friend of Jesus Christ. We praise thy great ascetic struggles, we bless thy martyr’s death, and we truly cry unto thee such things as these:

Rejoice, universal apostle and first martyr of the New Testament. Rejoice, first preacher of the Kingdom of Heaven manifested by the appearance of Christ on the earth. Rejoice, foreteller of the divine calling of the Gentiles. Rejoice, thou who didst manifest unto the world the hidden and secret things of the wisdom of God. Rejoice, thou who wast shewn to be more fruitful than others in divine deeds. Rejoice, for thou didst glorify the Heavenly Father by thy holy deeds. Rejoice, for thou dost unspeakably gladden the Church of Christ concerning thy memory. Rejoice, for now thou dost eternally enjoy abundant gladness. Rejoice, for thou art illuminated by the divine rays of the light of the Three-Sunned Light. Rejoice, for thou dost unceasingly chant with the bodiless ones the thrice-holy hymn unto God. Rejoice, for now with the mirror removed, thou dost directly behold the Holy Trinity. Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Kontakion 13: Great and most glorious John, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, receive from us now this supplication offered unto thee. By thy prayers which are pleasing unto God, deliver us from every kind of evil. Rescue us from eternal torment and make us heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, that throughout the ages we may chant unto God: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

(Repeat Kontakion 13 three times.)

Ikos 1: The Archangel Gabriel, who standeth before God, was sent unto the priest Zachariah, when he, serving according to his rank, entered with incense into the Sanctuary of the Lord. Standing to the right of the Altar of Incense, the angel announced unto him the good news of thy birth. Gabriel proclaimed joy and gladness unto Zachariah, because many would rejoice at God’s amazing goodwill concerning thee, Saint John, and thence would reverently cry out in praise of thee:

Rejoice, ineffable confidant of the counsel of God.
Rejoice, fulfillment of His marvelous dispensation. Rejoice, foretold many years before by the prophecy of Isaiah.
Rejoice, messenger before the face of the Lord, prophesied of old. Rejoice, thou who wast foreordained to be a great prophet of the Most High. Rejoice, thou who wast born according to the promise of an angel.
Rejoice, thou who wast filled with the Holy Ghost even in thy mother’s womb. Rejoice, thou who wast consecrated for a great ministry before thy birth. Rejoice, release of thy parents’ barrenness. Rejoice, joy and gladness of a priest of God. Rejoice, offspring of a daughter of Aaron.Rejoice, God-given fruit of prayer.
Rejoice, Great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.



A Prayer

Saint John, prophet and martyr, Thou who wast a blessing unto the righteous Elizabeth and a friend of Christ the Lord, teach us to repent that we may also be a blessing unto others and that we may prepare a straight path from this sinful world to the Kingdom of Heaven. Correct us if we stray from truth, deliver us if we fall into passions, and purify us if we love not our neighbor as Christ hath loved us. Baptist John, let us bring forth fruits worthy of repentance — fruits from the barren deserts and fruits from the dark forests which are transfigured only by reconciliation in Christ our God. We thank thee, O voice in the wilderness, for proclaiming the message of salvation unto all people. Amen.
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The Nativity of St John the Forerunner & nameday congratulations!It was a great joy to celebrate the Nativity of the Forerunner at the chaplaincy today, and to greet Norman John on his nameday. We wished him many years after he had received Holy Communion, but again we congratulate him on his first Orthodox nameday. May God grant you many, blessed years!

It seems hard to believe that he has only been a member of the Russian Orthodox Church since last November, though he was a parishioner and great supporter of the parish and our Cheltenham mission before that. Having been an extremely active member of St Mary Butetown, he is now always busy within the Russian Orthodox parish and we thank him for his energy and dedication - even in starting to tackle Slavonic texts today!

I am particularly indebted to him and Georgina for support in maintaining ROCOR links to Walsingham, and look forward to our return to England’s Nazareth - hopefully in the autumn.

His godfather - my godson - Fr Deacon Mark was able to share the joy of the feast with him and Georgina, making it a real spiritual-family occasion.

We also send our warmest greeting to our other John, in Penarth - also known to us as Martyn!

May God bless you both abundantly! Многая и благая лѣта!
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St John of Shanghai & San Francisco: a homily for the Nativity of St John the Forerunner.Among the Church's feasts, there are three in honor of God's saint which in their significance stand out from the others devoted to the saints and are numbered among the great feasts of the Church of Christ. These feasts glorify the economy of God for our salvation.

