On the Eve of the Nativity Fast

​Dear brothers and sisters,

Having celebrated the feast of St Alexander Nevsky, we send our greetings to the younger Alexander amongst our oltarniky, as he celebrates his name day, wishing him many, blessed years.

As you know, the parish clergy have had a very busy few days in London, where the clergy of the diocese met in convocation, celebrating the vigil and Liturgies together, hearing one another’s confessions, praying, and participating in meetings.

As well as our bishops – Irenei and Alexandre – and the British clergy, we had priests and deacons from Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy: some recently ordained, some ordained a half-century ago. The occasion was a great celebration of the spirituality, life and identity of our Russian Church Outside of Russia and its maintenance of sacred Tradition amidst apostasy and renovationism.

Our profound thanks go to Bishop Irenei, to our chancellor the Archpriest Paul, and to the starosta, sisterhood and faithful of the cathedral parish for their hospitality. My personal thanks go to our Deacon, Father Mark, who drove us to London, organised accommodation, and represented the community so well as he served with reverence and exactitude at the heart of every service.

Having returned to Wales, today’s Liturgy marked our last regular Sunday service in Canton, though we hope to return for some great feasts, so that we are able to share trapeza together. Next week will see our first liturgy in Nazareth House since lockdown, and will begin at 10:30.

For those who are unfamiliar with the setting, the convent church is at the Blackweir end of Colum Rd, close to the junction with North Rd. The entrance is from the street, and the church is upstairs. Those needing to use the lift should contact us, so that we may arrange access, but as this is through the ground floor of Nazareth House a mask must be worn to protect vulnerable residents.

Having taken the vestments, today, we will move our other possessions later in the week, and I hope to announce a service for Saturday evening (with the opportunity to hear confessions once I have spoken to the sisters over the next day or two).

Today’s Liturgy was the first celebration on the new antimins, recently consecrated by Bishop Irenei, and our old antimins, with their link to Metropolitan Hilarion, will be framed to be venerated amongst our icons.

It was lovely to welcome friends of the community, some of whom we know from the Romanian parish, as well as welcoming visitors from Cheltenham and more Ukrainian brothers and sisters – communing plenty of children, who filled St John’s with joy and energy during trapeza.

Looking out at the Great Entrance, the clergy were greeted with the sight of British, Serbian, Russian, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Greek faithful – all united in Faith and the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

At the end of Liturgy, we sang Many Years for the newly ordained priest, Mark Tattum-Smith, a dear friend of many of us in the parish, who was ordained in the cathedral this morning. We also chanted mnogaya leta to our own Deacon Mark, who celebrated his third anniversary of ordination last Thursday. Many years, dear Fathers!

After the service, we celebrated a litia for the soul of the departed handmaiden of God, Liudmilla, on the anniversary of her repose, as well as remembering the newly departed Andrzej and Sara. Memory eternal!

During trapeza, I was happy to see our oltarnik, Oswald, continuing to supply the icon-needs of our parishioners, personally returning to Llanelli with the icon “Let us who mystically represent the cherubim…”, my first personal ‘on request’ order.

I have already received a few requests for confession on Saturday, and will also look to hearing Friday confessions. Please contact me by Wednesday bedtime so that necessary arrangements can be made.

Remember that tomorrow is the beginning of the Advent Fast and check the calendar re: the daily fasting rules. Above all, fast from sin and disobedience, imitating Christ and serving Him obediently, with joy, humility and love. This is more important than what you eat and drink! Seek forgiveness and forgive, eat less, pray more, and read the scriptures and the lives of the saints to strengthen you on this spiritual journey to Bethlehem and the Lord’s Nativity.

Asking your forgiveness, for Christ’s sake, I wish you a good struggle in the spiritual arena of the fast. Kalo stadio!

May God bless you.

In Christ – Fr Mark

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