Parish News – 4 March 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

Having celebrated the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Great Fast grows ever closer, with this week being the last week in which Orthodox Christians consume meat until Pascha, to be followed by cheese-fair (bliny) week during which we consume eggs, fish and dairy foods. We should remember that the customary fast still adheres to this Wednesday and Friday, but with the allowance of fish, wine and oil.

Meat-Fair, next Sunday, will be the last day for the consumption of meat. Please use the next few weeks to use up the foods that need consuming. The first few days of the Great Fast are NOT the time to do this, and we often have serial offenders who do this every year, with no excuse.

We should use also the next two weeks to prepare for the fast, particularly in terms of spiritual resources, ensuring we have the prayer materials needed for our Lenten observance and selecting reading materials as our spiritual food during Lent.

As announced on WhatsApp, we hope to repeat last year’s daily reading of the Psalter, with parishioners and friends of the parish reading a designated kathisma ofthe Psalter, so that it is read in its entirety each day. We would ideally like twenty readers so that each could read one kathisma of the Psalter, in rotation. Anyone wishing to participate should email oltarnik Alexander at

Members of our communities have been recommending, and indeed buying, various books for l

Lenten reading, with some suggestions below…

  • The Paradise of the Fathers, volumes I and II
  • The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Apophthegmata Patrum: The Alphabetic Collection: 59 (Cistercian Studies Series, 59)
  • On Ascetical Life: St. Isaac of Ninevah
  • A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God, by St Ephraim the Syrian, sadly not readily available in the small hardback tome, though available in a paperback traditional English edition:
  • On the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by St. Philaret of Chernigov
  • Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical Texts with Commentary, by Hugh Wybrew
  • Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt

Today and tomorrow have been set aside for house blessings, and I hope to fulfil more requests before the beginning of the Fast. We all have busy lives, but a house blessing takes little time, and brings God’s grace inti the Christian home, setting it apart and hallowing it through prayer and the sprinkling of holy water blessed at Theophany.

I was very happy to have a group of our young people come to Nazareth House to chant compline/ and the akathist to Mother of God last Thursday evening, following confessions in the afternoon and early evening, and we will – God willing – do the same again, this week, with compline at 19:00. Everyone, not just the parish youth,  is welcome and encouraged to support our weekday service.

May I ask for confession requests by 18:00 on Wednesday, reminding you that anyone working in the day is welcome to request a confession after work, and that we will accommodate school runs and family demands? Please ask!

Next weekend will see our first Wessex Liturgy in the Chapel of St Lawrence in Warminster, and our local parishioners have been busy making preparations for this inaugural public service. We have already celebrated services on Porphyrios’s narrow-boat, and look forward to the Liturgy in the historic chapel, generously made available to us by the feoffees who hold it in trust for the people of Warminster. We will set up the chapel at 9:00, with confessions commencing around 10:00 after the proskomedia. The Hours and Liturgy will be celebrated at 10:30, and we will celebrate a memorial for the departed after the Liturgy, followed by a bring-and-share lunch.

We greatly look forward to welcoming anyone who wishes to join us, being there for all Orthodox Christians, and will endeavour to make them feel at home.

The primary language of this new local mission will be English, though we shall endeavour to be inclusive, reflecting those who come to pray and worship with us.

The following Saturday will see our monthly Cheltenham Liturgy, which will now be on the thirds Saturday of the month. We continue to worship in Prestbury United Reformed Church. As in Warminster set up will be at 9:00, confessions around 10:00 after the and Hours and Liturgy at 10:30, followed by our customary bring-and-share lunch.

Our next parish-pilgrimage will be on Saturday 23rd March, when we look forward to celebrating the Divine Liturgy at Margam Abbey, whose Norman foundation succeeds an earlier Celtic Christian presence attested to by the Celtic crosses and memorial stones preserved a short distance from the abbey church in the museum that houses them. The Hours and Liturgy will be celebrated at 10:30 (despite previous discussions of 10:00) in order to allow time for anyone travelling by train to be collected from the station, if needed.

As announced last week, the mystery of Holy Unction / Soborovanie will be served in the cathedral on Saturday 20thApril at 14:00, and we hope that it will be possible for as many parishioners as possible to attend and partake of this Holy Mystery. We will not serve Unction in our parishes, as we preserve the old Tradition that during the Great Fast, there are conciliar services, in which the bishop and priests of the diocese serve together.

As we settle into St John’s and begin to feel at home, I think it necessary for us to remind ourselves that Sunday is set apart for the Lord, and we need to impress this and the ‘otherness’ of church and the Liturgy upon our children and young people.

The Liturgy is admittedly long for our youngest parishioners. We recognise that, and that they cannot be held to attention for its entire duration. However, we only become accustomed to the Liturgy, and grow into it by being part of it, as participants in the Holy Mysteries.  

We have been very happy to hear the children singing on the kliros during the litanies, and whilst recognising that we cannot expect our youngest parishioners to be at the front during the whole Liturgy, we need to ensure that they come forward to hear the readings, and I have previously asked parents to ensure that their children are with them from the Cherubic Hymn onwards, to be part of worship as the Holy Gifts are offered and consecrated.

However, since our return to St John’s and the enticement of the children’s corner, this has been rather forgotten. So, mums and dad’s, please have your children with you during the most sacred parts of the Liturgy, to pray and worship with you as a family, and to be part of our parish community.

Over the last few days, we have been asked to pray for Masha’s friend, Susan, and for Porphyrios’s daughter’s teacher Miss Kirk, who is in intensive care after being attacked. We also pray for the health of Father Anthony of the Mettingham parish, our parishioners Norman-John and Ludmila, and for Brigid in West Wales; for  Despina as she faces the issues of relocation in Cyprus; for the repose of the newly departed servants of God, Archbishop Anatoly and Nikolai, and for Barnabas whose forty day memorial has just passed. As requested on WhatsApp, we ask your prayers for Lazarus and Liz as they seek to relocate closer to us – encouraging the canon and prayers to St Minas.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Posted in Newsletter, Parish News.