These three feasts are the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner, his Beheading, and the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

The apparition of the holy Archangel Gabriel to the priest Zacharias in the Temple, with the announcement of the birth to him and the righteous Elizabeth, of a son who would prepare the way for the Lord, the Savior of the world, and the subsequent fulfillment of this premise, are the first of the events related by the Evangelists.

The announcement of the holy Archangel Gabriel to Zacharias in the Temple begins the New Testament Gospel. The announcement of the same Archangel Gabriel six months later in Nazareth to the Virgin Mary concerning the birth from Her of the Son of God, Who was to become incarnate, is a continuation of the revelation of the Pre-eternal Counsel concerning the salvation of the human race.

Three months after, the Annunciation, St. John the Forerunner was born "in a city of Judah," and six months after him Christ Himself was born in Bethlehem.

These events are closely bound together. "The glorious conception of the Forerunner proclaimeth beforehand the King Who is to be born of a Virgin" (Exapostilarion, Sept. 23, Feast of the Conception of John the Baptist). The announcement of the Archangel Gabriel in the Temple, announced later to all living nearby by Zacharias, in the magnificent hymn, which he sang after the birth of the child, John and the restoration to him of the gift of speech (Luke 1:67-79), is the forerunner of the angelic hymn: "Glory to God in the highest;" which was sung in Bethlehem by the angels when they announced to the shepherds the Nativity of Christ.

The Nativity of John the Baptist is the first joy sent down by God to the human race, the beginning of its deliverance from the power of the devil, sin and eternal death.

It is true that even before the Forerunner, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was born, and angels announced Her birth to Her parents. However, at that time, only Her parents knew of the exalted lot that was prepared for the Virgin Who was born, and they themselves were not fully aware of what had been announced to them beforehand. Therefore, it was only they, who celebrated at the birth of their Daughter, while the rest of the world only later understood the joy that had been announced (to it), by this birth.

For this reason, the feasts of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and Her Entrance into the Temple were established in the Church and began to be solemnly celebrated significantly later than the other great feasts, whereas the Nativity of John the Forerunner is one of the most ancient and most venerated of Christian feasts. Sermons on this feast have been preserved from the first centuries.

From the day of the Nativity of John the Forerunner, the preparation of the human race begins for meeting the Son of God on earth. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people . . . And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways (Luke 1:68, 76). These God-inspired words of the priest Zacharias, after he had regained the gift of speech, were made known in all the land of Judea, causing disturbance to all living there, who asked each other in astonishment: What manner of child shall this be? (Luke 1:66).

Involuntarily the thought arose: Is this not the Messiah Himself? Judea was in an especially tense state of expectation of the Savior. Thus, the child John prepared the way for the Lord by his very birth; and even while he was still in the womb of His mother, by his leaping (Luke 1:41) he announced the coming birth of the Child Jesus, as if crying out: "Christ is born, give ye glory. Christ comes from heaven, meet ye Him" (Irmos, Canticle One of the Canon, Feast of the Nativity of Christ).

Being born exactly half a year before Christ, John the Forerunner by the exact time of his birth depicted his mission of preparing the way for the Lord. He was born at the time of the year (June 24) when the day begins to grow shorter after the summer solstice, whereas the Nativity of Christ occurs (December 25) when the day begins to grow longer after the winter solstice. These facts are an embodiment of the words spoken later, by the Forerunner, after the beginning of Christ's preaching: He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

"The herald of the Sun, the Forerunner" was John the Baptist, who was like the morning star that announces the rising of the Sun of Righteousness in the East.

Just as the very event of the Nativity of John the Baptist was the antechamber of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also the feast of the Nativity of John the Forerunner is also the antechamber of the feast of the Nativity of Christ. "The star of stars, the Forerunner, is born on earth today, from a barren womb, John the beloved of God, and manifests the dawning of Christ, the Orient from on high" (Glory at Lauds, of the Feast, June 24). "The whole creation rejoiceth at thy divine nativity: for thou wast shown forth as an earthly angel, O Forerunner and a heavenly man, proclaiming to us, the God of heaven incarnate" (Cantile Five of the Canon). "O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, we who venerate thee with love, are in perplexity how worthily to praise thee; for the barrenness of her who bore thee and the dumbness of thy father are loosed by thy glorious and precious nativity, and the incarnation of the Son of God is preached to the world" (Troparion of the Feast).

St. John of Shanghai
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The motherhood of the Theotokos in our lives and in our homes .Dear brothers and sisters – greetings to you all, as we commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the invasion of Khan Achmed in 1480, through the intercession of the Mother of God and the grace of her wonder-working Vladimir icon.

