Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings for the forefeast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the feast of the repose of our dearly loved St Seraphim of Sarov! It is always so heartening when we celebrate a saint who is so universally loved, especially in such fractious and divisive times. May he pray for us, and for true Orthodox unity in the face of schism and such betrayal of Faith.
This weekend’s services saw the leave-taking of the feast of the Nativity, with the Divine Liturgy being celebrated in Cheltenham, and the feast of the Circumcision and St Basil in Cardiff. It was a very joyful weekend, though much quieter than last weekend, with our Nativity services.
We were very glad to arrive in Cheltenham in bright winter sun, and under the now expected blue skies, sharing a joyful Liturgy for the Leave-Taking of the Nativity, with Masha visiting and helping to sing the festal chants.
We thank her and our usual singers for their labours on the kliros, and we are very grateful to our sisters for a generous meal, enjoyed by all. It was lovely to have Cardiff parishioners join us, as well as brothers from the Oxford parish. I am extremely happy that the next Cheltenham Liturgy, on Saturday 10th February, will be on the feast of Saints Ephrem and Isaac the Syrian, a double-joy and double-blessing!
Our Cardiff Liturgy today was a little different to usual, with three principal singers away, but it was good that our very capable Hierodeacon Avraamy and Marina were joined by some of our sisters, and that our brother, Alexander, was able to move from the sanctuary to the kliros to rouse the Liturgy with Byzantine chant. We look forward to more Byzantine chant in our services, after the joy of the polyeleos at our Nativity vigil and today’s Liturgy chants.
With Christmas behind us, today’s feast and joyful celebration stood between the Nativity and Forefeast of Theophany, and it was lovely that we were able to bless Vasilopita in honour of St Basil the Great at the end of Liturgy, and to see the pleasure that the shared cakes brought to our congregation. With the prayers for the Lord to bless our ‘comings in’ and ‘goings out’, this seemed very apt, as we prepare for our return to St John’s.
Sadly Thursday morning activities in the chapel at Nazareth House make the usual services for the eve of the Theophany impractical, though I will hear confessions in the afternoon, before my journey to London. Please email me by 18:00, on Wednesday.
The coming weekend will see our last Liturgy in Nazareth House, and we will perform the Great Blessing of Water at the end of Liturgy, so please bring bottles to take Theophany water home, and send any requests for houses of flats to be blessed.
Following the service and packing ready for our move to St John’s, I will be heading to Wiltshire for a few days, where our new Wessex mission will hold its first prayer meeting and where I will bless the River Wylye and the homes of some of our parishioners in both Wiltshire and Dorset, hoping also to visit St Wite’s shrine with parish pilgrims.
After returning on Tuesday and Wednesday’s move, I look forward to Theophany home-blessings in Cardiff.
On behalf of the clergy, may I extend thanks for the generosity and kindnesses shown to us over the festive period.
May God bless you all.
In Christ – Hieromonk Mark