Parish News: 22 April

Dear brothers and sisters,

Here we are in the last week of the Great Fast, before the one-day ‘season’ of Lazarus Saturday leads us into Holy Week. Personally, and I think for most people, every year’s Great Fast passes at what seems an unbelievable pace, and this year is no different. The key question, is whether we have made any progress in the season of the fast, which we should appreciate as a great gift the Lord grants us through the Sacred Tradition of the Church, focussing heart and mind on the mystery of repentance, to prepare us to greet the celebration of His Resurrection with spiritual renewal.

Those for whom the Great Fast has been a period of spiritual labour, benefit and gain, must beware that they are not robbed at the eleventh hour, or squander all that has been gained and achieved through carelessness and pride.

Conversely, if Great Lent has not gone as we hoped, we need to remind ourselves of the words that we will hear in the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom, and be encouraged by them NOW whilst there is an ‘hour’ in which to act in this Lenten season, before the joy and triumph of the Paschal night…

”If anyone has laboured from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has laboured from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honours the work and praises the intention.”

We know that these words of the Golden-Mouthed Great-Hierarch are simply an echo of the Lord’s parable, in which the labourer in the vineyard, hired at the end of the day receives the same pay as the one who laboured from its beginning. May they encourage us to be positive and focused, even if we have been careless until now!

The weekend was marked by a great gathering of the faithful of the southern part of the British region of our diocese, assembled around our bishop and concelebrating clergy for the mystery of Holy Unction, in the sobornal/conciliar form (hence ‘soborovanie’) celebrated during the Great Fast.

It was wonderful that we had twenty-nine people travel from Cardiff and Wessex, and the number of the faithful of the diocese gathered in Chiswick was greater than ever, with probably over three hundred souls being anointed by our bishop and his six priestly concelebrants, taking the end of the anointing beyond the dismissal of vespers, which it was necessary to chant after the service of the oil whilst the anointing quietly continued.

Glory to God, for the wonderful gathering, after which Vladika formally blessed our Wessex mission, having spent time with me, Lazarus, Elizabeth and Piran. We greatly appreciate the brief time at the end of the day, in which we were able to sit quietly with our chief-shepherd, who gave us words of encouragement and advice. Eis pola eti despota!

The following morning, our Sunday congregation seemed a bit dented, though we know we have a number of core-parishioners who are away at the moment, unwell or with children who are unwell.

However, it was an extremely beautiful, and peaceful Liturgy, that seemed a natural continuation of the Saturday Mystery of Holy Unction. We had more English chanting than usual, though Slavonic was in no way pushed out. Many thanks to the choir, and to Stefan who served as a solo oltarnik, showing how well he multitasks and juggles everything that needs doing… which is quite considerable.

It was lovely to sit down to soup, Serbian beans (Chilandar monastic recipe!) and other home-made food, as we do every week, but after the labours of Saturday, I think we all enjoyed hearty Slavic food even more before our afternoon journeys!

This week, Thursday will see confessions in Nazareth House, as usual, with 17:00 being the uaual starting time, though I will endeavour to cater for those needing an earlier slot after consultation with the Sisters. Emails by 18:00 on Wednesday, please, and asap for those unable to come after 17:00.

It is a of greenery for blessing at the beginning of Liturgy. It is our tradition to hold our ‘palms’ throughout the service, especially as we hear the Palm Sunday Gospel. Weather permitting, we will have a ‘krestny khod’ around St John’s at the end of Liturgy.

There is already a number of confession requests, so may I please stress how helpful it is to know who will be confessing.

Those who were at Sunday Liturgy will know that we have kulichy (Easter cakes) for sale, to raise funds for the parish, and they are £6. They will be available for sale at services from now until Pascha and will hopefully sell out!

Tonight will see our end of the month (though not quite the end, yet) in Warminster, so I am presently sitting typing looking our on a rather wet, cold and rainy Glastonbury, greatly looking forward to the wood-burner on Porphyrios’s narrow boat. Having celebrated the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt, yesterday, we will continue this celebration by venerating the memory of St Mary as the great ‘icon of repentance’ by chanting her canon as well as that to the Mother of God. I will endeavour to post her canon on our Facebook page, and encourage you all to turn to St Mary for inspiration, help and intercession.

We ask your prayers for the newly departed handmaiden of God, Nadezhda, and for her daughter Olga.

Also, we ask for prayers for our parishioner Marina, as she and her associates look to organise another Ukrainian Orthodox scouting gathering for the summer. Despite facing so many obstacles, last summer’s event went very well, and it is hoped that a similar gathering may bring hope and respite from the ongoing war and the misery people face. Please pray!

May God grant you a good struggle and strength in these last days of the fast and Holy Week.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Posted in Newsletter, Parish News.