Поздравления съ праздникомъ!

For the Orthodox faithful, spiritual life without icons is unthinkable, and icons of the Mother of God and the infant Saviour are a pre-requisite in every Christian home, placed in the icon corner, which should be the centre Orthodox family life – not the computer or the television.

When we stand before the icon of the Mother of God, we contemplate the love of God, Who took flesh so that we might be reconciled with Him and raised to the Heavenly Kingdom. That flesh was the gift of the Virgin, given by her acceptance of God’s will at the Annunciation: ‘And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ Luke 1:38

When the the Lord, the God-Man, looked down upon St John from the cross, he commended him, and through him the whole Christian people to the motherhood of His own Blessed Mother: ‘Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.’ John 19:27

Now, as Christ’s disciples, we continue to take the Mother of God into our own homes, knowing that by her Dormition and heavenly Assumption, her protection of the Christian people, her love for the Church, and her care for the world transcends the limits of time and space.

Her icons are the tangible sign of her place in our lives, in our families and in our homes, and they are a reminder of our place in her motherly love and protection. Whenever we stand before her icons to pray and in worship, whenever we venerate them, whenever we light candles before them, we commune with the Mother of God, stand before her as our mother, entusting ourselves to her merciful protection.

“Beneath thy mercy, we take refuge, O Virgin Theotokos: disdain not our supplications in our distress, but deliver us from perils, O only pure and blessed one.”

On this day, when we celebrate one of the several feasts of the Vladimir icon, we are reminded that through her many wonder-working icons, the Mother of God sanctified the Russian land from end to end, so that before the Revolution, Imperial Russia - including those lands now outside the modern state - was known as “the House of the Mother of God”.

The names of the wonder-working icons form a litany, proclaiming the sovereignty and motherhood of the Mother of God in every corner of the realm: Vladimir, Kazan, Kursk, Smolensk, Yaroslav, Tambov, Tolga, Tikhvon, Chernigov, Pskov, Kaluga... The list is seemingly endless.

Through these icons, the Theotokos has not only manifested her motherhood and spiritual presence through her physical image, but also poured forth Grace through the abundance of miracles: icons flowing with fragrant myrrh, healing the sick, protecting cities from enemy attack, ending drought, defending from fire and flood, assuaging famine.

In Cardiff, we have had the great blessing of welcoming two wonder-working icons: the Hawaiian-Iveron icon and the Kursk-Root icon and the 13th century Kurskaya Korennaya was not only venerated in our services at Nazareth House, but also visited the homes of the faithful, who welcomed the Mother of God beneath their rooves, through her wonder-working image.

Though leaving us with joyful memories, these blessed encounters were fleeting and quickly passed, but in each of our homes our own rather more humble icons of the Mother of God remain as an enduring blessing and sign of her presence, whether painted icons or mounted paper prints. Her love, protection and concern for us do not depend upon the costliness, artistic originality or technical details of the icons on our lives. Every one of our icons declares her motherhood and her place in our lives.

When we welcomed the wonder-working Kursk-Root icon into our homes, to Nazareth House, to Newman Hall and the Little Oratory, we felt like the Righteous Elizabeth, asking, “Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?”

We should feel this awe every time we stand before even the humblest icon of the Mother of God, doing so with love and reverence, honouring her with flowers, candles burning before her icons, incense and all of the manifestations of Orthodox devotion.

Each of the feasts of her wonder-working icons is an self-effacing affirmation of the Incarnation and of the Divine-Humanity of Christ, and the Vladimir icon - loved by Christians world-wide - is a supreme example of this humble, self-effacing place of the Mother of God in the life of the Church, and in our individual spiritual lives.

The Mother of God is quiet, humble and contemplative, as the human-backdrop against which Christ, the Light of the World shines, both human and divine. The left hand of the Virgin directs us to Christ, and we celebrate her as the Hodegetria - “She who shows the Way” - honouring her as she directs us to the Incarnate Word in her arms: Christ the Way the Truth and the Life.

On this feast of the Mother of God, let us all rejoice in her motherhood and heavenly intercession:

“To the Mother of God let us run now most earnestly, we sinners all and wretched ones and fall prostrate, in repentance calling from the depths of our souls, O Lady, come unto our aid, have compassion upon us; hasten thou, for we are lost, in a throng of transgressions; turn not thy servants away with empty hands, for thee alone do we have as our only hope.”
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Собор Владимирских святых

Тропарь Собору Владимирских святых, глас 4:

Днесь све́тло красу́ется Пресвяты́я Богоро́дицы избра́нный град/ и с ним вси концы́ земли́ Влади́мирския торжеству́ют,/ па́мять соверша́юще богопросла́вленнаго вели́каго ли́ка святы́х,/ в по́двизех Правосла́вныя ве́ры издре́вле во уде́ле сем Бо́гу угоди́вших,/ и к ним с любо́вию вопию́т:/ о преди́внии Христу́ Бо́гу моли́твенницы,/ венцы́ пресве́тлыми от Него́ увенча́нныя,/ мир и благоде́нствие оте́честву ва́шему испроси́те// и душа́м на́шим ве́лию ми́лость.

Кондак Собору Владимирских святых, глас 4:

Я́ко зве́зды пресве́тлыя Це́ркве Росси́йския,/ испове́данием Правосла́вныя ве́ры в той возсия́вшии,/ вси святи́и земли́ Влади́мирския:/ Богому́дрии святи́телие и благове́рнии кня́зи,/ преподо́бнии отцы́ и ма́тери,/ страстоте́рпцы и пра́ведницы,/ Христу́ Бо́гу усе́рдно моли́теся,/ грехо́в оставле́ние дарова́ти// любо́вию чту́щим святу́ю па́мять ва́шу.
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Ignorance: fertile soil for heresy.Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we celebrated the memory of St Eusebius of Samosata, and in his vita we meet a hierarch who was banished from his diocese for his Orthodox confession of Faith during the Arian controversy in the late fourth century.

This confession was demonstrated in a ministry in which he disguised himself to escape detection by the imperial authorities to travel and teach Orthodoxy.

This can be seen in Russian icons which portray him in the military garb in which he travelled incognito around Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, in a peripatetic ministry in which he taught and edified the faithful, urging them to uphold the Faith, ordaining clergy to serve the Orthodox communities.

A similar pastoral reaction to the Arian heresy is mirrored in an account of the life of St Calogero, whom we also celebrated in the last few days. His vita says that he also was a refugee from the Arians who had found support in the highest levels of the state, with the Emperor Constantius (337-361) becoming their patron.

Like St Eusebius, St Calogero led a peripatetic ministry, travelling around Sicily to preach against heresy, upholding Orthodoxy and opposing Arianism.

The heresiarch Arius and his followers denied the divinity of Christ, reducing God the Son to being a sort of demigod, who was neither divine or eternal, but a lesser, created being ‘adopted’ by the Father. With the denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Trinity rejected, the Orthodox Faith was replaced with a heresy of adoptionist unitarianism.

We may ask how and why Arianism spread with such speed and ferocity. A major contributing factor was the lack of spiritual teaching / catechesis in the newly emerging Christian Roman state.

It was not so long before that Christianity had been a persecuted minority religion in pagan society, only emerging from its proscribed existence with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, who cautiously began to steer the empire he had inherited towards Christianity, as the new imperial religion.

In this setting, many Christians were poorly taught and insufficiently prepared for baptism. So, when a charismatic, persuasive and skilled orator came along with simple answers to difficult theological questions which puzzled minds shaped by paganism, his success was instant and his heresy spread like wildfire.

Though the Arian heresy was anathematised and condemned by the first Council of Nicaea in 325 (at which St Nicholas famously slapped Arius across the face), it has endured in various forms of unitarianism, including the teachings of the Jehovah’s witnesses and Islam, in which Mohammed trumped even the adopted and created Messiah of the Arians, as the seal of the prophets.

What relevance does any of this have to us today?

I would like to consider just one aspect of all of this: ignorance as fertile soil for heresy.

Given the speed and ease with which Arianism spread, we can see the spiritually deadly threat of ignorance and the lack of spiritual education, but the ignorance that is so threatening now is not that of the neophyte or a newly Christian society, but of the established Orthodox faithful themselves.

In the depressingly common ethnic approach to Orthodoxy that many of us encounter, the ‘cradle Orthodox’ often believe that they were ‘born Orthodox’. We must be very careful here, as baptism and chrismation just become mysteriological stamps of a pre-existing reality: Orthodoxy is genetically inherited and part of an individual’s DNA. Sadly within this mindset, there is often no perceived need for theological formation, for catechesis, for reading, learning or the active labours of the spiritual life that lead us to deeper knowledge and active living Orthodox Faith. As a cultural phenomenon, ‘ethnic Orthodoxy’ is transmitted by a sort of spiritual osmosis.

As a teacher and monastic (latterly as a priest), during the last three decades I have been shocked by some of the purported teachings and practices of the Church that have been related to me by my Orthodox pupils, parents and even fellow-educators. Some of these ideas have been simple mistakes and misconceptions, resulting from personal attempts to make sense of certain aspects of Orthodox dogma or praxis: Christology, the Holy Trinity, the Mother of God, the meaning of the Holy Mysteries, the rules of Faith and simple Orthodox living.

Many had one thing in common: they were not Orthodox. Some of them were manifestations of folk-religion, some were the aberrant results of absorbing heterodox teaching (where Orthodox teaching was absent), some were deeply superstitious, some were blatantly (though not intentionally) heretical.

Most often, there was no wilful or negative intention in any of this, and those who were so theologically confused were victims of a lack of education and spiritual investment and basic care. Yes, some were not interested, but this was because they had been brought up to believe that they did not need instruction, or to even understand the most basic rudiments of Faith. To be Orthodox was enough, and being Orthodox was simply by existing, however one lived. They had been misinformed and spiritually neglected - the victims of generations of bad practice.

Depressingly, as the product of a lack of teaching and instruction, they confirmed that some of us Orthodox clergy ourselves fall into the ‘culturally Orthodox’ trap, believing and presuming that the young will simply learn and absorb Orthodoxy from the community and from their parents, who have themselves osmotically benefitted from their own parents.

But… what if grandparents have never been taught the fundamental rudiments of Faith? How have the next generation learned and developed in this vacuum? How will the third generation develop in this Russian-doll process, as Orthodox spiritual identity and spiritual knowledge continues to diminish - smaller, smaller, smaller?

We see the sad results in the gradual erosion and falling away from a real, living Faith, in which Orthodoxy is something that is done for the big cultural occasions of the year or of the family and belief, and knowledge of the teachings of the Church become irrelevant. Faith, responsibility, and the demands of Orthodox life are forgotten until baptism or Orthodox weddings ‘with all the trimmings’ are wanted, or when death suddenly demands the rites of the Church and memorial services for those who have rejected Orthodox living for decades.

Within this self-determined identity all sides of ideas grow and develop, many of them not reflecting the Faith of the Church.

Like Arianism, this approach is easy, user-friendly, and unchallenging, but if we are to really be Orthodox this challenges us all...

as clergy, who need to pro-actively teach and instruct the faithful; engaging the members of our communities in positively sharing the experience of learning; challenging and opposing self-service DIY Orthodoxy and ensuring that Orthodoxy is preserved and lived in its totality. This needs to begin with the demands of living Faith, determined by the teachings and canons of the Church. This may be challenging for people and may make us unpopular. Sadly, in some places the parish bank account and clergy incomes are more important, and nothing may be said that may alienate members of the community and impact on donations or the pay-packet. Our Faith must be challenging. We conform our lives to our Faith, not our Faith to our lives.

as individual members of the faithful, who in a multi-media age, can readily access spiritual materials (in a way in which past generations could not), whether in pod-casts, on-line talks by our hierarchs and clergy, in books, periodical or articles on the internet etc. Whilst working with the clergy and other members of our community, we need to share responsibility for our own knowledge and education. We need to be confident in asking the clergy to explain and fill the gaps in our knowledge – some of which may not be apparent. Theological education is necessary for us all.

as parents and godparents, by ensuring that we are in the position to live up to our responsibilities to pass our Faith to the next generation – something we can only do by pro-actively engaging in learning ourselves. Only then can we teach our children Faith in the home, bringing them to church so that they grow up surrounded by Orthodoxy, experiencing the prayer-life of an Orthodox family and at home in the services with the sights smells and experiences of living Orthodoxy - constantly brought to Holy Communion, seeing their parents, siblings and elders go to confession, growing up hearing the hymns and prayers that are the expressions of Orthodox doctine.

We must all work together to combat ignorance, not wanting parishes full of intellectuals (We have seen where that leads!), but communities of people who are growing in their knowledge of the teachings of the Church, accepting and trying to understand those teachings, translating this into Orthodox living rooted in prayer, in the services, in the Holy Mysteries, in an openness and desire to grow in knowledge and Truth.

Ignorance really is fertile soil for heretical ideas to take root – often not as rapidly spreading organised heresies, such as Arianism, but in the self-determined error of pick and mix of ‘homemade Orthodoxy’: erstaz ‘Orthodoxy’ without the Church… without the Fathers… without spiritual reading... without the canons… without podvig/askesis… without confession… without fasting...without Truth.

The result of this is a personal heresy, which fits as comfortably as a tailored made suit. Like a tailor-made suit, it also has a hight cost: our salvation.

We must oppose ignorance, as the soil for heresy, with knowledge as the foundation of Faith, and Faith which is Truth.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught...

Colossians 2:6-7
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The Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata, stood firmly for the Orthodox Confession of Faith proclaimed at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. For this he underwent persecution by the Arians, being repeatedly deprived of his see and banished. The emperor Constantius (337-361), patron of the Arians, learned that Saint Eusebius kept a conciliar decree regarding the election of the Orthodox Archbishop Meletius to the See of Antioch. He commanded him to give up the decree. The saint boldly refused to do as ordered. The enraged emperor sent a message that if he did not give up the decree, then his right hand would be cut off. Saint Eusebius stretched out both hands to the emissary saying, “Cut them off, but I will not give up the Decree of the Council, which denounces the wickedness and iniquity of the Arians.” The emperor Constantius marveled at the audacity of the bishop, but did not harm him.

During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363), even more difficult times ensued, and an open persecution against Christians began. Saint Eusebius, having concealed his identity, went about in the garb of a soldier across the whole of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, urging Christians to the Orthodox Faith. He established priests and deacons in desolated churches, and he consecrated bishops who renounced the Arian heresy. After Julian the Apostate’s death, he was succeeded by the pious emperor Jovian (363-364), during whose reign the persecutions stopped. Returning from exile, Saint Meletius (February 12) convened a local Council at Antioch in the year 379 on the advice of Saint Eusebius. Twenty-seven bishops participated, and it reaffirmed the Orthodox teaching of the First Ecumenical Council. The Arians signed the conciliar definition, fearing the steadfast defenders of Orthodoxy, the holy hierarchs Meletius, Eusebius and Pelagios, who had great influence with the emperor. After the death of Jovian the Arian Valentinian (364-378) came to power.

The Orthodox were again subjected to persecution. Saint Meletius was banished to Armenia, Saint Pelagius to Arabia, and Saint Eusebius was condemned to exile in Thrace. Having received the imperial decree, Saint Eusebius left Samosata by night so as to prevent tumult among the people that esteemed him. Having learned of of the bishop’s departure, believers followed after him and with tears entreated him to return. The saint refused the entreaty of those who had come, saying that he had to obey the authorities. The saint urged his flock to hold firm to Orthodoxy, blessed them and set off to the place of exile. The Arian Eunomios became Bishop of Samosata, but the people did not accept the heretic. The Orthodox would not go to the church and avoided meeting with him. The heretical Arian perceived that it was impossible to attract the independent flock to him.

The emperor Gracian (375-383) came upon the throne, and all the Orthodox hierarchs banished under the Arians were brought back from exile. Saint Eusebius also returned to Samosata and continued with the task of building up the Church. Together with Saint Meletius he supplied Orthodox hierarchs and clergy to Arian places. In the year 380 he arrived in the Arian city of Dolikhina to establish the Orthodox bishop Marinus there. An Arian woman threw a roof tile at the holy bishop’s head. As he lay dying, he asked her for wine and requested those around not to do her any harm. The body of Saint Eusebius was taken to Samosata and was buried by his flock. The saint’s nephew, Antiochus, succeeded him and the Samosata Church continued to confess the Orthodox Faith, firmly spread through the efforts of the holy Hieromartyr Eusebius.
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Поздравляем с сегодняшним праздником святителя Иоанна Чудотворца - светила русской православной диаспоры и заступника наших последних дней!

Greetings with today’s feast of St John the Wonderworker - luminary of the Russian Orthodox diaspora and fervent intercessor in our latter days!

Félicitations à la fête, aujourd’hui, de saint Jean le Thaumaturge - luminaire de la diaspora orthodoxe russe et intercesseur pour nos derniers jours!
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Celebrating Saint Calogero in Cardiff, and some thoughts about the saints.Fresh from the feast of the Saints of the British Isles on Sunday, it was a great joy to further celebrate the Orthodox heritage of Western Europe with a moleben to St Calogero the hermit of Agrigento (in Sicily) this afternoon.

The feast of St Calogero fell on Wednesday, 18 June according to the Church calendar, but as I already had chaplaincy commitments, it was decided that we would offer a supplicatory service today. Even in Agrigento, in Sicily, today - as the Friday before the first Sunday in July - marks the beginning of the main celebration of the saint, faithfully reflecting the Old Calendar, even if the reason for this two week delay after the New Calendar feast is forgotten.

I know that even by this third paragraph, many will be asking what sort of eccentric clerical obscurantism led to this celebration. The answer is simple, and is a parish-family one.

Some of those who gather for weekday services and trapeza will be aware of Norman and Georgina’s love of Sicily, and the holidays they spent there when their children were young – driving all the way from Cardiff, making the journey an intrinsic part of the holiday, returning home with the children perched on top of the Sicilian produce crammed into the car by their friends.

The festa of San Calogero was part of those happy holidays and one of the first things that Norman and Georgina ever shared about their Sicilian holidays. Parents and children (now parents themselves) enjoyed this feast and were both fascinated and amused by the anthropomorphic bread votive offerings made to the saint – something familiar and understandable in Orthodox Mediterranean culture, though normally more reservedly molded from wax or stamped from metal!

I was very happy to assure Norman and Georgina that San Calogero is a saint celebrated by the Orthodox, as part of the Byzantine spiritual heritage of Southern Italy, and an intercessor that should still be celebrated, once we had done our hagiographical homework. In those distant days of “Dad, are we there yet?” would the driver have ever believed that he would be helping his grandchildren to make bread ex-votos, and bring them to an Orthodox moleben to St Calogero in Cardiff?

Looking back, perhaps Norman - John in Orthodoxy - should ask whether St Calogero was (is!) part of his life journey and pilgrimage to Orthodoxy: a wonder-worker, and God-pleaser interceding for one who met him in his fiesta all of those years ago!

Many of us who have come to Orthodoxy as adults and re-encountered the saints of our childhood or younger years may have asked similar questions.

I remember a much-loved old ‘holy card’ of St David - probably printed in the 1920’s - that I found inside a Bible as a child. This very traditional image and the prayer printed beneath brought St David into my life as a real person and a spiritual giant, but it was only in Orthodoxy that I came to a deeper understanding of the podvig and the sanctitiy of the patriarch of our nation, and recognised his enduring presence in life.

This, I am sure, is because of the relationship that we, as Orthodox people, have with the saints through their icons; because of the way in which we call upon them and speak to them, formally and informally; through the way we remember and commemorate them in prayer and hymnography; through the joy of celebrations, such as that in trapeza today.

Other saints are sometimes in the background of our lives, interceeding and acting on our behalf, even though we do not yet know them. As I reminded the core-singers and readers at Liturgy, last Sunday, the intercession, protection, and miracles of the saints have no reliance on us and our knowledge of them. As the poor and unworthy recipients of their aid, we do not have to know much or even anything about them, as the mediators of God’s love and mercy, bestowing His Grace selflessly and freely, for no fame or recognition.

This is why it is so puzzling when we see saints somehow ‘decomissioned’ and relegated to the calendric and spiritual lost-property department in the modernizing west, as though they are somehow less relevant, fictitious or spiritually impotent unless we can explain them, rationalise their hagiographies, and write their curricula vitae in detail. What sort of earthbound nonsense is this? It is certainly not centred on the manifestation of the Grace of God into the world through His saints, but only in fallen earthly logic and the idol of human knowledge. It is a vanity that seems to see our knowledge as a condition for the reality or relevance of the saints.

In our Orthodox experience, the saints defy this.

In the Kiev caves, fragrant oil exudes from the skulls of the saints, slowly filling the jars in which they are kept, even if the identities of the wonder-workers remains a mystery. Name labels are not a pre-requisite for the workings of Grace.

Other saints, like St Phanourios the Newly-Revealed, had been forgotten before reminding the faithful of their lives, their podvig, and their spiritual links to a place. This also sometimes happens on a personal level, as specific saints enter our lives.

When I was teaching in London, the mother of one of my pupils told me how much she worried, raising her son single-handedly whilst suffering with mental-health problems.

She dreamt that an ‘elder’ (whom she saw clearly), looking down from the inner dome of a building, lowered a ladder to rescue her child, who was alone and unable to leave. It was only when she and her son went to Kalymnos, and she saw photographs and the icon of St Savvas the New, that she realised that it was no mere geronda in her dream, but that the saint that she had never even heard about was already watching over her and her child.

But... to return to St Calogero...

Calogero would not have been his actual name, as καλόγερος / kalogeros is a generic Greek word for a monk or hermit. This need not worry us, for he will hear us when we call upon him with the name by which he has remembered for over a thousand years, working miracles and interceding for those who call upon this name.

There are divergent accounts of whom St Calogero was, but they all agree that he was an outsider, who came to Sicily to seek refuge, preaching the Gospel and defending Orthodox doctrine before retiring to lead an eremtical life.

According to one account, he was an opponent of Arianism, who fled from North Africa to Sicily in the latter half of the fifth century to escape persecution, though there were also Arian heretics in Sicily. After missionary labours in the area of Fragalata, near Messina, he retreated to a cave on Monte Kronio to live a strict and ascetical eremtical life.

Another account has him fleeing to Sicily from the monophysite persecution of the Orthodox in Thrace. Wandering around the island preaching and celebrating the Holy Mysteries, he found shelter in ancient tombs and volcanic caves, with his last abode being the cave on Monte Kronio where he died during the night between 17th and 18th June, 561. He was 95 years of age. The cave in which St Calogero had lived was subsequently made into a small church, and cells for monks were dug into the rock, in the same way that the first hermitage developed in Kiev.

Despite their differences, both accounts agree that he was a refugee from persecution, a pillar of Orthodoxy in a sea of heresy, who did not simply teach a vague faith, but the Truth of Orthodox Christology and the teachings of the Church.

For a short moleben, we placed small paper santino with our parish icon, with the venerable hermit-father clothed much like the desert fathers, though with some adornments on his mantia. Perhaps by next year we will have a little painted icon for the feast.

With candles burning before the icons, we chanted hymns in his honour before the blessing of the festal offerings:

As true ascetic of Christ, O Blessed One, wast thou crowned; verily, with mortifications didst thou purify the eye of the soul, and wast therefore made worthy to see the God whom thou didst love and whom Moses had once seen; thou also receivest from him, O Calogero, the grace of thy miracles, through which thou hast made thyself known to us, and thee do we celebrate with hymns.

Thou wast made truly worthy to receive the gifts of the Spirit, O Father, and reward the faithful who celebrate thy holy memory by bestowing upon them peace and mercy; also freeing them from all dangers, O glorious Calogero, thou leadest them by thy prayers to the never-waning light, O Blessed One.

O Holy Father Calogero, taking the yoke of Christ upon thy shoulders, thou didst come into the cave, having no fear of the assaults the enemy launched with beatings and vain noises, O holy one; but thou didst refute them with thy prayers, O mighty soul, pride of the ascetics; therefore, constantly beseech Christ to have mercy upon us.

... and the baked offerings - feet, arms, ears, even an achy knee - were impressive, showing the children’s understanding that God is able to heal us of illness and make people whole. They had clearly enjoyed baking in honour of St Calogero and also made cards with his icon and troparion, drawing flowers and trees around them.

Grandpa had also clearly enjoyed cooking for the feast and made delicious kutia in honour of St Calogero - reminding us that it is is not only for the departed.

For the adults, it was a great joy to see the children so motivated and enjoying the celebration a saint that their mother and grandparents had first encountered so many years ago.

The children themselves were waiting for the dimissal after the blessing, so that they could not only eat the loaves, but share them: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”

I hope and pray that the children will remember the life of St Calogero, which they had obviously studied in preparation for the celebration, and that the saints will increasingly become an important part of their lives.

The feasts of the Church should be a treasury of experiences and a source of spiritual food that will nourish our children as they grow in faith: providing joyful memories and lessons that will remain with them throughout their lives.

The saints show us the way, so let us take our children by the hand and tread this way of holiness and faith with them, thanking God for our guides, teachers, protectors, healers and intercessors - reading their lives, celebrating their feasts, but above all imitating their faith and their relationship with God.

Blessed is God in His saints... so, let us follow them.
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St John of Shanghai and San Francisco. A beacon of Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. ... Click Here To See MoreClick Here To See Less

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Arrangements for confession and communion: taking responsibility.Dear brothers and sisters,

May I remind those wishing to confess and partake of Holy Communion each Sunday - and after any Liturgy during present restrictions - that they should contact Fr Deacon Mark as early as possible each week.

We are now in the third month of restrictions, yet Fr Deacon Mark still has to make numerous telephone calls and send emails to try and ascertain who will be confessing and communing. This is the case every week.

Please, take some responsibility upon your own shoulders, and communicate with our deacon. A text or email will take a minute or two, and you will only have to send that single message, in contrast to Deacon Mark’s long list of contacts.

Also, please do not wait until the last moment to contact the clergy. The confession and communion schedule needs to be arranged and circulated. It does not just ‘happen’.

As you all know, the parish clergy have full-time jobs, so please do whatever you can to make parish life and administration easier and smoother.

Thank you to all of those who are already well organised and assiduous with relation to all of the above.

Fr Deacon Mark may be contacted at rmfisher@ntlworld.com

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark
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